Unhappily Ever After

marriage and happiness.png

As a facilitator, team building and conferences are a constant occurrence. One particular weekend, I was in a training where we were required to break up into several different groups for small group discussions.

The first group was categorized according to whether we were in a relationship or single. When all of the people in a relationship gathered into a group, one of the guys looked up and said, “Wait, should we break up according to whether we are happy or unhappy?”

There wasn’t any laughter, discussion, or hesitation, just a small feminine voice that said, “Great idea.” What followed was a phenomenon that resembled the parting of the Red Sea.

Men and women, without skipping a beat, divided themselves further into happy and unhappy groups, and then looked up and waited for the next set of instructions.

In first grade, when I was marrying my Barbie dolls, humming “Here comes the bride”, and reciting their vows, happiness never crossed my mind. Ken and Barbie were either married or unmarried.

Even at that age, I fantasized about my wedding and my husband. Back then, I knew I was going to marry Ralph Tresvant from New Edition, Michael Jackson, and Prince.

As little girls, we all fantasized about our weddings. What would our dress look like? How would they propose? Weddings were infused in our brains. They became a show where we could see ourselves as the star.

But this talk of weddings eventually leads us to make comparisons in our own lives.  We want the most expensive ring, or the designer wedding gown, or a two-week honeymoon. Or we just want the wedding.

We don't tend to focus on how “right” our partner is for us.  And if we haven’t yet found “the one” or have decided against a wedding, somehow our lives aren’t as “special” as our closest friends.

And so begins an endless circle of self-criticism, judgment, or feeling less than.

As a society, we focus all of our attention on one day. We focus on the dress, ring, or price tag of the wedding or the idea that two people are now married. And for those couples who have been together forever, we applaud them for staying together for forty, fifty, or sixty years.

But we don’t ever ask about whether they are compatible or even about the presence of betrayal, infidelity, abuse, children outside the marriage, or family feuds. We don’t ask the question that really matters: Are you happy?

Now that I am no longer a kid with barbies, I am much more interested in the couples who are happy. Someone being in a relationship for seventy years doesn’t mean a thing to me if they spent more time crying than smiling. So when I talk to young girls and boys, college students, and adults, I don’t focus on weddings. I talk to them about being happy.

And whether that means that they never get married, they have a $200 wedding reception, or they have a $100,000 wedding, I want to ensure that the focus is on their relationship and not just one single day. I don’t ever want them to be in the ‘unhappy group’ with kids, credit cards, a mortgage, and student loan payments. At that moment, the most fantastic wedding in the world won’t provide any comfort to the debt you have accrued and frowns you have collected.

Increasing Your Self-Confidence

As women, all of us have battles.  Sometimes they are public and sometimes they are private.  Self-confidence affects us all.

If you can relate, I'd love for you to check me out on the Women In Leadership Podcast, hosted by AnneMarie Cross.

Check it out at bit.ly/2lbIJ6T

The Illusion of a Partner: Seat-Fillers and Mirages

Initiative is the one characteristic that distinguishes a seat-filler from a great employee and a true partner from the illusion of a partner.

Employees without initiative get paid to come in and leave at the same time, to do only what is specifically listed in their job description, and to never have a new or innovative idea. As a manager, an employee without initiative is the equivalent of being given a $200 million winning lottery ticket — two days after the ticket expires. In other words, it sucks.

How can you identify these people? They say things like, “That’s not my job.” If you give them a project, they won’t work on it or turn it in unless you give them a specific deadline. In short, they don’t do anything unless you ask them to.

Imagine if the office had a fire and they had a fire extinguisher on their desk. As the entire office is on the street watching the flames and smoke bellow out of the windows, their response to why they didn’t put out the tiny fire in the microwave would be, “You didn’t ask me if I had a fire extinguisher.”

In a relationship, a person without initiative can be just as irritating. Remember the cartoons from childhood? A person is dying of thirst in the desert and just when they can’t take it anymore, they see a lake full of crisp, blue water. Just as they are getting close, it turns out to be a mirage.

