Category Archives: Dating Dementia

Transitions

Newsletter-FFT-clip art-fall leavesThirty days hath September, April, June and November; or so the saying goes. It seems that the quantity of days is the only thing that our ninth month shares with these others. April invites a slow rebirth of a landscape once buried under snow, June ushers in all the excitement of warm weather activities that pull us from our homes and November once again lays the heavy cloak of winter.

September days slowly fade from the months of growth to months of respite. Ripening produce and subsequent harvesting will clear the way for fallow ground which will rest silently until spring comes again. The last warm days of summer soon fade into longer nights and cooler temperatures.

Our shorts and sandals will soon be replaced by favorite sweaters, jackets, boots, mittens and scarves. The cool crisp air of September carries the fragrance of apples and cider and unearthed vegetables and fallen leaves. The sun will begin to ride low on the horizon signaling that change is coming. As a result, the decrease in daylight and the cooling nights lift the green off the leaves exposing their rich purple, rust, orange and scarlet red petticoats. This is truly my favorite season.

With the celebration of Labor Day, even our foods begin to change. At our house the fruit plates, summer salads and ice tea will soon be replaced with steaming bowls of soups made from the summer’s bounty. Hot cocoa will become our night time brew of choice shared over board games or old movies. Of course this is also when the new TV season begins and many will nestle in to catch the season premier of their favorite sitcom or reality show. All in all, September is a time of transition. 

Change isn’t always easy. It isn’t always welcome. Those individuals who attend the Rebuilding at Bethel program are in the midst of change. For some the transition is a welcome relief yet for others it is mourned and feared. The members of my Dating Dementia class learn that they may need to change their approach to dating if they wish to find a healthier and happier relationship the next time around. Even the women in my Self-esteem class learn about the challenges and rewards of change as they attempt to tackle new relationship skills that could help them feel the full sense of what it means to be a whole, worthwhile, competent and adequate person.

Change can leave us feeling ambivalent; teetering between hanging on to the way things have been and stretching out to touch what could be. No matter what our life has been like we know what to expect from it even if it hasn’t been pleasant. The unknown doesn’t provide much information about how to handle what change has to offer. Sometimes we simply have to step into that unknown even when it is scary; having faith that it will all turn out for the best.

Gershen Kaufman, author of The Dynamics of Power, laid out some fundamental concepts about change. He stated that the process of change is often experienced ambivalently because it requires giving up the comfortable familiar in exchange for the feared unknown. Kaufman also reminds us that the process of change is slow and backsliding to old ways of approaching relationships should be expected.  He also points out that change takes practice and patience. And finally, he stresses that courage and determination cannot be taught, so we will need to discover these qualities in ourselves if we hope to evolve.

It might help to keep these ideas about change in mind when in the midst of transitioning or recognizing that it is on the horizon. Life will always place new opportunities or challenges in our path. However, it might be comforting to know that experience with change can make you more resilient and adept. I refer to this as having bounce-ability. It is important to be especially tender and kind to yourself as well as to have some faith in your ability to handle change.  How you face change can affect your emotional well-being and we know that reaching out to others can make the transition more tolerable. That is what my classes all have in common; bringing people together to make change a little more bearable with the support of other people.

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The Fine Art of Doing Nothing

Newsletter-clip art - watching cloudsThere is a Spanish proverb that states, “How beautiful it is to do nothing and then rest afterward.”  I don’t know about you but that certainly sounds inviting to me. How often do you take time to do nothing, to rest, to just be?  Rest from work, rest from play, rest from participating… again, or even rest from relationships?

It seems we Americans are plagued by busy-ness yet wonder why we feel tired, anxious, depressed, overwhelmed or any number of other feelings. Many of us are driven to one up someone else as to how much time we spend doing something, anything. Even our play has become work; something we have to do. Our time doing has become another national sport and everyone seems to be keeping score.

