Can You Be Single So Long That You Become Undateable?

A friend of mine gave me a piece of dating advice a few years ago.  She said, “You need to meet a man when he is newly separated because once he has been single for too long, he will enjoy single life and not want to commit.” At the time I thought that this was interesting advice, and I wasn’t sure whether it was true or not.  Now, as I enter yet another year of single life, I am beginning to wonder if this statement is not just true of men, but of women also.  Is it possible that if we are single for too long we start to enjoy the independence, lack of drama and accompanying freedom so much, that with each passing year we become more reluctant to give it up, and thereby become almost undateable?

Over the years of my single life I am finding that I am becoming increasingly selective.  What I tolerated years ago, I will not tolerate now.  When I first started dating after my divorce, I put up with a lot of inconsiderate and bad behaviour.  I can remember driving long distances to meet a date near his home for a coffee and I don’t even like coffee, or coffee shops for that matter.  I can remember agreeing to meet someone who I had no interest in at all, but I kept telling myself that I needed to keep an open mind and do things differently because my past taste in men had been so bad for me.  Now, I generally won’t venture out of the 416 area code, and if I do, it certainly isn’t for just a coffee.  There has to be something more that is worth my time.  I also won’t agree to meet someone out of guilt or because I don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.

I sometimes wonder though, has my increased selectiveness made me so picky that no man can possibly measure up? I say I want to keep an open mind, but the reality is that I lead a happy life and if I am going to bring someone into it, they are going to have to be someone pretty special.  I enjoy spending my time as I want, seeing friends whose company I enjoy, working long hours building a business that excites me, and devoting my main focus to my children.  For me to compromise on any of this, someone is going to have to really excite me and make my heart go pitter patter.  Ironically, when I was younger, arguably more attractive and definitely had less “baggage” I wasn’t as picky with who I would date.  I was picky about who I would marry, but I was open to dating lots of people who in reality were not bringing a whole lot to the table.  Now that my time is so precious to me, I am extremely choosy about who I am going to spend it with.  Casual dating isn’t particularly appealing to me because I would rather spend a Saturday night with my kids, friends, or even alone at home eating ice cream and watching Netflix in a night of “me time”, then go out and meet a new guy who is just looking for a friend for fun times.

Everyone says you need to heal from your past relationships, work on yourself, find happiness within yourself, and Mr. Wonderful will magically enter your life at that time.  The reality is that I have done a lot of personal growth, healing, and lead a happy life, and the more I do these things, the less a relationship seems to be a priority to me.  Maybe this means that I just haven’t met the one for me, or maybe it means something else.  I genuinely believe that if my version of Prince Charming were to come along, I would be excited and make room for him in my life.  Despite my independence and self-sufficiency, I do believe in fairy tales, so let’s see what the universe has in store for me.  I don’t think being single this long has truly made me undateable.  It has just made me strong enough to know though that I don’t need to settle for someone in order for my life to be complete and happy.

The Problem Is You Found Her, But You Kept Looking

 

I recently posted a meme with the title of this blog on my social media and was very surprised at the response, mostly from men, who seemed to take exception to the content of the meme.  The point of my post wasn’t to attack men, it was to highlight this modern day problem that has arisen amongst both men AND women.  Everyone is so busy searching for “the one”, they overlook the very special person who may be right in front of them.

Modern dating has become a constant chase of that elusive partner who is going to make our world complete.  Daters keep moving onto the next person, while suffering  “FOMO” syndrome (fear of missing out), and feeling like Bono singing, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” With so much choice so readily available, why are so many people having such a hard time finding “the one”?

My guess is that the sense of fulfillment and happiness that people are searching for isn’t going to be found on the dating scene, it comes from within.  Only when we are truly happy with ourselves, can we really enter into a healthy relationship.  Too many people are searching for someone to make them happy or to complete them.  This isn’t the function of a date or a partner.  If you aren’t happy before your met Cinderella or Prince Charming, you aren’t going to be afterwards either.  We need to stop looking for someone else to make us feel better about our own life.

