Category Archives: Relationships

Be Yourself & Surrender

After seeing how many people read my posts about relationships, it confirms that everyone is interested in having a full life that includes a relationship.

People are uncomfortable. Most of us want to be happy and to be loved in a way that we minimize to other people. We want to feel normal, whatever that is. We want to let our guard down, forget our history, and forgive ourselves for the misfirings of our previous attempts at being lovable and loved.

The basic premise of the things I write is that you have to drop your guard and be the person you want to be your partner. Whatever behavior, words, and attention you seek, you must telegraph that in everything you do. If you don’t, it’s not reasonable to expect your potential partner to live up to that standard. Most of us don’t take the time to honestly just DECIDE what it is that will light us up and make us happy.

The dissonance of not allowing yourself to feel and hope with abandon based on the past is a struggle for everyone. What if I get hurt? What if I hurt someone, and that someone could have been my ideal partner?

It works in reverse! You must be that person first, the one with an open heart and a loving soul. Yes, you could get your heart shattered. Of course, that is a possibility.

The alternative is to keep being guarded, distrustful, or fearful.

If you do, which might be understandable, the outcome will be a lonelier and less fulfilling love life.

If you surrender to the possibility of hurt, you at least open yourself up to the chance of being loved the way you’d like. If you don’t, you greatly reduce your odds of getting there.

You can’t control the world, much less other people.

But you can BE the image of lovingkindness to your partner.

Anyone who doesn’t appreciate that openness and effort is foolish. They will look back one day and know they missed their chance. Probably while they were chasing an imaginary and unattainable relationship without changing themselves.

There is hope for you, if you’re not living a life with someone who lights you up. If there weren’t, what would be the point?

Surrender a bit of yourself and open up to the chance, the hurt, and also the love.

It’s the only way.

X

Sexual Fantasy Lives & Lies

This post is WAY outside my comfort zone.

Please stop reading if you’re uncomfortable with sexuality.

I didn’t polish this post. It’s not perfectly well-expressed. That’s okay because I’m not sure my subconscious allows me to process and share exactly what I want or need to.

Most people can’t rationally and calmly think about their partner’s fantasy life, which runs congruently in their heads, whether they are physically with a partner or alone. This is true even though they undoubtedly experience their own. Imagining them getting pleasure by thinking about being with another partner naturally stirs up ancient reactions in our lizard brains. As a result, a lot of couples never openly talk about what goes on in their heads.

Sometimes, they don’t even dare to discuss what gives them pleasure.

Studies regarding fantasy life yield some conclusions that cause discomfort. Some of the most common female fantasies are sex with strangers, sex with a specific celebrity, sex with multiple people, being dominated, sex in unusual places, oral sex (giving and receiving), exhibitionism, forced/reluctant sex, rough sex, same-sex encounters, sex with previous partners, watching others have sex, age discrepancy sex, and even romantic/passionate sex. Men share a great deal of the same fantasies. A common denominator in them is novelty, taboo, or things they’d most likely not participate in.

It’s hard for many people to distinguish between fantasy and life. It triggers an avoidance reaction. That’s because our brain renders real what we imagine. We feel the excitement but also the stress, jealousy, or other unintended issues about ourselves.

The truth is that you can’t really know what is going on in your partner’s head most of the time. But if you’re participating physically, you should focus on your partner’s pleasure. If they aren’t comfortable talking about their fantasy life, there’s a reason. It’s usually complicated, partly because we are still programmed to avoid discussing it. Yes, even when we are in a committed relationship or marriage.

Our largest sexual organ is our brain.

It’s a rare couple who can freely share fantasies without animosity, jealousy, or other emotions. Brain studies reflect this.

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” dominates many people’s lives.

It doesn’t help men to know that women are far superior biologically to them concerning sexual activity and pleasure.

Because our brains are adept at creating thoughts (or dreams) that our body reacts to physically, it is no wonder that fantasy life is so crucial for sexual fulfillment for so many people.

They just don’t talk about it. Not really. The outliers do, that’s true.

