Monthly Archives: February 2017

Romantic Dinner

You’ve had the coffee date and the movie date. Now you think it’s time to invite sweetie to your place for dinner and perhaps dessert.

This may be over-prescriptive, so feel free to use and not use these ideas as you see fit.

Choose an evening when both of you are likely to be fresh. Yes, typically that’s Saturday night but there’s no law against a weekday night or even Sunday brunch.

Choose a menu that will feel romantic but not require slaving in the kitchen while HoneyBunch is there  Sample:

Prawns with cocktail sauce

Champagne/sparking wine. If you don’t have champagne glasses, dollar stores usually have them for, yes, a dollar.

A salad: My favorite is baby lettuce plus tomatoes, blue cheese, and croutons or candied pecans. Drizzle with oil and vinegar. Hint: Don’t use cherry tomatoes: squirting risk.

Dessert. Store-bought is fine as long as it presents well. Again, choose something that requires no kitchen time when GuestyPoo is there. Examples: Trader Joe’s Chocolate Ganache Torte or vanilla ice cream topped with fresh berries.

Set the table in advance. Cloth napkins and tablecloth are impressive although nice placemats and paper napkins are fine. A single rose and/or candles may be perfect or too much. Trust your gut.

An hour or more before your partner’s arrival, put the champagne in the refrigerator or, for chilling in a half hour, the freezer.

A half hour before, make the salad and cover with plastic wrap.

Put out the prawns (which of course have been refrigerated before) and cocktail sauce (store-bought is fine) on a serving plate. Place it where you’d like the stand-up first part of the conversation to take place. Typically, that’s on the kitchen counter or bar.

Adjust the lighting so it’s not too bright but not so dim that you look like you’re trying to get to dessert too quickly.

Five minutes before arrival, put on soft music. If it’s a CD, put it on replay, so you don’t have to keep alert to it ending.

When your partner rings the bell, take a deep breath. You’re prepared, so now your job is to be fully present: make frequent eye contact and listen well.. Some people when nervous run off at the mouth. Don’t.

Give Snookums a welcoming hug: not too much, not too little. Don’t rush things.

If your guest has a coat, wrap, or umbrella, ask, “May I take that?”

Give your partner the space to initiate conversation. Listen well. At the first lull, ask “Champagne?”

In another minute or two, walk TweetiePIe to the prawn plate or bring it to him/her.

Continue the conversation. Remember, you should be talking 30 to 50 percent of the time. Really listen with your ears and body language.

After 15 to 30 minutes, at a lull, ask, “Ready for salad?” If you wish, offer more champagne.

Online Dating

Whenever someone asks me how I met my wife, I proudly say, “Online!” But of course, I think to myself… Where else would one meet up with one’s significant other nowadays?

Using online dating services are far more efficient than other methods of dating. Getting set up by friends or family is purely a hit-or-miss proposition. While well-intentioned, friends and family often don’t really know us half as well as they think they do. We don’t often share all of the intimate details of our lives, our likes, dislikes, hopes, and dreams for the future with everyone. So people can get somewhat biased ideas of what we’re like, because they only see what we’re like with them.

Office romances, while convenient, are often fraught with possible problems, danger, and role conflicts. Meeting people randomly at bars or in bookstores or other interests such as hobbies is pure chance. While appealing to our romantic, impulsive side, you’re better off throwing darts at random names within a phone book. There’s nothing efficient or really, fun, about spending countless hours drinking in a bar looking for supposed “Mr. Right.” Chances are he left with the woman just before you.

Online dating allows you to get to know the person you may want to date long before you ever actually have to date them! How cool is that? Most people communicate a great deal by email or IM first, before talking on the phone. You’ve spent time reading their online profile, which includes not only their likes and dislikes, but hopes, dreams, reading and movie preferences, hobbies, shoe size, and in some cases, annual income. While these things vary in importance, they provide a fairly accurate snapshot of a person (or at least as much as they want you to know).

Online dating puts the hassle, stress and pressure of dating on the back burner. You take your time and go at your own pace, because there will always be hundreds of possible partners for you in the huge online databases that exist. New people are always signing up! There’s no need to hurry because there will always be people who are compatible with you and your needs available. It’s just a matter of finding them.

Once you start dating people through an online dating site, you already know a lot about the person when you go on your first date. That doesn’t mean everything will always go smoothly, or that every date is going to be one with Ms. Right. But it does mean that you can relax your guard a little and stop worrying about providing and getting information from the other, or discover that every hobby or interest you like, he abhors. Instead, you’re starting out on common ground with a lot to talk about and a lot to enjoy.

With so much less pressure on each date, online dating allows love to take root and more fully bloom far more easily than other methods.

Online dating may still seem a bit odd to some people, but then again, those folks have discovered the secret of it. You have, or are considering it, and for that, you’re already a step ahead of many others. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

Ways to Determine a Relationship’s Break up

There are a few key areas to assess both about yourself and about your partner when you date and begin to edge toward coupling up or even marrying.  Keep your eye on these points. They are important. This doesn’t mean your relationship needs to be perfect, but do watch for patterns and trends over time.

It is not unusual for people to waste months and even years with someone while all the time sensing that the match is not a good one. It is not productive or pleasant to be in a situation where you are always second guessing yourself with doubts about the longer-term viability of a relationship.

