Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Can Your Brain Override Your Heart?

Love is so complex, and yet at the same time it is actually quite simple.  Either you love someone or you don't.  While someone may be able to check all the right boxes, and on paper you might appear to make a fantastic couple, at the end of the day after many failed endeavors, I've come to the conclusion that your brain cannot override your heart.

While we may make trade-offs in many aspects of our life, it has become clear to me that for those seeking real love, trade-offs won't work.  What do I mean by trade-offs?  Well, let me be blunt, for those in our 20's and 30's that are interested in getting married and having kids, there are some timeline pressures that drive certain choices.  If someone is smart, cute and kind enough that you can see yourself creating a family together, then you may ignore certain things that may be lacking in the package.  In my own case, I disregarded the fact that my former husband was not religious, athletic or multi-cultural.  While these things mattered immensely to me, at the time they seemed insignificant qualities to look for in a partner, as long as I had the three basics- smart, cute and kind.  Overtime, however, I learned that I was wrong and not having certain core values in alignment was our downfall.

Over the years, as I have worked with many couples to help them through their divorces, I have seen first-hand how many of us have ignored the early signs that could have warned us things would not work out, and we are all smart people, so how did we let this happen?  Because we were driven by certain life goals, and we were willing to make trade-offs.  We all had our pros and cons lists, and as long as the good outweighed the bad, we plowed ahead simply hoping for the best, and sometimes not preparing for the worst.

Throughout many of the past blogs, I have written extensively about applying business techniques to our mergers with another person, and I whole-heartedly stand by the principal that despite our feelings, we need to logically think through the concept of combining forces with another human being.  However, don't get so bogged down in your analysis of all the little parts that you lose sight of the big picture.  Much like you would want to appreciate a painting by taking in the whole picture, you need to step back from your check lists and take in the whole experience of the relationship you are in-- and honestly, dig deep and ask yourself, does this mural move you?  Do you feel like you are looking at a masterpiece that makes your heart sing?

For those of us now in our 40's that no longer have the pressures of getting married and having children, I have come to see how the opportunity for true love is finally a real possibility, if we have the patience to hold out for it.   I admit, when I tried to override my own heart, I failed miserably.  The parts were all there, but the whole picture was just off.  I could not understand how so many of my friends that have remarried kept saying "it is sweeter the second time around."  Now I get it-- when you are not trying to force a square peg through a round hole everything is just so easy, and that is exactly why it is so blissful.

In the end, I'm definitely not suggesting you throw caution to the wind-- know your "must haves" and "can't stands," but don't let those checklists fool you. When it is simply all there, you won't need to have your brain override your heart.   :)


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Do You Have Compatible Baggage?

Let's face it, after age 35 we all have some baggage that we carry with us.  Our life experiences shape who we are, and there's nothing to be ashamed of-- we've all made mistakes, and as long as we've learned from them and not allowed ourselves to just dwell in the past, then all is good.  Now the key is to find someone with compatible baggage.

Think of it this way-- if you are about to embark on a journey, do you want a companion with an empty suitcase?  That would just be weird-- and I also don't think you want to travel with someone whose suitcase is full of dirty laundry, that is just going to require a lot of extra and unnecessary work for both of you.  Indeed, the goal is to find someone who has done his/her laundry, nicely folded his/her clothes, and is now ready for an adventure.

Backpacking through Europe 20 years ago, I learned to travel light and only carry the essentials.  Crashing in a hostel wasn't a big deal, it was the experience that I cared about-- and it was amazing to see such beauty in the world, but one thing was clear-- regardless of how amazing these experiences were I missed not having someone special by my side.

Fast forward to 20 years later, I whole-heartedly admit I still feel the same way-- and although I've been able to see a tremendous amount of beauty, without a significant someone, I've always felt something lacking.  Sadly, the older and more powerful we've all become, it's gotten very hard to find someone that is okay living in a tiny apartment and not driving the latest luxury car.  Simply put, I would prefer a travel companion that doesn't want to be tied down to material things so that instead we can explore the world full of wonders together, and let me tell you finding  someone that shares this view in DC is like searching for a unicorn.

Now, we all want different things, especially at different stages of life, and no one is right or wrong for wanting what s/he thinks is necessary to find happiness.  The key, however, is going through your own baggage first so that once you've done your own inventory you can recognize someone that aligns with your vision for the future.  It may take a very long while looking for that needle in the haystack-- but trust me, it will all be worth it in the end when you find that person whose suitcase perfectly coordinates with your own.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Can A Player Be Tamed?

