I'm Dr Romance Ask Me Anything about dating and romance.

Tina B. Tessina
Jul 31, 2018

Hi, I'm Dr. Romance, AKA Tina B. Tessina, PhD a licensed psychotherapist in S. California, with 40 years’ experience in counselling individuals and couples. I've been happily married for 36 years.  I'm also the author of 15 books in 17 languages, including Dr Romance's Guide to Finding Love Today, How to be Happy Partners: Working it out Together, and How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free.  I also write the Dr Romance Blog and the Happiness Tips Newsletter.

Helping people find love, and then helping couples keep the love going, is what I do.  I can answer your questions on loneliness, finding love, how to create a happy relationship and to have fun and be safe while doing it.  Here are some things that can get in the way of finding love.

10 Reasons for Not Falling in Love                                                                                     

Although you might think of "falling in love" as romantic, we all fall in love many times in life: with a new lover, a new friend, a particularly cooperative co-worker, an appealing movie or TV star, a caring neighbour, siblings, children, relatives and even pets. Any close relationship involves falling in love at least a little bit, and it's these connections that make life pleasurable. 

But, sometimes making connections becomes scary, and you feel the need to protect yourself instead of reaching out with an open heart. I see many clients who have trouble connecting with others, making enjoyable friendships and have struggled with family members, so they experience relationships of all types as difficult and painful.  There are many reasons people hold back and remain closed off. Holding back and resisting caring can cause you to become overcommitted to certain relationships (co-dependent), too clingy in others, or to appear cold and standoffish. 

Here are ten reasons you may not feel comfortable being open and available for love: 

  1. You've been burned before: If you got hurt or disappointed in a prior relationship, you might be reluctant to take another risk.
  2. Shyness: Being afraid of meeting new people will hold you back from meeting the person you can fall in love with. No matter how cool you may be in your business dealings, with your friends, or in front of strangers you don't want to date, if you're contemplating meeting people to date, you may stammer, get tongue-tied, blush, fidget, look at everything but the person, your heart may race, and you can find yourself breaking out in all kinds of mannerisms that remind you of being a teen.
  3. Holding out for Mr./Ms. Right: If you reject everyone who seems less than perfect at first glance, you might reject the very one you could fall in love with if you got to know their finer qualities.
  4. Growing up in a dysfunctional family: Growing up with parents who fought a lot or were angry, cold or violent; or with a divorced or single parent who couldn't develop relationships that lasted can leave you without a skill set for finding and making a connection with a healthy person
  5. Sex too soon: Having sex right away changes your connection from possible relationship to a one-night stand. You can cease to be a person in your date's eyes, and just become a booty call.
  6. Body image issues: If you're too self-critical about your body and your look, you may be so self-obsessed that you never even notice when someone else likes you, and you miss your chance.
  7. Sexual hang-ups: if you're too focused on sex, or too repressed about it, you'll be reluctant to allow intimacy and love to grow.
  8. Violent history: If you were in a previous violent relationship, you'll have PTSD that will stop you from taking another risk.
  9. Low self-confidence: If you're not comfortable with yourself, you won't allow others to get close and discover you.
  10. Still Grieving: If you haven't recovered from your last relationship, it's too soon to let someone else in. I've seen many people in my office who say they don't want another relationship, or even a pet, because losing the last one hurt too much. 

No matter how well prepared you are, every new relationship will be unique.  Some will obviously be better than others.  The whole point of meeting new people is to get to know them and let them discover you. Since everyone you meet will be a unique individual, there's no way to be completely prepared for what will happen. Every new relationship is a surprise and a mystery. If you are prepared to learn and to be surprised, seeking to control only your own responses, and prepared to make realistic plans and decisions, you'll enjoy most of the experience. Caring means venturing into the unknown, exploring and learning, so enjoy the adventure, and you'll get the best results. 

If you are an adult, you have a lot of life experience, sometimes called baggage. Some of your experience will be helpful, and some will be problematic.  If you take the time to examine your history and experience, you'll find you've learned a lot, and when you learn from a loss or a mistake, you grow your emotional repertoire, and I think it's how we grow our souls. Ask me how to clean up your baggage.

The skill you've learned in your life, in work, with friends, in team sports and social events, and at school can be very helpful in all your relationships, if you understand that you can transfer other life skills to the dating situation.  If you hire and/or manage people in your job, for example, use the intuitive skill you've developed there to "Scope out" someone you've just met. Without being obvious, you can "interview" this person, and draw out information.  If what you hear would make you want to hire him or her, then a friendship might be a good experience. 

Emotional traumas from childhood and past relationships are called baggage because it's extra "stuff" carried into all your relationships, which affects how you perceive your interactions. 

Beginning (or even contemplating) a relationship activates these memories and brings your old fears and insecurities to the surface.  Old issues have not been resolved such as fear of abandonment, fear of intimacy, fear of rejection; will surface to be cleared away. For example, if you had a competitive relationship with your siblings, you may find yourself competing with other people in inappropriate ways. 

Once you learn, very early in life, that relationships, (including with your original family, childhood friendships, teenage friendships or adult relationships) don't happen automatically, and problems can come up, especially emotionally painful problems, it's very easy to become phobic, or intensely afraid, of being hurt or rejected. 

To overcome the fear, you need to learn to look at your relationships in a new way.  You can 'meet' people you already know; even family members, by looking at them differently.  Instead of thinking about your parent, sibling or extended family member in the same old way, try meeting them anew, as you would a stranger, and finding out who they are apart from what you already know.  Asking a family member about their history before you were born, or an experience they had that you were not part of will give you a new perspective. 

Because each new person is a new experience, you probably feel out of control; and you are.  There is no way to control what will happen, or how the other person will act or respond. However, you are always in control of your own actions and responses, and that can make a vast difference in how your friendships and relationships progress.  If you keep in mind that you get to choose what you say and do, and it's about enjoying the other person, not pleasing them, you'll have better results. 

Prior pain is often a reason why people dread a new experience. If your history of relationships has been painful, hurtful or a disaster; it's natural not to want to try it again.  But, even one good relationship experience can help heal the hurts from the past relationships that did not work out. 

