Modern birth control changed bonding relationships profoundly.  Universal internet connections to practically everyone in the world has been another game changer.  For many of us our beliefs and expectations about relationships has lagged behind the reality of modern relationships.

familyBefore Birth Control (BBC)
In the times before modern birth control intimate relationships between men and women normally produced babies. Mothers nursed infants and cared for the kids and the nest.  Men worked outside the home. Couples exhausted the remainder of their youth and all their middle age raising their families.  Mostly, couples bonded for life. Religions and laws supported this lifestyle.  Couples committed to the relationship once and then made it work as best they could “til death do you part.” Divorce was rarely an acceptable choice. It wasn’t a perfect arrangement, but it lasted centuries.

After Birth Control (ABC)6155_O'Connor_Sandra Day O'Connor being sworn in as US Supreme Court Justice, 1981_with credit_Collection of the Supreme Court_crop2
Birth control affects women more profoundly than men. For men, birth control has allowed the control of taking on the responsibilities of being a provider for a family under the old family model.  For women, it meant they could have relationships and at the same time  be a provider.  Women are no longer expected to be limited to the role of “barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.”

Fluidity of Relationships
Divorce – Since women started entering the career world divorce rates have skyrocketed.  In the BBC way of thinking this has been a shocking reality, but in the ABC world it’s not really so negative. While there are substantial negatives to divorce, particularly with children, divorce is more manageable when both spouses can work and support themselves, as is often the case today. Divorce also allows escape from bad marriages.  The old stigma of divorce is melting away.

Unmarried or late marriages – Statistics show a great increase in men and women who are choosing to remain unmarried or postpone marriage. With birth control they can have careers and relationships without the challenges of raising kids.

Child Care – Career women who wanted children but didn’t want to abandon their careers created a need for child care to take care of their precious little ones during working hours.  Some husbands split or assume all the responsibility for work time child care. Though sometimes reluctantly,  many husbands today are sharing other domestic chores more equally with their wives.

Internet Dating and App Dating
The ease of finding a compatible mate is remarkable when compared to the profoundly limited choices of just a decade or two ago. It’s fast, easy and cheap.

Uncommitted? Relationships
Are humans naturally monogamous?

Is a lifetime commitment the goal of bonded relationships?

When is divorce the right answer for a marriage?

Are religious ideas of marriage keeping up with changing science and cultures?

How do overpopulation and lower mortality rates relate to making families?

Are expectations of having a home like Beaver, or even Bart, becoming obsolete?

If you can answer these questions with intelligence and sensitivity, you need to have a voice that is heard.  For many people the answers to these questions have changes radically over the past few decades.  Our observation is that marriage age people today generally have very different thoughts about marriage than their parents.

 

 

Being single means you have more control over your life than when you are in a relationship. While you gain the benefits of being with someone, you lose control over other parts of your life. What are you willing to give up to have a great relationship?

old-watch-patekGive up your TIME for a great relationship
Some of “your time” becomes “our time.”  Hopefully most of the time you spend together is enjoyable for the various reasons that people want to be together.  Some of the time together will not be for things that you like at all.  Family time might need to be split between two families.  Same with splitting friends time.  What about those season tickets or the weekly mah jongg game?  Some people like (need) to have some alone time.

Stack of One Hundred Dollar Bills U.S.Give up your MONEY for a great relationship
There may be a net gain or loss of money when you get into a relationship.  Know what you want. Money is a big issue, often the biggest issue, in relationships. If you are the one contributing more, do you both know your limits?  If you are the one contributing less, do you both know the limits?

CaboGive up your HOME for a great relationship
People sometimes get attached to their homes.  That’s natural. So there may be compromises about where you two bunk down. Where are you going to live? His place? Her place? A new place? There are also many issues with sharing space with someone. Can you agree on home size, neighborhood, decor, cleanliness, climate control, pets, noise, bedtime, mealtime, guests, parking, jelly beans (just checking if you’re paying attention), yard work, bath room time, closet space, snoring, holiday decoration, etc?  I’ve heard people argue seriously about the use of paper plates. Jeez!

Give up your SEX for a great relationship
Let’s hope that’s not an issue!

Don’t you want somebody to love
Don’t you need somebody to love
Wouldn’t you love somebody to love
You better find somebody to love
             Jefferson Airplane

giveloveIt is in our nature to want to be loved.  We want it, we need it, we love it, we try to find it. There is no confusion about that.  It is the clear, yet often unspoken, drive behind dating.

