Monday, March 13, 2017

Cruel to be Kind: Why Rejecting is So Much Harder than Rejection

When we go on a date, or enter into a relationship with someone, it's (usually) with the hopeful optimism that it's leading somewhere. Sometimes it works out and we end up spending the rest of our lives with that person, but a lot of times, it doesn't. Whether it be after one date, one year or one decade, we find ourselves having to partake in the inevitable "Not seeing each other again" conversation.

I hate those. Who am I kidding? Everybody hates those, except maybe sociopaths. (Stay away from them!) But as a general rule, there are a few things I hate more than having to tell someone I'm not into them.

So I don't. I, a person who champions honesty and transparency, am a complete coward and hypocrite. I am notorious (this is annoying to my friends) for not being interested in perfectly eligible men for reasons they-my friends- find trivial but I hold steadfast to. (We'll talk about standards in another post) So I lie. I make up excuses.  In the event of an emergency, I ghost...anything, really, anything but telling someone that I just don't see it happening, or they're not my type.

I've spent a good deal of time trying to convince myself that this makes me a good person, a considerate one, for not hurting people's feelings. But just as I am lying to those poor men, I'm also lying to myself: it's not remotely nice, it's mean and deceptive. And it's also something I would hate if/when it is done to me. Yet the cowardice continues.

The good (or bad?) news is that I've discovered that I am not alone in this. Most people would seriously consider limb amputation or a root canal rather than face the wrath of someone's rejected feelings. Because we're good people, right? We don't like causing someone pain, right? The more I think about it, the more I'm believe that our hesitation to reject someone is actually: Us not wanting to feel uncomfortable. Our altruistic act is actually one of selfishness driven by the fear of the unknown.  If we reject someone, the outcome is unpredictable. We don't know what their reaction will be (volatile? docile? hysterical? indifferent?) or what the fall out will be (will they let us go gracefully? Or will they start showing up at our front door at 3am drunk and crying?)  The risk of it shaking up our lives terrifies us beyond description, so we protect ourselves by claiming to be considerate. 

However, the consideration is only to ourselves, and if we're honest with ourselves, we'll admit that.

 I've had conversations about this with people, and, across the board, (This has never happened!) everyone agreed on five things:

1. We hate having to reject someone. 
2. If someone rejects us, we are sad/hurt feelings, but we move on "at least we know" It's hard not to feel slighted or a jab of pain when someone tells us they don't like us. But we get over it.
3. We would rather someone tell us they're not into us than lie because (again) "at least we'll know" and "we won't have false hope") 
4. Despite appreciating #3, we can't bring ourselves to do it. We know that if someone isn't into us, we'd rather they tell us so we can't stop pining, hoping, ordering monogrammed towels and move on. We know this yet we don't follow the golden rule.
5. Rejecting is harder than rejection: we would, as a general rule be hurt than be responsible for someone else being hurt. Again, I am not sure if this is because we are kind hearted or simply don't want the extra burden of guilt. 

I had a conversation the other day with a friend of mine whose colleague is making advances towards him which makes him uncomfortable because he's not interested. When I asked how he's dealt with it, he told me he was just ignoring it because he "didn't want it to be awkward" and "figured she'd stop eventually." I told him to just flat out say no to her, that by saying and doing nothing was giving some kind of hope to her, and his disinterest clearly wasn't getting through. he still doesn't want to, mainly because the fallout is out of his control and he isn't sure he can handle the awkwardness. I called my friend selfish and mean, but quickly admitted to him, that I was a hypocrite and would probably do the same, sharing with him some of my go-to "go away tactics. The worst of which I will share at the end of this post as a "Top Tip." 

While the above is written in the frame of mind of early stages of dating it can also be relevant to people in established relationships. Leaving is never easy, though in my experience, leaving something long term is hard for different reasons-as we seem to have little problem telling those we've known and loved for a long time everything that's wrong with them. Ironic, right? That relative  strangers receive more outward consideration than those we have shared our beds, lives, and hearts with for months or years. The fact is, we don't generally hurl scathing insults at people we don't know-or exploit their weaknesses, but we do to ones we once loved. Which isn't good either.

The point is, leaving, telling someone you don't want them is always complicated and often times, it is the leavers who struggle more- for they not only have to take action to end it (whether it be ghosting or being a kind, mature adult and saying it face to face) but they have to stand by their decision: even if it means watching tears, listening to angry words, or having the other person try and question or contradict their decision.

If you are no longer interested in someone, then prolonging your relationship is doing a disservice to the both of you. But it's how you end it that  is one of the things that we just can't seem to get right...but what if we really tried to challenge ourselves to honesty-both within ourselves but also to those around us? What if we challenged ourselves to overcome being uncomfortable with being direct, and telling someone the truth-with tact and compassion-but without an excuse or escape. If we relinquished control and trusted those we reject to accept the truth with their honest reactions (stalking and crazy is not ok) so then we could just move on, truly. Because when there are lies and excuses involved, often times, only one party gets over it, and the other one is left pondering or revisiting.  

That would be my suggestion. And it's really hard and maybe some people will hate you and berate you, but wouldn't it be better to be in the firing line for someone you are versus someone you're not? It's not just about the other person, but also about having the integrity and strength of self to own up to your actions and feelings. You can do it. I can do it. We should all at least try.

Top tip: don't tell someone you're moving out of the country unless it's 100% guaranteed you are...because it's extremely awkward to be invited to a intimate dinner party a year later to discover one of the other guests thought you had moved to Africa. To be fair, I had been thinking about it- and "I am looking into conservation roles so might move to Africa and don't think it's the right time to  start a relationship" is SO much nicer than, "You're needy and borderline creepy, I felt smothered after one date."

Thanks to everyone who took part in conversations surrounding this subject and post. To the men who were always honest with me and to the friends who challenged me to practice what I preach. 

Friday, March 3, 2017

Virtual Insanity: The Downside of Digitalised Dating

From the beginning of time, humans have wandered around searching for their other half, the one to share their life with: build a family, make memories, and take on the world with. While our quest to allocate this person hasn't changed, the methods of how we conduct this search have evolved considerably.

When I joined the dating scene 17 years ago (oh my gosh, I'm old!) people met at weddings, parties, bars, through friends or work.  When online dating first appeared, it was regarded as a bit of a taboo, raised eyebrows and spoken about in hushed tones with the implication that it was weird if you "couldn't" meet someone the traditional way. 

Nowadays the norm is downloading an app, swiping left or right, chatting about relatively boring things before agreeing to meet up in real life and see how it goes. Romance is when the person you've been seeing deletes Tinder. 

I'm still trying to wrap my rather old fashioned head around this approach because, despite seeing the benefits (widening options, convenience for hectic lifestyles, accessibility) and having many friends who have met their S.O. online, I am more struck by the negatives (not just my fear of crazy stalker killers) and think that perhaps in our quest to digitalise dating, we've lost the human aspect of it.

I've noticed that people don't talk to one another anymore. We are in an era of instant gratification, we can have anything at any time and that now extends to romantic dalliances. These apps dehumanize people and objectify them: We swipe left or right based on purely physical attraction, when in reality, chemistry and attraction can manifest after a good conversation, shared joke, or simply time. By limiting our interactions to online, we are potentially losing out on those moments that build truly great relationships. 

