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Meeting new friends isn’t all that different from dating: You meet, and some kind of magic happens. You’re drawn to each other, attracted even. Not in a creepy way. But in a very real way. You want to see her, hang out, get to know her. You want her in your life.

It’s not unlike dating. In fact, if you’re not meeting new friends or at least people you’re interested in getting to know more, on a regular basis, then don’t be surprised if your dating experience is sucking bigtime.

Forging new connections with people you DON’T want to or have interest in dating can make you better at connecting, which ultimately makes you better at dating. Because even when you take sex off the table, there’s still that fear to push through: of being rejected, trusting someone new, being betrayed. The more confident you are at doing that, the less likely you are to be cowed by potential rejection by a dude. Plus, your world expands (and you meet more dudes).

If you’re not making a few new friends every year, you’re not growing or evolving, and if you’re single, you’re not meeting anyone new period. Your world is staying, well, exactly the same size. And that doesn’t create ideal conditions for an expansive new relationship of any stripe.

In her new book, Friendships Don’t Just Happen, expert and author Shasta Nelson, founder of GirlFriendCircles.com, says we continually underestimate how critical friendships are. Not only because they often get cut first when our schedules get crammed, but also because you may be putting SO much emphasis on Meeting The One that you miss out on so many other fruitful, valuable connections along the way.

The meet-new-friends approach not only makes you feel more social and more connected, the act of nurturing new friendships is so fun and fulfilling that it eases the very pangs of loneliness and boredom that you think Some Perfect Guy should fill. No one person (friend, lover, or otherwise) can or should fill every need. Nourish that natural hunger for connection in different ways with different people, and you’re not so desperate after all–which makes you that much more appealing to someone you might WANT to date.

Intelligent, put-together, happy women of every background want to know how to meet more great people–because your life is never to full to include someone fabulous.

Here are some of my fave tips from Shasta’s new book for finding new friends:

Say yes. When someone invites you out, say yes. Even if that person isn’t maybe your most favorite–she may introduce you to people who really do wow you. Go to events, parties, and gatherings, and tell the people you meet that you’re interested in meeting new people. See how that works?

Take a class. Sign up for a language course, craft class, creative writing session, seminar. And don’t just show up–make it a point to introduce yourself to new folks there. (I started two new classes this past year: improv and pole dancing, both of which have not only been incredibly fun, but helped me find new people I can’t imagine not knowing now.)

Be a regular. Whether it’s your local coffee shop or a bar that hosts a literary reading series, the only way to belong is, well, to be there. Regularly.

Introduce friends. This is something I make it a point to do: Gather a few ladies who don’t know each other for an intimate dinner or drinks and a night out. Nothing bonds people like a shared experience through a mutual friend.

Try a friendmaking service. I’m not kidding. You’ve gone out on some online dates (yes?), then why turn your nose up at a service that helps cool chicks find each other? I am a big fan of what Shasta’s doing on girlfriendcircles.com. It’s online dating for friends, but not what you think. You actually are matched with a few friends in your area to meet up with, and from there, you see what happens and who you click with. It’s worth checking out.

 

 

 

 

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I’d like to welcome guest blogger and friend Brett Blumenthal, a wellness expert and coach, and bestselling author of A Whole New You: Six Steps to Ignite Change for Your Best Life (Dec 2012) 52 Small Changes: One Year to a Happier, Healthier You (Jan 2012). Read more from Brett at sheerbalance.com. Here, Brett shares the challenges that come with trying to change–but why it’s worth sticking to.

***

If you’re struggling with some of the changes you swore you’d make this year, there may be good reason for it.

Change is difficult, no matter how you slice it. And the evidence around this is undeniable, especially around this time of year. When January 1st hits, people get a new spark of enthusiasm for being healthy. Gym memberships soar, health oriented websites surge in traffic and personal trainers don’t have enough hours in the day to see the new clients who’ve signed up for sessions.