The lack of initiative in a mate is just that: an illusion of a real partner. Just when you think you have someone to help you out, be your better half, make decisions, and help with the chores, you don’t. You have a person instead of a partner.

Think about whether you would want your potential mate as a co-worker or business partner. Because at the end of the day, running a household is a business. The bills need to be paid on time, the laundry needs to be done, the house needs to be cleaned, and food needs to be on the table.

Beyond that, there will always be things that come our way that are not explicitly in our job description. Our parents get old, relatives pass away, illness and disease happens. If your mate can barely handle the here and now, how can you expect them to handle the unknown issues and dilemmas that will definitely come your way?

Whether the situation is professional or personal, we all have to decide whether we are okay being (or being with) a seat warmer or an illusion of a partner. The choice is ours.

Online Dating Profile Tips For Men

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of online dating. I met my better half online. With a little help from a male friend, I weeded out guys based on their profile. When my friend saw my significant other’s dating profile, he read it with his mouth open. “He is the male version of you! You both have the exact same profile. You have to write him back.” I did, and the rest is history.

When people meet us, they swear we have been together forever. That’s the kind of chemistry we’ve always had. And it all started with our dating profiles and an open mind.

Based on my online experience, I put together a list of common dating profile mistakes that men make, in no particular order:

1) Using a Picture With Another Person In It.

Ummm…we can see her arm!!

When you shop for a home, you want to picture yourself in it. The last thing you want to see is the seller’s family sitting in the living room as you view the house.

So when it comes to online dating, using a photo with someone else in it is a no-no. We want to visualize ourselves with you and only you….not with your sister, your aunt, your cousin, or a cropped photo of you with another woman’s arm around you.

A lot of people simply don’t have very many pictures of themselves. But that’s no excuse to post a photo of you and your ex. Call a friend and ask them to take a few pictures of you.

 

2) Excessive Spelling and Grammar Mistakes

It gives off the impression that you wrote your profile in 32 seconds. If you had a wonderful overall profile, I’ll forgive a spelling or typographical error. Everyone makes mistakes. But excessive mistakes give me the feeling that you rushed through it.  In that case, I’m moving on to the next person.

3) Mirror Photos

Seriously, you couldn’t get anyone else to take a picture? In addition, I have ADD tendencies. I get distracted by what I see in the background. I focus on things that I shouldn’t, like why you have roses, grapes, and blackberries on your wallpaper, why there is a bottle of Hello Kitty bubble bath on the tub, or why you have dirty laundry on the floor. Your photo should make me think about you, and you only.

4) Taking the Questions Too Literally

Suppose the question is, “What is the last book you read?” If you literally just read a book on computer programming for a work certification license, I’m not particularly interested in hearing your summary of it.  To the guy whose response to this question was– “Physical Security Standards for Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities. (I read it for work.)”—I really hope you are reading this.

Pick a book that you’ve recently read, or your favorite book, and tell me what you liked about it. (Hint-We don't need to know that it wasn't actually the last book you read.) Your last book can tell me a lot about your interests. I can determine whether you read fiction or non-fiction, what your hobbies are, what you are passionate about, or whether your favorite book is the same as mine.

5)  Flat, One-Dimensional Profiles

Here is an example:

The one thing I am most passionate about:

Success

The most important thing I am looking for in a person is:

Passion

The first thing people notice about me:

Easy going manner

Some additional information I want you to know:

Yes

I typically spend my leisure time:

Dining out and traveling

I have one question after reading this profile. How fast can I click the button for “Close this match”?  The truth is that I have a hard time believing that you are interested in “passion” when your profile looks like it was filled out in 23 seconds. If you can’t spend at least 15 minutes filling out your profile, why would I think that you would be interested in putting in time getting to know me?  “Fun, easy-going, and likes to travel” are not the impressions that I am left with. Instead, I have the vision of a guy who is not engaging and speaks in one word answers.

