You Don’t Know the Ending To Your Story

I met my wife Jacqueline 10 years ago on the L train. I gave her a long look, thinking she was a girl I had gone on a date with recently (Jacq still doesn’t believe me, but I swear that’s what happened). My too-long gaze compelled her to ask what I was looking at.

I replied that I thought she looked like someone I knew (whose name is Jen and lives in SF now…I swear), but that she couldn’t be Jen because we were on the L train and Jen lived in Park Slope. Jacqueline remarked on my lack of sound reasoning (the first, but far from last time); she said people show up in unlikely places all the time. She told me how she ran into someone she went to school with in upstate New York while visiting Masada in Israel. People show up in the unlikeliest of places. She was right (the first, but far from last time).

We proceeded to have a long conversation. I remember little about it other than being totally smitten. Here was a girl who was intelligent, spiritually centered, well-traveled and smoking hot with pale blue eyes, paler skin and an awesome body. She was the whole package.

We got off at the Lorimer stop–I lived around there and she was transferring to the G train. With such a powerful connection, I didn’t hesitate asking for her phone number. She gave me her email address. I was pretty certain I had met my wife–the lack of phone number was of little consequence.

Let me backtrack some. At the time, I was relatively fresh to the city. I slept in a windowless bedroom in an illegal share with 4 others in Williamsburg–our heroin addicted, 12-hour-a-day-Doom-playing roommate’s cat had recently given us all flees. I worked as a cater waiter, while I wanly pursued affirmation through acting and modeling. And I was involved in an every-other-month-breakup relationship with a woman I’ll call Mary. She was 10 years my senior, a career stripper for 12 years and had a hyperactive adolescent son for whom I became a proxy father.

Thing were going pretty swell.

Meeting Jacqueline made me certain my fortune would soon turn. Mary and I were technically broken up. If I went out with Jacqueline, it wouldn’t be cheating. We would fall in love, I wouldn’t end up hooking back up with Mary. With the backing of a good woman, I’d get my shit together. The future looked bright.

What was most significant about meeting Jacqueline was this: I didn’t believe it was possible that a woman could hit me on all levels–mentally, physically, spiritually. The reason I knew I didn’t believe this was because I had settled for someone so far from that mark. Mary was a good (and hot) woman, but we had almost nothing in common. Then as now, my spiritual life was very important to me, meditating, visiting ashrams and the like. Mary had no particular spiritual bent. I had traveled the world for several years; Mary had never obtained or used a passport. Let me be clear there was nothing wrong with her, just something wrong with us.

Jacqueline was a walking contradiction to the belief that there was no one out there for me.

I wrote her an impossible-to-ignore invitation to our future with proper diction, punctuation and compete sentences (things that have long vanished from my emails). I entered her Yahoo address and pressed send to wait for my destiny.

Nothing.

Second email. Nothing.

Shit.

I was crushed. Her lack of response created a new possibility: That there are women out there who have it all, but they won’t give me the time of day.

[More soon]

Are You Trying to Win Someone Else’s Game?

In my late twenties–days long before marriage, babies and persistently creaky joints–my friends and I would go out on weekends to meet chicks.

Around that time, I had returned to school to finish my bachelor’s degree (in the very practical arts of English). I was working as a head waiter for a catering company–technically a “captain” in the self-important language of cater-ese.

When we went out, I dreaded the “what do you do?” question. I lived in New York City, and thought what I did was not very age-appropriate. 27 year-old’s did things like work at branding firms and develop iPhone apps.

When asked, I would say something like, “Well, I went back to school to finish my bachelor’s degree in English, because I want to be a writer. I dropped out when I was younger. It’s really cool because I appreciate the chance to learn so much more than when I first went to school. And I work as a head waiter–well, a ‘captain’–at a catering company. It allows me to go all over the city and see cool places and go to fascinating events.”

My voice must have acted as a diuretic because women instantly had to go to the bathroom after I started talking.

