Monday, November 26, 2012

Surviving The Holidays Alone

Holidays aren't the most wonderful time of the year if you’re single, divorced or widowed. You find yourself remembering what you and your ex did for the holidays. The memories are so much better than the reality ever was.  If that isn’t bad enough, you fall prey to the happy family advertisements and syrupy sweet movies.  If your rose-colored recollections and vintage movies don’t do a number on you, the people you know will.
As a single person, you need to decide now how you want to handle the holidays. Your relatives mean well, but will ask nosy questions about your love life. Have an upbeat response that denotes that you are okay with where you are. When I showed up at a family reunion after breaking up with my boyfriend, my relatives were quick to offer sympathy. I explained to them that I wasn’t sad and pasted a big smile on my face. Sure, maybe I didn’t want to be alone over the holidays, but I was unwilling to endure a bad relationship to keep that from happening.
Even when you don’t plan on it, it happens. People break up before Christmas or shortly after. The before Christmas breakups are usually due to the guy being terrified the woman might expect a sign of commitment such as a ring. Those after Christmas break-ups are from too much togetherness visiting various relatives, wrong gifts, and interfering exes.
The relative fight is a bad one. Sometimes you can agree to visit your relatives individually if you can’t agree on anything else. My ex hated visiting my family, and made the visit uncomfortable for everyone involved. Leaving him at home would have made the holidays much more enjoyable.
The gift issue is a hard one. Most men are not good shoppers. Women expect Christmas to be this opportunity for the man to showcase his love. There are so many ways he can screw this up without even knowing. A woman can relieve the pressure by saying something about not wanting a ring. Of course, if you do want a ring it might not be a good thing to say you don’t. You can make gift suggestions. Even mention a trip the two of you could take in lieu of presents. Now, if he does buy you something that is ugly or doesn’t fit, realize he isn’t the shopper you are. Be grateful, and decide if you want to end your relationship over an awkward gift.  
Set boundaries to ensure better holidays. It would be nice if they were already in place, but it isn’t too late to start now. The first boundary should be set with you. Have realistic expectations; no one really fixes those meals on the cooking shows. I once picked up an entire meal from the grocery deli pre-cooked, and no one died from shock. Decide on what you can afford to spend and stick with it. Do not get in a buying war with your ex. Exes can get crazy at Christmas trying to garner more attention and attempting to prove he or she loves the children more. Don’t fall for it. In the end, years from now, the kids don’t remember the gifts, but they do remember you red-faced, screaming at your ex.
The secret to getting through the holidays is being flexible. Your ex demands to have the kids on Christmas when it is your year. You can refer to a legal agreement in a civil manner, and ask him to take it up with your lawyer. You can also see them Christmas Eve. I would warn against going to your ex’s house to spend Christmas morning with your children to feed into the big happy family fantasy. This is a disservice to your children.
They don’t understand why mommy and daddy don’t live together because they do everything together for the children. Either you or your ex is invested in the happy family scenario. Participate in this travesty, and expect your girlfriend/boyfriend, or even a new spouse to be treated like crap by your kids. Why not? You and your ex perpetuated a lie every time you did something together and your newest sweetie takes the blame. It is another divorce all over again.
Be nice to yourself over the holidays. Go ahead and put up a tree even if you live alone. Buy yourself presents and wrap them up. Make plans to see a movie or do something you’d like to do such as a spa visit. Invite friends, but don’t hesitate to go if you’re all alone either. Treat yourself the way you imagine a loving partner would.
There was a sad story in the newspaper of a woman who died in her home surrounded by boxed up crystal and china. She never used it because she was waiting to marry to bring it out. She had almost no furniture because she wanted to pick it out with her husband. The woman had a very healthy bank account because she never did anything besides work. She kept waiting to get married to start her life.  She died in her sixties before she’d ever lived.
This holiday season, set your boundaries, don’t answer questions you don’t want to. Don’t set up unrealistic expectations. Make sure to enjoy the little moments. Make your own holiday rituals. Refuse to fall into the old arguments; I am betting one of the reasons you divorced was to get away from all the arguing. Have a budget and stick to it. Do something nice for yourself. Remember the holidays are for everyone, not just couples and families.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Breaking Up with Your Ex...Again

Breaking Up with Your Ex

Most people would think the very word ex might indicate this person is no longer in your life. Someone forgot to tell them, and you have to act like it too. A clingy ex or an inappropriate relationship with your ex can keep you from meeting quality people. Your ex is baggage. You can determine what type of baggage you are going to allow him or her to be. Is he a carry-on bag you can easily toss in the over-head, or is he a steamer trunk that you have to tip three skycaps to wrestle onto the luggage scale?

