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Dear Anita,

I was dating this guy for almost a year and he just dumped me. It took me by surprise and now I’m struggling. I think my friends are tired of hearing about him. It’s been three months since the breakup but I can’t get over it. Can you give me some tips to get over him please?

– Julia in Chicago

 

Hi Julia,

Being dumped by surprise can be one of the worst feelings. You can’t focus at work or school, you become obsessed with memories of your ex, and you lose your appetite. When my clients come to me in these kinds of situations, I find that tips with specific actions are extremely helpful. Here are a few to get you started:

 

  1. Date. I know it’s sometimes the last thing people want to do after a breakup, but there are so many men out there for you to go out and have fun with without the expectation of a serious relationship. Just be upfront about your intentions. You can tell your potential dates that you’re casually dating or wanting to explore the city, but aren’t looking for anything serious. Those who have similar intentions will stay in the game.
  1. Fill your time. If you used to make dinner with your ex every Sunday night, plan an activity that you’ll look forward to until the pain of Sunday nights subsides. Get together with your friends, volunteer, take a class, or catch up on your favorite shows. Fill that time that you used to spend with him doing something fun or productive. Some of my clients know when they’ll have idle time so they ask their friends to hang out – and promise not to bring up the ex!
  1. Plan for weak moments. You’ll have your weak moments when you may want to contact your ex. Have a go-to plan in place – exercise, call a friend, distract yourself with work, pick up a book, etc. And whatever you do, don’t cyber-stalk! You’ll be upset if you see something you don’t like or can’t explain – “Who is that girl in that photo with him?” Even better, unfriend him on Facebook if you haven’t already done so and if necessary, block him so you won’t sneak a peek. Also, allow your friends to take your phone away at times of weakness.
  1. Keep count. If you’re an “out of sight, out of mind” person this won’t work. But if you’re not, use a calendar to keep track of the days you’ve gone without contact. Having a visual reminder can also keep you from reaching out.
  1. Remember why you broke up. Visual reminders can be extremely helpful. Keep a list or use sticky notes with the reasons why you broke up in the first place. Leave them in your purse, put them on your nightstand or hang them on your fridge. Were there any red flags that you missed? Write those down and look at them often. If you had friends who disliked your ex, this would be a good time for them to remind you how much they disliked him.
  1. Avoid your relationship haunts.It’s ok to avoid your usual hangouts until you feel better. It doesn’t mean your ex has power over you, it means you’re paying attention to your emotions and doing what’s best for you in the moment.
  1. Get out of routine. Getting out of routine can elevate mood. Whether it’s taking up a new hobby, trying different restaurants, or taking a trip to a place you’ve never been, these little and big ways can make you feel happier, which can also give you hope that you can happily move on.

Although time can heal all wounds, it’s what you do with that time that can be a key difference to you healing more quickly.

 

I know, I know…some of you are rolling your eyes at the title of my blog. Seriously, what can The Bachelor teach us about love? When the first season aired in 2002, I too thought, What are these women thinking? Where’s their self-respect? But when I watched this season’s episodes, I had a different take on the show. It’s not because it’s any different now than 13 years ago, but because I’m different. In 2002 I was still in college. Now, I’m a dating and relationship coach who has spent the last several years specializing in love and researching what makes relationships work. It’s been my job to help my clients figure out why they act like they do when it comes to love. Are people truly crazy and irrational, or can behaviors actually make sense? In the context of love and our need to connect with a person, the bachelorettes’ behaviors seem pretty reasonable. Here are 4 lessons from The Bachelor that can be applied to your love life:

  1. The need to feel special.

During one of his guest appearances, Jimmy Kimmel made a joke about how many times the word “amazing” was uttered this season. But really the key word should’ve been “special.” Every woman on the show wants to feel special. It’s what the rose symbolizes–I choose you, you are different than the others.