We also need to stop treating everyone as if they are disposable. If you meet someone who is kind and genuinely interested in you, don’t be so quick to dismiss this person. Modern daters are so busy looking to their next date that they don’t value the person right in front of them.  The relationships formed are often so superficial that no one really gets to know someone anyway.

The dating world is currently full of people who want to date 3, 4 or 5 people all at the same time.  Daters are encouraged by friends and our culture to keep their options open, not limit themselves to just one person, and to play the field.  The problem with this approach is that someone absolutely amazing might be right in front of you, but you lose the opportunity to really connect, because you devalue that person by dating others at the same time.  Why would anyone of high quality want to be one of many being dated by the same person after a few dates?

Dating someone new has become like chasing a high.  Endless dating has become like an addiction.  It can never be satisfied. There’s always that hope for the better high.  At the end of the day, all of us daters need to take a long hard look at ourselves.  We need to ask ourselves if we are happy with who we are, and if we aren’t, we need to do the work on ourselves to change this.  Your next date is not going to make you feel like you are enough, only you can do that.

 

 

Good Vibes Only. That’s Ridiculous!!

All too often in social media and other places I see people posting about how they want “good vibes only” and how they have a “no negativity” zone.  At the risk of emitting “negative vibes”, I have to say that I find these mantras to be ridiculous.  I will even go further and say that not only are they ridiculous, they are harmful to people, our relationships and our ability to connect with one another.

I am the first to value the importance of having a positive outlook and surrounding yourself with positive, supportive people.  The problem is that life isn’t always positive.  In fact, sometimes it can outright suck and pretending that everything is great, when it isn’t, is not healthy.  As humans, we are blessed with a full range of emotions including anger, sadness, fear, joy, disgust and surprise.  We are meant to feel all of these emotions, not just the positive ones.  If we suppress the negative ones, to put on our happy face, it is harmful to our overall well being.  We can’t process emotions if we don’t allow ourselves to feel them.  If we suppress our emotions they end up affecting us in other ways or we resort to self-medicating to numb them.  Numbing emotions through alcohol, food or drugs is never a good thing, and our “good vibes only” culture may very well be contributing to the increasing rate of substance abuse.

A “good vibes only” mantra is also undermining our relationships with friends and partners. The current dating world is full of countless people looking for fun and a good time, with no strings attached, no responsibility and no commitment.  If we express dissatisfaction to our date about anything, we are viewed as too negative, and if we are upset about something they did, we are seen as being critical, demanding or some other negative quality.  No one wants to date “negative Nellie” or “Debbie Downer”, they just want a good time because life is too short.  Our relationships are expected to be only fun, and if they become work, it’s time to move on.  How are we supposed to develop meaningful connections with anybody, if all we can talk about are positive experiences and feelings?  True bonding occurs over being vulnerable, and being vulnerable involves expressing feelings of sadness, disgust, and fear.

Our “good vibes only” culture causes people to feel isolated because they can’t share any negative feelings or emotions without fear of others wanting to avoid being around them.  It creates a fake reality where we are made to feel ashamed or like we are doing something wrong if we feel sad, angry or upset.  Obviously, a positive attitude is important, but we can have a positive attitude while still acknowledging that we are going through a difficult time and feeling scared, sad or overwhelmed.  By projecting only positivity, we make ourselves unapproachable to those who are suffering because we aren’t being relatable or genuinely expressing our truth as nobody’s truth is always positive.  “Good vibes only” seems superficial or insincere.

So at the risk of being labelled “Debbie Downer”, I am calling on others to drop the superficial “good vibes only” mantra and adopt a mantra of “be real”, “be authentic” or “be you” in all your glorious range of emotions. Be positive, be supportive, be encouraging, but be real.  Most importantly, if you are struggling, be honest with someone about your emotions, and if you have no one to talk to, contact me, and I will help you find the right resources.

 

 

Surviving The Holidays After Divorce

The holiday season is always a tough time during a divorce and for the first few years after. It serves as a reminder of happier family times, and also puts enormous stress on divorcing parents who feel pressure to maintain the status quo while their whole world may be falling apart. While there is no magical solution to cure the holiday blues, here are some tips to make the season a little bit easier:

1. Take care of yourself. You are no good to anyone else, including your children, if you let yourself get run down. Take time for yourself doing things you enjoy so that you can recharge your own battery and be better able to cope with the additional stress brought on at this time of year.