Steamer Trunk Ex

Your ex may have dumped you, but still visits. You rationalize that you still have children together, but he stays to talk to you. He even sends you expensive gifts and flowers and signs the kids’ names. When you question the children, they know nothing about this. She even insists you sit together at your children’s events. You might even vacation or do birthday parties together for the children’s sake. When you try to explain that your current sweetie isn’t cool with it, she piles on guilt indicating you’re a bad father if you don’t comply. Someone in this miserable triad is invested in appearing to be a family. A good question to ask yourself is if it is you. No intelligent person would like to be a part of this dysfunctional threesome.

Overweight Suitcase Ex

Your ex is behaving like an overweight suitcase when she calls all the time about everything. Often he or she pretends to be worried about the children, but all she or he is really doing is grabbing your attention, and asserting control over you—rather like in the marriage. The questions are about things she could have easily googled, but preferred the option of irritating you.

If she can get your current sweetie riled, then it is all the better. This explains those late night calls, the early morning calls, and the calls while you are on vacation, or even your honeymoon. Have a Facebook page, defriend her/him immediately. There is no good reason to be friends with your ex. Your continued connection to your ex via social media tells your current squeeze that you either want to or intend to hook up with the ex in the future.

The suitcase ex wants your attention and she’ll do what she can to get it from using the kids to hauling you into court for more money on non-existent issues. She’ll stage events such as car or plumbing problems, or even an attempted suicide, so you can rush in fix everything, and go back to the way you were before she dropped your butt.

Some women are anxious to jump in the fray and defend their sweetie from their nefarious ex from vandalizing her car to calling her boss to get her in trouble at work. This is helpful how? It shows more that if you haven’t set boundaries with your ex, then you will attract people who do not respect boundaries.

(What is the difference between steamer trunk and overweight suitcase ex? Steamer trunk ex is when both parties willing participate in the on-going relationship. Overweight suitcase ex is when one party is passive and allows the ex to leave boot prints all over her or him.)

Average Size Suitcase Ex

Most people claim they’d prefer a person without baggage implying someone without children, or an annoying ex. Good luck with that, even people who never married, still have exes, sometimes stalkerish ones. A person who has never had a relationship should make you cautious too.

Average suitcase baggage involves seeing the ex at events. Be nice, but distant, some exes will act badly in public because they can get away with it. Trust me; I have one, who wanted to pose for pictures with his arm wrapped around me. He figured I wouldn’t be so rude to refuse to do this at a graduation or wedding. He figured wrong.

Keep communication at the very minimum. Texting is good. Calls often get acrimonious because we fall back into old habits. Emails allow the ex to air grievances with you, delivers attention, gets your blood pressure up, and your current sweetie gets the fallout.

The Carry-on Ex

This is what we should aim for with all our relationships. If an important issue comes up such as you are fearful of pools because your ex tried to drown you, please mention it. Otherwise, table all talk about your ex. Any talk even about him being a low down snake in the grass is not needed, ever. When you do this it doesn’t flatter your current sweetie, instead he gets reminded of your previous guy and your connection, he also get an angry woman on his hands that he did not earn, it also takes away from your current relationship. Troublesome, mean, or crazy as all get out exes just make you look bad. They make your current sweetie wonder about you and worry if he is somehow similar to your ex since people tend to favor types.

The carry-on ex is forgettable. She isn’t in your everyday life. She doesn’t show up at your house unannounced. She may be at events you both attend, but she doesn’t try to chat you up, or glare daggers at you. She treats you like a carry-on.

I remember starting to work at a new company. One female co-worker was a very angry woman. I was told never to mention ex-husbands around her, or men in general. I tried, but she still badmouthed her ex-husband. I asked a fellow employee how long she’d been divorced. Twelve years---talk about a steamer trunk, but it was pretty much of her making. She kept the hate and dissension alive by talking about it daily. There was no new man in her life because she gave up all that space to her ex. It is hard to believe any man would dare to get close to a woman that angry.