I recognize that I too can get caught up in doing. But, I have also noticed that when this happens my body gets angry and lets me know in one fashion or another. So, my goal is to take some time to do nothing and then rest afterwards… at least once in awhile. I have promised myself that this summer I will find a grass covered hillside which I will lie down on and just watch the clouds float by. I am confident that with a little practice I can make doing nothing a part of my life even if just for five minutes and as a result come back refreshed even if it means returning to more …. doing. I hope you too can find a little time this summer to just do nothing and when you are done to rest a bit.

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Do You Need a Spark to Start a Fire?

A graduate of my Dating Dementia class recently submitted a question and gave me permission to include it as one of my blog postings. I will put my comments here but I hope that others will click on the link below and add their own comments as well. It might help her or someone else who has struggled with this same concern.

A.T. wrote, “I had a blind date recently and there weren’t any ‘sparks.’ My inclination was to not pursue further yet he is a nice guy with other great qualities. If his values didn’t align with mine I would say it was a no brainer. But, his values DO align with mine so then what? Is it worth the time to get to know someone more if there are no sparks or fireworks? My therapist indicated that ‘healthy’ is likely to feel awkward and not-super-sexy (for lack of a better expression) to me at first because it’s so foreign from what I’ve been accustomed to in my past relationship. My therapist believes that a person can grow to become attracted to someone physically even if it is not apparent at the beginning. What are your thoughts on this?”

First off, let me say I like your therapist’s comments and I agree with the idea that attraction can happen even if it doesn’t arrive in a lightning bolt on the first date. You may remember these lyrics, I feel the earth move under my feet I feel the sky tumblin’ down, I feel my heart start to trembling whenever you’re around. We have grown to believe that nothing short of an earthquake should occur inside of us if it’s actually love.

Instant attractions, instant chemistry, sparks, fireworks, or even love at first sight are all ways to describe this thing we like to call love. This type of phenomenon tends to occur during what I have coined the “dating dementia” period—that moment of wild attraction that robs us of our senses, takes up a lot of our physical and mental energy, causes us to obsess about someone and can lead us to forget past relationship tsunamis. We have been writing about it for thousands of years so one would think there is something to be said for “falling in love.” Falling as in plunging, tumbling, or spiraling out of control seems to clearly reference this crazy time. Somehow it just seems more attractive when the image is connected with love than with falling off a rocky cliff into a raging sea below.

The fairy tale meeting we have come to believe in and even demand might be just that –a fairy tale. Happily ever afters that follow being swept off our feet don’t always materialize and when the good times vaporize a person is left feeling disillusioned, disappointed and hurt.

That instant attraction, that special chemistry that causes you to feel drawn to each other like magnets is just that –chemistry. Mother Nature’s designer love potion, specially formulated with the right mix of dopamine, testosterone, estrogen, and adrenaline to give that snap, crackle and pop experience called love. What we have come to expect is really Mother Nature’s way to move us quickly into a relationship to guarantee that our “special” DNA gets into the genetic pool before one person wakes up and notices that there isn’t enough glue to hold the relationship together for the long term. From an evolutionary perspective, this was very important. We needed to find someone who had the right outward characteristics that signified that a female had what it took to bear children and the male had the strength to protect his mate and their offspring; certainly not very romantic, but extremely practical for the times.

A genetic legacy is what is at stake but Mother Nature couldn’t care less if you are together in two or three years. Chemistry and real love are two different things. In fact, if we called the whole experience falling in lust, we might understand love in its truest sense of the word. True love is not a feeling like chemistry. Love is a decision that a couple needs to make each day despite life’s vicissitudes, where as chemistry is the flash in the pan that can quickly die out if not nurtured. When we love and experience being loved in return, we feel content, respected, understood, empathetic, accepted, supported, and a myriad other feelings.

If you are expecting your values and the sparks to align on that first date, you may continue to be disappointed or even distracted by the outward characteristics that nature has coded us to look for. It is a person’s character that will bring you either long-term contentment or pain. I say give this person a chance. You could discover a great deal about this man with some time and what you discover could be enough to light that fire you are longing for. If you end up realizing that you can never be more than friends, you have not lost anything but some time. The curious thing about people is that we tend to have friends who are like us in character. So, if this guy ends up just a friend, he could be the person to introduce you to someone who will not only have the same values but also that spark you are looking for.

