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Five Reasons to be Thankful for Dating in 2016

Dancing couple webDear Annie, I've tried absolutely everything that I can think of to find love, but nothing has worked. I’ve gone out with dozens of men, but only felt connected and attracted to one, who ended up ghosting me after a couple of months.

I don't understand why I can't seem to make this happen even though I have been able to find success in every other endeavor I have tried to pursue.

Now the holidays are here and I can’t believe I’m still single, despite my best efforts. I feel alone and humiliated. All of my friends have found someone. I don’t want to deal with yet another holiday dinner where I’m the only one going solo. Alison

 There is nothing to be ashamed of. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, just over half of adult Americans are single. Being single today doesn’t mean you’ll be single forever.

This is the time of year when people are inclined to look for love. Maybe it’s the long evenings and cool weather that makes them want to connect. Perhaps it’s the extra time away from work that provides the space that allows them to ponder what’s most important in their lives.

Both men and women are most attracted to someone who is happy and confident. People want to connect with someone who is interested in getting to know them, rather than someone who wants to obtain a mate to fill an empty chair at the table.

So, even if you have to fake it, you’re better off if you display an upbeat attitude when you’re out and about meeting people.

While modern dating may seem discouraging and confusing, it helps if you focus on the positive. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that single people over thirty were considered unfortunate people who had missed their chance for love. In 2016, you definitely have a lot going for you for the following reasons:

1) This year, more people are seeking a partner who shares their values in an increasingly divided country. After the recent disruptive election, many people who were previously satisfied with casual dating or waiting for the impossibly perfect partner are now actively looking for love.

2) There are more ways than ever to meet like-minded, single people. The more you take advantage of these, the greater your chances of success:

  • In real life: You can meet people through friends, social groups or clubs, and MeetUps. Participating in volunteer work, networking activities and attending classes or Internet-organized events or singles events is also a plus.
  • Online dating—actually, I prefer to call it “online introductions”—whether it’s one on of thousands of online dating sites, such as match.com and OK Cupid, or apps, such as Bumble and CoffeeMeetsBagel is a great way to meet people.
  • Randomly, whether you’re at the grocery store or farmer’s market, waiting for public transportation or walking the dog, you can chat with potentially eligible mates.

3) It’s easy to get support: You can find answers to questions on the Internet, meet new friends in social groups while you’re looking for love or hire a dating coach, an option that was almost unheard of at the turn of the century.

4) We are in a country and place in time where you get to choose what kind of relationship you need at this stage in your life. No one else feels entitled to make your decisions for you. The key difficulty is creating the time and making the effort to getting to know someone before you decide to stay or go.

5) We are so fortunate to have access to reliable birth control. The last 50 years have marked the first time in known history when engaging in sex did not automatically include the risk of a woman becoming pregnant. If you are like most midlife women, you couldn’t imagine waiting to marry someone before becoming sexually intimate.

There is a lot to be thankful for when it comes to dating in the twenty-first century. Happy Thanksgiving! I wish you love.

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What to do When Your Boyfriend Won't Call

Woman Wait For CallDear Annie, Josh and I have been together for four months. We adore each other and are in a committed relationship. In spite of that, I can’t get him to call regularly when we’re apart. We see each other every weekend and once or twice during the week.

When I call, he often sounds distant, although he says he’s glad to hear from me. It is as if he had an on-and-off switch. When we’re together, it’s great. But when we’re apart, it seems like he forgets that I exist. Despite my best efforts, this results in my feeling resentful, insecure and unimportant in his life.

I would love to be in relationship where we talk every day. Is it too soon for me to ask him to call regularly? I don’t want to do anything to upset him or scare him away. Deirdre

It’s not too soon to ask your boyfriend to call regularly. An emotionally healthy man who cares for you will want to make you happy and provide what you need as long as it doesn’t conflict with his values or responsibilities to himself or others.

If Josh is unaware that you feel that talking in between your dates is important, he may not see any reason to call. He may believe that you should call him if you want to talk, rather than understanding that you don’t call him because you feel that he’s often emotionally unavailable when you initiate a call.

Like many men, he may not regularly get on the phone just to chat. Instead, he might be more likely to use phone conversations to exchange information. I first noticed this when my son was growing up; he often had a one-minute phone conversation to arrange getting together with a friend, while I was used to conversations that included making a connection before making plans.

Your best bet is to plan a conversation to tell Josh that you would love the opportunity to talk between dates. Before you do so, think about what would be satisfying in the long run.

