5 Keys to Dating Like a Grownup

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The Difference Between Dating and Dating Well

Single? Hello, your name is “Average American.” It turns out that there are a lot of us bypassing bulk food bargains in favor of single servings. In its August 2014 data report, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics revealed that for the first recorded time, more adults are unattached than married in America.

And often, the first instinct of the newly single adult is to be part of a couple again—maybe not in a marital, “let’s get this court-stamped” sort of way, but Dating? Sure. A new, better relationship? Please! And preferably, we’d like to be coupled up again before we’re passing green beans to Aunt Bev around the holiday dinner table.

But before you toss your online profile into the ring, it’s well worth gauging your dating readiness first. Otherwise, you risk treadmill dating—an emotional workout that will wear you out without moving your life forward.

Evaluate the following:

1) Who You Are Today. One of the worst bits of advice my widowed sister received as she reentered the dating arena was “don’t date anyone you wouldn’t have dated in high school!” Huh? While the intent was, perhaps, to encourage stability, the message—that we are somehow stuck in time with our “beginner self”—is ludicrous. You’ve changed. Picking someone who fits who you were will chafe against who you are now becoming.

2) Your Confidence. Have you brushed off the dirt and let the wound heal? A tumble in divorce court or the death of a spouse is trauma. There’s a rehab period. Racing back into dating too soon raises the likelihood of making need-based choices. These are non-sustainable space-fillers that will waste both time and energy. “I don’t want to be alone” decisions only create ruts from which to complain about our lack of good dating prospects. Using Dating as a life patch will work about as well as a spare tire on a road trip. Stabilize your vehicle before you begin the journey.

3) Your Financial Stability. Divorce rarely leaves us with a bigger bank account. Compromised goals and deferred dreams can be difficult to face—but do it. Come up with your own Plan B. If you’re aiming for a long-term sustainable relationship, don’t allow another person’s finances to impact their attractiveness. Your best insurance against using the dollar sign equivalent of “beer goggles” will be gaining traction on your own financial situation before you begin dating.

4) Acceptance. If the divorce playback still has a hero and a villain, you might want to wait for the remake. Rarely is a relationship breakdown a one-person debit. Most often, there has been an ongoing pattern—an accommodation of “unhealthy.” The divorce is either a continuation of the dysfunction or an attempt by one or both parties to break free of a rut-digging pattern. Bitterness and rearview regrets will sideswipe forward momentum.

5) Connection. “Great to meet you! Say, would you mind holding my hopes and dreams?” Yes, people do this. It most often happens with the disconnected as they mistakenly tie their future happiness to somebody else’s wagon. Guard against this by building connection—good old-fashioned, face-to-face friendships. Creating choices for yourself will allow you to say “no” without fear and “yes” without expectations. Life must be bigger than your next relationship for sustainable love to grow.

By Heather Dugan for Eyes On News | Lifestyle.  

 

 

About Date Like a Grownup: So...think you're ready? Great! Not sure? Check out my book. It's kind of a roadmap to dating well. I know, I know... we all have GPS, who needs a map these days? Well... I did. Could definitely have used one if you know what I mean. But many men and women are, shall we say, "directionally challenged" when it comes to dating. Read—and learn—from their stories. And it's OK if you laugh a little...they all know we're laughing with them. Check out my Facebook page, hit "Like" and stay in touch! We'll have fun! I promise!

When Now is Never Enough

Living in Distraction.

We made eye contact, and I powered down the passenger side window. “I’m glad you’re OK!”

She took a deep breath. “I’m pretty quick on my feet but had glanced down at my phone. That was close.”

As the woman slowly drove on, I looked over to Debbie, in the driver’s seat beside me. “It’s kind of the same thing, isn’t it? No one’s really paying attention to the moment they’re in.”

We’d just witnessed an “almost” accident as a harried driver did a rapid reverse from the parking space beside us, barely missing a woman walking back to her car. Runaway shopping carts used to be the be the biggest risk in grocery store lots. Now it’s two tons of accelerating steel guided by a distracted driver who, mentally, may already be ten miles down the road.

Ironically, Debbie and I had just paid last respects to my own mangled vehicle. Its jumbled contents, left behind during my recent squad ride to a nearby trauma unit, now filled the back of her SUV. Most likely, the young woman who turned into me had simply reacted to sudden motion from the driver ahead of her. His quick acceleration into a left turn had prompted her to do the same, without noticing the lack of a green arrow on the traffic light or me, steadily advancing through the intersection toward her.

