Stop Dating Until You Don’t Need To

"A serious relationship"

I often tell clients not to date until they don’t need to. The fundamental premise behind such a cliché is that if I am unhealthy, or needy, or on the rebound, or broken than any legitimate concerns I have become massive, obsessive. I begin to catastrophize what is going on. I lose my objectivity and it isn’t long before I have a hole in my heart that I am looking for someone else to fill. Dating when you are vulnerable or broken is a sure-fire recipe for relational strife, no matter what Cosmo tells you.

Finding the right person has less to do with romantic bliss than we have been led to understand. Being the right person – whole, happy, not needy, that is the right goal to pursue. If I am healthy enough that I do not need another to fix me or complete me (gag) should be our goal. Dating then becomes an opportunity to share who we are with another without the needy blinders on. Settling for whatever is available isn’t even an issue.

Singleness is not a disease.

I was a single parent for years and after I got over the self-indulgence, the pity, the tears and the loneliness I began to realize that it was awesome to be alone. The healthier I got the less I needed a woman to approve of me or assure me I was ok. By the time I did date again I was not an emotional vampire that needed to be filled. I found I was no longer as needy as I once was. I began to like who I was. All of this was only possible once I learned to live with myself.

I can honestly say I like myself today (I find that hard to write). I still don’t like what I look like in the mirror or some of my obvious faults but for some reason that doesn’t hurt like it once did. Singleness was a gift that I never wanted. It was a gift that changed my life.

If you are single today it is perfectly normal to experience loneliness and momentary unhappiness. I believe they call that “life”. You are not a second-class citizen, a third wheel, or the odd person out. You are free to be who you truly are. Don’t miss the opportunity, like I almost did, to allow yourself to learn who you really are apart from someone else with all their baggage, needs, quirks, foibles and insecurities. If you aren’t complete without someone else filling that hole in your heart chances are you won’t be complete with someone there.

Trust me on this – don’t date until you don’t need to.

Casual Friday – Do We Matter?

110411_75159_0In 2002 I was a single parent, hurting, lonely, visiting Winnipeg, the city of my childhood. Alone.
I was at a conference downtown but felt a nostalgic need to drive for an hour in traffic to go back and remember. So there I was, driving down a road I had walked hundreds of times, decades ago. I had never been back. It was the time, elementary school, when everything was possible and I knew I was going to be significant.
Now years later, looking back on a shattered life and broken dreams, I drove back in time to my old elementary school. It was much as I had remembered it, only a great deal smaller. I remembered it as a happy place, a loud adventure full of girls and bullies and games and sports. But now, so many years later, I was back walking down empty hallways and bad preteen crayon art. I wasn’t sure why I was there but for some reason was drawn down those hallways, looking like a middle-aged creeper with too much time on his hands.
As I passed the trophy case I was struck by it’s emptiness. Someone had obviously been cleaning out the old pictures, painting and rearranging. Even today I still wonder if it really happened and still do not completely understand it’s meaning, if there even is one.
You might be able to guess what was in that window, it unfolded like a movie – There was only one photo in that display case that day – yellowed by age, bad haircuts and knobby knees. There I was, grade six volleyball team. Only one picture in that case, twenty or more years later. Why? It was a one in a million, a ridiculous proposition, a hollywood story.
I still don’t know why, or even if there is a why. I only know I was feeling alone one day, insignificant and small. And in the midst of that insecurity there was a gift, a single moment out of time and a reminder that I mattered. hundreds of teams, dozens of years, an old picture that could not fit in a small display case needed by this years teams. A ten foot picture frame with only one picture…
It is easy to believe we don’t matter in a world of superstars and the super rich. When we die will anyone remember us, mourn us? Many of us, as we grow older, ponder what legacy we will leave, if any. Many become discouraged by the brevity and seeming meaningless of life.
Do we matter?
I am inspired by the story of Rosa Parks, an average nobody who changed her world because she “was tired of giving in to white people.” Like many of us I get tired of hearing of yet another person born in privilege being noticed just because their family or circumstance gave them a platform. Rosa showed us that even a regular person can leave a powerful legacy if they live their life with integrity and purpose.
This spring I am spending a few weeks with my father editing his memoirs while basking in the sunshine. He too has left a powerful legacy of perseverance and integrity for the following generations though being an orphan who was not given many breaks in life. He may not ever be world famous but he is living proof that you don’t have to have a Harvard degree or reality television series to impact the lives of people in your world.
Do we matter?
Yes you do. Don’t settle for a mediocre life.
As Tony Campolo is fond of saying, “Most of us are tiptoeing through life so we can reach death safely. We grew up praying, “If I should die before I wake. Maybe we should be praying, “If I should wake before I die. . . .” Life can get away from you.