I'm not a big fan of labels, and so let me just pose this question upfront- if you are in the dating game, then aren't you a player?  Perhaps in ancient times "players" were men (like Mr. Casanova), who unabashedly chased women, but hello we are in the 21st century now and there are plenty of assertive women these days, who have no problem approaching men and negotiating deals to meet certain needs without ever developing an emotional attachment.  So, to be perfectly blunt anyone who equates physical intimacy with emotional intimacy is an idiot in today's world.

We all have different goals and not everyone is playing by the same set of rules, which indeed makes the dating world very complicated, but one thing is for sure--  at the end of the day each one of us that opts to be in the market is looking for something, until one day the stars happen to align and you find someone worthy of your undivided attention.

Those that like the game and keeping their options open may never settle down.  Some might think these are commitment phobes, while others may consider these enlightened ones smart enough to avoid the old "ball and chain" married lifestyle.  Honestly, I don't see the need to pass judgment, but more importantly, I want to make sure you don't delude yourself into thinking that because you really like someone you are going to be able to make him/her commit.  A true player cannot be tamed-- unless s/he chooses to surrender of his/her own accord.

While the idea of a settled, comfortable life is quite endearing to some, there are those that find the notion of settling down quite repulsive.  Someone who enjoys life, and has many passions, seeks excitement and the idea of being trapped is simply unbearable.  This type of person is only going to commit to someone that is willing to seek adventures together and can ride the roller coaster of life.  It is a playmate with a kindred spirit that will tame a true "player," and so you should not take it personally if that just doesn't fit your lifestyle and goals.

Each one of us seeks something out of life, and someone to share it with, but no one should ever try to impose his/her agenda or will on another human being.  We were each born with the freedom of choice, and above all else the freedom to choose our life partner is a defining moment in life.  When and if that moment happens that you encounter someone that leaves you no doubt it is time to exit the games, it won't seem like a sacrifice at all.  You will do it willingly, easily, and with absolute humility for you will realize that you have met your match.  It is that checkmate moment-- and let me tell you, it is magical.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Some Rules Are Meant to Be Broken

As a person that finds great comfort in having rules, I'm sure it will shock you to hear me say that some rules are meant to be broken-- especially when dating.  Some of the "rules" I find ridiculously stupid include this notion that you need to play it cool, so that even if you really enjoyed a date, the girl should wait for the guy to text, and he has 3 days to do so if he wants another date.  Well, what if I really had a nice time, and just want to send a thank you text that same night?  What if that guy doesn't want to wait 3 days to let me know he wants to get together again?  Should we both sit home starring at the ceiling waiting to see who makes the next move?  If you want to play it safe, then wait, but I say if you are playing for keeps, you have to go with what your heart tells you to do.

Another stupid rule involves intimacy-- some have asked me if you are expected to sleep with someone by Date #3.  Really?  After age 30, who cares what date number you are on-- what is more important is how you feel about the situation.  Obviously if you want someone to respect you, then on Dates #1-2, I'd try to keep it at the PG-13 level, but after that, I don't think there really are any steadfast rules.  You have to go with your gut on this one, at least in my opinion.

Questions about when you have an exclusivity talk and discuss using the terms "boyfriend" and "girlfriend" are really hard to answer, because a lot depends on the two people involved, and what their expectations are about the relationship.  Obviously when two people are just out to have fun, an entire 6 months could go by without ever having an exclusivity talk or using terms like boyfriend/girlfriend.  Meanwhile, if by Date #3 you establish that you don't want something casual, and you agree to have STD tests done and are committed to forming a deep bond, then I think without even having to say anything you've already established that this is something quite significant.

Personally speaking, over the last several years I got quite used to the "rules," and it really did not bother me if someone went away for the weekend without checking in, or if they could not commit to planning a date more than 3 days in advance because they are so "busy."  But it also became quite clear to me that those playing by the "rules" would never be able to win me over.  It would take someone with courage to go out on a limb and break the rules-- someone willing to show that he actually cared, that he actually missed connecting with me.  It would have to be someone that would actually make me feel special.  And that my friends is really how it should be when you are playing for keeps.

The American Dating Rules are really more like guidelines, but keep in mind that there are times when they just won't apply to a particular situation-- especially if you venture into dating people from different cultures, which I highly recommend-- particularly if you have found yourself growing tired of that plain vanilla flavor.  Seriously, why stick to vanilla when there are at least 31 flavors at Baskin Robbins?  Go spice it up a bit, I'll admit I am certainly glad I did this year!