Oddly, we don’t generally recognize a similarly strong desire to participate in the active side of loving, the powerful need to love.

The Joy of LovingAunt Joan
Take a minute and think about the most loving people who you know personally.  I bet they are not unhappy people.  I think of my Aunt Joan. The church at her funeral was overflowing with appreciative recipients of her love, and I can only remember her with a smile on her face. Giving love creates joy in both the giver and receiver.

Mutual Love Giving
Now imagine your relationship with the person with whom you share the desire to give your love more and more every day. Your joy in the relationship comes from the other’s joy, and your loved one feels the same way about you! It’s like a snowball rolling downhill and gathering mass.  You love more, so they love more, so you love more, so they love ….  It happens.  And it can happen to you.

xmas2Mature Loving
How old were you when you noticed that receiving Christmas presents wasn’t as much fun as giving them?  Kids are all gimme gimme. Nothing pleases a parent more than seeing their kid light up with happiness when opening the well-chosen present.  It’s the same with love when we learned that the giving is the best part. ( We all need to be good receivers too.  When the other gives love, take it in with gratitude)

And in the end, the love you take
Is equal to the love you make             The Beatles

We all have been around the block a few times (or a few thousand times).  That will be a good thing for your dating future if you gain wisdom and insight from where you have been.

Learn from your past
“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
George Santayana

pina-colada-yolo-rum-beachWhat worked? Why did it work?
I could probably have a good time with just about anyone if I was sitting on a beautiful beach getting a little hazy on pina coladas, but those kind of times don’t define relationships that work. Relationships that work do it day in day out through the sun and the rain. Good relationships make the hard stuff more bearable and the good stuff more fun. Who has done that for you? What was it about them that made it happen?

What didn’t work? Why didn’t it work?
Flip the coin over and consider what was messed up about parts of your experiences with past partners.  Try to be as specific as possible.  Merely concluding the other person was a jerk doesn’t help you much.  Maybe that person was self-absorbed and had very little interest in your well-being.  Maybe you want a more intimate relationship than you would have settled for in the past?  Maybe just the opposite?

bright futureStay in the present on first dates
Your past is a big part of who you are today, but keep in mind that dating for long-term relationships is acted out in the present with some focus on the future. You will eventually need to know each other’s past to know what to expect from each other, but work into that gradually, particularly with past relationships.  Focus on the present experience of your date. Observe, and know you are being observed. Enjoy the time together as best you can.  Some people fall easily into griping about past relationships.  Eek! Please don’t, and don’t encourage your date to do so.  Stay present and positive to develop the expectation that the future is bright.

On paper with a postage stamp?  Sure.  It’s a bold statement in this digital world that will hopefully be read and re-read for a lifetime.  There are also modern ways of delivering your well composed love words that we encourage. Not by text messages please. You want permanence and an appropriate level of dignity.  Email works acceptably.  It’s supposed to be a big deal. Make it so.

Love-LettersExpressing Your Love
The essential, and preferably only, topic of a love letter is informing your love interest about the qualities of your love for him or her.  It’s surely not about asking to be loved. Don’t water it down with relatively trivial topics that are off subject. Don’t, for heaven’s sake, go on for pages and pages. Get to the point, stay on point, and don’t dull the point.

A love letter is intensely personal. Make it about the uniqueness of your love.  A letter that says only “I Love You!” is way better than nothing, but you can do so much better.  Think about your letter being re-read ten years hence.  Will it evoke deep emotions, maybe a tear or two?

This is the time to use lots of pronouns like “I” and “me” and “my” in your expression. You know, the old “I feel xyz whenever I think of you.”  Does your heart skip a beat when …. ?  Say so.  Remember, it’s about you and your love that you want the other to know about and, with great expectations, cherish.

Be Brave
It’s not easy to go out on a limb and express something as important as your love. You are vulnerable when you send a love letter. True. Yet, the wonderful advantage of a love letter is the separation between you and your love interest. When you are face to face you don’t get to re-write what you just said, and an immediate response always happens (even if it is silence……………………).  It’s easier to get a love letter right (if you take the time).  A letter also allows the receiver time to absorb the powerful content and respond appropriately.