I think anyone reading this should read all the major sex studies about sexual pleasure. At least those who are interested in their sexuality. You can Google it by searching for “Most common female sexual fantasies” (or male) and then focus on the percentages of frequency for all types. It might surprise you. At a minimum, you won’t feel so freakish, of that, I’m sure. If you’ve not considered it in depth, though, it might bring discomfort. It might also bring revelation to both you and your partner.

One of the best examples is cuckolding, wherein a man shares his female partner with another man. Over half of men in almost all studies report using it as a fantasy. The mechanisms to explain this can be complex or simple, both from an evolutionary/biological and social viewpoint. It goes against our basic tendency toward jealousy or territoriality. It’s not rational. And that’s the point.

One of the most common fantasies is a threesome. The odd thing for me? That doesn’t arouse me at all to imagine being with two women. I know that sounds like I might be lying. I am not interested in touching two women simultaneously. Both of us pleasuring my partner, though, that is arousing.

Imagining my partner in a threesome, however, is arousing, no matter the combination of sexes. It’s not something I could deal with in real life, though. In a fantasy framework, it’s arousing.

If I transpose that same scenario and try to imagine her having done it in real life, it acquires a negative cloud immersed in retroactive jealousy. It is very hard for me to process rationally.

The same is true for fantasies involving virginity.

Like most men, milf eroticism is arousing, as is the idea of my partner giving someone their first experience. For reasons that fascinate me, it turns me on. Hearing about such real-life encounters in that capacity is another thing entirely. Personally, though, I do not enjoy fantasies of being someone’s first sexual partner. I know that seems contradictory, but it’s entirely normal – not that “normal” is really normal, anyway. I suppose it is to be expected that for me, being taken by someone for the first time is arousing, as is the idea of my partner doing so. But I admit I tread carefully about imagining it in real life, as those thoughts bring unwanted consequences. I’m hard-wired toward monogamy. The commonality of both scenarios is the excitement of finding one’s sexuality or the gift of such an offering.

I realize that I seem to have contradicted myself. Cuckolding fantasies don’t interest me per se. Yet ones where my partner gives someone the gift of their first sexual experience do. I’m guessing it doesn’t trigger the same emotional and visceral jealousy response.

As for my retroactive jealousy, like most people, I have to be able to be sexual with my partner while being aware that some of these fantasies are playing in her head or what gives her literal physical pleasure.

I recently heard someone say, “Don’t be afraid of her toys. They are teammates, not competitors.”

I have to appreciate fantasy life in the same way.

Whether people talk about it or not, it is a huge part of their sexuality.

I was sexually active during my previous adult life, of course. I underwent a transformation when I realized that there were things I liked that surprised me. Being with someone who you trust helps. Knowing they find pleasure in it is what makes it sublime.

When they do share, it’s important that you protect their secret fantasy life. It’s secret for a reason.

Everyone should explore as much of the playground as they can. For love, for intimacy, for each other. Where there is trust, it is immeasurably easier.

Trust yourself and trust your partner.

I trust mine. I’d be in a world of hurt if I didn’t.

And remember, fantasy is not reality. Don’t judge. Or try. That’s hard enough for most of us. We are harshest to ourselves.

X

The Essential Extra

If you’re an adult, you should not be worried about responding quickly, double-replying, or being enthusiastic with your communications. Anyone worth your time will appreciate the energy and contact. If you feel that you’re reaching out too much, be aware that someone who dissuades you from doing it isn’t your ideal partner. Move on. The initial stages of chemistry or interest always start with enthusiasm and interaction. Always. If you’re being told it’s too much, move on. I’m being totally serious. People love knowing that what they say is interesting. When they hear it from someone they are wild about, they will encourage that behavior, not minimize it.

People seek out interaction of all kinds when it’s from someone who lights them up.

Without getting sidetracked by all of it, the dynamic of anxious versus avoidant personalities inevitably gets tangled up in this issue. Some people begin to question themselves or get the idea that they are extra. But maybe extra is what the other person really needs. Maybe they’ve never had it before. Or, more likely, they are not far enough down the timeline yet to appreciate the fact that attention and affection are one of the rarest commodities and should be cherished.

As always, put yourself into the shoes of both sides of the argument.