If this woman wanted to demote the importance of her ex in her line, she could quit talking about him. She could accept they had a relationship that didn’t work out, and accept her part of the blame. She could find other things to do besides talking about her ex and monitoring his activities. Who knows maybe he could turn into a carry-on.

One last word about dropping your ex, do not hang onto the notion your ex is a go to friend when you’re down. Your ex is not your friend. He may have been once, but no more.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Things Men Find Unattractive

I will add a disclaimer that not all men find all ten things to be unattractive, but enough do to make it generalized list.

1.       The angry woman-she is constantly in a rant about something. No one can do anything to her satisfaction not the mail carrier, the server, and especially not her man.

2.       Bad hair- this surprises me, but why should it. Statistics list hair at 78% as the thing a man notices first. Unfortunately, your hair could prevent you from getting dates. I am a professional, but I am shocked how often my fellow female co-workers sport greasy, flat hair. They rationalize it is only work.  Datable men show up at work, and at the places you stop at on your way home too.

3.       Being too anxious for a man-, you know the woman she’s like an obsessed hunter. She might even change into her hooker dress at work to make it to happy hour at the local bars. The fact she is hanging out on a bar stool alone in her five inch heels giving the death stare to every pretty girl in the place says it all.

4.       Lack of personal grooming-Many men have gagged in the summer time when their date raised her arm only to reveal a hairy pit jungle. Other women choose not to shave their legs because it’s so much work, and men don’t notice. They do. In the United States, men expect a woman to be free of body hair, even down there too.

There is a scene in The Sex and the City movie where the girls fly to Mexico. They tease the redhead because she has hair coming out of her swimsuit. They imply no man would want to get close to that mess. Apparently, they were right.

5.       Clothes- women come in all different sizes and shapes, but there are clothes that will flatter each figure type. Sloppy, dirty, unkempt clothes were major offenders according to guys. Too tight clothes aren’t flattering either.  They just make you look fat, which probably wasn’t the plan. Don’t dress like a man, unless you are hoping to attract a woman. Pretty, feminine clothing that flatters your figure is always attractive.    
      6.       Unkempt hands and feet- there is a reason there is a nail salon on every block. 
              Yet, women still show up on dates, even weddings, with nasty nails.

7.       The Princess- she believes she is honoring the man by going out with him. She tells him what restaurant she wants to go to, theatre performances, flowers, etc. She expects everyone to bow and scape to her too. It is embarrassing to be seen with this woman because she is so hard on everyone, especially her date. These women think it is beneath them to stand in line at clubs. The princess announces her opinion to the public so they can have as high of opinion of her as she does.

8.       Cusses like a sailor- an occasional swear word might slip out of a woman’s mouth when tackled by a mugger or almost hit by a semi that’s to be expected.  The woman who has a larger collection of curse words than the average Marine, and isn’t afraid to use them is offensive. If a man wanted to hang with the guys, he could go to the sports bar to hear foul language. Keep in mind, a man might be shopping for a forever girl. A woman who keeps dropping the f-bomb is not a good prospect. I know it is a double standard, but I am giving you the man’s point of view.

9.       Promiscuity- this used to mean just flirting with other guys while dating someone else, not any more. These are women who will engage in flings with the Fed Ex man if they can, but still keep their regular guy on the side. There seems to be no age range on this either. An older co-worker had two men on the side, while she lived with the third. Men don’t like this. Think how you'd feel if you were part of a harem of women competing for one man’s attention?

10.   Posture-never in a million years, would I have picked this one, but think about it. Models and movie stars don’t stride around with slouched shoulders. Instead, their shoulders are back, and head up as they confidently stride into the room at least for public appearances. Standing up straight makes you look 5-10 pounds slimmer. I am able to lose my gut by standing up straight. Another reason to straighten up.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Dating After Fifty: Be Nice, Please

I recently read an article on CNN by Ronni Berke about the Do’s and Don’ts of Dating After 50. Here’s a woman who ought to know. She’s over fifty and out there, hoping to meet husband number three, or at least a companion. What did I learn from the article? Actually, a great deal, but probably not what I was supposed to learn. I read dozens of comments that were very revealing about dating among the middle age.