If you could have it all your way, how often would you talk? How long would those conversations last? Would they be quick check-ins or long talks or a combination of each?

Don’t modify your answers in order to accommodate Josh’s possible reaction. Just decide what would be most satisfying to you. Once you have that sorted out, you will be more able to effectively communicate what you feel is important. You will also be more likely to have gained awareness of the areas in which you’re most comfortable compromising.

When you talk, tell him how you feel when you don’t hear from him: “resentful, insecure and unimportant.” Say that if you had it all your way, he would call you for as often and as long as you previously decided. Tell him what sensation that would provide for you—the opposite of how not talking feels—let’s say, happy, secure and important. Then, ask if this is something he can provide for you. Listen carefully to his reply.

If he says he’s happy to do so, problem solved!

If he says he wants you to compromise in some way, be willing to negotiate, as long as it won’t cause you to feel resentful. For example, if he wants you to initiate some calls, ask him to provide you with times when he’s more likely to be emotionally available.

If he tells you he’s not willing to make any changes, then you’ve got a choice: stay in a relationship that makes you uncomfortable and insecure on a regular basis or move on so you can find someone who wants to make you happy.

Asking to have your needs met may feel like a risky proposition, but if you communicate clearly, it’s likely to provide an opportunity for the relationship to grow.

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How to Set Boundaries When Your Live-in Boyfriend Loses his Job

Dog couple outdoors 1Dear Annie, Mark lost his job three months ago, just after we moved in together. He has limited savings and is now at the point where he can’t afford to pay for his share of our expenses.

He had a good job when we met. We dated for eight months before merging households. He seemed to be a hard worker. He was loyal and reliable. He never took a day off from work, not even when he was sick.

He is clearly enjoying his time off. He said that he has worked all of his life and wanted to relax for a while. That was fine with me as long as he pulled his own financial weight.

After I insisted, he reluctantly agreed to search for work. This consists of him spending about an hour each day on job-search websites. He rarely sends out his resume because the jobs that he qualifies for don’t pay as well as his old job and he doesn’t want to work for less money.

I know that the loss of his job was a shock to him, but I’d rather not continue to support him. How can I get him to take his job search seriously? Adele

I understand why Mark might want to take time off and relax. It would make sense if he could afford to do so. At this point, he’s in a situation where he can’t pay for his costs of living without your financial backing, which he couldn’t have obtained without your consent.

Let’s face it: no one except the IRS can force you to spend your money unless they have your permission. It’s up to each couple to negotiate how they agree to share financial responsibilities.

Some couples believe that all income belongs equally to both members. Others set aside a portion of their income for mutual expenses and keep the remainder separate.

In either case, a member of a couple might feel that it’s reasonable to assume that their partner will act as their financial safety net when the other person’s contribution falls short.

You may very well question Mark’s financial intentions, as you just moved in together after a moderately short courtship.

When you and Mark moved in together, did you have an understanding of how you were splitting expenses and responsibilities? If so, revisit your agreement to see how it was designed to work under your present circumstances.

If you didn’t do so, you need to create one right now, even though he’s not working. Bite the bullet and prepare to take the time to negotiate what is fair for both of you.

For the short-term, if it works for your budget, it’s OK to allow Mark to owe you money that you have paid on his behalf. I suggest that you set a firm time and dollar limit to extending him credit.

If he’s unwilling to actively engage in a full-time search for a job or pay his share out of his savings or credit cards, I suggest that you start looking for a new place to live as soon as possible. Otherwise, you may run the risk of supporting him indefinitely.

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Ever Got Tricked Into Accepting Unwelcome Touch?

UnwelcomeTouchPerhaps it's Time to Bring Back the Hatpin

The recent video that captured Donald Trump’s reprehensible behavior towards women has brought up traumatic memories for many women. Some of my clients, especially those who have been sexually assaulted, were so upset that they wondered whether it’s worthwhile continuing to try to date. They worried that they might find themselves alone with a man who has a similar attitude towards women.

I reminded them that each man is different. Most men would never consider treating a woman in this way. We talked about how a woman can have better control of her safety and maintain her dignity if she is prepared to deal with a man with a false sense of entitlement about her body.

Sexual assault or harassment has happened to most women I know. I don’t remember a time in which we have talked about it openly and unashamedly. When it happened to me, I thought it was my fault, so I was quiet about it. So were most of my friends and clients.

