Category Archives: Love and Romance

Love Boot Camp: From Now On

From now on, realize that if you put up with unacceptable behavior when the relationship is new, you’ll just get more of the same.

From now on, resolve not to be so desperate for a relationship that you put up with bad behavior.

From now on, resolve to view your relationships with a clear eye. Recognize bad behavior, call it what it is, don’t make excuses for it, and end the relationship as soon as you recognize the behavior won’t change.

From now on, honestly assess if a man likes you or if, instead, “he’s just not that into you.”   If you always have to initiate time together, if you always contact him first, then “he’s just not that into you.” Cut him loose before you really get hurt.

From now on, listen to your friends and family if they criticize a guy you’re dating. They’re more objective than you are.

From now on, resolve that you will not put up with humiliation, unreliability, or rudeness.

From now on, give nice guys a chance as you realize that brooding, bad guys are the most insecure lot out there.

From now on, admit to yourself that there is a difference between men and women, and that men still like a little challenge, a little chase, and firm boundaries. Don’t be so eager, so quick to say  “yes.”

From now on, realize that respecting yourself is the most important step in setting the groundwork for a relationship.

From now on, decide what you want from a relationship, what makes you comfortable, and hold out for a man who wants the same things.  You must decide what you want before you can ask for it.

From now on, ask for it.

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Love Boot Camp: Listen to Your Mama

Chapter 10 Listen to Your Mama

Up until now, I’ve told you about the dating experiences of my friends. Now, I’m going to tell you about mine.

My late mom could size up a person’s character in five minutes.  She was never wrong.  Never.  I dated men of many colors and nationalities and my mother never made judgments based on culture or color.  That’s not to say that appearances didn’t count.  If a man was polite, well-groomed and well-dressed, he got extra points.

She correctly predicted who would be reliable and who would dump me: her version of, “He’s just not that into you.”  She knew when a guy was lying or making excuses and when he was sincere.  She would say things like, “I just don’t trust him,” or, conversely, “He’s a good boy.”

When I met my future husband, Michael, he immediately began hot pursuit of me.  I just wasn’t that into him.  He wasn’t my type.  My mother knew that my type had thus far proved unreliable and, in her opinion, unworthy of me.  By the time I met Michael, I was 24, and had never really been in love.  I had certainly wanted to be, and had tried to convince myself that I had loved one long-term boyfriend.  The truth was, though, that I was a complete stranger to being in love.

My mother at once recognized that Michael was different from any man I’d previously dated.  He called when he said he would, was always on time, and invited me out often with plenty of advance notice.  I toyed with the idea of breaking up with him because I wasn’t that attracted to him (even though he was handsome.)  My mother said, “Just give him a chance.  You don’t have to marry him.”

She had been right about so many other men that I took her advice.  Michael was a gentleman  and I knew he wouldn’t rush me into a physical relationship, so he unknowingly — or perhaps knowingly — gave me the time and space to grow my feelings for him.  For the first couple of dates, he didn’t even try to kiss me good-bye at the end of our date.  Then, on our third date, we were at the grocery store shopping for a picnic and he gave me a peck on the lips.   I wasn’t expecting it and I was surprised at how pleasant it was.

Well, we went on our picnic.  We kissed in earnest, and I literally seemed to hear bells.  I knew I could love this man, or at least be wildly attracted to him.  His kindness and patience — and his passion for me — made me fall in love with him.

We were married for 14 years, until he died in a car accident (see blog post COINCIDENCE OR PARANORMAL ACTIVITY).  I cannot imagine a happier marriage.

My mom adored him, and she was right.

The fact is, our parents have met many more people than we have.  They’ve been burned, disappointed, cheated and delighted more than we have.  Their experiences make them better judges of character.  So unless your parents hold racial or cultural prejudices for no logical reason, they can probably judge a man’s character better than you can.  At least listen with an open mind.  They could save you plenty of heartache.

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Love Boot Camp: Manners Do Count!

Chapter 9 Manners Do Count!

My friend Kate, age 32, is attracted to bad boys, as are so many women.  A little scraggly, a little shady, her boyfriend, Rob, can be mysterious in a spicy way.  He can be loving on rare occasions, but is aloof much of the time.  He’s often unreliable, but reliable enough to keep her hooked.  He smokes, of course, dresses in jeans, old T-shirts and a leather jacket.

Sounds like a typical 20-something, right?  Well, Rob is 41 years old.  He has a cool job as a sous-chef, which means plenty of late nights, lots of drinking, rough language and more than a little misogyny.  There’s a certain glamour to that picture, isn’t there?  At least there was until Kate took Rob home to meet her folks.

His devil-may-care, slicked back hair just looked greasy.  His ripped T-shirt looked sloppy.  His rough language made her parents cringe, and Kate couldn’t ignore the shock and disapproval on their faces.  All of a sudden, she was excruciatingly aware that he smelled like an ashtray.

To make matters worse, he had bad manners.  He nodded upon being introduced to her parents, rather than shaking hands.  He sunk into her father’s easy chair without waiting to be invited to sit down.  He ignored the glass Kate’s mother brought for his beer and drank from the can.  He began eating before his hostess, made no comment on the food, and did not offer to help with clean-up.