Unfortunately, the enthusiasm rampant in the beginning of January wanes after a few weeks and before you know it, gyms have membership cancellations, websites see drops in traffic and personal trainers have a more manageable number of clients. This trend is as predictable as the ball dropping in Times Square New Year’s Eve.

If you are finding that your passion to keep your resolutions and changes are burning out, you are likely falling victim to three very typical reasons people fail:

 

1. You Are Biting Off More than You Can Chew: Many of us yearn for instant gratification and as a result, we try to make major change all at once. Yet, when something takes too long, we give up or move on. In 52 Small Changes: One Year to a Happier, Healthier You, I discuss how this instant gratification we crave is the exact thing that hinders us from achieving success in our quest for change. The secret to making change that lasts is to acknowledge and accept that change takes time and that patience during the process is essential. Don’t try to over commit yourself too early. Ease into your resolution so that you don’t get overwhelmed or discouraged.

2. You Are Using the Wrong Methods to Change: If weight loss is your goal, pretending to love running when you don’t, is not going to encourage you to exercise. Further, forcing yourself to eat rice cakes when you don’t like rice cakes is only setting yourself up for failure. Choosing the wrong methods, activities, foods, avenues, etc. to help you in making your change is only going to deflate you and keep motivation levels low. Instead, find and use the resources that you enjoy using or being part of and make them part of your change plan.

3. You Are Trying to Change Something You Don’t Want to Change: And the biggest reason your change isn’t working is because somewhere, deep down, you don’t want to make the change. In A Whole New You: Six Steps to Ignite Change for Your Best Life, I discuss the importance of passion for change. Many of us fall victim to the “shoulds,” the “I need tos,” and change out of guilt. Unfortunately, these reasons to change are the absolute most ineffective and least motivating reasons to do so. If, for instance, you are quitting smoking because your family hates the fact that you smoke or because your doctor tells you it is good that you do, but deep down you really don’t want to make the change, your long-term success is doomed to fail. Whatever resolutions you have made, dig deep. Are you seriously passionate about the change? If not, it is time to reevaluate. If, however, there is a fire in your belly about the changes you’ve embarked on, you are in much better shape.

 

ABOUT BRETT

Brett Blumenthal is bestselling author of A Whole New You: Six Steps to Ignite Change for Your Best Life (Dec 2012) 52 Small Changes: One Year to a Happier, Healthier You (Jan 2012) and Get Real and STOP Dieting! (Dec 2010). She regularly speaks at conferences, spas and wellness centers on topics of change and wellbeing. Her writing is regularly featured on her site www.sheerbalance.com and other popular sites including: Huffington Post, Yahoo!, Shine from Yahoo!, Divine Caroline, Intent and Gather. She has also been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Spa Magazine, Stuff Boston, American Fitness, The METRO and Organic Spa Magazine.  Brett has appeared on NBC, FOX and CBS. She has 20 years of experience in wellness promotion and 10 years experience in management consulting; including change management for Fortune 100 companies. Brett received her MBA and her bachelors degree from Cornell University. She is certified by WELCOA (Wellness Council of America) and AFAA (Aerobics and Fitness Association of America).

 

 


When you find out a guy has been married before, do you hit the brakes? Worry that he may have too much…baggage? I tell you what: You should be far more afraid of the dudes with zero baggage. I personally have never trusted someone who travels a little too light.

You want a real grown-up man? Date a divorced guy. They know two things: What it’s like to love and what it’s like to lose. Two very critical lessons. And if he has kids? Great. Even better. He has learned that there is something more important than him. He knows what it is to be humbled by love, and to put other people first.

One of the most serious boyfriends of my adult life was divorced, or divorcing (he’d been separated a year). I hadn’t dated anyone in that situation prior, and I found it refreshing to date a grown man with commitments and obligations.

When you date a much younger man (which I have many times), you realize what’s missing–they’re all hope, no miles. But when I started dating this divorced man in his late 30s, I thought he was sexy and sturdy in ways that younger men simply weren’t. He knew what it was to make decisions, and have them blow up in his face. He learned how despite your best efforts, things sometimes fall apart in your hands and break your heart. His biggest disappointment wasn’t, say, that he didn’t get into his first-choice school.