Be Smart
Timing is important.  It’s hard to imagine circumstances when a love letter would be appropriate after only a first date – no matter how smitten you are.  A love letter expresses true love, and true love doesn’t actually happen at first sight (or sometimes even first site).

signalsReceptivity is important.  Don’t throw your fastball when the catcher is not ready. Be observant.  Is your love interest giving you the signals that call for your pitch?

Re view you’re righting so u dont loook dum
Typos and bad grammar detract so much that your love letter’s powerful impact may turn out to be negative. Everyone goofs up, but a love letter is something really important to you. So, take the time to get it right. Also, pick your words carefully, be as elegant as fits your character, but always use your words that come from your heart. Read what you have written as if you were in the shoes of the recipient. Will the sentiment be taken in the way you meant it? In other words, are you communicating well?

An example; I (Rich) once responded to a suggestion from Rose by writing “Yeah Yeah Yeah.”  I was trying to communicate that I had great enthusiasm, but what Rose received was “whatever.”  “Yes! Yes! Yes!” would have worked so much better.

If it takes emoticons to convey your feelings, you need to work on your words.  OMG, does it have to be said that you must use whole words, not decontented texting acronyms?

Don’t rush to send it. Sleep on it. Do a rewrite when you are in a different mood.  Make it a sparkling gem, simple yet dazzling. Enjoy the process. It’s wonderful to feel love. Revel in it. Then share it!

“Love can be expressed in a myriad of different methods, but the most timeless and most treasured will always remain the classic love letter.”    Auliq Ice

Check out the Modern Guide to Love Letters on our resources page.

Care about what is important
We encourage you to care about what’s important in your life. This is not hard to do. Care about your friends and family, care about those who are suffering, care about doing a good job, and care about so many more important things.

shaken-not-stirredIt’s also good to care about a few things that are special to you. Wine. Baseball. Crochet. Even martinis, shaken not stirred. Having refined sensibilities in an area of special interest makes a person interesting.

Don’t care about what is not important
This precept sound a little odd and very easy to do, but often it’s harder to do than you think.  It’s commonly expressed as, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”  In relationships, the benefit of not caring too much about too many things is that you will be easier to get along with. For example, sometimes having discriminating tastes about every little thing crosses the line from interesting into being just plain picky.

How does not caring help relationships?
We have all heard the conversation that goes something like this:
Want to go out to dinner?  Sure, where? How about Chinese? Not feeling it. Italian? Had it yesterday. That new restaurant on Broadway? I read a so-so review. How about our favorite place? It’s wearing thin on me. Hamburgers?  Yuck.      et cetera ad nauseam
spoiled
Wouldn’t it work better as a respectful exchange:
Want to go out to dinner?  Sure, where? How about Chinese? That new place on Broadway? Sure, let’s go!

Or even:  Want to go out to dinner?  Sure, you pick a place, just not XYZ, I ate there at lunch.

While the first couple is getting close to blowing up the others are on their way to an enjoyable evening.

Don’t be a pushover.  Stand up for what is important to you, but don’t make too big a deal over all the little things. Most of the time, when nothing critical is being decided, it will serve you better to be compliant, easy-going, laid-back, chill, mellow, and undemanding.  Your date will appreciate it and with any luck will return the favor.

It can be a challenge to separate what is truly important to you from what you can easily let go, but it is worth doing.

Just say yes!

cool_pictures_of_love_heartsLOVE
Many would say we most want love in our close relationships.  We can’t argue with that.  The problem with looking for love is that love is so hard to define. What does it look like? How do you know you’ve got it?  How do you know when you are giving it?  Love is complicated, multi-faceted, and really hard to nail down.

Because love is so amorphous you may want to start any evaluation of your relationships with something more easily recognized even though it may be somewhat less important.

RESPECT
Respect is easier to identify. Most people don’t have a hard time coming up with clear examples of respectful behaviors. Listening attentively to someone. Trying to understand and consider another person’s needs.  Showing up on time.  And numerous others.  Some say respect is the fundamental attribute of love.  How can you love someone if you don’t respect them?

The essence of respect in a relationship is recognizing that another person is important and honoring that.  Each of us believes deeply that our own life is important, and it feels wonderful when someone else shares the recognition of our importance.

