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The Art of Deciphering the Phone Snub

Shes not picking up his callHi Annie, I’m tired of being disrespected by women who can’t be bothered to pick up the phone or return my calls. I don’t understand why they give me their number if they don’t want to talk to me.

I’ve had to make multiple calls to schedule dates, make reservations or confirm plans. I would estimate that 50 percent of women don't return calls. It is just outright rude and passive aggressive. Al

I partly blame this problem on the mixed messages women get about dating. Many believe that they will appear desperate or too eager if they return your call promptly. However there is nothing further from the truth.

Not returning a man’s calls, texts or emails often creates a huge source of frustration. Rather than inspiring a man to like or respect the woman who is not returning his calls, it simply makes him annoyed because she is positioning herself as an opponent rather than as an ally.

There is also another reason that a woman might not return your calls. She may have given you her phone number, but later changed her mind about wanting to get to know you. Rather than being direct, she believes that you will take the hint when she ignores your calls. The problem is that most people aren’t mind readers.

The most successful way to deal with the situation is to set clear boundaries around your phone calls. Wait at least 48 hours between calls, or she might get the impression that you’re a stalker.

  • If she doesn’t pick up your first call, leave a message saying that you would appreciate a return call. Tell her that if she’s not comfortable doing so, you would appreciate a text back telling you the best times of the day to contact her. Say that if she doesn’t call you back you will be in touch in a day or two.
  • The second time you call, repeat the first message. Tell her that you enjoyed meeting her and that you would like to get together for a quick date. That way she won’t worry that she might get stuck on a long, romantic date with someone she barely knows.
  • If you call her a third time, let her know that you’re making a one-time exception to your general rule of not contacting someone more than twice in a row. Tell her that this is the last time that you will be in touch, and that you would appreciate a return call.

Your tone of voice on these phone calls should be friendly, self assured and flirtatious. It helps if you put a smile on your face--she will be able to hear it in your voice--to remind her that you are a friendly guy.

Note to women: It’s kinder of you to let a man know if you’re not interested in him. Many of my male clients have expressed deep frustration when they have been in a similar situation.

Men simply want to know whether you’re interested. They don’t read smoke signals—especially those sent by women! Clearly communicating whether you are interested in getting to know a man a little bit better is both a respectful and thoughtful way to approach the situation. Ghosting him by not returning his calls is rude and thoughtless.

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Long Distance Lapse: How to Discover the Truth About Your Relationship

Flirting at a barDear Annie, Friends introduced me to Fred when he was visiting Berkeley from his home in Seattle a couple of years ago. We hit it off right away. He’s intelligent, has a great sense of humor and is down-to-earth in exactly a way that I like.

He’s called me almost every evening since we met. We talk for at least half an hour, often much longer. He stays with me every few months when he visits the Bay Area.

I haven’t gone out with another man since we got together. I doubt that he’s dating anyone else. I can count on his calls, and he’s always friendly, affectionate and interested in my life.

I’m concerned that he’s never invited me to stay with him. I brought it up once or twice, but he says that he can’t accommodate guests as his place is being remodeled.

I’ve talked to friends about my situation and several of them think that I should be proactive and visit him, uninvited, in Seattle. I feel it would be presumptuous and awkward. I can’t imagine telling him that I’m planning to visit his home.

My friends also tell me that I should ask him if he’s dating anyone else. I don’t know if he’s ready to have that kind of a talk. I love him and want to continue our relationship. I’m afraid that asking him such prying questions could scare him away. He’s a sensitive guy and I don’t want to pressure him.

On the other hand, when I look at what is truly important to me, I don’t want to waste my time with someone who has no intention of being in a long-term relationship with me.

How do I find out whether we’re both on the same page without risking our relationship? Molly

You’ve waited quite a long time to ask questions that are likely to seriously impact how you approach your connection with Fred.

It’s unwise to assume that you’re in a committed relationship with someone unless they have agreed to that with you. This is something you need to talk about, so you don’t misunderstand each other’s intentions. Until then, assume that you’re both free to date others.

For all you know, Fred could be married to a woman who works in the evening. He could be dating other women before or after your regular phone calls.

There are several signs that you and Fred might not be seeing your connection in the same way. A man who treasures you would want to see you more often than every few months. He would be likely to include you in his life and introduce you to his friends and family during the first six months or so of your relationship.

It’s time to be brave and discover the truth. You could start by asking him how he envisions (let's change verbs) your relationship. Are you friends or are you boyfriend and girlfriend? If you are, is your relationship exclusive? How does he see your future together? Does he have any intention of moving to Berkeley or inviting you to move to Seattle?

The prospect of asking these questions may make you feel awkward, but they could save you a great deal of pain in the future.

Reluctance to have a discussion about this topic once caused a friend of mine a great deal of misery. She dated a man for about four years, during which time she assumed that they were dating exclusively. When she discovered that he was also seeing someone else, she accused him of cheating. But he countered, saying that he was free to do whatever he pleased because they had never agreed to date exclusively.

