Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What is Conscious Dating?

Conscious dating is about being more mindful in your partner choices, and it will be this week's topic on my show.  I see people increasingly adopting this approach to dating, and maybe this is one of the benefits of divorce having become so mainstream.  I'm not going to sugar coat it, divorce sucks and it can take a while to recover from its aftermath.  As a result, more individuals are taking the time on the front-end to figure out what's going to be a good fit, and lots of dating websites are encouraging this approach by making you sit down and figure out your "must haves" and "can't stands."

Identifying your needs and non-negotiables is a great first step, but actually there is a more in depth self-analysis that one must go through if you are going to really embark in conscious dating.  You have to get rid of certain false assumptions, like the notion that anyone over 40 that's never been married must be a commitment phobe.  You need to suspend judgments and go in with an open mind if you want to maximize your dating experiences.  Furthermore, you should look at past patterns, which are a great indication of your attachment style.  The more aware you are of your own issues, the greater your ability to change unwanted behaviors.  As my guest, Shari Pfeffer will explain in greater detail, it is about calming that inner child within us.

It is funny (not in a ha-ha way) when you get to the point where you see someone's inner child surface and when you can start to see your own triggers.  The irony of course is that only those closest to us bring out both the best and worst in us, and that is why the true test to a viable relationship is whether you can live with that person's good, bad and ugly.  And again just to be totally candid, there is a lot of ugly out there, so what you need to ask yourself is how much can you tolerate?

We all have baggage, so the key is finding someone with compatible baggage. The only real way to find out if you will be a good fit with another is over time, and by being totally honest.  Guys are usually quite open about where they are in a situation-- most of my male friends have no problem telling someone that they just got divorced or broke off a long-term relationship and don't want anything serious.  Plenty will tell you that they have a real issue with scheduling, and they prefer spontaneous get togethers.  All the ones I know that don't want marriage or more kids are excellent about saying that upfront.  So what is the problem?  Most girls just don't listen-- either they only hear what they want to hear or they are deluding themselves into thinking they will change the guy.  That never works.

In the end, conscious dating is about being real.  Of course, to do that, you first have to be honest with yourself, and many have a hard time just with that, which explains why there is so much confusion out there in the dating game.  Cutting through all the layers of crap is not always easy, but if you can find your own center you will find it so much easier to take the rest in stride.  Try to stay true to yourself, and the rest will all work out just fine.    

Monday, August 26, 2013

Stop the Guessing Games

There was a time, long ago, when I thought that if someone loved me they should know exactly what to say or do to make things "perfect."  Funny thing is that no one knows me better than my son, and even he will just flat out ask me, "what do you want me to say or do?"  Because he is a child, it is so easy to just clue him in rather than making him figure it out-- and then one day it dawned on me-- why should I just do this with a child?  Why can't this same tactic be applied to everyone?

Love may be the thing that binds us to those closest to us, but that doesn't mean we develop mind-reading skills.  Again, using my son as an example, no one doubts that I love him, but I don't always know why he is upset or how to make it better.  I can ask questions, but I also have to respect his wishes when he says, "I've had a bad day and don't want to talk about it."  My only response to that is that if you're having a bad day, it doesn't give you the right to go rain on someone else's parade.  That is then our clue that we both need a cooling off period until calmer heads can prevail, which is something I tell my clients to do on a regular basis.

The fact is I find myself increasingly applying business concepts at home.  For years in the business world, I've attended extensive trainings for those in leadership roles to learn to give clearer directions, provide regular feedback, and encourage a team atmosphere.  We all know that a good leader doesn't act like a dictator, but actually listens to those around him/her and rewards a good employee for asking follow up questions when things are unclear and completing his/her assignments in a timely manner.  Outbursts are usually frowned upon at any level, and instead we insist on maintaing a code of civility that ensures a healthy work environment.  If these techniques can help any good company operate well-- why should it be any different at home?

In the dating world, I find a lot of people just give "hints" or "clues" as to what is bothering them or what they want, but they don't come flat out and say it.  Guys in particular hate this.  No offense to guys, but they are so much easier than women-- just take a look at our wardrobes, and that just says it all.  Very much like a child, men generally just want to be fed, loved and put to bed.  Women, however, are not this simple, and what may work with one will not work with another.  This is why, I urge you all to just stop the guessing games and clue one another in-- and not just in bed, although that is very key. :)

Clear, direct conversations are highly regarded in the business world, and I just wish more would apply the same philosophy in their private lives.  I bet the world would be a far better place if we could all adopt this approach.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

5 Common "Solutions" That Actually Make Matters Worse

Everyone has their own story to tell when they come for their initial divorce consult, but invariably there are five common mistakes people make in their relationships that tend to make matters far worse for a couple than anyone could ever have imagined:

1. Shacking Up- Many people think that moving in together will reduce the arguments over "silly" things like an inconvenient commute, inability to coordinate schedules, or repeated miscommunications.  These actually are not silly things at all-- they are red flags of deeper issues.  Glossing over these things is not smart.  Couples fail to realize that moving in together brings on a whole new set of stresses to the relationship, such as managing a household budget, making joint purchases, and compromising on "me" time versus "we" time.

2. Popping the Question- When you doubt someone's commitment to the relationship, you need to work on that issue first-- getting engaged is not the solution to that problem.  Outside family pressures, or the fact that a child is on the way, should not be the compelling reason you are going to tie the knot.  There are plenty of other ways to demonstrate that you are committed to someone that don't require the purchase of major bling.