I'm not, for a single second, saying they can't exist within the confines of those who we've "matched" with, nor am I discounting the importance of being attracted to your partner but simply pointing out that attraction stems from more than a great smile and chiseled abs. The last person I fell in love with was someone who, while good looking, also made me laugh beyond what I thought capable and it was THAT which resulted in me finding him the sexiest man on the planet...something I might not have discovered if I'd come across him on an app. 

The online dating from 5 years ago, the Match.coms of the world differ greatly from popular culture apps like Tinder. The former are based on algorithms promoting compatibility whereas the latter is far more superficial. 

Tinder, Bumble and even some of the more old school sites also provide a security blanket that we don't get in real life dating: 

1. There is no sting of rejection and little risk. If you "like" someone who doesn't "like you back," the sinking feeling of rejection, warm face, and moment of self doubt doesn't occur. Your ego remains intact. In fact, you're probably swiping right to so many people that you won't even know someone hasn't swiped back for you. There is little risk. 

2. Instant gratification trumps establishing a bond. I have harped on and on about the importance of chemistry and how it either exists or not, but digital dating allows us to make almost no concessions for the notion that, often times, things build over time and we can't get a read on a person or situation over a coffee. Before we had endless options, we'd go on several dates with someone before declaring them a dud. These days, our expectations are so high, and we are so addicted to this notion of perfection that if the first date isn't great, we move on to our next match. Again, i'm certainly not suggesting we settle for mediocrity or continue to date weirdos, but fireworks and cartwheels aren't always instantaneous. 

3. The probability of your ego being validated with a match within each session is high. In real life? Not so much. I don't care how gorgeous, smart, or engaging you are: everyone has dry spells but with dating apps, you never do. There are always more options.

4. You don't have to do much work. It's all there in front of you.  When you're out-why speak to the cute guy/girl a few steps away? That's effort-plus what's the point? You have someone at your fingertips. It means people go out and essentially remain insular within their own group-which is a bit sad. Romantic component aside: the world is full of fascinating people and some of them are standing beside you as you order your g&t. You can never have too big of a network. 

5. We don't see people as people. I'm all about not putting all of your eggs in one basket but "chatting" with six to seven people at any given time is impersonal, not to mention, completely exhausting. It also means they're basically interchangeable and relatively forgettable. It becomes easier to ignore them, ghost them, or write them off for a minor offense. I have often spoken about not settling for less than what we deserve, but am finding that tolerance levels are at an all time low. (I am as guilty of this as the next person, writing someone off for a text that I perceive as dumb or dislike the tone of.) We don't care because we don't actually know the person, we haven't invested anything real so therefore it's easier to delete them from our memory. (To be fair, texts are so often misconstrued from people that we DO know, that strangers barely have a chance to make it past our screens to real life.)

I've had countless conversations about this recently, trying to figure out why. Why people don't speak to one another anymore and the answers are identical: "dating apps are easy" and some variation of "fear/risk/rejection." In our mission for efficiency and self preservation we're  losing the plot and a bit of our humanity. What happened to doing something that scares us? Or the fact that with great risks come great rewards? If you read an interview with the world's most successful people, they talk of risk, the unknown, and how they forged ahead anyway, following their dream. Because in their mind, the positives of potential far outweighed the negatives of failure, or the unknown of not trying. Why not apply these same techniques to love? 

I don't think the answer is to forgo dating apps and sites, because, negatives aside, there are positives, namely the ability to meet someone you would not otherwise meet. What I am saying is that we've gone too far in the other direction. Just as online dating was once met with incredulity, IRL (that's "in real life" for those non millennials) connections are now met with the same shock and wariness. We thinks it's weird and are suspicious if a stranger sparks up a conversation with us, something must be wrong with them. Smiling and eye contact is received with a stare down.

It's almost comical that despite many seeking out a long term partnership, actually securing one is a challenge. It doesn't seem to matter if our end goals are the same, we struggle on the path of getting there for simple and obvious reasons: chemistry, compatibility and commitments. I think the answer is to combine the both: embrace the opportunities and options presented by digital, but don't stop real life interactions. Talk to that cute girl/guy at the other side of the room. Worst case scenario they scream and run away (unlikely) but maybe, just maybe they'll turn out to be the love of your life.

Thanks to everyone who partook in conversations around this subject, including: my friends who met via app; men I met via app who patiently spoke with me about this; friends; and the IRL romances who have kept my standards high, my heart full and my idealism intact. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Complacency is the Death of Romance: 15 Ways to Not Take Your Partner for Granted

Today is Valentine’s Day, and though I wrote this entry a week ago, I waited to post it. I’ve never really understood why Valentine’s Day is such a thing, why people buy into this theory that they need a specific day to be romantic and display their love. Despite being based on a pure sentiment, the day itself is contrived, it’s materialistic, and it’s unfulfilling. Valentine’s Day, for me, detracts from what makes truly great relationships shine. 

It’s simple: If you care about someone, love them even, then show them every single day. Not by grand gestures but by simple things and the way you treat them.  (Grand gestures are ok too) Romance, seduction, flirting, and courting our other half are essential parts of any relationship and should be ongoing throughout, not delegated to specific days.  

The death of any romantic relationship is complacency.  It’s so easy to do (in fact it’s harder to not let it happen) but happen it does, slowly building up before it overtakes the entire relationship. There comes a point where we stop appreciating and trying and start taking our significant other for granted, which can lead to a myriad of destructive choices.  Most of the time we don’t even realize we’re doing it, but if we’re at the receiving end, the feeling is overwhelming. We feel under appreciated, we crave attention and long for the way things were before we got so comfortable. It’s dangerous on both sides, for feeling rejected and unloved drives us to deep levels of unhappiness which can cause us to act out, whether it be for attention or simply to feel loved again.

It seems that in every relationship I’ve ever been in, or been privy to, there is always a time where someone says the romance has fizzled out, that “He doesn’t flirt with me anymore” or “She doesn’t appreciate everything I do for her/us” comes in, and with that, resentment and a yearning to feel validated and desired.  It can break our heart, our spirit, and our desire to try.

Now, we’re not naïve enough to believe or expect that long term, stable relationships can operate as they did when they just started out. That would be unrealistic and frankly unhealthy. Naturally, as relationships progress, the stardust of the intoxicating honeymoon stage settles and shifts into a routine. The real, every day life. In many ways, the stability of this is wonderful: we know who were are and where we’re supposed to be, but it doesn’t change the fact that we all want to feel like the person we’re sharing our life with feels as lucky to have us as we do them.

I’ve been speaking to both men and women about this. As usual, there seems to be a disconnect. In fact, it’s a wonder at all that we’re able to sustain relationships, when the way we think can be so different. The only thing that we have in common, is that we have the same fundamental needs and desires, it’s just the way we want them to be expressed comes in different forms.

The more I spoke to people the more I realized how easy it could be, if we stop thinking about it from our perspective and start considering theirs. That’s the crux of the issue, I think, the misunderstanding of what the opposite sex wants and needs to feel valued.

