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You've Said Too Much Too Soon: Now What?

Romantic Date CoupleDear Annie, My mother and sister are abusive and bipolar. It’s taken therapy and hard work, but I have managed to live a normal life despite having had a difficult childhood. My therapist helped me to create a strategy, which has included minimal family contact.

I don’t like to talk about them and avoid the topic when I’m getting to know someone. I’ve become an expert at changing the subject or going on tangents when it comes up.

I’ve been dating my boyfriend, Jonathan, for a few months and we’ve never really talked about it. He had a happy childhood and seems to be on great terms with his family.

Unfortunately, we ran into my mother on the way to the movies the other night. It was impossible to avoid her and she was very friendly and chatty—thank goodness she wasn’t in a downward spiral.

I was horrified. By the end of the evening, I told Jonathan all about the horrible abuse that I have suffered through my mother’s ups and downs. I wish I hadn’t, but the encounter shook me to my core.

The problem is that my mother is extremely charming when she’s in her “up” phase, so now Jonathan seems to think that I am exaggerating or making up stories. He had a lot of sympathy for her and believes that I should be more open-minded about my relationship with my family.

I fought long and hard to be free of her destructive influence. I hate that Jonathan doesn’t believe me and doubts my judgment. How can I resolve this without losing him? Adele

I can see that it would be very easy for you to feel defensive under these circumstances. Jonathan’s questions may have felt like an attack, but what if you approached it from another angle?

Rather than assuming that Jonathan is questioning your judgment, I suggest you explore his motives. He may be asking questions because, after coming from a healthy family, he doesn’t have the experience or background to understand your situation.

Give him the chance to think this over so you can calmly talk about it later. In the meantime, provide him with an opportunity to learn more about how mental illness affects the families of those afflicted. Send him links to a couple of well-researched articles about people with your mother’s disorder.

Often, people who have never experienced being around mental illness assume that everyone has the ability to behave reasonably if given the chance. They may find it confounding that someone might be completely irrational at their core. They may not understand that a mentally ill parent might be incapable of treating their child in a loving way.

The next time that you and Jonathan talk about this, do your best to answer his questions honestly and truthfully. I suggest that you also plan to address the following three points:

  • Tell him that you’ve had professional support in making your decision about how you handle your family.
  • He needs to respect that you’re reacting to the world in a healthy and well-thought-out way. You need him to respect you and trust your judgment if you are going to be together.
  • Ask him to educate himself about the effect that someone’s mental health can have on their family so that he can be supportive in the future.

According to 2015 statistics by The National Alliance on Mental Illness, “Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year. 

You’re smart to wait until you’ve dated a while to reveal a difficult family history. For the most part, I suggest that you gradually bring up the topic after you’ve dated for a month or so.

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Google Goggles: When Who He Is Doesn’t Match His Search Results

Romantic date sunsetDear Annie,
I’m a staunch Democrat—I actively support Bernie Sanders—and would never date anyone who isn’t politically on the same page. I’ve been seeing my boyfriend Jim for almost a year. He has assured me that we’re politically aligned.

I was searching around on the web and discovered that he may have been lying to me all along! I read that he actively campaigned against universal healthcare—which I support—and that he actually raised money to dismantle ObamaCare. He’s also supported other Libertarian causes that run counter to my values.

Otherwise, he’s an excellent boyfriend. I love him. He’s loving, generous and reliable. He talks about having a future together. My friends and family adore him and he shows me that he loves me in many ways.

The problem is that I’m embarrassed to tell him that I’ve been Googling him. I don’t want him to think that I’m spying on him or that I don’t trust him. On the other hand, he hasn’t been totally honest with me. What is the best way to approach this? Olivia

 You didn’t do anything wrong. In this day and age, it’s wise to assume that anyone you date will look you up on the Internet.

It’s become increasingly common for people to Google a romantic interest before the third or fourth date because more people are meeting in ways that aren’t connected to other parts of their lives, including online dating, singles events or random encounters. It’s one of the few ways to verify information about a stranger.

It’s natural to be curious about someone you’re considering for a romantic relationship. In the pre-Internet age, it’s likely that you or your family would have gleaned tidbits of information from your neighbors, friends or colleagues.

Internet research has its drawbacks. While the friendly chit-chat of the past may have revealed tidbits about someone’s character, the information on the web isn’t likely to tell you that somebody is going to be honest, kind or respectful.

Everything you can see on Google is information gleaned from the Internet. Not all of it is accurate and it’s relatively easy to get people’s names mixed up along with other information.

Internet research might tell you if someone is married or has a criminal history. But, unless those records are public in their legal jurisdiction, you can’t even discover those things.