Relationships cause you to grow emotionally, which can be a bit scary. If you keep in mind, however, that the "new you" you are creating will be happier, more socially confident, and very likely happier, you can overcome reluctance and get enthused.  You will actually be able to relax and have a good time.

Ask me anything about dating and relationships. I'm here to help!

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Do you think protecting oneself from heart break is not living life to the fullest? What would you tell someone who has opted for self preservation over finding or possibly falling in love?
Aug 2, 1:50PM EDT0

Mosaic Heart      By Tina B. Tessina

A fully living heart

In the passing of time

And love, and loss

Breaks and stretches

Heals and shatters.

Striated, scarred,

Misshapen, resilient

Until finally it assimilates

Its wounds and callouses

Into character.

A rare glimpse of this mosaic

(deep in eyes opened in surrender)

Reveals the soul's holy icon

Inscribed on the flesh

Inspired by love

Born of attachment and release

Colored in bits of joy and pain.

Dr. Romance's Guide to Finding Love Today

Aug 2, 3:15PM EDT1
How do you maintain the happiness in a relationship like when you first start dating?
Aug 2, 1:43PM EDT0

See "14 Things Happy Couples Do" in the answer below.  

 How to have a happy relationship:

Know the signs of a happy relationship: Cooperation and partnership, mutuality, laughter and affection. Don't nurture resentment: If you're feeling resentful of anything -- that's a definite warning. Resentment is like rust that can eat away at the foundations of the relationship. You need to talk about it, get it resolved. Notice little hurts and resentments, and don't let them pile up. Talk about it with your partner without being accusing. You can own that something hurt your feelings or upset you without blaming; and your partner is much more likely to own up if he or she does not feel accused. Most of the time your partner doesn't realize how you feel until you say it out loud. Take the time to know what you want to fix the problem before you bring it up. Understand why you're hurt, and whether it's something that actually comes from somewhere else -- like a previous relationship or your childhood -- or it's something particular to your partner. Then, figure out what you'll need to fix it.

Don't ignore arguments that won't go away and keep repeating. Companionable silence is good, resentful silence or hopeless silence (It's no use -- he/she won't listen anyway) are problems. Problems with sex often indicate problems with other kinds of communication.

How to Be Happy Partners: Working it out Together teaches you the skills you need to be happy together.

Aug 2, 3:09PM EDT1
How do you prepare yourself to learn and to be surprised, seeking to control only your own responses?
Aug 2, 12:08PM EDT0

There's a Zen concept called "beginner's mind" which is very helpful.  I explain how to use it in dating in Dr. Romance's Guide to Finding Love Today  also, read "Your Primary Relationship" in the free articles on my website.

Aug 2, 3:05PM EDT1
What advice do you have for those who have baggage from past serious trauma?
Aug 2, 11:43AM EDT0

Run, don't walk, to therapy.  Serious trauma requires serious work. It can be fixed, but you need someone expert and objective to help.  See "Guidelines for Finding and Using Therapy Wisely"  in the free articles on my website for how to go about it.   It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction will show you exactly what you need to do to resolve trauma.

Aug 2, 3:02PM EDT1
Anonymous

Hi, Tina!

I've recently 'left' my first serious relationship with a guy - he was nice, but we're just going in different directions and he's not that good for me. However, although we're officially over, we still see each other now and again and my friends are worried it's not letting me move on. What do you think?

Thank you!

Aug 2, 6:56AM EDT1

Trust your friends. They love you, and want you to be happy.  So, what do you think? Is "seeing each other now and again" keeping you from moving on? Try taking a complete break, and see if your motivation to date and find someone new comes back.  I'll bet it will.  Dr. Romance's Guide to Finding Love Today can help you move on and find a new love.

Aug 2, 2:58PM EDT0
Finding romance and a partner is not usually the hard bit. Maintaining the relationship and especially the romance is what is hard. What is your advice on this?
Aug 2, 3:18AM EDT0

14 Things Happy Couples Do

*Learn Patience: Discontent and frustration are destructive, because they give rise to hopelessness and despair. If you and your partner can't solve problems, communicate or get along, both of you will lose hope that you will ever be able to enjoy each other or life together. When you're frustrated and hopeless, you lack patience and the ability to think clearly and creatively.

*Don't be cool: Today's popular culture is cynical and 'cool' -- expressions of love are often looked on as embarrassing and awkward. But, keeping love alive and flowing in your relationship is essential to being happy with each other. Set aside your reluctance, and let each other know when you feel loved, and appreciate (with verbal thanks, with flowers and candy, with dinners out, with a hug or a kiss) your spouse's efforts to love you. No matter how awkward you feel at first, you'll soon enjoy being in the loving atmosphere that results

*Go for the fair deal: If you're worried that your partner isn't feeling loved or appreciated, don't let it pass. Ask about it. Bring it up whether you think you are getting a less than fair deal, or a more than fair deal

*Don't resist, listen. We often have a knee-jerk negative response to what a mate tells us, or wants to do. Instead of replying negatively, "That won't work..." "We can't do that..." Try listening and thinking for a few seconds more. You may find out your initial response changes, and at any rate, listening and understanding is not the same as agreeing. When your spouse feels that you care about what he or she is saying, the nature of the communication will change for the better.

*Smile in the eyes: Unless your partner is talking about something really sad (job loss, death, etc.) where a smile would be inappropriate, look him or her in the eyes and smile while you're listening. Your companion will automatically feel more understood and cared about, which will change the feeling level of the discussion. Don't stare unblinkingly, just look for a few seconds at a time, to communicate your attentiveness.

*Touch each other. Sit near your significant other, and gently place your hand on his or her shoulder, leg, or arm. If you're in the car, lightly touch his or her shoulder or arm. You'll find your conversation becomes warmer and more caring. If you've been struggling, or are ready to forgive each other, facing each other and holding both hands will help you feel more positively connected and reassured.

