Category Archives: Dating

What’s love got to do with it?

When you love someone you care about their happiness and well-being. When they are struggling, you feel empathy and want to help. When they are sad or hurting you want to help them feel better. When you love someone you care. Codependency is taking responsibility for the other person’s happiness. When they are struggling you feel required to make it better. When they are sad or hurt, it is your fault if they don’t feel better. Codependency is when you know that is going on with them and put their emotions above your own.

Love has nothing to do with making someone’s emotions your own. It is difficult enough to manage your own emotions and keep them in check. Trying to add someone else’s is like trying to empty a lake with a bucket. You may be able to make a small difference, but not enough to really matter.

The best thing you can do for someone else is hold space for them while they have their own emotions. You create a situation in which they are allowed to feel what they are feeling without judgment. This at times means putting aside your frustrations with their emotions. It does not mean trying to fix the emotions or make things better. Just being present while they move through them on their own.

Love is not about making someone happy. While it would be amazing if we all had magic wands and we could fix things with a wave, or if we had happy buttons that could be pushed, we don’t. That just isn’t the case. It isn’t easy to be present for someone that is hurt, and just let them hurt. That is what you do for someone that you love though. You can’t fix it, but you can be there. Love is just being there.

50% of any relationship is deciding what to do for dinner

“What do you want for dinner?”

“I don’t know? What do you want for dinner?”

“I don’t know, you pick”

“What are you in the mood for”


“How about Chinese?”

“I don’t want Chinese”

“Then what do you want?”

“I don’t know. You decide.”

Believe it or not this is a ritual. How often do you have this discussion? IF you have it more than once a month, then it is a ritual. We don’t often think of these things as the rituals we have. And we don’t recognize how important even these small rituals are.

Examples of rituals are leaving in the morning, bedtimes, greetings after work and meals. We don’t think about it, but these things, the little things we do every day, are some of the weather veins of the relationship. When these events help you feel connected to each other, when they are filled with kindness, humor and intimacy, it generally means the relationship is going well. When these events either don’t exist at all, or are filled with passive aggression, frustration, or irritation it means that the relationship is drowning.

It seems silly, but it can be good to have a discussion about how you want these events to go. How do you want good-bye’s to go in the mornings? How do you want to handle meals? What makes the ritual important to you? What kind of connection do you want at bed-times? What about that is important to you? Discussing these things gives the other person insight in to how you find connection and how you can be closer to each other.

If these events are difficult or don’t exist at all, it is time to take a deeper look at the relationship. When you think about these events, what gets in your way from making them a point of connection? What are your general feelings about the relationship that keep them from being positive events? What are the bigger problems that could use an outside counselor to help with?

Small events are a large part of the relationship. They create connection, or tell you if things aren’t going well. Think about what it means if your partner walks out of the house in the morning without saying good-bye to you. Think about what kind of good-bye you want. What meaning does that good-bye have for you?   Think about the same for dinner, bedtimes, and greetings. They may seem little, but they are a big part of the relationship. And while it is a joke, think of how often do you talk to each other about what you’re doing for dinner? J

Redefining Love

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

Love is opening your heart to another person and trusting they won’t stomp all over your hurts and fears with cruelty and their own pain. The longer you live the more bruises your heart accumulates and the more protections you create. When we create more and more protections we keep not only the things that will bruise us out, but the things that are kind and loving as well. We put walls and cages around our heart, isolating it from everything and everyone. It becomes very lonely.

If we want to feel connected with others, if we want to be present with the beauty of the world, we have to be open to it. That means letting go of some of the walls, and creating healthy boundaries. Instead of steel reinforced concrete walls, brick walls with doors that we can open.

There is risk with an open heart. We see more of the pain of the world, and we sometimes misjudge and let people in that aren’t save and don’t deserve access. We also see the greatness and the beauty of the world and find the people who’s hearts shine with love and beauty.