Do You Really Want A Sensitive Guy?

Real Men KnitWomen tell me they need a man to be emotionally sensitive, in touch with his feelings.

Two minutes later that same woman will tell me they want their man to stand up to them, to not let them always get their way. They want a strong, powerful man who is rugged and independent. They actually say that, “I don’t want to get my way.” (Am I to believe them?)

Well which is it?

I have written before of the influence of the myth of Prince Charming and the princess in popular culture. There is strong evidence to suggest that many women, for example, raised on Disney stories and fairy tales still yearn to be treated like a princess – adored, elevated, protected, honored by a strong and beautiful man. No where in Prince Charming’s resume does it require him to be emotionally available, or in touch with his feminine side.

There is a significant dichotomy at play in the dominant female heterosexual culture. Women confess all the time that they are looking for both traits in their man – strength and vulnerability. There is something attractive about a guy who strong and self-contained (if you don’t believe me wait until my upcoming article on How to Pick Up Vulnerable Twenty-somethings). A man who is powerful has long been an aphrodisiac. Most men of my generation were raised to emulate such guys – Eastwood, Arnold, Pitt, Stallone. Today many woman also are attracted to a man who can cry, is sensitive, and can even pretend to be a glittery vampire and lie beside you all night not asking for anything, only staring at you sleep. It is a tall order.

It is no wonder then that men are experiencing an identity crisis like never before in history. A generation often raised by females, guys today are not sure how to behave. We are still supposed to have muscles, though we now shave everywhere. We are supposed to have both masculine and feminine characteristics (not my contention but it seems that way to the average construction worker). Our fathers did not help around the house (though mine did), did not share their feelings, did not watch Househunters International. In fact, our predecessors didn’t do much around the house at all. My grandfather came home from work everyday and proceeded to drink himself sleepy. For all I know he may not have had actual feelings about things, it never came up. We had dress codes and opinions, not feelings. For thousands of years men knew who they were and what was expected of them. Women weren’t happy but we really didn’t seem to notice and if they did complain it was because we thought it was “their time of month”. It was easy to be a man, in peace time.

It’s hard to be a guy, really. I had the amazing opportunity to be a single parent for most of my children’s young lives so I learned the hard way that I can actually cook, do dishes, read and do homework with the kids, go to parent-teacher night, and talk about feelings. I am almost certain that I would not have learned those lessons if I hadn’t been forced to.

There is no training for men. We have had difficulty looking to male role models from our past. We have not been able to talk about our struggles until recently and now we have no idea how. Men are emotionally immature but in our defense we have had little practice. Recently I was out for drinks with my eldest son and a few close friends when I made the mistake of saying something to the effect that it’s cool that we can get together and talk about deep issues. My son turned to me and said, “Dad, we don’t talk about this crap when you aren’t here!” It’s true. Social protocol has dictated, for literally thousands of years, that we do the exact opposite. Men who gush are weak. Effeminate men or even those in touch with their feelings were ridiculed.

So please be patient with us. We are undergoing a cultural and anthropological shift that is unparalleled in history.
Most of us still are trying to figure out what a clitoris is.