Dating Newbies: Top 10 Questions

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“I don’t know anything,” said my separated friend when I mentioned a date I had the previous day. She was not dating yet but looking ahead to that day when her divorce would be final. “Who pays?” she asked. “What about the first kiss? What do you say when you want to end the date?” She sighed, “It all seems so difficult.”

For long-time marrieds going through a divorce or experiencing life after the death of a spouse, dating in 2018 can be a culture shock. Here’s a short guide for dating newbies with answers to the top 10 questions.

Let’s discuss the answers over some of Ellie Krieger’s creamy Parmesan spring vegetable skillet. Have two helpings – this is a long post.

Q: I joined a couple of dating sites and started communicating with a couple of guys. One of them asked me to dinner but I thought a coffee date was what people usually did. What should I do? Also, what about checking out the guy online before I meet him?

A: For your first date, it’s best to plan something that takes no more than an hour.* If you are not enjoying the date, you don’t want to be stuck. My favorite first date is meeting for a happy hour drink, appetizer optional. Wine or a cocktail helps with nerves and a drink is time limited. If you’re having a great time, you can always extend into dinner or a stroll outside. A coffee date can work as well – or even meeting for a walk in a public place.

See my posts on dating security for guidance on checking out an online connection before you meet. Update to previous posts on security: Thanks to the recent Facebook controversies, searching for someone’s phone number in the Facebook search bar is no longer an option.

*I break the no meal rule for men who drive a long distance to meet me. I know I’ll have to stick it out even if there is no attraction. However, I also will leave at any point on a date if the guy is rude, crude, or not a nice dude (apologies for shameless rhyming).

Q: How can I gracefully end a date with a guy I realize I’m not interested in?

A: Think about an ending that works well for your situation. The friend I mentioned earlier has three children at home. She has a built in excuse, “I need to get home to my kids.”

Here are some exit lines I have used:
*I’m dog sitting and need to go walk or feed the dog
*I have people coming for dinner and need to go prep
*Sorry but I need to leave (with no further explanation offered).

You could also arrange for a rescue by a friend or relative. He or she can text you 45 minutes into the date. You can then say, “Something has come up and I’m sorry but I need to leave.” Feel free to embellish on the reason – crisis at home, work, etc. These are what I call harmless white lies.

Q: What about paying? What if I want to leave before the check arrives?

A: When my date asks for the check, I’ll offer to help pay. He may say, “I’ll cover it” or he may take you up on your offer.

Perhaps you want to leave before your date asks for the check. If this is the case, give your reason (see above) and ask, “Can I give you something for the check?”

I have been on dates where I left after one drink but the guy stayed on to have dinner. *If I know in the first 10 seconds that I have no interest in a person, I make sure I don’t order any food and stick to one drink so I can leave after a short time.

Q: What about the first kiss?

A: I’ve covered greetings and endings in this blog. I prefer to hug hello and if I feel inclined will fend off a handshake and turn it into a hug.

There’s a whole spectrum of guy behaviors re: that first kiss. Some kiss you hello, some kiss you at the end of the first date, and some men kiss you in the middle of the first date. If he doesn’t kiss you, he may be shy or unsure of your interest.
On a few occasions I have made the first move to kiss. It’s always nice when the kiss is mutually initiated (the magnet effect)…and well executed. Tip #keep breath mints in your purse and your car.

Q: What if he asks me out on date #2 while we’re still on date #1?

A: I was thrown the first time this happened to me. I wasn’t sure about the guy who asked so I said maybe to his “can we get together again?” Truly a wishy-washy response but sometimes that’s the best you can do. If you want to see Mr. X again, there really isn’t an awkward moment. Just say yes.

Q: How soon after the first date can I expect him to contact me? Should I initiate contact?

A: Timing of communication is another issue with a wide range of behaviors. Sometimes a guy will call or text you within an hour after you leave a date; or you might not hear from Mr. X until the next day. The sooner you hear from him, the more likely he’s into you but a 24 hour delay doesn’t mean he’s not interested. Life is like that.