Gaining clarity about the nature of your relationship, as it progresses, will give you the ability to make the best choices for your future.

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

 

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You’re Committed to Him, But You’re Just One of His Many Options

Hiking couple webDear Annie, Alex and I have been dating for more than two years. He acts like he’s my boyfriend, but he introduces me as his friend. We spend almost every night together. I don’t think he’s seeing anyone else.

I love him deeply. I think he loves me although he’s never said those words. He doesn’t like to talk about our relationship or discuss his feelings.

He has told me that he isn't ready for a commitment right now because he was too hurt in his previous relationship. So I have focused on being the best girlfriend possible so that he’ll feel safe around me.

I want to be reasonable about our relationship and take care of myself at the same time. In the past, I’ve been willing to wait for his pain to heal. I don’t want to nag him, but lately I’ve become increasingly impatient. I feel like I ought to know whether we want a future together.

How much longer do I need to wait before he recovers from his last relationship and decides to commit to ours? Jennifer

You and Alex seem to have different ideas about where your relationship stands. You want a future with him. He is behaving as if he’s truly enjoying your friendship and the romantic benefits that you’re bringing to the table.

He has avoided defining and committing to your relationship. Yet, you’re still providing him with affection—in and out of bed—as well as attention, loyalty and friendship. You have given him no reason to believe that he has to do anything in return.

If he is like most men, Alex was being honest when he told you that he was not ready or available for a relationship.

When a man is in this situation, he’s not seeking a partner to share his life. Instead, he’s interested in someone to enjoy in the moment. In this case, it’s likely that he will continue to instinctively hold back from becoming deeply emotionally involved with you.

When a man tells you that he’s not ready to commit, it’s unwise to assume that your loving behavior will change his mind. I only recommend dating a man who says he’s not ready if you can truly be happy dating him for a short period of time before moving on.

I suggest that you have a discussion with Alex. Tell him that you have come to the realization you need to be in relationship that is moving towards a future together. Tell him that you hope that he’s available. If he says that it’s not in the cards, thank him for his honesty. You will then be able to make a good decision for yourself because you will know where you stand.

You cannot set a deadline by which time a man must be ready to commit. But you can set a limit on how long you will wait in a go-nowhere relationship before you move on and take care of what’s important for you and your future.

People are either ready or not ready for a relationship. Both of you need to want the same thing if you want to get serious about finding lasting love.

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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The Art of Interpreting Mixed Signals

Beach CoupleDear Annie, My boyfriend, Jerry, and I been dating off and on for two years. During this time he has broken our relationship off four times. Each time he told me that things aren’t working and I’m not the right person for him.

When it’s good between us, it’s fantastic. We get along well in every way. Our chemistry is off the charts and we have comfortable, engaged conversations. We share many interests and have a great time together.

The first time he broke it off, we’d been dating for about six months. I was crushed, as I’d fallen deeply in love with him and hoped that we could share a future together. Needless to say, I was thrilled when he called a few weeks later and said that he couldn’t live without me. I welcomed him back with open arms.

He ended it again right before the holiday season. He finally asked me to reconcile a couple of weeks after I’d spent a miserable New Year’s holiday alone. I was relieved and took him back even though I had some misgivings about his ability to commit. He assured me that he was ready for a deep, intimate relationship and said that he knew I was “The One” for him.

The next time he broke up with me was in the middle of the following summer. He was gone for longer this time, but begged me to take him back. I told him I would only do so if he promised to stay for good and that I wasn’t ever going to give him another chance. He insisted that he had learned his lesson and that this was the last time it would ever happen.

Fast-forward to three days before Christmas—we even had tickets to fly to Chicago to see my family—he broke it off again. He said he couldn’t do this anymore. He told me that he wasn’t good at relationships and that he regretted getting back together. I told him to never contact me again.

Not only was I heartbroken, but I felt like a fool after allowing him back in my life three times! It took me a while before I could function again.

After being apart for almost four months I’m finally starting to heal. I’ve even started dating and am enjoying feeling open to other men, even though part of me still longs for Jerry. Last night he called and begged me to talk. He told me he had made a huge mistake and was terribly sorry that he had left me. He pleaded temporary insanity. He promised to marry me if I take him back. He even wants to set a date.

I’m torn; I don’t know what to do. I love him with all my heart. But I can’t stand this emotional roller coaster. There is a part of me that is thrilled that he feels so strongly about me. And there’s another side of me that is horrified that he’s returning, as I can’t trust him to stick around. What do I do? Denise

Jerry sounds like he has a classic commitment-phobic behavior pattern. He’s deeply attracted to you. He may even love you. But his discomfort when he’s deeply involved causes him to feel suffocated, and he feels compelled to extricate himself from your relationship in order to feel comfortable.

Commitment phobes subconsciously prefer to keep a certain degree of distance between themselves and their loved ones. They may be able to maintain a relationship until this distance is breached. When you become too close for comfort, they pick an argument or push you away. As a relationship becomes more intimate and connected, they feel an urgent need to get away, so they initiate a breakup.