*Keep sex alive. Learn the skills of keeping sex alive in the long term. Don't expect the same breathlessness as you have early in a new relationship. Instead, make sex about enjoying each other, being close, keeping each other happy.

*Try laughter. If something frustrating is happening, try easing the tension with a bit of humor. After a difficult interaction in a store, on the way out, you could say, "That went well." with a touch of irony. Or, when someone drops something and makes a mess, you could say, "the gremlins are here again."Or use comic lines like "It's always something" or "It could happen" to change stress to silliness. Don't poke fun at your mate, but use shared humor as a way to say "I know this is tough, but we'll get through it."  Your mate will think of you as someone soothing and helpful to have around when problems happen.

*Use pleasant surprises.Try a love note in your spouse's briefcase, a post-it with a smiley face on the underside of the toilet seat, a flower, plant, card or balloon for no reason, or an unexpected gentle pat on the rear,a hug or a kiss to say "I'm thinking good thoughts about you, and I love you."

*Ramp up the sweetness. Married life has its unavoidable stresses and strains. To keep things in balance, we need to put a bit of energy into increasing the sweetness between us. Thoughtfulness, 'thank you's' and gestures of politeness and affection are the WD-40 of your marriage. Keep things running smoothly by remembering to add a spritz of sweetness frequently. You'll be amazed at how good you feel, and how much more responsive your partner is.

*Schedule time together.No matter how crazed you are with work, kids and bills, it's essential to put aside regular time each week for the marriage. Have a "date night" which includes a "state of the union" discussion or take a pleasant walk or drive. Keeping connected means things don't build up to fighting status, and you'll remember how good you are together. Don't forget to celebrate and appreciate each other. Motivation comes from celebration and appreciation, so when you spend pleasant time together, you'll both be more motivated to make your marriage as good as possible.

*It's a partnership! Keep in mind that before anything else, you're partners, so check frequently to make sure you're not acting like competitors or avoiders. You're in this thing together, and partnership is what it'sall about.

*Reminisce about Good Times "Remember when..." is a great beginning to a loving conversation. It creates so much good feeling to remember how you were when you were dating, when you got married, when you first bought your house, when you had your first child, when you got that promotion. Reminding yourselves of your solid history together is a way to increase your bond.

*Brag to friends in your mate's hearing. Of course, tell your mate to his or her face how much you care, but also be sure to tell your friends, while your mate is around, what a great guy or gal you married. "Harold is so thoughtful. Today he helped me around the house." Or "Sue is such a great mom. She really gives the kids a sense that they're loved and she still keeps them toeing the mark." Or, "Did you hear? Fred got a big promotion. I'm so proud of him." Or, "I don't know what I'd do without Judy. She's so great with money." Or, "Doesn't my sweetie look great today? I'm so lucky." Don't worry if your partner looks embarrassed. He or she will also be pleased, and remember your brag for a long time.

From How to Be Happy Partners: Working it out Together

Aug 2, 2:56PM EDT1
What strategies do you have to get rid of emotional baggage from past relationships and that is causing trouble in your current relationship?
Aug 1, 6:26PM EDT0

If you have lost a previous relationship, you may have baggage: leftover anger, hurt, fear or grief that will cause you to react differently in the next relationship. Baggage can also be left over from a difficult family situation or a poor self-image. You can learn how to unpack your baggage, resolve old fears and problems, and get a fresh start at love and life.If you take the time to examine your history and experience, you'll find you've learned a lot, and when you learn from a loss or a mistake, you grow your emotional repertoire, and I think it's how we grow our souls. The skill you've learned in your life, in work, with friends, in team sports and social events, and at school can be very helpful in all your relationships, if you understand that you can transfer other life skills to the dating situation. If you hire and/or manage people in your job, for example, use the intuitive skill you've developed there to scope out someone you've just met. Without being obvious, you can interview this person, and draw out information. If what you hear would make you want to hire him or her, then a friendship might be a good experience.Beginning (or even contemplating) a relationship activates these memories, and brings your old fears and insecurities to the surface. Old issues have not been resolved such as fear of abandonment, fear of intimacy, and fear of rejection will surface to be cleared away. For example, if you had a competitive relationship with your siblings, you may find yourself competing with other people in inappropriate ways. Once you learn, very early in life, that relationships, (including with your original family, childhood friendships, teenage friendships or adult relationships) don't happen automatically, and problems can come up, especially emotionally painful problems; it's very easy to become phobic, or intensely afraid, of being hurt or rejected.To overcome the fear, you need to learn to look at your relationships in a new way. You can 'meet' people you already know; even family members, by looking at them differently. Instead of thinking about your parent, sibling or extended family member in the same old way, try meeting them anew, as you would a stranger, and finding out who they are apart from what you already know. Asking a family member about their history before you were born, or an experience they had that you were not part of will give you a new perspective.Because each new person is a new experience, you probably feel out of control; and you are. There is no way to control what will happen, or how the other person will act or respond. However, you are always in control of your own actions and responses, and that can make a vast difference in how your friendships and relationships progress. If you keep in mind that you get to choose what you say and do, and it's about enjoying the other person, not pleasing them, you'll have better results. Prior pain is often a reason why people dread a new experience. If your history of relationships has been painful, hurtful or a disaster; it's natural not to want to try it again. However, it’s worth a try, because even one good relationship experience can help heal the hurts from the past relationships that did not work out.Relationships cause you to grow emotionally, which can be a bit scary. If you keep in mind, however, that the new self you are creating will be happier, more socially confident, and very likely happier, you can overcome reluctance and get enthused. You will actually be able to relax, and have a good time. In addition to feeling one-down because you can’t live up to a mega-star image, you may be suffering some wounds from past relationship problems. Relationships that don’t last, especially the ones that end badly, or that were painful, can undermine your self-confidence (especially if it was not too solid to begin with) and make you reluctant to try again. Even a wonderful relationship which ended only because your partner died can be scarring. Bonding with someone is risky, because there’s always a possibility you might have to go through the searing pain of loss, or the terrible ordeal of watching your beloved die, while you stand by helpless.Once you’ve suffered problems, pain and loss like this, it takes great courage to begin all over again. This guide will help you recover from your past pain and loss, and gain the courage to bounce back and try again. Whatever route brought you here, you are contemplating finding love today, and that means you’re at least feeling ready enough to think about it.As we mentioned in the introduction, if you are an adult, and not dating for the very first time, you have a lot of life experience and baggage. Some of your experience will be helpful, and some will be problematic. If you take the time to examine your history and experience, you’ll find you’ve learned a lot. The skill you’ve learned in your life, in work, with friends, in team sports and social events, and at school can be very helpful in meeting new dates. Many people, especially if they’re nervous about dating, don’t realize they can transfer other life skills to the situation. You can use your life experience, such as business skills, to improve the odds of success.    It Ends with You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction has many exercises and techniques for clearing up past hurts and traumas.

Aug 1, 9:25PM EDT1
Some people say falling in love using your head is far better than doing it with your heart since walking away is easier. What impact would such a foundation have on a relationship?
Aug 1, 4:04PM EDT0

I believe in using both head and heart.  You want to be attracted to a person, of course, but you can be attracted to a con artist, so it's not a good criteria all by itself.  Traditional parents want to choose partners for their children based on the head alone. Is this a good match? Does the partner come from a good background? Will they be financially secure?  But we rejected that system because it wasn't enough about love.  So, use both your head and your heart to consider: not only are you excited, but does this relationship have a chance to succeed?

Romance’s 3 tips to finding true love 

  1. Know the difference between fooling around and building a real relationship. You can mess around with anyone (if you’re careful and have safe sex) but before you bring someone into your life, or share money or living space, remember they’re bringing baggage. Know what’s hidden – what’s not said at the beginning. Their baggage becomes your problem. Remember, whoever you’re dating is on best behavior.  It gets worse later, not better.
  2. Understand your own needs. Need a lot of space? Want lots of affection? Have to know what’s going on all the time? Or are you able to relax and go with the flow? Whatever your style is, it’s OK, but you need to know it and be able to communicate it to your future spouse.  You can train each other, if you both know what you need. 
  3. Don’t seek romance, seek partnership. Romance is for dates, and fun to have on occasion in your marriage, but it’s partnership that will get you through the rough times. Don’t look for someone who sweeps you off your feet.  That indicates a control freak, and you won’t like what happens later.  Look for someone who likes give-and-take, who seeks your opinion and considers it, who cares about what you want, too.There's a lot more about choosing wisely in Dr. Romance's Guide to Finding Love Today

 

Aug 1, 5:00PM EDT1
What are your thoughts on dating sites? Do you think it is a viable option for someone who has failed to meet a potential partner?
Aug 1, 2:02PM EDT0

Dating sites will present you with a huge pool of potential dates, but despite their claims, the success rate is not good.  Dr. Romance's Guide to Finding Love Today  will help you navigate the dating sites, and also show you easier and more fun ways to meet new partners safely.

Aug 1, 2:21PM EDT1
What tips can you offer to someone that has already been in many relationships, always ends up alone? How do you enjoy new adventures when you have seen lots of breakups?
Aug 1, 12:56PM EDT0

Maybe it's time to examine your definition of what a relationship is, your responsibility in a relationship, and how to choose a reliable partner.  Also, abandonment issues left over from early life can cause you to act in ways that make a partner leave.  if that's the issue, get counseling before going out to date again. Here are some basics on what makes relationships last:

The skills couples need to keep intimacy alive in a long-term relationship differ from new relationship intimacy skills, and they're not obvious because people don't talk about them. Most couples need to lower their expectations of romance and glamour and raise the level of fun they have together. Regular weekly talks (I call them State of the Union discussions) keep the problems minor, the resentment level down, and the communication open, so that there is time and space for intimacy. In a successful, long term relationship, passion becomes a shared sense of humor and goodwill toward each other. I spend every day teaching couples how to do these things.

1. Learn to negotiate and solve problems together. Generally speaking, men value competency and problem solving. Women value intimacy and emotional connection. Learning successful problem solving ends fighting and power struggles, and therefore leads to more intimacy. You may think a partner is focused entirely on time, power or money, but what he or she is really trying to do is create enough security that he can feel safe to let their guard down.

2. Make time for intimacy: Regard your face to face time as sacred (it is --it will bless your marriage.) Take time to listen to each other. Touch as often as possible (put your hand on your spouse's leg while driving; give him or her a little squeeze now and then, hug and kiss each other.) Create a cuddling space in front of the television, on the porch swing, in your bedroom,and use it. Intimacy is the art of making your partner feel understood and accepted. When this feeling is created, barriers fall. Gentle touch, eye contact a gentle sense of humor and the right words all create the atmosphere. Positive comments on your partner's looks or the day's activities positively will also help. Couples disconnect when they don't feel interested in each other any more. To reconnect, make an effort to listen and understand each others’ needs and wants.

3. The most powerful thing you can do to keep a marriage strong is form a partnership, a team, where both parties feel respected, cared about and needed. If you really want to restore the marriage, begin not by complaining, but by seeking to understand your partner. Once the connection is there, you can begin to work out the issues.

4. Don't hold a grudge: Talk about what's bothering you in a rational way. Ask clearly for what you want, and let your partner know why it's important to you. If you can't find a way to agree, go for a counseling session. Resentment will destroy your marriage --for the price of one session, before the problem gets too large, you can save it.

5. Show your appreciation: Let your partner know you appreciate what he or she does, personality traits, (i.e.: his sense of humor, her generosity, his practicality, her hard work) and companionship. The more you praise what you like, the more you'll get of it. We all want to be appreciated. Celebration + appreciation = motivation.

How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free 4th Edition will show you a different way to look at love and relationships 

Aug 1, 2:18PM EDT1

Do you think there's true love in open relationships?

Aug 1, 12:43PM EDT0

Sometimes, open relationships happen because of true love. A couple who have been together a long time are looking for some excitement, so they try an open relationship.  Often people in swinging or open relationships have been married for years, and are looking for ways to spice up their sex lives. Others espouse polygamy (meaningful relationships with more than one person) from the beginning. Either way, it's not an easy thing to do successfully, and usually jealousy and other issues crop up frequently.

Monogamy and commitment create an environment of trust and security, where love and mutual caring can thrive. When a couple makes that commitment, it isn't only about not having sex outside the relationship, it's also about talking openly about temptations, discussing what is and is not working about the relationship, and seeking solutions together.

Monogamy and commitment create an environment of trust and security, where love and mutual caring can thrive. When a couple makes that commitment, it isn't only about not having sex outside the relationship, it's also about talking openly about temptations, discussing what is and is not working about the relationship, and seeking solutions together.

How to Talk about Opening the Relationship

The trust issues that accompany open sexuality are not easy to handle, when the whole society says what you're doing is "wrong". Yet we have to begin somewhere. Here's how to open up the discussion:

*Check your "facts". You can read books or enroll together in a Human Sexuality course. You'll find it fun, educational, and stimulating to conversation. Another way to get a good education is to volunteer to work on a Sex Information Hotline. You'll receive first-rate training in Human Sexuality, and answering the phones will open your eyes wide.

*Honor your wants and needs. If you have ever "cheated" in a relationship, find out why. Have an honest talk with yourself about whether or not monogamy is right for you. If necessary, a sex counselor can help you sort it out.

*When you negotiate your relationship contract, remember you must be able to carry out your promises. Leave room for renegotiation, for mistakes, for confusion.

*Learn about maintaining joy, fun, and lively sexuality over the "long haul". There are many workshops and classes you can take.

*Don't use monogamy to hide from sexual honesty. Be willing to talk about sex, to discuss problems, what you enjoy, and what new, exciting changes you can make.

*If you decide on monogamy, be sure your decision is mutual and voluntary. If you feel pressure building in yourself or your partner, or your sexual energy fades rather than grows, consider other options.

*If you want monogamy, be sure that you can maintain it yourself. Maintaining monogamy is not simply being faithful, but also keeping the sexuality within your relationship alive and well. Nothing contributes to infidelity more than frustration and dissatisfaction.

*Care about your partner's sexual satisfaction, too. Find ways to have fun and giggle. Take the pressure off both of you as much as possible.

*If you choose an open lifestyle, remember to play safe. Develop clear guidelines and stick to them. If you believe your partner will not honor safe sex agreements, then practice safe sex yourself (know your partners, use condoms, limit play to masturbation) even with your spouse until your mutual trust grows.

*Have a secret signal meaning "I need to talk" to use during social and/or sexual activities, and honor it. *Monogamous or open, if either of you does not live up to your mutual contracts, get help before the problem gets worse. If you can't be honest with your partner, tell a sex counselor.

*If your present sexual relationship is unsatisfactory, you can improve it. Even people who have not had sex together for years can rediscover each other and heal old wounds and problems. See my book How to Be Happy Partners: Working it out Together for detailed exercises on renewing and rejuvenating your longterm relationship.

Aug 1, 2:06PM EDT1

Do you agree on what most peole say "opposites attract"? Don't you think that things tend to be better when we are with someone who has a lot in common with us?

Aug 1, 12:40PM EDT0

It seems logical that like would attract like, but in my private practice, I often see people drawn to their opposite – because it's new and exciting. But, if there's not a certain degree of similarity between you and your partner, the relationship will be too stressful. The excitement and challenge of your relationship comes from your differences, the security and ease of your relationship comes from your similarities. It's not that men are from Mars, women from Venus -- it's that all of us have grown up on different planets. Whatever your family did seems "normal" and "right" to you, and couples can get caught up in arguing about who's right, rather than focusing on what will work. Blended couples have blended children, who need *both* cultures. Learning to combine traditions, cuisines and family celebrations can really create a brand-new culture that celebrates everyone. I have helped many couples accomplish this.  

Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences is all about how to deal with your opposite.

Aug 1, 1:57PM EDT1
Dating today is so different from the way it was years ago. The dating scene has changed considerably and it is difficult for a person who has not been in the dating scene for a while. Do you think such a person should change her expectations and adapt to way things are today?
Aug 1, 7:38AM EDT0

You're right, dating has changed, but what it takes to find and create a healthy relationship hasn't.  Adapting to the current methods of connecting is valuable to a point. but getting to kno if the person you've met is trustworthy hasn't changed.

The pseudo anonymity of the Web makes it tempting to take risks, or to establish a false persona. Both of which can be devastating to relationships. If it's on the web, false screen name or not, it's findable.

 Don't interpret interpret your date’s online presence, ask! If you see something on their Facebook wall, or in an e-mail, go ahead and ask. Facebook is public, it's not like reading private mail or a diary -- just ask what's going on, and give your date a chance to explain. Give him or her the benefit of the doubt. Definitely don't sit around making up stories -- you'll think up a lot more scary stuff than is really happening.

 Dating Do’s and Don’ts in the Digital Age

DO'S

*Do use social media: Meetups are a great way to meet new people.

*Do shop around: keep your options open until you have enough experience and information to make a choice.

*Do move from email and phones to face to face as quickly as possible. There’s no other way to tell if you’ve got chemistry.

*Do listen: You'll learn more if you relax and listen more than you talk.

*Do focus on friendship. Concentrate on developing the friendship. Romance follows later.

*Do get feedback: Offer your comments on the event or the restaurant, and ask your date what he or she thinks.

*Do let your date know if you had fun: A compliment is always welcome. If you'd like meet again, say so.

*Keep your promises: If you've decided not to see this date again, don't make empty promises. Call if you said you would.

*Do tell the truth: But not too much. You don't need to tell about other dates if you’re not exclusive.

*Do pay attention: seek to discover your date’s character, not just looks and charm.

*Do research into a new date: use Google, look at Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites to see what they reveal about this person.

DON'TS

*Don’t spend too much time on dating sites, email or phone. Meet in person ASAP.

*Don't assume you’re dating exclusively if you haven’t discussed it.

*Don’t get involved with someone who lives far away. You’ll waste a lot of time and money, and they usually don’t work out.

*Don't be afraid of a little silence. Allow the conversation to flow naturally and unforced.

*Don't rush into sex: Going slowly into sex reduces the risk of STDs; avoids the awkwardness of intimacy with a total stranger; stops codependent obsession; and makes sex more special. There's no advantage in rushing -- when sex is right, it will happen.

*Don't date beyond your budget. It doesn't impress your date if it isn’t real, and "buying” someone’s company doesn't work. Discuss income differences frankly early on. If your date spends a lot you can even the tally with a home-cooked meal, a handmade gift, or needed repair work.

*Don't get too self-conscious. The media focus on youth and fitness can make you feel insecure and unattractive. Look your best, and then forget about it. Instead of worrying what your date thinks of you, focus on what you think of your date.

*Don’t stalk a new date on Facebook, Twitter or other social media sites. It’s great to look, but don’t comment on or “like” everything. It’s creepy.

*Don’t have questionable stuff on your own social media sites. Your date will research you, too.

Dr. Romance's Guide to Finding Love Today has a lot more on this topic.

Aug 1, 1:51PM EDT1
How can someone who has been burned before find the heart to love again or better yet, love without always worrying that the person will let her down?
Aug 1, 6:03AM EDT0

Yes.  This is a good reason to go for counseling.  

1, When you break up from a significant relationship, you'll go through the classic stages of grief:

Denial: maybe he'll call again, maybe she didn't really mean it… Or, staying way too long, because you don't want to face that the relationship isn't working.

Anger: If your ex breaks it off, you're going to be upset. Even if you're the one who broke it off, you'll be angry at the loss of your dreams. Sometimes, this anger is what it takes to leave the relationship.

Bargaining: For a dating breakup, I'd call this the rebound stage: I'll show him/her. I'll go find someone else right away. Men usually do this faster than women, but any relationship entered into in this stage usually has problems. In some cases, this is a stage of idealizing the ex.

Depression: Isolating, staying home, not trying anything new. This ends when the real tears start, because the tears are a sign of acceptance.

Acceptance/Rebuilding: This is the stage of new energy, where you decide to do something different, from a new hair cut to building a whole new life. People often do well in therapy here -- figuring out what went wrong, and how not to repeat mistakes, and then find a new love.

2. Gender differences: Men deny their feelings, and go right out on the hunt again. It feels good for a while, but they wind up with bigger problems in the new relationship, because they weren't ready, and they got into it for the wrong reasons. To really feel better, they have to face their own responsibility in past relationships that didn't work, make changes, and begin having relationships on a brand-new basis.

Women honor their feelings, sometimes even wallowing in them. However, when they emerge, they're usually stronger and more self-aware. If you get stuck in the wallowing phase, that's a good time to get therapy to reassess how you view yourself and what you want.

3. Getting over the heartache: Don't get too dramatic. It's not anguish, it's grief. You lost something you wanted, it feels bad. It's not cancer or paralysis or death. Learn to grieve and accept the loss, and then build on what you learn to make future relationships more functional and realistic. If you accept the need to learn, and the responsibility for whatever you messed up (including choosing the wrong type of person) you'll have something much better next time.

4. Break off contact with your ex You need time to grieve and reflect, and you can't do that by stalking your ex's Facebook page. Understand that texting and calling work against you, make you look really bad and unattractive, and hurt your self-esteem. If you can't stop, you're codependent and should attend Co-Dependents Anonymous or get therapy. Put reminders away: Pack up all souvenirs, gifts, pictures, and other reminders of the relationship, seal the box (so it's not easy to open) and put them away somewhere until you get past the worst of the loss. Then you can take it out and decide what you want to keep.

5: Fill your time: Reading is very absorbing -- it uses more of your brain than watching TV or listening to music, so it's a good way to take your mind off someone for a short period. However, avoiding the grief is not healthy. Journaling or writing or talking to friends (one reason CoDA works) will help you process the loss: what happened, what you could have done better, what you need to learn about relationships.Take a trip if you can-- or spend some time in another place. See if you can visit your sibling or old friend in another town. It takes you away from reminders. Do some project you've always wanted to do -- climb that hill, learn to snowboard or study Chinese, take up that hobby, write the Great American Novel. Do something useful and productive that will keep your "monkey mind" busy. Volunteer somewhere or join a new social group or sports activity. Working together with other people will feel good, and not be too risky too soon. Besides, it's the best place to (eventually) meet your perfect mate

6. What to avoid: Do Not: Escape into alcohol, get violent or depressed, attempt suicide, badmouth your ex to everyone you know, sleep for days, hide out and isolate completely (a little alone time is good for reflection -- isolation is a sign of depression.)

How long it takes to get over a breakup really depends more on how attached you were than how long you were together. It also depends on your personal emotional health. If you're resilient, with healthy self-esteem, you'll bounce back quicker. So much drama is out there now about the "excruciating pain" of a breakup, that it takes many people much longer than it should. For a relatively short relationship, figure a couple of months to bounce back. For one lasting a couple of years or longer, it can take six months to a year. For a 30 year marriage, like mine, it takes between two and three years to feel somewhat better.

When I counsel someone through breakup recovery:

First, I encourage them to talk about it, until the initial upset and hysteria calm down.

Second, we analyze what happened, what was good about the relationship, what went wrong, and what my client's responsibility was for the breakdown of love.

Third, we work through past relationships and childhood and look for similarities (abandonment issues, fear of commitment, conflict avoidance, codependency) and then heal those issues, correct the belief systems, and re-define love and relationships to a more functional definition.

Fourth, we create a plan of action for my client to follow.

Fifth, I support the client in carrying out the plan.

Sixth, I congratulate them on the new, healthy relationship they've found (yes, really) I often get invited to the wedding.

Dr. Romance's Guide to Finding Love Today  will help you recover from your past and find new love.

Last edited @ Aug 1, 1:40PM EDT.
Aug 1, 1:38PM EDT1
Can you explain more about how people can transfer other life skills to the dating scene?
Aug 1, 2:04AM EDT0

There are a lot of life skills that are applicable to dating and relationships:

Planning: If you do planning at work, or as a single parent for your kids or extended family, or even just for yourself, those skills will help you plan things to do on dates, and later on, as a relationship grows, help you plan for your own developing family.

Negotiation: Negotiation is a vital part of every relationship. Couples who can negotiate successfully can work together to create the life they want. Negotiations begin in the very first stages of dating, when you discuss where to go and what to do, and they become more important as intimacy and the relationship develops. If you have negotiation skills from business interactions, you can apply those same skills toward interpersonal interactions.

Communication: Knowing how to talk to people is key to all relationships, including your dating relationships. If you can communicate with people at work, with customers, with friends, you can use those skills to communicate successfully with dates and your eventual relationship. Couples make a big mistake when they don't use their effective communication skills because they're in an emotional situation. Emotional responses are not very effective communication.

Domestic skills: If you have domestic skills like cooking, baking, home repair and homemaking, you can use them to enhance budding relationships. My husband and I spent our courtship fixing up a terrible wreck of a house together, beginning to create the beautiful home we have lived in for 36 years. As we worked on the house together, at first pulling up old, smelly carpet; then replacing the broken down fireplace, then gutting and rebuilding the kitchen, we learned a lot about working together, appreciating each other's talents and skills, and creating a shared dream out of two individual lives. You can use your domestic skills to enhance early dating (creating a picnic for the park, using repair skills to help your date out) and give your date some insight into what a great partner you would be.

Financial skills: Every successful relationship is a financial partnership. You will need to budget, earn, spend, invest, and grow your savings and equity. If you have financial skills from work or your own experience, they will be very valuable as your new relationship grows. Also, having financial savvy can help you decide which dates have the potential to become a successful mate.

Fun skills: Knowing how to have fun is a very valuable skill. Couples who can laugh and enjoy life together stay together. Don't let your dating life become too serious. If you can't laugh together, when the passion calms down, there won't be much left.

How to Be Happy Partners: Working it Out Together will show you more about using your life skills in dating and relating.

Aug 1, 4:12AM EDT1
Do you think dating apps and sites are as useful a resource for meeting people as conventional methods? Is there a better way to go about it?
Jul 31, 7:37AM EDT0

Dating apps and sites have worked for some people, but it can be tough and discouraging.  The odds are better if you're young and attractive.  See the answer below for women who are frustrated with the dating scene.  It's much more fun and easier to use the "get a life" method I've outlined there.  When you meet people in an organic way, because you're doing things you love, you already have things in common with them, and you get to know some things about them before you decide you want to date.  A mutual attraction that develops is based on who you really are, not some online advertisement you've both uploaded.  For more on this, see Dr. Romance's Guide to Finding Love Today. It shows you how to be successful with apps and online,  as well as a lot of more fun alternative ways to meet.

Jul 31, 1:23PM EDT1
In your expert opinion, is it possible to be in love with two people at the same time?
Jul 31, 1:03AM EDT0

Yes, it's possible, but it's not easy.  I don't think there's really a limit to love.  We can love children, family members, friends, and there are a lot of people who can have multiple partners in polyamorous relationships.  But that is very difficult. The complexity of the connections rises exponentially when you add another person.  

However if you're talking about the "torn between two lovers" scenario, in my counseling experience, that usually means that neither one is quite right.  In this case, usually each person you think you love has part of what you really want in a partner.  Keep looking until you are whole-hearted about someone.  

Dr. Romance's Guide to Finding Love Today can help you figure out exactly what you want in a partner, 

Jul 31, 2:55AM EDT1
What is your advice to single women who are frustrated with the dating scene?
Jul 30, 11:17PM EDT0

Your frustrations are understandable. They are created by the prevalent fantasy about dating: You and some person you don’t know will meet, make an instant, 100% accurate evaluation of each other, decide to go out, and spend an evening together falling in love.

No wonder that’s scary — it may happen in the movies, but it’s just plain impossible in a real life like yours. If you have been dating according to that plan, you have probably had some miserable evenings. You just don’t know enough about the other person, at first sight to declare your interest and guarantee that extended, one-on -one contact will be pleasant. There have to be better ways to accomplish meeting and getting to know people.

You may not have thought about it this way, but successful dating requires skill, and the various skills it requires have to be learned somewhere. You can learn them by trial-and-error, but that’s painful and time-consuming. And, out here in the grown-up world alone, dating strangers can even be dangerous.

Fortunately, , there’s a “technology of dating” that works, and you can learn it in Dr. Romance's Guide to Finding Love Today.

By the dating scene, I think you mean dating apps, blind dates, and Internet sites.  Online dating seems easy. You don't have to get dressed and go out, you can sit in your pj's and surf the Net. With all the energy put on social media these days, it's the first thing that people think of, and they can't think of any attractive alternatives. . The internet is a giant pit of temptation, and not easy for people to resist. You're also right about computer matching sites -- they have to be somewhat unsuccessful at pairing people in order to stay in business.

Online dating sounds easy, but it's rife with pitfalls. You're missing so many of the cues you get from seeing a person face-to-face, not to mention from seeing him or her interact with other people. Despite the fact that online dating is hugely popular, In my clinical experience, it's not very successful for most people in terms of finding a relationship. You need to know what cues to watch for in a profile and in e-mail conversations, how to protect yourself from fraud, and how to safely meet face-to face. To many men, online dating seems to be a huge pool of candidates for one-night stands, so it tends to work against developing relationships.

Then, there's the method I recommend, which I call the "get a life" method. That is, you develop a social circle you enjoy and spend time with friends, doing things that are productive and things that you enjoy. If you allow this social circle to be large enough, you'll find plenty of people to date, and you'll already know what kind of people they are before you date them.

If you do connect with someone online, make sure that person's friends ASAP. Have him or her meet your friends. Do a lot of group activities, don't begin by being alone together. A con artist can easily fool you one-on-one, but will have a harder time in a group, and the group will guard your safety.. You'll get to see the grittier aspects of your date's personality when you share group activities, especially if they are challenging. If you think something you say will ruin the relationship, then screw it up right away -- you want to know if you two can work through difficulties.   

The Get a Life method is safe, fun and effective.  Try it, you'll see.

Jul 30, 11:35PM EDT1
How should people deal with grief after a breakup?
Jul 30, 9:06PM EDT0

To move on after a breakup:

  1. If you gave it your best shot, and you know it's over, don't waste time in resentment and anger, it's self-destructive. Let go. Do your grieving, cry, journal, and talk about alone, or with a trusted friend. Have a "letting go" ceremony with close friends, and say goodbye to your married life. Put reminders away for a while.
  2. Don't hesitate to get therapy to help you through this transition, so you can grieve what's lost (even if you're the one who left, you've lost your hopes and dreams for this marriage) and move your focus on to building a good life in your new circumstance. A professional viewpoint will help you move from past to present, and plan for the future. 
  3. Take care of yourself financially -- a good lawyer can help you fight for your rights.  You'll feel a lot less resentment if you get your fair share of the assets. 
  4. This is an important time to have your friends or family around you, you need support.  Don't isolate.  You don't have to go right out and date again (go slow with that) but you should have a social life with friends and family.  Even if you don't think you feel ready to see people, see your closest friends and spend time with them. They'll help you heal, and remind you that you still have people who love you.

The stages of breakup recovery follow the stages of grief:

Denial: maybe he'll call again, maybe she didn't really mean it… Or, staying way too long, because you don't want to face that the relationship isn't working.

Anger: Pretty self-evident. If someone breaks it off, you're going to be upset. Even if you're the one who broke it off, you'll be angry at the loss of your dreams. Sometimes, this anger is what it takes to leave the relationship.

Bargaining: For a dating breakup, I'd call this the rebound stage: I'll show him/her. I'll go find someone else right away. Men usually do this faster than women, but any relationship entered into in this stage usually has problems. In some cases, this is a stage of idealizing the ex.

Depression: Isolating, staying home, not trying anything new

Acceptance/Rebuilding: This is the stage of new energy, where you decide to do something different, from a new hair cut to building a whole new life. People often do well in therapy here -- figuring out what went wrong, and how not to repeat mistakes, and then find a new love.

Men tend to deny their feelings, and go right out on the hunt again. It feels good for a while, but they wind up with bigger problems in the new relationship, because they weren't ready, and they got into it for the wrong reasons. To really feel better, they have to face their own responsibility in past relationships that didn't work, make changes, and begin having relationships on a brand-new basis.

Women honor their feelings, sometimes even wallowing in them. However, when they emerge, they're usually stronger and more self-aware. If they get stuck in the wallowing phase, that's a good time to get therapy to reassess how you view yourself and what you want.

Don't get too dramatic. It's not anguish, it's grief. You lost something you wanted, it feels bad. It's not cancer or paralysis or death. Learn to grieve and accept the loss, and then build on what you learn to make future relationships more functional and realistic. If you accept the need to learn, and the responsibility for whatever you messed up (including choosing the wrong type of person) you'll have something much better next time.

It's usually best to break off contact with your ex, except for necessary contact about legal matters and children..  You need time to grieve and reflect, and you can't do that by stalking your ex's Facebook page. Understand that texting and calling work against you, make you look really bad and unattractive, and hurt your self-esteem. If you can't stop, you're codependent and should attend Co-Dependents Anonymous or get therapy.

Journaling or writing or talking to friends (one reason CoDA works) will help you process the loss: what happened, what you could have done better, what you need to learn about relationships.

Take a trip if you can-- or spend some time in another place. See if you can visit your sibling in another town. It takes you away from reminders.

Pack up all souvenirs, gifts, pictures, and other reminders of the relationship, seal the box (so it's not easy to open) and put them away somewhere until you get past the worst of the loss. Then you can take it out and decide what you want to keep.

Do some project you've always wanted to do -- climb that hill, learn to snowboard or study Chinese, take up that hobby, write the Great American Novel. Do something useful and productive that will keep your "monkey mind" busy.

Volunteer somewhere or join a new social group or sports activity. Working together with other people will feel good, and not be too risky too soon. Besides, it's the best place to (eventually) meet your perfect mate.

From Dr. Romance's Guide to Finding Love Today

Jul 30, 10:18PM EDT1
After having a baby, how can you get back to being a couple?
Jul 30, 8:57PM EDT0

The most powerful thing you can do to keep a marriage strong after starting a family is form a partnership, a team, where both parties feel respected, cared about and needed. 

Understand that your couple relationship will be put on hold for the first few months, until the baby is sleeping through the night.  Your relationship will not be a priority during this time, so the more realistic you are about this beforehand, the less resentful you'll be when it happens.  After things settle down, the mother has recovered from giving birth, the baby is sleeping through the night, and you've established a routine, things will become somewhat easier. 

 Try to organize your schedule so that you have some time together, without having to do chores or work, after the baby is asleep. Talk frequently about how you're both doing, whether your arrangement feels fair, and encourage your partner to talk about what's bothering him or her.  Once you know how to express problems to each other, you have an opportunity to fix them before they become worse.

 If you can arrange for someone trustworthy to baby sit, take at least one night out a week together, or, if the baby can go to grandma's house, or a trusted friend's house, have an intimate, quiet night at home. 

Time by yourself will refresh you both for childcare and for the relationship.  Hopefully both parents will be involved in childcare, which keeps the burden from being too great on one parent.  If both parents contribute equally, each should have one night off while the other partner watches the child. 

 Here are four simple steps to create a successful marriage:

  1. Talk frequently and honestly to each other -- about your frustrations, about sex, about anger, about disappointment, about your appreciation of each other, about the meaning of life, about everything.
  2. Strive to work together to solve anything that comes up -- be a team, a partnership. Don't get stuck on who is right or wrong -- focus on what will solve the problem.
  3. Keep your connection going -- through communication, sex, affection, understanding and concern for each other.
  4. Have a sense of humor, give the benefit of the doubt, care about each other.

From Dr. Romance's Guide to Finding Love Today

Jul 30, 10:09PM EDT1
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