It often happens so suddenly, and unexpectedly. You’re just going about your business. Perhaps you’re on a date, on a bus or at work. Maybe you’re meeting with your boss, a mentor or a business connection. Perhaps it's the coach for your kid’s baseball team. He is supposed to be a friend, to be kind, to help you. He is supposed to be someone safe to be around.

It happens in the blink of an eye. One minute you are doing something completely normal. In the next minute, he talks about your body in graphic terms. He unexpectedly touches your body with his hand, his mouth, or even more disgustingly, his crotch.

Your first reaction might be to freeze. You are instinctively aware that you are smaller or weaker than him. You know he can overpower you. No question about that. So, you buy time and try to figure out what to do in a way that doesn’t anger him or call attention to the situation.

If the man is a stranger on the bus or your relationship is otherwise inconsequential, you are more likely to do something that will keep you safe without fearing that you will offend him or get him angry so he might hurt you. You can move away and you might be able to command your voice to tell him to stop.

It’s not so easy if he is your superior at work, if he is a business connection or if he has power or influence over any part of your life. In this case you have to rapidly measure your options and the consequences of standing up for yourself. You will also have to consider what might happen if he retaliates.

Even though this kind of sexual harassment is over very quickly, it leaves you feeling disgusted, ashamed and humiliated for a long time to come. It can also leave you feeling helpless and powerless.

After all, a man is not likely to be prosecuted for pinching your bottom, putting his hands on your breasts or rubbing his crotch against your body.

You know that the American justice system says he is innocent until proven guilty. If you bring it up to the authorities, it will be his word against yours. You know you will have to explain what happened to strangers, who may not believe you. You will be forced to relive the experience over and over again.

I think it's important that every woman be prepared for this sort of situation.

Some of our grandmothers went out in public armed with hatpins so that they could deal with men who put them in this type of situation. But in this day and age, we don't expect men to behave so badly and as a result we're not always ready to protect ourselves from this all-too-common experience.

Predatory men like Donald Trump count on women’s acquiescence in these situations. They expect that we’ll be quiet, not make a scene or defend ourselves. If we fight back, they are likely to try to discredit us.

Don’t let that stop you from speaking up. It’s likely to help if you have decided what you’re going to say beforehand. Practice it in your most confident, clear tone of voice, so that it becomes automatic.

Tell a stranger, “I need you to stop. Please back off. Get away from me now!” Repeat these words as necessary speaking them louder each time.

If the man is someone you already know, say, “Please stop. This is making me uncomfortable. I’m sure you don’t intend for me to feel this way. I appreciate your offer of help, but I need it to be above board.” Most men will back off.

If he doesn’t, you should be prepared to walk away. Tell him you need to leave, then do so. Even if he’s providing you with a favor, he knows that you’re not a prostitute. If the only way he will help you is if you submit to his advances, he is not a reliable friend.

While the vast majority of men are kind and respectful to women, it helps if you are prepared to handle the potential misbehavior on the part of others. Or, you could always bring back the hatpin.

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Where Can a Guy Meet "Normal Single Women in Their Forties?"

Romantic date sunsetDear Annie, I'm a 53-year-old man who has been in the dating scene for three years after my fourteen-year marriage ended in divorce. I would love to be in a long-term, committed relationship.

Unfortunately, no matter what I do, I’m not meeting the right kind of woman. I’m looking for a single or divorced lady in her forties, who is intelligent, attractive and classy. She’s got to be active, fit and most importantly "normal."

The few women, in their forties, I have dated briefly were all strange in different ways. For example, one smoked a lot of pot. Another’s week-long meditation sessions prevented us from going out of town. How could I, as a normal, hardworking, educated and responsible guy who enjoys travel live with that?

I’ve gone to singles events, Meet-Ups and used online dating sites and apps. I’ve met dozens of women in their mid-fifties and sixties, but very few in their forties.

I agree with a male friend who said, "There aren't any normal women in their forties. They are all married and raising children.”

Where are all the attractive and normal, good women? Mike

The simple answer is that you can probably find women who are in their forties who meet your definition of normal in a wide variety of places. They almost certainly work, go to the gym and shop. You might find them in classes, Meet-Ups or singles events. Some of them are also on online dating sites.

One of the problems that today’s dating scene causes is that people are more inclined to be solely attracted to external traits. In your case, you are only seeking a woman in her forties, even though you are well into your fifties.