As we slo-mo’d toward impact last Sunday—Fate irrevocably in motion—there was sudden recognition that life might end or be forever changed. But in the next moment, as the airbag smoked and my hands and face burned from the chemical release, I could see, hear, feel, and think. I could even step out onto the busy highway and look toward the car, the sobbing woman, and her panicked dog.

“I’m so sorry,” she mouthed, “Are you OK?” I nodded, pointed at her, and she nodded back. We’d all been lucky: she, me, her dog in the back seat, and that third driver who’d squealed on and away.

In the hospital that night, as they monitored the bleeding around my heart, I was simply grateful. That I was basically intact. That I hadn’t been an unwitting weapon of death for an innocent passenger. But as Debbie and I sat in that parking lot two days later, I felt frustration, fear, and a little anger. I remembered the phone-scrolling woman I’d driven alongside a couple of weeks earlier whom I couldn’t, despite my dozen or so increasingly horrified glances, catch even once looking at the road ahead of her.

I’m not one for drama. In fact, my oldest son ribbed me about my texted messages from the emergency room. “Do you have plans tonight? I might need a ride later.” But distraction is a far too common theme for our species these days. I’ve written extensively about its detrimental impact on interpersonal connection, and its terrible ties to the loneliness that afflicts too many amongst us. And it strikes me as so very sad that many of us live in a state of disengagement, always looking for “better”—bored with the present moment before it’s even begun. We have trouble living in real time and send our brains forward like an advance team, leaving our bodies to go through the motions. And by the time we physically reach the goal, our minds have already moved on to somewhere else in the future or past, or to a smartphone distraction, because we already burned up enjoyment with distracted anticipation. Now is never quite exciting enough.

One of the big selling points of self-driving cars is their potential to compensate for human error. But while faulty perceptions and reactions happen to us all, it seems the biggest improvement might be a simple adjustment to gratitude—for each of us to grow greater appreciation and awareness of the moment we’re in—and the people we’re with—right now. In this moment.

About Date Like a Grownup: So...think you're ready? Great! Not sure? Check out my book. It's kind of a roadmap to dating well. I know, I know... we all have GPS, who needs a map these days? Well... I did. Could definitely have used one if you know what I mean. But many men and women are, shall we say, "directionally challenged" when it comes to dating. Read—and learn—from their stories. And it's OK if you laugh a little...they all know we're laughing with them. Check out my Facebook page, hit "Like" and stay in touch! We'll have fun! I promise!

Coming soon… 

The Friendship Upgrade:

Trade Clickable Connections for Cabernet Coaches and Face-to-Face Friends

Family Model Trade-In

From Youngest to “Only.”

My middle child noted the upgrades long before I did. Because middles have a special gift for tracking these things. “You actually make his school lunch?”

At first, I was a bit defensive. After all, didn’t I once slice her processed cheese into cute little lunchtime puzzles? Remember how fun those were, honey? “This? It’s just a little sundried tomato wrap with a pesto spread, blackened chicken and aged cheddar…with fresh romaine, arugula, and tomato slices… It’s basically a turkey sandwich.” Move along, nothing to see here… But there were dinner upgrades as well. Menus crafted around her brother’s favorite foods, more frequent non-fast food takeout on the nights I was too weary to microwave. Finally, I had to admit she was right. When Matt segued from being the occasionally forgotten youngest child— “Wait a minute, we have another one!”— to his present-day reign as my in-house link to motherhood, he essentially evolved into an “only.” He’d traded family models, and the new version had a passenger seat pre-equipped to his preferences.

But I grieved for his loss: the banter, the fun, the ready company of his older brother and sisterOur four-bedroom house still held faint echoes of the busy hub it had been, but while I once coordinated schedules with the intensity of an air traffic controller on a holiday weekend, my job had been downgraded to fielding texted ground delays from a single pilot with his own private parking spot.

He gets to park in the garage?!”

Somedays, I missed the chaos. Poor Matt… I broached it once after our dog Lily died. “It’s pretty different, huh? I bet you really miss your brother and sister sometimes.” He shrugged, giving me the hint of a smile. “It’s OK.”

“No, I understand. I’m OK as far as moms go, but I think it’s normal to miss all the excitement of having a bigger group around all the time.”

He smiled again and raised an eyebrow. “Really Mom. It’s all right.”

And it finally dawned on me… Matt was living the life my youngest sister dropped into after three of us left for college. A life with Cocoa Krispies and a new dog instead of the Cheerios and “no pets” policy of my youth; a life with unlimited hot water and phone privileges. On my visits home, her suffering over sibling loss appeared to be, well, minimal. “Hey! Who ate my Cocoa Krispies?!”