Love isn’t about worth. There is not one person on this planet that is unworthy of love, and I say that knowing that there are some truly horrible people out there. There are some people that aren’t safe to open our hearts to, and at the same time every one is deserving of love. That includes you. It is up to you to be safe enough to be let in to someone’s heart and to believe in yourself enough to be vulnerable. Love will find you when you drop the barriers that you have created against love; loving yourself and others, and letting others love you.


I was wrong

I was wrong. These are three of the most difficult words to string together in one sentence. Living in a blame filled society where being wrong is seen as being weak, or at times leaves us vulnerable to attack from the wronged makes it difficult to admit to our mistakes. It is also one of the best ways to resolve conflict.

We all make mistakes. We make mistakes in the way we act and the way we treat each other. Sometimes the mistakes we make dig deep holes. In order to dig out way out of these holes, most people want to hear one thing: “I was wrong. I shouldn’t have done that, and it wasn’t OK.” It takes a good deal of strength to say those words. It also begins a healing process.

Most of us want to hear the other person say that they were wrong when they have done something they shouldn’t have. It allows the forgiveness process to start, both with the wronged, and the person that committed the act. I know personally when I screw up I go through a guilt / shame cycle in which I work to forgive myself for behavior I did. The simple admission of being wrong lets me shift from shame (I am wrong) to guilt (I did wrong and am capable of doing better). It lets me shift from what a f$%k up I am to how I can do better next time.

The ego is the part of the self that regards itself as real. It is the part of the self that says “I can’t show weakness”. It is the part of the self that says “You suck, and always will”. Strangely enough, the ego is trying to help us fit in and make us be better people, but what it does is encourage us to either tear ourselves down, or tear others down to feel better. In reality, we all make mistakes. We all have the ability to change and the ability to do better next time. In order to do better next time though, we have to admit that we made a mistake.

Our ego will yell at us when we go to admit to our mistakes, especially out-loud to others. It is also the best way to start the healing process. It has been found that a Doctors or clinicians that apologize and admit when they have made mistakes are less likely to get sued. That is clear, definitive proof that we just want someone that has wronged us to admit that they were wrong. It starts a healing process, both within ourselves and with others. Three little words that can help so much, but are amazingly scary. “I was wrong”.

Don’t fall blindly in love

Most of us in the dating pool are using online dating as a resource.  Because we develop impressions based on profiles and pictures we often wonder about the gaps that aren’t explained in the short blurb written on their page.  When friends introduce people to us we get partial descriptions, generally including the best traits of their friends.

We humans don’t like blanks in information.  We are very good at filling in these blanks with assumptions based on our previous experiences.  When we have small bits of a larger picture, we tend to fill in the bits we don’t know.  When we do so with other people it is called parataxic distortion .

What this means is that we create a fantasy of a person that we don’t know well, essentially “filling in the gaps”.  This is detrimental in two ways.  The first way is creating a positive, overly fantastic image of someone that is false.  This sets up expectations for a date that they are not aware of, and probably won’t be able to meet.  When those expectations are unmet, we (especially women) can become bitter and angry.  We start making conscious and sub-conscious demands of our dates to meet our expectations, expectations that are based on a fantasy.

The second, when this becomes very dangerous, is in creating a fantasy that our partner / date is nicer, more loving, healthier than they really are.  We haven’t taken the time to actually discover the true personality of our date, and in extreme situations that can place us in danger.  If we believe our partner is safer than they really are and we place ourselves in a vulnerable situation, there is a possibility of very real danger.  A good example is “just knowing” that someone is trustworthy, and allowing them to use restraints / bondage during sex.  Worst case scenario is to be held against your will, injured or raped, even killed.  In less extreme situations, there is still emotional traumas to consider.  If you end up saying to yourself “How come all of the guys I date turn in to jerks eventually?”, you now know the answer.  They were jerks to begin with, and you just created a different reality around who you wanted them to be.