Ironically, one of the issues that you face when you only want to date a woman who is at least four years younger than you is that many women in their forties don’t want to date men in their fifties because “it sounds so old.” By the way, I am simply reporting what I’ve seen and heard; I’m not saying that I agree.

If we were working together, I would ask you this question: What do you need a relationship with a woman to provide?

Because you’re not here to create your own list, I’m going to guess that your reply would include some of the following, in no particular order: You want to feel attraction. You desire sex, companionship and romance. Attention, affection and appreciation. A sense of feeling simpatico together, a sense of acceptance and feeling loved for being your authentic self. You probably want a woman who you can trust to have your back, one you can count on and someone who is easy to be around.

The next question I would ask you is this: Why are these things only possible to obtain if a woman is at least four years younger than you are? What do you believe is so different about a woman who is forty-eight than one who is your age, fifty-three?

It’s true that some women lose interest in sex after menopause. However, many women become even more sexually responsive, passionate and uninhibited. Lots of women find it easier to handle their mood-swings after menopause, which leaves them less prone to drama.

What if you became open to dating a woman who is, like you, in her fifties? There are a lot of attractive women in their early to mid fifties who are likely to share your values.

By limiting yourself to a specific age, you are effectively lowering your chances of finding the intelligent, attractive and “normal” woman you so desire.

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How to Motivate Your Ex to Move Out

TugofWarDear Annie, I can’t get my former boyfriend, Scott, to move out of my house. He moved in a couple of years ago. He became disenchanted with his job, which caused him to turn increasingly moody and withdrawn. His consequently growing resentment towards me, triggered by my successful career, was palpable.

At first, I could handle it. But as his dark moods became more frequent, I grew more frustrated. We tried to work it out, but finally agreed to break up a few months ago. He moved into the guest room, but has done nothing about finding a new place of his own in which to live.

He comes and goes as he pleases, but I feel that my life is on hold until he leaves. I have begged and pleaded for him to move, but he says that he just hasn’t found the right place yet. Short of getting an attorney, I have no idea what to do. Help! Frances

Scott has a sweet deal right now. He still has a comfortable home, the pleasure of your company when he wants it and none of the obligations of a committed relationship.

You may have to take on the tough-love parental role, since you have every right to live without him and he is not taking responsibility for moving in a timely manner. It’s not ideal, but it will allow you to get you out of your current situation.

Start by giving him strict deadlines to pack, find a place to live and move. Ask him what he needs from you in order to help him to get things done by your target dates.

Tell him that, since you have given him plenty of time to find a place on his own, you will need to take serious action if he has not left within a specific period of time. Show him you are serious by giving him 30 days written notice.

Even if your area may be under rent control, you should have the right to evict a roommate. If you are in doubt, check with your local rent-control entity.

Ask him to start packing on the first day of the coming weekend. If he has not brought boxes home by Sunday morning, do it for him. This is about doing what is needed so that you can get your long-term needs met.

Schedule a mutually agreeable time to go through items that you may have purchased together. Sort out who gets custody of which item. Pack anything that belongs to him as you’re sorting through your possessions.

Scott is more likely to be inspired to move once most of his stuff is boxed up. Ask him how his housing search is going every day. Offer to go apartment hunting with him. If you discover that he’s not taking action, go over Craigslist ads daily and direct him to places that are within his budget.

This is a lot of work. It can be really difficult to be the heavy, nagging ex after a loving relationship has gone sour. But if your former partner is not cooperating in moving on, you sadly may be left with no other choice.

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How to Overcome Political Differences in A Relationship

Difficult conversationDear Annie, Greg, my life-partner, just told me that he is planning to vote for Donald Trump. I’m crushed. We’ve had our differences in the past, but I was under the impression that we shared the same core values.

I’ve always been a staunch Democrat. While I believe that Hillary Clinton has many flaws, I am committed to voting for her because I believe that Trump’s impulsivity, selfishness and amorality will destroy this country. Greg and I have built a life together for over a decade.

While I have always known that we somewhat disagree politically, I have been able to accept those differences because we are mostly aligned in innumerable other areas. Previously, it’s been relatively painless to ignore the few ways in which we differ around politics.

This year, it’s different. I feel that the future of the free world is at stake. I hate to break up our household on account of this, but I feel like I hardly know how to handle this difference. It’s impossible for us to have a sane discussion about the upcoming election because I so badly want to convince him to not vote for the Republican ticket.