And like my youngest sister, Matt seems to be managing the adjustments quite handily. While he’s visibly glad when his brother comes over for dinner and a Scrabble game, and he’ll disappear for long periods of time to talk by phone with his sister at college, the kids have taken their connections outside of this house. They make space for one another in their lives. Which is exactly the kind of family I’d hoped to grow.

I’ve a faint glimmer into why my mom seemed eager to cater to whims and wishes that were unheard of when I lived under the same roof. Maybe she, like me, was simply savoring the end of an era. From this point of motherhood, I can see that it matters not which child lands in the position of youngest, gaining that eventual solo spot, because I find myself pouring my love for each of them through this last remaining funnel named “Matt.”

These truly have been “the best years.” Just as the ones before them were, and as even the ones to come will be. Because I’m fully confident at even this very edge of active motherhood, that while different is strange and often difficult, ultimately, it’s always as good as we allow it to be.

About Date Like a Grownup: So...think you're ready? Great! Not sure? Check out my book. It's kind of a roadmap to dating well. I know, I know... we all have GPS, who needs a map these days? Well... I did. Could definitely have used one if you know what I mean. But many men and women are, shall we say, "directionally challenged" when it comes to dating. Read—and learn—from their stories. And it's OK if you laugh a little...they all know we're laughing with them. Check out my Facebook page, hit "Like" and stay in touch! We'll have fun! I promise!

Coming soon… 

The Friendship Upgrade:

Trade Clickable Connections for Cabernet Coaches and Face-to-Face Friends

Pop-Tarts and Brussel Sprouts

Last-Minute Life Lessons for the Transitioning Parent.

He’ll readily admit it’s been an easy gig: the segue from “youngest of three” to life as an only child. Hands-on parenting has been scaled back now to the well-timed tweak. “Any homework?” And parental diligence, replaced with the relaxed sort of attention his older brother and sister surely dreamed of… “Oh, you’re home. Hungry yet? Any plans for tonight?”

We live with an easy rhythm, Matt and me. In a four-bedroom house, it’s easy to find quiet space. When he appears nearby, I know it’s with intent. Last week he sat at the kitchen table reading the news on his phone as I answered emails. Eventually he glanced up. “Zak told me about the Pop-Tarts.”

“Oh yeah. I’d forgotten that one. What did he tell you?”

“That it wasn’t about the Pop-Tarts.”

I laughed. “No, it wasn’t.”

Zak stopped by for a quick visit a couple of nights later. “I know you have your group tonight, but I was in the area…”

We hugged. “I’m glad you stopped. I have a few minutes.”

He pulled hummus and veggies out of the fridge, and chatted with me as I sprinkled shaved parmesan onto pasta and pulled a tray of Brussel sprouts from the oven. “Matt loves these with olive oil and some of that pink Himalayan sea salt. “Try them once they cool down a little…”

We caught up while he swiped carrots through the hummus and I assembled dinner food. I told him about winter coat shopping with his younger brother, “That high school letter jacket won’t cut it on campus next fall,” and Zak offered his help on readying the house for its eventual sale after Matt’s graduation.

I thanked him. “It’s a big job. Lots of changes ahead. I knew they were coming, but…” I didn’t need to explain that downsizing the family home was but a minor component of the life flip directly ahead of me. Then I remembered, “Matt said you told him about the Pop-Tarts.”

He laughed. “I did.”

“What did you tell him? I don’t remember it that well.”

“That it wasn’t about the Pop-Tarts.”

“I know. But what happened? What do you remember?”

“We were at Target. Shopping for college stuff a few days before I moved on campus. I asked for Pop-Tarts.” Not an unreasonable request—sale-priced splurges occasionally co-existed next to the standard, low sugar breakfast cereal options in our kitchen pantry. 

“And…?”

He smiled. “You flipped out a little. ‘Didn’t I raise you better than that? Are you going to forget everything I taught you?!’”

“Seriously?!”

“It wasn’t about the Pop-Tarts, Mom.”

Ugh. “I know… I knew I was out of time. Worried about all the things I’d missed. And messed up. That you’d leave home, eat junk, and…” I looked at him. “You turned out OK.”

“So did you. You’re a good mom.”

He reached around me and grabbed a Brussel sprout. “These are good.” He snagged another.

“Aren’t they? People used to douse them in butter or cheese. Much better this way.”