There were a couple reasons I was exciting bladders:

  1. I was selling myself. Implicit was that who I was had no self-evident value. If it did, I wouldn’t have to sell it.
  2. I was trying to win someone else’s game. I tried to create a compensatory value for who I was in relation to what I thought 27 year-old’s should be doing–making money, having a career, whatever. In other words, my life + lengthy explanation = lawyer.

These oft used-strategies keep us in the middle management of life–sucking up, hoping for a promotion from our boss, who is often someone we don’t want to be anyway.

After a good spell of swinging and missing at the bars, I realized I was losing hard. I realized that if I wanted to start winning, I’d have to play another game. So I picked the only game I was good at: mine. I looked at what was important to me: my personal evolution, relationships, spiritual life, health, etc. With these things, I was valuable. I was a winner.

When women asked what I did, I started talking about my games, inviting them to play. A funny thing happened: women started holding their bladders. They started selling themselves. They tried to get on my team–telling me how much they do yoga or something (of course, I found these things unattractive).

Sure, many women couldn’t give a shit about meditation or the healing I had done with my mom, but those weren’t the women I wanted to play with. I ended up marrying a chick whose values were aligned with mine–one who would have had nothing to do with the self-justifying loser I used to be.

With these thoughts in mind, consider:

  1. Pick an area of your life where you lack power that involves other people. It could be meeting a partner, your work, athletics, etc.
  2. Where do justify your existence in this situation? Where are your explaining your value rather than being valuable?
  3. Is this situation your, or someone else’s game? Where do you lack ownership of the your life? Keep in mind, even if we’re doing things that seem like someone else’s game, e.g. making a family or practicing medicine, we can make these things ours.
  4. For the day, stop justifying yourself. Stop explaining why you’re valuable. Look for and cut out the self-diminishing things you say to yourself and others. Be valuable, don’t explain it.
  5. Focus on winning your games, not others’. Decide what’s important to you and align your life with those things. Talk about and share those things. Look how it changes your interactions with others. Remember, if it’s not your game, you will fail.

Hazy Lovers

Dear David,

I’ve been friends with this guy for about 7 years now, and we dated for awhile in high school. We go to the same college and we’ve been hanging out off and on and sometimes we make out or sleep together (no sex). Last month he texted me randomly after not talking for 6+months and asked me out to lunch. It went well and then I left to go hang out with some friends. He texted me later and asked me to hang out again. And we’ve been hanging out like once a week since then. The other day he came over and I gave him a blow job for the first time and then I had to leave for class. He told me to txt him and when I did he didn’t respond. His phone is kind of messed up/broken and he doesn’t receive txts and calls sometimes. I was waiting for him to text me back or to think, Hey this is weird she usually always texts me and my phone is broken, why don’t I text her?? But he didn’t… Does this mean he doesn’t really care about me? After a couple of days I called him and asked him why he hadn’t texted me back and he said that he never got them.. Do I have a right to be mad? We’re not together, but I was kind of having feelings for him.

Tiffany

Dear Tiffany,

“But I was kind of having feelings.” I believe this last line holds the key to all the preceding ones. What’s overwhelming me in your situation is a decided lack of clarity–lots of “kind of’s” and few “is’s” and “are’s”.

My initial–and cynical–reaction is that he kept you around until he had sex with you (or the Clintonian equivalent thereof). When he got what he wanted, the challenge and sexual mystery disappeared, he lost interest and he wanted out. I could be wrong. There could have been an issue with his phone, but the simultaneity of the blowjob and cell-phone breakdown seems a bit too convenient. Guys will find a way to be in touch with a girl they’re hot for. Continue reading “Hazy Lovers”

Relationships and Contract Negotiations

Image via forbes

Dear David,

I am a young professional living in Brooklyn and working in Manhattan. I am dating a wonderful guy who happens to be 15 years my senior (he’s 40), for a little over a year and a half now. We started dating casually but eventually fell pretty hard for each other.  After a few ups-and-downs, we moved in together last September.