If you had a good time on the date and liked Mr. X, I think it’s fine to text him a few hours after your encounter or the next morning. I wouldn’t wait too long. All you need to say is “It was great meeting you” OR “I had a good time yesterday. Thanks for the drink.” If it’s your style, include an emoji. I like winks and smiley faces with sunglasses. If you have shared a kiss or three at the end of the date, you could use a smiley face blowing a kiss.

Bonus re: communication:
When you are communicating with a guy, be aware of any change in frequency or tone of communication. A change could be a signal that he is withdrawing. Similarly, if you feel a need to pull back, slow your responses and keep them briefer. Sometimes a slow fade away is preferable to a text, phone call or email to say, “This is over.”

Q: What if the first date went well, but there was no chemistry? Should I go out with him again?

A: Some dating experts say chemistry doesn’t always occur right away but often surfaces after you know someone better. Since I have experienced a delayed chemistry phenomenon, I might go out with a guy a second time for an attraction check. People are often nervous on the first date and they may not be their “best selves.”

Date #2 is often a reality check. I have been attracted to a guy on a first date but when I see him again I wonder “What was I thinking?”

Q: I went out with this guy (insert various number of dates) and it looks like we’re likely to have sex in the near future. I’m nervous about a lot of things – STDs, the way I look without clothes, timing.

A: Here’s the teen-like déjà vu moment when you’ve been in a long marriage or relationship and haven’t thought about STDs in a couple of decades. Be a scout and always be prepared. Buy condoms in case you have a moment and he doesn’t have any (shop on Amazon if you’re wary of running into neighbors at the drug store).

When the topic of sex comes up, have a discussion about using protection and/or getting tested for STDs. Ignore “I got tested two months ago.” Suggest to Mr. X that you both get tested and show each other the results. You need to see that piece of paper!

Ignore: “I give blood so I get tested frequently.” Giving blood does not test for 100% of STDS (chlamydia is not part of the blood donation test, per my gynecologist). Again, you need to see something in writing and the test needs to be done after you have this talk. Use a condom until the results are in or abstain.

I find that women are more concerned about body image than men. Male readers, feel free to disagree about this. Low lighting and candles may ease some self-consciousness and add to the romance.

Oh, and that moment when you’re lighting the candles for your first post separation or post divorce encounter might be the time to say, “It’s been awhile” to your partner. If you’re both newbies, this may be a shared issue. Just stating this fact will make you feel better and explain any nervousness.

Timing of sex: This is another “huge range” issue. A couple might have sex on date #1 or date #15. And, yes, there does seem to be something about expectations and date #3. However, do what feels right for you.

Q: I’m nervous about online dating. Can’t I just meet guys in real life?

A: Yes, of course you can and should try to meet guys in real life. See blog tags meeting men in real life and meeting men in the wild for suggestions on how to meet guys offline. Consider real life tactics and online dating. Neither method is perfect but the more things you do, the greater your chance of success.

Q: Any other general guidance?

A: You’re going to make “mistakes” or what I term “recall cringe moments.” Those are the moments when you think back to what you said or did on an encounter and ask yourself, “How could I have said or done that?” or you think “I was too sarcastic” or — insert any of a number of possibilities.

You’re human and you’re learning to navigate a new world. You will do or say things you’ll regret. That’s okay. Mr. X is making mistakes as well.

The more experiences you have – good or bad – the more you’ll understand what you do and don’t want in a relationship or partner. Along the way, you’ll discover all kinds of things about yourself and claim or reclaim your female power. You go girl.

Send any other questions my way.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO
Nadia

To Volley or Not

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What does it mean when a match you are communicating with on a dating site or app doesn’t volley with you? You drive the conversation and end up wondering if the guy is uninterested, only mildly interested, deficient in communication skills, or simply narcissistic.

Have some of Analida’s Ethnic Spoon gluten-free Authentic Brazilian Cheese Bread while we explore this topic.

My dance card is filled with “bad volleying” experiences including Mr. M, a Tinder match from a few months ago. He opened with “Hey there” and let me ask all of the questions. I called him out when I got fed up with his one sided approach.  As expected, he unmatched me after I blew off some steam:

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And as it sometimes happens, I matched with Mr. M again on Tinder a couple of weeks ago. At first, I didn’t realize it was the same man. After you have been doing this awhile, you get profile overload syndrome and start to lose track of virtual encounters. However, a few texts in I realized I was dealing with Mr. M (he obviously forgot he unmatched me) and found our original conversation in my screenshot diary.