I’m not saying that divorced men are better than single men–but I’m saying that if you write off a dude because he loved someone before, you’re being shortsighted. Perhaps very. This weird idea that we have to be someone’s first love, that he or she can’t have had any life before us, is naive and crazy and, I’ll say it, selfish. Someone’s ex, or exes, their kids, all of it–is not just baggage they carry around–it’s called life. And I want a man with a little on him. Don’t you?

In the end, this man and I were not a match; we ended up wanting different things. When he was fresh off his divorce he warned that he wasn’t about to get back in that situation again. I was like, No problem. Yet as it turns out, he was the one who eventually wanted that coupled, married life back–and I couldn’t blame him. I knew he needed that, but I also knew it wasn’t me.

But it had zero to do with the fact that he had been married before. Not one iota.

I say this because looking for partners or lovers or any rich and rewarding connection is NOT like picking out a shirt. You’re not looking for the one that looks like it hasn’t ever been touched. In fact, quite the opposite.

And by the way, you don’t have to have been married to have baggage. There’s not one person you could meet right now who hasn’t been hurt before. Who hasn’t been let down, left to cry his or her eyes out. Or had to make the tough decision to leave. These decisions are what give us character. It’s how we learn anything worth knowing.

As someone who hasn’t been married or been in a decades-long relationship, I worry about the opposite judgment–that someone will think I’m not capable of sustainable love or long-term connection. And people have as much as told me that. One woman who didn’t even know me said, “Oh, you’re single–you mean divorced?” No, I mean single. “What? What’s wrong? What happened to you?” I know that nothing’s wrong with me–but you can see by her knee-jerk reaction that she, and many like her, aren’t so sure.

(As an aside, I do think there’s something more than a little messed up when it’s more acceptable in our culture to essentially make a very big promise and break it, than to decide not to take it on.)

If we’re going to look at the upside of divorce, it’s that thousands of men and women are released back into the dating pool every day–many of them with a far more open-minded and enthusiastic approach to meeting new people than some of the hardened singles you encounter. It’s true. You want to feel like hot stuff? Date a man who’s fresh out of a sex-free 10-year marriage. Trust me on this one.

So don’t get scared off by baggage. Embrace it. I’d be far more leery of the person who’s got nothing–no carry-on luggage, no past, no prior commitments, no lessons learned, just a toothbrush, a change of clothes, arms swinging  free. Not only is this a near impossible find, but I’m not so sure you’d want him if you found him.

(courtesy of renjith krishnan / freedigitalphotos.net

If you turn your nose up at online dating, or love to complain about how “it doesn’t work,” I have a suggestion: Replace the term “online dating” with “my love life” and you’ll have a fairly accurate take on what’s holding you back in the relationships department.

Look, I know why you’re afraid: You think it’s not real, or not for real, that everyone’s a liar, a player, desperate, or all three. You think you can’t possibly meet someone there, and what would u tell ppl if you did? You’re married to an idea of how you’ll meet someone–but unless you’re a screenwriter, this is a pointless goal. You’re afraid of being judged, passed over. Or just going on dates that maybe aren’t so great. You can have a crappy dating life without going online, so why bother, right? WRONG. There are a lot of good dating sites out there that are similar to Dating Treff that might be a good place for you the start when looking at online dating.

One thing I know for sure is this: Your fears, judgments, and suspicions around online dating are keeping you from the life you want. In fact, if you examine your fears or resistance around online dating, you will see some familiar themes popping up that undoubtedly plague your dating life already: such as fear, judgment, and suspicion. And I can show you how to use online dating to change the way you see dating and yourself.

Online dating isn’t a movement, a revolution, or a philosophy. Online dating is a tool. And by eliminating that tool from your arsenal, you’re not only short-circuiting your own learning curve, but missing out on a vital opportunity to strengthen, expand, and hone your dating and relating skill. I say skill because it takes practice: You know this because if you haven’t dated, you feel nervous and awkward and worried, as you would with anything you haven’t done and want to do well.