2. Create new traditions and rituals. While holding onto some old traditions is fine, create some new ones with your children and friends to mark a positive new beginning. Seek your children’s input on devising new rituals so they feel included in the plans.

3. Reassure your children that while things may be different, the holidays are still a special family time. Take the time to brainstorm with your children some new ideas for family traditions and holiday activities. Listen and support them.

4. Seek help from supportive family and friends. Going through a divorce is stressful enough and the holiday season will add to the stress. Surround yourself with a good support network and let them assist you.

5. Be realistic. Things will not be perfect and that is ok. Be gentle with yourself and it will be much easier.

6. Put your children first. If their holiday time is going to be split between both parents, do your best to ensure that they will have a positive experience in both homes. If you are feeling lonely while they are with their other parent, reach out to your friends, and do not tell this to your children. They should not have to feel guilty about spending time with each parent.

The holidays will undoubtedly be difficult, but find joy where you can and share it.

Alternatives To A Divorce War

Divorce rates are high, but divorce should always be the last option.  There are a number of options available other than full on divorce warfare which often benefits no one.   Here are some alternatives to consider before considering fighting it out in court.

  1. Marriage Counselling:  If both parties have a willingness to try to save the marriage, marriage counselling may be a viable option that can improve the relationship enough that the couple decides to take the word divorce off of the table. Divorce should always be the last option and where children are affected, couples may feel that they owe it to their kids to at least try to work things out.
  2. Relationship Coaching:  This is an alternative to counselling where both parties work with a coach in a positive way to identify goals for the relationship, work on communication and discover paths to remove barriers that are causing problems.  It is client focused, and results oriented.  While counselling has more of a healing orientation,  coaching is more oriented towards action and moving forward.
  3. Mediation:  This involves the couple meeting with a neutral, third party mediator who assists with moving the negotiation forward .  Mediation can be used during a divorce in order to resolve the property, custody and support issues of the parties, or it can be used to resolve other disputes between the parties.  It is not binding, but it can be an effective, low cost alternative to going to court, particularly if the couple is not far apart on their respective position on the issues.
  4. Arbitration:  Another non-court alternative for couples who have decided they want to separate or divorce is to hire a neutral third party who essentially acts as a private judge to make a binding decision with respect to such issues as property, custody and support.  Arbitration is more costly than mediation, but less costly than going to court.

Divorce is a major life decision with far reaching implications affecting your children, where you live, your financial well-being and your emotional well-being. It is important to thoughtfully consider all of the alternatives.

As The Seasons Change, So Do Our Relationships: How To Weatherproof Your Relationship

Just like with the seasons, change is inevitable.  For any relationship to last long-term, partners need to be adaptable and committed to adjusting to life’s changing seasons.  With the holidays coming next month, and the increased opportunity for family time, November is a great time to reflect on our relationships, and make sure we are adjusting with the times to weather the future together as a team.

Here are some tips on weatherproofing your relationship with your partner:

  1. Communication:  This is the number one thing that partners need to do well in order to have a healthy relationship.  We need to communicate our needs so that our partner understands what we need from the relationship.  No one is a mind reader.  Uncommunicated needs lead to resentments which undermine healthy relationships.
  2. Quality and Quantity of Time:  It goes almost without saying that spending quality time together is important.  Date nights and intimacy are very important to a healthy relationship. Quantity of time matters though too.  Absence doesn’t really make the heart grow fonder, it makes it grow more distant.  Just spending time in the same room, even if one of you is reading and one of you is doing a hobby, can still help strengthen your connection. The best relationships are ones where partners know they can just be together and they don’t have to be talking, as the silence isn’t uncomfortable.
  3. Reciprocity:  Both partners need to be committed to working on the relationship and helping it grow with the times.  If only one person is putting in the effort, it won’t work.
  4. Agreement on key issues including money, parenting and sex:  If a couple has very divergent viewpoints on these three issues, there are going to be significant problems in the relationship.  There needs to be lots of communication on these topics and a commitment to always keeping the communication channels open as changes in life affect these three areas.
  5. Respect:  If there is mutual respect in a relationship, it has a much better chance of weathering the storms.