Things have been going wonderfully, and we have spoken about marriage and having kids and he was on board, especially because he is older than me. Because our building is going condo and offering buyouts, the idea of buying a place of our own together seemed great. We were looking at properties and discussing options; and yes marriage was only a step after that.  Then things cooled down after we decided to take our time and not rush anything because of a buyout. Then one day I was joking about just getting married at city hall and it got very serious and he said he was scared to get married again (he dated a woman for 4 years, got married to her to keep her in the country and she left him for another man 6 months after). He’s afraid of me leaving him. After all the talks we had about getting married and how he was so excited to have kids, I was shocked.  After 3 days of flipping out in my own head, I told him straight out: I expected us to be engaged by the end of this year. He said he was being silly and I caught him at a bad time and he promised me we would be engaged by the end of the year.

Only now, he discusses things like kids and our wedding whenever he wants, but when I ask legitimate questions about our future like when he is thinking of really making an effort to get a new job (because without a new job, he won’t be able to afford an engagement ring), or if we can move into a new apartment together (I love our place but it’s small) or anything concrete, he freezes. He starts getting annoyed and blames my need to over-plan things and just says we’ll see. He is very independent and doesn’t like me “checking in” on him but I feel like these are normal questions to ask for a woman who is going to spend her life with another person. I want to know what his plan is, and it seems he has no plan.  Although this doesn’t stop him from seeing a beautiful cake and saying how nice a cake like that would be at our wedding, or randomly saying on a walk “lets have babies”.

I’m not quite sure what to do at this point.  I cant really get a straight answer out of him when I talk to him (one minute its babies, the next he is scared to get married again, and a minute after that he is sure I’m the one). Any advice?

K

Dear K,

It appears as though your guy wants to marry you and have kids, but I think he’s scared that he’s not good enough—for you, for the woman who left him, etc.  That’s why he spazzed out after the City Hall suggestion.  This fear of not being good enough makes him reticent to commit to you.

The first suggestion I have is assuage some of his fear.  Let him know that he is good enough (if you mean it, of course).  Tell him that you love him no matter what type of ring he gets you, no matter what type of dwelling you reside in.

By you writing about those details in your email to me, I suspect some of your love might be conditional on those things (however small an amount) and he might be buckling under the weight of that conditionality.  People fall in love with people, not their circumstances.  Let him know you love him for who he is.  When the love is established, you can get into the nuts-and-bolts.

First off, it’s not ridiculous to discuss conditions of a marriage and family.  Marriage isn’t merely a matter of loving someone.  It’s a contract.  And like all contracts, the terms must be laid out from the outset.  I do freelance writing which requires contracts.  My client and I first discuss the project, its terms and expectations, and then a contract is drafted, which is either signed or not.  Only when the contract is signed is the project is carried out.

So once the love is established (basically saying that you want to work with him), you can discuss what you both want out of a marriage specifically.  This is the negotiation stage of contract making.  When I proposed to my girlfriend, it was after we had established our love for each other and discussed what we both wanted for our futures—values, family, lifestyle, etc.  If there was a huge rift with these things, I might not have asked.  As it was, we were in alignment and we agreed on the contract (or agreed to formalize the contract in the near future).

Keep in mind that discussing the terms and entering a contract is not the same as fulfilling on them immediately.  Like any contract, many of the items discussed won’t be fulfilled on for some time.  It’s just an agreement about what you both want out of your contract.

I think if you’re willing to accept him as he is, understanding that he might not immediately fulfill on all the terms, he will probably be more inclined to propose a contract.  He might even be more motivated to get into action when he knows you’re okay to be where he’s at.  That’s what happened for me:  my fiancée allowed me to be where I was at, with my not-so-enviable circumstances.  Her love and acceptance gave me space to start moving toward what I wanted, rather than feeling inadequate for not being where I “should” be.  It was only after I proposed that I got the ring she wanted and the job that would make our contract work.

If he’s not willing to talk about the terms of a marriage specifically, if he’s dismissive, lackadaisical or unwilling to make plans, then you might want to ditch him.  Give him an opportunity to step up, but if he doesn’t take it, it’s probably an ominous sign of things to come.  I haven’t been married before, but I imagine it requires a lot of stepping up and uncomfortable discussions.