It feels true because you know it is.

When you’re head over heels or enthusiastic, you crave the other person’s interactions.

Please don’t lessen yourself or back away from being extra.

Someone will appreciate it and tell you constantly.

Generally speaking, someone who thinks you are the cat’s meow will do nothing except encourage your interactions. And reciprocate by doing the same for you. Even if they are busy, tired, or distracted by the million distractions that come at us in this modern world.

X

The Fidelity Observation

Preface: A while back, I warned y’all that I’d write more things outside my comfort zone. The analytics are clear, though: posts about relationships, behavior, or anything adjacent to these topics are read by many people. I’d suppose it is because relationships are the central element of our lives. Most of us experience the same issues.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’ve been on both sides of the coin.

I’m not ever going to be on the other side again.

I’ve been to therapy to discuss all these issues in detail. I’ve read every major relationship and sexual study out there. I’ve spent a lot of time digesting the conclusions. They all convince me that the blueprint I followed for most of my adult life is the only way I can be happy. To remind myself, I ask myself where not doing things the right way led me. Obviously, I was off course! Had I not been, I’d be happily married to someone who follows the same relationship blueprint I’m looking for. I can’t blame other people, not really. Not taking time for deep consideration would result in further disappointment for me.

And because it’s the only way to happiness for me, I’m assuming it will be more than enough for most people.

There is a difference between adultery and infidelity. Don’t fool yourself. Infidelity can be equally damaging. It violates trust, a promise, and commitment to your partner. It involves breaking any romantic, emotional, or intellectual agreements that you share. It does not require these agreements to be spoken. It’s true that boundaries and expectations between people might vary. But if you think rationally, you’ll discover that most of us have the same expectations. We certainly overlap regarding things that we know would hurt us.

Infidelity: any action or behavior that either makes the partner doing it feel guilty – or any action or behavior that is kept hidden or secret because the partner is aware that it will cause emotional hurt. This is true because it is infidelity to the relationship the moment either half of the first sentence becomes reality.

Don’t overthink it. It’s simplicity in its rarest form.

“Fidelity” is an old word, coming from a mix of “loyalty, faithfulness, trustworthy.” Generally speaking, if you can’t write it, say it, or do it openly and in front of your partner without a reaction, it probably falls on the wrong side of the line. You might argue and fight my interpretation. Obviously, though, behavior and words that are intentionally kept from your partner must have some impetus toward concealment. Motives may vary. The consequences don’t.

Behavior that is benign rarely gets cloaked. (There are exceptions.) If you don’t trust your partner to react rationally, that signals a bigger problem between you. The act of concealment, misdirection, or minimizing deservedly draws scrutiny. It’s not rational to keep things from your partner based on how they might react. Their reaction, if they are your ideal partner, won’t be out of proportion or indicate anything other than their confusion or hurt. You have to put in the work when misunderstandings arise.

Healthy relationships with an ideal partner require transparency.

Transparency is a child of honesty.

Stop defining infidelity as a specific act. If it triggers you to conceal or if it will hurt your partner to see it, hear it, or hear of it, it’s infidelity. Yes, I know my comments are a bit general.

Examples: flirty behavior, however you define it. Giving someone the impression they hold your interest. Secret conversations in any form. Sexual innuendo, as it leads to the false (or correct) interpretation that you are available. Sharing your time and emotional energy with someone. We all have a set amount of time, focus, and energy. If it’s spent with someone else, it’s done to the detriment of the relationship. Etc. Again, these are general comments, not an exclusive or inclusive list or blueprint. I didn’t include any physical examples because I’ve distinguished between adultery and infidelity.

Infidelity is a huge slippery slope of defense mechanisms, explanations, and rationalizations. A kiss, though physical, is infidelity.

The behaviors that get hidden or concealed are the stepping stones to a breach in your emotional intimacy.

The modern era makes it harder to honor your relationship.

Just reverse roles when you’re engaging in actions or behaviors that trigger recognition in yourself. How would you feel if your partner did it? That’s how you know you need to do things differently.

Compassion on a fundamental level.