Seen through her parents’ eyes, Rob — for the first time — seemed repulsive.  Her parents didn’t need to voice any criticism.  Kate realized for herself that Rob would never fit in with her family. Maybe his demeanor would have been perfectly acceptable in another family, but not in hers.

It’s not so much a matter of  good vs. bad manners, but about having compatible ideas about manners.  Kate never met Rob’s family, but if they were like him, they might have found her uptight and pretentious.

If you’re not comfortable introducing your man to family and friends, then he’s simply not a good fit.  Unless both of you are up for a makeover, best to end the relationship.

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Love Boot Camp: If He Makes You Feel Bad, Then He’s a Cad

Chapter 8  If He Makes You Feel Bad, Then He’s a Cad

June is a 5’8″ natural towhead with high cheekbones and wide, blue eyes. She has a flawless complexion and a good figure.  She’s a head-turner, but she doesn’t believe it if you tell her so.  Why?  She’s married to Ray, who always finds a way to put her down.

I don’t know why he does it, but I suppose it’s because he has an inferiority complex.  Her curvaceous figure  — a size 4 or 6 — he calls “hippy.”  Her legs — strong from horseback riding — he’s dubbed “thunder thighs.”  As a result, she’s on a constant diet or cleanse, won’t wear light-colored slacks for fear of looking fat, and only takes off her swim wrap to go in the water.

She wears her hair the way Ray likes it (always down), grows her nails the way he likes them (though a nuisance when she rides), and dresses the way he mandates.  She seems unable to make a decision without him.  If she had always been this way, I’d say it was her nature, but she’s an avid, serious horsewoman who was once opinionated and independent.

Ray seems to have the need to keep her off-balance and insecure.  Maybe he thinks she won’t leave him if he makes her feel worthless.  He talks about “blond moments” when, in fact, she is better educated than he.  Ray makes a bit more money than she as a top manager in luxury car sales, but she has built a good business with her horse expertise.

At age 41, June refers to herself as “old”.  When Ray’s barbs get to her and she burst out in angry tears, she talks of leaving him, but always concludes with, “But who would want an old bag like me?”

Should she leave him?  That’s not for us, her friends, to say.

What about just standing up to him?  “Why would you want to make derogatory remarks about me?  You chose me, you married me…so what does that say about your taste?”  Or, look him dead in the eye and say, “That is not the kind of remark you make to your wife.  It is disrespectful and I won’t have it.”  She could even try a more casual, “Well you married these hips so you must like them.”

The problem is, June is already married to a man who makes her feel bad, but he surely displayed this behavior when dating, and June let him get away with it.

My advice?  When a man starts criticizing you for things that aren’t true, show him the door.  Otherwise, tell him immediately that if he won’t encourage you and make you feel lovely and admired, he’d best go in search of someone “better.”

Really, what is the point of a relationship that makes you feel bad about yourself?

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Love Boot Camp: Dirty, Sloppy Guy Need Not Apply

Chapter 8 Dirty, Sloppy Guy Need Not Apply

People aren’t born messy or dirty:  they’re brought up that way. Mama’s boys  who never had to lift a finger at home don’t know how to do laundry, clean toilets, or use a broom.

If you go to his place, and it looks like a crack house from Breaking Bad, realize that he’s used to living this way and he doesn’t care. Realize, too, that he has made no effort to clean up for you.

Many princesses are just as bad because they, too, never had to clean up after themselves.  If that describes you, then a filthy guy might be a match made in heaven, provided no one calls the health department on you.

If he still lives at home and isn’t asked to pitch in for chores, that’s a red flag.  Likewise, if Mom keeps the rest of the house nice, but his room is a pig sty.  That means that even Mom has given up on sonny boy and is hoping that the mess will get to him eventually, and that he’ll clean up.  Fat chance.

A mature man, one who’s ready for a relationship,  will know how to look after himself.  If he’s not even capable of doing that, he’s not ready to be a grown up, not ready for responsibility…not ready for you.  Want a lifelong project?  Want a life of burden and irritation?  Sloppy guy is your man.

First, you’ll try to impress him with how nice you can make his place look with a little elbow grease.  He’ll express appreciation and amazement.  Now, you say, all that’s required is a little maintenance.  If he’s one in a million, maybe you’ve enlightened him.  But chances are you’ve lifted the burden off Mom and taken it on yourself.  Man-child has no incentive or desire to change.

So if housekeeping is your business, or you just love doing it, a man like this may be fine for you, as long as he has other qualities you treasure.  If you’re hoping to change him, however, better keep moving.  Nothing to see here.

Realize, too, that a man who is too immature and/or spoiled to keep his surroundings decent, has probably been pampered in other ways.  He may have a sense of entitlement.  That quickly grows old.  If he doesn’t even bother to impress you at the beginning of the relationship, he’s unlikely to get better.