Let me return to the second part of your comment, the part that suggests an unhealthy relationship past. Yes, this can be an issue. We tend to gravitate to people who seem the most familiar to us. If your relationship history included dysfunctional behaviors, in your first family or the one you married into, this can be your blue print for what relationships are supposed to look like. Healthy behaviors can appear foreign and therefore scary. But, you learned a great deal in the both the Dating Dementia class and the Self-Esteem class, about staying conscious when relating to others as a way to avoid rerunning old tapes. You may need to use that information as your road map and keep it close at hand as a quick reference until you can trust your own gut to safely guide you. Each person you meet is giving you a chance to teach them how to have a relationship with you. And as long as you take things slowly you can learn enough about each other to determine if this relationship has merit or if it needs to be the end of that story.

Do you recall the Choose Your Own Adventure books from your childhood? You can close the book here and call it end of story. But what if you decided to run through a few more pages of this story before closing the book on this guy? Maybe the adventure could lead you down a fruitful path one way or another.

One Response to Do You Need a Spark to Start a Fire?

  1. Thanks Margaret! I would assume at some point physical chemistry can and should develop for a romantic relationship to be sustainable. At least I think I would need that. Is that an appropriate expectation? And how much time do you invest in getting to know a person before it’s apparent that there just isn’t physical chemistry?

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Breathing Spaces

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My husband and I have just returned from a wonderful vacation to Alaska.  It was the trip of a life time full of spectacular scenery, amazing food and enough memories to reflect on for years to come. However, one of the most significant parts of my time away came with the breathing space that the train portion of the trip provided.  For some, the hours on the train may have seemed boring compared to the rest of the trip but I found it to be a wonderful respite from the hectic, activity packed segments of the week before. It allowed the two of us to browse through the pictures I had taken and to reminisce about all the amazing events that had already happened.  All in all it was a nice sabbatical from my regular life. And, most importantly it gave my spouse and me a chance to truly enjoy each others company; something my work life doesn’t always allow as much time for as we would like.

In my Dating Dementia book I have quoted Antonine de Saint-Exupery in reference to my definition of companionship. “Love does not exist in gazing at each other but in looking outward together in the same direction.”  Demanding work lives don’t always allow us to “look outward together” as we are often too busy looking in different directions towards different goals. We need time to do a little gazing together so we can reflect on how things are going for us, to reconnect as a couple, to remind ourselves of the joy that united us in the first place and to plan for the future or applaud ourselves for what we have accomplished as a team.

When we take the time to take a break, to briefly run away and to have those small sabbaticals we call vacations, we allow ourselves to have a little breathing space. And that vacation doesn’t have to be a week spent somewhere else. It could be an hour in the middle of or at the end of a day. It could also be five minutes with your eyes closed over lunch.  In musical composition this is called a rest. In fact, Claude Debussy wrote well when he penned “music is the space between the notes.” Without rests, music would just be noise. Could we not say the same for our lives?  Lives with out rests are just boring repetitions flowing from one day into another.  In agriculture this idea is reference to letting the earth go untilled every seventh year so the land can rest and regenerate as well as reduce the potential for infestation and disease; even if just through the rotation of crops. For individuals in academic professions this is referred to as a sabbatical; a time to rest and study. And in some religious traditions it is known as the Sabbath; a day of rest.  In fact, all of these words are derived from the Hebrew word Shabbat; to cease, to rest and to reflect.  The dictionary list of synonyms for sabbatical include the words holiday, intermission, recess, recreation, respite and rest; all of which conjure up visions of time away from the active, demanding and hard-working lives we tend to live.  When we build rest periods into our lives we create a break from the routines of daily life and this allows us to breathe new energy into ourselves, our relationships and even our jobs. It allows for time to be more creative as well.

Vacations aren’t just from jobs or for coupled people. I believe that dating relationships can also benefit from a little time away.  And taking a sabbatical from dating after a break up can also be of enormous benefit. Our culture often leads us to believe that we need to be in a relationship to be happy.  But, the truth is we need to learn to be happy ourselves before we can be truly happy in a relationship. We also need to learn how to entertain ourselves so we bring something to the relationship table when the opportunity presents itself. Remember, if you say you are bored you might just be boring to someone else as well.