If the end goal is truly to find someone special, then you have to be able to let go of the rule book and throw some caution to the wind.  In the pursuit of love, you can't always play it safe, and you need to take a chance by giving it your all, and hopefully this passion will be reciprocated in kind.  As Oscar Wilde so wisely stated, "never love anybody who treats you like you're ordinary."  I could not agree more-- so go out there and find that someone that inspires you to bend the rules and makes you feel extra-ordinary.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Is Your Love Lost In Translation?

It is with great sadness that I learned yesterday that one of my favorite authors, Gabriel Garcia Marquez passed away.  When I broke the news to one of my friends, he sent me back this quote: Ningun lugar en la vida es mas triste que un cama vacia.  Translated into English, what this basically says is that there is no other place in life more full of sorrow than in an empty bed.  To truly understand the depth of this, however, you first have to know what real love is, and then it also really helps if you happen to be Latin.

Those of us that grew up speaking the romance languages and studying the arts are definite outliers.  It is very hard to explain some things to those trained as linear thinkers, but those of us that can appreciate a range of ways to communicate are able to express sentiments through music, dance, art, poetry, shared experiences and multiple languages.  To us there are no limits, other than the ones we impose on ourselves, and this makes life very interesting, but finding a kindred spirit is not going to be easy.

If you are a creative type, I'm begging you not to lose hope-- there is nothing wrong with being different and thinking outside the box.  What is a problem is trying to conform-- attempts to conform to the mainstream way actually eat away at our souls.  Each effort made to compromise will feel like small doses of poison that we are ingesting, and with every dose you will find yourself dying a slow, methodical death.

The choice to live is difficult when you feel that there is no one on this planet that truly understands you.  And yes, it is a choice that we each make every day as we wake up and make the effort to engage with this crazy world, as opposed to ending all the pain and sorrow.  As Hamlet's soliloquy so eloquently pointed out-- wouldn't it be easier to choose eternal sleep and perchance to dream instead of facing the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune?  Indeed, it takes courage to truly engage with life-- and especially to make yourself vulnerable to another when you are in love.  But what kind of life is worth living when you always play it safe?  If you always keep your feelings so close to the vest, what does that really get you in the end? 

Life is a great stage, where all of our passions are played out, and in my personal opinion the most passionate people seem to be the creative, artistic type-- and if you also happen to be Latin, wow, then it is just an out of this world experience.  It all makes so much sense now, and so please believe me when I say that it may take you a very long time to find someone that can go with the free flow of your ideas, no matter which form of expression they may take, but hold out for that moment-- you will know when you find it because everything will just fit perfectly, and you won't feel like anything is lost in translation.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Have You Tried to Find Clues From Your Own Past?

Recently, it has been an interesting experience to read through past blogs and see how much of what I predicted has in fact came true, especially with my theory in 2011 that finding my dad would change my outlook on love and life.  The blog entitled "A Puzzle That Took 38 Years to Complete" was the first one to go viral, and since then so many have written to tell me how my writing has inspired them in some way.

Finding my family was not an easy journey, but then again, nothing worth while in my life ever came easily.  And in trying to go back further, I've been re-reading some of my earlier writings.  It really is as if I left myself some notes in the event my older self ever faltered or lost hope.  Now perhaps you may not have left yourself written clues the way I did, but maybe look back at old photos, or go back home and try to retrace some of your steps to reconnect with your younger self.  Who knows what you will find?

Here is an old poem I wrote in 1991, which I have never shared with anyone.  It really all makes so much sense now...


Walking along the beach-
not a soul in sight
There was a beautiful peacefulness
as the moon's light glistened in the water.
Too there was a touch of sadness-
a melancholic hue
on the tranquil colored canvas.

Alone, it became clear
the image before my eyes
was but a reflection
of deeper, darker depths.

The moon represented the guiding light in my life,
the sea was the uncertainty of the future.
I would need to captain my own ship and maintain hope--
hope that I would overcome the darkness and reach the light.

While I was filled with faith, there was a sadness too
for the journey was long and lonely,
and I realized then what lay before me
was a life full of wonders and joy,
but I would need to learn to live
a life with great moments of solitude.

