It might have been a huge blow-up where you and your partner both said awful, hurtful words. It could have been a slow-building tension that brought coldness and distance. The effects are the same… your relationship feels like it has collapsed. The strong foundation of trust, communication, respect, and even love has been shaken and feels destroyed.
You might be very upset, not sleeping or eating well and fearful about your future. You may also be feeling justified about what you’ve said or done. After all, your partner did something awful!
When your relationship has fallen apart, try this:
1. Be honest with yourself about what happened.
The first thing we recommend you do after a relationship collapse is to assess the state of your union. If your mind is racing ahead to what you think the future might hold or to what you guess your partner will do next, stop. If you’re replaying in your mind your version of what went down between you two, stop. Slow down your thinking and, instead, get very clear about literally what happened.
This is going to be your biased perspective, so be as choosy as you can about what you believe is true. Think about what was actually said and the actions that really happened. Go with observations and verifiable information when at all possible.
If, for example, you’re “sure” about your partners intentions or feelings, ask yourself if you really know this. Keep returning to what was said, what was done, and how you feel about it.
2. Be honest with yourself about what’s in your best interest.
Next, we invite you to consider the wisdom of repairing your relationship. We do NOT think that people should throw away a perfectly good relationship just because mistakes (even big mistakes) were made or an argument happened.
But, we also know how important it is to make conscious choices about one’s life…this includes the conscious choice to stay in or to leave a relationship.
Think about what is in your best interest. Think about where you stand right now with your partner and also about where you want to go in the future. Remind yourself that you deserve to have the relationship you truly want.
It’s also helpful to review what you know about your partner’s actions and stated intentions.
For instance, if your partner had an affair, get clear about whether or not the affair has actually ended. If it hasn’t, do you have any indication that your mate is planning to stop cheating? If he or she has vowed to end the affair but has done nothing to follow through, consider that as well.
The decision to stay in or leave a relationship is yours to make.
Who can you trust? That’s the gamble, and when it comes to choosing a partner, fidelity is a core aspect most of us require.
Yet the adage, “once a cheater, always a cheater,” isn’t always true. Here are five guidelines you can use right now to make the wisest choice if you find yourself drawn to a partner with a past.
1.Weigh Their Past
Factually, odds are highest that your sweetie will treat your relationship boundaries like they treated those boundaries in other relationships. In study after study, past behavior is your crystal ball; it’s the single best predictor of how any of us will behave, given similar circumstances. It’s one reason why someone who cheated with you is likely to cheat on you.
Overlook this rule of thumb, and you’ll get hurt again and again. People tend to do what and whom they have done before.
2.Note Their Timing
The recent past is particularly important. How long ago was the affair? A person who cheated last month and says it won’t happen again might be telling the truth. But the person who had an affair once, ten years ago, and never did it again, is far safer.
Timing also matters in the context of their former relationship. Most people, including people who have had an affair, aren’t willful philanderers. But a statistically small group sees “getting some” — strange as that is — as their right. If they’ve cheated early in the passionate love phase of a relationship–during serious exclusive dating, engagement, or in the honeymoon phase of marriage—that’s a red flag you’re with one of them.
3.Examine Their Habits
Was their cheating a one-night, one-time thing, or something they turned to often? Repeated acts are likelier to recur; they become habits. And especially in stressful times, people return to their habits.
Whether you are single or in a relationship, I think this time of year can feel a bit lonely if you have lost loved ones, or aren’t exactly where you thought you might be or hoped to be in life. At the end of the day, I find that focusing on the blessings in my life is always a better mindset. There are so many people with far less who choose to be happy and grateful. With that, I hope you enjoy the holiday season and love the life you have been given.
You didn’t send me a laundry list about age, weight, education, family background. You want “a meaningful connection with someone special.” There is a lot of beauty and wisdom in that statement, so hold onto it. You might not find that person tomorrow or even next year, but if you maintain that core principle, it will steer you in the right direction.
I absolutely understand the “falling behind” feeling. I felt it throughout my twenties and thirties, when I was mostly single. I thought that I was missing out on important relationship experience, but after I married my husband I realized I had been gaining a different kind of experience. My long-term singleness helped me develop skills like independence, self-acceptance, patience, and the ability to offer love and kindness outside of a romantic relationship. Those skills have served me very well in my marriage.
Instead of worrying about your lack of experience, I suggest you make an effort to gain some in the area where you feel most insecure—letting woman know you’re romantically interested in them. The best way to overcome your fear of putting yourself out there is … to put yourself out there.
Psychologist Albert Ellis was once shy with women, and he dealt with it by asking a lot of women for dates. Did he get rejected—yes, quite a lot. But in the process he discovered something very important about rejection: It wasn’t that bad. The fear of rejection turned out to be worse than the rejection itself, and the more he put himself on the line, the easier it became (a story he recounts in a terrific book with a very long-winded title: How To Stubbornly Refuse to Make Yourself Miserable About Anything—Yes, Anything).
If making the first move is difficult for you, that’s an excellent reason to practice making the first move. If traversing that line from “just friends” to “more than friends” is hard, all the more reason to try.
Rejection will happen, and it will suck. But you won’t die. And each time you have that experience of not dying you’ll be a little bit stronger and more able to get up for the next round.
Yes, there will probably be women put off by your lack of experience. But the goal is not to convince every woman you like that she should date you, or to fashion yourself into the kind of man you think most women will want. It’s to find the woman who loves you as you are. Your letter indicates that you are thoughtful, responsible, honest, and a good friend. You’re not looking for a trophy—you’re looking for someone to love. From where I sit, that puts you pretty far ahead of the game.
While this season brings excitement, spirit, and joy, it also typically brews sadness, loneliness, jealousy, discomfort, disappointment, and anxiety for many of us.
These feelings can become especially overwhelming as you reflect on your life circumstances and come to terms with being single. So, why does this time of year bring up difficult emotions, particularly loneliness?
Holidays breed high expectations and high anticipation as there is pressure to celebrate, shop, eat, gather, give, cheer, etc. While there are many positive effects of celebrating the holidays and the new year, the pressure can be intense. For example, the culture of gift giving leaves most people feeling burdened by the need to find the “perfect” gift, handle financial stress, and avoid over-spending. There may be a feeling of obligation to participate in the extravagant nature of the holiday season.
You might also face many questions as you get together with people who you don’t see regularly. It can be difficult to talk about a dissatisfying dating life or a painful breakup. Being honest might be too anxiety provoking, awkward or stressful. Friends, family, and co-workers may bombard you with questions about your personal life at gatherings, events or parties, causing you to want to avoid social situations and retreat. Feelings of isolation may be also triggered if you don’t feel connected or included in holiday get-togethers or you are struggling to make plans.
Another common reason for loneliness? The end of the year is a natural time for contemplation, reflection, and assessment. Your mind may negatively or harshly judge you or this year as you ponder what went wrong in your love life and why you are still single. Falsely believing that love and happiness are present for everyone but you fuels negative beliefs about yourself and others. These flawed beliefs induce feelings of sadness, loneliness, and loss.
It is essential to remember reflection is good and healthy, but not when it leads you to beating yourself up or believing that the grass is always greener on the other side. Make sure you don’t let the negative outweigh any positive growth or accomplishments that took place throughout the year. The key is to grow from reflection, not to self-shame. Have compassion…always.
No matter where your loneliness originated, it does not have to take over or control your life. To combat loneliness around the holidays and to avoid suffering more, here are five strategies:
- Show up for yourself
Validating your emotions and acknowledging how you feel (even if the feelings are completely uncomfortable or miserable) are both important for healing and feeling better. Feelings that are unacknowledged tend to persist and intensify, so remember to do the opposite. Be present with your emotions and resist shaming yourself for feeling lonely or avoiding how you feel. Give yourself permission to feel and understand that you are not alone.
- Manage expectations of yourself and others
Many of our ideas about the holidays are not reality-based. Instead, these ideas are fed by our culture and imagination, as well as false hope of perfection and control. Be careful here and give yourself a thorough reality check. If you have social anxiety, expect to feel anxious as you walk into your office holiday party. If your parents are struggling in their marriage, expect that the vibe at the dinner table might be a little off or contentious. I am not at all suggesting you approach life with a negative outlook; this is about having realistic expectations.
- Seek company and get out
When you feel lonely, it is common to feel inclined to isolate more. Being alone and feeling unhappy about it naturally leads to rumination and more negative thoughts. It is also more apparent that you are alone in the absence of others. Isolation strengths loneliness, so doing the opposite, and seeking connection and company is healthier. Contact a friend, take a social risk, go to a movie, walk around a museum, exercise, read in a coffee shop, etc. Be out in the world and don’t give into the temptation to hibernate for days on end.
If Christmas morning is the best day of the year for children, then the day after might be the best day of the year for adults. That is, adults who are online dating. At eHarmony, we receive a record number of new signups on December 26, followed by New Year’s Day.
You’ve opened gifts, put away leftovers, and bid farewell to relatives. The parties are winding down, and your social schedule is suddenly wide open. Not only do you have time to devote to dating (and putting together an awesome profile), you’re following through on that pledge you made to yourself that this is the year you’re going to find love.
Here’s why you’re more likely to find it during high season:
1) People are excited about dating
Attitude is everything when you’re seeking a special someone. Whether you’re new to online dating or have been on the market for a while, it’s a treat to communicate with people who are enthusiastic about meeting you. They’re curious to learn about you. They’re motivated to plan fun dates. They bring a freshness that energizes you.
2) People are taking dating more seriously
Perhaps they’ve made finding a life partner a new year’s resolution. Or they realized they want a ski buddy. Or maybe they woke up on a chilly winter morning all alone under their down comforter and thought, “I really wish I had someone to make banana pancakes with!” What matters is that these dating newbies are ready to do what it takes to meet someone special. I hate calling dating “work” because that implies it’s not fun. But it does take effort: Making a profile. Communicating with matches. Planning dates.
3) People are meeting new matches
A blog post by our own Dr. Seth Meyers on whether you should date more than one person at a time recently sparked a lively debate. His conclusion: No, it’s not cheating. It’s part of a healthy approach to dating. The implication: Your matches are most likely meeting multiple people. In other words, you need to be on your game. You can’t wait three days to respond to emails. You can’t put up a flimsy profile with one blurred picture from seven years ago. You can’t make vague promises to “maybe get together one of these days.” You can’t show up to your dates 20 minutes late. You can’t forget to send the text “It was lovely meeting you. Do you want to do it again next Thursday?” Actually you can do all of these things, but you’re going to lose out to people who are taking action and giving themselves the best possible shot at finding love. Don’t sweat the competition. Let these dating “go-getters” inspire to put your best foot forward.
Last month, I wrote an article for eHarmony titled “How to Date Two People at the Same Time (and Not Go Crazy).” The response on Twitter was extreme. Some men and women could not believe that a psychologist who specializes in relationships would suggest that it is okay or morally acceptable to date two people at the same time. Those who read and attacked the article seemed to believe that dating two people at the same time is the same thing as cheating — but let’s be clear that it is not.
The difference between dating and a relationship…
To begin, let’s consider the term “dating.” Dating refers to the time when two people are romantically interested in each other and they spend time getting to know each other. Dating is the first phase of a romantic union. The second phase is the “relationship” which begins once two people have been dating a while and decide to make the relationship committed and official. This is the point when most men and women shift to call the other person their boyfriend or girlfriend.
In the beginning, draw boundaries and state clearly what you want.
When you meet someone you like, you should tell them if you are looking for something casual or a long-term monogamous relationship. While you may think this sounds unnecessary, telling yourself that it should be obvious that everyone wants and expects commitment and monogamy is not necessarily accurate. Too many relationships have ended because two people actually wanted different things. Once you and the person you like have had a discussion about what kind of relationship each of you wants, it is time to – drumroll, please – start dating.
The dating phase shouldn’t last very long.
If you are dating two people at once and you are behaving respectfully and morally with each of them, you aren’t cheating on anyone. First, the period of dating two people at once shouldn’t last very long. When you meet someone you like and start dating someone new, it shouldn’t take more than a couple months to figure out if you want to seal the deal with that person; to begin calling each other boyfriend and girlfriend; and to officially make the relationship monogamous. But for the first month or two when you are getting to know someone, it is healthy to not put all your eggs in one basket and it’s natural and fair to go on a date or two with someone else until you have found someone and gotten to know them well enough that you decide to make a real emotional commitment.
During the holidays, most of us hope to take some time off from work. But at the same time, many singles often find themselves working overtime at a job that never seems to let up: Being single.
There are, of course, the questions. “Are you seeing anyone special?” “When are you going to settle down?” “Why are you still single?” And so on.
Even when the questioner doesn’t intend to offend, fielding these queries can be exhausting. So part of giving yourself a holiday break is to remember: You don’t have to explain yourself or your life to anyone—not even Aunt Hilda.
During my (many) single years, I developed a two-part strategy for dealing with questions like this.
First, I’d offer a quick, bland answer. Are you seeing anyone? “Not at the moment.” Why are you still single? “I don’t know.”
Then, I’d quickly change the subject to something I knew the questioner wanted to discuss. “Do you have any new pictures of your grandchildren?” “How is the house hunt going?”
A member of my community page recently noted that she does something similar when confronted with the “Are you seeing anyone” question. Her genius response: “I’ve been getting to know someone and it’s still very new… anyways, how have you been?! Did you ever refinish your basement?!”
Of course, sometimes no one is really asking these questions. Sometimes the inquisition comes from within, which brings us to the second principle of taking a break: You don’t have to take stock of your life right now.
The holidays bring a one-two punch. First, there is a very strong focus on family—so if you don’t have a spouse and children, it’s easy to let the self-questioning demon take over your brain. All of my siblings are married. How come I’m not?
Then there is the fact that we’re at the end of the calendar year, a time when it’s natural to reflect and take stock, which often turns into a distressing rumination. Why isn’t my life turning out the way I want it to?
Instead of torturing yourself with this endless spin of why why why, try giving it a rest. Sit on the floor and play with your three-year-old niece (who doesn’t give a hoot about your love life). Ask your mom and your grandmother questions about their childhoods. Just bake the cookies, wrap the gifts, and enjoy whatever goodness the holidays bring you.
I know–this is much easier to say than to do. If the holidays are a time when your why-are-you-still-single demons visit, they won’t go quietly. They will press on you and try to convince you that it’s very important to do a full analysis of the situation immediately. They will try to convince you that this is productive, when all they’re really doing is sucking the joy out of your hard-earned time off.
But here’s the thing about upsetting thoughts—they’re just thoughts. If you don’t indulge them, they don’t exist.
So when the inner gremlins come, try taking a deep breath and sending them an out-of-office memo: “Thanks for your input, but I’m on vacation right now. I will think about this after Jan. 2.”
You might not figure out why you’re single, but you’ll give yourself some time, distance, and perspective. And, hopefully, a happy holiday.
Dear Sara: Growing up, I lived a very sheltered life: Most things were simply given to me, in return for a level of conformity that followed certain expectations. Throughout high school, I was essentially prohibited from being in a relationship (along with strict avoidance of drinking and partying—yeah, those were fun years) as I was led to believe that it would impede on my education and career prospects. I’m 24 now, about to finally graduate with a career in law enforcement just on the horizon, yet another reason why I abstained from a lot when I was younger.
In all that time, I have never been in a committed relationship with someone. I mean, I haven’t even made it to holding hands with a woman. There’s just this deeply ingrained apprehension that prevents me from being romantic, and as hard as I try to “put myself out there,” I feel like they get an easy read on my lack of confidence and inexperience. Now, don’t get me wrong, most of my friends are actually female, but that’s about as far as it ever gets.
Many of my guy and girl friends tell me I’m not missing much, that anticipating finding love is simply setting myself up for disappointment. Most of them are bitter about their own bad experiences, and sometimes they do a pretty good job of convincing me to remain single.
Am I crazy? Now that I’m living by my own means, I’ve tried meeting people online, which has led to a few friendly coffee dates or concerts, but never more than that. Finding that spark of romance that goes beyond being good acquaintances (most of these girls just end up being my Facebook friends, ugh) seems so out of reach. I’ve had advice ranging from “be a jerk, have a few emotionless flings” to “keep being genuine, the right girl is out there!” All I want is a meaningful connection with someone special, who can see past the fact that I’ve got some serious catching up to do. Is there any hope?—Sincerely, C
Dear C: Here’s the good news about love: Nobody knows what they’re doing.
In our culture, we treat love like an achievement and often liken the search for love to a job hunt, one that requires a long and detailed resume to prove one’s “qualifications.”
But it’s not true. Your friends who are bitter from their bad experiences are on their own path. It’s not better or worse, just different. They have baggage–resentments, hurt feelings, disappointment—that makes them question whether a relationship is worth it at all.
Well hello! By now you’ve hopefully experienced the new and improved eHarmony — there’s a lot of useful stuff to introduce but before we do, we’d just like to say one thing; you had everything to do with this.
That’s right. You spoke up and we listened. You told us what worked and what didn’t and we committed ourselves to go above and beyond, to think differently, and to take all our new research and turn it into actionable change that would make a difference. The end result was an entirely redesigned communication experience that we hope will make it more enjoyable and easier for you to find that special someone.
That being said, communication is key in any successful relationship. It is also vital in making the right first impression, which is why we’ve put so much time into updating our communication experience. Now, taking the first step feels a bit warmer and more natural in the Guided Communication process.