Online dating isn’t some magic formula; there is none (this report from earlier this year showed that the algorithms are largely bogus). Dating is a numbers game. And if you go on one date and it doesn’t work out and you give up, then that’s not online dating’s fault. That’s your fault.

The key is knowing how to use that tool. And this is what I do with my clients–I help them become comfortable with it because it reflects and affects how they feel about dating and helps us take those issues head on. In fact, you can’t work with me without having a profile–and I help you create it.

Here’s What Online Dating Gives You (besides access to loads and loads of singles)

–Intention & control. You create the profile; you’re in control. You can do the choosing, the initiating, the responding. In creating your profile you also get the chance to distill for yourself and others what you’re looking for and what you want.

–Options. You remind yourself, first and foremost, that you have them. That puts you in a position of power. You are interviewing ppl in a way, and showing yourself all that you have to choose from.

–Momentum. It’s easier to find a job when you have a job, right? Same goes for dates. You start booking dates, your confidence goes up, your social calendar shifts. Even your posture changes. I’ve seen it happen.

–Low stakes. If you go to every online dating thinking This Must Be The One, you’ll be sorely disappointed a lot of the time. Don’t go in that way. It’s not the hit or miss, pass/fail, husband- or wife-seeking contest. It’s the chance to explore, to see what interests, excites, or turns you off; observe your own habits and hangups in action so you can begin to adjust them. Your goal is to connect with lots of people, not just one perfect person.

What to use as a profile picture? Oh boy that’s a whole other story. Here are my vital guidelines for picture-posting that I see violated every damn day.

Tune in to my radio special, “How to Click: The Truth About Dating,” today, Thurs 12/20 @ 1pm ET – we’ll be talking about just this very topic. Call in! 866.675.6675

Click on the pledge to get free stuff.

I’m not one to totally freak out over the holidays. Then again, I don’t have five kids to buy for or a ton of relatives coming to my house to eat a meal I planned and executed on my own. And yet, many of you do. This can cause no small amount of stress indeed.

I do fall prey, however, to ideas of things I could be or should be doing, like make peppermint bark to give away as gifts, or decorate my 300 sq ft apartment. This I call falling into the “wouldn’t it be nice if” trap of the holidays–as if, during the busiest time of year, you’re somehow going to have more time to do stuff. Right.

Regardless, holidays present their own brand of stress for reach of us. Whether that’s fear of not being perfect, fear of friction at a family event, or just a general dread about being able to do what needs to be done. It’s all like a heightened, holly-scented state of chaos. We react to the blink of holiday lights and the familiar din of Christmas music in a kind of Pavlovian consumer response, causing us to all but ooze cortisol.

But as with anything you want to change (i.e., being stressed), you have to get in front of it and decide to handle things differently. You have to set an intention. To that end, I’m happy to share a Holiday Pledge that I helped create for a client of mine, meQuilibrium, the first-ever customized, subscriber-based online stress management program.

The idea is this: Since it’s easier to prevent a fire than put one out, holiday stress management starts now, not later.  The pledge (featured above and here) is a promise to do things differently this year. And in so doing, to take back the holidays as a time of joy, sharing, and even relaxation (imagine that). I think we could all use that.

There is a gimme to this, too (because what would holidays be without gifts?). What happens is this: When you click on the pledge,  you’re taken to a pledge page, and you have the opportunity to put your info in and get something for free: 6 weeks of unlimited access to the meQ program, which includes a free stress assessment and a series of video tutorials (featuring moi, your trusty guide. It’s true–I shot, performed, and edited all of them in my teeny tiny apartment, though you’d never know it).

Six weeks. That should get you straight through the holidays at least! meQ teaches you the tools to assess and address your most potent sources of stress. Not just by telling you to just bliss out, but by harnessing the science of cognitive behavioral therapy and proven techniques to shift your stress response. You’ll see.

Meantime, I encourage you to share the pledge with whomever you think could use it! We just ask that you include this link if you share the pledge (www.mequilibrium.com/holiday-pledge).