It’s very easy, as a woman, to complain that once our man has caught us, that he stops trying. We recount the early days when he flirted with us and complimented us. When we’d blush and giggle. We no longer feel like we’re being seduced, but instead there is an expectation that we’re theirs and that’s a given. We love them, so they don’t think we’ll leave them. We don’t want to leave them but we want them to want us. To find us alluring, and magical and be slightly in awe of the fact that we reciprocate their feelings. We feel that once we’re established, these things stop, and they stop making us a priority.

 In our minds: we’re easy. We just want attention, appreciation, and affection. We want flowers because it’s Tuesday, not because it’s Valentine’s Day. We want you to tell us that we’re beautiful and that you love being with us. We want you to kiss us like you’ve never kissed us before and love us like we’re being reunited after months. We want to feel considered, not like an after thought. We want you to notice our new outfit, or that we cut our hair, and just randomly compliment something about us. We know you see us all the time, that we can be annoying, and deep down we know you’re with us because you want to be, but that doesn’t mean the reminders aren’t valued.  When we don’t get these things, we act out, become disenchanted and unhappy.

Now this is our fault too, as I’ll highlight below because women also stop trying, though, like men, we don’t realize it as comfort and complacency creep in.

I’ve been told, are not as complex as women, though I know many who will disagree. A friend of mine (a man) told me the other day that “Men are easy, we just want our partner to keep trying, to have sex with us,  to need us, and to be nice to us.” Which sounds almost identical to what women want. So where’s the issue?

When we first start dating someone, we tend to make an effort: with our appearance, our demeanor etc. We style our hair, wear flattering outfits, and compliment the man we’re with. We’re appreciative of the little things he does to show he cares and we mention it. We thank him for things like, picking up the milk, or making us a cup of tea in the morning…until we stop. We stop recognizing that those are very nice things, thoughtful things, and we start expecting them. “Thanks for the coffee” turns into “You didn’t make my coffee?” or “Ugh this coffee is too strong/sweet/milky” We stop asking for their help and start resenting when they offer advice.  Instead of thanking them for being considerate and trying to make our lives easier, we pick out the things they’re not doing or saying.

This is a huge mistake. Just like men can’t expect women to just “be there because they’ve been won over” women can’t expect men to continue their practical displays of affection because “that’s what they always do.”

 We feel comfortable with them so we go from making an effort to not even brushing our hair. We want to feel desirable yet we fail to replicate the things we did to attract them in the beginning. (Now I am not suggesting, by any means, that women walk around like Barbie dolls. Makeup free and yoga pants are great, and if you can’t be comfortable in that with your partner, I think that’s sad. It’s also unrealistic, job, life, kids, come into play and their simply isn’t the time to primp every day.) But sometimes it needs to happen. Sometimes we need to make the effort to show that we want them to find us attractive.

So here are some simple rules to not take your partner for granted:
  1. Every day, think of something you love about them. Tell them.
  2. Regularly do something considerate for them
  3. Thank them for the little (and big things) they do
  4. Express feelings. Because we think so differently, and we assume that once someone’s with us that they should be able to read our minds or “just know.” They can’t and they don’t, and because of this we become angry and resentful. Talk to each other. And listen.  REALLY listen. Maybe you won’t understand why someone feels a certain way or needs something, but if it’s important to them, and they’re important to you, it’s worth it to try and understand and more importantly, to actually do it. There is nothing worse than having to tell someone the same thing over and over again.
  5. Let your partner be your partner. This sounds so basic but we often shut people out: maybe we’re trying to protect them, or be the strong one, or don’t even think about it, but everyone wants to feel needed, and they want to feel like they’re on the same team as the person they’re sharing their life with. Let them in.
  6. Go on dates. Real ones.  Make a plan for this, maybe it’s once a week, once a fortnight, or once a month, but have the time set aside and do it properly.
  7. Break routine.
  8. Call/text/email  them for no other reason than to let them know that you’re thinking about them.
  9. Kiss. A lot.
  10. Have sex. Even if you’re exhausted or not in the mood. And be present in the moment.  A huge part of having someone finding you desirable is for you to desire them in return.
  11. Stop complaining. No one is perfect, and that doesn’t mean letting everything slide, but nitpicking is unsexy and often times unnecessary. It’s easy to do, and easier to lash out on those closest to us, but is highly damaging.
  12. Give them space. Everybody needs space.
  13. Stop being selfish. Just think about it from their perspective…how they might feel, what they might want.
  14. Never stop seducing them
  15. Have fun with them. Laugh. Stop over-analzying and being serious all the time, and just have fun

Now obviously, I’m not married. But I have more married friends than single ones, and several serious long term relationships under my belt, and an interest in human psychology and relationships in general. I ask people questions and I listen to their answers and am not surprised when I discover that, generally, we’re all the same. I know that no relationship is perfect and that you can’t actually make a list of rules and expect for life to not come in and affect them. However, I also know that relationships require maintenance, they can’t just survive on past sentiment, but instead need an active approach to stay fresh and be reminded of why we got into them in the first place.

There is no worse feeling in the world than feeling like the person we love is taking us for granted and that we’re not special anymore, and unfortunately, the balance between routine and romance is a difficult one to navigate. But people do it, and I think the first step is awareness, followed by taking steps to ignite sparks, appreciate, focus on the good, and truly love someone for what they bring to the table vs what we wish they had. People, for the most part, respond to positive reinforcement over criticism, those who feel appreciated tend to work harder. If we feel loved, we give love. If we feel happy, we make those around us happy. It’s simple and highly complex at the same time.

The bottom line is this: just because we won someone over doesn't mean we automatically receive the benefits that come with them loving us. We have to work, to try, and appreciate.

Good luck and happy Valentine’s Day.

Thanks to everyone for the input and to J who repels the very notion of complacency.

Monday, May 18, 2015

How to Balance Your Romantic Relationship with Friendships: 10 Tips

“My plans tonight fell through again,” a good friend of mine lamented, “Ever since (redacted) got a boyfriend, she’s fallen off the face of the Earth, and any plans she makes, she cancels at the last minute.”

One of the most exciting things in the world is getting into a new relationship.  There is nothing that quite compares to the exhilarating getting to know you phase: where sleep is minimal but the rush of endorphins keep a spring in your step and a goofy smile on your face. It’s so much fun. Intoxicating. We’ve all been there, we get it.

The downside of partaking in these new relationships is that the old ones can suffer: in the whirlwind that has become our life, sometimes we forget about our friends. Or have friends who forget about us. This is tricky, because obviously, our friends want us to be happy/we want to be happy for our friends, and with new relationships comes the understanding that OF COURSE our time will be divided, but as adults, we need to find a way to strike a balance: not just for the sake of our friends but also for the good of our romantic relationship.

There are two main causes for choosing our paramour vs our friends: 1. We’re simply too caught up in our love affair to extract ourselves and 2. Our significant other doesn’t like/is jealous of our friendships. The 2nd is worse but the 1st is pretty bad too, because they are both damaging, and completely unnecessary.

