Tuesday, July 26, 2011

You're Quite Unique - Now Find A Stranger Who Fits...

After a few years of never going on more than a couple of dates with any woman other than my BFF, I "tried on for size" the company of a new date prospect for several weeks (I sensed from the start that it wasn't going to be a 'thing') just to see what it would be like to have a consistent companion.  I was surprised at how quickly my brain kicked into 'potential relationship mode' and began a relentless evaluation of her pros and cons and their 'fit' (or not) with my predilections.  Hm, not the easiest challenge in the world for any of us, building a relationship with a stranger from scratch!  

It did bring back to mind (with my 'inner voice' shouting loudly and assertively between my ears) what you have to have to get started, however.  It also brought back to mind what a couple needs to do to keep things going smoothly.  This list feels about right: 

There are a great many layers and interpersonal complexities revealed in this list, however, from the the matching intellect that is required to "laugh over inside jokes" to the natural empathy required to ask "How was your day, Honey?" every day.  (And "Rex's Human Rights" was a paean to my own idealistic projections of all the things I have ever hoped I could find in one imaginary woman.)

Many individuals (ESPECIALLY those who have reached 35 without ever having maintained a long-term relationship), are simply far too narcissistic to actually be able to do all ten of these things, and I don't mean simply being excessively self-centered, I mean that all of our brains are pre-programmed to focus on doing things every day of our lives that only our unique and individual brains/personalities want to do, regardless of the clear evidence that we are giving into our obsessions at the expense of the health of our relationships.

Whether it be a tendency to be a workaholic, or get mani-pedis/hair-dos/tanning/massages/etc. every week, or watch sports all weekend, or make up tall tales explaining why we have to hoard stuff that is really of no sentimental value, etc., when our partners begin to balk at our obsessions we tend to get very angry at them for 'not understanding' us.  There we are doing things that NO other person would realistically say are reasonable or healthy to obsess over, yet our brains work VERY hard to protect us from admitting we need to change.  Our brains tell us that it's our partner who needs to change!

What I'm beginning to see is that each of our brains is usually working extremely energetically to do what it wants and damn others' needs and the long or short-term consequences.  We see this most clearly with parent's manipulation of their kids, whether it be the dad pushing his kid to be better at his favourite sport than he himself was, or a mom who pushes her daughter into ballet, or beauty contests, or even 'becoming a doctor'.

These parents are NOT doing what's best for the kid, they're simply doing what their brains find most selfishly rewarding.  I have one friend who relentlessly drives his three girls around to swimming competitions most evenings of the week.  He'll drive an hour and a half each way for a 2 hour competition.  The kids don't love swimming, they love their dad and do what he wants.  He finds it very relaxing doing the driving and sitting in the stands and it means he doesn't have to do projects at home.

This self-focused behaviour shows up with EXTREME intensity in parents who insist that their kids adopt the same religion they enjoy the benefits of.  There's no question that the kid can chose a religion (or none) that suits them best, they are forced without a moment's hesitation to do what is solely and selfishly what their parent's brains like most.  "It's good for me, you WILL accept what is good for me regardless if it suits you!"  Clearly those are not the words or the sentiment of a giving, empathetic, open-minded individual.

I know women who will repeatedly tell the world how generous and accommodating they are in "trying to make others happy" via throwing dinner parties and family picnics, etc., but when you examine the reality of their lives, they are manipulating everyone to do exactly what THEIR brains find satisfying: seating everyone just so, getting positive feedback on their cooking, their decor, their entertaining skills, making things go according to a precise plan, etc.  These people are not simply being generous hosts, they are doing what gives their brains a lot of pleasure.  That others get some enjoyment out of it only rationalizes and supports the behaviour.  Innocent enough if the manipulative behaviour stops with family get-togethers, but if you take a closer look you'll normally find their manipulations extend to 'nudging' relationships in the direction they are convinced they should go in, rescheduling other people's plans to fit their own, etc.

This same thing was true of the grossly overweight dad I witnessed at a campground who woke up at the crack of dawn to proudly "fire up the Que" and grill a 'mess' of sausages, bacon and steaks for his extremely obese kids for breakfast.  Smiling broadly he reminded them all of just how good a daddy he was to be so generous and hard-working in looking after their needs.  He was doing what his brain (and fat cells) demanded in the short-term, the hell with their long-term health!  (Like most obese people, he has a food addiction and was encouraging his kids to suffer through the same addiction to make him feel better about being unable to control his own brain's demands.  There really should be a law against this form of child abuse.)