Generally these four factors cause people to eventually break up, divorce or stay miserably together.

1. Do you want the same things?

Love is, of course, powerfully seductive. However, a boat load of seduction won’t stop deep frustration from setting in if you and your partner do not want the same things over the long term. Notice if you are able to talk about what you want in the future and if your partner is also able to do so. Then see how similar or dissimilar your visions are. You do not need to be identical—variance keeps life interesting. But look for how you are alike or different in big ways. Do you both want to live in a similar geographic area? Do you both want children or do you both not want children? Are you both homebodies or does one of you prefer a high level of social stimulation while the other is introverted? Do you both want demanding careers or a more relaxed lifestyle? Believe what your partner tells you about him/herself.

2. Can your partner express himself/herself?

When talking about your days, your sexual desires, your future desires or even your vacation desires, can you and your partner mutually express yourselves? Does your partner shut down when you bring up emotional material? When you ask questions and try to get to know the other in a closer or deeper manner, do they distract with another topic? Take note if they do. If you and your partner can’t openly express yourselves and feel safe doing so, emotional closeness will move out of reach.

3. Do conflicts inevitably turn toxic?

Of course early on conflict may be quite minimal. And for a while everyone is on their best behavior. But over time do you find that when you and your partner disagree one or both of you goes to a mean place? When people call each other names, engage in character assassination, blame the other for their problems, or become verbally/physically abusive, their thought processes are impaired. When that is the case, people stop growing, couples stop growing.

4. Can you be your real self with your partner?

The best thing about long term commitment is having someone who knows you inside and out and loves you anyway. Notice if you are putting on an act with your partner or if you find yourself consumed with saying the right thing or doing the right thing in their presence. Notice if your partner is able to let his/her guard down with you. When one or the other member of a partnership has a perfectionistic underpinning, then the other member feels a need to rise to this impossible expectation. Over time, being perfect becomes exhausting and you may start to wonder why you are in this relationship. People stay with friends and romantic partners for the long term when they feel comfortable being themselves in the presence of the other.

There are specific strategies that will help you to take a clear-eyed look at the health of your relationship. If you are in a relationship but can’t quite accept that it’s not working, consider reading my workbook, Breaking Up and Divorce-5 Steps. Often when you examine a situation from a new angle, breaking up becomes slightly less painful because you learn to trust that you are doing the right thing for yourself.

Ways to Show I Love You

Yesterday, I was upset because so many of my efforts to connect with people about my recently published memoir had fallen on deaf ears or, more likely, into overstuffed email boxes. I sat across from my husband at lunch and cataloged the names of those who had failed to respond to a personal, carefully written email. The frustration of reaching out into the ether and being ignored was getting me down. My husband tried to cheer me up by offering a different point of view.

I was a graduate student when the pioneers of what became “cognitive behavior therapy” laid down their first principles. Learning theory provided foundations; Albert Ellis’s Rational Emotive Therapy, an approach; Aaron Beck, a new take on depression as being rooted in dysfunctional thoughts. Michael Mahoney added free association and other mental interventions to classic behavior therapy; Donald Meichenbaum came up with “cognitive behavior modification” as a label for the new integrative approach. Arnold Lazarus folded in techniques from Gestalt and other therapeutic modalities as he articulated principles for “multi-modal” therapy.  They all emphasized the power of perspective to alter emotion and, therefore, belief and subsequent behavior. Research supported the fact that thoughts can drive emotions as well as emotions evoking thoughts and that either can influence behavior and its evolution.

What does any of this have to do with showing love? How we respond to distress in someone we love needs to address their point of view before we interject our own.  We must listen carefully, be open to multiple perspectives, and consider the match of our responses to the current emotional state of the person receiving them.

  • Our loved ones have at least three sides to them. Which one is expressing the concern? We all carry with us fears and joys we experienced as a child, skills and competencies we learned as adults, and a capacity to judge where we have been and where we hope to go, as a parent might guide us into our futures. Is the concern based in the magical global thinking of the child, the barriers to problem-solving being faced by the adult, or a larger notion of “should” that may need revision given the world and times we actually live within?
  • What is the underlying, unspoken concern being conveyed? Most messages have a subtext. Is the concern about being lovable? Being powerful? Being competent? Being connected? Fill in the blank. What hot button is your loved one telling you is blinking?
  • Is there an easy transition to a more mature way of viewing the situation?  Once the feeling-state is validated, a person can move on to other perspectives. What impact is possible? Are there other solutions? Can the problem itself be redefined?Why is acknowledging different points of view a way to show love?
    • It accepts that the loved one is a complex person. Acknowledging all sides of the self can show acceptance, negating reactions of shame or impulses for defensiveness or hiding. It allows the loved one to share rather than muzzle less competent-feeling sides of the self and thus experience safety in confiding without risking scolding or judgment.
    • Ultimately, you can be a partner rather than a critic and help the loved one solve his or her problem that underlies the distress — or at least address its immediate trigger. No, there was no magic bullet for writing more effective emails to people I wanted to reach. But I could learn to take being ignored far less personally. After all, in today’s times, we are all deluged with far more demands and requests and information than we can possibly address. It’s not personal nor necessarily permanent — and it isn’t even global, because those people I do reach at the right moment do indeed respond.