Baggage

baggage blog post

Have you noticed how many dating profiles mention baggage? Let’s explore this topic while enjoying quinoa salad with swiss chard and goat cheese.

When I first read the term baggage in a profile – usually in the context of “please don’t have any,” I thought of it as a mix of experience and memories. I wondered how a person could get through life without either one of these. Then I realized that these guys are referring to emotional baggage, defined by Merriam Webster as “intangible things (as feeling, circumstances, or beliefs) that get in the way.”

Urban Dictionary’s top definition of emotional baggage is “painful memories, mistrust and hurt carried around from past sexual or emotional rejection.” This personality characteristic is also, according to Urban Dictionary, an “excuse commonly used by Peter Pans and other immature men to avoid commitment yet maintain a sexual relationship….as in I don’t think I can handle a real relationship right now. I need some time to get over my emotional baggage.”

I’d like to propose a broader definition of emotional baggage so that it encompasses any life experience that hinders you from moving forward to enjoy life and love.

In my post-divorce dating years, I have encountered widowers who can’t move on enough to be in a relationship, bitter divorced men stuck in an anger cycle, as well as men who have had serious or difficult medical issues and a subsequent loss of self esteem that they can’t overcome.

And there’s no gender rule here — women can experience the same inability to move forward. Just like men, women may get stuck in a post-divorce cycle of anger and low self-esteem. They’re unhappy and unable to move forward from the “baggage” of their failed relationship.

Then there are other people – men and women – who have had serious issues such as the death of a child, yet somehow, are able to carry on with an open albeit grieving heart.

I accept that in my age range, men may not have “baggage” per se but they, like me will likely have some blips on their heart’s EKG. Fortunately the heart can survive a lot and with modern technological advances, recovery is possible.

I like to think my baggage is carry-on – easily stowed under my seat. With occasional turbulence, it might roll out…but I just stuff it back.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia

 

 

 

“Loving” Your Ex

Blog post Julie friends with your ex

I’m still on vacation, dear readers, and have another guest blog post by *Julie Weinberg.

My ex-husband is one of my best friends. He’s remarried with two little boys and with our two kids we consider ourselves a family of seven: three adults raising four kids. We regularly have dinner together, go to our beloved Ravens games together, celebrate Thanksgiving together, and even occasionally vacation together. We’re that close.

It wasn’t always that way I promise. I often say that I married my best friend, lost him somewhere in a 20-year marriage, divorced an ass, and then found my best friend all over again.

How we navigated this tricky transition of divorce-to-friendship is something I’ve been asked about many, many times, including by Nadia, so here’s my story.

At the time of our divorce, I truly hated my ex and would have gladly signed the papers and walked away forever. Divorce comes packaged in feelings of disillusion, disappointment, and anger. I often and loudly opened that package with my friends–or anyone else that would listen. So becoming friends with him again someday wasn’t a goal or even a slight desire.

But we had kids, so I knew I had years ahead of me to deal with him at soccer games, school events, weekend drop offs and pick ups.

Our first step was to come to an agreement about things that were best for the kids’ sake. We made a pact to never fight in front of them, never put them in the middle or make them choose sides, and to always be polite to one another when in their presence.

The always be polite agreement turned into the most important one for our evolving relationship. Whether you have kids or not, it can be the cornerstone of a new, happier affiliation for you and your ex, too.

At first, even fake politeness was a challenge. My trick was to treat him like a work colleague that I did not respect or like but was stuck working with on some project. When a topic arose that started making me angry, I would just look at him, smile and say “not now” and he knew the discussion would have to wait.

The funny thing is, though, the expression “fake it till you make it” is true. My faking politeness became real politeness fairly quickly and once I turned that corner our relationship started to evolve.

Besides hoping the “fake it till you make it” technique would work, I also realized that I needed to let go of all the hurt, anger, and disappointment. It was eating me up inside and bringing me down. As a tightly wound, Type A personality, “just letting go” was enormously difficult for me. He did X, Y, Z to me, didn’t do A, B, C and I dwelled repeatedly on the wrongness of it all.

Visualization techniques proved extremely helpful with letting the negative feelings go. I imagined each remembered hurt as a soccer ball and one by one I’d kick them away in my mind. Or every time I started to think of something that made me angry, I’d visualize placing it on a leaf and watching the leaf float peacefully down a river and away from my mind. Try it! I swear it worked, even if just for a few moments. Then the more I did it, the better I felt and the more capable I was of letting my relationship with my ex organically grow into something really special.