These distortions generally are part of the “falling in love” process.  We create an ideal of the person, who we want them to be, instead of who they really are. In some ways it helps us see past the minor flaws that people have so they have a chance in our lives. But the dangers include not actually seeing the person for who they really are.  In meeting people and learning them, always keep your eyes open.

It is easy to create a fantasy and fall in love with the fantasy. The chemicals in the beginning don’t help with this, they even encourage the fantasy.  It is dangerous to get lost in the fantasy, throw ourselves in to the relationship, and only find out when we are committed that the picture we painted isn’t the truth.  When we fall in love we don’t want to fall blindly.

What’s your love language?

Have you ever found yourself in a relationship in which you feel like you are starving? The other person overall is a pretty decent person, you get along okay, but there always seems to be something missing. You may not be communicating well. Sometimes this means that the two of you aren’t listening to the meaning of words, and sometimes it means that you aren’t speaking the same language. Gary Chapman introduced the concept of the 5 Love Languages. The languages include physical touch, words of praise, acts of service, quality time, and receiving gifts. On his website he has a test you can take if you don’t know which ones are your top languages.

If your partner’s language is acts of service (making coffee in the morning, emptying the dishwasher, folding the laundry) and yours is physical touch (hand holding, back-rubs, hand on the leg in a movie, hugs) you may both be trying to communicate love in a language that isn’t heard by your partner. It can be confusing and lonely when your partner doesn’t recognize your attempts to communicate and vice-versa.

If you aren’t sure what your primary language is, take the test on Dr. Chapman’s website. Have your partner do the same, possibly taking it together. When you know the language your partner speaks, learn to speak it. Also, learn to ask for the love that has meaning for you. There is a romantic belief that our partner will be able to just know how to tell us we are loved. We forget that they can’t read our minds. If you want a hug, ask for a hug. If you want help with the chores to know that your partner is invested in you and the home you share; ask. Without using criticism, contempt or defensiveness, remember to ask for what you want.

Love languages are important. They are how you communicate and receive love, and if you and your partner speak differing languages, wires may be crossed and feelings can be hurt. You may each be saying “I love you” without being heard. Learn what has meaning to each of you, and if necessary learn a new language. It can change your relationships.

Recovering from a breakup

The most difficult part of break-ups tends to be the unanswered questions and letting go of something that once was beautiful. There is a great desire for closure, a desire to process and find understanding for an event that makes you feel like your heart is being ripped out of your chest. The last moments of the relationship are gone over in excruciating detail, working to find the place where things could have been done differently, working to see if things can be changed to get back together, and starting the blame game. Was it my fault, what did I do wrong? Would they have stayed if I had done such and such? Did they leave because I did this? We also start obsessing on if they are dating, if they feel as horrible as we do. Do they know what they did wrong, do they blame me when it is all their fault? We ask these questions and many other things that keep us thinking about the relationship.

We also have the questions of the future. Will I ever find someone that will accept me like they did? Will I ever be loveable to anyone else? Will anyone else accept my weird quirks?   Am I
flawed? All these questions do is keep us locked in a circle of suffering. We go around and
around, like a toilet, full of shit that just won’t flush. Everything just moves around and swirls
and spins without going anywhere. I do have to thank a friend of mine from a past workplace for the mental picture here. It may be a little graphic, but very appropriate.

The final truth is that it is time to let all of this go. All of the questions, all of the regrets, all of the searching, all of the fears of the future, it is time to flush it down. Going over and
over every little detail of what went wrong, what we think could have been done differently, what we can do to make everything change just keeps us circling. If there is something to
be learned from the relationship, work to learn it and let the rest go. Grieve the loss of the
relationship. Allow yourself to feel the pain of the loss, and rejoice in it for it means that there once was joy. And let go of the suffering caused by holding on to questions that don’t need to be answered or desires that will go unfulfilled.