So don’t wish for a Merry Christmas this year; decide to make it that way. Starting, like, right now.

Feel free to share the pledge. And spread some joy.

He shouldn't have left.

General Petraeus should not have resigned. In fact, I wish the president had said, “Sorry General, I do not accept. Now, get back to work.”

I’m not going to pretend I understand the goings-on of the FBI and the CIA, and the more I read about the Petraeus scandal, the more I realize that a lot of the hubbub has to do with the pecking order of who knew what when and how. That’s a whole different issue and has more to do with the handling of delicate information than it does the affair itself.

Now, of course, there are real concerns about why resignation might be in order for someone in his position–compromising national security among them. But at this point, the FBI has found only personal drama, and no security issues connected with the affair (says CBS news).

Let’s Look at What’s Really Bothering You

So let’s take the security issues off the table for now and get to the part that makes headlines, namely that a man of power had an extramarital affair with his young, beautiful biographer. It’s hardly surprising, and yet we seem to be endlessly scandalized by it when it happens. What’s on trial right now (even if Petraeus is not and likely won’t be), is his affair. This is yet more evidence that our reaction to cheating in our culture remains way over the top. While the idea of cheating can be overly romanticised by videos found on websites similar to Nu Bay com, losing your job and ending your career over a sexual affair is ridiculous and incongruous and shouldn’t happen. Period.

We love to be scandalized by the falls from grace–by politicians, war heroes, celebrities. We can’t believe this could happen to them in a way, because who’s more brilliant, more beautiful, more impervious than they are? We’re shocked that a smart, family man or woman would dare take such a risk, or that someone with a rock solid marriage would ever need to seek sex outside the marriage. We think they “should know better.” Wha? Anyone over the age of 12 probably “knows” better. These two people made a choice that, now that they’re outed, they have to say was a mistake, something they just shouldn’t have done. And if there was ever a way for us to know, and there isn’t, what really went on between them, I’d say that wasn’t a mistake at all–the mistake was in letting it get out.

When are we going to stop being scandalized, and instead realize that this happens–to lots and lots of people. Not because society is going down the toilet or because something has changed, but because in fact NOTHING has.

The fact is that human behavior hasn’t changed, and won’t anytime soon. People have been having affairs for as long as anyone can remember. What’s changed or is changing is our response to it, and it is, slowly. At one time you would be (and in some cultures still will be) stoned to death by your own neighbors for such a crime. Today, barring the chance that a jealous lover takes matters into his or her own hands, chances are you won’t be killed for your affair. And if the threat of death didn’t deter people in darker times, the threat of divorce or embarrassment won’t either, and doesn’t.

It doesn’t matter where you went to school, or how much you earn, or how beautiful you or your spouse is. How smart or sophisticated or loving you are. Of course, your affair will get a lot more national attention if you’re a four-star general, but accountants and school teachers and policemen have found themselves in this same predicament. I don’t think they’re bad people because of it. The thing is, we like to THINK that General Petraeus has a stronger moral character or is better than us and can’t possibly fall prey to this. And the panic arises when we realize that if that guy or that woman can’t resist that temptation, than how can any of us? Indeed. That is the question.

This isn’t to say that everyone cheats, or that everyone should. The numbers are pretty high, though (by some accounts, 60% of men and 40% of women cheat). But it also doesn’t mean that having an extramarital affair should spell the end of your marriage, your career, or your life.

The Question of Monogamy

Why this hang up over sex? While we’re drawn to monogamy, and still hold it up as the ideal and the only way to love (which I don’t agree with either), we’re not all that great at it. Some say we’re not even actually built for it (check out Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan). We continue to hold ourselves and others to a standard that few of us can adhere to. And punish ourselves harshly for it.

The very idea that you should lose your job, your career (especially in Petraeus’s case, who isn’t exactly a replaceable employee) over a sexual affair is ludicrous to me. You think, well, he might have put us in danger. Perhaps. And yet, we may be in far more danger because he’s no longer at his post.