His opening for round 2 was similar to round 1 with an added creative bonus of “How is your day going?” At least he asked me something – even if it was formulaic. Perhaps I had an influence on his behavior. As our chatting progressed, he appeared interested and asked questions about me that related to the topics we were discussing. We were having fun and flirty banter!

When I suggested to Mr. M that one of our topics might warrant a verbal discussion, he sent his phone number. However, instead of a phone call, we continued via text. From what I could tell, he worked extraordinary hours. This might have broken our not yet realized deal. However, I wanted a chance for an in person meeting. That was not to be, however, since he suddenly stopped responding. You have heard this before.

I wondered if I had somehow offended him (always a danger when engaging in banter that can veer toward sarcasm). When I realized it had been 5 days since his last text, I unmatched him on Tinder. Of course Mr. M still had my number and he could have reached out and asked for an explanation. But he didn’t.

I then revisited all of our communications to reevaluate the flirtation and what may have been weirdness and not flirty banter. Case in point: When I asked him for his age and height, he sent me every conceivable measurement a tailor might need, extraneous details such as the fact that he had no piercings, and other unusual facts. Judge for yourself:

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At first I thought this was weird, then I wondered if he was being funny. Now, I’ll never know. Yes, I may be too lenient…but I try to give people a chance.

In another “volley” situation, I initiated a conversation with a guy on Match; he wrote back but didn’t ask anything about me. Not wanting to waste time, I pointed out that sometimes it’s hard to tell after one online dating exchange whether someone is really interested in communicating or is just being polite (yes, I know – most people don’t bother responding if they’re not interested…but some do). He wrote back to say he was interested and hoped to meet in person at some point. He expanded on his profile…but he didn’t ask me anything.

I replied. He hasn’t responded though he’s been online (a very common and frustrating aspect to online dating). Men are online and read your message but don’t respond promptly or ever.) App-less April may come a month earlier for me since I am losing patience with the online dating business.  I’m not losing hope yet: I have a meet-cute IRL opportunity coming up.  Stay tuned for details.

What has been your experience with “matches” who don’t volley initially or ever? Are there some people who can carry on a conversation in person but lose this skill when online? Who else is ready for an early App-less April?

Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia

Your Online Self

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I was in the middle of reading Love Illuminated: Exploring Life’s Most Mystifying Subject (With the help of 50,000 Strangers) when a section on the online persona spoke to me.

Sit a spell while having a bowl of this curried lentil, tomato, and coconut soup and let’s discuss.

If you have carried on a long virtual conversation with someone you haven’t met – whether via a dating site, Facebook, or another social media avenue – you will likely recognize the disconnect that can happen if you meet that person in real life.

As Daniel Jones, the author of Love Illuminated and editor of the New York Times’ Modern Love column, explains it, a lot of people have one voice in writing and another voice in person. The problem with the author persona, writes Jones, “is that this persona is just a part of us, not all of us. And in some ways it may actually be the opposite of who we are in person.”

Similarly, think of the people who post so much on Facebook or Instagram that you think they are ALWAYS partying, out with friends, embarked on some kind of adventure. In reality, they may lead a quieter life.

You can be a more confident, assertive, flirty person online but that may not carry over to your “real life” self. And, says Jones in his book, “…the deeper we get with someone in an online-only relationship, the more we get tricked into believing our online persona is the real us.”

I would add that over time we also develop a greater belief that the other person is the real him or her.   Even a phone persona, although closer to someone’s true self, is not exactly the same as a real life flesh and blood person with body language.

Jones’ description reminds me of the times I carried on long and wonderful virtual exchanges. I was so disappointed to find that the witty, flirty man I’d exchanged dozens of messages with was in fact a figment of both of our imaginations.

Lesson learned. Now I don’t let written communication go on very long. I want to see if there’s chemistry and what the real life person is like. Also, meeting someone fairly soon after connecting online protects me from a tendency to jump too fast. With very little to go on, I can build a whole construct about a person and our possible relationship (if I was younger, I’d fantasize about the children we would have).