Miss Berke had good advice on posting current photos, dressing appropriately and working at being personable. A much braver woman than myself, she tried speed dating and was not impressed. The men were often nervous, rambled on about themselves, and one actually took her drink when he left.

The problem with speed dating is you expect people to do well in a nerve-wracking exercise. Instead of facing one woman’s disdain, a man can experience rejection multiplied by twenty-two. Then there is the issue that the man talked about himself. Wow, this is difficult because books and Internet articles do emphasize talking about yourself so your companion can judge if you’re the right type.  I’ll agree there comes a point when you talk about yourself too much, but in speed dating you only have a couple minutes to present yourself. You are selling yourself to a potential buyer—who is good at that? Salesmen or women, you've been sold plenty of things you did not want or need by a salesperson. Makes you think twice about Mr. Smooth. 

Miss Berke complained that the men appeared nervous which didn’t do anything for her. If a man wasn’t nervous, then the implications are he does this all the time. It is no big deal to him because he gets women left and right. The nervous guy is the shy fellow, the hard working engineer, or the single father who has forced himself into this travesty in hopes of meeting a like-minded female. The guy, who is scared to death he’ll say the wrong thing, is actually the man who cares.

Miss Berke took us down memory lane by taking us on her first online date. She gussied up and made herself presentable, but it was obvious by her date’s reaction that he was disappointed. She vowed to arrive early in the future to check out her date first. I am not sure what her plans were, but many men and women arrive early only to preview their dates and leave out the back way if they aren’t impressed with what they see. This is just mean and wrong.

The commenters for the most part took off the gloves.  One middle-aged man admitted he carried more weight than he liked, but the rude reaction of women he tried to date floored him. They were willing to tell him that he was unacceptable and too fat to date them. Now there is no reason they should go out with him if they didn’t want to, but there had to be a better way to say it. On the other hand, don’t judge someone on their physical appearance. As aging adults, appearances keep changing, especially if you’ve already hit fifty.

Too often, we base the whole dating game on looks, and that is such a small part. What is worse is putting your wrong foot forward before you even meet by posting old pictures. If you post a photo of when you were thirty and fitter, your date will be the type who wants a fit, thirty-year old. Sure, you won’t get as many replies with a recent photo, but they will be the type of people who want to date you. Isn’t that what you want?

Men and women on the dating scene are hoping to meet a companion. It could be short term or for life. With this in mind, a man who doesn’t spark your fancy will not want to be your friend. Ladies tend to think neutral dates could fill in until they find the right guy. Wrong. This only wastes the man’s time and money. When he is out with you, other women see him as not available. This is a major reason men do not want to be your friend.

One of the commenters, talked about how self-absorbed American women are. He advised that men should buy themselves a foreign bride. Good luck with that because it is often a scam, or a free trip to the US. One man’s potential bride took him for almost $800,000. He flew to see her several times, adding onto the bill, but she never made it to the United States because she was too busy working on her singing career and living with her young boyfriend. I do know actual men who felt too inept to romance a woman, so they bought one, flew her over, only to be rejected when she arrived. There aren’t any guarantees even with women you purchase.

So what is the deal? Is there a wonderful secret to dating in the middle years? I think being nice is it. Yes, just being nice. Treat people the way you want to be treated.  Do you want your date to look bored, while he plays with his cell phone? Probably not, so you shouldn’t either. Keep in mind, your date is trying hard and does not have James Bond charm to impress you. Ladies, men that wow you from the get-go are usually not men looking for a life companion. All they need to do is get you out of your stilettos for the night.

Which brings me to a very important factor in dating, especially first dates, or speed dating. Watch what you wear. Sure, you want to be attractive and not fade into the woodwork, but an expansive show of cleavage or age inappropriate clothes is just pathetic. Of course, your date gets a sexual miscue that you are offering. For the men, please dress up. Maybe not a suit, but a tie would be wonderful. All men look better well groomed. It also signifies you want to impress her.  I haven’t met a woman yet who wants her date not to care about his appearance.