Act With Respect
In a relationship respect is shown through action.  To respect someone is act appropriately, to treat them with respect. If you believe you respect someone, but you don’t show it in your behavior, we would argue that what you have is not respect at all. Show respect when you are dating.  If you date doesn’t want respect, that’s a little spooky.

Expect RespectRespectful
You deserve it. It will be powerful positive force in your relationship. Look for respectful behavior when you are dating.

Respect Yourself
In some ways this can be the hardest part. Many of us have not yet learned to fully respect ourselves for one reason or another.  We wish there was an easy answer to this challenge, but there probably isn’t. Work at it. Own your self-respect when you are dating and in every other aspect of your life.  Your life is important, honor it.

Aretha Franklin knew what she was singing about. Listen to Aretha sing it!

If you’re dating to find a long term mate, how do you know when you have succeeded?  When do you know?  Do you have to live out the rest of your life to judge the relationship as it ages?

holding-hands-1024_108142k

We all want to be able to say, “I’ve found the person of my dreams.”  I think we can all agree that after your first date it may be premature to say that. In the beginning of a relationship we reasonably say, “I’m starting to think this may be the one.”

Know what success looks like.
There has been plenty of good brainpower applied to figuring the attributes of a good relationship. It’s not a precise science, but there are some strong indicators. For a pretty good list of successful relationship indications click this link.

Take the time to evaluate.
It takes time.  Let’s say that again. It takes time. How do you know if someone is dependable? They do what they say they are going to do on a regular basis, not just once.  How do you know someone is honest? Tough question, but not one you can answer after only a few dates.  It takes time to get to know someone. You need to measure this period in months, not days or weeks.

Rose-Colored-GlassesDon’t fool, yourself.
We all know about the tendency to put on rose-colored glasses when we are romantically smitten and “in love.”  Have fun wearing the glasses! They’re wonderful, but please take them off when you can get serious about decided about committing to a relationship. We’ve all seen the friend and their love interest who had the “in love” attributes including “we were meant for each other” and “no one understands us the way we do” … and then they broke up.  We don’t see things clearly when we are crazy in love.  It’s natural.

Hear Louis Armstrong’s great performance of La Vie en Rose –  the French expression for living with rose colored glasses.

We wish you great success!

Dating for the purpose of finding a long-term partner is challenging. There are many reasons for this.

One significant reason is that when we date we know we are being evaluated at the same time we are evaluating our date. That’s like selling and shopping at the same time. That’s a confusing situation.

When we know we are being evaluated, we tend to let that influence our behavior. We get nervous and tend to put on a bit of a show. We know that pretending to be someone we aren’t ultimately fails, but it’s tempting to try to please our date.  We want to be liked and desired.

Our suggestion: Just be yourself!

Be-yourself-5

Because it’s easier!

You’ve been being you all your life, and you’ve got the role down pat. Put your best foot forward, but just be you.  If your date doesn’t like you when you are just being you, what good things could you possibly expect from a long term relationship with this person?   (Warning: This doesn’t mean you must expose your date to your quirkiest traits on your first date.)

And it allows you to do what you need to be doing, shopping.

If you are paying too much attention to putting on a show for your date, you can’t pay attention to learning about your date.  It’s hard to figure people out, but it sure doesn’t get easier by not paying attention. Hopefully, your date shares this wisdom. You should have your attention focused on your date, and your date should be focused on you.

So, turn down the marketing effort, and let your product sell itself. Turn your attention to being a careful and discriminating shopper.  Listen, observe, and then listen more carefully.

“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.”   Ernest Hemingway

Active-Listening-3

Wanna get lucky?

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”   Seneca

get lucky

When we want something we tend to want it as soon as possible.  Maybe we want to skip the preparation and move right on to the opportunity. When you start dating, preparation is very helpful.

Sometimes the best place to start with preparation is simply to clarify the goal. Ask yourself one simple question and take the time to think about it.

What do I want?

Knowing what you want gives you the benefits of having a goal. With a goal you can devise a strategy for accomplishing it. With a goal you can know when you are off track.  With a goal you will know when you have succeeded.

Be forewarned by Yogi Berra – “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”

We suggest that the key to answering that question is to start with answering:

What type of relationship am I looking for?  (casual, great friends, partner, spouse, etc)

If you can write a clear paragraph (or at least a good sentence) about the relationship that you believe will work for you at this point in your life and possibly beyond, you are well on your way to getting lucky.

Good luck!