All things end. Pets die, friends move on, parents pass, and relationships will also
eventually end. And no matter the way it ends there is always pain. Pain means that we had something that was once wonderful. It means we had something fantastic that brought us joy, and while heartbreaking, it has a dark beauty. The suffering caused by chasing after the unanswered questions, or trying to hold on to something that is gone just because the future is
scary. It is pointless and has no value.

The loss of a relationship is a difficult time. It doesn’t matter if it was a 6 month or twenty year relationship, there will still be pain (though hopefully the levels of loss are appropriate for the length of time). There will also be questions unanswered and there will be fears for the future. Work to let yourself be present with the pain of the grief and not the bitterness and difficulty of questions.   Let go of the suffering that isn’t necessary after a break-up

The foundation of love

We think the first step of love is attraction. Tinder is a fine example of this, where you see a person and you have to decide if there is attraction to find out anything more about them; swipe left or right to decide a person’s worth and fate within your life. We do ourselves and each other a disservice when we take this approach. Of course there is a level of physical attraction that is important. What we find is more important is shared ideology, philosophy, principles, values and morals. Physical attributes will fade. Shared ideologies, principles, values and morals can shift together.

When is the right time to bring up that you want kids? That you have kids? That you don’t want kids? When is the right time to talk about your thoughts on retirement, saving vs spending, where to take vacations? The next question to ask is how long you want to spend on someone that doesn’t want children when you do, or who wants a beach vacation when you want to ski, or who wants to live life now instead of save for retirement? When you’ve been married for 10, 15, 20 years, when is the right time to talk about the fact that your beliefs have changed?

Beauty is only skin deep, and once you move forward in to a relationship a person’s attractiveness just isn’t going to cut it. Relationships are about fondness and admiration, and we can’t be fond of someone if we don’t know them. Many people’s ultimate fear is that their partner will see them. Truly see them, that they will be naked and their partner will know them. This is because letting someone in, letting someone see us requires vulnerability. When we let someone in, letting them see us, there is a chance they will take what they know, a chance they will get in to our heart and run around wreaking havoc. The truth is: when the right person comes along, they will be OK with all of you, even the not-so-awesome bits. And you will be OK with them, even their not-so-awesome bits.

While we are letting our partner to get to know us, we are also getting to know our partner. When we take the time to get to know them, we start seeing if they are worthy of being let in. We are all very well aware that this is part of the process of dating. We forget that our partners are changing and growing just like we are, and we forget that the “getting to know you” process needs to continue as the years progress. After 10 years we think we know our partners. We stop asking what their wants, wishes and would-likes are. When we get in arguments we think that we know why they believe what they believe, because we learned it 7 years ago in that argument way back when. But in 7 years there is a possibility that the why’s of desires have changed. If we don’t ask, if we are so lost in our own hurts, in the last 10 years of hurts and angers and frustrations and fears that we don’t ask, we don’t know our partner anymore.

In the beginning it is scary to talk about what we want and believe because of the fear that once our partner knows who we are they won’t like us anymore. When we’ve been in the relationship for years we have the same fear. We don’t want to tell our partner that we don’t like the beach anymore and we want to go to Germany instead, because we don’t want to upset them, or don’t want them to rethink their relationship with us. We don’t talk about how our sexual fantasies are different, how we don’t like Chinese food anymore, or we want a dog, when it was agreed years ago that you wouldn’t get one. But then we don’t let our partner know us. In hiding things we become resentful, fearful, frustrated and alone.

Then getting to know each other process doesn’t stop. It is the foundation of relationships, the place where everything else starts. Every building needs a strong, healthy, complete foundation to build from. Keep checking in, learning, and knowing your partner. You’d be surprised at what you learn. You’d also be surprised at the closeness it creates between you and your partner. You get to let go of loneliness and anxiety. You get intimacy, closeness and happiness.

My Sacrifice

In every relationship; be it work, friends, a personal trainer, partners, children, even pets there is a bit of necessary change and sacrifice that each party must make. There are times that you will need to give up what you want, or a part of who you are to make the relationship work. The fine line to walk is finding what to sacrifice, and what to make sure to keep for yourself.