10 Ways How to Balance a Romantic Relationship with Your Platonic Ones:

Make regular plans with your friends and don’t flake on them:  Again, everyone knows that being in a relationship means your time is split differently than before, and no one expects for everything to remain exactly the same. If you normally met up with your friends 4x a week, and you clearly can’t keep that volume, then fine. But meet up with them once or twice a week. And don’t just choose times that the person you’re dating is not around. I had a friend who, once she started dating her fiancée, disappeared off the face of the Earth. The only time she was ever free was when her boyfriend was at work, so expected our dinners to become lunches.  Were we all happy for her? Yes. Did we understand why she needed to eat dinner with him every single night? No. I’ve also had guy friends, who once they got into a serious relationship, cease their friendship with their female friends. I’m not sure why, but I don’t think it’s acceptable.  Don’t do that. For one, it’s unnecessary, but more importantly, it’s not healthy to be codependent. People in secure, strong relationships are comfortable being apart from one another, and actually encourage their partner maintain a life outside of the relationship.  Remember: you had a life before, there’s no reason you can’t have one still. Oh and, don’t cancel plans every time, that’s lame and quick way to lose friends.

Include Your Significant Other SOMETIMES: It’s always nice when friends get along with our partners, and even nicer if we can merge our worlds from time to time. Our partner should be willing to do this (and vice versa) because what’s important to us should be important to them. But don’t bring them along every time. It changes the dynamic and the mood, and friends won’t be as “cool” with it as they’re pretending to be. Now: if you’re in the same group of friends and you get together, it’s obviously a bit different, as you can’t expect for someone to just stay at home or make all new friends just to prove a point. What I do know is this: over the course of my life, I’ve been in a situation where there were couples in my group of friends, but what made it so great is that they weren’t obsessed with being together the whole time. Sometimes one of them came out, or both, and it was great either way.

Have at least one hobby outside of your relationship: This is really something that we should be doing, relationship or not, but partaking in something that interests us is a great way to keep perspective and a strong sense of independence and self. Whether it be kickboxing, choir practice, or volunteering, doing something you enjoy with likeminded people breeds confidence and happiness.

Don’t only hang out with couples:  This seems to happen a lot, as soon as we get into a relationship we suddenly are going on double date after double date or are hanging around people who say ‘we” instead of “I.” Couples retreats are fun, but your single friends are just as much fun and don’t deserve to be excluded simply because they’re flying solo.

Don’t obsessively gush about your relationship: First of all it’s boring, but also it’s narcissistic. We all have moments where we NEED to talk/share/vent, and friends are great for that, and generally happy to be there. But it can’t be every single time.  No one needs to hear about the cute texts he sends you every hour. Friends are happy for us, but at the same time, our relationship with them needs to be about our relationship with THEM: shared interests, the things we talked about and did before. Also: limit the PDA if out with friends. It's great that you are affectionate and adorable, but if you're out with friends, they don't need an inside look at what goes on behind closed doors.

Don’t be in a relationship with someone who tries to control your friendships:  Sometimes our significant other will not get along with our friends, or us with theirs. It’s unfortunate when this happens, but it does. It is not the end of the world. We do not need to spend massive amounts of time with them together, and when we do, we can just be mature adults. However, unless there is a strong reason (the friend is dangerous, the friendship is toxic, the friend is deeply disrespectful and offensive towards you etc) then it is inexcusable for your partner to complain about who you choose to be friends with. Yet it happens, ALL THE TIME, and we often just cut off the friend to appease our partner. As I said, unless there is a strong and viable reason, then this shouldn’t happen.  How it should be:  My best friend, Ben**, has never dated a girl who could stand me. He has been told, on several occasions, that they didn’t want him to talk to me anymore. His response? “Alice is my best friend. That’s not going to change.” And it never has.

Don’t Share Other People’s Secrets with Your Partner:  When we’re dating someone, we tend to talk to them and tell them things. We share stories about our day, our past, and general anecdotes. And for whatever reason, we can find ourselves sharing stories/secrets/situations about our friends. This usually works one way, we rarely tell our friends private or sensitive information about our partner, even though we’ve known them for longer and trust them. The desire to divulge information is driven by something in us that wants to bring us closer to our partner, to SHARE, which is understandable, but shouldn’t be at the expense of others. One, it’s breaking trust, but also, it shapes and affects the way our partner thinks and feels about our friend, which is not something that we want.

Be Present Wherever You Are: In my daily life, I talk about the importance of being present a lot, which people tend to make fun of, “Where else would you be?” people ask. But in reality, a lot of the times we’re somewhere, we’re checking our phones, scanning Facebook or texting others, which takes us out of the moment and impedes on the time we’re spending with whoever we’re with. If you’re out with your friends, be present. Don’t spend the time thinking about rendez-vousing with your love or even engage in an ongoing conversation with them. Doing so makes you not “really” out with your friends and therefore not balancing. It’s harder if you’re in a long distance relationship, I know this, and have definetly spent time chatting to the person I was dating when I was out with my friends, but keep it to a minimum, enjoy the moment and the people you’re sharing that moment with.

Do Things With Friends that Would Typically Be a Relationship Activity: Anyone who knows me, would tell you that I actively hated the phrase “Girls Night Out” because I never understood why it had to be a special, planned evening, why can’t it just be the norm? I still feel this way, and inwardly roll my eyes when I see it but, at the same time, recognize its value and importance. I admit that members of the opposite sex, even completely platonic ones, change the tone of the activity. So if you need to call it a girls/boys night, then call it that. I was recently at ball, solo, and was lucky enough to sit at a table with 9 incredible, fun, married with children women who had left their husbands at home that evening, gotten all dressed up in ball gowns and went out and had a great time. It was a great reminder that not having a romantic plus one to events like this doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, in fact, it was one of the most fun nights I’ve had in a while, and I credit those women for that.

Remember to be Inclusive: I'm not just referring to outings and activities, but also information. There is a big difference between being single and being in a relationship, but that doesn't mean that someone who is single "wouldn't understand or care" about your relationship issues. This is somewhat similar to not only hanging out with couples in that, often times, once we're involved with someone, we tend to seek advice or share relationship anecdotes with others who are in the same boat as us, almost as if, someone single wouldn't get it. Of course they would! And do! Withholding this information creates an unnecessary divide and can weaken friendship bonds.

Cynical as it might be to say, there is a chance that this relationship won’t work out. In the event it doesn’t, you’re going to need and want your friends to be your support system when it falls apart…a pretty unfair thing to ask if you’ve all but abandoned them in meantime. (Though to be fair, if they’re really you’re friends, they’ll forgive you. If it does work out, then congratulations! But you’re still going to want to have a network of friends. They keep you sane, make you laugh, and are there for you in a way that a significant other can’t be. )

I’ve always been attracted to men who either live in a different city than me (long distance, though riddled with other complications, makes balancing easy: when you’re together, you are full on, and no one begrudges that, and when you’re aprt you can do your own thing) or workaholics whose demanding schedules leaves me with a lot of “Alice-time” which perhaps isn’t the best way to balance, but it’s always worked for me.

Whatever your situation, there is a balance to be found. An all encompassing, all consuming relationship is impossible to sustain and also incredibly unhealthy. In fact, the happiest/most stable relationships that I’ve been in and seen, were all ones where there was balance between “togetherness” and individuality. It’s not something that should be optional, but rather than essential.