The passing of time, of course, helps too. As the post-divorce weeks turned into months, then turned into a year, we both got on with our lives and all of the new, exciting experiences allowed me to be open to new friendships. I was making all kinds of new friends, my ex and his wife just turned into two of those.

Now, 7 years later, having my ex as a close friend is a topic I usually raise on a first date. I actually use it as a sort of screener: if a man feels challenged by it or is negative toward it, I know he’s not for me so I easily move on. If a man can’t respect the melded family I’ve worked to develop, he probably won’t like other aspects of my life. Given that there are so many fish in the sea, it’s good to find that out on our first coffee date rather than weeks into a relationship. I wish him well and send him on his way.

This relationship has also caused me to be far less understanding of a date who wants to rag on his ex. I understand the need to vent; but I don’t want to hear about how awful a guy’s ex is in detail, especially not on a first date. I always ask myself if he’s relating inappropriate, damaging or highly private details of his previously most valued relationship, what might he say to his friends about me down the road. Again, I prefer to wish him well and send him on his way, too.

These are some of the techniques I’ve used to get past the hurt and anger to develop a warm, close, and happy new relationship with my ex. The calmness to my spirit and added joy he and his new family have brought to my life made the effort well worth it.

*To learn more about Julie, visit her website julieweinbergbooks.com or purchase her book, I Wish There Were Baby Factories.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia

 

 

 

Newbies Times Two

blog chick pix

Last weekend I had a double newbie experience. In one case, I was reminded of when I was a newbie. In the second experience, I had a drink with a new old newbie. Confused? I’ll explain while we enjoy some grilled tofu and heirloom tomato salad. This pairs nicely with watermelon mimosas.

Newbie #1 (me)

It was a normal online morning. I was deleting catfishers and young would-be studs four decades younger than me. I logged onto Match, the first dating site I joined a year after my separation. At the time, I thought Match worked fairly well for me – presenting me with daily reasonable partner selections and I heard from a number of them.

Back to present day: someone from those early Match days, Mr. H,  “viewed” me. In fact, this man was my first date in almost 40 years.

Back to the past. I remember flirting online with Mr. H, a tall, athletic divorced man with a solid profile that revealed a romantic and a philosophical side. I pushed the flirt envelope to advance the concept of meeting. He knew I was separated and wanted to be sure I was ready to enter fully into a relationship. I remember thinking he didn’t want to risk getting involved with someone who wasn’t over their ex. “I’m definitely ready for the next chapter,” I wrote. Mr. H lived about an hour away so we decided to meet halfway between our houses at an outdoor restaurant next to a lake. It was summertime.

What a flurry of nerves getting ready for that date! With my daughter advising me on wardrobe, I tried on several outfits – finally settling for a blue jean skirt, heels, and a trendy, sexy but tasteful blouse. Ladies, you can imagine my butterflies.

On the drive to the restaurant, I tried to relax and enjoy the music on the radio.

I arrived on time and walking toward the outdoor tables, I saw him. He looked exactly like his pictures – only better. I felt fluttery with nerves and anticipation. He walked toward me. Surprise — he kissed me hello. Remember, this was date #1 post separation. It was all so strange.

We made our way to a table and began a comfortable conversation. Mr. H had interesting and unusual experiences to share. I don’t remember thinking he was a conversational narcissist but I believe he talked more than me. Given my nerves, that was probably a good thing. Dating rating: A. As he walked to me car, he gave me a hug and said, “Let’s do this again.” I can’t remember what I said given my still nervous state but it was probably something like, “Sure, give me a call.” Today, assuming I liked the guy, I would be more direct.

I think I wrote Mr. H that I enjoyed our lunch. Even if he responded (sorry, dear readers, my memory fails here), we never went out again. In time, I totally forgot about him. Until last week. When I realized Mr. H had viewed me, I felt compelled to write to him. I briefly wondered whether I should see if he would write first. But then I remembered my “newbieness.” I felt I should acknowledge how awkward I must have been on our date. My goal was to say, “hey, I’m not a newbie anymore,” so that he would want to see me again. So, I sent Mr. H a short message: 

Hi,

I had to say hello. I believe we had a lunch date 6 or 7 years ago. Yes, I have a photographic memory 🙂 

I was such a newbie! I’m sure you recognized that (if you remember me). I think our “meeting” was my first date while separated – so of course I remember you.  