What is Guided Communication? It’s designed to help you get to know someone at your own pace; if you want more control of the conversation you can go with Quick Questions or you can skip this step and go directly to sending custom messages.
Sending pre-written Quick Questions that ask the hard stuff for you (but in a more welcoming way) efficiently gets to the heart of what you’re looking for. Quick Questions also takes the pressure off of you since the questions come from us. The goal is to help you learn more about someone, easier.
We provide fun yet meaningful questions for you to choose from, so you select the most important ones to ask. Then send them to your match. Your match will then choose from the pre-selected answers, making it a fairly quick process. Your match then gets to send you Quick Questions of their own. You can send as many Quick Questions as you want to. Oh — did we mention that the Quick Questions process is free? Yup! However, if you prefer to write your own answer to a Quick Question you must be a subscriber to do so.
The weekend. Sigh. I worked on my novel for most of it. Last Monday, my agent told me she thought I should revise the manuscript a leeetle bit more before she sends it out to editors (who are the one with the power to “buy” the book, which would lead to it getting published, which would lead to a bestseller–if you guys are behind me!). So the majority of my time was spent chained to my keyboard.
I did take a break for a tea date with a guy who contacted me via the Internet personals. Between his adorable pictures–including one of him in a cap and sweater vest on his family’s farm that made him look like he just stepped out of “Quintessentially Irish” catalogue–and his love for books, not to mention his good job, he seemed a little too good to be true. I braced myself for some kind of disappointment–for him to have about 75% less hair in real life, or 75 more pounds, or to conveniently have only 75 cents on him so he could stick me with the check.
But when I walked into Cafe Regular and saw him standing there, smiling at me with his startling bright gray eyes, and saying “Maura?” I had to take a moment to steady myself: He was the real deal! We spent a couple of pleasant hours chatting, and at the end of it, he asked if I’d like to go to dinner with him that very evening. Since I wanted to stick to my work schedule, I declined, but he followed up with a sweet text saying we should do it some other time soon.
(All of which is A LOT more than I can say for some people.)
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The one other social thing I did this weekend: I met up with Dating Coach Extraordinaire John Keegan, who was recently profiled in the New York Times. I loved the little piece about him, in which he talked about how the most successful flirts are the most playful, innocent ones. He’d also mentioned how he made a pact with himself, a few years ago, to talk to five new women a day for three weeks straight–and to ask every single one for her phone number. Living flirtatiously, indeed! (Do I need to ramp it up, or what?) Between the cute things he said and the appealingly approachable way he came across in the pictures–with a sheepish smile and a slouchy aw-shucks carriage, wearing flat Chuck-Taylor-like sneakers, skinny jeans, and an adorable plaid cap*–I though: There’s really something very charming about him. Besides, I really liked the idea of flirting as playfulness. So I wrote and asked if he’d be willing to collaborate with me in some way for the site.
So it was that on Friday afternoon, John and I spent some QT at the Whole Foods Cafe @ Union Square. He lay down a few basic pieces of dating advice that he thinks are important for any single person to keep in mind during the early stages of a dating situation:
-Don’t act like a needy person. In fact, until you’re in a solid relationship, try to hide any neediness almost entirely. (I mean, if you need to take a leak; or to eat a peanut-butter-and-jelly-sandwich you have in your handbag for fits of low blood sugar; or to have a glass of water … by all means. But don’t act like there’s anything you need from the other person.)
-Don’t be negative. This means you shouldn’t criticize the loud/poorly dressed/gauche people on the other side of the bar from you. Don’t complain that your Pinot is not quite Noir-y enough, or that your salad would’ve been a lot more awesome if they’d only added a splash of Holy Water from Fatima on it. Don’t complain about your job. Or your family. Or that one really toxic friend of yours. (I don’t care if she always gets wasted and throws up on your shoes, or if she always borrows money in small denominations–like $5 here, $10 there–and never pays you back. Do not mention her! And really, while you’re at it, shouldn’t you consider breaking up with her?) If you need to vent about any of these things–wait till you’re sitting with an old pal, or you’re on the couch at your shrink’s office. A big part of the reason we’re attracted to people is because we think they are going to make our lives happier–and the more negative you are, the less likely it is that a dude will think you’ll bring some sunshine to his sad existence.
-Always keep this idea in the forefront of your mind: You are not trying to find out if the person you are flirting with or dating accepts YOU. You are trying to figure out if YOU accept HIM. Does he have qualities that you value? Does he make you feel good? Does he treat you the way you want to be treated?