*Thanks to my friends in relationships who make balancing look easy

**And to Ben, who has never let a girlfriend stop him from being my best friend, no matter how much she disliked me. I heart you, big time.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

5 Reasons Why Dating in Your 30's is Better than Dating in Your 20's

If I’m to believe books, movies and tv, I should be clutching my blow up doll boyfriend, sobbing, because now that I’m on the other side of 30, I have basically failed. There are, according to these mediums, very few options left, and I might as well exile myself to a life of spinsterhood. I already have two cats, might as well start collecting more J

Thank goodness I don’t believe everything I see/read. When I found myself suddenly single earlier this year, my first reaction was desolation followed by pure and utter panic because I realized that, at some point I’d have to start dating again. I HATE dating, which seems odd, all things considered, but believe me, I do. Or at least I did. Relationships I can do... but dating a non-friend always felt contrived and stressful to me. So I hated it.  But, I'm not sure when, something in me shifted, and I suddenly approached dating in a completely different way than I used to, and I think it’s because I’m older.

Admittedly, in your 30s, there are certain biological issues that start to become more relevant than they were when we were 25. But failing? There being no options left?  Hardly. At least not from what I have seen and experienced, both personally and vicariously.  In fact, I’m going to go as far as to say that dating in my 30s has been immensely more enjoyable than dating in my 20s was. (This is not to say that I didn’t adore most of my ex boyfriends. We’re still friends, they read my blog, and they’re terrific.) What makes it better is MY perspective, which has evolved considerably. So I did some research, both asking friends but also reading scientific and psychological reviews and studies confirming that dating in your 30s is a whole different ballgame


 More confidence:  Despite the fact that I was consistently awesome on dates (I work in marketing, after all) I always found the whole process incredibly stressful and I’d always be nervous, regardless of whether or not I liked the guy. I was consumed, for mostly ego reasons, with being likeable.  I no longer operate like this. Now I walk in already knowing what I bring to table and am no longer worried about him liking me but rather “Am I going to like him?” I’m 100% myself, unabashedly, take it or leave it. And if it’s “leave it” then I’m totally fine with it. I’m not interested in wasting time on someone who doesn’t like or appreciate me for who I am. This has made the whole process actually fun rather than taxing.

No games:  I’ve never been a game player, but for the sake of the people that are: games subside considerably in your 30s. They’re exhausting, pointless and boring. The older we get the more we realize that finding someone we’re compatible with is a great thing, so we tend to not waste time and just be with them.

Independent: Most of us, when we’ve reached our 30's, have a more established sense of being and our lives. We’re not just starting out at our career, we have our own group of friends and hobbies, which means, usually, we have a strong sense of self and identity. Our relationships aren’t something we need to define us, but rather enhance the life we already have already built for ourselves.

Self awareness: We’re constantly evolving and changing, but in our 30s, we have more self awareness than we did when we were in our early 20s. (I don’t know about you but I am a different person than I was at 25. And thank goodness for that.) Basically: We know what we need and want. Each relationship we have, good or bad, is a learning experience, that we hopefully walk away from better than we walked in. We have figured out what works and what doesn’t, what we like and don’t like, what we want and need. So we don’t waste our time pursuing fruitless or futile endeavours. Our standards are also higher and we are less tolerant and forgiving of bad behavior, and as a result, waste less time. We also obsess less on the little things and focus on the things that actually matter.

Less jaded: Some people might say, “What on Earth is she talking about?!  Failed previous relationships make us MORE jaded.” But I don’t think that’s actually the case. Think back to your first heartbreak: it was devastating, you probably thought the world was going to end and you’d never love again. Now…doesn’t that seem silly? The more breakups we’ve had, the more we know that no matter what….we’re going to be ok and get through it. We WILL move on and find someone better. And that’s pretty powerful knowledge to have. We might, perhaps, be more cautious to enter into a new relationship when we’re older, but I think that’s more due to our standards and not wanting to disrupt our lives as opposed to be afraid.

There are probably people out there who disagree with me and will lament that the dating pool is practically obsolete the older that we get.  There are also people who met their partners/spouses in their teens or 20s who are happily still with them. My parents (who have the best relationship I’ve ever seen) got married at 23. I have countless friends who got married in their 20s and who are in healthy, stable, and enviously loving relationships. And those people are incredibly lucky, but it doesn’t mean that the circumstances for the single 30-somethings are dire. Instead of fixating on the fact that we’re getting older, we should focus on all the great experiences that we’ve had that have shaped and defined us. We should concentrate on all of our successes and strengths. And know that, any relationship we partake in, is with a high quality individual who doesn’t make us feel  like we’re compromising but instead complementing.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The 13 Types of Men That Every Woman Should Date

The older we get, if we’re single, the more relationships that we have. Some people might find this depressing but, I, on the other hand, think it’s incredible that the world is diverse and vast enough to keep providing us with new options. During conversations with friends, we came to realize that none of us really stick to the same "type" but instead date men that are different from one another...which is not only fun, but is a constant learning experience. 

I asked my girlfriends all over the world what type of men are "must dates" and most of the types below reflect the majority. My guy friends wanted me to tell them what the women said. 

Before we get into types, The following 5 qualities are what the most women agreed on wanting in a man: 1. Across the board, every woman, no matter what her “type” is, said they wanted a man who is a good cook. Which, to me, is obvious and obligatory for a guy. So men, if you can’t cook: learn. 2. A good dancer. Good dancers are super sexy and a definite hot commodity. So Twinkle Toes, get your dancing shoes on and get ready to be swarmed. 3. Funny. A man who makes us laugh and doesn’t take himself or life too seriously. 4. A good dresser. Know what works and what doesn’t. Be adaptable and appropriate. This is all relative to “type” though. 5. Romantic. Again, what constitutes as romantic depends on the woman and the type. But I will tell you this: every woman wants to be feel appreciated and desired.

But those are just qualities. We’re talking about types. So without further ado here are the:

13 Types of Men that Every Woman Should Date*
(plus 7 bonuses)

The Older Guy: There’s the age old cliche of the older man and younger woman. Older (I'm talking 10+ years here) men are important to date because when we are with them, we experience relationships in an alternative way. Older men talk about different topics, introduce us to new things, and have a strong sense of self. which makes it easier to get to know them. They know what they want, they're less likely to play games, and they tend to have their act together in a way that's attractive, especially if the guys our own age are still flailing about or sowing their wild oats. When I was in university, I dated a guy who was 10 years older than me, and though my friends made jokes, I loved the fact that his goal for the week was not trying to find a different house party (or coed) every night...but instead talked to me about current events, books and theatre, and also gave incredible insight and advice regarding my career. (Which he still does actually.)
Cons: Older men tend to be more stubborn/set in their ways. Can also be patronizing or treat you like a trophy.

The Mr. Good On Paper: We all have qualities that we look for in a partner. I have a LIST ;) and while it's important to have standards and an idea of what we want, in actuality, we might find that what we think we want doesn't actually translate from paper to real life. It doesn't make sense, really, because we “should” be compatible with them, yet we just aren’t. Discovering this is actually a positive because it reaffirms that: when it comes to love, relationships and people in general, we can't control or place limitations on them. We're reminded that a checklist doesn't equal chemistry and that we need to keep our options open and not judge a book by its table of contents.
Cons: There aren’t really any aside from wondering “Why can’t I like this person?”

The Boy Toy aka Younger Man: Ah the younger man. (We'll say 5+ years difference) Younger guys are fun, sexy, refreshing, and usually a lot more devoted and adoring than their counterparts closer in age. I'm not sure why that is, but it seems to be the rule of thumb. But more importantly, younger men are less jaded, less serious, and usually aren't allowing themselves to be held back by their quest to "settle down." As a result, being with them reminds us why dating is FUN rather than stressful. We can let go, live in the present, and just enjoy the moment (and relationship) rather than obsessively stress about the future.  Despite still being teased about being a cradle robber, one of the best relationships I had was with a guy 8 years my junior. 
 I can honestly say that it made me believe in uncomplicated love again, which has been pretty influential in keeping perspective that relationships, which will at times have their tribulations, aren't actually supposed to be really hard and complicated. Most of the time they're supposed to be good.
Cons: they can be immature, don’t have same time restrictions as women, they may not be amused when you refer to them as a "Boy Toy" :)

The Player:  Dating a player is an immensely crucial relationship lesson. Players are usually charming, good looking, fun and they draw you in only to break your heart (after driving you crazy.) So why recommend dating one? Easy: Because they make you appreciate a good thing when you have it. And they also make you a better, more considerate person especially in future dates/relationships.
Cons: Your ego and feelings will be hurt. Don’t worry, you’ll get over it.

The Career guy/Workaholic: Ambition is sexy. It doesn’t matter whether their career path has them in a boardroom, strumming at open mic night or scrubbing toilets. It's not about money or prestige but more about being with someone who is together, driven, and passionate about what they do. Being around people like that is inspiring and energizing and it often makes us set higher goals for ourselves. But there has to be a balance, and dating someone who can’t  or won't balance makes us recognize just how essential equilibrium and being able to prioritize are. 
Cons:  A job is a lifestyle... not just a job, it will always come first and you will constantly be sidelined in favor of work, which feels pretty horrible. Workaholics are often selfish, and you will be compromising all the time. It gets old fast. Remember: You're never too busy to get what you want, so neither should they be.

Mr. Artistic: Musician or painter, writer or actor (etc)...Talent is a turn on. Not just because we, as a rule, like things that are good, but also when people are performing or showcasing their work, they are in their element: radiant, immersed, and oozing a magnetic confidence that draws us to them. They inspire us and make us feel things. (I don't think I'd find John Legend attractive without his melt-inducing voice) It also means they are passionate and can commit, because mastering any art form requires time, desire, and dedication.
Cons: They often work crazy hours, they are away a lot, they can be elitist, John Legend is already married.

The Academic/Intellectual/Nerd: Being intellectually challenged by someone is not only stimulating and interesting, but it is also humbling to be reminded that we don’t know it all.  You have a whole different kind of caliber of conversation: exhilarating debates, constant challenges, and well informed discussions that you walk away from, having actually learned something. It's invigorating. 
Cons: It can get a little stuffy, condescending or elitist, depending on the people. Also, there's no such thing as simple.

Someone that's a Different Race/Culture/Religion: We often surround ourselves with like-minded people because they understand us, and we share the same sense of fun and point of view. But this can be boring and stagnant. Dating someone who is different whether it be their race, their religion, or their culture will open up our mind and realities to a whole other world. We will find ourselves thinking about things that never previously occurred to us and might even find our previous beliefs and conceptions catechized.
Cons: We might face resistance from their/our friends/family. Sometimes the differences can be too much to overcome.

The Insanely Hot-but-Boring Guy: There are some people who are just insanely good looking. So good looking that we are, at times, lost for words when we look at them (and we can't stop staring.) When we start dating them we can't believe our luck, other women are envious and drool over the man sitting across from us at the restaurant. So we date them, and gaze at them and upload photos of them on facebook and Instagram (So many likes and comments!) only to find that, they're really, REALLY boring. Or conceited. Or annoying. Or anything unappealing. And we ignore it for a bit because, COME ON, he's a Prada model. Except after a while he stops dazzling us and we start thinking maybe he's not so great after all. We realize that while being physically attracted to our partner is obviously important, that looks aren't everything and we need something more. So we end it...but obviously save photos ;)
Cons: You will probably never date someone that hot again.

The “Not My Physical Type”: The first thing we notice about someone is what they look like, and our reaction to it. We may even have a type and find ourselves dating people who look exactly the same. And while I tend to gravitate towards men who are over 6'2, have sparkling blue eyes and resemble Vikings or GQ models, restrictions like that mean we’re limiting ourselves and perhaps eliminating someone people we may be compatible with that we wouldn’t know about if we’re being close minded. So if you have chemistry with someone that you wouldn’t normally be attracted to (the weedy guy, the buff guy, the tall guy, the short guy, the sloppy dresser, the metrosexual, the athlete etc…whatever is different than your usual type) then go for it. Date them and see what happens, you might be surprised.
Cons: We might have such self imposed limitations that we can’t get over them

The Bad Boy or Just Someone Totally Inappropriate: This is different than the Player because the Bad Boy/JSTI is not necessarily a womanizer, but just someone who makes you feel like a rebel, someone you wouldn’t bring home to meet your parents. They don’t come in any shape or form (but I did get a LOT of “tattooed, Harley driving” comments) but really in this day and age, someone inappropriate could be your boss, your ex boyfriends best friend, or even  someone who has staunchly different views than yours. Just someone who makes you feel bad in a good way.
Cons: Relationships can’t sustain on excitement and thrill alone.

The Best Friend/Friend:  Romantic relationships that are founded on friendship tend to either be incredibly successful or completely disastrous. Dating a friend works so well in theory because we get to skip the whole awkwardness and tension that comes with meeting someone new. Plus, we trust them, are comfortable with them, and we genuinely like being around them. AND, they already know all of our attributes and detriments, which means we can just be ourselves. It’s easy and relaxing but exciting in a whole new way. It is a reminder that we are always learning about people, even the ones we thought we knew so well.
Cons: Being friends with someone and dating someone are totally different experiences. Liking someone platonically does not mean you’ll like them romantically, even if you think you will or want to. Also, knowing someone means that we have higher expectations for them and we also get frustrated more easily if they annoy or anger us because they should “know” how that something make us feel. Or “How don’t you know that?” Finally, if it ends, you might lose them as a friend, which is a double blow. 

The Nice Guy: If I had a type, it would be The Nice Guy, though my friend Josephine would argue that my type is “men who look like dentists.”* Nice guys are GREAT: they call when they say they will, they’re considerate and sweet, they introduce you to their friends and family, they don’t play games, and most of all, you can trust them because they’re honest and reliable. There’s very rarely drama or guessing games, which is also a plus. It’s important to date a nice guy because, by treating us well and with respect, they show us how we should be treated and therefore we start setting higher standards for ourselves, and remind us to not settle for less than we deserve.
Cons: For me, none. For some, they’ll argue the nice guy is boring. Having a bit of an edge is important.

Honorable mentions:
Scandinavian: Because everyone deserves a Viking
Red heads: Because they’re rare, and every redhead I know is awesome.
Athlete/Health nut: Because they're healthy, fit, and usually bring that out in you.
Life of the Party: Because these guys are exciting, always fun and up for a good time.
Shy Guy: Because they're usually the hidden gems
Polyglots: Because speaking multiple languages is HOT. And they're great to travel with. 
The Wanderlust/Adventurer: Because there's never a dull moment, and you'll see/experience cool places with someone whose excitement is contagious.

Something most of these men have in common are that they are passionate about something, which makes them more interesting to be around. A good date/relationship will not only entertain you, but will also challenge you in one way or another. In some cases, these will develop into actual relationships. Others it only takes a date or few before realizing, "Eh, not for me." But these are all enriching experiences as they help direct us to figuring out whats important in a relationship, what values and personality qualities we need, and how to walk away with more than we went in with.  We make mistakes or watch other make them and gain insight from those. These are all eye opening experiences that provide us with the never ending opportunity of learning more about ourselves and others. 

*Authors note:
1. Obviously someone can be more than one type, in fact most are.. 
2. I have never dated a dentist. Or even seen/met a dentist that I was attracted to

Thanks to:
1. The dynamic, vivacious, fascinating women that I am fortunate to call friends, for their input, and general love and support
2. The extraordinary, enchanting, and effervescent men who I was lucky enough to date, therefore allowing me the ability to impart some firsthand knowledge in this post (And for encouraging me to include you as examples!!!! Hope I didn’t disappointment in my endorsements)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

How To Tell if You're Dating a Sociopath

There are a lot of labels for people and behaviours. Labels help us define things, and to know how we should think and feel about certain people and situations. They serve as a road map for how to behave and react. Psychology is still a relatively new science, with new conditions discovered all the time. Sometimes, these conditions are genuine, and a diagnosis can be highly beneficial, and sometimes they’re used to justify actions that wouldn’t normally be tolerated or acceptable.

IThe definition of a sociopath is “a person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior and a lack of conscience. “ Sociopaths are everywhere, unfortunately, and it’s likely that in our lifetime we will have encounters with these people. Often times, we won’t know the person is a sociopath, especially not initially, but their characteristics will present themselves once we establish a deeper, more ongoing relationship with them. It is then that we realize that something is not quite right. We still may not know that they’re a sociopath, but we instinctively will distance ourselves from them because of their behavior.

Here are some of the tell-tale signs that you’re in a relationship with a sociopath:

Being swept off of your feet/moving quickly: This is a bit tricky, because in the early stages of most relationships, we are in the honeymoon stage. We see the good, we can’t get enough of the other person, and it’s blissful. But there’s a fine line. A relationship with a sociopath is all consuming.  It takes over your life. They want to be with you ALL the time, or talk to you ALL the time. They make declarations and promises very early on. People are supposed to take time to get to know each other. Sociopaths don’t do that because they want to ensnare you and don’t want to give you the time or space to think about what’s happening. It’s all part of their game. What to look for: saying they love you after a few weeks, wanting to marry you within a month, wanting to spend every non-working minute together, insisting on lengthy and constant conversations when you're apart.  

Excessive Charm and the “Soulmate Factor”: Sociopaths are incredibly charming, at least initially. They’re great at getting what they want and know how to make people feel special. Your early encounters with a sociopath will leave you thinking they’re fun, interesting, very likeable, and many cases sexually attractive.  In these encounters they listen to you and study you. They find out exactly how you think and what you want and then they give it to you. You are overjoyed because you think you’ve finally found someone who shares your values, thinks like you, wants the same things. They feel like your soulmate and probably even refer to themselves as such. They give you EXACTLY what it is you were looking for and make you feel happy, stable, and excited.  They also win over (most of) your friends and family. Their charm is only on the surface though, sociopaths have an agenda and use their charm to get something from people. None of it is real, in a way, they are con artists. It doesn’t take too long for their behavior to change which will be highly confusing and sometimes scary. . What to look for: someone who is excessively charming; someone who can happily exist in isolation for weeks at a time (this is because, despite the charm, they are deeply antisocial); someone who changes from delightful to cold in the blink of an eye; someone who seems to know exactly what to do or say to gain your confidence or affection.

Lack of shame/Blaming everyone else/Smear Campaigns. Sociopaths often do or say things that are terrible and heartless. While a non-sociopathic person would feel guilt or remorse for their actions, a sociopath has none. Many sociopaths are highly successful people but they got there by stepping on and hurting people to achieve their goals.  They might proudly recount the ways they achieved their successes, which is often at the expense of others. They are also blameless. With a sociopath, there is always an excuse for why things went wrong and how it was no fault of their own. It’s because sociopaths don’t believe they are doing anything wrong, they do not accept blame, they blame other people, and they’re not sorry. If they say they’re sorry it’s a lie. They will also actively run smear campaigns against people, usually those who threaten them in some way. What to look for:  If the person you’re dating brags about the people they stepped on while aiming to accomplish; if every failure or stress in their life is someone elses fault; they run smear campaigns, they feel no remorse (remember, saying sorry doesn’t mean you’re sorry. Real remorse is when people take action to rectify their wrongdoings.)

Constant Lying: Sociopaths lie all the time, and a lot of the time, they actually believe in their lies, or believe that by keeping the lie going, that it will somehow become the truth. Everyone tells lies here and there, but a sociopaths lies are on a grander scale, and if they’re caught in a lie, they will go to great lengths to cover up the lies or make you believe them. They are obsessed with image and appearing a certain way, so these lies are usually to keep that image intact. The lies can range from from little to massive, and, calling them out will only result in some long explanation or excuse. Never an admission of guilt, sociopaths don’t do that.   It is also common, for, when a lie if about to blow up in their face, that the sociopath will seek you out to confess. This is to gain trust or garner sympathy, when in actuality it should have the opposite effect, as they are only doing it because they have no other choice. What to look for: inconsistencies, lies, and their reaction to being caught in a lie (do they keep lying to cover it up?)

Being “Taken Care Of”/Sharing: Sociopaths are very good at presenting a front of equality and strength. They will often use words like “ours” to make you feel like you’re in this together, “our apartment, our money, our future” and they will go to great lengths to cultivate that image and to make you feel as though they’re providing for and taking care of you. It could be as simple as bringing you cups of tea every morning or on a larger scale like offering to financially support you.  They will help fix problems in your life all under the guise of partnership and “us.” It’s not real, and they will take it away as quickly as they handed it over.

Being calm in every circumstance. Now, not everyone who is unflappable is a sociopath, but some of them are. Sociopaths tend to have little or no reaction to highly emotional events or circumstances. This might seem appealing at first but is actually concerning if they do not seem to be bothered by anything. What to look for: lack of outward anxiety or stress ever; remaining unflustered in dangerous or volatile situations; the same emotional reaction to everything.

Intelligence. Most sociopaths are incredibly bright. They use this intelligence to further their agendas and to manipulate people. Sociopaths are usually very successful.

Manipulative: Sociopaths use their charms, brains, and observational skills to figure out ones weakness, and use this for exploitation. They like to be in control of every situation and tend to avoid other strong willed people. They are comfortable deceiving people to get what they want. They are good at reading situations and people and then saying or doing whatever needs to be said/done to continue getting their way. What to look for: someone always needing to be in control; someone who will lie to get what they want; someone who surrounds themselves with “weaker” or more vulnerable people.