Many different couples counseling programs point to a concept called differentiation. Dr. David Snarch, the Gottmans, Imago, all of these work to help couples move through differentiation and navigate their relationship. When one person’s identity and the other person’s identity bump in to each other, difficulties arise. Instead of negotiating and finding a middle ground that both can work from, often one person willingly sacrifices, or a partner demands a sacrifice (intentionally or not) and the identity of one is pushed aside. This doesn’t just happen with partnerships, but in friendships, at work, in all the places mentioned above.

When you find that you are losing yourself start by working to answer some questions. First, what is your dream? Have you clearly identified what you want to have happen, what you wish or need? If you aren’t able to clearly identify this to yourself then it can’t be expected for your boss, your dog, your friend or your partner to know what you want or need either. Next, look at what about your dreams, wants, wishes or would-likes are important to you. Is there a fear, or a desire?  Is there a story behind why they are important to you? The Gottmans found that examples of dreams are; a desire for a sense of freedom or peace, exploration of self, adventure, justice, honor or finding unity with one’s past. Others are having a sense of power, finding forgiveness, being able to relax, finishing something important, saying goodbye, or love. There are many stories behind dreams and wants. Be able to identify the story behind the want, wish or would-like.  They create who you are.

Be able to identify the deeper purpose or goal in your dream or wish. What would your ideal situation be, if you could wave a magic wand and everything could be the way you need it to be? Is there a deeper purpose or goal? Is the purpose or goal something that can be met, is it realistic? For example; if you have young children the desire to go to the bathroom alone in peace, the dream of peeing in silence is a valid want and dream, but unfortunately unrealistic.

Look at the values or beliefs that lie behind the desire. Is there a fear of something bad happening if the desire or dream isn’t met? Self awareness about the desire, what it is, what it means to you, and what it means to you if it isn’t met is important. If you can’t quantify these things for yourself, then the people around you can’t know or understand them either.

The next thing to do is to understand that the whole process that I just put you through, identifying what you want, why you want it, what it means to you, etc; your partner, boss, dog all have the exact same thing. Within any conflict they all have a want or a fear with a story behind it, with values and meaning.

Then find the areas within your dream that you just cannot give up. And then find the places where are the areas in which you are flexible. What are your core feelings, the ones that just can’t be negotiated about the situation.  And where do you have breathing room?  This can be difficult if you have been in a tense situation in for a while.  Even the breathing space becomes a hard line that just can’t be crossed, and there is no middle ground between the two parties when the fight has been going on and on.  When you’ve engaged in the emotional equivilent of trench warfare for years,  finding middle ground can be difficult.   Find that middle ground.

If you know what their back story is, and why the situation is important to them and you still can’t find middle ground, then you are closer to parting ways.  Be it your job, your dog, your partner, or your friends, if there is no middle ground without sacrificing your identity then it may be time to part ways.  I had a dog that could not be left alone with my cats.  I was told that I would come home to find a dead cat if I didn’t keep the dog contained and the cats separate.  Well, my cats had been with me for over 10 years, so the new dog had to find a new home. The middle ground was a life with her in a cage at night and when we weren’t home, and the house divided to where she could be and the cats could be.  It wasn’t OK.  She wasn’t a bad dog, there was just no middle ground.

If you walk to the table with breathing room and a middle ground then you have a place to start.  If you are able to walk to the table knowing what their frustration and back story is, and why it is important to them, then you are even further down the road.  Ninety Percent of situations have a middle ground that can be found if you are willing to lay aside your ego, and they are willing to lay aside theirs to find that place where both of you can be OK.  The ten Percent is heartbreaking because it doesn’t matter how much love there is, it can’t be found and neither person is at fault.  Overall though, there is a middle ground.  If you both follow the above recipe, then with patience and understanding you can find shared peace.