I guess my 19 year old self nailed it.  Hope you can go find a message that your younger self may have left you in a time of great need-- it is there, you just need to find it!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Dating, The Old School Way

Long ago, before we all had mini computers attached to our hips, there was really only one way to instantly connect with someone you liked-- you had to pick up the phone.  A decade ago, no one had unlimited access to texts, emails FB or Twitter posts giving you this ridiculous false sense of connection with another human being.  The art of seduction was actually slow, deliberate and incredibly cerebral, and those of us that still remember these days with great fondness will only be wowed by someone that can follow the Old School Ways.

While Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, emails and blogging all serve a purpose in my daily work life, let me be perfectly honest that in my personal life what I value is quality one-on-one time with someone.  I don't want a pen-pal relationship, what I want is a grown man that will pick up the phone so I can hear his voice, and then we can laugh together.  A stupid "hey" text does nothing for me, other than show me that you are checking in, but what I really want is for you to make time and show up in person.  If you care, then let's have a real time conversation that brings me closer to you.  If I wanted to date my iPhone, why wouldn't I just turn on Siri?

Nothing in the world comes close to the affectionate gesture of holding hands while going for a walk.  And if you really want to know what melts a GenX girl's heart, it is listening to the sound of a person's voice while taking in his scent, feeling his breath on you and seeing his eyes smile.  To hear that man's genuine laughter and feel butterflies flying around in your stomach while he leans in for that first kiss, that is what makes you feel alive.  Sorry to tell you this, but there is NO app that will ever do this for you, and despite my initial belief that perhaps all this was no longer possible after 40, I am happy to report that indeed with the right partner, you can feel this way even after 50, 60 or 70.

When you find that person that makes your heart skip a beat, time seems to stand still, and somehow despite all the crazy logistics involved you find a way to see each other, make plans for the future, and dream together.  You will find yourself waking up excited and smiling each day.  The birds' songs will seem sweeter and the flowers in your path will appear that much more vibrant.  People will even tell you that you are glowing-- and make no mistake about it, it is true that your aura will be a dead give-away to all that you are falling in love.

As great as this whole experience will be, I just have one tiny piece of advice: drink from the water fountain of love, not the fire hydrant.  Go in baby steps so that you don't crash and burn.  Pace yourself in order to take it all in.  Remember, this is NOT a race, and there is no need to sprint.  If you need help slowing down, imagine that you are running a marathon with another, and to go the full distance you need to maintain a steady pace, and you have to go at the pace of the slowest runner.

A gentle soul will be patient, and he will hold your hand and let you feel safe as you slowly dip into the magical pool that makes you feel 16 once again.  If you can't remember what that was like, then maybe you need to do some homework- go revive that youthful part of you that still believes it is possible to love without limits.  In the meantime, please try to unplug from the Matrix, and let yourself fall in love, the Old School Way!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

How Far Have We Strayed From the Garden of Eden?

Every year, it is with great joy that I see the spring blossoms while people decorate their homes for Easter and prepare to celebrate Passover with their loved ones.  Yet rarely do we discuss outside of a church or synagogue the historical events that led to the creation of these special days.  I myself did not realize how little I had covered with my own son until I recently took him to see the movie Noah, which led to a lot of questions that I assumed had already been answered.  So perhaps this week, as many of us take time off for the high holy days with our kids, we should take a moment to pass on some of our thoughts-- deep thoughts about creation and our human existence.

Personally, I have spent a lot of time thinking about our exile from the Garden of Eden, which is by far one of the most powerful and thought-provoking stories about our human condition.  This beautiful story actually seems so much more relevant today than ever before, because let's all be honest, in Eve's shoes, which one of us would not have taken a bite of the forbidden fruit?  Not because we necessarily want to disobey God and his rules, but because our natural curiosity is immense and when we don't understand the basis behind a rule, it is easy to dismiss it.

The fruit that dangles from the tree of knowledge is alluring beyond belief, and we are surrounded by tempting snakes every where we go these days, however, it is not always so easy to identify the snakes in the grass as perhaps it once was so very long ago.  And so it is that life in the Garden of Good and Evil, which is where we find ourselves today is indeed full of many challenges.  Mischief is easy to find, and now more than ever we need to give our kids a moral compass that will help them stay the course so they can stay true to themselves and maximize their full potential on Earth.

Sometimes, I hate to admit that it feels like I am living back in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Yet, somehow every day I also manage to encounter little of acts of kindness that remind me that gentle souls do still exist.  Angels seem to appear at the most opportune times, and miracles still do happen if you take the time to actually notice them.  And if you let yourself dream (naturally, not by some drug-induced coma), you actually can transcend this world and connect with spirits.  But to do all of this there is one key thing you need to do: unplug.