When you are filling out your profile, use full sentences and elaborate. Think about what you want to convey and give me a few sentences that will give me a sense of who you are and what you like. If you like to travel, tell me what country was your favorite to visit. If you like to go to restaurants, tell me about some of your favorite types of food.

6) Talking About Sex Too Soon

I am not a prude by any stretch of the imagination. But I want to feel safe and comfortable as I’m getting to know you. And three questions into our series of communication is not the place to say, “I want a lady in the street but a freak in the bedroom” or to ask me about my favorite position.

Hold off on the conversations that involve sex. Get to know me first and let us gradually shift to more intimate questions once our hobbies, values, and experiences match up.

7) Bashing Your Ex

Every single relationship is the product of two people making decisions and mistakes. Maturity speaks to being able to move on to a new relationship and leave your past in the past. A person who paints their ex in a negative light is a signal to me that they are consumed by anger and blame. Either way, that isn’t the type of person I want to start a relationship with. I automatically assume that if our relationship ends, they will talk about me the same way.

You would never bash a former employer at a job interview. So practice the same discretion in your dating life. Talk about the lessons you learned and the mistakes you made, but don’t call out your ex, especially when the two of you may have children together. Keep it classy.

8) No Picture In Your Profile

Pictures don’t ever tell the full story of who you are, but they do allow us the chance to get to know you a little. A lot of people on dating sites would not rank looks as THE most important item on their list; however, it is important that we are attracted to our potential mate. Often, a person’s photo doesn’t begin to tell how great they look in person. Other times, the photo looks way better than the real thing. That’s just the way it is.

Pictures tell you much more than just how attractive a person is. If I see a photo of you camping, I may think that you are adventurous or like the outdoors. If I see a picture of you at a sushi restaurant, I may think that you aren’t afraid to try new things. If I see a picture of you in the Caribbean, I’ll assume that you like to travel.

When you don’t have a picture at all, or you want me to request a photo from you, it makes me a little skeptical. Are you ten years older than you say you are? Are you seventeen? Are you hiding something? Then again, you just may be “internet shy” and not want your photo everywhere, which I can respect, as long as your profile is interesting.

Whatever the reason, fight your hesitation and put a photo up. In fact, put at least three pictures up. Allow people to see a close-up of your face, a full-body picture, and one other great photo of you.

The right match for you is a person who isn’t scared off because you don’t have the perfect BMI index or because you have a scar on your right arm. So be upfront. Use recent photos that provide us with a glimpse of who you are, not photos that try to hide who you really are.

9) Not Taking Advantage of “What I Want People To Know”  or “About me”

This is a great time to expand on anything about your life. I’ve seen people mention that they are single fathers, they can speak 7 languages, they love horseback riding, traveling, writing poetry, or going to plays.

Here are five examples of some not-so-great responses to the following question:

Some additional information that I want people to know about me:

1)    “You have to wait and see…”

2)    “Not that I can think of right now”

3)    “I think that about covers it.”

4)    “Yes”

5)    “For me to know and for you to find out :)”

You can say ANYTHING about your life and it’s probably going to be just fine. Don’t waste the opportunity to tell me more about yourself. If your profile has been great up until that point, it’s a total letdown to see a blank space, childish response, or some less than intriguing answers.

10) Wanting to Fast Track Communication or immediately talk on the phone

One popular dating site is a little unique in that it allows you to get to know a great deal of information about a person before you make the decision to email, call, or communicate openly with a person. You can choose to go through a short series of multiple-choice and open ended questions, or you can fast-track your communication and go straight to open communication.

I admit that it threw me off whenever a person wanted to jump straight to open communication or sent me their phone number. I enjoyed choosing my questions, sending them, and waiting for a response. It was fun and exciting. I wholeheartedly admit that I checked my email constantly, anxiously waiting to read their responses and to see what kind of questions they would ask me.