I will order up a caveat about the whole persona thing. Sometimes, people can manifest a similar personality both in writing and in real life. They can be charming virtually and when you’re sitting across from them at dinner.

If you find one of these, enjoy your good fortune.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia

 

Dear Nadia, I Have a Dating Dilemma, #2

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Not much is happening in my dating life so it’s a good distraction when a friend reaches out for dating advice.

My friend Lauren’s dilemma: She’s enjoying conversation and flirting with a friend/colleague who wants to move the relationship to the next level. She knows a relationship with this person would not work and that a fling is also problematic. The situation is complicated in several ways.

Lauren, who is separated and actively planning her divorce, called to discuss the situation and bounce around some possible scenarios. Names and identifying details have been changed.

Have some fast and crunchy baked cod while I share my friend’s situation.

Lauren’s story reminds me of times when I have encountered decision points in my dating life. I knew what to do about a certain guy but I was tempted to go in the wrong direction. I needed a friend to reinforce my better instincts.

A couple of years ago, Lauren hired Joe, a landscape contractor at the hotel she manages. What started as a collegial work relationship has advanced into a friendship. Recently there has been a lot of banter and flirting and Joe frequently suggests that the two should talk over a particular problem at dinner or happy hour sometime.

Joe, who also does landscape work for Lauren’s soon to be ex-husband, knows about the couple’s marital situation. In fact he offered to be a witness in their upcoming divorce hearing.

Joe is 11 years younger than Lauren, less educated than she is, and is a hard drinker with a bad boy past. “He’s not relationship material,” she says. “The problem is that he’s attractive, has a great six-pack — despite too many six packs–, and is a really nice guy.” A few days ago, Joe texted her and invited her to a happy hour.

This was a clear invitation – not like previous ones that were more indefinite. Lauren is tempted by the possibility of a romantic fling but knows she should say no. She’s wondering how to decline his invitation without losing the friendship or offending him in any way. And she’s sad that if she turns down the happy hour, the flirting that she’s enjoying so much will likely disappear.

“How about if I just tell him I’m too busy right now getting ready for a holiday visit from my relatives and that getting together in the new year is more feasible?” Lauren asks.

“This leaves open the possibility that you’ll go out with him,” I suggest. “You’ll have to clarify your intention at some point – either now or the next time he asks you out.”

Lauren sighs. “He’s too young for me – even for something short term.”

“If he was fling material, his age wouldn’t be an issue- and might be an asset,” I say, “but he’s not good fling material. You’ve got a work relationship you don’t want to mess up and you’re counting on him as a witness in divorce court. You need a less complicated scenario for an ideal fling.”

I suggest she respond to Joe’s invitation in a way that acknowledges their friendship but removes the possibility of dating.

I propose a potential response: Sounds like fun but I’m super crazed right now getting ready for my visiting relatives. Happy to get together as friends in the new year. I like to be clear and want you to know that I’m not ready to date. Plus I value our friendship and I would not jeopardize it.

I don’t know what Lauren wrote to Joe but she reported that she successfully turned down the invite and was able to maintain collegiality and friendship.

Have you navigated a challenging dating scenario? How did it go? Let me know!

Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia

 

Do You Speak Body Language?

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Why can’t people come with subtitles that decipher their body language?

These translations could be on an LED light display fixed to a hat or headband. It would be so nice to have a shortcut to the meaning of subtle and not so subtle cues that people exhibit.

But, there’s still a lot we can figure out on our own without a magic chyron. Help yourself to some Japanese vegetable pancakes while we talk about this issue.

I’ve contemplated the importance of body language many times over the years and it’s a useful tool for the dating life. To help my own natural powers of observation, I took a couple of online courses and did some reading on this topic.

There’s a lot of research on body language and what it means. From my reading and online classes, I’ve learned not only about various forms of eye contact such as “deep gazing” but also about the importance of such body language behaviors as smiling (a no-brainer for me), microexpressions – brief facial expressions that reveal emotions, leaning toward someone you like, and mirroring where you imitate someone as a means of communication and approval.

I have added to this knowledge base with real life experiences of body language fails.