Even the best online research won’t tell you whether a person is a sociopath, narcissist or an everyday garden-variety liar. Google can’t tell you if someone has a bad temper or poor relationship skills. Those are things you have to figure out for yourself as you get to know each other.

Not everything on the Internet is true. Unless Jim has a very unique last name, there is a reasonable chance that someone with the same name has supported causes he disavows.

Rather than accusing him of contributing to causes you don’t believe in, I suggest you ask him if he ever works for or contributes to political campaigns. If he replies in the affirmative, tell him you’d like to know which ones and learn about his reasons for doing so.

If you discover that he has been deliberately lying, you will have to make a decision about whether you can continue to be with someone who has been lying about something this significant during the course of your relationship.

If this causes a break up, plan to do research earlier next time you date.

I’m a fan of judicious Internet research in the early phases of dating. After that, it’s up to you to discover whether he’s a good match.

If you’re having trouble understanding how to figure out what is going on when you’re dating, my upcoming 4-week group class/ webinar will be a game changer for you! Click here for details.

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Meeting Men Off-the-Grid: One Girl Goes Out

heart1Back in 2010, "Addie," an attractive woman in her mid-forties hired me as her dating coach. She was delightful to work with; she was energetic, optimistic and enthusiastically took on all the components of her coaching program.

She was a quick study. Things started working for her right away. She gained lots of confidence. Within a few weeks she enthusiastically adopted new practices in her daily life. She quickly started dating interesting men and became proficient at getting into relationships. That was when she started taking shortcuts. She wanted a great relationship and she wanted it now. She was becoming involved with higher quality men, but things weren't ending well. 

It turned out that her proficiency and getting stuff done also meant that she had taken some major shortcuts and had skipped quite a bit of the actionable part of her homework.

Fast forward to 2016. Addie found herself single again after a few relationships that had gotten off to a good start had fizzled out. She got in touch with me and told me that she had a new strategy that included revisiting her homework. She joined my Wednesday evening group series, and asked if she could blog about her experience.

She decided to go off the grid and meet someone in real life. Her blogs are funny, insightful and speak about a woman who, now in her early fifties, is doing her best to meet men in person.

Her insights have inspired many of the other women in the group to dare to do things differently. Her ability to see the positive humor in each of her "meeting-men-in-person" situations is refreshing and fun. Check out her blog posts and subscribe if you like them.

Here is the beginning of Addie's blog:

"Courage, dear hearts!

A few years ago, just out of a long marriage and utterly baffled at the dating scene, I hired Annie for one-on-one coaching. It changed my love life. But, truth is, I skimped some important homework. So now I'm back. Please follow me as I take part in her group sessions and then go offline to find the love of my life..." Click here to continue

Addie is a pseudonym. All identifying details are modified, but the story is true.

If you find yourself becoming involved with men who don't turn out as advertised, remember...it doesn't have to be that way. Click here to learn more.

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You Said I Was Your Girlfriend, But…

Friends Dining EveningDear Annie, My boyfriend, Al, always introduces me as his “friend.” I think he should introduce me as his girlfriend. He says it doesn’t matter and that I am being too sensitive.

I think it means he’s not proud of me or that he doesn’t want to acknowledge our relationship. Who is right? Candace

Has Al asked you to be his girlfriend? If not, he may consider you just to be a woman who he is dating. Usually, when a man introduces a woman as his girlfriend, it means that he is serious about her. It’s a signal to his friends that, if all goes well, they are likely to see more of her in the future.

Al is more likely to think of you as his girlfriend if he brought up the following topics:

  • Dating exclusively
  • Being in a committed relationship and what that would look like
  • Moving towards a possible future together

If you and Al have been together for more than a few months, and you haven’t answered yes to the above questions, it may be that he considers you “Ms. Right For Right Now,” rather than a woman with whom he may share a possible future.

In this case, I suggest that you get in touch with your authentic desires so that you can be honest with yourself about the kind of relationship you really want.

If you are okay with being in a temporary romantic relationship, go ahead and enjoy yourself without worrying about whether he calls you his girlfriend or not.

If you’re looking for a long-term relationship, you may need to set some boundaries.

You may want to tell Al that while you really enjoy his company, you can’t be involved with someone in this way unless he sees you as his girlfriend. Let him know that would mean that you would eventually want to explore the idea of a possible future together.

You have to be prepared for any answer he might give when you have this kind of discussion. If he is not ready to be in a serious relationship with you, he won’t be inspired to move forward no matter how much he likes you or how well you get along.