The rules aren’t that different for the over fifty set. Please be kind. It costs you nothing, and it will change your life and someone else’s for the better.  

Saturday, November 3, 2012

What Men Don't Understand About Women

Cosmo magazine announced that one of the most upsetting things for a woman is when her ex gets married.

A man’s view would be the guy is your ex; obviously, the two of you didn’t have what it took. Why be upset if got married since it is rather inevitable unless he dies mysteriously, becomes a priest, or becomes so broken-hearted over you he can never even think of dating anyone else. After all, you were the pinnacle in his dating life. No one measured up after you. If he does date, all those women are sub-par. Women don’t really think like this, men reason.  Ha, shows how much they know about women.

A 2011 Tango survey of the 1000 participants revealed 76% of the women self-confessed they thought about their ex too much. Fifty percent admitted to checking their ex’s Facebook page often. It is hard to get over an ex when it is right in front of us via social media. There is always defriending an ex, which would be the NORMAL thing to do. Unless you wanted to stalk your ex and compare every move, he makes to yours. Maybe you need to shop his photos to make sure his current girlfriend isn’t as pretty as you. The twist on this survey is not all the women involved were single. A third were married, still thinking about the ex, and cyber stalking him. When does it end?

Another recent Internet survey interviewed men and women about when your ex gets married. Out of fifteen women, some who were married themselves, thirteen were upset when their ex married. When asked to explain, most women felt they had some rights over the guy. How could he even think of getting married without asking? A few willing admitted to open competitiveness. They didn’t want their ex to marry before they did, and they didn’t want their ex to marry well.  While, I applaud these women for their honesty their meanness astounds me.

The men were more accepting of an ex getting married. The fact they broke up meant they weren’t going to be together. One man admitted to wanting to know more about the new husband. Things such as what was his education, how tall he was, what type of car he drove, etc. He thought if he knew he could figure out what was lacking in him.  

Only two women were okay with their ex dating or marrying. These women had moved on. The biggest problem with the ex moving on is he no longer serves as a backup plan. When a woman is between relationships, she assumes she can go to the ex to hang, or just to feel important. Some women think a man they left stays in suspended animation waiting for them to come back. More women return to their ex-husband between men than you might think. The truth boils down to when an ex moves on it equates to you not being a big deal. The guy isn’t listening to sad music and writing cheesy poems about the chick who dumped him.

Two issues are in contrast here. The women involved in the survey dumped the guy. They didn’t want him. He didn’t suit them. They found someone better, and yet they are mad because he moved on. This doesn’t stroke their ego.  Somehow, women feel entitled to have a quiver of available men at their disposal. With the exception of Alaska, and few military bases, there are few places where men outnumber women. It is usually the opposite. With that in mind, the man a woman rejects looks very good to other females.

You might begin to see why men get confused. When a woman screams I never want to see your face again, a man tends to think she means it, especially if she punctuates the statement by throwing china. Dumping the man’s possessions on the sidewalk makes an even stronger impression. A divorce is the ultimate I hate your guts message. After receiving a verbal or written missive of dissolution, you can’t blame a man for moving on.

On an episode of The Big Bang Theory, Penny and Leonard break up due to Penny’s failure to commit and tell Leonard she loves him. Some randy chick hits on Leonard and he reciprocates. Penny goes ballistic because they’ve only been broken up less than forty-eight hours. I realize it is a television show, but the upset occur because she was in his business. People can't break up and expect to still be friends, but that is another column.

I see the problem as being two-fold. Many women, and some men, shuck their ex off like a layer of dead skin. Their eagerness to be rid of this person showed they didn’t value them.  The fact someone else values their ex both angers and mortifies them. The anger is about possession and some competitiveness. The mortification is fear of having discarded someone good.  Another woman finds the ex wonderful. It is obvious because of all the smiling pictures on Facebook and the gushy comments they make to one another.

Here’s a thought to get over your ex, he isn’t the same person with her as he was with you. Maybe he is a better boyfriend or husband with her. It could be that she allows him to be. People are different with different people. Keep in mind, change happens too. Being in a relationship with you may have changed him deeply.

By refusing to let go of your ex, yes checking his status is not letting go, you’ll never have a fulfilling relationship of your own.  No wonder men don’t understand women.