He soon left. And a few minutes later I raced off to another Wednesday night meeting with my Cabernet Coaches group, smiling as I remembered another comment Zak had made: “I can’t even remember the last time I had a Pop-Tart.”

“You’re a good mom.”

It’s never about the Pop-Tarts, is it?

About Date Like a Grownup: So...think you're ready? Great! Not sure? Check out my book. It's kind of a roadmap to dating well. I know, I know... we all have GPS, who needs a map these days? Well... I did. Could definitely have used one if you know what I mean. But many men and women are, shall we say, "directionally challenged" when it comes to dating. Read—and learn—from their stories. And it's OK if you laugh a little...they all know we're laughing with them. Check out my Facebook page, hit "Like" and stay in touch! We'll have fun! I promise!

Coming soon… 

The Friendship Upgrade:

Trade Clickable Connections for Cabernet Coaches and Face-to-Face Friends

Making Room for More

Downsizing a Home to Upsize a Life.

It’s impossible to pinpoint even the year at which my desire for more space morphed into a longing for less. For “simple.” Maybe it coincided with Zak’s or Hannah’s departures for college, or perhaps it was that expensive HVAC replacement a couple of years ago, but it definitely settled into my soul after we lost our dog Lily last spring. Our sweet, but ornery chocolate lab had permitted me to postpone the decision indefinitely. Smaller yard? We couldn’t do that to Lily. Her welfare was my padded excuse to enjoy the serenity of my backyard woods for another season or two. But after her passing last May and as Matt progressed through his senior year of high school, downsizing took on priority status.

In the beginning, I resisted with a little last minute nesting. “Wouldn’t this be great in your room?” Matt didn’t even need to respond. I knew. “Except you won’t be here that much, huh?”

“I’ll have laundry.” 

Mental fist pump for my great wisdom in upgrading the washer and dryer. The Ohio State University won’t give you free detergent and fabric softener, btw…

“And I’ll always have food, you know.” 

As my co-bachelor housemate for almost four years now, Matt knows the quality of my leftovers vary from night to night, but I give quiet thanks that he, alone, enjoys full access to my secret stash of dark chocolate. Unending supply of Ghirardelli Dark with Sea Salt and Almonds in the dorm lobby? I think not! 

Debbie came over to help get me started in the vast basement space, affixing signs to walls: “Sell,” Donate,” “Dump.” And we began… Toys, books, clothing, photos… We spent a couple of hours digging through memories and putting them to rest, her presence compelling final choices. Downsizing is a different experience for the divorced or widowed. The little road trips of the mind follow a single mapped route with no side jaunts for savoring context. The emotional journey may be a solo trip, but it definitely helps to have a friend in the passenger seat.

Eventually I faced my first real dilemma and was glad for Debbie’s steadying presence as I held up a wedding photo of my ex-husband. “Should I give this to the kids?” My own bridal-veiled portrait had already landed in a garbage bag, but the divorced parent strives for fairness.

 “Throw it. They don’t need it.” And she’s right. He has remarried; the man in the photo is long gone. Rest in peace.

More digging, more dumping. Treasures and trash. When the Volunteers of America showed up the following Thursday, they found quite the haul on my front porch. And the trash guys had some heavy lifting down at the driveway curb—balancing out a few of those many days that cans sat forgotten in my garage.

It’s an official beginning, I guess. Of an ending, I suppose. Or, more aptly, a “transition.” From the mom of three that I once was to the mother of adult children I will soon be. And I want to tell them, my kids, as I sift, sort, and remember—that these little smile lines on my face are such a small and inadequate measure of the joy I’ve known in watching them grow.

About Date Like a Grownup: So...think you're ready? Great! Not sure? Check out my book. It's kind of a roadmap to dating well. I know, I know... we all have GPS, who needs a map these days? Well... I did. Could definitely have used one if you know what I mean. But many men and women are, shall we say, "directionally challenged" when it comes to dating. Read—and learn—from their stories. And it's OK if you laugh a little...they all know we're laughing with them. Check out my Facebook page, hit "Like" and stay in touch! We'll have fun! I promise!

Coming soon… 

The Friendship Upgrade:

Trade Clickable Connections for Cabernet Coaches and Face-to-Face Friends

On Being a Single Entrepreneur (radio)

Dating, Parenting and Maintaining Connection (WJCU radio)

On transitioning from “stay-at-home mom” to “single-preneur,” the impact of confidence and accomplishments on dating relationships, how to build effective connection in the family, selecting a “Type A-” approach, how to Date Like A Grownup and more…! (Interview with Deb Hegler, “Minding Your Business”)

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