I’m sure you would agree that this whole divorce experience is quite a journey – and an opportunity for growth! 

I hope life is good.

Cheers,

Nadia

A week has gone by and he hasn’t responded.  Perhaps I shouldn’t have written to him. Perhaps he didn’t feel a connection when we met because I was a nervous mess. As I’ve said before, you never know what the other person is thinking or not thinking about you.

Newbie #2: Him

Newbie #2 was my first in-person, real life meeting with a Tinder Match. A notch on my dating belt. It’s not what you think. In fact, Mr. F is the antithesis of the so-called Tinder experience. Divorced for 18 years, Mr. F explained to me via text that he hadn’t dated at all in that time. Did I believe him? I wasn’t sure. He said his sons convinced him to finally move on with his life and added that he’ll want to go slow (again, throw out or back-burner your Tinder expectations). I responded, “That’s fine. I’ll be gentle with you .”

Unfortunately, I ignored my “rule” to ask for more pictures when a man only has a headshot. In Mr. F’s case, his headshot included sunglasses and a cap so it was hard to tell what he looked like. But I thought his bone structure indicated a good-looking man.

After 24 hours of messaging last Saturday and Sunday morning, we decided to meet for a drink Sunday afternoon. Mr. F had loaned his car to his son for the weekend so we arranged to meet in Georgetown – about halfway between our houses.

You know in the first few seconds of meeting someone whether there’s any attraction and in this case, Mr. F, did not live up to my expectations. He was thoughtful, had me sit at the only empty stool across from the crowded bar, ordered a drink etc. but when we sat down, he monopolized the conversation and it was clear we were not a match. And although that bone structure was in fact quite good, the former athlete and titled boxing champ was woefully out of shape. He had a hard time walking me to my car, a short distance away.

I think he was nervous (this may explain why he monopolized the conversation in person but not on our pre-meeting phone call). And that would go along with his newbieness. After 18 years of divorce, he truly was an old newbie.

There you have it. To paraphrase the closing lines of Naked City, there are eight million dating stories in this naked city. Today’s post has been two of them.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia

 

Imagining a Singles Revolution in 2016

Blog people at bookstore

It’s the end of the year and although I could list my 10 most popular blog posts of 2015 or the year’s 10 worst dates, I would rather examine the state of “single power” and the ways society can help singles improve their love lives in the coming year.

“Single power,” to coin a term, is an individual’s acceptance and enjoyment of the single life as well as society’s fair treatment and respect of singles. Certainly more singles live alone, dine alone, and travel alone than ever before. With the rise of “single power,” we have seen such cultural shifts as restaurants not hiding single diners in the back of a restaurant and a movement toward the creation of smaller dwellings or “micro housing” for this population.

But even if singles are happy with their lives, many of them also want a significant other for intimacy, love, sex, and to have a built-in Scrabble partner. This desire is fueled by a couple-focused world. If you’re single, couples seem to be everywhere. They’re holding hands in the park, shopping together, and spotting each other in the gym. The holidays amplify the significance of a couple-based society and December is one of the most popular months to get engaged.

What am I getting at? Singles need help. Online dating is time consuming and not always productive; meeting someone in the wild is also a crapshoot.

It’s time for a revolution of sorts. Institutions, businesses, non-profits and government agencies need to band together to support singles and help us find our matches.

As we look ahead to 2016, dream with me as I imagine a world vastly changed in order to help singles find partners. Are you paying attention movers and shakers?

Read this wish list while eating Southern New Year’s Day Soup.

Ten Ideas to Help Singles Connect with Each Other:

  • Singles cars on trains. Unlike quiet cars, these cars will be lively and your reserved seat will be next to someone who is at least a 60 % match.
  • Singles shopping day at the grocery store. Every Friday afternoon will be designated Singles Friday. Any single entering the store will be given a wristband that signals their availability and willingness to talk among the veggies. Sexy, lively music will be broadcast instead of the usual Muzak.
  • Single waiting room in the ER. If you’re in the hospital, why not multi-task and see if chatting up a hot guy or gal can alleviate your pain.
  • Singles Saturdays at Coffee Bars. On Singles Saturdays at coffee shops, you have to approach a person of the opposite sex and ask them to order for you. They don’t have to pay for your drink but they do have to get the details of your order and place it. The rest of the conversation is up to you. Any one caught ordering a latte for himself or herself will be asked to leave.
  • Singles concerts. Only single seats will be sold and the required ticket purchase app will alternate seating (man, woman, man, etc.). The band will organize audience activities – such as kiss the person next to you. Think of it as spin the bottle on a massive scale.
  • Singles rows at movie theaters. Certain rows will be designated as singles rows and only individual tickets will be sold. At the end of the movie, an emcee will ask everyone to make one comment about the movie to the man or woman on his or her right.