When individuals begin dating they can get caught up in the emotional energy of a new relationship. It is quite common for an individual to spend 85% of their day thinking about this new person in their life. Often friends and family begin to take a back seat to the numerous dating activities that fill up a person’s calendar as the new couple try to cram in as much time together as possible. Unfortunately, this pulling away from family and friends can leave you cut off from people who could pick up on important information about this new “love of your life.” After all, Mother Nature’s love potion can cut you off from reality so you might miss those red flags.

By planning in some alone-time while dating you can test your own ability to find a healthy relationship balance, get a more realistic perspective about this new person, and stay connected with family, and friends, as well as personal passions and hobbies.  You won’t be at risk of losing touch with who you are individually.  And finally, you can test the relationship to see how you both manage time away from each other.

Whether you are recently separated or divorced, just starting to date, or have been dating a while, consider creating those breathing spaces. After all, once you have been in a relationship again and that love potion begins to diminish you will most likely go back to some of your usual routine and then you will need to inject new energy into that relationship by taking those little sabbaticals….. together.

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A Holiday Truce

by Margaret Lambert, LCSW

The month of December is upon us again. A time when we deck the halls with boughs of holly, light the Kwanzaa and Hanukkah candles and gather around tables to share the foods and stories of our chosen tradition. This is a time anticipated by many yet for some it is filled with dread.

Many homes will be filled with reflections of a good harvest while others will be left broken and wanting. Families will welcome home members pulled away by jobs or wars; tears of joyful reunions and laughter will abound. Others will find themselves in new spaces not yet wearing the familiar furnishings or decorations that bring comfort and a sense of safety to a new home. And still others will enter this season with anger and fear instead of holiday bliss because of broken relationships or family issues that surfaced during the passing year.

At this time of year for our own personal reasons, we long to gather with familiar faces to share what we do have in common. We long to be part of something that includes people who accept us and want to spend time with us. People who open their arms and houses and say, “What ever happened… let’s lay it aside for this one day.”

This reminds me of a story that many of you will be familiar with –the Christmas Truce of 1914. A World War I story of soldiers from opposing sides reaching out across the great “no mans land” between the trenches of the Germans and the Brits during the battle of Flanders Field. As the story is told, on Christmas Eve of 1914, the German soldiers began to place small evergreen trees along the top of their trenches. They decorated the boughs with lit candles and then began to sing. The tunes were familiar to the men on both sides despite the fact that the languages each spoke were different; Christmas tunes that had filled the homes and churches of men from different countries now ringing out across 60 feet of muck and destruction under a star lit sky.

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Loyalty: Our Pledge of Allegiance

A reader of the August newsletter sent in this question.  “I’ve been dating a guy for a little over two years and I think that he has loyalty issues. A few months ago I noticed that he started to share things I have said to him when we are out with other couples.  These are things I have shared in private conversations.  When he does this I feel embarrassed and hurt but when I tell him that, he says I am too sensitive and I should just laugh it off.  It is getting to the point where I don’t feel comfortable sharing as much. Could you please explain what loyalty means?” — Feeling Betrayed in Madison

 Betrayed –let me begin with a quote from George Elliot, “Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words but pouring them out just as they are…”  The operative word here is “safe”.  In order to build and to maintain intimacy within a relationship, each needs to help the other feel safe; both physically and emotionally.  When I speak of intimacy I am not just referring to sexual intimacy though that is one of many.  I speak about the pouring out of feelings and thoughts about various topics at a deeper level than one would do with a casual friend. Because this opening up of ourselves can leave us feeling vulnerable we need to be certain that this person whom we have shared will value the confidence we have place in him or her and see it as a gift. We need to know that they will not use that information against us in any way.

 My definition of loyalty comes from several sources that roughly define loyalty as “protecting and not betraying another person’s dignity, self-respect or reputation by being accountable in thought and deed as not to demean or embarrass your partner in any way in front of others.”  The origin of the word loyalty comes through old French from the Latin word, lex, which means to bind or be obliged to as in a pledge of allegiance to. So, based on that definition I would say that your guy has broken the loyalty code when he shared intimate information that left you feeling embarrassed. And the question isn’t “are you too sensitive?” but rather why is he unaware that he is being insensitive to your reaction to being exposed.

President Woodrow Wilson said it well, “Loyalty means nothing unless it has at its heart the absolute principle of self-sacrifice.” Loyalty is really about that –self-sacrifice. When we put the welfare of our partner ahead of our own self-serving interest to fit in or to put someone else in a bad light so we look better; we are being loyal. In other words –in the presence of all others we stand united. We support one another because being loyal gives our relationship strength. It is easy to understand this when we think of the loyalty of a dog.  They love us, help us and even defend us when needed and all they expect in return is that we love them back. And, they do this even when we fall short of acting in their best interest.

  “Don’t air your dirty laundry in public,”  This was a way of saying, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” or what happens in the home should stay there. These statements are urging people to be loyal to one another.  When couples are angry at each other and they bring the fight out into public view they are not only making the unfortunate bi-standers uncomfortable, they are also creating a situation that might shut down open and honest communication at home in the future. This doesn’t mean couples shouldn’t have disagreements.  It means that in public you support each other and maintain a united front as a couple.  Then, when you are out of earshot of others, you address the problem –in private.

 All that being said there are times when loyalty is neither healthy nor productive.  If your partner is abusing drugs or alcohol, is abusive to you or is having an affair then by all means find someone to talk to who can help you get the strength to confront the problem or even get out of the relationship. It doesn’t matter if this is a good friend, a pastor, a doctor or a therapist. What is important is that you trust them to support you as you take steps to address the problem.

 So back to your friend.  Begin by speaking to him in private about this problem. Let him again know how you feel ( embarrassed, hurt and betrayed ), what you think about this problem and that you need this to stop if he wants you to continue to intimately share with him. Give him an opportunity to see if he can and is willing to change his behavior.  And if he is not, then you may want to consider what a future relationship with more of the same will do to your comfort and sense of safety when going out together –not to mention your self-esteem.  You deserve to feel safe.

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Dating Dementia

Have you ever wondered what couples in long-term marriages know about keeping a relationship going and being happy? If so, you’re not alone. That is one of the questions that I hear on a daily basis, either from my individual clients or members of my groups and classes. Many of these men and woman are struggling with keeping a relationship going or suffering after one has ended. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that two million, two hundred and thirty thousand couples will marry this year. And of those marriages, the divorce rate will be 3.6 for every 1,000. When you look at the overall statistical difference between these and the rates reported in 1990, you would see a drop in the rate of divorce. However, if you were to look further you would also note the significant increase in the number of couples who chose to cohabitate prior to marriage in the hope that they could learn more about each other before tying the knot.

One would naturally assume that this would result in the decline in reported divorces. However, two things become quite evident upon reviewing the statistics. The first was reported by a study on cohabitation conducted by Rutgers University. That report showed that cohabitation before marriage didn’t decrease the potential for divorce but actually resulted in 85% of those couples who did marry, divorcing. Secondly,
what the statistics didn’t report were the number of couples who chose to live together as an alternative to marriage and then chose to separate without the need for a legal divorce. There have been numerous attempts to change these statistics that range from pre-marriage counseling by churches, counselors, and relationship coaches, marital counseling to improve at-risk marriages, public school courses to teach communication and conflict resolution skills, and even the introduction of the concept of “Covenant Marriage” that would make it more difficult to get into a marriage and to get out of an established one.

So what is wrong with this picture? What are we missing? My Dating Dementia course is an attempt to address this problem by giving men and women like yourself an opportunity to explore this further. And by doing so, it is my endeavor to help you increase your opportunity to have a healthier and happier relationship future.

I believe that in just ten weeks, individuals can get the guidance and support they need to venture deeply into relationship related information through lectures, reading and discussion that is so essential for any hope to turn these statistics around. It is my hope that individuals enjoy the journey as much as I do and, as a result, become motivated to begin to make small changes in how they approach those next
relationships.

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