In a previous
article, I discussed the most compassionate ways to treat
one's partner during the break-up of a failing romantic relationship.
In this column, I will address the related issue of how to
treat yourself with the utmost kindness, compassion
and respect if a love relationship is not working out.
Each of us yearns to love and to be loved by one special,
beloved partner, because the giving and receiving of love
(in this case, the giving and receiving of romantic love),
is one of the most important, enriching and rewarding experiences
that we can have in life.
Maybe you are just starting to date again after a divorce,
or following the ending of a serious love relationship. If
this is the case, you are just beginning to venture back out
into the dating world, which means that you will find yourself
in the position of relearning all the old dating rules (as
well as a few new, 21st century ones).
One thing you will need to do is re-attune yourself to a
wide variety of non-verbal social cues, including the mysteries
of flirtatious body language. According to this
informative article on the subject, many dating/relationship
experts agree that if your date is mirroring your body language,
aligning his feet with yours, smiling a lot, engaging in prolonged
eye contact with you, using his best, most upright posture
(in the same way that a peacock would stand very erect while
displaying his feathers), then he is trying to convey that
he is deeply interested in you.
Some Red Flags to Watch Out When Re-entering The Dating
On the other hand, according to this same article, there
are also some body language "red flags" to be on
the lookout for, if you seek to protect your emotional health.
These include (but are not limited to), "closed off"
body language, such as your date's arms being defensively
crossed over his chest, a pronounced lack of eye contact,
and/or your date's tendency to look over your shoulder (perhaps
at someone else across the room).
Some relationships start out wonderfully, but then seem to
peter out, often without fair warning.
For example, if you are dating someone who initially shows
ups at the appointed times for dates, and calls when he says
he will call, but then gradually starts to become less and
less reliable, and seems to be less and less interested in
your thoughts and opinions, all of these behaviors
are big red flags.
A few years ago, former Sex and The City script writers Greg
Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo, co-wrote the dating guide, He's
Just Not That Into You: The No-Excuses Truth To Understanding
Their book, which I should note is for mature readers only,
due to its frank discussion of adult dating situations, made
such a big impact on the current dating zeitgeist-or perhaps
it was just such an accurate reflection of the current dating
zeitgeist-that Oprah actually ended up featuring the authors
as guests on her show not once, but twice.
The authors make a number of interesting points about what
men's actions and signals really mean in the
context of dating relationships. And one of their key "take-away
messages" for women is this: Don't allow a man you are
dating to make excuse after excuse for his bad behavior, especially
if he seems to be slipping into a primarily negative behavioral
pattern, because certain bad behaviors are downright inexcusable.
A big part of respecting yourself and maintaining your dignity
in your dating relationships involves knowing when to say:
"This just isn't working out. I deserve to be treated
better, and I won't accept anything less than kind, loving,
gentle treatment from any dating partner."
Don't ever tolerate cruel, negative behavior in your
The Inestimable Value of Clear Communication
Of course, non-verbal communication, including body language,
counts for a lot in dating relationships, but it certainly
isn't everything. Indeed, clear, candid verbal communication
can make nearly all of your dating experiences feel much more
For instance, if you are hoping to get into a serious, committed
relationship, and you have been dating someone for a couple
of months, the best approach is to be honest and direct with
your dating partner about the fact that an exclusive, long-term
relationship-perhaps even one that leads to marriage-is your
ultimate dating goal.
If the person you are dating shares this goal, great! You
are both on the same page, and the two of you can look forward
to building a loving, healthy relationship together.
If not, then this is the time to get out with both your dignity
and your peace of mind intact. Don't make the mistake of assuming
that you can somehow change your partner's mind.
After all, one of the fundamental truths of dating is that
we cannot change other people.
Remember always to listen to your heart. You know deep inside
when you are being treated fairly and kindly and when you
are not. Don't tolerate lies, mind games, excuses, evasiveness,
or even mixed signals.
Maybe you want a particular relationship to work out with
every ounce of your being. However, if your dating partner
is not treating you right, please know that it is not
going to work out, no matter how much time and effort you
pour into it. As painful as it may be, you need to end it,
cut your losses, and move on.
If you make the decision to stay in a bad relationship, and
to continue tolerating a partner's chronic mistreatment of
you-perhaps because you find him extremely handsome or exceptionally
charismatic-it will actually be much more painful for you
to break up with him later on (as you will inevitably be compelled
to do), because by then you will have invested even more time
and emotional energy in keeping a doomed relationship alive
way past it's actual "expiration date."
Here is the bottom line: When a dating partner cares about
you and wants to pursue a serious, long-term relationship,
he will let you know just how much he cares in a variety of
verbal and non-verbal ways.
He will tell you in words, and he will also show you with
his actions exactly how much he loves you and wants to be
with you. In addition, he will listen to you,
not just once in a while, but all of the time, and he will
make mental notes about exactly what you hold most dear ... mental
notes that he will continually apply in positive ways to his
behavior in the relationship.
For instance, if you mention that you love going to the theater,
he may give you a gift of season tickets to your local community
theater, not only to show you how much he loves you, but also
as a way to demonstrate that he listens to you and values
what you have to say.
Five Tips For Navigating the Sometimes Rough Waters of
the Dating World
When you treat yourself with love and respect, you
tend to draw more loving, respectful people into your
Remember to communicate honestly and often about exactly
what you need and want from your relationship. Similarly,
listen with an open heart and an equally open mind to
his desires, needs and goals, and make sure that you both
want the same things from the relationship.
Respect and value yourself enough to insist upon consistent,
positive, kind, gentle treatment from your dating partner.
You deserve nothing less than a consistent pattern of
kindness and compassion in your relationship; and any
dating partner without those qualities is not worth your
time or effort.
Beware of dating partners who are afraid or reluctant
to show you and tell you exactly how they feel. It's no
fun dating a cold, uncommunicative partner who doesn't
seem to share your enthusiasm, either for the relationship,
or for life in general.
Look for consistency between what he says and what he
does. Maybe he talks a good game, but doesn't follow through
on promises. Or maybe he buys you a lot of fancy gifts,
but doesn't express himself openly, lovingly and honestly.
Either of these scenarios is filled with red flags that
cannot be ignored.
- Not only should you be honest and direct with your partner,
but you should also be honest and direct with yourself.
Are you getting what you want and need from this relationship?
If not, why not? If there are problems, are they the fixable
kind, or-if you are being totally honest with yourself-are
they beyond fixing? If the problems really are beyond fixing,
remember that there truly are, as the old saying goes, "other
fish in the sea," and you owe yourself the opportunity
to meet someone kinder and more loving.
Top Five Things Couples Argue About
The Little Things Mean Everything in Relationships
Just Not That Into You
and Body Language