Blog movie audience

  • Singles charity day. Nonprofits will sponsor singles charitable activity days. The charities will organize events that only singles can participate in. It will be clear to attendees that all participants are interested in connecting with other singles.
  • Singles government job fair. A government-sponsored singles job fair will feature government agency representatives discussing current job openings. There will be coffee meet and greets as well as a “meet other singles” lunch.
  • Singles day at the bookstore. Local independent bookstores will organize singles days. There will be book talks by authors of relationship and dating-related books. All store visitors who are single and interested in connecting with other singles will be given a wristband (similar to grocery store example noted above) that says “Ask me about my favorite book.” Shy singles will have the option of choosing a wristband inscribed with, “I’m shy. Text me at _________.” A phone number can be added.
  • Singles in Space Day. Government-sponsored space visitor centers will have Singles in Space Days. Activities will vary by location. Single visitors can bond at simulated shuttle launches.  After feeling those g forces, talking to another single will be a piece of cake.

Can you add to my wish list? Join the revolution!

Until next week, happy dating or not dating!

XXXOOO

Nadia

Get your Angries Out

bulk incredible-hulk-613335_640

Have you gotten your angries out? If you’re divorced, widowed, or single following the break-up of a serious relationship, you know what I mean. Whether you were the “dumpee,” the one left behind, or the instigator dumper, there’s bound to be some anger floating around your universe.

I went through an angry phase after my separation. This followed a phase of disbelief, which in turn was preceded by a coma-like period. Got that? Coma – disbelief – anger.

Perhaps you have experienced a marital coma state. In my case, it consisted of several years of slow disengagement from my then husband. When you’re in a coma, you know something is not right but you don’t want to face it, so you ignore it.

When I finally woke up from my coma thanks to a crucial conversation, disbelief set in. After a long marriage, it is indeed hard to believe that it is over. But once you do, it’s time for some healthy anger. Chow down on some angry shrimp as we talk about this emotion.

So once it was clear that I was going to be in a for a long, complicated and painful divorce process, there were lots of triggers for “the angries.”

Let’s run through a list of angry triggers that may resonate with you: the reason for the divorce, the lack of or ineffective attempt at reconciliation, the impact on your family, the impact on your self esteem, the impact on your finances, the actual divorce settlement, etc, etc., etc.

The purpose of this post is not to wallow in anger. It’s to lobby for the benefits of accepting the anger, embracing it while it lasts, and working through it so that you can dismiss it. It’s all part of the healing process.

So back to the end of disbelief. That’s when I started to channel The Incredible Hulk on a periodic basis. I’d be going along, coping, getting the business of healing done and then bam, out of the blue, something would happen to trigger a burst of anger, fortunately without the ripping of clothes and transformation to a green monster.

I remember one instance in particular. I was working out on the elliptical at home, listening to a Pandora station when You Oughta Know by Alanis Morissette came on. I hadn’t been feeling angry but listening to the raw anger of the lyrics (what a perfect break-up song), brought out my own hostile thoughts.

I started to fantasize about a graphic revenge scenario. Think Kill Bill. This was not the kind of thing I typically imagined. As I stepped furiously on the machine, my own personal revenge movie streamed on my consciousness. I increased the volume of the song to fully experience it. When it was over, I was exhausted but somehow I had worked through the anger by working out and hearing another woman’s wrathful tale.

The next time I wanted to exercise, I downloaded You Oughta Know and had a 4-minute angry therapy workout. This plan served me well during the divorce process.

As time went on, bursts of anger got shorter and less frequent. Now, after 6 years of healing, I rarely experience the angries.

If you are newly separated, divorced, or widowed or just never got your angries out, seek out some home-brewed anger therapy. Find your favorite revenge song, strap on those sneakers, and work through that anger.