Think I’m cynical? Hardly. I don’t see cynicism as the answer or the best response, either. Assuming that everyone will cheat and the world is going to hell in a handbasket is not the goal or the panacea. In fact, I believe we should have a far less cynical and more realistic, sex-positive approach to the role of sex in our lives and relationships. We still cling to this false and fantasy-driven idea that this can’t or shouldn’t happen–that you can’t love someone, you can’t want and maintain a decades-long relationship, and yet want or seek out sex elsewhere. And yet, we can–and do. But it shouldn’t spell the end of everything if that happens.

The Thing Everyone Says (Especially Women)

Then comes the quaint complaint of the simpler minded: “If you’re going to cheat, why not just get a divorce first?”

I’ll tell you why: Because in many cases, people have no desire to end their marriages. They love their spouses. In fact, many of the people who have affairs outside the marriage are in fact quite happy in most areas of their relationship. They don’t want to end their marriage. And why should they? Why is it more ok in our culture to upend and tear asunder a rich and valuable, years-long life together than it is to want or god forbid act on the desire to have sex someone else? This is not ok.

We put far, far too much stake in the idea of sexual exclusivity than serves us or our relationships. Yes, you can love your spouse and want to keep what you have and still be drawn to and want sex with someone else. Eric Anderson, PhD, author of The Monogamy Gap, says that the reason why men cheat (his study focused on men specifically) is simple: It’s a rational response to an irrational situation. We hold the bar far too high, and then wonder why we come up short. Again and again.

Does this mean I endorse any and all cheating? That I’m all, Sure, yeah, go ahead, what the hell? Of course not. It’s a serious and risky choice to make, and one I’m convinced no one wants to hear about, namely the spouse. We don’t want it flaunted in our faces, and we don’t want to feel rejected or embarrassed by it. But that doesn’t mean that when this happens, and it does happen, it has to spell the end of a relationship–and certainly not the end of your life.

jealousy

Jealousy is a beast of a thing. It makes you hate the situation you’re in, the people involved, and yourself. It’s a storm of anger, fear, and self-loathing. And the more you focus on it in an effort to control it, the more out of control it gets.

I get jealous. And I’ve discovered something ironic about how it functions–namely, that it tends to kick up when I’m in a relationship, more than when I’m not. As a single person in various stages of various relationships, I am often caught between wanting to be free and wanting to be connected, and finding that the more connected I am, the more jealous I get. It’s like a cancerous tumor fueled by intimacy. It’s a nightmare. But it often has very little to do with him at all–and everything to do with me.

But what I’ve come to recognize is that there is no way to make it just go away forever. Because the desire to be connected comes with the need to be significant and secure–and the more security I seek and get, often the less secure I am. And the less I like myself. It’s a horrible, messed-up mindfuck.

And yet it makes sense: When you’re in a relationship, the stakes are higher–you have something to lose. The process of getting closer to someone is all positives. But once you ARE together, the only place to go is further apart. And even as someone who loves her freedom, I know how paralyzing that fear can be. That’s when the self-doubt, the self-hate, the neediness, surfaces.

For those of you who say, “Oh, I don’t get jealous,” I say, Wow. How is life with zero attachment and ultimate security? And how is that lie working for you? (For some, it works quite well, fooling themselves and everyone else in an attempt to keep their egos safe.) But what’s perhaps most confusing about jealousy is how knitted it is to desire.

How I Got Hooked on Jealousy

I’ve played mental judo with jealousy all my life. I trace the roots of it back to when I was 19 and hooked up with a boy I’d grown up with. I told my mom I wasn’t sure how I felt about it, or if I knew this was what I wanted. She said, “Well, when you picture him with someone else, does it make you jealous? Does it make you wish he were with you?”

And while she meant to give me a tool, a kind of emotional yardstick for measuring my feelings for someone, she had unwittingly handed me a sharp and dangerous blade that I would cut myself with for years to come. I came to see the two as inextricably linked: To love someone was to feel jealousy, and jealous feelings were indicative of love. Oh boy. What a disaster.