Holidays usually exacerbate this behavior. Even if he’s been able to manage his fears during the rest of the year, seasonal pressures push them over the top. They become so uncontrollable that he feels that he has no choice but to run. He literally feels like he’s fighting for his life.

Once he’s caught his breath and finds himself alone, it’s a different story. He thinks about what he had when you were together. He remembers the things he appreciated about your relationship and starts to feel increasingly lonely and desperate. He misses you. The longer you’re apart, the greater his need for you becomes until he convinces himself that he’ll handle it better this time.

I suggest that you continue healing and moving forward without him. Some couples with relationships caught in this cycle break up and reconcile over a dozen times. Stephen Carter, author of Men Who Can’t Love says that this chain of events usually recurs with the separations becoming longer and more frequent, interspersed with shorter periods of reconciliation.

Dealing with a commitment phobe is similar to handling other abusive relationships. Your only real power is to walk away, heal and become involved with someone who can handle a healthy relationship.

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Not so Mister Nice Guy

Unhappy coupleDear Annie, John and I started living together after dating for six months. My friends told me that I was crazy to move in with him so soon, but we were in love, seemed to be completely compatible and spending every night together, so it made no sense to pay rent for two places.

After we combined households, things changed. We’ve been arguing a lot.

He’s become increasingly possessive. He gets upset if I spend time with my girlfriends unless we include him. Yet, he goes to band-practice every Friday evening without me, which would be fine if he didn’t interrogate me about my activities during that same time frame. He insists that I tell him everything I discuss with anyone.

It gotten to the point where I’m afraid to do anything without consulting him, first because I never know what it going to upset him. He’s not violent, just very critical and moody. I’m starting to feel like I can’t do anything right, no matter how hard I try.

For example, he doesn’t like the way I do the dishes. I follow his detailed instructions the best I can, but he snaps at me if I don’t stack them exactly the way he wants. I told him that I am doing my best to do things the way he likes and if he doesn’t like the results, it would be a lot less stressful if he would just do it himself. That just made him angry.

If it was just the problem with the dishes, that might be OK. But, he’s got a strong opinion about how and when everything should be done. He doesn’t want to eat dinner after 6PM, needs to be in bed by 9PM every night and needs at least a week’s notice in order to modify any plans.

I know that his behavior is abusive and that, as much as I love him, I can’t tolerate much more of it. When I ask him to do things differently, he tells me that I’m overreacting and controlling. He’s agreed to go to couples therapy, but he can’t find a convenient time on his schedule, so it never happens.

I’m ashamed to say anything to my friends, since they didn’t support our moving in together. I wish I hadn’t given up my apartment. We have a year-long lease and I don’t know how to get out of it. What can I do to work this out? Kerry

You have three major problems: Your shame at making a mistake, your lease and your abusive, toxic boyfriend.

You don’t need to go through this alone. You’re not the first person who has misjudged someone due to the influence of love.

I suggest that, for the time being, you ignore John’s rule that you share all of your conversations with him, as your safety is more important than anything else. If you simply threaten to leave, there is a good chance that his behavior will temporarily improve until he’s sure you’ve returned for good. Unfortunately, the vast majority of abusers can’t change repeat their disparaging behavior. It’s unlikely that John would be the exception.

If you’re like most women in an abusive situation, his sincere-sounding apology and promise to change will result in intense feelings of elation, triumph and relief, and you’ll want to give him a chance to reform his behavior. The intensity of these feelings is the main reason that people stay in abusive relationships, according to Gavin deBecker, author of bestseller, The Gift of Fear.

This almost never works. Abusers generally seduce their partners and victims with words of love and promises that they can’t keep. Once they’re assured of their love, the patterns of abuse and isolation from support systems take over. When you try to separate from your abuser, the pattern of seduction starts anew.

The first thing you should do is to get support from friends and family. Swallow your pride and contact your friends and say that you made a mistake. Apologize if you said things that hurt their feelings. Then, ask for their help in extricating yourself from this situation.

  • Plan your exit carefully:
  • Research to find out how to get out of your lease. Call your landlord and find out what your options are. If you discover that you’re stuck with the lease, contact your local bar association and ask where you can get low-cost legal help.
  • Find a new place to live before telling him you’re going. You don’t know how he is going to react when he receives the news that he’s losing you, so store your important documents and valuables elsewhere in advance.
  • Forward your mail to a P.O. box for now so that he can’t easily discover your new address.
  • For readers who are in a long term relationship and need help leaving an abuser, this article has fabulous advice and a great list of resources.
    Ask friends to help you pack and move. If possible, leave while John is at work.

The best way to avoid becoming involved with an abuser is to pay attention to changes in their behavior as you become increasingly involved. You’re always better off if you move forward slowly and cautiously, as abusers often rush into romantic relationship.

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

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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.

 

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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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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