You’ll feel better, help mend your broken heart and strengthen it at the same time.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia

Put your Best Face Forward: Get a Professional Photo

Embed from Getty Images

Abraham Lincoln had a point when he said, “There are no bad pictures, that’s just how your face looks sometimes.” But do we really want to show a prospective match that face? That potential mate won’t be as forgiving as a friend or relative who knows you look better in person and — even if you don’t — loves you anyway.

From the day I created my first online dating profile, I realized the importance of posting a good photo. When I signed up on a couple of dating sites, I carefully selected what I thought were flattering photos taken by relatives.

I even used a photo taken by a guy I dated. He ghosted me inexplicably after 3 months. Only after I emailed him to ask why I hadn’t heard from him in a week, did he tell me he wanted to break up. As revenge, the very next day after he dumped me, I loaded a photo he had taken of me onto a new dating site. I was angry more than upset and my approach was: new dating site, new profile, and new photo.

Over time, I changed my main photo and after a few months both added and deleted pictures. The idea was to keep things fresh and as current as possible.

But recently I started thinking about having a professional take some photos I could use for dating profiles. After interviewing dating coach Erika Ettin, who advocates the use of professional photographs when possible, I decided to bite the financial bullet and go for it. I took the advice offered in her book Love at First Site: Tips and Tales for Online Dating Success from a Modern-Day Matchmaker and opted for an outdoor shoot.

Before I tell you more, let’s break for a lovely celebration of the summer season by enjoying Bon Appetit’s grilled shrimp salad with corn and avocado.

The photographer I chose, Joe LeBlanc with Ars Nova Images, also suggested shooting outdoors and we went to a nearby park. I have to admit that when you are over 29 as I am :), natural lighting can take 10 years off of your appearance. When I compared the test shots taken in Joe’s studio with the outdoor test shot, it was easy to go with the outdoor location.

Joe took about 300 photos (so quickly I couldn’t even tell it was that many) and he posed me in several settings in the park. I ended up with some dynamite natural-looking portraits. Sorry I can’t share them with you as Nadia continues to travel incognito on this blog, but I can share the results.

After loading the best photo onto my sites (Match, Plenty of Fish, OkCupid, How About We*, and Bumble*), I sat back and waited for what I hoped would be an uptick in views and messages.

It took a few hours and then shazam, incoming! It wasn’t a torrential downpour, but a reasonable summer rain of men. It’s been two weeks since the new photo was posted and I’ve had two dates and more e-mails, views, “likes,” “favorites,” etc. than before.

I haven’t met “the one” yet, but I’m certain I have improved my chances.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia

*More on my experiences with these two dating venues in a future post.

Bittersweet: Revisiting a Place from your Marital History

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Bittersweet – a good term to describe not only excellent chocolate but also some of the experiences one has after divorce. Case in point: revisiting a place (city, point of interest, etc.) you frequented with your ex- or your ex- and your kids.

When I revisit a place I love, my goal is to create new memories so that I can return with fewer pangs of loss (less bitter, more sweet). Brief pause while I close my eyes and swoon to One Republic’s Burning Bridges accompanied by romantic fantasizing. And let’s take another brief pause to eat some Thai style grain salad with crunchy seeds.

Back to the case in point: the first time I revisited a key place from my marital vacation history was a few years ago when I took my daughter to Italy. Although we road-tripped across the North (a new place for me), we also visited Venice. Standing on a small bridge near Piazza San Marco, the same bridge I had stood on while Mr. Ex took a photo of me, was truly bittersweet. But then I swallowed and went off to explore the rest of the city and a new gelato place. So, yes, it was painful to see couples enjoying this romantic city but how could I never return to this place of dreams? That would give too much power to the loss. Better to overlay those memories with new ones.

Seeking out new parts of Venice, or any new aspect of a place you are returning to, can help add to the sweetness of the experience.

There have been smaller, local experience revisits as well. By now I have accumulated quite a list of bittersweet revisits – from formerly frequented restaurants and music venues to far flung vacation places.

What I can’t do yet: go by the house we lived in for over 25 years. So I avoid that neighborhood and even the neighbors. There’s no upside in this case – no new sweetness to gather.

I write this sitting on a beautiful beach, part of a southern barrier island – a place we vacationed in often as a young family. This time, with my siblings, I look past the past to the present moment of sun, clear water, and soft wind. Healing.

I wonder about the many other young families on the beach. Will they remain intact well into the future? If not, they are still creating memories. And they’ll always have the ability to revisit the memories – to experience the bittersweet and transform it into something new.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating,

XXXOOO

Nadia