I overused that tool. I believed in some under-the-hood way that feeling jealousy was proof of my feelings for someone, which is like saying that tripping your own house alarm once in a while reminds you that you have a home. Which of course, is stupid–you know you have a house because you live in it and spend time in it every day. You shouldn’t need an alarm to remind you. (And of course this is a limping analogy since people aren’t real estate. You get my point.)

Where Jealousy Went Really Wrong

But I took it even further: I’d trip that alarm on purpose. I’d focus on it to the point of obsession–my boyfriend with someone else, cheating on me, finding someone better. I’d look for women who might be interested in him. At one point, after another round of my suspicion and judgment, my boyfriend said, “You know, I might as well cheat on you. You treat me as if I already have.”

He was right. He was guilty until proven innocent. It was no way to run a relationship. The key was uncoupling jealousy from love–and love from this idea that you have to be The Only One He Ever Loved Or Will Love to be, well, loved. And it ain’t true. He would be attracted to other people, as would I. And eventually, we would go on to love other people, too. Jealousy didn’t make love stronger or better or more sure. It just made it painful.

I found I’d also been using jealousy to sharpen a dulling blade. I’d get more jealous when a relationship was on its way out, ironic as that is. I was doing it to feel something again, because I feared not feeling anything. I was an emotional cutter–particularly, and perhaps especially, when I realized it was close to an end. I used it to kick up sensation and arousal where there were diminishing levels. To create distance between me and him so that I’d want him again.

That distance is key to desire, as Esther Perel explains in Mating in Captivity. But instead of allowing for healthy distance, I was creating conflict out of thin air. This had destructive effects, and made the act of breaking up that much harder. I would cling, nurturing my possessiveness as a last-ditch effort to keep him, lest someone else have him. It was selfish, and painful.

And here’s the crazy part: Just when I thought I’d simply combust from jealousy once I’d let go (even when I was often the one who wanted out), I found that the ending actually brought nothing but relief. I wasn’t anyone’s and no one was mine. I could put the knife down now.

In Sex at Dawn, Christopher Ryan questions whether jealousy has to rule our relationships and our sanity the way we have allowed it to. He cites many cultures and societies the world over in which acting on or expressing jealousy is shameful and silly. Just because you feel it, doesn’t mean you have to act on it. And just because this emotion makes for a great Lifetime Original Movie, doesn’t mean it can or should ruin you.

How to Cope

You can’t eliminate your jealousy, any more than you can decide to never be sad or worried again. And gripping, clinging, policing, or making someone promise you’ll always be safe–those things don’t work either. What I do know is that a life lived simply to avoid jealousy is a tenuous life indeed, because it means fearing what you feel. It’s not the world or anyone’s job to never let you feel the blade of your own fear, because it’s there and we all have the scars to show it.

What I have found is that being able to let go helps–to be aware of it when it rears its awful head, to observe the pattern. No one can promise us a life without pain. And if what we focus on is what we make happen, then jealousy, unleashed, can beget the very situations we fear most. While I can endure the jealousy, and have, I will not let it write the rules. A relationship built on or maintained by jealousy is not one I want. Nor should you.

The real pain, the real losses that happen in this life, come to us unbidden and unexpected. There are so many things we can’t avoid or foresee–but we can keep from inflicting this form of self-torture under the false belief that its self-flagellating properties are protective in nature or make us smarter or safer or wiser. They don’t.

So what do I do? When I feel that jealousy seeping into my veins, like a hot, hateful lava, I try to figure out what need it’s serving: the need for more attention, more security, some assurance that I’m good or good enough? Rather than blocking that emotion or killing or resenting anyone who causes it, I see it as something I can learn from, but don’t have to obey. I take it as a sign that I’m still, and always have been, human.

Courtesy of naypong / freedigitalphotos.net

Spontaneity can be a great thing–the impromptu cocktail with a friend, a last-minute jaunt out of town with a guy (or girl) you like a lot. I get it, I love it. It can be fun and thrilling and very romantic. I welcome those rare opportunities, especially when they happen with people you know you want to spend time with.