If you feel like someone is your boyfriend, but he doesn’t think of you as his girlfriend, you have a mismatch in how you view your relationship. Both of you will be happier in the long run if you get things sorted out.

If you’re having trouble understanding how to read men’s signals when you’re dating, my upcoming 4-week group class/ webinar will be a game changer for you! Click here for details.

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Are You Dating a "Sex Ghost?"

Hoping For LoveMakingDear Annie, Jerry and I were immediately attracted and our chemistry positively sizzled. We enjoyed several great dates over a period of about a week. We were in sync about every thing. Our conversation was stimulating, both intellectually and physically.

Both of us are looking for a long-term relationship. Everything seemed to click.

Our third date was magical. We spent the day together. We took a walk to his office after lunch. Every few minutes, we couldn’t help but stop and make out. Our energy was magnetic and irresistible.

I was really impressed by his office. He has several degrees and has written at least a dozen books. He liked me so much that he even introduced me to a couple of his colleagues who happened to be there on the weekend.

We had planned to take BART to the other side of the Bay to see a show, but before we got to the station I had to use the bathroom. We happened to be near his condo, so he suggested that we stop there.

It was gorgeous, with beautiful views of the Bay, vaulted ceilings and several decks. We decided to stay there for a little while and enjoyed a glass of wine. Long story short, we ended up making love. Our chemistry with off the charts! We shared amazing lovemaking that lasted for hours.

When we parted, he told me that he had to take care of some business that was going to keep him out of touch for a few days. Well, a few days turned into a few weeks, and I still haven’t heard from him. I reached out and he didn’t respond. I don’t want to stalk him, but I can’t forget him. What happened? Cheryl

It sounds like you and Jerry had a fabulous mini relationship that lasted for a week. The intense sexual attraction translated into a strong emotional connection for you. That doesn’t seem to be the case for Jerry, who turned into a “sex ghost,” and disappeared.

A high amount of physical chemistry can cause minor delusions. It slows down your perception of time. When you’re apart it can feel like lots of time has passed when it may have only been a day or two.

Chemistry can also cause you to forget that you have only known a man for a very short time and that you have no clear sense of his actual intentions. For example, when Jerry told you that he was looking for a long-term relationship, you believed that it could mean that he specifically wanted to have one with you.

However, three dates is not enough time to determine whether a man is only interested in sex or if he’s sold on the prospect of the two of you eventually moving into a long-term relationship. A man who is only enthusiastic about a sexual encounter tends to behave in the same way as a man who is drawn towards a serious relationship. This is not because men are evil or manipulative. It’s because their instincts can propel them in that direction even if becoming emotionally involved is not on their radar.

If you are a woman who cares about getting into a relationship, it’s wise to determine whether a man wants the same thing before the two of you get into bed.

Rather than getting caught up in immediate chemistry, I suggest that you get to know a guy over a longer period of time–-at least a month or two—before you sleep with him. This will help prevent your sexual feelings from clouding your judgment.

A man who is only interested in sex will have dropped out of your life before then. But, man who is really interested in a relationship with you will be patient and wait until you are ready.

Continue to date others during these initial months so that you don’t get too emotionally involved. While this may be difficult to do, it will help to protect your heart by slowing down the speed with which you get involved.

Taking it slowly helps to make your love life feel safer and lowers your chances of heartbreak.

If you’re having trouble understanding how to read men’s signals when you’re dating, my upcoming 4-week group class/ webinar will be a game changer for you! Click here for details.

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Guest — Victoria
As a 50-something but empowered woman who enjoys her sexuality, I could also recommend that you sleep with a man you are intereste... Read More
Thursday, 14 April 2016 19:24
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The Dangers of Living With Someone Who is Separated, but not Divorced

Cat coffee couple webDear Annie, I’ve been living with Bill for two of the three years that we’ve been together. Our relationship is really good. However, he refuses to get a divorce. He says that he doesn’t want to rock the boat and that things are fine the way they are.

His kids are grown and his ex-wife has moved on. He finally told me that he simply doesn’t want to see his net worth cut in half when his divorce is finalized. He doesn’t ever want to remarry, and I am mostly okay with it, although I would prefer to get married someday. I worry because I have no security. We can’t invest in anything together because community property laws state that his wife shares everything he owns.

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Why Someone Who Loves You is Only Available on Weekends

ChunkyHugCakeDear Annie, I’m really confused. My boyfriend, Don, is never, ever in touch during the week. He has a successful career and travels a lot for his business.

He told me that he loved me after we had been dating for a couple of months. We have a wonderful time when we see each other on weekends.