3. Let's Have a Baby- I've lost count of the number of people that thought having a baby would bring them closer to their spouse.  While it is a very happy occasion, it is also one of the most disruptive events that can occur in a couple's life.  For nine months, a woman's body and hormones will be in constant change, and then after the baby is born, you will both be sleep-deprived and under constant alert to care for all the needs of a helpless infant that will demand your undivided attention.  Meanwhile, forget about having sex for several weeks, along with wine if you are breast-feeding-- so there go those forms of release. Hopefully you can see why this just tends to compound problems between partners. 

4. Agree to Disagree- Sometimes, it is okay to just respect that you each have your own opinions, but when you keep avoiding arguments by just agreeing to disagree, and then you each do your own thing, this is NOT a good thing.  People in successful marriages are able to listen to one another and reach a compromise; they do not ignore problems because they know that these don't just go away. Here is how I see it: If I respect you, then I am going to take into account what you have to say, and if I love you, I will make certain sacrifices because I care enough to make sure your goals-- not just mine-- are being met as we build a partnership.

5. Buy More Crap- As much as I love a little shopping therapy, I am well aware of its limitations.  Some people think that just buying more toys is going to make everyone happy-- let's buy a new car, new beach house, etc.  In some homes, it is like Christmas every day-- and yet the family bond is totally lacking.  In many of my cases, the spending is out of control, and this breeds a lot of resentment and often comes at a hefty price, either a huge amount of debt or almost non-existant savings.  I am begging you to cut out the needless spending and focus on what really matters-- those family ties.

It is natural to want to seek pleasure and avoid pain, but I am begging you to take the long-term view on things.  Yes, in the short-term it may suck to deal with a bad break-up, call off a wedding, postpone having a child, and/or cut back on your spending while you figure out what the real void is that you are trying to fill.  It is hard to work out issues in a relationship, and there aren't any overnight solutions that will magically bring back those initial butterfly feelings you felt in the beginning, but if you want to spare yourself (and those around you) far greater pain in the long run, take the time upfront to confront what is causing you discomfort.  It is my experience that ignoring warning signs and plowing forward has caused far greater suffering than anything else, with far reaching consequences well beyond anyone's imagination. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What's the End Game?

Each person is going to have a different answer to this question, and a lot depends on your stage in life.  There is one stage, however, where I've definitely noticed a spike in the number of people seriously asking themselves about the end game-- and it is right around that magical age of 40.

If the average life span in the U.S. is about 79, then it makes sense that at the half-way point we are going to start asking ourselves, "how will it end?"  This was the ongoing question in The Truman Show with Jim Carrey, and very much like the viewers of Truman in that movie, I am rooting for you to figure out and redefine your own reality.  While we may not know when it will end, we are definitely in control with how our stories will unfold.

My obsession with love at this point is quite apparent and common knowledge.  After studying families for 15 years, and helping clients minimize the downside of their divorce, I have collected enough sad love stories to last me a lifetime, so with the end-game in mind, I've spent the last several years sharing tips on how to actually make love last-- that is the point of the children's book, the blog, and the radio and tv shows.  While the legal practice remains my sole source of income, these other projects are my labors of love.

Tomorrow, I am about to start the new fall season of my weekly tv show, Making It Last.  The "it" is love-- in all forms-- as a parent, partner, adult child caring for an elderly parent, or founder of a non-profit.  There are now over 46 episodes online with 8 non-profits, over a dozen lawyers, and various mental health professionals.  All these segments with experts helping families tackle major issues are available online at and some of my favorites are on my YouTube channel.   The one about Emotional Thermometers is one of the most popular ones with over 150 views, and here is the link to that show:

I hope you will all tune in and share the links of the videos and blogs with friends and family.  Feel free to submit story ideas or nominate guests!  My email is:

Again just to recap, I have no idea what your end-game is, but I just want you to realize that you alone define your reality.  Find the power to tap into your inner strength, and use that to make your own love last!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Lowered Expectations- Great for Laughs, But Not a Motto to Embrace

If you haven't seen any of the MAD TV clips with "Lowered Expectations," I highly recommend you search for some on YouTube and have Kleenex available, because some of them will make you cry with laughter!  Of course, truly good humor takes a source of pain and just pokes fun at it.  That is the genius behind good comedy, and I am begging you to keep this in mind when you start dating again.

Dating is the one thing my clients will struggle with the most in their post-divorce lives, and that is precisely why I blog about it so much.  Most of us are able to quickly resume our focus on work, especially because we are now the sole providers for our households.  With this added pressure, I've actually seen many of my clients soar professionally while at the same time they are able to find a way to rebuild their new home life and figure out the whole co-parenting thing.  The majority can actually manage all these things rather quickly, often before the final seal of approval is received from the court on the divorce documents, but dating, well that is a whole other story...

Some of my clients completely shut themselves off from dating, and I agree that if they are not ready, they should not try to tackle this beast right away.  Others, however, launch right into it, often without taking any time to even process what they've just been through, and I'm not so sure that is the best approach.  I'm all for being open to the possibilities that life offers you and testing the waters-- gradually.  If you have been out of the game for a while, let's face it, you will not be able to start juggling 5 people at a time-- this is an acquired skill, and the Masters have it down to a science.  If you aspire to gain this skill set, then find yourself a master-- fast!