My greatest fear these days is that these younger generations (and maybe some parents) don't know how to unplug, and if they don't learn this fast, how will they ever be able to connect with nature, enjoy connecting with others, and most importantly develop the ability to connect with themselves?

There is a false sense of connection created by modern technology, and an unhealthy attachment to electronic devices that many seem to think hold all the answers.  Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth-- the real answers are within us.

If you take the time to truly explore the Garden of Good and Evil, you will see there is great beauty in the balance created by both powers.  For better or worse, to truly understand peace, you need to see chaos; to appreciate true beauty, you need to see some ugliness; to enjoy happiness you have to contrast that with moments of loss and sorrow; to recognize good, you have to witness some evil.  To enjoy success, you need to overcome challenges and sometimes suffer set backs.  All of these messages are actually in the stories of our ancestors, which unfortunately many seem to have forgotten or abandoned along with their faith in any god.

Whether or not you believe in God, angels, spirits and an afterworld, I don't think any of us can deny that humanity has slowly been destroying Earth and there has been a steady decline in our overall respect for life.  And so I am not surprised to see the escalation of violence or natural disasters that we can all tune into every day, and it is not because God is dead or has forsaken us, but because we now need to step up and take responsibility for our own actions.

Let's face it, we all took a bite of the forbidden fruit, perhaps not realizing the unintended consequences that would come from that one act.  Trying to play God, we've all taken it a bit too far.  Now we need to right those wrongs-- if for no other reason than because our children should not suffer for our sins.

So, while the Garden of Eden is long gone, and we have strayed very far indeed since our exile, I do believe we have the power and knowledge to restore some balance here on Earth before it is too late.  The roadmap was actually given to us long ago, so go revive the stories of your ancestors, share the wisdom from past legends with each other, and fill your children with hope.

Best wishes to you all for a beautiful week of spirituality and peace.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Is This As Good As It Gets?

The dating scene can be exhausting, and sometimes we may need to just opt out for a while when we find ourselves in complete disgust after a series of bad dates, but more often than not, what seems to be a very prevalent practice is to settle for Mr. or Ms. Right Now, just to have some fun with a person that appears decent enough-- knowing full well that s/he is never going to go the full distance.

Short-term lease situations do serve a purpose, no doubt, but I think it's important to recognize your own pattern and establish time-frames for a reality check with the other person.  Does that person realize that s/he is nearing the end of the relationship's shelf life?  It's not fair to string someone along, so honest check-ins are important.  Personally, I have found my options for renewal  tend to surface after 5, 10, or 15 months.  Sadly, in the last 20 years, only one person made it past the 3rd renewal option phase, and ever since our divorce, I've often found myself playing the dating game wondering: is this really as good as it gets?
To survive, we all develop different skills, and one of my best is the ability to compartmentalize.  What does that mean?  It means that with someone that isn't a father, I don't talk much about being a parent.  With someone that isn't passionate about his work, we talk about outside interests.  With someone that is not well-traveled or well-read, we focus on activities and doing entertaining things together.  So by doing this we can find common ground with someone while closing off doors to other parts of our life-- but I have to be honest, that can only last for so long.

The reality is that the bar has been set quite high as to what I believe an amazing partnership without limits can look like, because I have lived it, and I'm surrounded by friends that have achieved it.  To be able to speak your mind without the need to compartmentalize-- to be with someone that isn't just attractive on the outside, but also has a beautiful mind with depth and an appreciation for life-- these are not just fiction stories you read about, it is the benchmark we should all strive for with a life partner.

While waiting for Mr. or Mrs. Right to come along, no one should fault you for having some fun as long as you tread lightly with another person's heart.  Do whatever you need to do to feel human, but just don't try to settle.  Hold out for the one that rocks your world.  I'm not saying this will be easy, but I am saying it will be worth it.

We will all have moments when we might start to lose faith in love, but don't despair-- it is not you, it's just part of our human condition.  Life, however, has a funny way of making things happen at critical moments.  And so it is that for the first time in ages, I've finally stopped wondering "is this as good as it gets?" In fact, I know the answer is no, and instead, I'm inspired to believe that indeed the best is yet to come.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

5 Safety Tips for Online Dating

Given that at least 20% of people are now meeting partners online, I feel compelled to share some safety tips based on the many bad experiences I have heard about.  While of course there are jerks everywhere, the problem with online dating is that there is very little accountability.  When you meet someone online that person is usually not part of your normal circle, e.g. not from your neighborhood, work, the gym, school, or church, his/her reputation isn't really at stake.  So for your own safety, try to keep these 5 tips in mind:

1. Meet at a public place, especially the first few times.  It's not that bad stuff doesn't happen in front of others, but the chances are less likely that someone will act inappropriately in public.

2. Have an exit plan.  Always make sure you have a credit card or enough cash to at least pay for your own drinks & meal, plus a ride home.

3.  Create an excuse to bail.  Not good at lying? Easy, I will give you a few lines you can practice: you have plans to meet or talk with a friend at a certain time.  You have an early morning meeting that you need to prepare for-- or maybe you have a dog that you need to walk.  Whatever-- if you are not having fun or don't feel safe, get out.

4. Establish a check-in system.  Always tell a buddy where you are going to be if you are meeting an online stranger. This way at least someone knows where you are & hopefully that person is responsible enough to check on you later if you don't send a text saying everything is ok.

5. Do your homework.  In this lovely modern age of technology, you can find out a lot about someone online.  I am indeed telling you to snoop-- be your own PI (private investigator) and find out as much as you can about this person-- school, education, work.  Check out their FB posts and go on LinkedIn to see who you are connected to, and maybe then send your common connections a message and get the 411 on this person.  Also, a lot of court records are public, so why not double check that this person claiming to be divorced really is divorced?

Pigs are out there-- both male and female-- and in my opinion you have to have nerves of steel to put up with sorting through some of the scum of the earth that pops up when you are dating online.  If you are not up to the task, don't do it.  There are plenty of other ways to meet nice people-- but if you want to increase your numbers, and don't feel like destroying your liver going out for drinks all the time, online is an easy way to meet large quantities of potential candidates fast.

Several of my friends have actually married or formed committed relationships with people that they met online, and I personally know some very nice people out there, so by all means go have some fun--just be safe!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Are You Looking for a Playmate or Soulmate?

After age 35, many seem to no longer believe in the term "soulmate," and indeed I understand how over time-- especially after suffering immense disappointment or loss-- we may find ourselves in the singles scene losing faith in this notion that there may be anyone left out there that will ever connect with us deeply and care about our essence.  A kindred spirit is very hard to find, and it requires a lot of patience, something many of us tend to lack these days.   But every once in a blue moon, you may run across that rare gem in the dating world that is still looking for something far more meaningful than the rest of the herd.  How can you tell?  By the questions s/he asks while playing 20 questions.

When you are looking for a playmate, in other words someone to just have fun with and pass the time, a typical series of questions will including the following:

1. What's your work schedule like?
2. What do you do for fun?
3. Do you like to travel?
4. What sports do you like?
5. Do you enjoy concerts, museums, plays, movies?
6. Where do you like to hang out?
7. What are your favorite restaurants?
8. Are you done having kids?

See how with these 8 questions alone, I am quickly able to decipher (1) if someone has the time and inclination to have fun, (2) whether they are done breeding, and (3) if our interests line up so we can have a good time.  Easy-- complete all eight answers correctly within the first date, and you might well have a match for a playmate, assuming of course the chemistry is also there.

Now, if you are searching for a deeper connection, the questions will not be so easy.  They will take some time and thought in order to get to your core values.  More than just sizing up your brain, these inquires are trying to assess your heart's capacity for empathy and compassion.  I could give you some of my favorite examples, but I would prefer if you came up with these questions on your own, for even the questions you ask reveal an immense amount about you personally.

Truth be told, playing 20 questions is a piece of cake after you get a few practice rounds under your belt the way it is normally played, with someone looking for a playmate.  It has been many, many years, however, since I have encountered one willing and/or able to play this game at a much higher level, where he would have the ability and desire to bear his soul.  Sadly, many seem to have either lost or sold their souls and all that remains is an empty shell, and this becomes apparent right away when you try to dig deep.  These people will either shut down, get angry or try to deflect your attention else where.  My advice would be not to press, but gracefully move on.

Learning to compartmentalize is a skill many can learn to perfect in the dating game, and I am truly not here to pass judgment or advocate for any right or wrong way to proceed, but I do want people to be aware of the fact that there is a major difference between how you play when looking for a playmate versus looking for a soulmate.   What you are looking for will drive the questions you ask, and let me just say playmates are a dime a dozen, and there are very predictable rules to help you along in the game. But, when someone is playing at a higher level of 20 questions, all the typical rules can and often do go out the window.  These rule benders are rare gems, and waiting for one to drop into your lap requires having tremendous patience and believing that good things come to those that wait.

While the jury is still out on whether I still believe in a "soulmate," I do believe good things come to those that wait.  May you find the patience and perseverance to do the same. :)

Saturday, April 5, 2014

5 Reasons Kids Make Us Better People

Walking with my son the other day, I jokingly told him that I had not signed up for being his minion for such a long stretch, and that in some countries at his age children are the ones who become minions for their parents.  Without missing a beat, he quickly decided to point out all the benefits I have derived by having him in my life this past decade.  The list could actually be endless, but here are the top 5 reasons I think kids make our lives so much better:

1. The fragility of life- only during my pregnancy did I really become aware of what it is like to be vulnerable, and to not be fully in control of everything.  Turns out a "due date" is just a target date, but no one really knows for sure when the baby will actually come, whether you will need a C-section, or if you may have to go on bed rest a few weeks beforehand.  Several of my friends have struggled with infertility issues, suffered miscarriages, had still births, and one almost bled to death during her delivery.  Together, we have cried many tears privately about these losses, and in those moments truly learned to appreciate just how precious life is.

2. Increased connectivity- once you have a child, it is no longer just about you, and whether you like it or not, you need to ask for help from others-- caregivers, school teachers, doctors, tutors, relatives and friends will all play a vital role in helping you raise your little one.  This was for me a very humbling experience, and I am eternally grateful for learning the importance of working together with others.   Instead of trying to operate as an autonomous island, through our children we learn to appreciate the beauty of being part of a larger community.

3. True values become clearer- when you actually have to focus on the lessons you want to pass on to your children, your core values become crystal clear.  As they hit the age of reason and start to ask interesting questions, you will find yourself doing a lot of soul searching, and whether you want to or not, you will have to face some of your past and then decide whether you want to replicate certain acts or forge a new path through your own ways of parenting.

4. Importance of family- just as we need to provide a medical history for their doctors so that they know what they are dealing with from a genetic standpoint, we have to provide our kids with the family legends to help them understand their heritage.  Bloodline matters, whether you are royalty or not.  And as you start to re-tell the tales of your ancestors, you cannot help but appreciate the role they played in your own journey through life.

5. Unconditional love- yes, I saved the best for last.  My whole life I have observed with great interest the conditions people place on various relationships, and I lecture and write a lot about being cognizant of the deals you are making, what are the trade-offs, what you are bartering for, and doing your best to never negotiate from a position of weakness.  And yet, only as a parent did I finally come to understand that there is one exception to this whole quid pro quo form of love.  Learning to give unconditional love has been an amazing experience that has opened my eyes to the true beauty and magnificent abilities of the human heart.

I am definitely not the same person I was a decade ago, and despite all the challenges that come with being a parent, I am incredibly grateful for the poignant life lessons parenthood has taught me.  It is indeed my son that has brought out the best in me, and for the first time ever I feel that I have finally lived up to the quote I used in my senior year book, which came from Jean Racine's Phedre: in later years, as I came to know myself, I am proud of the person I came to know.

Indeed, I am proud of all my friends that have taken on the mission of becoming parents-- and not just good parents, but great parents.  The sacrifices are immense, and we often suffer in silence as we put our children's needs before our own, but the payoff is amazing.  You can just see in the posts on Facebook and Instagram-- there is such immense pride and joy with each new accomplishment that our kids make, and although they may be totally unaware of it, as parents we all know that they have repaid our efforts to help them tenfold-- for our kids bring out the best in us, and watching that happen each and every day is exactly what keeps my soul alive and has kept me from losing faith in mankind.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

10 Topics for Discussion in a Dating Contract

I've joked a lot about creating a Dating Agreement the last couple of years, but in all seriousness, I am starting to think that before we start dating someone seriously, we may want to agree on some ground rules.  Way before you even get to the exclusivity talk, I'm thinking in today's day of modern technology, we may want to establish some terms while playing 20 Questions.  Here are my top 10 items to discuss:

      1.       Any personal information disclosed on dates will be kept strictly confidential;

      2.      Neither party shall post anything on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other social media regarding their dates without the other's approval;

3.   Neither party will post any pictures of the other in any social media without the other person's express permission;

4.  You will both do your best to be honest and not mislead one another, especially in terms of what you want in the relationship and where you see yourself heading in the future;

5.   Details related to a bad-break up will only be discussed with immediate family;

6.   Neither one will create any public scenes-- no tears, anger or display of any drama while outside;

7.  No drunk driving or engaging in other behavior that risks the life of the other;

8.  No threats, disparaging remarks, or engaging in conduct that could create a loss of business or risk someone's employment;

9.  Requests for no further contact will be immediately adhered to without need for involvement of attorneys or the authorities; and

10. Immediately upon the termination of the relationship, all personal items will be returned to the other, and any pictures on either party's social media that has the other's image shall be removed, deleted from public view and shall not be shared with anyone else.

Maybe I should create a new line of legal business for those individuals in DC-- especially high profile professionals-- that want to cover their butts?  Well, all kidding aside, I hope this list of pointers gives you some food for thought.  While I may not have necessarily had anyone sign a binding contract yet I have definitely covered a lot of these points upfront with several gentlemen, never with any push back.

Hey, it's a crazy world out there and everything these days is up for negotiation.   And I do mean everything.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Will You Marry Again?

Being divorced is not a status any of us aspire to in life, and yet 50% of us that walk down the aisle dreaming of a happily ever after will fall into this category.  Divorce is an incredibly harsh setback, but thankfully it does not usually define us; rather many see it is an opportunity to grow and refine themselves-- if they can put the anger and/or disappointment behind them.

Does this sound too good to be true?  Not really if you take a good look around you.  There are so many examples of successful people that have picked up the pieces and kept on soaring after a divorce-- not just in Hollywood, but in all professional areas including journalism, business, and politics, such as Maria Shriver, Arianna Huffington, Liz Gilbert, Sheryl Sandberg, Sonia Sotomayor, as well as many of the local experts that I interviewed for my tv show "Making It Last."  These, and so many of my past clients that embrace the motto onward and upward have become my heros, and while some have remarried, many have not.

The blinders come off after you go through a divorce, and you realize that love does not conquer all.  If you spend enough time reflecting on the fragility of our human connections, you come to appreciate that lasting relationships are rare, and they require a lot of hard work.  While the stats show that 75% of divorced men and 2/3 of divorced women will remarry, we are also painfully aware of the fact that the chances of divorcing a second time exceed 75%.  Why is that?  Well, I have 3 theories: (1) too many try to rush into marriage again without taking time to work on themselves; (2) not enough people do their due diligence and set up a proper framework for resolving conflict and dealing with money issues; and (3) blended family dynamics are tough.

Make no mistake about it, my mission the last 4 years working with the media has been to de-stigmatized divorce.  It is not a dirty word, and if you really want to prevent it, then we need to have more open and honest discussions about the importance of selecting a proper partner and the hard work it takes to maintain a happy marriage as you navigate the various stages of life with all its challenges.  Do I think it sucks that my own divorce is part of my claim to fame and a major impetus in the acceleration of my learning curve in my own field of study?  Absolutely.  But it is precisely because I have been through the journey that I have garnered the respect of my colleagues and clients-- I don't just talk the talk, I walk the walk each and every day.

Throughout the years, both in public settings like my law school lectures and in private client meetings, people have often asked me, will you remarry?  Honestly, I don't know, but I also no longer care.  As much as I enjoyed being a wife and in a committed partnership for 12 years,  I've also enjoyed a tremendous amount of freedom being single the last several years using my "free time" to research and write while finding inspiration from many experts in a variety of fields, especially those in the medical and mental health professions.

Maybe a century ago it was easier to say "I do" til death do you part when a woman's life expectancy was only about 40, as was the case with my own great grandmother.  But these are vastly different times, where they expect me to live to a ripe old age of 81, and unlike women just 50 years ago, my female peers are not economically dependent on their spouses to survive.  These 2 factors alone have undeniably changed the landscape for all married couples going forward in the 21st century.  Therefore, new times require new skills--it is time we stop longing for a classic model that is almost extinct and face our new reality.

Among the many things I am grateful for in this new age is modern technology, which enables me to  share ideas with my peers in a wide range of disciplines worldwide at warped speed, and I welcome the feedback from the general public that is clearly seeking answers to some of the tough questions I've been asking the best of the best this past decade.  The irony is not lost on me for a second, however, each and every day that my own greatest "loss" in life is what has triggered so much progress, as Ellen McCarthy so eloquently pointed out in her Washington Post article of June 2010, which then went viral.  Since then, I am happy to report she's been working on her own book on love that should come out this year and makes reference to this blog, which now has almost 3000 views per month.

Answers are out there, we just have to ask the right questions.  In the meantime, in answer to the question of will I marry again all I can honestly say at this point is that I no longer fear falling in love again, and that is major progress.  The goal is now to help others to feel the same way.