Lastly, you mentioning his age reminds me of the fiction-writing adage:  “if you’re going to write about a gun, it better go off.”  I don’t want to overstate this as an issue.  It sounds like you guys are into each other.  But if you are going to marry this guy, be super clear that this is your guy.  It’s not so much that he’s older and all the issues that entails—different peer groups, different physiological issues, etc.  What’s more disconcerting is that he’s exhibiting behavior appropriate for someone in his mid-twenties.  If he’s not cool with committing by this age, if he is not willing to have tough conversations and make plans with you for the future at the age of 40, when will he be ready for those things?  60?

Coming from this 35 year-old, 25 is not that old.  Don’t feel the need to rush yourself because he’s getting older.  This is an important contact.  You want to be sure both parties are committed to fulfilling on their agreements.

Hope this helps and many blessings to you both.

 

Dating Advice: How to Handle Babies Big and Small

[This question is a bit on the long side, but a perfect example of hastily embarked upon relationships, dating when you want kids, and a bunch of other nuggets.  Many thanks to the sender.]

Dear David,

I started dating someone about a month ago that I met online. We have a ton in common (he’s presently getting a degree that I also have) and when I met him I found him cuter in person than in his pictures. The first few dates were some serious “Whoa, You!” stuff and we kind of jumped in fast—he asked me to be exclusive very early, which made me uncomfortable but which I agreed to because I liked him so much, and we slept together soon afterward.

We’ve talked generally about some of the important “wants” and he mentioned in passing that he wants to have kids eventually, which made me feel like we were on the same page. For the record: I’m 35, freelance/self employed and still look and live like a younger person, but am getting tired of it. My last serious relationship lasted three years but ended two years ago—the ex and I were definitely on the track to marriage, etc. but got derailed and after a year of couples therapy, I left. This dude is 40 and was in a long relationship/marriage for most of his 20s and 30s. She wanted kids but he didn’t—with her, he says, because he knew the marriage couldn’t sustain it. He’s been divorced/out of the relationship for two years, during which time he sold his house, left his lucrative professional job and basically changed his whole life to enroll in a masters program that he’s serious about. He’s in his first year and making a stipend.

One night we had a date where I hear some things that make my ears perk up. I bring up the topic of whether we’re in the same place given that he was in a longterm committed relationship for so long and may want to sew his oats for a while, whereas I’ve been moving around the country more or less single for a long time and may be ready to settle down a bit more. I mention that I want to have a family and ideally would start within two or three years (again, I’m 35). He basically freaks out and says he “doesn’t know” whether he will be ready to have a family within my time frame, and that he doesn’t want to start down a road that will lead to my disappointment, my leaving him when I’m 38 to find someone who’s ready or staying with him and resenting him. He’s particularly worried about all of this because of guilt from his last relationship where he “ruined someone’s life” by not having kids with her. Continue reading “Dating Advice: How to Handle Babies Big and Small”

Send Me Your Dating and Relationship Questions

In an effort to find out what people are reading and writing, I have feeds on several personal development blogs:  Zen Habits, The Minimaliststs, EV Bogue, Jonathan Fields, Jonathan Mead at Illuminated Mind and even Tim Ferriss.

These guys (yes, they’re all guys) speak on a variety of topics like goal setting, overcoming obstacles, being happier, health, fitness.  Some, like Leo Babauta of Zen Habits espouse simplicity.  Others, like Ferriss, espouse over-the-top living.

I’ve been trying to figure out where I fit in the personal development blogosphere.  Here are some places where I don’t fit:

  • Money.  I’m running low on the shit and can’t seem to generate more.
  • Career.  I’m asking my readers for jobs, which kind of blows my credibility there (got one?).
  • Diet.  A couple months ago I was vegan, now I’m eating meat three times a day—I wouldn’t dare take my readers through my dietary vicissitudes.
  • Fitness.  I work out regularly, but I’m hardly organized enough about it to share it in a systematized way.
  • Happiness.  Though quite happy, I don’t want the burden of being an expert on the matter.
  • Time management. Do you know how long it took me to write this post?

A couple weeks ago I wrote a series about dating and relationships.  They were my most popular posts to date.  So many of us struggle with these topics, and while I won’t claim mastery, I know a thing or two.  When I was single, I was able to meet women fairly easily.  Through past relationships, I acquired vast knowledge that prepped me for the great relationship I’m in now.

So I’m offering up my dating and relationship, um, expertise.  I would like to know what you’re dealing with—your situations, your questions, topics you’d like to see addressed.  More specifically, here are some things I can offer:

  • For women. I can offer a man’s-eye-view of your situation—whether you are seeking or are in a relationship.  Many women are pretty blind to some of the things they do when meeting men.  Same goes for relationships—you do things that set up lose-lose situations with your partners.  I believe I can cure your blindness…or at least get you some glasses.
  • For men.  For years, I unconsciously did things that destroyed my chances with women before I even met them.  I attracted either no one or the wrong one.  I also did things that consistently ruined my chances for being in or maintaining happy, healthy relationships.  I’ve come a long way and I’d love to share what I’ve learned.

Whether single, in a relationship, man or woman, gay or straight, please shoot me your questions or topic suggestions at df [at] davidfriedlander [dot] com.  All correspondences will be strictly anonymous.

Remember that your question might not only help you, but someone who is going through the same situation (the issues don’t vary that much).   I look forward to hearing from you.

Alpha Males and the Women Who Love Them

Want to go out on a date?

Like many children of the 70’s and 80’s, my folks divorced before I was old enough to realize they were married.  When I was two years-old, mom got primary custody and dad got every-other-weekend.  Aside from 4 days per month, mom was both mother and father.

I love my mom.  She did a great job raising me.  But she’s a woman.  And there’s only so much a boy can learn about being a man from a woman.  I was like one of those boys who are raised by a pack of wolves, and think they are a wolf too.  Except I was raised by a woman, and…you know.

Being raised by a woman, I inferred a lot of things about how to behave toward women.  I inferred that men and women are the same thing with different bodies; that I must be polite and respectful; that I mustn’t make women sex objects; that I mustn’t be too assertive or aggressive; that I must listen to what women say.

I abided by these lessons for a long time.  I grew up to be a polite, benign, sexless, ineffectual wuss.  I had almost no relationships throughout my teens—living in a state of frustrated and unrequited sexuality.  I was 20 before I lost my virginity—not by any virtue, but because I was so sexually retarded.

Like many, the cure for my frustrated sexuality was alcohol.  Being drunk afforded me an opportunity to inhabit my masculinity—a state where I didn’t have to be polite or respectful; when it was okay to make women sex objects; when I could be assertive; when I didn’t have to listen to what women said because I could see what they wanted (2 very different things in my experience).

As it would happen, women responded far better to my drunken inappropriateness than my sober wussiness.  As a drunken lout, I had a chance.  As a polite and sober wuss, I had none.

Unfortunately, the more I drank, the more inappropriate and distorted my masculinity became.  I slurred catcalls to women on the street.  I hit on girls who were clearly not interested in me, once earning a black eye from a justifiably angry boyfriend.  I tried to sleep with any woman who’d have me—a population that decreased inversely proportional to my rate of alcohol consumption.

These drunken years gave me a taste of what it meant to inhabit my masculinity, but the consequences of drinking made it an unsustainable formula.

Many years after getting sober, I recognized that my effectiveness with women—and life in general—was still lacking.  I still had trouble attracting women and, I later realized, attracting all sorts of things in my life.

This realization led me to the world of “Pick-Up Arts”—a subculture made popular by Neil Strauss’s book, “The Game.”  I can’t tell you all the things I learned while reading it in this post (it would get too long).  But one of the main points is that women are attracted to alpha males.

What is an alpha male?  An alpha male is a man who leads; he knows where he’s going and what he’s about; he doesn’t apologize for being who he is (including his sexuality); and he doesn’t seek other’s approval (probably the most important attribute).  Alpha status can be established by brute force (hence why a lot of assholes get so much action) or cooperative power (nice guys can and do succeed with women and in life).  Also, alpha status isn’t a hierarchal system; there can be multiple alpha males in a room.