Fortunately, when I got divorced eight years ago, I still had a lot of single friends.  They taught me well, and now the demographics have certainly changed a lot over the years, such that most of my peers are now married with kids, but I've managed to retain a few in the singles scene to keep me entertained.  Hands down the one thing they will all say is that you have to go in with lowered expectations for first dates-- you will have to sort through a lot of crap to find a decent one worth upgrading to flavor of the month status.  Even then, there is a reason Baskin Robbins has so many flavors-- we don't all like the same things.  I say you should try as many flavors as you want-- how else will you be able to make an informed decision???

The fact is dating is great material for funny stories, and your friends will love you for the laughter you bring into their lives-- especially those that are now "settled down."  But be careful-- while you should lower your expectations of what to expect from a date, when you are thinking of upgrading someone's status you need to abandon that lowered expectations motto because that is a recipe for DISASTER.  The fact is someone is either going to rock your world, or they won't.  They either step up their game and wow you, or you need to keep the the search alive.  Whoever said, "if you can't be with the one you love, then love the one you are with" is an idiot.  If you are fantazing about someone else, or trying to find ways to justify why you should stay with someone, that is just b.s. -- especially if you are a passionate person.

Those of us that are driven by passion (you know who you are because people will often point this out about you) are simply not going to be able to settle.  If you are the type that is always raising the bar for yourself, how can you possibly be expected to lower the bar for anything-- let alone love?  It just isn't going to work.  So for a short shelf-life situation that can provide momentary laughs, I say go for it- lower your expectations in the dating scene, but make sure you don't transfer that into something long-term.  If you are going to make a serious commitment to anyone, it has to be with someone that exceeds all expectations.  Hold out for that-- I believe you deserve all that, and then some.   In the meantime, have fun with the MAD tv clips, like this one:

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Secret to Surviving the Dating Game

There are many ways to play the game, but really only one secret to surviving the game-- you can't take things personally.  No one wins 100% of the time, so you have to accept that you will lose some of the time.  Guys, who are much more sports-oriented, tend to be better at accepting this fact, which is why they tend to just cast out a wide net and see what fish they can reel in.  I'm not keen on being a "fish," which is why I don't do online dating.  Instead, I prefer to be a sharp shooter, who has to see her target in person-- but even with precise aim I know at best I'll hit my mark 9 out of 10 times.  No one I know has a perfect batting average, so whatever you do, you can't just throw in the towel and accept defeat.  You may need to rethink your strategy if you just experienced a bad break up or keep having a bad streak, but you keep moving forward.

There is no point to fearing rejection or abandonment-- you just have to accept that these things are going to happen.  Let's just face facts-- what are the odds that you will find someone that loves you unconditionally?  The answer is ZERO.  We all have our deal-breakers, and even in a committed, monogamous marriage, your spouse is going to expect you to walk the line.  If you don't it should come as no surprise when that person tells you to hit the road.   Unconditional love is something only a parent can give you, and the sooner your realize this truth, the sooner you can begin to understand how a successful partnership will work, because above all else it is about honoring your commitment and accepting responsibility.  And this brings me to the next problem in dating...

Most people I know in their 40s have enough commitments in their lives.  We all have high stress/high intensity jobs and many of us also have children that require our attention and unconditional love.  Finances and family obligations consume a significant part of our time, leaving little room for much else.  Those of us that do make time to date are looking for very different things compared to when we were in our 20s or 30s.  Most of us have lost the desire to bear more children, and maybe even an interest marrying again.  If these things matter to you, you need to screen out those that don't share your end-goal, cut your losses early on and move on. 

Playing 20 questions is a great way to ensure that you don't waste each other's time.  We all have different criteria that we are looking for, and in those first few dates, you are screening for just basic compatability both physically and mentally.  Here again you have to realize that the higher your IQ and emotional awareness, the less likely you are going to hit it off with many.  It is just basic math-- if you are in the top 10% and only want to date your kind, then you are by default eliminating 90% of the population.  You can try to broaden your numbers by dating down (I use that for lack of a better term without meaning to be condescending), but this can be tricky, especially the greater the disparity between you.
Many years ago, when I first re-entered the dating game I was warned that this is a numbers game, and at the time I did not get it-- now I do.  While I am normally an optimist, I have come to accept that in the dating game, the odds are not in your favor-- especially the more independant you are because a lot of people simply cannot tolerate that.  Way too many people seem interested in dominance, control, and they want to rank as a priority immediately.  Well, it just doesn't work that way for some of us.  Again, it is nothing personal, and it has nothing to do with being a commitment phobe-- maybe in fact it is just the honest realization that the level of commitment that other person is seeking is beyond our capacity.

It has taken me years to realize this one simple truth: at at the root of all relationship issues is the fact that one person feels they are not loved enough by the other, but what they fail to realize is that the real problem lies within themselves.   Each of us can only love another to the best of our own capacity, and our capacities do differ greatly.  I have loved several men in my life, but not always to the extent that they desired, and I have also experienced what it is like to want more from a man than he is capable of giving, and this definitely hurts.  But the pain will only cease when you can accept the love that is being offered-- you have to be able to say to yourself, "I realize he loves me to the best of his capacity, and that is good enough for me."  You also have to be honest enough to tell someone when the best that they are capable of is not enough for you. 

Only time will tell whether a relationship can withstand the test of time, so don't rush things or overthink everything.  There really is no point in trying to question "where are we going" or "how is this going to end?"  Enjoy the journey and let go of the outcome-- it will be what it will be, but you have to go in knowing that odds are not in your favor.  Dating is hit or miss, and a lot depends on timing because our needs and desires do change throughout our lives.  Sometimes we want something more serious, other times something more relaxed-- there is no need or point to judge people as "good" or "bad" as long as everyone is honest upfront. 

So have fun, and more than anything else, do NOT take things personally. :) 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Hack into Your Own Hard-drive

When people come for an initial divorce consult, they often feel like their life is in complete chaos, and that everything is spinning out of control.  Once I give them a legal roadmap and they understand what lies ahead, they start to feel a little better, but as their legal counsel, I can only do so much in terms of getting them back on track.  The real work has to occur inside their own heads, and their emotional recovery will depend immensely on their ability to hack into their own hard-drive.

Some people will wallow in self-pity, and complain about how unfair life is to them.  They will play the blame game, and seem incapable of taking any responsibility for their own actions.  The more they continue to the play the role of a victim, and allow themselves to feel powerless, the more this becomes a self-fulling prophecy.  The downward spiral into the black hole is a very sad thing to witness, but there is nothing I can do to stop that-- each person has to find their own inner strength to save themselves.

Since 2005, when I went through my own divorce, I have worked with a life coach.  She taught me that life is about choices, and we alone are in control of the choices we make for ourselves, including how much power we wish to relinquish to another.  Often, these choices are difficult, and we need to think through the consequences very carefully before making a decision that could have a major impact, not just for us but those around us. 

Learning to be free was not an overnight project, nor was it easy.  In addition to working with my life coach, I have read countless psychology books and spent over 100 hours in the last six years attending various dispute resolution trainings with psychologists that helped me understand their cutting edge research.  They all taught me to discipline my emotions and assume responsibility for my own actions, while rejecting responsibility for others-- and this lesson has saved my life.

Litigators are typically hard-wired with a savior complex, but I've gone through a paradigm shift, where it is actually more rewarding for me to see you save yourself.  Dispute resolution methods that help parties settle out of court, put the clients in control of their settlement and their future, and that is far better than letting a stranger decide their fate.  I no longer need to get my adrenaline rush fulfilled inside a courtroom, and I am ten times happier not playing the nasty games that we play as part of a legal battle.

Many of my colleagues still don't quite understand what happened to make me shift my way of practicing law, but obviously that is because they are not inside my head.  There are two books that describe this transformation incredibly well: 1) The Road Less Traveled by Dr. Scott Peck and 2) Butterflies are Free to Fly by Stephen Davis.  I highly recommend both for those trying to describe the metamorphisis they just experienced in their own lives.

I am forever grateful to all those that helped me hack into my hard-drive and rewire some outdated ways of thinking.  It is bizarre to learn that only through openness can you becoming increasingly free from your fears, and that honesty really is the best policy.  An honest life truly is a good life-- and it starts with being honest with yourself.  Sadly, it is often a tragic turn of events, like a divorce, that leads many of us down this path of greater self awareness, and I'm not going to lie, there is a lot of pain involved during the exploratory process, but without pain there is no gain.

Many try to numb the pain-- but that is never going to cure the problem.  Get off the drugs, booze, and whatever other crap you are taking to numb the pain-- that is just a one way ticket to self destruction.  If you address your greatest source of pain, you can turn it into your greatest source of power-- I promise, and I am far from the first person to point out this irony of life.   Those that know how to guide you through this journey are out there in abundance, and let me be clear NONE of them are lawyers.  We are only trained to get you through the legal process, and within 6-18 months you should be done with our services.  The rest of  your journey could take years, depending on how deep you want to go and how you define the "recovery" process.

Each individual will have his/her own unique experience down the rabbit hole, and the more you can embrace this as an adventure, the less anxious you will be.  You have to become like a detective, who is picking up clues from your past to figure out the answers that will help you move forward.  All the clues you need are actually there, and there is a prize at the end-- so the sooner you stop the pity party (which is normal because you just lost a part of yourself), the sooner you can go start hacking and find a new and improved self!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Work Hard, Play Hard-- With an Emphasis on Play

As an athlete, I grew up with a bunch of boys-- not in my actual sport, but we all hung out at the gym and shared the same track and conditioning equipment.  In boarding school, all the jocks ate together- 3 meals a day, and as a result I was privy to all their conversations, and I do mean all.  Guys have rarely filtered around me, but the significance of this did not really dawn on me until the other day when one of my friends asked, "have you had lots of close male friends throughout your life?"  Without hesitation, the answer was "sure, I've always hung out with boys, they do make up 50% of the population!" Then she said, "no wonder you get them," and she proceeded to tell me that most women do not have a ton of guy friends, and many are in fact intimated by them.  She explained that some women are even unsure of how to flirt or initiate a conversation, and I had to admit this was all foreign to me.  In that moment, I realized how fortunate I was to grow up surrounded by the Adonis-type full of testosterone.

My mom used to say, "tell me who your friends are, and I'll tell you who you are."  She is actually right, your friends are a good reflection of your own values.  The funny thing is, however, I have two distinct groups of friends-- the ones who are married with two kids, and they work their butts off to provide the best for their children; then I have my single friends, who still live by the old motto "work hard, play hard," with a definite emphasis on play.  This explains a lot about my own internal conflict, but today's focus is on shedding some light on those I will call "players,"however, I use that term lovingly, and not at all in the derogatory way we often hear it.

Those that know they are brilliant and beautiful are well aware of the power they yield, and finding a playmate is not an issue for them.  These are thrill seekers, who like challenges and the adrenaline rush.  The thought of settling down is ridiculous to this kind-- unless they decide to actually breed versus just continuing to enjoy the performance of the act that may produce an heir, and that will only usually happen with someone that truly rocks their world. 

Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever in this circle of beautiful people, and that is why that crowd is so incestuous.  As vanity and the struggle for relevancy take hold of those in this mix, those that manage to age well and amass power in the process become essentially untouchable.  After the itch to breed is over, there is very little reason for these players (men and women) to settle down-- and I have to hand it to them, what is so wrong with thinking of relationships more like long-term leases?   Is it really realistic to  commit to one person for the next 30 years-- or until "death do us part"?  Most of us don't even stay in one career for that long, so how can we possibly make a contract to stay with one person for that length of time?

Some may consider this a very narcissistic way of living, and many try to condemn this hedonistic life style, but perhaps they feel the need to do this to justify their own reality or make themselves feel better about their own choices?  Settling down is hard, and perhaps many secretly resent those that have the freedom to do as they wish on any given day.  To some of us, freedom is golden and as a result nothing is more dreadful than the thought of being trapped or shackled. 

Growing up, little girls were always warned to avoid players-- I guess the assumption was that a girl would let down her guard, make herself vulnerable and perhaps be subject to a broken heart.  If there is one thing I would change in the 21st century, it would be to equally warn boys and girls that if someone rejects the idea of a commitment, it's not necessarily a reflection of their unworthiness-- and you need to teach all children that broken hearts do mend.  The fact is, you can't avoid players, they are everywhere and they come in both sexes.  Men and women today are equally capable of emotionally detaching and embracing the sensuality that comes with being in the moment while discarding any illusions of permanency.  I'm not saying you have to teach someone to think this way, but you do need to understand this way of thinking.

The sooner our society can come to grips with the frailty of the connections we form in this world, the better off we will all be.  There is a growing part of our population that is no longer buying into the notion that success is defined by your home life.  Many of us don't plan to grow old, and we would rather live for the moment than plan for some future that may never come.  This is why I can respect those that party like rockstars, and my only warning to those that want to dabble in this lifestyle is that this is a mindset that dates way back.  Imposters are easily identified by this group, and posers tend to go down in flames fast.  In this circle, you have to accept that there will always be the constant threat of someone younger, prettier, smarter lurking right around the corner-- and that is why you just need to flaunt it while you've got it.

To all my free spirits out there, who helped me realize that all work and no play is NOT a way to live, you have my utmost gratitude.  Go rock on!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Writing a Love Story

Three years ago, when Ellen McCarthy wrote a story for the Washington Post about my passion for helping families in the DC Area, her article got some major bounce.  I remember her telling me that one day, I should sit down and write my own life story with all of the twists and turns, and since then I have lost count of the number of people that have shared her opinion, but it wasn't until my son asked me to share the story about finding our family that I actually did anything about it.

For those who have followed the blog, you have gotten a much seedier version of the real life events that have transpired since I met my dad in February 2011, and one day I hope to finish writing the adult version of that story, but the children's book was truly a labor of love, meant to inspire children of any ethnicity and socio economic class to believe in themselves and their gifts.  I want kids to dream big and reach for the stars, but without ever forgetting the importance of their roots.

Familes are so special, and it took me so long to finally complete the reconstruction of my own, which I originally set out to do for my son.  I had no idea when I started this journey that I was actually the one who needed to piece my family back together in order to finally find peace and discover the true meaning of unconditional love.

If I die tomorrow (which I certainly hope I don't) I at least can rest in peace knowing that I wrote a good love story for my son, and I hope the rest of you make time to do the same with your loved ones.

Here is the link if you want to spread some joy with a special child in your life:    

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Kiss of Death When Dating

I finally saw Perks of a Wallflower, and the best line in the movie by far is "we accept the love we think we deserve."  So true, and yet based on what I have seen around here, let me just say this-- many need to raise their standards.  I am amazed at some of the crap that people will put up with when dating-- and if you think things will get better later, you are in for some major disappointment. 

I realize that in this "Hookup Culture," lust takes over well before love, and we all know that lust is going to cloud our judgment, but as best you can try to be on high alert for those red flags.   Here are some of my favorites, which should be the kiss of death as soon as you see them:

1.  Do the words match the actions?  In other words, does this person follow through with what they say they are going to do.  If someone says, "I'll call you tomorrow" do they actually do it?  If not, say sionara baby, because dating is a trust-building exercise, and if you can't build trust early on, there is simply no future. 

2. Do you respect this person's judgment?  When you hear their stories about the past, are you laughing with them or at them?  If you are laughing at their stupidity, you need to stop and ask yourself, will this still be funny when their stupidity starts to impact my life?  Trust me, I've had many guys make me laugh in the beginning, and I got sucked into their entertainment value, but eventually I lost all respect, and once that is gone, there is no turning back.

3. What can you glean from their past relationships?  If they are unable to maintain long-term, healthy relationships of any kind, this is a huge indicator of major problems.  It should raise concerns if someone has few friends, and rarely any dating back for 10-20 years because managing long-term relationships is a skill, and not one that everyone can possess. 

4. What do you have in common?  Now I get it, no one wants to date a carbon copy of themselves, but someone who is your polar opposite is also not a good candidate for a long-term relationship.  You have to share not just some common interests to enjoy the present, but also have similar dreams and aspirations for the future, otherwise you are eventually going to grow apart, that is just the harsh truth. 

5. How strong is your urge to tweek things?  I often find myself thinking, if I could just change this one thing, or heck let's be real my list probably includes 7-10 things... and then I have to stop myself.  People rarely change, unless they want to and are willing to put in the hard work to create new habits.  You either have to accept the package exactly the way it is presented, or get out. 

My belief about falling in love is that is does very much feel like a freefall, and when it is right, that other person should feel like your parachute.  We all deserve a reliable parachute that will keep us from being harmed.  I have yet to find such a person, but I have not lost hope and you should not either.  Hold out for the one you deserve!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Leaning In as a Single Parent

Sheryl Sandberg has certainly done a great job of raising the visibilty of the mommy wars, where one camp wants to focus on being home with their kids while the other wants to continue to promote the role of women in the workforce.  I clearly fall into the latter category, but then again, I also did not have a choice after my divorce.  Many single parents lose the luxury of staying home with their kids once there are two households to manage instead of one, and we actually have to lean in at work more because that is the only way our family will thrive.

Truth be told, the idea of being a single mother was my worst nightmare come true.  I already saw how hard it was for my mother to raise me on her own when I was growing up, and I had ZERO intention of following in her footsteps.  So, I followed the cookie cutter path of graduating from all top tier schools; I got married and bought a house, and by the time I was 31 I had the dog, the Merc, the six figure salary and the kid-- and then the following year I had the worst meltdown of my life.  We fired the nanny, sold the house, got rid of the Merc, and I had to slash all expenses so I could continue to build my own law firm, which was the one thing I wasn't willing to give up.

For the last 8 years, I have been solely responsible for my own income and managing my own household.  It has been far from easy, but with the support of my ex-husband and friends, I have been able to lean in and prove that women deserve to be in leadership roles and have a lot to offer at the upper tier of the business world.  Not only did my law practice thrive, but I ventured into radio and tv, and authored various pieces, which now allows me to play with the big boys, and while that is fun, wow do I wish there were some more women around.

Like Sheryl, I used to avoid using the term "feminist" to describe myself-- it was a dirty word in college that I avoided like the plague.  Yet, from where I stand now, it is so hard to avoid feeling quite disheartened-- I was taught that we were equal to our male counterparts, and yet at my age I see so few women at the top tiers of their law firms.  Less that 15% will make partner-- and this drops to less than 3% if you are a female minority like me.  The truth is many of my friends "self-selected" out of the rat race once they had kids, and I understand the choices they made, but that simply wasn't an option for me.

My married friends struggle with meeting the competing interests of their work, spouse, and 2 kids.  They barely have time to go to the gym, let alone take time out to pursue any other endeavors.  I feel for them, and so perhaps that is why I decided that on the days when I was not with my son, I would work extra on behalf of my fellow women to champion the cause that more of us need to support-- the rise of the female executive, who can still make time to enjoy her role as a mother.

Hollywood, of course, has many shining examples of single moms: J.Lo, Heidi Klum, Katie Holmes, Sharon Stone, Jenny McCarthy, Denise Richards, Minnie Driver, Christina Aguilera, Sofia Vergara, Madonna, Sandra Bullock and Sheryl Crow are but a few.  I bet if you polled them all, none would say their dream was to be a single mom, and despite all the resources they may have, I am sure none would say it is easy to be both a mother and pursue a career in their ridiculously competitive industry, and yet there is something compelling them to prove that it can be done.  I think I know what that is-- and it is completely related to being a mom.

We all need to lean in, but maybe the strongest push is going to come from those of us who are single parents (including men), determined to show our kids that with strength and resilience you can accomplish whatever you want in life.  None of us dreamed of being single while raising a family, but maybe that is exactly what had to happen to give us that extra push to go rock this world!


Monday, August 5, 2013

Stand By Your Man- Is This Still a Viable Option?

Many have asked me to weigh in on Huma Abedin's decision to stand by her husband, Anthony Weiner, and it is with great reluctance that I am doing so because the truth be told, I don't deal with the situations where women decide to stay in a marriage after they find out their husbands have betrayed them.  This is not to say it doesn't happen every single day, but what I am pointing out is that as a divorce attorney, I only see the ones who choose to leave.  So, if I personally don't feel qualified to give an opinion here on what Huma should do, I fail to understand how over 39% of people polled feel qualified to say she should leave.  Unless you have walked a mile in her shoes, it is impossible to pass judgment here.

Back in the day, when divorce was seen as the kiss of death, and so many women relied on their husband's to provide financially for the family, they essentially had to put up with a lot, including not just affairs, but verbal, physical or emotional abuse, total manipulation, alcohol or drug addictions, etc.  Thankfully, we have made substantial progress since the 50's, and not only has the stigma of divorce faded, but women are far more self-sufficient.  Most women do work and have some financial resources of their own, making them far more independant than any of our predecessors.  And yet, some people honestly believe in those sacred vows "for better or worse, til death do us part."  This now comes down to a personal choice, and one we should all respect.

15 years ago when the Lewinsky scandal broke, I was so immensely disappointed in Hillary Clinton.  I wanted her to model for other women just how strong we are, and that we don't have to put up with crap-- even from the President of the United States.  The thought that he could chase some intern's tail while in the Oval Office was so revulting to me that it actually left me speechless when I was introduced to Bill at a private event many years ago.  However, over time I mellowed and came to respect the fact that it was her call to make.  What I don't respect now is how the Clintons are distancing themselves from Weiner and Abedin, even though Bill presided over their wedding and Huma worked so closely with Hillary for so many years.  At a time when this couple needs the most support from their friends, their loved ones need to rally.

The love and allegiance that Huma feels towards her husband is something no one else will ever comprehend.  To leave is actually easy these days, to stay is far more difficult-- especially while under pubic scrutiny, which most people are often spared. How Weiner will be able to rebuild his wife's trust is a question I cannot answer, and how Huma can forgive him is not a question anyone else needs to worry about, except for Huma.  To stand by your man is indeed a viable option, just as it has been for centuries, it is just not one that many of us feel the need to stomach anymore.  But no matter what choice we each make for ourselves, we really should be grateful that at least now we have choices, and if Huma ever gets to read this, I just want to say this: don't let the outside pressure get to you.  Follow your heart and your gut, for the only one you need to please in life is yourself! 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Break Away from the Herd!

Half my readers are women, who often complain about the dearth of men.  The other half are guys, who are very open with me about the mistakes that women make in the dating game.  I often feel like a U.N. peacekeeper trying to help negotiate a treaty between two warring nations.  Seriously, this should not be so difficult!  As one of my fellow bloggers, Austin Blood, said recently: If you want to date guys, you have to learn to think like them.  Why?  Well, once you start to understand them, they won't drive you crazy-- and nothing repels guys more than signs of a crazy chick.

Before you can even start to understand one another, however, you first have to meet, so, first things first-- I have women that say they just aren't even meeting guys; meanwhile I have guys lamenting about the fact that girls go out in huge groups making it impossible to approach anyone.  I have to give it to guys on this one-- they are right, attractive women that are not talking to guys need to carefully consider what steps they are proactively taking to make themsevles approachable.  Are you making eye contact and smiling? These two simple things can go a long way, and yet you have to be aware of your surroundings.

Ladies, let me ask you this: have you ever seen guys go out in huge packs?  No!  Not unless it is a bachelor party or some sort of reunion.  They are not interested in some big sausage fest, well unless they are inclined to just enjoy the company of men.  Typically, guys tend to have one wing-man, or a wing-girl.  I've often played the latter role, and it is actually a lot of fun to play wing-girl!  As the wing-girl, I may start up the conversation with another girl, and then I quickly make it clear that the guy is just my friend.  As the conversation unfolds, if I need to get lost, no big deal-- I go find someone else to entertain me.  Now that is a special skill-- it is not for everyone, but that is NOT the point of this blog.

Guys have a legitimate gripe about girls that go out in huge numbers, and by huge we mean more than 3.  Now, if you ladies are just interested in hanging with the girls all night, then that is fine.  But if you think you are going to get a guy to break up a herd of women, you are very sadly mistaken.  That is just a lot of esterogen, even for me to deal with, but more importantly let's simplify this problem-- think about the animal kingdom and how hunters pursue their prey.  They don't go running smack into the middle of a herd!  They stick to the outside and wait for one that is apart from the herd.  It is the same for guys, who are not sure whether you are going to be receptive to them or not.  It is so much better to suffer rejection privately vs. publicly.  So if you want to get asked out by a man, you cannot surround yourself with more than a few, and stick to the outskirts.

Another tactic that might work well is if you show up early, so that before you meet up with a bunch of people, you sit your butt at the bar by yourself.  We all have phones and access to the paper, a book or Kindle, plus there are usually tvs and very gregarious bartenders, who can all keep you busy until the rest of your party shows up.  There is no easier scenario than this for someone to then come up and ask if s/he can sit next to you and chat while you wait for your friends to show up.

By no means am I seriously suggesting that trolling the bars is the way to go.  The last 4 years, I've just managed to meet people through friends, but whenever I think back to how that first interaction began, it was always at a moment when I was by myself.  Either I was at the pool, on the deck taking a call, in the kitchen pouring a glass of wine, or on my way back from the powder room-- it was NEVER when I was in the middle of a huge group of people. 

Hopefully, by thinking more about the challenges guys face, women can start to develop some strategies that will make their lives a little easier-- especially when it comes to that first chance encounter.  So much in life is about being at the right place at the right time, and while I can't predict when/where that will be for everyone, I can predict where that is not:  in the middle of some pack!  If you want a man to do his part and play the role of a happy hunter, then ladies please do your part and break away from the herd. :)

Friday, August 2, 2013

Top 12 Blogs About Love

We all struggle with love-- in its various forms, and that is why over the last 2 1/2 years, I've been blogging about it.  Essentially, this blog has been a very public journal while I've gone in search of my father, become a big sister, dealt with the aftermath of my own divorce and the challenges of dating in the 21st century, all while playing mom and trying to be a superstar attorney. Many of my friends have recently asked me, "how do you do it all?"  Well, I guess I never bought into the notion that you can't have your cake and eat it too.

The fact is life is not easy for anyone, but I've had the distinct advantage over the last 15 years as a divorce attorney to learn from some of the worse mistakes people make in life.  By sharing your stories, you've all helped me avoid some major disasters in my own life.  I've had a front row seat to some of the worse train wrecks in town, and after witnessing so much carnage, I was able to make some very difficult choices early on in my own life in the hopes of steering my train in a different direction.

Honestly, I no longer know in which direction I am heading, but I have learned to just enjoy the journey and not worry about the final destination.  I'm having a ton of fun with my creative writing, and this blog allows me finally do some data dump, where I can essentially share some of my best love tips with others-- and then I get to track what interests people the most.  The results clearly show that people care just as much about the story where I recently found my family as they do about what it's like to fall out of love-- both had over 200 views.  I find it fascinating, although not at all surprising, that you are just as interested in the process of finding love as losing it. 

Here is my theory on love, which I actually turned into a poem when I was in high school:  Love is like a snowflake, seemingly simple and pure-- but if you try to hold it, it melts. 

Love morphs over time, just as we change.  You either change together, or you don't, and it is really hard to predict what the outcome will be.  All you can do is try your best.  In the meantime, here are some of the past blogs many of you seem to really enjoy:

1. A Puzzle That Took 38 Years to Complete;
2. Top 10 Signs You Are Falling Out of Love;
3. When Planners Date Non-Planners;
4. Can't Expect A Fish To Climb A Tree;
5. The Phases of Dating;
6. Getting Rid of Self-Doubt;
7. Dealing with Commitment Phobes;
8. Is Monogamy Dying Out?
9. The Importance of Sharing Stories;
10. Why Women Date Inappropriate Men
11. Dealing with an Identity Crisis; and
12. Learning to Compartamentalize.

All those blogs had over 100 views, and many others are gaining ground fast-- especially some of the blogs from this past week! I really do appreciate when people write in with questions or ideas, and clearly I've managed to not reveal my sources all this time-- it's part of my training in maintaining confidentiality.  So, while I continue to compile all this data for my book, I hope you enjoy the stories and feel free to email me at:


Thursday, August 1, 2013

5 Tips to Playing 20 Questions

I happen to love 20 questions, but I get that many of you don't-- maybe you just need to think about it differently?  Don't think of it as a chore, you need to view it as a game or like a treasure hunt, where each step of the way you pick up more clues about the other person.  What you are doing is actally called "mapping" in psychology, as you try to figure out (1) where someone came from; (2) where are they now; and (3) where are they heading?  This is why you ask some questions about the past, the present and then the future.  Easy!  Well, perhaps not for everyone...

My dad has the gift of gab and is super gregarious.  He was a bartender way back in the day, and worked on a cruise ship for many years, where he encountered people from every walk of life. Even today, he is quite the charmer, and I seem to have inherited that Casanova gene, so when I am playing 20 questions, it is clear that I'm not faking it-- I am geniunely having fun trying to figure out the other person.  If you don't feel this way, try to fake it until you make it!  As a witty friend of mine said recently, "you need to meet a lot of Richards to find a good Dick."

While playing 20 questions, which should be an easy exchange of questions, with everyone taking an equal turn, maybe I should recap some basic dating guidelines:

1. Just Ask- Most women, even today, expect that if a guy is interested, he will ask her out.  We understand that we need to give you a green light signal, but many still think it's up to the guy to then make the first move.  I disagree, but I may be in the minority.  Here is the deal- you just never know what the situation may be.  Good looking and intelligent men know they have their pick of the litter, so you may need to be a bit assertive to stand out.  Meanwhile pretty and smart women often scare off guys, who assume these women are already taken or will just say no.  But who knows? What is the harm in trying?  At the very least, a person should be flattered, and the best case is the person might say yes.  No decent individual will bite your head off.

2. First Dates- Guys need to show up on time, be nicely dressed, and at least offer to pick up the tab. Hopefully you will enjoy some witty banter, and try to close the date with a clear indication of what you want next.  Are you open to see each other again?  If so, great; if not, have a nice life, no hard feelings.  If you enjoyed your time together, then try to follow up with an email, text whatever, within 48 hours.

3. Avoid Making Excuses- For the longest time, I would use the "I'm really busy" excuse thinking that was polite, but guess what?  Guys are not stupid, and they can actually decipher our code.  It is so much better to just be honest and say, "I like you as a friend, but I don't see us being romantically involved."  Just be prepared for a come back like the one I got a few years back, where a guy said, "Thanks, I have enough friends."  Alrighty then... good for you!

4. Don't Forget to Keep Mapping- During the first few dates, as you try out different activities together, look to see if you are taking turns sharing the basic information you need when checking for compatability. It is not just about chemistry, which is key, but also do you connect when you talk about one another's backgrounds- family, education, work experience, interests?

5. Pace Yourselves- There is no need to rush into anything-- this is not a race.  It is good to space out your dates and take some time to process everything you are learning about one another.  Be sensitive to each person's time constraints, other responsiblities, and the need for space and time in order to progress at a comfortable pace.  If someone is pushing up the timeline, you need to call them out on it-- it really isn't normal to expect to rank as a priority anytime soon in the life of someone you just met.  It is great to be excited, but curb your enthusiasm a bit-- guys especially will appreciate this from women. 

In the end, the best advice I can give for playing 20 questions is to be honest.  Nothing seems to drive people crazy more in the dating world than the feeling that they were misled.  No one likes to be part of a bait & switch scenario.  Why even try to play docile in the beginning if you know you are an alpha female?  If you are on a mission to get married, just own that fact, and don't be upset if the other is not on the same page.  If you aren't ready to commit to anything, just be upfront about that too-- and try to understand that I may not want to be part of some a la carte menu.  If you like to be flirty, make that clear in the beginning-- some will not be okay with that, but there are others who may agree to live with that as long as you leave the dance with the person you came with.  Remember, it takes 2 to tango-- now go have fun finding that tango partner!