I hate it when he leaves because I know that I will have absolutely zero communication from Monday morning to Friday evening. I find it really difficult to cope with my feelings of isolation after being so connected with him on the weekends.

I’ve tried texting and calling him during the week, but he doesn’t respond. I have told him that I just want to hear the sound of his voice. He knows that I don’t want to spend hours on the phone.

Whenever I bring this up, he tells me he loves me and that I have no reason to feel insecure. I’m ashamed that our being in touch is so important to me when he tells me that he cares so much about me. I know that he works really hard.

He says that during the week he is just too exhausted and overwhelmed to have any energy left over to do anything but fall asleep at the end of each day. He says that if he didn’t work as hard during the week, he wouldn’t have time to spend the whole weekend with me.

How can I become more at peace with the situation? I don’t want to be a nag and I don’t want to scare him away. Catherine

 

I can see why you’re confused. When a man’s words and his actions don’t match, it’s usually wise to believe his actions.

You’re asking for something reasonable. Even the busiest, most-focused entrepreneur can find time to do something small to make his partner happy.

The first thing I would tell a client is to talk with Don at a moment when both of you are relaxed. Tell him that you’ve been thinking about something that has been making you feel sad, lonely and isolated. Be sure to communicate your feelings in a way that doesn’t seem to put the blame on him.

Then say that that he would make you feel happy, content and loved if he would call you and talk for five minutes a day on days that you’re not together. You’re only asking him for a total of 15 minutes of his time every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. It’s important that he hears that changing his actions will inspire positive feelings in you.

This talk will also give him the opportunity to show you, by his actions, that he loves you.

People in a healthy relationships respect and honor each other’s reasonable needs.

If Don balks at this suggestion, it reflects how he will continue to treat you. It’s important that you take this into consideration to help manage your long-term happiness and stress levels in your relationship with him.

When a man who says he loves you refuses to provide attention–to the point where you feel starved for it–you need to understand that things are not going to change. You can’t change his behavior if he’s unwilling to do so. All you can do is walk away from the relationship.

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What to do When he Won't Introduce You to His Kids

Cuddling Couple CouchDear Annie, Bob and I have been dating for six months. We’re in love. We have great chemistry and get along fabulously. He has joint custody of his three kids—who I’ve never met—ages three, five and nine. They are with him every other week from Thursday afternoon until Monday morning.
He says it’s too soon to introduce us. I’m great with kids—I was a camp counselor in high school and my friends’ kids love me. Once I got to know them, I could help him out, as I know how busy he is when they are with him.

We would also get more opportunities to see each other when he has custody. He will only get a babysitter in an emergency, so we rarely see each other when he’s with his children.

I’ve been patient so far. But his lack of availability is starting to get on my nerves. I wonder if he’s trying to avoid me or if he’s afraid that his ex-wife will be upset when she finds out about me.
How long should we be dating before he introduces me to his kids? Jean

There is no “right time” for you to meet someone’s children. In this case, Bob is the only one whose opinion counts. They are his children and he is responsible for their well-being. It’s 100 percent up to him whether or when he decides to introduce you. Whatever his reasons are, he’s not comfortable doing so right now.

Beware of getting ahead of your relationship. Meet his children and get to know them over time. At first, it’s best if you are only introduced as a friend. After that, your role in their lives is something that you and Bob gradually need to figure out.

This means you only help him out with him when he asks you to do something specific. The kids already have a mother. You and Bob will need to take your time deciding what future role you may play in his children’s lives.

After all, he is their father and it sounds like he takes that role very seriously. You need to respect this/his approach even if you don’t agree with the way he raises them. His decisions about their lives need to take priority over yours.

If things were reversed and they were your children, you would want him to show you that same kind of respect.

One of the things that you, as a girlfriend, need to be crystal clear about is that Bob’s kids will always come first in his life. They will be his top priority forever. They may grow up and leave home but even after that, they will be tremendously important to him.

I suggest that you ask Bob if he has a plan for you to meet his children. Ask him how he envisions your role in his kid’s lives.

If he tells you that he hasn’t really thought about introducing you to his children, tell him that you are open to meeting them whenever he’s ready. You might ask him what needs to occur before that happens.

If Bob tells you that he wants to keep his relationship with you and his children separate, you have your answer. Things aren’t going to change. As long as you and Bob are dating, you will see him whenever it’s convenient for him. Is this something worth breaking up with him over?

If, after six months of dating, he’s not willing to discuss this seriously, it’s likely that he sees you as a casual, part-time girlfriend. In that case, you need to make the decision to move on and find someone who is available unless you’re okay with things staying exactly the way they are.

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