I saw that I failed with woman because I believed what women said they wanted in a man—an open, respectful, caring guy.  It’s not true.  Women want alpha males—men who don’t apologize for who they are; who might want a women, but don’t need them or their approval.  Many of my drunken forays showed me that first hand.

This is not to say an alpha male cannot be open, respectful or caring.  My opinion is that real alpha males are inherently those things.  But an alpha male doesn’t do those things to please others.  He does them because that’s who he is.

With all this in mind, here are some things to think about today:

Men, stop being wusses! Stop being inoffensive.  It’s offensive.  It’s better to elicit a strong feeling, even if it’s a negative one, than no feeling (important note:  I’m assuming that I’m addressing responsible men, who know how to respect boundaries and know the difference between right and wrong).  Own your life.  If you don’t, anyone and everyone else will.

Also keep in mind that wussiness with women shows up in other areas of your life.  Where else do you bend yourself in the face of something you want?

Women, stop trying to out-alpha the men in your life! Stop trying to prove you are as strong as they are.  Doing this leaves no space for men to be strong for you, which is what men want to be for you.  And it’s what you secretly want to be done for you.  What many women end up doing is proving their strength, but doing so alone or surrounded by their commiserating women friends.  Neither situation is desirable.

No Shit Dating and Relationship Advice (Part IV)

Photo by Jim Newberry

[This is going to be the final installment of this series.  It pretty much sums up my whole view of relationships, though the preceding installments are useful for more tactical approaches to dating and relationships.]

Be the person you want to attract and be in a relationship with

It’s never, ever, ever, ever about the other person.  Not even that one time.

This is the sad and good news.  Sad because accepting this holds us responsible for all of our failed relationships, courting nightmares and people we attract.  Good because nothing is wrong with the universe.  There is no shortage of good men or sane women.  Our childhoods did not irreparably damage us.  We are the problem and solution.  We hold the key to your pasts, presents and futures.

An easy way to demonstrate this is by looking at how we often seek qualities in a partner that we do not possess ourselves.  I know scores of fat, out-of-shape guys who deride women for not being pretty and thin enough.  I know scores of women who complain about men being irresolute and uncommitted yet engage in relationships with these same men, even though the women know they are not what they want; in other words, they are irresolute and uncommitted about what they want.

Focusing on other people’s faults always seems to make ours disappear.

If you want a fit partner, exercise.  If you want a more worldly partner, travel.  If you want a partner who listens, listen.  If want more mature partners, be mature.  If you want greater commitment, commit to what you want.

Perhaps you think you are the things you seek.  You think you are responsible, healthy, or whatever trait you’re looking for in a partner.  Yet you attract irresponsible, unhealthy, etc. partners—or none at all.  Instead of asking yourself if you might be the problem, conceding that you may have blind-spots about yourself, you blame the other party.  You sooner declare a global drought of suitable partners than look at what it is in you that continually attracts and creates what you seemingly don’t want.

I write “seemingly” because we always get what we want, even though it seems like we don’t.  The problem is what we want unconsciously trumps what we want consciously.  Our want to feel important, look good, be comfortable, be right, secure, not change, not be alone and so on, trumps and undermines our want to be happy, healthy, generous, etc.  Don’t believe me?  Look at your relationships and who you attract into your life.  They are the evidence that this is true.

Many of us will point to our families and friendships as evidence that we aren’t doing anything wrong.  Because they work so well, it shows that we know how to be in healthy relationships.  The only logical conclusion is that there is a good-man or sane-woman shortage.

Family, friends, co-workers and other non-romantic relationships show us who we are, but not in the way romantic ones do.  If relationships are like mirrors for who we are, then family, friends, etc. are like a mirror you pass in the hallway—useful for straightening up and checking yourself out.  Romantic relationships are like those cosmetic mirrors, where every pore and imperfection stands out.  Our romantic partners and prospects show us what we really think about ourselves, what we are really willing to accept out of our lives—not some intellectualized concept we talk about with friends.