Britt, after getting a rose on the stage of a Big & Rich concert, was sure feeling pretty special to Chris. But in the next episode she confronts Chris when Kaitlyn gets the rose over her. Britt wanted to know that she’s his top choice and said she literally asked and begged Chris for validation. She added that she doesn’t want her husband to see her as a second, third or fourth choice. We all want to feel special, to know our date or partner only wants us. We may focus on behaviors that show we’re unique, like how much time we spend together or the compliments and affection we receive. But how did social media spin Britt’s desire for this feeling? That she has a “meltdown” and “breakdown.” Although she could have picked a better time to be vocal, knowing the rules of The Bachelor isn’t enough to stop the heart from wanting what it wants.

  1. The importance of security.

During every episode I love to read the Twitter feed about the show. One word that pops up a lot is “crazy.” In the context of the need of feeling secure, the women’s behavior makes sense. The women do what they can to increase their feelings of security with the Bachelor–they pull him away from other women, sneak time with him, ask him where they stand, wondering if he reciprocates their feelings, etc. There’s nothing crazy about this. We all have the need to feel secure with the object of our desire.

Maybe you’ve had times in your love life when you haven’t been as sure that your date or partner likes and cares for you as much as you do. Maybe you’ve wondered about exclusivity with your partner–wondered about what the next step is, felt anxious about it and the uncertainty of not knowing. All of this is perfectly normal and to be expected. My female clients sometimes tell me that the man they’re dating or in a relationship with calls her “crazy.” Some women worry that they’ll come across as being too needy or desperate if they ask for reassurance about the relationship or seek affirmation of his feelings. But we all have the need to feel secure, and the more we feel this security with our partner, the stronger our relationship.

  1. The need to be vulnerable.

When Chris dismissed some of the bachelorettes, he said that things just hadn’t progressed as far as with the other women. I believe it. The women have mentioned having their guards up and not wanting to be hurt. In the episode when Kaitlyn was let go, she stated that the feeling of profound hurt she was experiencing was exactly what she had wanted to avoid. But being hurt is inevitable–none of us can avoid that. And being vulnerable is scary but a necessity in order to get your date or partner to truly know who you are as a person. Hopes, dreams, fears, the skeletons in our closet–when we share these things and get acceptance and support from our partner, it makes us feel closer. You have to take the risk. Without risk, deep intimacy is harder to come by.

  1. There’s more than one good match.

When there were 3 women remaining, Kaitlyn, Becca and Whitney, the Bachelor told the host Chris Harrison, “I’m down to three really excellent women that I can see myself spending the rest of my life with.” And he probably could make a lifetime work with each of them. The Bachelor has often said that a lot of the women on the show have various qualities that he would like in his future wife. The thing is, for all of us, we have to pick which ones are more important and be able to accept and work with the rest. Looking for “The One” can keep you single. There’s no way you can meet someone who sees eye-to-eye with you on everything. Many people can be a good fit, but you have to believe that in order to make it work with one person.

 

I received a question from a reader:

 

Dear Anita, I’m always single. I read advice online and my friends try to help me. What advice would you give me? I’d like to find love in 2015.

– Single in San Antonio

 

Dear Single,

 

I frequently get asked about my top tips to singles when they go on a date. Here are a few:

 

  1. Do be prepared for the date. Think of open-ended questions to ask your date, and brush up on current events. Although you don’t want to come across as interviewing your date, being prepared can help lessen anxiety and make you feel more at ease, which will help the conversation flow more naturally. Also, try to remember fun facts from their profile, any funny stories or places that they travelled to or any hobbies they have. This will help break the ice and build commonalities between you two.

 

  1. Don’t talk only about yourself. A date is a two-way street. Sure, you want to “sell” yourself, but your date also needs to know about you. Be aware of how often you talk about yourself and how many questions you ask your date. Showing interest can be a turn-on!