I get extremely emotional when either of us brings up the subject. How can I handle this situation while remaining true to myself and save my relationship? Debra

This presidential election season is extraordinarily stressful for couples in your situation. I’m also finding that many single people who previously would have been somewhat open to dating someone in the opposite political camp are unwilling to do so these days.

You need to become clear about the consequences you are willing to accept should you insist that Greg vote your way. Only you can decide if it’s worth throwing away a long term, otherwise compatible relationship over his vote in this presidential election.

As you sort this out, you owe both of you the opportunity to discuss your values openly on a deeper level. Wait for a time when you feel patient and open to really listening to him. Make sure you commit to not interrupting him. Your conversation will be far more productive and informative if you stay calm. Take several deep breaths and ask him to slow down or take a break if you find yourself feeling defensive or angry.

Ask Greg how his values align with those of Donald Trump. Listen carefully to what he says so that you’re able to learn more about him. Once you’re sure he has no more to say, ask him your questions about discrepancies between his values and those of his candidate.

Ask him how he feels that a Clinton presidency would create more damage than a Trump presidency and listen to him in the same way.

At this point, I suggest that you take some time to think about how you want to respond to his answers. Bring up topic again in the next couple of days and discuss the ways in which your values are in or out of sync.

If the results of these conversations feel that you are at a stalemate, you need to figure out whether you’re going to draw a line in the sand. Ask yourself how much importance you want to put on Greg’s vote as you evaluate your long-term relationship.

Political differences in this election cycle are more toxic than ever. With people’s defenses at an all-time high, practicing the art of civil conversation around politics has become a real challenge. My advice: Your life, loved ones and relationships are your treasures. Don’t sacrifice them on account of Washington’s political games. 

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Your Live-in Boyfriend Wants an Open Relationship: Now What?

Why is she never the oneDear Annie, I’ve been living with Jerry for six months. He just told me that he wants to open up our relationship so we can have sex with others. I’m deeply hurt. Although I was aware that he had been in polyamorous relationships in the past, he told me that he was fine with our relationship being one hundred percent monogamous.

Now he insists that it is unnatural and unrealistic for men and women to be sexually monogamous. He says he loves me and needs me to be his primary emotional relationship, but that he craves sex with other women or he doesn’t feel like a whole man.

He tells me that I’m being selfish, disloyal and unreasonable because I don’t want to step out of the bounds of our monogamous relationship.

I love him. But, it doesn’t feel as if this feeling is truly mutual. His desire for intimacy with others leaves me feeling terribly insecure.

I told him that I don’t think I can stay in our relationship if he starts sleeping with other women. He says that I am being unreasonable and I have no reason to feel jealous. I still don’t feel comfortable about it.

We are at an impasse. What do I do? Lucille

I can see why you feel betrayed. You entered into a relationship under one set of agreements and assumptions and suddenly your partner is demanding that you do something that he knows is unacceptable to you.

It sounds like Jerry made you a promise that he couldn’t keep. Although he previously enjoyed being in open relationships, he thought that he could forsake them because he wanted to be with you. Unfortunately, he revisited his priorities after the two of you established a household together. This leaves you with two difficult options.

Option one is to draw a line in the sand and walk away without looking back. You have to be firm and unwavering. It’s not about playing a game of pretending to leave, and hoping that he will change his mind.

Tell him that you must break up because cannot tolerate being in an open relationship. If he tells you that you’re being unreasonable, let him know that it is about honoring your values and that this is something about which you are unable to compromise.

Give him notice, and start packing your boxes and looking for a new place to live.

Option two is to be open to researching the different types of open relationships and exploring the possibility that there may be a way to allow other sexual partners into your relationship in a way that would also allow you to feel safe.

In that case, you and Jerry should to set firm parameters around how that relationship would work and negotiate an agreement that is mutually acceptable to both of you.

If you did so, both of you would need to agree on the following:

  • Timing: When, for how long and how often can each of you go on a “date.”
  • Duration: You may want to restrict the amount of dates that each of you can have with another person in order to minimize the possibility of becoming emotionally involved.
  • Activity: You can limit the type of sexual activity that happens between your partner and someone else.
  • Conditions: You could only allow it under certain circumstances, such as when he’s on a business trip.

Sex columnist Dan Savage has many more suggestions for how to negotiate an open relationship.

However, if being in an open relationship leaves you feeling as if it will make you miserable or drain the life out of you, just say no and leave.

The most fundamental problem you’re facing isn’t simply whether you can accept a form of open relationship. The bottom line is that you’ve discovered that you can’t rely on Jerry to be true to his word.

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