This close-viewing is the promise romantic relationships hold.  It’s hard to find out so much about ourselves without this level of intimacy.  Living a life filled with only friends and family, it’s easier to stop short of full self-knowledge.  The level of closeness inherent in romantic relationships forces people to do one of three things:  confront themselves, impose an uneasy stalemate or abandon ship.  If you’re ready to take a deep look at yourself and really free yourself, few situations are more conducive to that than romantic relationships.

Also realize that just because our partners and prospects don’t match up with the misbegotten notions we have about ourselves, this inconsistency need not be a deal-breaker.  We need people to work our shit out with.  It’s preferable to do it with someone who’s more-or-less on the same page.  It’s delusional to think you’re going to find someone without problems.  The key is to find someone with complimentary problems and wants to work them out with you.  This is actually the best part of my present relationship:  we both have shit, but we use each other to work that shit out.

This is all a long-winded way of saying keep the attention on yourself.  Like everything, courtship, dating and relationships are inside jobs.  The perceiver and the perceived are the same thing.  You want to attract a great partner?  You want a great relationship?  Be a great person.

No Shit Dating and Relationship Advice (Part III)

Love makes you strong apparently.

[I’m still going and probably have a few more things to say.  I might just take out the “part” part.]

Focus on being happy and having a good time

Men and women act ridiculous when trying to attract a partner.  Men act serious and/or predatory.  Women act aloof and humorless.  If you want to attract someone and keep him or her attracted, stop fronting.  It’s unattractive.  Fun, happy people are attracted to fun, happy people.  Fronting, insecure people are attracted to fun, happy people too (but not vice versa).

Back in my single days, I was reasonably adept at meeting women.  My guy friends asked me how I did it and I said, “smile and give yourself reasons to smile all the time.”  It’s was a win-win.  I was happy, and I attracted people—men, women, happy and unhappy alike.  Humans want to be happy.  When someone seems to have that trait, we gravitate toward it.

There are some who are drawn toward darkness and sadness.  If that’s what these folks want their lives to look like, then they should move toward that moody dude or that sad-eyed girl.  Maybe their love will fix them.

The rest of us want to be happy.  And happy-loving people rarely see someone and think, “Man, who’s that anxious guy/girl over there?  I want to get to know him/her.”  Don’t be one of those anxious/fearful/angry/sad guys or girls.

Give yourself reasons to smile.  Hang out with fun friends.  Do things that interest you.  This principle holds true whether you’re single, dating or married.

If you really can’t create reasons to smile, you probably shouldn’t be concerned with dating and relationships.  Take yourself off the market until you address your needs.  Do yourself and the dating pool a favor.  Seriously.

Make your romantic intentions known

For men, this means taking risks.  The reason men don’t risk and let their romantic intentions be known is they fear being rejected.  They think that if they make their intentions known, it’ll scare women away before they know the great guys they are.  So these men act as though they are only interested in being friends, hoping the girls will come around.  These guys rarely get as far as friendship, having to content themselves with indifferent stares and fake phone numbers.  If they do make friendship inroads, it usually ends in bitterness because the woman shacked up with some guy who had the balls to be straight about how he feels.

Don’t be an asexual lump.  It’s better to go down swinging.  And relax, not every woman is going to think you’re hot.  You don’t find every woman hot, right?  Be bold.

It’s prudent to clarify what I mean by taking risks, letting your intentions be known and being bold.  It does not mean groping or harassing or any other form of forceful behavior.  It means clearly offering your intentions to the other party for consideration.  She can take or leave this offering—this part is out of the man’s control.

For women, this means taking risks too.  She has to be vulnerable enough to admit she is interested in a guy romantically.  Women do the “just friends” thing too, hanging on far too long with men they are attracted to in order to avoid what they probably already know:  that the attraction is not shared.  Most women know this from the get-go but are afraid of admitting it.  They’ll endure a purgatorial vagueness in the relationship rather than knowing one way or the other.

You might be thinking, “What if a woman is attracted to an asexual lump who doesn’t know how to make his intentions known?”  To which I answer, few woman are attracted to asexual lumps.