 

  1. Don’t dismiss your date too quickly. I’ve heard from many of my clients that they haven’t given someone a second chance because their date seemed “awkward” and “weird.” In reality, they seemed nervous. A first date can be an anxiety-provoking experience – give people a break! Sometimes people aren’t awkward, they’re just shy or socially anxious. It may take them another date to feel more confident and secure. If you’re attracted to them and had some fun, give them another chance.

 

  1. Don’t have a marathon date. Sure, it’s great to be having so much fun and chemistry that you want to have a 9-hour first date. Don’t do it. Leave room for mystery and leave your date wanting more.

 

  1. Don’t ask your date to accompany you to a big event in your life, like a wedding or other family event. This will freak them out! It’s too soon and puts too much pressure on your date. Wait until you’re exclusive for that kind of commitment.

 

  1. Don’t be intrusive. Asking your date how many people they’ve slept with or how much money they make is inappropriate. The first date should be about having fun and getting to know the basics. Keep things light. Feisty and healthy debate can come later in the relationship.

 

  1. Do make your date feel special, if you’re interested. Keep eye contact, smile, don’t check your phone, and don’t talk about exes. Keep your focus on the person in front of you and getting to know them better. Be appreciative and say “Thank you” if they pay for you. Be in the moment with your date.

 

  1. Don’t stalk them before the first date. Your view of your date can definitely be skewed if you “Google-stalk” them beforehand. If you check your date’s LinkedIn and Facebook profiles, and like what you see, it can lead to the belief that your date “is perfect on paper.” You can then ignore or minimize red flags because of a pre-conceived idea of who your date is. Also, I find that people are too picky when it comes to dating. I’m constantly telling my single clients that they have to pick what they can live with, because they won’t get that perfect person. So if you Internet stalk a date beforehand, and find one thing you don’t like, you could be turned off and think, “This would never work.” In reality, what you found is only a small snapshot of your date. And if they were amazing in other important ways but you didn’t give them a chance, you could miss out on an opportunity for love.

 

Ok ladies, ‘fess up. Have you been on a great date with a nice guy but he just didn’t do anything for you emotionally? He called when he said he would, confirmed plans, was a gentleman…but nothing in the feelings department. Nada. Zero. Zilch.

 

So you dump the nice guy and move on. You meet someone else, but this new guy gives you mixed signals. He calls, but takes his time doing so. He shows you that he’s interested in you, but you’re not exclusive since he’s still playing the field. You start to doubt his attraction to you, and you wonder if your relationship is even going anywhere.

 

But then he takes you on a date or compliments you, and you get butterflies. Your heart races and you’re happy, telling yourself that he’s interested and there’s a chance at a future together after all. But these feelings don’t last very long. He pulls back, he’s unpredictable with contact, but gives you just enough attention to keep you hooked. You may think, “If he just sees how awesome I am, he’ll want to be with me.” The uncertainty keeps you thinking about the guy all of the time, and your mood fluctuates based on whether you’ve heard from him or if he’s given you attention. You feel like you overanalyze everything.

 

If you’ve been on this emotional roller coaster often, chances are that you’ve mistaken your anxiety and uncertainty about the relationship as butterflies and chemistry (or for some, even love). This can be risky because you may be with a partner who’s not well suited for you. If you have a lot of anxiety, feeling calm with your date (like with a nice guy) may not be a bad thing. You seek closeness, want to be reassured and to know where you stand in a relationship. You may think you’re needy or clingy for wanting intimacy and reassurance, but in fact these are healthy for a relationship.

 

Intimacy and connection happen in a lot of ways, but one of them is by being vulnerable with our partner. In order to be able to share your hopes and dreams and fears openly, you need to feel secure with your partner. A nice guy who is consistent with his attention to you is much more likely to create and provide this security than the guys who leave you guessing about their interest in you.

 

As you date, pay attention if you find yourself feeling insecure and analyzing your date’s every action, and feeling bliss every once in awhile. Be aware that this may be your anxiety acting up because of his inconsistent actions, and not chemistry or passion.

 

So give the nice guy a chance, and you may get what you’re looking for and need to have a happy and fulfilling relationship.