When you take a close look at the live of the type of 'giving' lady I described above, you'll find a long string of rejected former 'friends' who did not 'give-in' sufficiently and asserted a bit too much stubborn independence.  Out they went in favour of those who would go along with her needs and praise her sufficiently.  Whether we're looking at the life of a strongly controlling man or woman, they can only maintain relationships with partners willing to let them do what they want at the expense of their own brain's demands (or who have brains who demand to give in!).  This is actually true of most addicts -- they will reject people who give them a hard time and will seek out those who 'enable' their continued addiction.

My point is that most people are simply not sufficiently empathetic and giving, or aren't sufficiently self-aware of their brain's unique demands/addictive tendencies to 'give in' enough to deliver on this list of "10 Little Things".  Finding a potential significant other who can realistically do all 10 things regularly is no simple feat!  It requires an awful lot of careful evaluation of a broad swath of potential candidates, a challenge for anyone post 35 who is no longer interested in trying to deal with the party/bar-hopping circuit.  It requires finding out about the other person's unique list of 'brain demands' and whether it might fit with our own.

And a key trick in evaluating potential partners is for both to remain sober through the initial evaluation meeting.  While we can do so through the initial very artificial 'conversations' via online dating, the same thing is not going to happen in 90% of social situations where there are large numbers of prospective adult singles in attendance, like singles dances or cocktail parties.  When we become inebriated, we automatically shift from evaluating long-term potential to assessing whether or not the person in front of us might be persuaded to engage in some extremely short-term coupling... 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I was 11 in this photo. Wanna date?

Seriously.  That's me on the left.  You KNOW I don't look like this now, girls, but do you want to meet me for a coffee date on the basis of this photo?  (My little brother was 5.)  Or when you see a washed out, clearly scanned (or date-stamped 2004!) pic being used in a guy's profile does it immediately raise the "He clearly no longer resembles that figure/head-of-hair/unlined face" red-flag?

In online dating profiles I have a new 'infallible proof' that a woman is post-35:  she has profile photos posted that are from back when she WAS 35 and few (if any) strategically-cropped recent pics.  The woman doesn't look like that any more, but confounding-ly her ego will NOT allow her to post honest, full-body pics of herself from this year.  Instead it is up to us lads to show up at the bar/cafe and, with intense disappointment and frustration, think: "Well, no offence intended, but if you'd just posted some recent pics, I could have been home right now watching the game."

In a recent 'incident' I only went online and did a pre-date 'refresher' moments before running out to the cafe.  Noticing some little orange digits in the bottom right-hand corners I zoomed in on the photos to find out that they were date-stamped SEVEN years ago.  (I could have bailed, but I foolishly went with the old "benefit of the doubt".  NOT!  That was no longer the body shape that was in the photos.)

It's not that we mind a pleasant conversation for an hour with you, ladies, but I know from many chats with your single sisters that many men have no photo up at all, or do the same thing -- posting ancient pics and hoping that their current scintillating personalities will sweep you off your feet once you agree to meet them in person.  I also know, however, that the ratio of women to men doing this is about 9:1!  I get it, the female ego, formed during many years spent watching Disney's many fantasy princess tales over and over and over, is far more looks/age-focused than the 'accomplishment/achievement-focus' of male egos, but still...

Gotta say, I have to agree that, on average, I'd concur that, while there are some notable exceptions out there (see Jennifer Beals), I agree with all the age-bracket cut-offs that this poll of Brits turned up:
A new poll claims that women become too old to wear two-pieces when they turn 47, the Daily Mail reports. Commissioned by Diet Chef, the survey of 2,000 women said that 47 was the age at which they would feel inappropriate in a bikini the survey nixed wearing the tiny skirts past the age of 35.

According to the poll, women should stop wearing tube tops at age 33, leather pants at 34, belly-button piercings at 35, sheer chiffon blouses at 40, sneakers and tight tanks at 44, leggings and UGGs at 45, knee-high boots at 47, stilettos at 51, and swimsuits at 61. At which point, seemingly, they should be put out to pasture ...

On the beauty front, ponytails are frowned upon for women 51 and older, while 53 is the age at which long hair is no longer acceptable.

But before you draft that angry letter, note that one in two respondents claimed that women who are slim, healthy, and attractive in their 50s and 60s can "get away with anything."
Ladies, you might get fewer coffee dates, but the outcome of those dates is only going to increase in quality if you post current, FULL-BODY pics of yourself.  (And no, my little brother is not 'available'!)


Now I'd really like to see a poll of the women who cannot resist putting up photos that are more than two years old (and have NO current full-body shots), how many would agree with these statements:
  1. "I would not date a man who lies about his age to get a date with me because it proves that he is fundamentally dishonest and we can't start a relationship if, from our initial contact point, he has demonstrated that he's hiding something..." 
  2. "Even though we're both post-35 and emotionally mature and understanding, if I find out that a man I'm dating has asked out a younger woman, our relationship is OVER!  (However, in my dating profile it's OK for me to say I interested in dating boys as much as 10-15 years younger while at the same time giving men my age or older a hard time for NOT wanting to date women my age.)" 
  3. "Even though I agree that it takes me up to 9-12 months to decide if a man is a good enough 'fit' with me for a long-term relationship (and I reserve the right to dump him without warning at any time during that pre-full-commitment-period should a more appealing candidate come along, or should he do something intangible that puts me off), I have a problem with any guy I'm dating having an 'active' profile on online dating sites."
Ah, irony and double-standards, they're the spice of life, no?  The results are in!
  1. The women who say this often do not have even ONE truly honest recent full-body photo posted!
  2. I get this attack about once a week, on average, from women who's lower age limit is significantly younger than their own age. 
  3. Just about EVERY woman will admit to feeling this way while agreeing that, as mature adults, we really need to keep our options open rather than do what we did in our 20's and early 30's and leap into the deep end with every new prospect.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The 3 Things Every Great Relationship is Built Upon

In developing the presentation for my seminar for adult singles, I was thinking back to what was at the core of my great relationships in the past, and I realized that in every single one (including the ones that didn't work!), it always came down to three core things and that in every single one I could tell you which two of the three things worked well, and which one I had to compromise on.  There was one woman I never got the chance to really have an on-going relationship with who I think I MIGHT have had all three with, but the timing/stage-of-our-separate-lives was wrong (maybe that is another dimension I need to add in!).

  1. "Passion" relates to pheromones, attractiveness, sexual appeal/compatibility, 
  2. "Personality" is all about sense of humour, confidence, leisure-time interests, laid-backedness, etc., and... 
  3. "Intellect" speaks to their interests in politics and books, their smarts, their ability to chat about things you find interesting, etc.
I challenge you to try it out.  Think back to even your earliest adult relationships and tell me if you don't agree that, not only do the three things apply to every one of your past relationships,  the need to rank order these things and go into any new date with the willingness to compromise on one of the three things also applies to who you might end up with next!

Lola of the Copa: Never Settle!

I dated a 42 year old woman recently who is very attractive, but obviously as with any woman post 35, is showing her age (Jennifer Beals being a notable exception, but even she can't defy gravity...).  She revealed during the conversation that she is still firmly stuck in her "No-Compromise Queen" stage, despite having shifted into the "Courtier" age bracket.  She wants a rich man, she wants a handsome, young-looking, fit man, she wants a smart man, she wants a sweet, generous, humorous man, she does not want kids (and especially not any of his existing ones), she will not settle for less than extreme passion (but exudes little genuine sensuality herself, unless primping and mirror-checking count?) and wants to be worshipped.   [I'm also nothing if not a patient man, so she remained 'into me' until things came to their natural conclusion. :-(  ]

So not only is she unwilling to compromise on looks and money, out of my three core 'real human being elements' (Passion, Personality and Intellect), she's unwilling to compromise on any one of the three!  (And my point in that regard is that you have to 'give' on one to have any good long-term relationship.)

Most men appreciate confidence in a woman, but there is a tipping point at which confidence turns into delusion (or at least fantastical wishful-thinking!) and a 'positive outlook' tips over into arrogance.  Now I understand that narcissistic personality types cannot help themselves, but then I take solace in the fact that there are a lot of very lonely narcissists out there (blaming everyone else for their inability to connect). 

A study about a year ago found that both men and women say women are at their most attractive at 31.  At this ripe age they are confident, have come to understand the ideal style/fashions that suit them best, have both experience and well-considered opinions and have only the faint early traces of 'laugh lines' and the effects of gravity and changing hormone levels.  Sadly things do change fairly quickly in the ensuing few years to the point where beauty queens in their 40's complain that they feel 'invisible'.  To be honest, I like the company of women my own age most of all, or of younger women (like my nearly two-decades-younger ex of 14 years) who are  mature due to a substantial intellect, however in the area of body shape and tone, my predilections will always be for women of healthy child-bearing age.  (That hard-wiring simply doesn't change.)

So I've got news for all you 'ladies of a certain age', whether or not you have developed your 'depth of character' and intellectual interests outside of your kids, celebrities and fashion, the 'I'm so hot I can attract any man' door is gradually swinging inward, sadly.  All the surgery in the world won't stop the clock (and risk moving one into 'Bride of Frankenstein' territory...).  Human males are genetically pre-wired to be attracted to women of healthy child-bearing age and the MOST healthy age for producing kids without much difficulty is 18-28 (based upon the release of ova which ramps up quickly at 18 and drops off precipitously at 28).  MAYBE a youthful 70 year old man will be sexually super-charged by a woman 20 years his junior, but for most people the "Passion" element is going to pivot on the concept of compromise and acceptance of current realities.)

Like most men, I'll happily love and cherish the mother of my children as she matures, but it's important not to mislead oneself by thinking that ongoing bond of love and companionship equals 'maturing' sexual preferences/interests (as I've had SO many mature women, and some husbands, insist that I should be adjusting my predilections to now be interested in women my age).  The enduring bond does mean a willingness to compromise!  The point being that if your man felt wildly passionate about a slim, athletic, firm, 18 to early 30 year old body when you first met, it's still that former body shape/tone that he is most interested in (though he still loves you dearly and wants to compromise!).

In the porn business, the female porn actors shift into the "MILF" categorization at about 25 (i.e. "Mothers I'd Like to Fool-around-with").  By their mid-30's they get shifted into the "Matures" category and work exclusively in videos with bizarre plot-lines.  Of the very few 40-plus year-old female porn actors, the stuff they are relegated to is, well, very "niche-specific".

The desire for climaxes wanes with hormonal changes in both sexes (a recent study proved that most women's sexual desire with their partner declines after a few years -- but re-ignites if she begins a  new relationship), but couples' sex lives slow for other reasons, too, both visual and tactile.  Just as you may no longer feel 'fully charged up' about a beer belly, balding head and 'turkey wattle', it goes both ways.  It's natural and while we can lament and regret the changes (and sometimes our choices), life is what it is here and now.

I believe that maintaining a great relationship is ALL about compromise, but equally important is the fact that, past about 35 for women and about 40 for men (who tend to be less 'mature' at any age than women are), finding a prospective mate is all about compromise 'going in'.  If we're not entering a prospective relationship (also called 'a date') knowing in advance what we're willing to compromise on, we're setting ourselves up for failure!  (I'm still trying to figure out what the 42 year old thinks she is compromising on -- besides not getting the under 35 male body/head-of-hair/hormone-level...)

I've noticed that many married women are very OK with compromising, but those same women, once becoming single again and experimenting with online dating (complete with the ubiquitous presence of a very small percentage of younger guys who are into mature women and artificially boost the confidence of many of these ladies by propositioning them constantly, but who leave the scene immediately after having sex), their expectations begin to creep back up into "I won't accept another relationship in which PASSION and CHEMISTRY are not the biggest factors!"  I'm not confident that that ship is still in port, ladies! You might find it, but it will require compromise upfront.

It's not that you are never going to have passionate sex again, it's just that going in expecting that he's going to be as excited about all your now-mature naughty bits in the cold, hard light of day, as might have been the case in the past, is a set-up for disappointment.  That former experience of passion you remember (or have always longed for) is going to be different now.  It is not going to revolve around the physicality the way it once did.  Viagra isn't needed only because he's having physical/chemical problems internally.  At our age if what really turns him on is you wearing a fruit-laden hat and a grass skirt rather than just shaking your booty in the buff, for BOTH your sakes maybe it's not such a bad idea to compromise and ask which fruits he'd most like on the hat...  ;op

My point is that if that attractive (and already 'enhanced') 42 year old woman doesn't accept some major compromises soon, she's going to be that odd old lady in heavy make-up with the big teased-up hair, waiting for a Mr. Right who's really into grannies:
"Her name was Lola, she was a show girl, at the Copa, Copa Cobana. 
Now it's a dance club, but not for Lola..."
Ahh...  Rico died, Lola.  That hot young Latino is not coming back (and it simply can never be the way it was even if he did!).

And all of the above points are basically what Lori Gottlieb uncovered in researching her book: "Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough".  A 43-year-old single mother by choice (now married to an ideal man), she basically discovered that women past 35 succeed at love only once they let go of the "Queen-like" list of 300 criteria that they have assembled by the time they reach their early 30's.  My post on the subject here (click for link).


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