Still not ready to give up?  Go ahead, talk to him.  Show him what you want. Tell him you like a clean bathroom and kitchen, at the very least.  Give him the tools to do it:  the Scrubbing Bubbles, the scouring powder, the glass cleaner, the sponges.  If his place returns to filthy, you’ll know he’s a hopeless case.

The next move is yours.

 

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Love Boot Camp: Poor Me

CHAPTER 7 Poor Me, Poor Me, Pour Me Another One

It can be hard to distinguish between an alcoholic and a guy who likes the taste and ritual of, say, a cocktail, a cold beer, or a fine wine. Alcoholics are cunning, too. They usually hide how much they’re drinking, or they may try to control it when dating a new person.

My friend, Megan, experienced this firsthand. Her new love interest would intentionally leave liquor in his glass or drink no more than she did. She discovered he was an alcoholic one evening when she walked in on him slugging straight gin from a bottle in the fridge. As this was her first close encounter with an alcoholic, she wanted to believe that AA meetings and firm resolve – along with her support – would solve his problem.  And it did, t some extent.  After a few failed attempts, he got sober.

But she didn’t know about the “dry drunk.” A dry drunk has stopped drinking, but he still has the character traits of an alcoholic. What are they:

  1. Professional victimhood. The drunk is never to blame for conflict, ant-social behavior, or lack of success. He will ascribe shortcomings to circumstances, or other people.
  2. Mood swings. There are theories in medical literature that alcoholics are trying to self-medicate to address anxiety or depression. Even recovering alcoholics can go from charming hilarity to depression with one discouraging event.
  3. Hair-trigger temper. Going back to Megan’s experience, she found that her man would not just fly off the handle. He’d keep talking and yelling until he’d worked himself into such a rage that she could not get in a soothing word edge-wise.  At the fevered climax of his anger, he’d often stomp out of the room – or the house – with slammed doors and squealing tires. Even when his anger was not directed at her, he would yell, curse, and throw things. He never did her bodily harm, but witnessing such displays of temper disturbed and agitated her.
  4. Defensiveness. Megan would often make a comment that she thought was innocuous, only to find that she had offended her boyfriend so much that he would, once again, fly into a rage, misinterpret her meaning, and twist her words.   If she commented on a project that hadn’t gone well by saying something like, “Lesson learned…guess we should try something different next time.”  He’d shoot back with, “So I’m an incompetent loser? That’s what you’re saying?”  Megan would be astonished. She had only meant that by figuring out why a project hadn’t been successful, they could make it work next time.   The upshot was that she found herself walking on eggshells around him lest she unintentionally offend him.

If you find yourself faced with these behaviors, proceed with caution, if at all.  Alcoholics can be charming, brilliant, and fascinating. A person who is genuine in trying to lead a sober life need not necessarily be abandoned.  He may have many good qualities and much to offer.  If you see any of these traits, however, realize that you will have to learn to live with them.  You will have to manage them and yourself with diplomacy and patience.  If you feel up to the task, go for it, but realize that you will have to change your own approach, think carefully before you speak, and be able to maintain your calm in the middle of his storms.

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Love Boot Camp, Do You Take a Back Seat to His Buddies?

CHAPTER 6 Do You Take a Back Seat to His Buddies?

It’s healthy for your man to have friends with whom to share “guy time.” Hopefully, you have female friends, too.  Ideally, his friends will like you.  If  they don’t, it could be that the “friend” chemistry isn’t there.  Or, it could be they’re resentful you’re taking away their buddy.

Watch out. They’ll tease your man about you, call him “whipped,” and point out your flaws.

When my friend Ann was dating her soon-to-be husband, one of his buddy’s would drop by unannounced early Saturday mornings and pound on the door till Ann’s boyfriend, Bob, let him in.  Even though buddy boy would find Ann there, he kept doing it for about a month.  After repeated incidents, Ann finally told Bob that if he wanted her to stay over, he’d have to tell his friend to call before coming and –most important to her – to not call until noon.

Bob had to make a choice. Move on with his life so that it included a mate, or remain in the frat house structure.  Bob was 27.  He wanted to marry Ann.  He kept his buddy in his life, but set boundaries so that he could share private time with Ann.

The result?  They often double-dated, the buddy would sometimes join Ann and Bob for some “guy” activities  like pool or TV-football, and all remained friends.

If a buddy can’t handle a woman in his your man’s life, then the choice your man makes will inform you if he’s stuck in bachelorhood or ready to get serious with you.

Here are a few red flags that your man isn’t ready for a serious relationship with you:

  1. He gives up weekend nights with you on a regular basis to go out drinking with the guys.
  2. The majority of his spare time is taken up with either spectator or participatory sports that exclude you.
  3. His workaholic hours mean no time for you, but regular outings with the guys.
  4. He plans regular fishing, golfing, camping trips with the guys, but has never planned a getaway with you.

That said, here’s a caveat:  if you’re not willing to try the sports he loves, to try to learn the ones he watches, to have his friends over, to understand his interests, then you’re definitely not ready for a mature relationship either.  Life isn’t just about what you like to do.  There has to be give and take.   Besides, he may lead you to discover new, fun interests.

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