“You can’t expect someone to love you when you can’t love yourself.” That’s the quote anyway. Well, there are times that I struggle to love me, and I’ve worked at it for years. But I have learned my value as a person and as a partner. I have learned that I am a pretty darn good catch, and anyone that doesn’t agree with that isn’t someone that I need to hang around. What knowing this, believing it in my heart, does for me is allows me to avoid jealousy.

Jealousy is the belief that you aren’t good enough. There is a fear that your partner will eventually see this, and start to look for the BBD. The Bigger Better Deal. Jealousy is the belief that everyone out there is better than you, and you aren’t enough to be faithful to. Jealousy has little to do with the other person, and a good deal with your belief that you aren’t good enough to be loved, let alone the other person. The way to kick jealousy is to find confidence. Letting go if insecurities and recognizing that everyone has crazy in them that needs to be worked on increases confidence. Learning to see that you aren’t the only person out there that doesn’t have their ducks in a row as much as they would like lets you be able to see your partner’s imperfections and not feel so bad about your own.

If you are confident in your worth, 3 things happen. First: you feel confident in your partner’s attraction to you, you feel confident in your ability to attract and pick a good person, and you have no fear that they will be looking elsewhere. Second: If they do happen to have a wandering eye, you recognize this as an indication of who they are, and not who you are. Third: you feel comfortable allowing yourself to shine through without trying to be someone you aren’t.

When you feel confident in your partner’s attraction to you, you don’t mind if they look. I know I like my car, and at the same time if a Ferrari or a decked out classic car goes by, I’m going to look and admire. It doesn’t mean that want to drive or own the car, I just want to admire it for the beauty it holds. The same is often true for people. We feel attraction on many levels. The areas of attraction are a person’s physical beauty, a person’s sexual beauty, emotional beauty, intellectual beauty, and humorous beauty.   My attraction to a Ferrari is attraction to it physical beauty (and maybe sexual. Yes, a car can have a sexual beauty / energy) with the knowledge that it is a high maintenance car. That makes it instantly overall less attractive on anything other than an artistic / physical level. For a relationship to be healthy and last there must be attraction on all levels. The least important is actually physical attraction, as a person becomes more physically attractive to a person as a deeper friendship is built through shared interests, humor, and life goals.

When I can recognize that a person’s wandering eye is an indication of who they are instead of who I am, I stop taking responsibility for the other person’s actions. People don’t cheat on their partner because of who their partner is, they cheat because of who they are. If someone is in a relationship they are unhappy in and they use that as an excuse to cheat, it is just that; and excuse. If you’re unhappy in your relationship do something about it; either try to fix it or leave, nothing gives you an excuse to cheat. When I recognize that the wandering eye is the other person, I become more discerning in the people I pick. I make sure that I’m not choosing people with a propensity to wander and then fear that they will do it to me, I pick people I know are good people, giving me more confidence in the relationship.

Someone once said “How I see you is none of your business”. When you let go of trying to impress other people and trying get them to see you as a certain way, and instead focus on being the person you want to see yourself as, you will instantaneously become more attractive to the people around you. It also means that you don’t have to contort yourself to be who you think the other person wants you to be. For example; You don’t have to lie about liking sports; if you don’t like sports, you don’t like sports. All you have to do is give your partner that does like sports the room to like them and you will be all set. Your partner will like you for you. If the only reason he likes you is because he thinks you like sports when you don’t, there is always going to be a fear that they will find out and stop liking you. Don’t try to be someone you aren’t in an effort to make yourself more attractive. Be you, if they aren’t attracted to that then you shouldn’t be with them anyway.

Jealousy is about fear and insecurity, not about the other person and their actions. If you are with a person that you legitimately need to watch all the time because they have cheated in the past or are known to have a wandering eye, then you should probably re-think your relationship. Otherwise it’s time to look deep and figure out what your fears and insecurities really are. Unless your partner is a complete and total ass (and they do exist), they are with you because you are just who they need. They are with you because they decided you are perfect for them. Work to keep from proving them wrong by turning on the crazy.