Abuse:    Let’s for a second look at the definition of abuse:  1. to use something for the wrong purpose in a way that is harmful or morally wrong. 2.  to treat someone cruelly or violently 3. to speak to someone rudely or cruelly. So basically, purposely hurting someone. Being mean to them, insulting them, neglecting them, criticizing them, all with malicious intent. Of course, people say mean things to one another from time to time, it happens. But emotional and mental abuse is doing this repeatedly and without remorse. The bottom line is: relationships are supposed to make us feel happy and secure. If we are with someone who makes us feel bad about ourselves and who we are afraid of, that is abuse.  What to look for: angry, violent outbursts; emotional, mental, or physical abuse; someone who is outwardly calm but who could-and does-snap at any moment; walking on eggshells and stressed out by their inflicted abuse; someone who insults or hurts you regularly.

A massive ego. Sociopaths believe that they are the greatest thing in the world. They have a huge sense of entitlement and truly believe that they are better than everyone else. They are completely narcissistic, have an inflated ego, and are unresponsive to criticism.  What to look for: narcissism; a person with a large superiority complex; a person who can’t handle or doesn’t recognize criticism; someone who only cares about their own opinion; someone who spends a lot of time in front of the mirror; someone who has an unrealistic view of their abilities.

Uninterrupted eye contact: Sociopaths usually give intense uninterrupted eye contact, whether it is a way to further their own means or to make you feel uncomfortable.

Lack of REAL friends and connections: If someone has very few or no real friends to speak of, they may be a sociopath. Most people enjoy human interaction and feel it is essential to their lives, whereas sociopaths few people merely as tools to get something they want. When they’ve achieved that, they have no use for the other person and drop them. If they do have “friends” they will be superficial as sociopaths lack the ability to have meaningful connections. They can often go weeks or months with little to no contact with their family or friends. They don't really like to really talk about themselves or share things with friends. They also might encourage you to not share personal things with your friends and family. What to look for: someone with no friends from their high school or university days; someone who has a distant or non-existent relationship with their family; someone with very few friends, or friends that they only have a superficial connection with; someone who doesn’t seem to need to be around people; someone who is intensely present and then drops off of the face of the Earth; someone who chooses friendships based on what the other person can do for them.

Lack of empathy: Hand in hand with their hugo ego and superiority complex, sociopaths lack empathy and don’t feel sorry for people. One of the most fundamental and necessary qualities one should possess is compassion and a sociopath has none. Perhaps they will feign interest but not actually care.  Often they will belittle or blame the person for their hardships or they simply do not care. Why would they? It’s of no consequence to them. (At some point, this will be directed at you and it will be confusing and scary because it is unrecognizable from the person you once knew.) 

Isolates you: This kind of falls into the sweeping off your feet category. Sociopaths want all of you all the time. They are enigmatic and mesmerizing so it’s not hard to fall under their spell and find yourself spending less and less time with other people. It doesn’t feel like isolation at the time, it feels like you’re living in your own little bubble. Now, it’s common knowledge that, once in a relationship, we do have to balance our time so see our friends and family less than we used to. Sociopaths are fine with you not seeing them at all. Or being present every time you do. If you’re in a social setting, they will find ways to isolate you, whether it be pulling you into an intense conversation or being overly affectionate. They see you as theirs. You might find yourself missing events or parties because friendships felt less important and necessary because you have everything you need. This is what a sociopath wants you to believe and think.  What to look for: An all consuming love, someone who wants to be with you all the time, doesn't like sharing you with friends, encourages you to stay in with them (or go out just the two of you) someone who dissuades you from sharing your life, feelings etc with anyone else.

Immature:  Sociopaths are immature, even if they appear not to be. This is highlighted by their selfishness, lack of reliability, pathological lying, and inability to deal with confrontation. They can’t be told they’re wrong or handle any kind of comment that could be deemed as a criticism. They will walk away, throw a fit, storm out, change the subject, berate…whatever it is to prevent them from having an adult conversation which would require them to either be honest or apologize. They also have an unrealistic view of themselves and life. If life or people don’t behave exactly the way that they want or expect, they can’t handle it and withdraw. Mature adults work through challenges. They face the, head on, and come up with real solutions. They don’t run away or give up. They don’t quit when things aren’t perfect, because you can’t.

Promiscuity: All kind of people cheat, not just sociopaths but it is one of the defining characteristics of a sociopath. 

 Extreme selfishness: Sociopaths only care about themselves. It won’t be evident at first as they will shower you with love and attention initially but at some point, their true colours show. They won’t do anything that they don’t want to do. They won’t take your needs, desires, or feelings into consideration, and it will be very evident in their actions. They’ll act the way they want to act even if they know it hurts or upsets you. They’ll expect you to conform into their life exactly the way they want you to and will be angry and resentful if you don’t. They will not make an effort to fir into your life. What to Look For: when it’s all about them. It could be something small like, only sleeping at their apartment or only going out with their friends and coworkers.  Or it could be much bigger like missing events important to you, blatantly disregarding your feelings.

Neediness: Sociopaths come off as strong, and they are but their power is fueled by their control over others. They NEED it. They will demand a lot of your time and energy and expect you to be available and receptive whenever they want you to be. If they feel like you’re slipping away they will take drastic measures to not lose you because they enjoy the game and power.

Unready for responsibilities: When we first meet sociopaths, as I said, they come off as charming, successful and together. We’re drawn to them and they make us all kinds of promises. They might even seemingly take steps follow through on  these promises. The problem is that they can’t actually commit to the things they say they can.  Whether it’s them being unwilling to give up their 100% selfish lifestyle, or simply the inability to hold up their end of the bargain, they are unreliable, and can’t be responsible to anything other than themselves and their own agenda.

While I am not a medical professional, I have researched sociopaths, as well as spoken to experts about them, and of course, was engaged to one. What I can offer is first hand experience as I was deeply involved in a long term, serious relationship with a sociopath.

The thing about sociopaths that is tough is that they are amazing when you first meet them. They’re loving, and charming, and a total dream come true. They make you feel things and think things that you never did before. They sweep you off your feet and make you feel like the most special person in the world. Then they flip out. It happens without warning and then all of a sudden, they’re a completely different person. Unrecognizable. Sociopaths CAN’T be in romantic relationships, especially not serious ones, because it requires them to behave like a normal human being. They are forced to do things like communicate, compromise, and commit, none of which are possible for them. They don’t like people. They only like themselves and the unrealistic existence that they’ve created for themselves. They immediately start to panic and lash out in a destructive and abusive (mental, emotional, physical) way. They will morph from a dream come true into a monster.

While every relationship has issues and rough patches, a relationship with a sociopath doesn’t get better, it only gets worse. It doesn’t matter how strong or confident you are, sociopaths will break you down and destroy you if you stay. The only option is to leave, not look back, breathe a sigh of relief, and try and be more aware next time. If someone seems to good to be true: they probably are. If something is moving at lightning speed:  it will probably crash and burn, if someone has very few real friends: there’s probably a reason.  The list goes on and on. As I said, spotting sociopaths is hard at the beginning, but there are signs to look for, and once things start popping up, it’s essential to just GET OUT AND FAR AWAY. Date someone who actually likes people.