I also encountered a few guys who admitted that their subscription was ending and wanted to get to know me at lightning speed. “Here is my number. Call me tonight.” Guys, you come off as three things: impatient, cheap, or looking for an immediate weekend fling. It’s a turnoff. Renew your subscription and slow down.

Want to check out my husband's tips for women and dating profiles? Click here

What have you come across in your online dating experience? Can you relate? Let us know in the comments.

 

8 Signs You Have Met Someone Who is Emotionally Unavailable

Being with someone who is emotionally unavailable can leave you feeling empty, alone, and needy.

Here are eight signs to help you identify when you have crossed paths with an emotionally unavailable person.

1) They tell you.  If anyone tells you they are not ready for a relationship, they are emotionally unavailable.  Regardless of how many times you go out for dinner, no matter how many times they text you or call you throughout the day, despite the gifts they give you, they have already made it loud and clear to you and you need to listen.  They are emotionally unavailable.  Nothing you say or do will change that. Cut your ties and move on.

2) They are dealing with a significant issue in their life.  When my dad was first diagnosed with throat cancer, I was barely holding it together.  It was traumatic, stressful, and overwhelming.  I didn’t have the energy or the capacity to focus on a relationship.

The same is true for a variety of other issues including death, chronic illness, an adoption, a new baby, a health diagnosis, custody issues, and losing a job.

3) They are not interested in the future.  People who are emotionally unavailable are not interested in an in-depth conversation about marriage.  Even if they mention it, it won’t be a long or deep conversation.

Here are some clues:

“I do not want to get married.”

“I don’t see myself in a serious relationship.”

“I just can’t see myself settling down with one person.”

“I can’t see myself married in five or ten years.”

4) They just got divorced or just got out of a long-term relationship.  Divorce can hit you hard.  It can be like experiencing a death.  It is difficult, it hurts, and it is life-changing.  It makes you question your entire relationship, you lose friends, and your family takes sides.

I don’t care how bad the marriage was, who cheated on who, or how long they have been separated…a person who has just ended their marriage needs about a year to recover and sort through their feelings.

If you have met an incredible person who just got divorced, the timing is not right.

If you have feelings for them, you can’t wait it out, you can’t stand by them, you can’t make it better.  Who you are and what you have to offer can’t cover up the fact they need time to sort out their feelings, become whole again, and deal with the emotionally wounding of going from 2 people to a single individual.

5) They go "ghost” on you. You can’t get in touch when them for long periods of time. They don’t text you back for a couple of days.  They don’t return your phone calls.  When you call, they don’t answer.

The same is true when you are going through something emotionally.  When you have had a bad day, they are not there.  They don’t fully hear you, they don’t provide support, and they can leave you feeling empty or alone.

6) You can’t plan a weekend or a get-away without an excuse.  They either made other plans, will be out of town, or have another excuse when you try to plan something in the future.  Emotionally unavailable people are about the right now.  They are not interested in six months down the road or a cruise for next year.  So the excuses you receive should serve as a red flag.

7) They don’t introduce you to the important people in their life.  You may have heard them talk about their best friend or their sister, but you haven’t met the key people in their life.  On important holidays or birthdays, they have other plans that don’t include you.

8) They haven’t invited you to their place or are uncomfortable with you being there.  You may find that you are always hanging out at your place.  You’ve never been invited to their place.  If you do get an invite, they have no desire to make space in a drawer or offer to let you keep an extra toothbrush in their bathroom.  Instead, that earring you left? They threw it out.  The hair tie in the bathroom? They aren’t sure what happened to it.

There you have it. Eight signs to help you stay away from a person who is unable or unwilling to let you into their life.

So what do you do if you suddenly realize the person you are with is emotionally unavailable?

Decide how you want to feel in your relationship.

Do you want to feel valued? Do you want to feel appreciated?

If they are not making you feel that way, it is time to reevaluate whether being with the person is really giving you what you need.