But it’s a lousy way to make a first impression.

Why? Because spontaneity has undergone an unflattering change in the world of modern dating. And rather than a thrilling and unpremeditated adventure, it’s become a poor-man’s excuse for not planning ahead.

I wrote about a guy I’d gone out with once who canceled actual plans but tried to make up for it with crazy last-minute ones that never panned out. He was a day-of texter, a what-are-you-doing-right-now-er.When I declined a few offers for day-of drinks, because I legitimately had other plans, he canceled the one set of plans we DID have to meet for dinner, because he thought maybe he was too “out of the box” for us to have anything meaningful. In other words, because I couldn’t just fly by the seat of my pants any time he felt like reaching out, we could never work.

Wha? Is a meaningful relationship built on “I didn’t think to ask you earlier” plans? Doubt it.

The assumption that someone is or should be free to meet you whenever you want, especially if you’re just getting to know him or her, is either magical thinking, or straight-up rude. Just because you have a cool hand-held digital device that lets you zip me a message at any hour of the day or night does not mean the onus is on me to manifest your intentions. But this is often what someone is doing while acting under the guise of spontaneity.

Here’s another example.

I returned a belated email to a gentleman who had expressed interest in going out (I’d met him once at a party). It happened to be a Saturday evening. He wrote me back later that night asking what I was doing. When I told him I was working, he wrote back:

“Not anymore. Let’s c how spontaneous u r. No need for makeup, c’mon n meet me somewhere. Impress me.” 

Now. It was now 10:30 at night and I was in–in as in pajamas in, comfortably in, with no interest in going out. But the idea that I should go not only because he felt like it, but because it would impress him? Really?

It’s one thing to ask if I will meet you late on a Saturday when you hadn’t given a thought to asking me earlier…but to add that this would make me somehow more likable? Wow. This is the sleight-of-hand of the spontaneity game–it’s “I didn’t think of it before, but you should meet me–because I feel like it and because it’ll definitely make me like you more.”

Yeah, not signing up for that. Not always, anyway (never say never). But it definitely was not a motivating factor.

And here’s why: To a great extent, spontaneity must be earned. You can’t break from the norm when you don’t have a norm. Much less be expected to be spontaneous (which sort of cancels out the spontaneous part).

This drives a single friend of mine crazy. When she gets the after-9pm text to meet up, she doesn’t respond. “I wonder how many people he’s gone through to get to me,” she says. Of course, this is fear-based thinking–and not one I subscribe to. But I get her concern, and I know that many women would think the same thing.

I don’t personally care how many other women whose attention you’re vying for. But if you want mine, you have to think a little in advance and assume that, like you, there’s a good chance I have plans.

At the very least, if a gent is going to ask you out the day of, or night of, it should sound more like this: “Hi there. I know you likely have plans for this evening but I happen to be in your neck of the woods unexpectedly and would love to take you out for a drink. If you can, fantastic, and if not, I understand and will be in touch next week so we can set up actual plans.”

There you have it: The approach is humble; it doesn’t assume you’re free and if you call yourself a woman you’ll meet him. No. There’s even a little context (and I don’t even care if it’s fudged–it just needs to feel real), and if it doesn’t happen, the guy has every intention of following up to make a real plan.

Why? Because real men make real plans. And they know where their priorities are. If you’re one of them, you usually know before you order takeout and throw on “Deadly Women” on Investigation Discovery.

My advice: Beware the man who insists you meet him spontaneously very early on, or all the time. Spontaneity has its place, and can be fun when it’s someone you’d be thrilled to meet up with. But not when it’s used as a mask for poor planning, afterthought, and straight-up laziness. It also demonstrates first hand that he can’t make a decision or won’t commit to one until the very last minute–which, ironically, limits his options in the end. Not that manly, when you look at it that way. Adolescent, is more like it.

Keep that in mind the next time your phone buzzes after midnight with a two-word text: “U around?”