Men who have experience with women—men women are attracted to—tend to make their intentions clear from the outset, be they romantic or not.

Some men and women send mixed signals, making their intentions unclear.  If this is the case, at some point you will have to ask what their intentions are and deal with the consequences.  Whether the answer is that they are attracted, not or uncertain, you’ll have an answer (and yes, “uncertain” is an answer).  Better to know sooner than later.

I don’t have personal experience with how this plays out in gay relationships, though I imagine it’s much the same as straight ones.  Be clear about your intentions.  If they are not reciprocated, accept it or move on.

There is the chance that two people are just friends and romantic feeling develop over time.  This is ideal.  Romance combined with friendship endures.  Romance without friendship crashes.  Who I am speaking to are people who know how they feel but are afraid of expressing those feelings.

No Shit Dating and Relationship Advice (Part II)

Do you shack up with people or fantasies?

[This is part II of an unknown numbered series.  Part I is here.]

Don’t have sex until you know the person you are having sex with

Revolutionary right?  That you might actually want to know the person you are having sex with.  But I have lots of personal experience having sex on the first, second or, at latest, third date.  I know I’m far from alone.  It’s almost never ended well for me and I’m pretty sure you’re no different.

A friend of mine said, “There is no such thing as casual sex.”  When we have sex, our bodies tell us, “You are now in a relationship.”  Our hearts and minds, on the other hand, haven’t had time to discern their feelings on the matter.  Maybe we’ll like this person, but maybe not.  Who knows?  I’ve jumped this gun many times, finding myself in a relationship with someone I barely knew.  Rather than confess my error, I slog away at relationships with women I have nothing in common with aside from anatomical compatibility, sometimes for years.  This problem would have been avoided had I known the people I was having sex with.

See people for who they are

As Emerson said, “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”  Pay attention to people’s behavior, not to their words or who we want them to be.

We often can’t see people for who they are because of our ulterior motives.  Most of us think we are broken and believe we are unworthy of being loved.  When a datable girl or guy comes along, we create the fantasy “he/she is going to fix/complete me/make me lovable.”  With this fantastic pot at the end of the relationship rainbow, all of our observations are skewed.  We will believe words and look for actions that affirm the fantasy rather than observing actions that might directly contradict them.

In our fantasy land, our new partner—who might be someone we just met in a bar—can do no wrong.  We overlook her deeply bitten fingernails or his constant looking at other girls.  This is why online dating is problematic.  We literally don’t see anything.  All we have are words that people write about themselves; words that would be negated by 10 seconds of face-time.

These fantasies are often projected in a flash.  You see a guy with a tweed jacket and fantasize about reading books together in bed on Sunday mornings.  You see a girl with a backpack and imagine family expeditions to the Himalayas.  When we set up these kind of fantasies, it’s almost impossible for things to work out because no one ever lives up to our fantasies.

People are mixed bags.  We have healthy and not-so-healthy traits.  Ignoring either side shows us that we are disconnected from reality.  A good test of this is how often we use or think the words “always” or “never” in relationship to someone. “He is always so thoughtful.”  “She never considers my feelings.”  No one always or never does anything.

Healthy relationships and courtships are based on being with someone in reality, not in fantasy—loving and respecting the mixed bag that they are.  If you meet someone and they do something you don’t like, don’t expect that behavior to change.  Accept it or move on.

Don’t talk smack about your prospective partners

“There are no good men.”  “Women are crazy.”  “Gay men can’t commit.”  “Lesbian women are too dominant.”  When we say these things, it creates a lens through which we see the world.  Men cannot be good.  Women cannot be sane.  Gay men cannot be committed.  Lesbian women can’t be agreeable.  We think we have evidence, but the evidence is all collected looking through the lens.  Take off the lens.

The first step is stop saying these things.  It may take some work because we are often surrounded by people who agree with our contentions.  Many women surround themselves with other women who believe there are no good men.  Many men surround themselves with other men who believe women are crazy.  Maybe some time away from these people is in order.  Hang out with people who are in healthy relationships.  Barring that, don’t participate in the conversation.