We can’t stop change from happening, but with a little time and commitment, we can weatherproof our lives from the changing seasons.

5 Ways To Make Online Dating Work For You

Online dating has permanently changed how we find love in the modern world.  It has given rise to a buffet of potential matches, and all we have to do is keep returning to the buffet and sampling other dishes.  It has given rise to multi-dating, polyamorous love, and an ever increasing hook-up culture.  Some say it has destroyed romance,  and long-term relationships, and in many ways it has devalued all of the participants who are often viewed as nothing special and easily replaceable.   With all of these challenges it can be easy to become jaded and discouraged, however, with the right outlook and approach online dating can be a fantastic way to meet new people and potentially find exactly what you are looking for.

Here are 5 ways to make online dating work for you:

  1. Be open minded:  The best approach to online dating is to have little or no expectations.  Maybe you will make a new friend, maybe you will find true love, or maybe you will just have a funny story to laugh about with your friends.  Just be open to the idea of meeting new and interesting people, and you won’t feel disappointed if you didn’t make a love connection.
  2. Don’t take anything personally: Like anywhere, the online dating world has its share of rude, ill-mannered and weird people.  Don’t take it personally if someone from online is rude or insulting to you.  It is a reflection on them, not you, and in no way should you let someone else’s rude behaviour cause you to feel bad about yourself.  You need to have a thick skin to successfully online date as the process itself devalues us all.
  3. Be positive:  Rather than assuming the worst about potential online suitors, assume the best.  Assume that they are genuine, sincere and interested in you and you will give off a positive energy that will attract positive people.
  4. Listen to your instincts:  If your gut is telling you that something doesn’t seem right about someone, listen to it.  While I recommend viewing people positively, you also need to use common sense and be smart about who you meet, and where or how you meet them.  Being positive doesn’t mean that you take risks with your safety or waste your time with someone who your instincts tell you is being less than honest.
  5. Be open to the idea that your Prince or Princess Charming may come in a package that looks different than the one you envisioned:  One of the biggest shortcomings of online dating is that you can’t tell from a photo or profile whether you will feel any chemistry with someone.  Sometimes the person who seems less than stellar on paper or a computer screen, can be charismatic and have an outstanding personality that attracts you when you meet in person.  Don’t be so rigid with your checklist of qualities your prospective date must have that you miss out on the opportunity to meet someone fantastic.

Online dating is here to stay so if you are single you might as well use it to your advantage. This simple approach will ensure that you have fun with it whether you meet the love of your life or not.

Can You Truly Be Friends With Someone You Have Never Met In Person?

In our world of social media, insta-stories, snapchat and all of the other mediums available, it is easy to connect with people all over the world.  This means that we can develop relationships with people who we have never met in person.  We can directly message them, follow their lives on social media, and possibly even take it to the next level and talk to them on Skype or FaceTime.  Yet if we never actually meet in person, can we really consider these people our friends?

In my personal experience, I have been fortunate to have developed a group of followers on social media who I interact with regularly.  In some cases I look forward to their posts, they tell me they look forward to mine, we comment on each other’s musings, and we feel like we have some sense of each other’s daily lives.  I feel like I relate to them because of the things they post, and I feel like we have some sort of connection.  Often they inspire me to do better, cheer me up,  and remind me of what truly matters.

On my own social media, I often post about what is going on in my private life which recently included a broken finger. surgery, flooding and a new office location.  My followers congratulated me on the positive, cheered me up over the negative and sometimes even made me laugh.  They reminded me that they cared, even if we have never met in person, and I felt some sense of support reading their empathetic comments.  In contrast, I have friends who I have known for years, who are not on social media, and who I haven’t had much contact with in the last couple of months, who know of none of these significant developments in my life.  They didn’t have an opportunity to offer support or encouragement because they were unaware of the events going on in my life.  Ironically, the latter group are people I definitely consider friends, whereas the former group, I question what category to put them into since I have never met them in person.  Is one group more my friends than the other?