Body Language Fails from my Dating Files 

Not Seeing Eye to Eye

One of my more frustrating encounters involved a date with a man who wouldn’t look me in the eye. It was an early fall afternoon — warm enough to sit on an outside lounge sofa (think poolside couch in Miami). Feeling bold, I sat on the couch next to Mr. A and we began to chat. However, instead of turning toward me and holding my gaze, he looked straight ahead while talking. I was having none of that. Eye contact is critical for me. “I need to see your eyes when we talk,” I said and orchestrated our positions so we were opposite each other. I made some clichéd comment about the eyes being the window to your soul but that didn’t help very much.

We continued what turned into an interesting and far ranging conversation. However, although most people hold eye contact between 60 and 70 percent of the time, Mr. A was more in the 10 to 15 percent range. I couldn’t figure out his behavior. He was U.S. born so I didn’t think it was culturally based. He seemed to like me and went in for the goodbye kiss.

After the date, I reviewed our interaction. I did a little Googling and asked some friends and came up with lots of theories explaining Mr. A’s lack of eye contact – everything from being shy, to lying about his marital status to having Asperger’s syndrome. I’ll never know the reason. There was no second date (though he tried at one point to schedule one). But Mr. A’s failed gazing behavior was too big of a deal breaker for me.

An Imperfect Kiss 

Beyond the issue of whether someone is a good kisser, is the message via body language that the kiss sends to you. For example, I went out a couple of times with a man who kissed with his lips only. Okay, you’re thinking well, of course he kissed with his lips. But when a man kisses you and doesn’t put his whole body into it, he’s holding back on emotion for whatever reason. Even when those lips know what to do, if they are isolated from his body, there’s a weird disconnect that says, “I’m not really that into you.”

What you want is a whole body kisser! (Unintentional pun.)

Too Many to Count

And then there was the man who placed his cell phone next to his happy hour glass, crossed his arms, and proceeded to go into overdrive about his incredibly boring job and medical/surgical history. I kid you not. The sad part is he was a good looking, tall, and well-built man. But that couldn’t compensate for his poor body language and pathetic conversation style. My body language said escape with my feet pointing toward the door and escape I did after about 35 minutes.

Self-Awareness

One side benefit of being aware of someone else’s body language is the increased awareness of the signals you are sending out. Pay attention to your body and what it’s doing. It can sometimes provide clues about what you’re feeling before you’re fully aware of the emotion.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia

Resources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sideways-view/201412/the-secrets-eye-contact-revealed

http://www.scienceofpeople.com/2015/02/science-love-2/

Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/spycatcher/201112/body-language-vs-micro-expressions

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/learning-the-look-of-love-that-sly-come-hither-stare/

https://www.bustle.com/articles/150983-6-ways-to-tell-if-someone-is-into-you-according-to-science

http://www.signature-reads.com/2017/05/vanessa-van-edwards-how-to-interpret-micro-expressions/

http://www.improveyoursocialskills.com/body-language/comfort-field-guide

http://psychologia.co/mirroring-body-language/

Fairytale Lessons for the Dating Life

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Hopeful romantics often daydream about a fairytale ending to their dating story: marrying that prince who finally found you – the woman who lost one Ugg boot in the mall or being awakened with a great kiss from that other prince whose lip mastery breaks the unfortunate spell of the bad kissers.

Aside from the happy endings, are there lessons from fairytales and fables that apply to the beginning, middle, and endings (not always happy) of dating and relationship stories?

Let’s ponder this while enjoying a light arugula salad in expectation of overindulging at Thanksgiving.

Little Red Riding Hood: You might think the dating moral of this story is – don’t ever talk to or interact with strangers. Not a realistic goal for someone trying to meet their “one.”

Consider this updated moral for dating purposes: be smart when encountering strangers: pay attention to visual or other signs that you might be interacting with a scammer. Rely liberally on Google image search or veracity, an image search app for your cell phone. Use all available security tactics.

The Fisher and the Little Fish: A small gain is more valuable than a large promise. Another way to say this: be satisfied with what you have.

