Dealbreakers

Getting Over A Breakup- The Rules

800px-Tear

via nessaLand

And this week for another fab guest post by Noorinayat (who also wrote this).

A breakup can be one of the hardest things you can go through, especially if it wasn’t on the nicest of terms or if you weren’t the one to initiate it.

It’s not just the pain, that can sometimes even manifest physically. It’s not just the emotional distress, the hurt, the sense of betrayal and abandonment. It’s not the sense of loss you feel as your strongest bond in broken, sometimes brutally, and you wade helplessly in a wide open sea of memories.

It’s that sometimes, you just don’t know what to do, how to be whole again, how to be yourself again after spending such a long time being a part of something built for two.

Navigating a break-up can be a very tricky business. Not trusting your internal compass, which has been thrown off by the turmoil you are going through, you seek outside help; luckily, there’s no dearth of advice on the internet about how to get over your breakup: Get your hair done, get a manicure, get fit, eat ice cream, get even more fit, eat even more ice cream. Some advice columns promise you that if you act a certain way, you’ll get him or her back. Others try to make you see what a jerk he or she was.

Yet others miss the mark entirely, telling you that if only you had done this or that, if only you hadn’t nagged, or shown insecurity and vulnerability, or demanded a show of commitment (God forbid), you wouldn’t have lost them.

Yeah, I’ve read all of it, and tried to follow some of the advice, and now I’d like to present you with ten tried and tested tips that’ll help you get over them (assuming that’s what you want to do). In (mostly) chronological order:

1. Cry. Don’t shut down. Cry it out if you feel like you want to, don’t be ashamed. Cry, shout, throw something at the wall if you have to (but please refrain from throwing things at the other person, seeing as that will probably end with being booked for assault charges). You need to let it out! Don’t keep it all inside you because it will weigh you down and burden you.

2. If you are to let this person go entirely, you have to mourn properly. Look through old letters and heartfelt poems, their thoughtful little gifts to you. Then throw all of that away (or keep it in the attic if you really can’t help it) and don’t look back.

3. Talk. Open up to your friends and relatives, yeah, the ones you barely spoke to while you were with your significant other. Talk, hang out, watch funny episodes of something, go to the beach, have brunch, go shopping. Make new memories with the people who were closest to you before you ever met the person you are now parted from. Reconnect with your family. If you feel like they can’t understand or that you want professional support, seek therapy.

An important addendum: surround yourself with positive, supportive people who make you happy. If someone in your life is bringing you down at this time, try to limit your contact with them until you are stronger.

An even more important addendum: your ex, by virtue of being an ex, is no longer part of your support system and you shouldn’t turn to them for comfort at this time. Sure, you might want closure, but in the case of a bad breakup it’s better to cut or at least minimize contact than to try to get answers from someone who wants to hurt you. But even if things were mutual, you have to start adjusting yourself to the fact that they are no longer part of your life and support system.

4. Do what you need to rebuild your sense of self-worth and regain your self-esteem, whatever that may be. A new haircut, nail polish, wearing sexy dresses for a week, flirting, dating (hopefully while steering clear of awkward rebound situations or of hurting someone who gets hooked on your when you’re emotionally unavailable) — do what it takes for you to emerge a stronger, more confident person.

5. Do what you need to reconnect with yourself. What keeps you occupied most of the time? What makes YOU happy? Throw yourself (for a while, don’t overdo it!) into your job, studies and hobbies and channel your hurt and anger into hard work. Not only will you feel more fulfilled and accomplished, you also might have a thing or two to add to your resume.

6. Express yourself. Fond of writing? Write down all the conflicting emotions you have been bombarded with since the breakup, the dreams, the memories, everything. Everything is ok: don’t judge yourself for the myriad thoughts you are thinking or for being confused. Just let it out. Are you more of a musician? Express yourself that way. You might just write a masterpiece!

7. Analyze. Instead of beating yourself up over what you could’ve/should’ve done to prevent the breakup, take a cold, hard look at the relationship itself. Was it what you thought it was? Was it healthy? Were you truly happy? Were your emotional and other needs being met? Was your partner supportive and respectful? Were they really right for you? Be as objective and honest as you can (friends/family/a therapist can help).

That said, it’s important not to get stuck for too long in the wallowing part. It’s hard to move on, but you need to find a way to start!

Once you can see your relationship in a more objective light, you might find that it wasn’t really the best thing for you (this might take a few months/years, but it is important to learn from the experience as well as move past it).

This rings true especially if the breakup was one-sided or nasty: someone who respects, loves and truly cares about you will not suddenly walk out on you one fine day. There’s no need to rationalize cruel, demeaning and disrespectful behavior by convincing yourself that “nobody said it would be easy, anything is worth going through for love” or “they were perfectly supportive and loving except for those few times.”

8. Learn. Learn what you need and want from a partner and relationship, learn to realize what you deserve, learn which behaviors you will never again agree to put up with. Once you are rid (as much as possible) of any feelings of guilt over the end of the relationship (“it was all my fault that they left”), learn what you yourself could have done differently to prevent things from reaching the boiling point (should you have ended the relationship months ago instead of dragging it on for so long?), and what you can do better next time. Try not to beat yourself up or judge yourself… just recognize that you can grow from this, and learn.

9. Forgive. Not just them, but yourself especially. You have to help yourself heal by being soft, not hard on yourself. Remember that everyone makes mistakes. Also, don’t have unrealistic or harsh expectations of yourself (“Why am I not over it by now? Why can’t I be stronger?” Remember that you are strong for struggling with this) — time does heal all, but you can help it along!

10. Regain your faith in and positive view of relationships and love, as well as your trust in people. This is extremely important: your attitude to life and love, the optimism and hope you once had when it came to starting new relationships, was probably significantly compromised by your breakup.

But you have to make sure that’s temporary: you can and will love again, it will be just as strong/good/right and probably even better (as you are now wiser and more experienced), you just have to be open to something new and wonderful coming your way instead of wallowing in pessimism or dwelling on the past.

Best of luck, and do comment if you need more advice! 

Rule #52- Getting Off The Sidelines (and Going on a Date)

Via National Maritime Museum, Magnus Manske

Just like when knowing someone is worthwhile and a good match for you, and you can just feel that tingly feeling in your bloodstream when they walk into the room, it’s also important to make the distinction who NOT to date. Or more importantly WHEN not to date.

On the one hand, there is a lot of pressure if you are single to date. Because maybe, just maybe, the next blind date you go on will turn out to be the one. Now, I’m not saying that they won’t; just that sometimes you might feel pressured into going out on dates you don’t really want to be on, with people you don’t really want to be with. Worse yet, you might convince yourself, for any number of reasons, to give people a chance – just one more date, and one more – when they aren’t really right for you.

The problem is finding a balance between not dating at all, and not getting “out of shape”.

Well, dating isn’t exactly a muscle, but it does  require exercise and growth. If you never go out on dates, or form relationships while waiting around for Mr. or Miss Right (that person who will be the right fit for YOU), how will you know what to do – hell, or what to look for when they come along? The fairy tales that nourished our mind’s as children perpetuated this myth that when the right person magically appears, everything will just fall into place. But what we tend to ignore is that fighting the dragon was a hell of a hard job.

The only way to build a relationship is with a lot of hard work. The only way to know if the relationship isn’t working for you,  or if this person isn’t working for you, or if the dynamic  between the two of you is just not right, is experience! And unfortunately for us, experience demands quite a bit of sweat, tears and heartache!

While some lessons are best learned the hard way (you hopefully won’t repeat mistakes that burned you the first time around after you refused to heed the sage advice of others), This may be of help:

1. Don’t date unless you feel like putting the effort into this person. Because if you don’t feel like investing your time in them to “see where it can go”, there really isn’t any point in starting something up. Mostly because this isn’t fair to them. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give people a chance, but if you do decide to give things a go, then do it properly.

Sometimes. it’s also important to recognize potential. If you meet someone special, or have a click with someone new, give it a chance and see where it goes. It might not work out, but you will have learned something new. Every interaction, be it good or bad, teaches us something, provided we are able to look deeply into ourselves and the relationship and reflect on it. And I promise you this (cliche warning) – when that someone does come along, you will be glad that you learned all those lessons beforehand.

2. Don’t go on a date with someone you intend to dump at the end of the evening!  Whatever your motive is, pity, pressure from your mum or even the prospect of a free dinner, just don’t.

3. Go on dates with people you feel you already have things to talk about, or in common. If you already have a good starting point, be it attraction or things in common, there is probably a greater chance it isn’t going to be a complete waste of an evening.

4. The less you get out, the more you are not going to want to go out. Because let’s face it, the thought of staying in your warm bed with a hot water bottle, and all the episodes of the shows you haven’t  caught up on, is way  more tempting than having to make small talk with a stranger. But you have to break this cycle! It’s time to stop dating your laptop (even though it may very well be better company than your prospective date) and go out!

5. Maybe it’s time to un-friend zone that really cute guy/girl that you have been constantly flirting with for months (or just admit they were never really in the friend zone to begin with)! You already know you have tons to talk about and that you will both have a good time. You probably shouldn’t come to this decision lightly (not to mention out of desperation), but it’s probably worth considering.

6. Learn to open up more to people. Not dating for ages will probably make you suspicious of new people, and make it harder to open up to them, connect on a deeper level and form a relationship. My advice is to make some new friends as an exercise, or open up more to your old ones; it’s important you learn how to trust again, even if you were hurt in the past. You need to learn to be vulnerable with people, because let’s be honest, it’s vulnerability that is the basis of a good relationship.

7. Go out with friends more! No I don’t mean necessarily to pubs and dancing, but rather to social events. House parties, concerts, singles mixers in the religious denomination of your choice. There is a much higher chance that you will run into new people with whom you have more in common if you already share a social circle, community or some interests, like God or your favorite band.

8. Reclaim your mojo!  Chances are that if you haven’t been on a date in a while you probably don’t feel all that secure about the whole thing, so do something to reconnect with yourself. Try salsa dancing or yoga or buy that new dress or those new shoes you’ve been salivating over, imagining how jaw-droppingly good you would look in them. Getting in touch with your body, or just plain pampering yourself, will make you feel much more confident in you – and by extension, with that special someone.

9. Sometimes it really isn’t a good time to start a new relationship (stress from work/family issue and so forth). It’s perfectly fin to put your foot down and tell your pestering  aunts (yes, even the ones that only exist in your head), that now is not the time to start something new, because you just don’t have the emotional and mental capacity for it. That said, “I’m focusing on myself/my career at the moment” is sometimes not just an excuse we give to someone we’re trying to blow off, but a line we may be constantly repeating to ourselves in order to avoid putting ourselves out there.

You just have to accept that part of dating is risking getting hurt, but that isn’t an excuse not to try! 

Rule #50- People Don’t Change

via christopher, russavia, wiki commons

Change is a tough issue to tackle when it comes to relationships. I think we, as humans, need to believe that people have the capacity to change, to better themselves, but when it comes to the way we see partners or potential partners, the belief that change is possible usually comes with a few caveats, namely — if you kick off a relationship by betting on the possibility that your partner will change in some way, you may be getting yourself into a sticky situation.

I’m not saying people can’t change, I’m just saying that they probably won’t. Are you dating someone new? Are you considering reconnecting with that one particular ex that you just can’t shake the feeling was “the one that got a way,” a missed opportunity?

It’s probably best to start off by asking yourself: What’s changed? Why is this time any different, why are you any different? If you couldn’t make it work the first time around, why will it work now? Is your new boyfriend a serial monogamist who switches girlfriends every six months and it’s never his fault? Is he incapable of holding down a job, or deciding on a career? Can he not stick with any one city, or degree program, or plan for more than a couple of years? These things are too important to be overlooked, as they could very well point to an inability to stick with a relationship.

Why are you any different?

1. First of all you need to ask yourself why you are any different, or more specifically why the relationship is any different from any other aspect of your partner’s life. If he/she can’t hold down a steady job, or they move around every couple of years, what’s to say they aren’t going to get up and leave you too?

It’s important to ask yourself why this relationship is any different from anything else your partner is incapable of following through with…  It’s vital to notice not only how the person you are dating interacts with you, but how they treat all of their commitments: they may be the most wonderful, sweet, and giving person, but if he or she can’t live up to the other obligations they have going on, it’s very likely that at some point in the future, their commitment to you will also prove to be too much for them. So make sure you don’t end up missing important warning signs.

2. Rule #2 goes out to all those people who think they can change the person they are dating! You can’t! That just doesn’t happen outside the realm of chick flicks.

Start seeing your relationship for what it is now, and not what it has the potential to become if only he gets a steady job, or ends his porn addiction, or stops lazing around, or stops being selfish or uncommunicative, or stops blaming others for his shortcomings. Because if you don’t, well, you might be in for a rude awakening six months, or ten years down the line. But more importantly than that, you should like, respect and admire the person you are with for who they are, and not for who they will become if only they start or stop doing something.

If you need a project, take up knitting, not relationships, because at least knitting doesn’t have the built-in  danger of blowing up in your face.

3. If the person you are dating has a bunch of dirty habits that you can’t stand (or even just one) they are most  likely going to keep at it (yes, I’m talking about anything from smoking too much pot, to being a selfish jerk, to cheating on you). Either dump them or learn to live with it.

No, I’m not completely cynical, and I do believe there is the possibility that they will try and work on it for you. But that means that for starters you can’t fall into the beginning-of-relationship-trap of pretending that it doesn’t bother you. Moreover, you have also got to accept that he may just might continue forever to bite his toenails in bed, and that’s that (or do that other thing that drives you completely insane).

4. Thinking of reconciling with an old flame? First ask yourself this, where are you at? Are you still the same person you were when you two first dated? Because if the answer is yes, and the break-up was also your fault (as you know, it takes two to tango), you may be unhappy to discover that history has the nasty habit of repeating itself. Also, maybe they haven’t changed, but you have — maybe that starry-eyed person you used to be doesn’t exist anymore.

Ok, so maybe you are still the same person, just a little bit older and wiser, and just maybe this relationship isn’t the right fit for you anymore. But I will say this, just keep humming this as your new mantra because it will save you a lot of time, tears and anger: “people don’t change.” I do realize that this is probably the hardest truth about humanity for people to accept because it appears to negate lofty ideas about change and redemption.

Be it a part of their personality, a worldview, or behavioral pattern, people tend to treat all aspects of their lives in the same manner. So stop looking at your relationship as separate from all other things in your someone’s life, because it aint! It’s just another part of who they are.

The truth is, you will be much better off if you learn to accept your partner for who they are and not for what you wish that one day they will be. Because entering a relationship with a person as they are, and not as they might, should or will be, is always the safer bet.

Rule #46- Keeping the Faith

Praying_couple_@_Shwedagon_(4361022275)

via Roger Price, Fæ

I think these days researchers categorize religious disagreements as “unresolvable conflicts.”  I’m not sure to what extent I agree with this statement. But there is definitely something to be discussed as far as relationships go.

Can we date someone seriously who has religious beliefs different from our own? Or is it a non-issue and I’m just old fashioned?

I most certainly can’t call myself religious  I’m probably traditional at best, but I honestly can’t see myself dating someone of a different religion. Not because I believe god will revoke my pass into heaven, but rather because tradition and faith are so fundamentally part of my personality that I have trouble imagining myself living with someone who has a whole different set of them.

I sometimes wonder if maybe I’ve got it all backwards.  Maybe it’s enough that he believes in democracy, and he respects my place as a modern working woman. Maybe all those strange traditions that my ancestors  passed down to me are only secondary to my liberal modern upbringing.

Or are they?

I mean, at the end of the day I love celebrating the holidays. I want to keep those old traditions alive even when I have saved up enough to finally own my own house (fingers crossed that too will happen someday. That is, when I give up teaching, and get a job that actually pays).

So can it work?

I’ve decide to bring in back-up. 

This section was written by a friend of the blogger’s, who is from a secular-but-traditional family and in a happy relationship with a person whose beliefs and religious affiliation differ from hers, and thinks she knows a thing or two about dealing with the “religion issue” — that sometimes painful wedge that exists between the two of you when it comes to matters of faith, culture and tradition.

Back to “Can it work?”: that’s a trick question. When you’re just dating a person, religion isn’t as likely to come up and be a real problem. But when you get more serious about someone and bring them home to meet your parents (and grandparents), you’re bound to start asking yourself the “religion question”, and your significant other might be too.

But this question can have many different answers. If your family’s so traditional and if you belong to such a tight-knit community that you know the two of you won’t be able to be together unless you elope or even cut ties with your loved ones, you might want to come to terms with the fact that your relationship has an expiration date (or, well, just elope).

Bear in mind that being in a relationship your parents are adamant about not accepting will put a heavy strain on you, on your relationship and on your partner, who will want to share your pain. It might prove very difficult to cope without your parents’ moral and financial support, your mother’s hugs and your father’s advice (and occasional proud gaze). Worst of all, should your partner decide not to stick around, you’ll be left all alone to nurse your heartbreak with a healthy dose of “I told you so’s.”

This also depends on your partner’s religious orientation: if he’s technically of your religion but an atheist or of another caste, your parents might eventually come ‘round. If one of his parents is of your religion, your parents might eventually warm to him. If he’s of a different religion but you both share the same values, outlook or philosophy of life, you may have a chance. If he’s of a different religion but of the same culture, or moved to your country at a young age, it may well work, even if he’s of a different religion (my boyfriend and I are an example of this). But if he’s a devout Catholic from Poland and you’ve been raised as a devout Sikh from the Punjab, it might not work out so well for the two of you – because of cultural and religious differences alike. (Remember how in My Big Fat Greek Weddingthe protagonists were both Christians, but one was Greek Orthodox while the other wasn’t? And even after the groom agreed to become Greek Orthodox, the bride’s father still felt betrayed, because the groom wasn’t culturally/ethnically Greek?)

If, on the other hand, your parents are less religious, or more open, there’s a chance that they’ll accept your partner with open arms, even if you have to deal with a rocky start in the first few weeks. If your parents raised you in a secular and liberal home and they still don’t accept your boyfriend, you should ask yourself if maybe the religious issue is not at the heart of their rejection. For example, they may be wary of accepting him because they believe the religious differences preclude the possibility of your building a happy and harmonious home together, and if you convince them that you share the same values, they’ll accept your partner. (Of course, it’s possible that they just think he’s a jerk.)

Or perhaps they think the religious differences belie even bigger cultural differences, in which case you have to ask yourself if these differences are surmountable. Or perhaps they worry about your legal status: will you be able to marry this man legally in your country, and will you be entitled to full rights as a married couple? Does your country have civil marriage? Does your religious denomination recognize mixed marriages? What will the status of your children be?

If you haven’t asked yourself these questions yet, you may find that they are crucial to figuring out if there’s a chance for the two of you – and they’re probably the questions running through your parents’ head, and the reason for their objection to your union.

Under what conditions can it work?

First of all, religion can be many things. It can be  a set of childhood memories of holidays or the name you were given by your parents, but not necessarily something that has had a real impact on you growing up.

Or it can be an integral part of your identity, be it because you want to keep your family’s traditions or because you yourself have a close connection to God. If you are a spiritual person and feel that you share a spiritual affinity with your significant other despite the religious differences, you’ll probably be fine. If religion means little to the both of you but you share the same world-view, you’ll be ok also. And if religion to you is an amalgam of traditions and rituals you want your children (and spouse) to be part of, you have to make sure your significant other is willing to respect that (bear in mind that you will probably have to respect and even keep his own traditions in return – are you willing to change your lifestyle and do that?).

If the question of conversion arises and it becomes clear that the relationship cannot proceed without it, ask yourselves which one of you should convert and why, and what it will require of you as individuals and a couple. If you ask him to convert, will your partner feel like you can’t accept him as he is, that you need him to change too much? Will it alienate and hurt him and tear the two of you apart? Will it turn you into Marta and him into the Baron Münchhausen (an analogy my boyfriend and I often use when discussing this hot topic)? If so, just let it go.

Sometimes the “religion issue” can interfere in the bedroom as well — sometimes being brought up in a particular faith will shape the way we think about sex. For example, you may be all for abstinence, while he might expect sex way before the wedding night. He may have had a wild past, while you may have been “saving yourself”. You may have been brought up in a strict community that segregates men and women, while he may have lost his virginity at 13. You may have been brought up to get married early, while he may be planning to keep his bachelor pad at least until his 35th birthday. You may be pro-choice while he may be pro-life. These are extreme examples, but many interfaith couples are bound to encounter the “grey areas” of having differing (sometimes conflicting) opinions about sex. This is best solved by talking about it. If you’re disappointed that he’s not on the same page as you are where sex is concerned, don’t hide it from him — he might not even have realized.

Basically, it will only work if the two of you learn to accept each other’s religious traditions AND world-view. You should be accepting, mature and strong enough, and have enough resolve, to stay together even if one or both of you become a bit more religious, or show more signs of wanting to keep religious traditions.

What can you do to make it work?

1. Read and learn about your partner’s religion (and culture!) and have him read about yours – not on Wikipedia. Real books and stuff. Even THE books (the Bible, Qur’an…). Ask your partner questions about his religion, surprise him with facts you read that he might not know, try to figure out how he sees his religion and try to see it through his eyes. Ignorance isn’t sexy, and won’t endear you to his family or community either.

2. Try to find the points your religions have in common, in spirit if not in practice.

3. Try to see his religion in a positive light — you might find that some traditions seem beautiful to you, and you might want to experience them yourself with his family (and someday, with yours).

4. Be frank with each other and tell each other what you will and won’t give up, and which traditions you insist on keeping. In other words: set limits, and respect each other’s limits.

5. Don’t ask each other to make major changes as an ultimatum for staying together.

6. Don’t badmouth each other’s religion, culture, parents and upbringing as a way of trying to deal with the differences between you. Don’t keep your significant other from keeping his/her traditions, don’t put obstacles in the way of their faith.

7. Don’t turn your discussions into a contest of which religion is better. If you can’t accept that the person closest to you doesn’t believe what you believe, you’re better off apart. (Especially when there are kids in the picture — don’t entice them to choose your religion over your spouse’s, and don’t make them choose one religion just to prove a point.)

8. Try not to antagonize your parents to the point of breaking contact, and definitely don’t put on dramatic and rebellious airs of the type you were notorious for when you were sixteen. Try to understand their point of view. You’re not Romeo and Juliet, and your parents are not evil. HOWEVER, don’t let them insult your partner or his religion, don’t let them stereotypify him. Stand up to them. Have them get to know your partner, and if that doesn’t help matters, just keep on standing up to them.

Be prepared for the possibility that like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, your parents will conclude that that “on the other hand, there is no other hand” and never speak to you again. This is probably a very rare occurrence in real life (even in the most closed religious communities many parents sneak out to meet with their excommunicated children), unless you’re a pogrom-stricken Jew and decide to shack up with a village Cossack. Anyway, keep this in mind — any other reaction on your parents’ part will seem like a blessing in comparison…

9. Try to be understanding of your partner if they find the religious issue difficult to handle or fail to realize how significant religion is (or isn’t) to you. Try to explain things in a calm and composed manner.

10. Don’t turn religion into a weapon you can use against your partner, or a place to retreat to when you want to hide from them. Don’t hurt them deliberately by pushing them away.

11. Try to find out what your religion says about mixed marriages. Maybe talk to a clergyman or layperson your trust. Perhaps your religion allows intermarriage without conversion? There are several religions that do.

12. Never say never. Don’t assume tradition will never matter to you, and don’t tell your significant other as much (“I swear, I’ll never care about religion, it will never come between us!”). Sometimes when people start a family they want to pass certain traditions on to their children, so don’t deny that this is a possibility. Discuss it honestly, preferably before the time comes to pass traditions on.

Rule #45- Meeting The Apartment

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There comes a time in every relationship when you meet your significant other’s significant other- their flat.

Now don’t get me wrong, this requires very little to no effort on your part (well, maybe stash a toothbrush in your purse/coat pocket just to be on the safe side).

For such occasions I have a little prayer. I prey that his apartment doesn’t look like a crack den, that my date had the common decency to tidy up the place, and hide his porn. That there is a role of toilet paper in the bathroom (you know what some men are like when they’ve been living alone for too long). I hope that there are clean sheets on the bed (and for that matter, that he has a bed, and not some mattress on the floor).

Honestly, the list goes on, but the bottom line is this. I judge. We all judge, and it is really hard to get a second chance at a first impression.

Just like we expect one another to make a little effort to clean up for a first date, we expect the person we are seeing to make their flat presentable when we see it for the first time.

But it goes both ways.

Don’t be THE PERSON who’s place looks like it’s come alive out of an episode of hoarders.

Rules for Apartment-Scaping:

1. First of all, read this brilliant blog-post, it will teach you how to make your home date-friendly within ten minutes.

2. Follow rule #1 and clean up! You don’t have to light scented candles and strategically place quantum mechanics & philosophy books to impress your date.

But you SHOULD make sure the place is clean and tidy.

This will make a good first impression.

3. We all have jobs/studies/time consuming hobbies/friends/pets, and other responsibilities.

No one expects you to keep your place spotless and immaculate at all times, you don’t live in an Ikea catalog! But basic hygiene isn’t too much to ask for (lets face it, no one is going to want to have sex with you for the first time if your bed-sheets are covered in suspicious stains…)

You know, deal with the mold in the shower, change the sheets, wash your towels, & for heavens sake, clean the toilet and kitchen!

4. The real problem with having too much stuff, and having it all over the place, is that it makes someone new feel like there is no room for them.

Remember all those photos with your ex in Bali? The ones you’ve been meaning to take down for months? Maybe this is a great opportunity to do it.

Just like we try and unclutter ourselves emotionally before a new relationship, uncluttering our house is equally as important!

Make room for your someone new.

Rule #43- Compare and Contrast

800px-Love_in_Wiesbaden

via Love in Wiesbaden, Jacob Appelbaum

I think humanity would be a lot happier if we could just admit to ourselves that we compare things and that’s all right. We don’t do it deliberately, we don’t do it in order to hurt someone else, it’s something that just happens.  

Be it cooking skills, sex, or even strange things like feet size, reading habits, or spelling abilities, the list goes on and on. It just happens, it’s a fleeting thought that goes through our head during sex, on the way to work, or over dinner. It just happens!

But just because it’s completely normal, and happens to everyone, doesn’t reduce the catastrophic effect that a slip of the tongue can have on our love life.

So, here are some simple, easy to use and implement pointers on: how to avoid such catatonic scenarios:

1. Never EVER verbalize it! Never say things like“but my ex used to do that in bed…” or “mmm…. it’s such a shame you can’t make toast, my ex was an amazing cook.No good can ever come of statements like that. You can think them, it’s completely normal to think them, just never say them out loud! 

2. Your new love interest is not your ex! This is probably a good thing seeing as you burnt all of the things you ex left at your place and swore never to utter their name again. Just remember that when silly thoughts like: “god damn it, why doesn’t she lift the toilet seat back up when she’s done peeing?!” go through your head.

3. Stop constantly worrying if they are comparing you to their ex. First of all, they probably are. Not all the time, but it’s probably happened once or twice. You’ve done it too, so just deal with it and move on! (And the best way to do that is to make new shared memories.)

4. If your lovely significant other does let something slip about their ex, avoid the temptation to ‘even the score’ by saying something back. Just because they were tactless doesn’t mean retribution is the way to go.

Instead, tell them that is makes you feel uncomfortable when they compare you to their ex.

Just remember. You and your ex aren’t together anymore, because while they may have been a great cook, they were a shitty listener and didn’t give you any emotional support. The sex may have been amazing, but you spent every single moment outside of the bedroom arguing. And remember: your significant other and his ex also broke up for a reason, just like you and your ex. Just because your new love has a couple of flaws doesn’t make them any less amazing or perfect for you, and give you what you need from a relationship. 

And when in doubt, I always recall the Daphne du Maurier novel Rebecca. The main character spends the whole book living in her husband’s dead wife’s shadow. She is constantly wracked by nerves because she feels she can never possibly live up to this amazing woman in his eyes — only to discover that  he was the one who murdered her.

Okay, so maybe this isn’t exactly the same situation. But the moral (of the post , not the story. The moral of the story is to pick a significant other whose wife didn’t die under suspicious circumstances) is this: Don’t let that one tiny thing that your ex did, that your new partner doesn’t, mess up a perfectly good relationship. 

Rule #38- Exclusivity

via Hanh Dung – Son, Bùi Linh Ngân

A few years ago I took a short trip to New York (City). In-between Broadway and cocktails, my host, a friend from back home, admitted how difficult she found dating in the city.

She was used to dating one person at a time, and having exclusivity a given from the get-go. This new concept, of dating a few people simultaneously, was a foreign concept to her.

Which made me wonder, what guarantees us exclusivity?! Going out a couple of times, dating for a month, maybe even three,  having sex on a regular basis, only once, ‘I love you’s’?! (and let’s not forget those wonderful people who just completely neglect to notify their significant others that they don’t believe in monogamy). At what point is it SAFE TO ASSUME you’re the only one? At what point is the OTHER PERSON the only one?

What do you do when there is such a fine line between cheating and ‘still seeing other people’?! 

I have to say that I spend copious amounts of time pondering this rather daunting  question, and I’ve reached the conclusion that there is no social convention as to when one should adopt monogamous relationship patterns. 

Isn’t it wonderful, how there is just no social consensus on this sticky matter? (where are ironclad dating laws when you need them?!)

So how does one deal with this rather awkward situation? 

1. I feel like if you’ve gone out with someone more than a couple of times (let’s say three for us indecisive types), you do it because you are interested in them. You aren’t necessarily picking out a band for your wedding just yet, but you are interested in pursuing something. 

If you do see a future, STOP hedging your bets! Sometimes it’s a good idea to risk everything for a higher return. The more you are willing to invest in the person you just started dating, the more you will stand to gain from the relationship. Taking a risk is a good thing, and with relationships, you have to take a chance on someone else if you want things to go somewhere. 

2. TALK TO THE PERSON YOU ARE DATING! If you feel there is something there, ask them if the relationship is exclusive, or tell them you want it to be. Never assume anything these days! (because everyone has a different idea on the subject). Some people, because that is what is acceptable in their circles, won’t stop seeing or even sleeping with other people unless you define the relationship as exclusive. 

3. Ask yourself if you would be comfortable if the other person found out you were still seeing/sleeping with other people… If the answer is yes, you wouldn’t want them to find out, then you are de facto hiding it from them. In which case…

Make a decision! Either stop messing around, or break it off with the person you are seeing, because it isn’t fair to anyone involved! 

Communications 101

800px-Couple_@_Kasai_Rinkai_Park

I love reading and proofreading this blog (the admin is not only one witty chick, she’s also a ‘creative’ speller), but I wasn’t sure I was up for writing a guest post. In our social circle, I’m usually known as the introverted one, the inexperienced one. I’ve never had a successful “first date”.  My relationships tend to grow out of existing friendships. So what advice could I possibly give?

I’m here to talk to you about something I’ve gotten to know pretty intimately from a relationship perspective. Not so much from a dating perspective, but I know that it’s just as important when you’re dating. It may even be a deciding factor in choosing whether or not to continue dating a person. I’m referring, of course, to communication — the same ability that was so uniquely well-developed among the early humans that it enabled them to conquer the animal world. Unfortunately, today we don’t give our ability to communicate due credit. Sometimes we even neglect it, causing the building blocks of our social and romantic lives to fall apart.

My boyfriend and I got together several months ago after two years of close friendship. We waited so long because all the odds were, and still are, against us – we differ in everything from religion and cultural background to sexual experience and history. But we are the same where it matters – in our hearts and in our behavior toward each other, which reflects the kind of commitment, stability and security (not to mention good humor) our relationship requires to surmount the many obstacles blocking its path.

We know that if we’re going to build a relationship and keep it going despite the heavy external pressure and high stakes, neither of us can afford to up the ante and add internal pressure to the mix by playing games with each other. We have to be as transparent as possible whenever we communicate (which, ideally, should be often) — without false pretenses. Whenever I put on airs, hide things from him or tell “white lies,” my bf calls me out on it. I appreciate and admire him for that.

Despite the impulse to cut corners, it’s best to be true to yourself and honest to others in all your relationships — with friends, and even with acquaintances. This will make others see you as credible and trustworthy — and maybe even dateworthy.  Because when you’re dating or trying to build a relationship – not to mention keep one going – open, honest communication is key.

For me personally, dishonesty and evasive behavior have always been deal-breakers. There was a guy I loved a lot, but couldn’t bring myself to give my heart to him because, among other reasons, I could tell he wasn’t telling me the whole truth (about small things, such as why he was late to pick me up, and about big things, such as his feelings for his ex). He thought he was being tall, dark, handsome (he is all of the above) and mysterious — but to me, it seemed less like a mystery and more like a giant “don’t go there” sign hanging over his head.

This may seem obvious to some of you. I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise to hear how important open communication is in theory – but what about in practice? Are you as honest and open with your date or partner as you should be? Or are you playing games?

That’s right, folks — the opposite of being open and honest in any social connection — be it friendship, family ties or a romantic relationship — is hiding things and playing games. Playing games isn’t sexy, spicy, fun or exciting in the long run – even if it’s Christian Grey who’s doing it. All it does is introduce confusion, discomfort and tension into a relationship. Not to mention jealousy, suspicion and all that rot.

Our “honesty is the best policy” policy doesn’t mean we can’t have fun, pretend or roleplay in the bedroom – we can and do. But there are other things in the bedroom (and out of it) we won’t lie to each other about — such as if we’re too tired to do anything, if something hurts or isn’t pleasurable, if we’re insecure about something sexual or about our bodies, if we’re too scared to try something, if we want to try something but don’t know how or if one of us has trouble reaching climax (for example, he’s made me swear I’ll always let him know what’s going on if I get the urge to fake it), and so on and so forth.

Each of us knows the other is there to support and help (or, if need be, laugh about it), and we don’t shy away from each other, even if we feel too scared, insecure or embarrassed to talk about whatever it is that’s on our mind. At the end of the day, making ourselves vulnerable and transparent to each other doesn’t make us weaker; it makes us stronger both as individuals and as a couple. It gives me strength to know that he accepts and supports me exactly as I am, without any embellishments, without any of the masks I usually put on in the outside world, in a professional or academic environment. And I know and love him just as he is, no illusions to be disenchanted when the Oxytocin dissipates.

At the outset of our relationship, we discussed at length our exes and past experiences. He said one thing that bothered him about his exes was that they always expected him to automatically know what they were thinking and feeling, to always be aware of their wants and needs. If he couldn’t guess, confusion would ensue: he would feel inadequate, and they would feel he wasn’t being attentive enough, wasn’t a proper “knight in shining armor” — because he couldn’t preempt their every need. They hoped he would change and become what they needed, he hoped they would accept him as he is. Eventually — inevitably — they broke up.

At the root of this dissonance lay an acute lack of communication. You can’t expect your man to know what you want and need without telling him anything and just expecting him to guess. And you definitely can’t put him down, think any less of him or wish he would change when he doesn’t, because he’s hardly Mel Gibson in What Women Want – odds are he’s just as shy and insecure as you are. What he needs from you is communication and validation, not enigmatic behavior and mind games. He’s no mind-reader and you’re no fairy-tale princess — you’ll just have to tell him what you want and how you feel. Because if you don’t, he might misunderstand or never know — and disappoint you for no reason at all other than fucked-up communication stemming from misguided expectations and a failure to accept one’s partner as (s)he is.

I’ve known some people who loved their partners a lot, but didn’t respect them enough to be open and honest with them. In the long run, this state of affairs culminated in a traumatic break-up. But how did it come to pass in the first place?

They say that love is blind. It really is. But if a stable, lasting relationship is what you’re after, you can’t afford to overlook the truly important things – and not just if the stakes are high, as they are in my current relationship. And definitely not just when the shit hits the fan.

Anger, frustration, embarrassment and other not-so-positive emotions can accumulate and cause tension between you and your partner if you don’t let them out through the proper channels – and by that, I mean without shouting, screaming, crying or being hysterical in general (and taking it out on your partner, at that). As the admin of this blog wrote in her previous post, you have to be attentive toward your partner and make sure there’s nothing wrong on their end — otherwise there’s quite a lot you’re going to miss.

But there is something you can do on your end, too. Some of the people I know aren’t that open with their partner, but really they mean well – they love their partner and think they’re being honest with them. What they don’t realize is that they’re not being honest with themselves first and foremost. There’s something they won’t admit to themselves or have convinced themselves is not true or of no consequence. But usually others – sometimes even their partner – can tell that something (that you don’t really see yourself with that person in the long term, that the sex isn’t really all that, that you’re repulsed by their porn habit even though Cosmopolitan says you should embrace it, that something about them just bothers you) is wrong and has been left unsaid. That is also the case with things you can admit to yourself, but not to your partner – sooner or later (most likely later, because they’re probably in denial too), they’ll figure out that you don’t really love them or that you’re actually allergic to their beloved cat Fluffy. And it’ll hurt so much more when they do.

So just be honest about things – with your partner, yes, but first and foremost with yourself. You’ll probably thank yourself later.

Rule #37- The Shift

via bugflickr

We’ve all gotten that awkward phone call from a close friend (that usually comes at an inconvenient hour of the night) telling you, in rather panicky voice, that they just got dumped. 

This is generally followed by a stammering rant about how ‘out of the blue’ the whole thing was, and how “things were going SO great before”…

Now, if there is one important lesson I have learned in life, it is that things are never just “out of the blue”.

We are all human, and as such, we are predictable. I don’t mean this in a mundane, condescending sort of way, but rather that most of our actions follow some sort of pattern. We are indeed creatures of habit, and even those people we classify as ‘unpredictable’ are predictably unpredictable.

So now that I’ve given a long convoluted introduction, let me explain.

Most people won’t just get up in the morning and decide to break off a relationship. There are signs, hints, changes in behavior; all of which, unfortunately, we tend to purposefully ignore — either that, or we are not paying enough attention to the other person.

I don’t for a second underestimate how strong denial/faith can be. I’m just saying that we can, and need, to train ourselves to be more perceptive of what’s going on in our relationships.

Rules for Paying Attention:

1. There are always signs.

I really wanted to emphasize that, because when you know someone well enough, you should be able to tell when somethings is wrong or has changed.

Their tone of voice, the amount of times they call or text you, how much sex you’re having. Some of these changes occur naturally with time, some are caused by stress or other factors.

You don’t need to over-analyze every tiny, little, minute shift in the relationship, but most of us don’t pay enough attention to these things — or to each other.

2. Be more attentive (also, to the little things). 

Changes in someone’s behavior might not mean they are about to dump you but they may very well indicate that something else is wrong (with work/family/their pet), and they probably need support, someone to talk to, or just the understanding that they are going through a rough time.

Just like we make time for work, the gym and our friends/family, It’s important to make time for just the two of you to talk, catch up, and stay in touch with what’s going on in each other’s lives.

Otherwise, you are likely to miss things. 

3. If you do think something is wrong, don’t sit around and wait for the other person to bring it up(or worse yet, ignore it).

It may be terrifying, but you need to bring it up. This is not a conversation you want to have hanging over your head. If your partner is unhappy, it’s better to ask, than spend the whole time worried sick that they are about to dump you.

Rule #34- Opening Up the Archives

via Adam Jones, Ph.D.

via Adam Jones, Ph.D.

A while back I was on a date; it was going well and I had just ordered my second beer. The chemistry was good, and for a change I was starting to enjoy myself. Soon I was lulled into a false sense of security, otherwise known as flowing conversation.

When out of nowhere came the following: “So, when was your last serious relationship and why did it end?”

Me, trying not to splutter my beer very inelegantly all over my date, and mumbling something about not wanting to talk about it.

I might be wrong about this (yes, that does happen sometimes!) but I firmly believe that the EX files need to stay shut, at least for the first few dates.

Rules for Dredging Up Your Past:

1. This conversation is bound to come up, the question is just when. There really is no good time to talk about your past failed relationships, there are just worse times (like first dates, or during/after sex).

If it comes up, let it, and be honest about why things ended.

2. Don’t badmouth, curse, or rant about your ex! Worst move ever; it just makes you seem a little petty. (Not to mention that there were probably some good things that made you two stay together for so long.)

Avoid sentences like; “That cheating bastard, speaking of cheating bastards, if you ever try anything like that, I’ll lop off your…” – well, you get the picture.

3. That said, there is no need for praise either. It will just make your date feel uncomfortable.

4. Try not to talk about your ex all the time. It may give the wrong impression that you aren’t over them (are you?).

Don’t say things like: “I don’t know where that lamp is from, my ex chose all the furniture”, or “ooo that reminds me of that one time we went hiking and…” Just rethink those kind of stories. 

We all have a past, and we are well aware of the fact that the person we are dating has one as well. But there really is no need to constantly reminisce about it. Mainly, because the last thing you want to do is make your present feel awkward, or give them the feeling that things aren’t quite over emotionally between you and your ex. 

At some point, when you both feel cozy, snug, and secure in the relationship it will probably be a non-issue, but until that point, just get through the mandatory “so we dated for five years, and before that there was…”, and stay away from the ten hour analytic speech about why it ended because of his fear of commitment.