Ultimately what I think it comes down to is how one defines a friend.  For me, a friend is anyone who I feel a connection with who brings something positive to my life, and with whom I enjoy having contact.  The form of contact doesn’t matter.  It can be online, or in person, however, I must confess that I can only feel a really strong connection with someone who I have met in person.  There is something deeper when you can look someone in the eye, feel their energy, observe their body language, hear the tone in their voice and sense their aura.  The only form of contact where this type of connection can be made is in person.

This brings me to one of the dangers of online connections.  In my view they aren’t enough.  If someone isolates themselves from connecting with people offline and only has virtual connections, they will be missing something in their lives. Virtual friendships can compliment real life friendships, but they cannot replace them. So, can you truly be friends with someone you have never met in person?  My answer is yes, but a virtual friendship is different than a friendship in the real world.

 

Knowledge Is Power

All too often people stay in bad relationships out of fear of the alternative.  Fear of not having enough money to live.  Fear of never finding love again.  Fear of having less time with their children.  Fear of the unknown.

Fear based decisions are never good ones.  Knowledge is power and while we never have a crystal ball, relationship decisions can be made a lot easier if we take the steps to gain knowledge to empower ourselves. This can be as simple as setting up a consultation with a family law lawyer to find out about your rights.

Many family lawyers offer free 30 minute consultations, but even if you have to pay for the consultation, it can be money well spent.  A consultation can clarify for you what you are likely to gain and lose both financially and with respect to your children, if you walk away from a relationship.  Acquiring knowledge can better help you make a decision about what makes the most sense for you.  The consultation is confidential, so your partner doesn’t even need to know that you spoke to a lawyer unless you want him or her to know.  Most importantly, a consultation will help alleviate your fears, put to bed any misinformation you have heard, and if you ultimately plan to leave, it can provide you with a valuable plan or roadmap to put you in the best position possible after separation.  In addition, a consultation doesn’t obligate you to do anything.  You are empowered by having the knowledge of your rights, but you don’t have to make any changes unless you choose to do so.

Divorce is one of life’s most stressful events, and part of what contributes to the stress in uncertainty.  This is what keeps so may people trapped in unhealthy relationships.  While a family lawyer can’t tell you whether you will find love again, (and chances are you probably will), a lawyer can answer many of the other questions surrounding the uncertainty of divorce so that you can empower yourself and live your best life.

Why Shared Parenting Should Be The Norm After Divorce

What two factors determine how well children fare after divorce?   Mom and Dad.  It seems like it should be a no brainer that having a good relationship with BOTH parents is critical to children’s well being.  Yet many judges still favour mothers in cases where custody is being ordered by the court.

A recent study by Linda Nielsen, a Professor of Adolescent and Educational Psychology at Wake Forest University, found that the effects of conflict between divorcing parents may have been exaggerated and that minimizing conflict may be less important than other factors when it comes to custody.  High conflict does not necessarily mean poor outcomes for children.  What does matter most for positive outcomes for children according to Nielsen’s study?  The quality of the parent-child relationship, with both the father and the mother, trumped everything else.

This provides a strong argument that shared custody should be the norm unless it is a situation involving abuse or neglect.  The love and support of both Mom and Dad is much more important to children’s well being.

Here are some tips for parents that make a shared custody arrangement easier on everyone:

  1.  Don’t talk about the other parent negatively to your child.  If you need to vent, find a friend, write in a journal, call a family member.  Don’t vent to your child.
  2. Be willing to put your child’s interest first by accepting that for certain life events. your child needs both his or her parents there, and you can tolerate the presence of your ex for a few hours at a graduation, an important game, a wedding and other important events in your child’s life.
  3. If your child is having difficulty with something in the other parent’s home, encourage your child to talk about it with the other parent.  Don’t put yourself in the middle of something that shouldn’t involve you.
  4. Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Let little things go and don’t make a big deal out of something that your ex did that in the bigger picture really isn’t that important.

Shared custody benefits children in many ways.  It’s about time it becomes the norm.