This is a perfect tale for the online dater who meets someone he or she really likes but can’t stop window-shopping for a possibly hotter/better/thinner, etc. match. I’m not talking about early in a relationship when it’s prudent to keep your options open. The moral applies when someone in an exclusive relationship that is working goes online to see if there’s someone “better” out there. 

The Two Goats: It is better to compromise than to come to misfortune through stubbornness. This is a perfect fable for relationships and no updating of the moral is needed

The Little Mermaid: Try new things and activities outside of your comfort zone. Getting outside of your comfort zone may be needed when you are creating a new life after a divorce or the death of a spouse. You’ll find yourself in new social situations and trying new activities or hobbies. Regardless of whether your goal is to meet people or to enhance your creative life and sense of accomplishment, sometimes you may need to take a leap even if it’s scary.

Brave: Be brave. See The Little Mermaid. Bravery, of course, is a close cousin of stepping outside of your comfort zone. 

The Salt Peddler and the Donkey: Two can play the same game.

Let’s say you like a guy but he’s an erratic communicator with long gaps between texts or calls, invitations on short notice, and an occasional date cancellation. You could certainly ghost him – and be justified – but sometimes, guys need a dose of their own medicine.

This “revenge” scenario calls for you to be strong and have a few other male possibilities keeping you busy.  If Mr. Poor Communicator texts you after a week’s silence, don’t reply for a week. If he cancels on you, reschedule and cancel on him. You get my drift. This may seem petty, not worth your time, etc. True. And, although, you’d rather Mr. PC be a better communicator and boyfriend, this tactic may be surprisingly satisfying.

The Mice in Council: Many things are easier said than done. Finding the one – or one of the ones – certainly seems to fall into this category. 

The Three Wishes: Think carefully about what you really want in life and plan ahead. Make a list of must have qualities in a partner and check your profile to make sure you reflect (or have) those qualities. Evaluate each new man you go out with and ask whether he possesses those qualities. If not, move on.

The Hare and the Tortoise: Slow and steady wins the race. Don’t give up! It may take awhile but keep on working the dating life. Take breaks as needed, try new sites, discontinue sites that aren’t working, and try new activities to meet men in real life.

Oh, and you don’t have to be a princess to have a happy ending.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating. And Happy Thanksgiving!

XXXOOO

Nadia

Selective Hearing, Avoidance, and Fear

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What scares you?

It’s almost Halloween…a good time to think about what scares you in life and in relationships.

And you thought I was going to talk about ghosting. Been there, done that. Tired of that topic. Let’s ghost ghosting.

We’ve talked about fear before but I’d like to probe how fear changes behavior. And while we’re talking, let’s eat some aubergine (eggplant) lasagna – much better for you than candy.

Have you ever been talking to your significant other/partner and heard or observed something unsettling but didn’t want to address it directly because you were afraid of the resulting discussion? Perhaps the topic raised a question and you were afraid of the answer. Instead of communicating, you entered into a fear-based behavior: avoidance. It’s related to selective hearing.

Just like a child can selectively NOT hear a parent telling her to stop watching TV and do homework, I know there have been times when I did not “hear” what a man said because I knew it would make me angry and I didn’t want to be angry at that moment or I suspected it would force me to deal with an issue I did not want to deal with.

So, I tuned out and pretended I never heard that, or he didn’t say it.

It’s easy to bury anger or confusion when the real emotion is fear: fear of what might happen if there is a real conversation. You wonder whether you’ll be hurt emotionally or if the relationship will be irreparably damaged. Perhaps you fear an unsettling truth that will be impossible to swallow.

You know the end to this story…eventually you have to address whatever it is. It might be examined in an open discussion or you might address it by leaving the relationship without fully probing the issue(s).

I’d like to make a case for being fully in the moment…ditching that selective hearing and dealing with the issue or comment immediately: head on, feet first (and whatever other clichés apply). I’m not talking about something minor that you can let slide. It’s the bigger issues that need to be addressed in a timely fashion.

Soapbox suggestion: Cultivate awareness. Be present in the moment. That way when you hear something that needs to be dealt with you can immediately tamp down fear and tackle that difficult issue.

So step away from that cell phone, look your man in the eye, and face whatever it is.

Let me know what happens.

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Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia