Breaking Up is Hard To Do

Webster’s Dictionary defines a “break up” as “to cease to exist as a unified whole” or “to end a romance.” (By the way, I haven’t started a composition with “Webster’s Dictionary defines…” since the eighth grade, so I thought I was overdue.)

Since breaking up is the end result of most dating relationships, I decided it was important to write an article about the subject. For me, the most relevant question is “when does a dating relationship require an ‘in person’ break up?”

When I was single, my rule of thumb was that if I went out with a woman at least there to four times, and if we had a standing Saturday night date, we were in an official dating relationship. Therefore, if I wanted to end it, I had to do it in person. I could not just stop calling her or leave a voice mail, or send a text, because, well, that would be rude.

Since, like most men, I hated the actual act of breaking up, I often merely stopped going out with a woman after a couple of dates, to avoid having to live through the face-to-face break up confrontation.

Why do we men dread the in-person break up? I think it is simply because we are afraid that the woman will start crying. After all, the specter of watching a woman whom we have some feelings for break into tears absolutely terrifies us.

Of course women have no problem initiating a mature break-up conversation. At home or in a restaurant, they simply start a conversation with “We have to talk…,” and then they rationally explain why they are breaking up with us. (Sort of like a mother explaining to a five year old why he shouldn’t draw with crayons on his bedroom wall.)

On the other hand, guys who are afraid of hurting a woman’s feelings instead tend to act out negative behavior, thereby forcing the woman to break up with them.

Now ladies, you should know that we don’t actually perform this immature behavior intentionally. Rather, on some subconscious level, we usually opt to do one of the following:

• We shut down and stop communicating about anything other than the most basic of small talk or perhaps Red Sox or Patriots chatter.

• We let the woman believe that we aren’t ready for a long-term, serious commitment, but that we want to continue dating, i.e. having sex.

• We increase anti-social behavior such as alcohol, drug, or gambling abuse.

• We have an affair with a younger woman.

• We become emotionally and psychologically abusive.

So this way you will break up with us. After all, we don’t want to have to confront you and see you cry, do we? And we certainly don’t want to be rude.

I know this sounds a bit exaggerated. But I ask you to think back to your last few failed relationships and how they ended. Am I right or am I right?

In the 23 years I ran LunchDates, I can assert that literally thousands of women who contacted us began their initial conversation with “I just broke up with a guy, and…” Moreover, I would speculate that the number of guys who would call and say “I just broke up with a woman, and…” can probably be counted on two hands, and maybe a few toes.

Of course breaking up is a necessity for our economy. After all, what would the music industry do without break ups? Many if not most of the best popular songs in history evolved out of the emotional angst of someone trying to cope with “the end of a romantic relationship.”

To name just a few, how about “I Will Survive,” “Tears on My Pillow,” “End of the World,” “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” Love on The Rocks,” “Blue Moon,” “How am I Supposed to Live Without You,” ” Don’t Speak,” “Singing the Blues,” and of course the classic “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover?”

Hey, even check out the lyrics to “Margaritaville.” Poor Jimmy Buffett is “Wasting away in Margaritaville…;..Yes, some people claim there’s a woman to blame, and I know it’s my own damn fault.”

The list could go on and on. I know very little about opera, but don’t most of them end with someone committing suicide because of a relationship that “cease(d) to exist as a unified whole?”

In the course of a lifetime, all of us will probably go through at least a dozen or so break ups, beginning in our teenage years. You would think that eventually we would get the hang of it, at least by the time we hit middle age. But few of us do.

So the next time you find yourself checking into “Heartbreak Hotel” or “Lonesome Town,” remember that instead of just wallowing in your misery and “searching for (your) last shaker of salt,” get out your guitar and write a song.

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Are You To Busy To Date?

Finding time to date is a snap when you are in college or your early 20s. Remember?

What else are you going to do while in college? Study, attend classes, and conduct research? Come on. We all know that college is one big dating service, and much of a student’s time is spent frequenting bars, going to parties, and looking for guys or gals to fool around with.

I just read those sentences to my college-age daughter and asked “Is that still true today?” She laughed and said “Uh, huh!” (And she actually takes her studies very seriously.) When I was in college way, way back in the late ’60s, a lot of time was spent demonstrating against “the man” and attending peace rallies and “sit ins.” But even then, to be totally honest, a primary reason many of us marched in those rallies is because we knew it was a great way to meet girls!

Bar hopping and party going is a practice that most people continue well into their mid-20s and for some beyond, way beyond.

But for most people adulthood eventually hits, and with that comes responsibilities, loads and loads of responsibilities. As one rises up the career ladder, work tasks become more complex and time-consuming. There are business trips, memos to write, faxes and e-mails to send, meetings to attend, and worries. Worries about being laid off yourself or which member of your staff to lay off.

Then there are family issues. For divorced men and women (obviously I am not writing this “Are you too busy to date” column for married people), the responsibilities are seemingly never ending.

After all, if you have the kids Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays and every other weekend, and there are parent teacher meetings and soccer practices and ballet lessons to factor into one’s schedule, your appointment book can fill up very quickly.

Many divorced adults also have to deal with aging parents and their health concerns and doctors’ appointments and visits to the hospital, rehab center, or nursing home.

So when can you find time to date? Well, many adults just claim they are too busy to play the dating game. So they don’t. And that is a big mistake.

At LunchDates, the Boston-based dating service that I ran for 23 years, I interviewed many men and women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s, who said they were now ready to begin dating … finally. I heard story after story of men and women (especially women) who reported they had spent the past decade caring for an ill parent. Now that their parent had died, they had completed a year or two of mourning (and perhaps therapy), and now they were ready to meet someone.

I also interviewed divorced men and women who said they had put off dating until their children had finished high school and gone off to college. I would ask when they got divorced and some answered “Oh, about 10 years ago.” I would then inquire why they waited so long, and the response was usually something like “My kids needed me; I was too busy to date.”

Now I am going to be brutally honest. Most of those people were just fooling themselves. They probably had not enjoyed dating when they were younger, and the thought of starting over again was terrifying.

But here’s the problem. No, actually there are several major problems with putting off trying to date for a span of years when you are an adult.

First, there is the obvious one. The older you are, the more difficult it is to meet someone. This is especially true for women. As I have previously written, a woman’s “Dating Quotient” (that is how marketable she is in the dating world) begins to drop when she reaches her late 30s, and it goes down a bit every subsequent birthday.

There are many reasons for this, which I have spelled out in previous columns, and I don’t want to repeat those reasons now. Suffice to say, as women move through their 40s, 50s, and 60s, the available pool of “quality” men drops dramatically.

So when a 55-year-old woman says she is “now ready to start dating” after taking the last decade off to care for a family member, well, what can I say? It is not going to be easy for her.

As for men who take years off from dating in mid-life, there is another problem. Many men inherently have trouble with dating anyway, because they inherently do not understand women, their emotions, their needs, etc. Then if such a man skips a few years, I guarantee he will have extreme difficulty sustaining a relationship for more than a few dates.

Yes, many men are oblivious in terms of understanding women. Men who have not dated for years can be as oblivious as I am when trying to read instructions on how to download a new program onto my computer. And that is pretty oblivious, folks!

Unfortunately, many older men and women also tend to become less flexible about their time and their dating priorities. So they pepper their conversations with excuses like “I can’t possibly go out on a Sunday night because I haven’t missed ’60 Minutes’ in years,” or “Wednesday is my bowling night,” or “I am always too exhausted from work to go out on a Friday night,” or “I have dinner with my Aunt Aggie every Monday.”

And at a time when the available pool of dating prospects is smaller than when they were younger, they become less flexible, when they should be doing just the opposite. So they set up roadblocks with such statements as “I just couldn’t go out with someone who likes (or doesn’t like) Elvis,” or “I don’t like to drive at night, so he should live within 10 minutes from me.”

But people should try and become more flexible and open than when they were younger, and equally as important, they should force themselves to find the time to date. (You can DVR “60 Minutes” and Aunt Aggie will understand an occasional missed dinner.) Unless you are one of those few men or women who really is happier alone (and I do recognize there are people like that), on some psychological level, most people really do yearn for a “mate.” Studies have shown that married men tend to live longer than men who live alone.

Moreover, one could make a strong case that many of these adults might have been a better caregiver or a more patient parent had they taken time for themselves and attempted to meet someone years earlier.

So my final advice for divorced, widowed, or even never married singles is to NEVER use the “I just don’t have time to date this week (month, or year)” excuse.

After all, those months and years can very quickly turn into decades.

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Find Yourself a ‘Late Bloomer’

For many of us, our high school years were pure “hell” in terms of dating. Unless you were one of the popular kids, your high school dating experience probably contained all the angst of a 1980s John Hughes movie.

Let’s face it: more guys identified with “Duckie” than with James Spader’s cool kid in “Pretty in Pink.” Or we related to Anthony Michael Hall’s nerdy but sensitive character in “The Breakfast Club.”

Everyone knows that for most girls, Molly Ringwald was THE female icon, especially in “Sixteen Candles.” I am sure many girls had no trouble relating to Molly’s embarrassment when her character’s Grandma Helen announced “Fred, she’s gotten her boobies” and Grandpa Fred responded “I better get my magnifying glass.”

The box office success of those movies, as well as the growing popularity of “nerd getting the girl movies” released in recent years demonstrates that there were a lot more of “us” than “them,” when we were in high school.

Yet high school is also when most people develop the dating patterns and images that all too often remain with us for the rest of our lives. That is why so many adults, when single, dread the prospect of entering or re-entering the dating world.

Yes, I maintain that most of our fears and insecurities that many of us carry throughout our adult dating life stem from traumas that occurred during our middle and high school years.

Of course the opposite holds true for those chosen few who were “royalty” in high school …; the captains of the football and basketball teams, the head cheerleaders, the Homecoming Queens, etc.

For the most part those popular kids developed an inflated self image that may have also produced negative consequences while trying to develop and maintain positive relationships as adults.

For example, take the high school hotties who were early bloomers, perhaps as early as middle school or even elementary school. From their early teen age years on, they had no trouble attracting the attention of the opposite sex.

I remember when a neighbor of mine, who had matured early and consequently became the star of several sports teams AND our class president, mentioned to me that the following morning in school he was going to “announce” who his next girlfriend would be!

I recall being absolutely astounded at the time, especially at the matter of fact way that he told me about his pending decision. After all, I was one of those guys who would have been thrilled if any girl just smiled at me.

So what do you think the odds were of that early bloomer eventually developing into a caring, sensitive, husband and father? . Basically the high school jock mentality translates very easily into the adult “player” who pinballs from one relationship to another well into his 30s, 40s, or even 50s.

Or how about those girls who “blossomed” early, dazzled with a perfect complexion, and had no trouble attracting male suitors who stumbled over one another for the opportunity to escort Miss Popularity to the house party where the “in crowd” hung out most weekend nights. Do you think many of these princesses eventually developed the empathy and compassion that goes into a meaningful long term relationship?

So, here is my suggestion to those single and divorced adults still looking for their life mate. Find yourself a “late bloomer.” You know the skinny awkward girl with zits in high school who nobody wanted to date, or the chubby girl with braces who had not yet shed her “baby fat.”

Or the guy who was the geeky science whiz or debate club captain who later learned as a young adult that the best way to attract women was to develop a great sense of humor and a sensitive, caring personality. Of course many of these guys probably also did very well career-wise, while maintaining a low level of self confidence when it came to playing the dating game as an adult.

Relationships and dating never came easy to these people, and as a result they (OK, we) had to work hard to attract members of the opposite sex.

In my matchmaking experience while running a dating service and later working for eHarmony.com, I often found that the easiest to match people were the men and women with the most realistic and flexible expectations. And most frequently these were NOT the best-looking men or women.

But they were people with down to earth and unpretentious personalities…who smiled easily and did not come across as cocky or egotistical. They (we) eventually realized that the quickest path to a successful relationship involved humor, warmth, and the development of good listening skills.

Some adult singles are basically far too picky, and I suggest that many of them are the grown-up versions of the popular group of kids that the rest of us both envied and loathed back in the day.

So here is an interesting question to pose when communicating with someone on-line or on a first date. Just ask which member of “The Breakfast Club” they identified with back in high school.

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Dating: How ‘marketable’ are single fathers?

With Father’s Day approaching, I thought it prudent to ask “How marketable are single dads in the dating world?” or “What is their Dating Quotient?” (DQ)

The answer is “that depends.”

Before I explain what “that depends” means, I have to mention that single fathers tend to be even more oblivious than most men in terms of comprehending where they stand in the dating scene. Since single fathers were married (or in a relationship) long enough to produce a child, their decision to start dating (usually following a divorce or the death of a spouse) often comes after years “on the sidelines.” Often the actual decision to begin the search for a new relationship comes after months (or sometimes even years) of deliberation.

So how marketable is a single dad? There are two primary variables that go into determining his DQ: his age and whether he is inclined to have more children.

At LunchDates, the dating service I ran for 23 years, single fathers under the age of 30 were very difficult to match, IF they wanted to meet women in their 20s. The unfortunate reality for these guys is that many younger single women today are intensely pursuing careers. Most eventually want their own children, and they have little interest in becoming stepmothers at this stage of their life.

Of course we could have matched younger single dads with younger single moms, but relatively few of the latter have the time, energy, or “wherewithal” to join a personal dating service or even to try an online one.

When I interviewed a single father in his 20s, I usually tried to persuade him to meet slightly older women. If he were willing, his DQ would immediately and dramatically rise. But if he insisted on meeting younger women, I would have to caution him to be very patient.

Of course there are many more single and divorced women with children in their 30s and 40s, so there is a much larger pool of available women for single dads as they age. Basically the older a single father is, the easier he is to match.

Somewhere in the mid to late 30s having a child actually turns from a minus (in terms of one’s DQ) to a plus for men! Most women over 35 who are looking to meet men in the late-30s to the mid-50s reach the point where they strongly prefer meeting previously married men.

These women believe that if a man is in his 40s (or older) and has never been married “there is probably something wrong with him.” (In many, but not all, cases they are right.) And, of course, if a man is over 40 and previously married, there is a good chance he has already fathered a child or two.

That leads to the other important criteria in determining the DQ of a single dad: whether he is willing to have more children. Let me offer the following examples of three single fathers:

• Man A — (Call him Andrew.) Andrew is over 40, divorced, and already has one or two children. He says he loves kids, and he is flexible about meeting women with children, having more children, or even adopting children. Andrew is also willing to meet women a few years younger or older than him. (The willingness to adopt is considered a major plus, especially by childless women over 40.) Andrew has a very high DQ and is very much in demand. Whether he joins a personal dating service, an online one, or just puts out the word that he is now ready to start dating, his chances of meeting someone are extremely high. This guy is a “catch,” and it matters little how tall he is, how handsome he is, or even how much money he earns. Actually, in 2009, if he maintains a positive attitude, has some money saved, and perhaps owns his own home, he still has a high DQ, even if he is between jobs or working only part time.

• Man B — (Call him Bob.) Like Andrew, Bob is over 40, divorced, and already has children. Bob strongly prefers meeting a woman in her early to mid 30s. He is open to having more children, but it is not a major priority for him, and he definitely is not interested in adopting a child. He is willing to meet a woman with children, as long as she is in his preferred age range (that is, considerably younger than him). There are a lot of “Bob’s” out there, and his chances of meeting a woman in the dating world are only fair. And if Bob’s career is not flourishing, his DQ drops significantly.

• Man C — (Call him Carl, and unfortunately I really did meet and interview quite a number of “Carls.”) Like Andrew and Bob, Carl is over 40, divorced, and has one or two children. Carl is certain he does not want any more children and he would not even consider adopting a child. He also does not want to be bothered meeting any women with children, and he really prefers meeting women under 35. Carl joins dating services, places ads online, goes to singles functions, and very rarely connects with a woman, once he explains his situation and preferences. Basically, narcissistic Carl has a VERY low DQ. What is most ironic is that Carl also has no idea why he is so unsuccessful in his efforts to meet a woman or sustain a relationship. Even if his career is prospering, he still has a low DQ.

Overall, the highest percentages of people who joined my dating service and met someone were, in fact, divorced or widowed moms and dads. That is because we often (when allowed) matched up single mothers with single fathers.

And very often they clicked. After all, they had the most in common, having shared the triumphs and tragedies of parenthood. Just by having children and then going through a divorce and/or the death of a spouse, they had experienced similar highs and lows.

It is hoped that many of these single dads are now in happy relationships, perhaps remarried, or perhaps not. But here’s hoping they will have a happy Father’s Day.

It is too bad that the Carls of this world probably won’t.

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In The Dating World, Single Moms Are In Demand!

(Ask about special month-long Mothers Day discounts for single moms!)

Yes, Mom, you are in demand, specially at on-line or personal dating services! Since we are celebrating Mother’s Day this month, I wanted to relay this positive news to all single mothers who are pondering whether or not they should join such a service.

For the most part, if a woman is in her mid-30s and up, her “Dating Quotient” (that is her marketability in the singles world) actually increases if she has children. Why?

The truth is that most services have more divorced dads than moms as members. There are several reasons for that disparity. First, some single mothers are hesitant to join, because they think men won’t want to meet them because of their children. I have spoken with numerous women who meekly asked if anyone would want to meet them because they have kids.

“I certainly don’t think of my kids as ‘baggage,’ but won’t men think that way?” bemoaned more than one single mother.

And yes, there are some men who refuse to meet women with children and who actually refer to kids as “baggage.” But those guys are in the minority and fall into two main categories: younger men who still want families of their own, and older, self-centered, totally driven men looking for women to be totally devoted to them and only them. You probably don’t want to meet those guys anyway.

A second reason that many services have more single dads than moms is that, unfortunately, more single dads have the financial means to join a dating service, as opposed to their ex-wives.

Additionally, a single father with only partial custody of his children has a lot more free time to explore a social life. A single mother who is trying to balance a job with raising a couple of kids may feel she lacks the free time to join a dating service, let alone begin to date someone. Moreover, some single mothers are hesitant to join an online service, owing to concerns over safety issues. Men rarely have such concerns.

Nevertheless, most single dads like kids and many want to meet women who are also nurturing and “family-oriented.” I have even spoken with men who did not have children of their own who asked to meet women with children. Those tended to be men in their 40s and even 50s who still wanted to have children.

Moreover, in my matchmaking experience, I have had more success pairing up single moms with single dads than any other combination.

After all, both parties certainly have a lot in common. They both experienced the trauma of breaking the news to children, a parent moving out, dividing up “possessions” from furniture to friends, working out visitation days, financial and real estate issues, etc. These are all problems that never-married adults rarely face.

When speaking with men from the mid-40s on up, the most common answer to the question if they want to meet women with children is that they prefer meeting women with “older” children. Many of these men have raised children of their own and don’t necessarily want to chase around young toddlers again.

So what is the definition of “older children?” Naturally some men who have grown children out of the home tend to request meeting women in a similar situation. A common request is to meet women with children over the age of 16. That is simply because many of those children (or their friends) have their drivers’ licenses and spend much of their time “out of the home.” On the other hand, they still will be in the picture to celebrate holidays, birthdays, and similar special occasions.

But there are also many men with younger children who prefer meeting women with younger children. One of my favorite success stories involves the man who called one day to announce that my dating service had “completed his straight.”

“I have three kids, ages 4, 6, and 8, and I am marrying a woman I met through you who has two children, 5 and 7!” he triumphantly announced.

So if you are a single mom who has been considering joining some type of dating service go ahead and take the plunge. You may be surprised at how popular you are!

(And if you are a member of a service and frustrated with the experience, perhaps I can help!)

Oh, and have a Happy Mothers Day!

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Avoid the ‘I’m Too Busy to Date’ Excuse!

Finding time to date is a snap when you are in college or your early 20s. Remember?

What else are you going to do while in college? Study, attend classes, conduct research? Come on. We all know that college is one big dating service, and much of a student’s time is spent frequenting bars, going to parties, and looking for guys or gals to fool around with.

I just read those sentences to my college-aged daughter and asked “Is that still true today?” She laughed and said “Uh, huh!” (And she actually takes her studies very seriously.) When I was in college way, way back in the late ’60s, a lot of time was spent demonstrating against “the man” and attending peace rallies and “sit ins.” But even then, to be totally honest, a primary reason many of us marched in those rallies is because we knew it was a great way to meet girls!

Bar hopping and party going is a practice that most people continue well into their mid-20s and for some beyond, way beyond.

But for most people adulthood eventually hits, and with that comes responsibilities, loads and loads of responsibilities. As one rises up the career ladder, work tasks become more complex and time-consuming. There are business trips, memos to write, faxes and e-mails to send, meetings to attend, and worries. Worries about being laid off yourself or which member of your staff to lay off.

Then there are family issues. For divorced men and women (obviously I am not writing this “Are you too busy to date” column for married people), the responsibilities are seemingly never ending.

After all, if you have the kids Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays and every other weekend, and there are parent teacher meetings and soccer practices and ballet lessons to factor into one’s schedule, your appointment book can fill up very quickly.

Many divorced adults also have to deal with aging parents and their health concerns and doctors’ appointments and visits to the hospital, rehab center, or nursing home.

So when can you find time to date? Well, many adults just claim they are too busy to play the dating game. So they don’t. And that is a big mistake.

At LunchDates, the dating service that I ran for 23 years, I interviewed many men and women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s, who said they were now ready to begin dating …; finally. I heard story after story of men and women (especially women) who reported they had spent the past decade caring for an ill parent. Now that their parent had died, they had completed a year or two of mourning (and perhaps therapy), and now they were ready to meet someone.

I also interviewed divorced men and women who said they had put off dating until their children had finished high school and gone off to college. I would ask when they got divorced and some answered “Oh, about 10 years ago.” I would then inquire why they waited so long, and the response was usually something like “My kids needed me; I was too busy to date.”

Now I am going to be brutally honest. Most of those people were just fooling themselves. They probably had not enjoyed dating when they were younger, and the thought of starting over again was terrifying.

Unfortunately, many older men and women tend to become less flexible about their time and their dating priorities. So they pepper their conversations with excuses like “I can’t possibly go out on a Sunday night because I haven’t missed ’60 Minutes’ in years,” or “Wednesday is my bowling night,” or “I am always too exhausted from work to go out on a Friday night,” or “I have dinner with my Aunt Aggie every Monday.”

And at a time when the available pool of dating prospects is smaller than when they were younger, they become less flexible, when they should be doing just the opposite. So they set up roadblocks with such statements as “I just couldn’t go out with someone who likes (or doesn’t like) Elvis,” or “I don’t like to drive at night, so he should live within 10 minutes from me.”

But people should try and become more flexible and open than when they were younger, and equally as important, they should force themselves to find the time to date. (You can DVR”60 Minutes” and Aunt Aggie will understand an occasional missed dinner.) Unless you are one of those few men or women who really is happier alone (and I do recognize there are people like that), on some psychological level, most people really do yearn for a “mate.” Studies have shown that married men tend to live longer than men who live alone.

Moreover, one could make a strong case that many of these adults might have been a better caregiver or a more patient parent had they taken time for themselves and attempted to meet someone years earlier.

So my final advice for divorced, widowed, or even never married singles is to NEVER use the “I just don’t have time to date this week (month, or year)” excuse.

After all, those months and years can very quickly turn into decades.

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The Valentine’s Day Test

Hey guys, remember back in school when the hairs on the back of your neck stood straight up as your teacher strolled down the aisle passing out graded final exams?

Well Valentine’s Day is approaching, the day you receive your relationship “grade.” So how will you do? Face it, not to sound too cynical or unromantic, but what this holiday really represents is pressure. Pressure to give your “Valentine” just the right present, one that communicates whatever the message is that you figure is the correct one.

And what is the source of that pressure? The first source is the avalanche of radio and television ads that seem to have started about three seconds after the ball dropped on New Year’s Eve.

We can easily recite a few…. “Every kiss begins with Kay,” “Vermont Teddy Bears” (how many of you received the “Love Bandit”?), ” And my favorite, the “pajamagram.” Not to mention all the flower ads.

Of course the other source of pressure is that special woman in your life who squeezed out a furtive smile and glance in your direction every time a Valentine’s Day reminder popped up on radio or television the past few weeks. (I estimate that probably only happened about 147 times a day!) Oh, did I say “woman” in your life?
Not to sound too sexist, but most men care about receiving a meaningful Valentine’s Day present about as much as they wanted to switch the channel to view Masterpiece Theatre on PBS during the recent Super Bowl.

And it doesn’t matter if you have only been dating four weeks or been married 44 years! The same pressure exists, perhaps even more so for the people in brand-new relationships.

Because, for most couples, Valentine’s Day serves as a relationship barometer. And a “new” couple is still in the midst of playing one of those cute relationship games, such as “I’ll tell you how I feel about you, if you’ll tell me first how you feel about me.” (Another such game is “Sleep me with first, then I’ll tell you whether I am serious about our relationship.”)

At the dating service I ran for more than two decades, February was always an interesting month. During the two weeks before Valentine’s Day, business was always slow. Very slow. After all, nobody wanted to admit just before the 14th that the only person they had to buy flowers for was dear old Mom. And nobody wanted to go on a first date with someone on Valentine’s Day.

But the week after Valentine’s Day always kicked off one of the busiest times of the year, as many people decided this would be the last Valentine’s Day they would spend alone with their cocker spaniel. Then there were all those relationships that failed the Valentine’s Day test. For example, if you expected an expensive piece of jewelry or even an engagement ring (after all you have been dating three years), and all you got was a bunch of Hershey kisses wrapped in a red tin heart (not every kiss begins with Kay), maybe you finally realized your relationship was not headed in the right direction.

And so every year at my dating service the floodgates would swing open on Feb. 15, as many single men and women figured that it was time to “start from scratch” in their relationship search.

It’s too bad that we all can’t just turn back the clock and celebrate Valentine’s Day the way we did in first grade. Just go to CVS and buy a box of Care Bears cards and give one to every boy and girl in the class!

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The Busiest Time of Year for Singles is Fast Approaching!

So you’re single, totally unattached, and you’ve decided it’s time to meet someone new. Well, you should be happy to know that the absolute best time to meet someone new is fast approaching!

When I say “best time,” I mean starting exactly at 12:01 am, the day AFTER Xmas.

In the 23 years I ran a dating service, the period beginning on December 26 was always the busiest time of year, when the most people joined, and we therefore had the largest pool of available singles for new members to meet.

And why is the last week of December and the first two weeks of January so busy? Obviously, the main answer is New Year’s Resolutions. For a single man or woman, the three most common resolutions are to stop smoking, to lose weight, and meet someone special in the coming year.

I wish I had the proverbial nickel for every time I heard someone say, “This past holiday season was the last one I’m going to spend drinking eggnog alone with my Aunt Aggie.” (Of course even if you do find a long-term meaningful relationship in 2013, your Aunt Aggie will still expect you to stop over next holiday season — as will your new beau’s Aunt Gertrude — but those types of complications are the subject of another column.)

Another reason January is such a busy month for singles’ organizations and businesses is that few people try and meet someone during the holidays. It’s just too hectic, and for some people, too depressing. It’s far easier to tell oneself, “AFTER the holidays, I am going to make a real effort to start a new relationship.”

From a business point of view, that last statement is verified by the fact that the “slowest” time of year at any singles organization is the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. While most retail businesses are booming during that five week shopping period, singles businesses rarely see new people joining — until the day after Xmas.

So THIS is the best time of year to join a personal matchmaking service or an on-line service. And if you are already a member this is the perfect time of the year to “polish” your on-line profile. Or to hire Your Profile Doctor to help you.

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HOW IS YOUR BRAIN WIRED?

A controversy is raging in scientific circles.

It began a couple of years ago when a California neuropsychiatrist, Dr. Louann Brizendine, published a book titled “The Female Brain,” in which she claimed that women speak an average of 20,000 words a day, compared to men using a daily average of only 7,000 words.

The media immediately jumped all over the story, and she was quoted everywhere, from CNN, to USA Today to the New York Times.

However, recently an article in Science magazine by two male psychology professors disputed her findings, stating that in a study of 3,000 students there was basically little statistical difference in terms of daily word usage by men and women. (Although I am skeptical how relevant a study of college students is to the speech patterns of adults.)

But several studies are in agreement that female brains are wired differently than male brains, and that difference explains why many couples have difficulty communicating, especially during times of stress.

Brizendine reported that while a man’s brain may be bigger overall, the main hub for emotion is larger in a woman’s brain, as is the wiring for language and “observing emotion in others.” Also, a woman’s “neurological reality” is more deeply affected by hormonal surges.

As someone who has watched his daughter conduct instant message conversations on her computer with six friends simultaneously or swap three or four text messages in the time it takes me to back the car out of our driveway, such a statement comes as no surprise.

So, I feel compelled to jump in with my two cents. Of course my findings are much more anecdotal than “scientific,” nevertheless I did personally interview and/or listen to feedback from more than 25,000 men and women in the 23 years I ran a dating service.

First, let’s examine the initial intake interview we conducted. Within a relatively short time, I began to realize that interviews with women, especially women working in “people-oriented” professions, such as education, health care, social work, advertising and sales always took far longer than interviews with men, no matter what their occupation.

Ask a woman an open-ended question such as “what personality traits in men really turn you on or off,” and the answer sometimes would last longer than an episode of “American Idol.” Ask a man, especially a man who worked in a technical field, that same question, and the responses would range from just a few words to a sentence or two. Often the answer would be something like “Well, I don’t like women who talk too much.”

Overall, I found that interviews with women tended to last almost twice as long as interviews with men.

Even more relevant was the feedback we received from men and women following their dates. Probably the most common complaint we heard from women was that their dates were “too quiet, or “not expressive or talkative enough.”

Yet sometimes the same men, who were the subject of these complaints, would respond, “I thought the date went well.”

The difference in brain wiring between the sexes becomes more relevant when couples start having the inevitable arguments and disagreements that occur once the initial infatuation period of their relationship begins to ebb.

Anyone who has ever been in a relationship lasting longer than a few months has experienced the following scenario. A man is sipping his morning coffee, reading the sports pages and oblivious to the ensuing storm about to erupt.

Suddenly the woman in his life fires the first salvo. It might come in one or more of the following questions, peppered in the same staccato style as a prosecuting attorney in a Scott Turow courtroom novel: “Why did you say (blah, blah, blah) at the party last night? What were you thinking? How could you have …;? What was that look you gave my sister?” Of course the man’s first articulate counter response is usually something like “Huh?”

At the same time the poor guy is thinking “where is this coming from?”

According to Brizendine, the answer is the area of the brain called the “insula,” which is larger and more developed in female brains and which controls gut feelings and the brain’s “mirror neurons,” whose “job is to reflect someone’s hand gestures, body gestures and facial expressions unconsciously.”

With a smaller insula and fewer mirror neurons, men so often appear oblivious when it comes to reading women’s emotions and empathizing with them.

And, according to some, this is why women cry much more frequently than men.

Scientists have speculated that women evolved to shed tears far more frequently than men, because crying is the only sign of distress that many men notice!

Ultimately, this is also why women are far more perceptive in terms of identifying problems in a relationship. Women tend to worry more about such problems because, according to Brizendine, “the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), which is the worrywart center, is larger and more easily activated.”

So women tend to react more emotionally to perceived relationship problems, problems that many men aren’t even sure exist. “Don’t worry honey. Why are you so upset? It’s not that big a deal. Relax and take it easy.” These are common responses that men tend to use, in a feeble attempt to calm the storm. Of course, most of the time, these responses only add fuel to the fire.

(Then there is the most common yet incendiary question that panicked men use, “Honey, is it that time of month?” That’s usually the best time for guys to duck and cover.)

When couples break up, women tend to fall apart far more frequently than men, using up boxes of tissues, while often men carry on with their lives as if nothing happened. Again why does this happen? Brizendine explains “A breakup causes our (women’s) brains’ feel-good neurochemicals — dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin — to plummet.”

She adds that men do feel sadness following the end of a romance, but not as much as women. And, since the male’s emotional part of the brains is less developed, their rational side takes over and helps them focus on other matters, such as their job or the ongoing travails of the Red Sox or Patriots.

So, ladies, when you are fuming at your guy, who just doesn’t seem to “get it,” remember his wiring is different …; just like that broken toaster oven in your kitchen.

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Do You Have a ‘Dating Addiction?’

Everywhere I turn on television these days I see Dr. Drew Pinsky popping up discussing one type of addiction or another.

Dr. Drew, as he likes to be called is a self-acclaimed “addiction expert,” and on a recent talk show he was asked if people could be addicted to almost anything. Dr. Drew’s response was that he defines the term “addiction” as a compulsive use of practically anything that causes harm to one’s personal life, career, or health.

That brings me to an addiction that I think is very real: “dating addiction,” and it is not to be confused with people with a sex addiction.

In over 30 years of working with singles, I have seen many people whom I would classify as being addicted to dating. These are people who are constantly searching to meet the perfect person, feeling that there is always someone out there who might be just a little better than the person that he or she might currently be dating. After a while, many of them became addicted to the search itself.

The problem today is that since there are so many single, divorced, and widowed people in the dating world, AND because of the prevalence of matchmaking and online dating services, along with various activities geared toward singles, practically anyone can put themselves in a position to meet and date more eligible people in a week than someone a century ago might have met in a year!

Therefore, since it is so easy to at least get first dates today, it has become increasingly easy for people to become addicted to the whole dating process.

What type of person tends to become a dating addict? Overall, it is predominantly (though certainly not exclusively) men over 40, who find it so much easier to meet women than when they were younger. As men get older their Dating Quotient (or social marketability) rises, and for many of them it is like being the proverbial “kid in the candy store.”

I have interviewed several men who related how difficult it was for them get women to go out with then when they were in high school or college or in their 20s. One divorced man in particular told me that now that he was in his mid 50s (and also very successful), he was going to be very, very picky. He actually admitted that in a sense he was going to gain “revenge” for the women who had rejected him when he was younger. If a woman was not EXACTLY what he was looking for, he would reject her (probably before she rejected him).

This man was a classic case of someone with a dating addiction. He was a member of my dating service,LunchDates, for several years, kept renewing his membership, and continued meeting woman after woman, and never stayed in a relationship for more than a month or two.

Today men like him also sign up for online services such as Match.com or eHarmony.com, and frequent several singles events a month. Therefore it is extremely easy for them to meet two to three different women a week.

Such a man might meet a woman with whom he has a great deal in common and whom he finds very attractive. But then he discovers one slight flaw; perhaps he loves to ski and she doesn’t, or she is a bit shorter than he would like.

In his mind he still plans on seeing her again, and at the conclusion of their first date he is totally sincere when he takes her phone number and says he will definitely call her.

Now it is a few days later, and he is compulsively trolling through some of his online matches (perhaps secretively in his office) and comes across photos of another attractive, yet taller woman who claims that she is a prolific skier. Does he follow through with his promise to call the first woman, or like a drug addict chasing the perfect high, does he e-mail the online woman and make plans to see her over the weekend instead? What do you think?

Of course he could still take the first woman out on a different night. But then he remembers he has registered for a speed dating event on Friday night, and he fantasizes that he just might meet someone even better there.

Oh, and he also recalls he has the phone number of a work colleague’s supposedly very attractive sister, so he decides to make plans to meet her for brunch Sunday morning. Then there’s that art show he is attending Sunday afternoon, where he knows there will be an abundance of eligible single women.

Some of you may think this scenario sounds ridiculous, but I can assure you that there are many dating addicts out there who go through these types of decisions every week.

(I might add that there are also plenty of women who have become dating addicts. These tend to be very attractive women who have no problem finding men who want to date them.)

I can remember many times at the dating servicer I ran when one of my counselors reported having the following conversation with a client:

Counselor: “So how was your lunch date with Sue?”
Client: “It was great; we had a really nice time. She’s very cute.”
Counselor: “Will you be seeing her again?”
Client: “Uhhh, I don’t know, maybe.” (Pause) “So do you have another match for me?”

Many people with a dating addiction find it difficult to stop the search, even when they become involved in a relatively serious relationship. So after being monogamous with one person for a few months, when the initial infatuation begins to fade (perhaps he or she detects some fatal flaw), the compulsive itch to return to the hunt comes back.

Perhaps that person might even continue the relationship for a while, even after picking up the phone and calling his dating service counselor and exclaiming in an excited voice “Take my membership off hold! Anyone great join lately?”
Client: “It was great; we had a really nice time. She’s very cute.”
Counselor: “Will you be seeing her again?”
Client: “Uhhh, I don’t know, maybe.” (Pause) “So do you have another match for me?”

Many people with a dating addiction find it difficult to stop the search, even when they become involved in a relatively serious relationship. So after being monogamous with one person for a few months, when the initial infatuation begins to fade (perhaps he or she detects some fatal flaw), the compulsive itch to return to the hunt comes back.

Perhaps that person might even continue the relationship for a while, even after picking up the phone and calling his dating service counselor and exclaiming in an excited voice “Take my membership off hold! Anyone great join lately?”
Of course he could still take the first woman out on a different night. But then he remembers he has registered for a speed dating event on Friday night, and he fantasizes that he just might meet someone even better there.

Oh, and he also recalls he has the phone number of a work colleague’s supposedly very attractive sister, so he decides to make plans to meet her for brunch Sunday morning. Then there’s that art show he is attending Sunday afternoon, where he knows there will be an abundance of eligible single women.

Some of you may think this scenario sounds ridiculous, but I can assure you that there are many dating addicts out there who go through these types of decisions every week.

(I might add that there are also plenty of women who have become dating addicts. These tend to be very attractive women who have no problem finding men who want to date them.)

I can remember many times at the dating service I ran when one of my counselors reported having the following conversation with a client:

Counselor: “So how was your lunch date with Sue?”
Client: “It was great; we had a really nice time. She’s very cute.”
Counselor: “Will you be seeing her again?”
Client: “Uhhh, I don’t know, maybe.” (Pause) “So do you have another match for me?”

Many people with a dating addiction find it difficult to stop the search, even when they become involved in a relatively serious relationship. So after being monogamous with one person for a few months, when the initial infatuation begins to fade (perhaps he or she detects some fatal flaw), the compulsive itch to return to the hunt comes back.

Perhaps that person might even continue the relationship for a while, even after picking up the phone and calling his dating service counselor and exclaiming in an excited voice “Take my membership off hold! Anyone great join lately?”

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