We all want to be loved and appreciated. To achieve that, we have to learn and follow behaviors that contradict what led us to where we are.

X

Love Change: Ardormorph

Ardormorph: the process in which you love yourself and another to find a way to change with the goal of being happy.

If you want to be happy, you have to decide to be.

And then, the hard work.

Most people have a vague idea of what happiness or satisfaction even means. If you want love, you must learn what healthy love looks like.

If you want happiness, your personal life must reflect what you want out of it. It requires self-honesty and focus.

You must learn new habits, skills, and ways of communication.

If this is the last relationship you want to be in, you’re either all in or not. There is no middle ground.

That means forgiveness for being treated poorly and accountability for what you’ve done.

You can’t change what is behind you, nor can your partner.

Learning from it. Not repeating it.

Be tender. Be kind.

Discuss every aspect of what the future will look like. Please don’t shy away from it.

Don’t make your partner pay for mistakes others made in your past. This person is none of those.

It all starts with your commitment to stop trying to do things as you’ve done before. The behaviors weren’t effective, or you’d still be in a previous relationship. It seems obvious to say that.

Most of us keep repeating cycles and behaviors. We can’t do that and find happiness.

It requires change. Understanding. Listening.

Remember, you learn first and apply it afterward.

It starts with change.

In yourself and in the ways you’ve navigated being in love.

Love, X
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Advice From A Hypocrite

Preface: this isn’t about everyday interactions that happen over apps. This is about the personal, one-to-one, and private messages people send with intentions they’d rather keep concealed. There is a vast difference. Often, only the person with hidden intentions or desires knows for sure. People in relationships must be on guard to protect themselves.

It’s also about people who are in love, married or committed. Casual dating is a separate set of expectations and rules. Once you’re committed and monogamous, the expectations morph. The label by which you refer to your relationship isn’t what determines these changes.

I don’t know how to address connections through work or other scenarios adequately. We all know hundreds of stories wherein someone begins to morph a previously business-only exchange into something intimate. That’s what access and proximity do. As Hannibal Lecter quipped, “We covet what we see.” People in relationships need to be aware and prepare for those scenarios too. The most straightforward point to stop it in its tracks is the first time your instincts are triggered. It gets more challenging after that point.

There are a lot of lonely people out there. They have unlimited time and a lot of motivation to make connections. Someone is always going to see something in your partner, whether it is sexual attraction, creativity, or a sense of humor. Some of them will act on it and initiate conversations.

And since I’ve learned these lessons through hypocrisy, my partners will have access to my phone. I don’t have hidden apps, passcodes they don’t know, or anything similar. So if you write me and tell me that you want to eat me alive, my partner could see it.

I’ve been surprised by some great marriages or relationships being imploded because of all this. It only happens when there is a lack of transparency.

If someone reaches out by texting, DMing, or communicating with your partner, that’s normal. It’s no different than someone telling your partner, “Geez, you’re good-looking!” on the street. They might not know your partner is in love or their story. At least that possibly inappropriate or exuberant statement made in public is made in the sunlight openly.

People will cast their nets, take their swing, yolo, and all that. The biological urge toward intimacy and sex is already overwhelming. Apps and cell phones have made such access impossibly easy. What matters is how your partner responds the first time someone does. It reflects everything you need to know about love, respect, and understanding how relationships work in their heads and hearts.

If you’re lucky, neither of you has experienced the agony of being on the wrong side of this. If you have, it leaves scars – and those scars make you suspicious of almost all interactions your partner has. They pay for your previous trauma even when they are behaving appropriately and without concealment.

If they’ve engaged once, much less multiple times, the person trying to insinuate themselves sees an invitation. It’s code. You have to answer the door before someone can get inside.

Access is impossible to control.

Clarity, once it happens, is impossibly simple and elegant. “No thanks.”

A lot of people fail at this point. Whether they are looking for someone else, need validation, or enjoy someone being complimentary, they engage the other person and provide access. It’s not harmless. Just because someone knocks at your door does not mean you need to answer it, much less open it.

It’s a great analogy. “Hello. No, I’m not interested, especially since I’m with someone. But thank you!” That’s perfectly nice and acknowledges the other person – but sets the boundaries.

Imagine if your partner received such unwelcome advances and responded, “Hey, I’ve said no thanks. Does your partner know you’re writing the opposite sex on these apps? Have them call me, and maybe we can be friends.” You know darn well how that would go.

Of course, the texting person’s significant other doesn’t know!

It’s easy to get angry at the other person reaching out to your partner, whether they are in a relationship or not. It is cheating if they are casting nets, even without physical contact. They can deny it all they want. That’s part of the game. They are building a foundation toward intimacy or physical connection. Intimacy, even through the internet, is dangerous to your actual relationship. They’re somewhere in a relationship spending their energy, focus, and time attempting to connect elsewhere. All those comments, jokes, wishes, aspirations, sexual innuendo, and observations? Those could be spent with your actual partner because they are your person and would love to share those interactions with you.

If your partner engages in it, you have to assume they are well aware of the motivations of those doing it. If they are not, take the time to explain it to them – and that it’s hurtful and counterproductive in a committed relationship. It’s hard to imagine in this modern age that someone isn’t aware of the possible hidden agendas of the opposite sex. To be clear, this is NOT always the case. But it so often is. And at the beginning, there is no smoking gun, no direct way to show your partner that you’re right about it. Again, the test is whether that person texting has shared their interactions with their partner: it’s doubtful. And if you’re partner hasn’t shared them with you, that should be a warning sign.

The looming problem is that your partner now has a connection to someone. If you don’t know about it, you can be confident that your partner knows it would hurt you to know or read those messages. It’s how many affairs start—words, innuendo, hidden motivations. People get to know each other, and unwanted behavior blossoms. Fantasies, traded jokes, things that your partner isn’t aware of.

The other person is siphoning your partner’s time and possibly affection. People can be entertaining and engaged through these communications. Your partner might be attracted to having someone light, witty, and perhaps sexual. That’s what “too friendly” means. That mental picture they are creating of the other person isn’t wholly accurate. Generally. Our largest sexual organ is our brain.

Another person talking to someone else’s partner may have only platonic intentions. But the frequency, timing, and content of those messages will reveal such purposes if they are entirely and transparently shared with one’s partner. If your partner reads them and sees something you don’t – or don’t want to believe – you should default to your partner’s interpretation. That’s hard to grasp because you’re too close to see it. But if your partner is concerned enough to admit it, fire lurks in that smoke.

Many men approach their texting targets by slowly revealing things about their lives. They hide subtle or clever innuendos in their texts and wait to see if the person getting them responds in kind, amplifies, or shuts it off. They only need to find a crack, a small willingness, or something missing in that person’s life or heart to escalate.

If either of you is discussing problems in your current relationship, this is a massive red flag and a signal to cut off communications immediately. Once it reaches that stage, one or both of the people engaging in such communication has more than platonic feelings.

The same is true for sexual jokes and innuendo. Once the person gets your partner to allow, much less participate in or encourage, sexual banter, the danger dramatically increases. We’re sexual beings. Banter like that is fun and dangerous. Anyone who underestimates how our biology affects us that way is susceptible to engaging in inappropriate behavior.

Everyone starts by being friendly or being friends.

It all starts with access.

It’s the interaction that opens the door.

For toxic people, they know this and don’t hit the door with a battering ram on the first approach. They knock softly and follow the signs and signals.

It’s not mean to tell someone texting you that you are in a relationship and don’t welcome anything untoward. It is the only healthy response if you’re committed to your partner. One, because your partner is communicating openly to the world that they are in love and committed. Two, it establishes expectations and boundaries with the person reaching out. Three, it’s vital that your partner shut off any further communication once they feel that the line has been crossed.

Above all, share this with your partner, okay? Even the benign messages. But especially the ones that went wonky. If you do that, you will actively demonstrate respect, honesty, and love to your partner. If you don’t, if something suspicious ever occurs, it will be difficult for them to trust you when you talk about what happened.

It’s no crime that someone thinks your partner – or you – is attractive. That’s normal. Communicating it is a delicate situation that easily crosses boundaries.

You don’t accidentally text someone repeatedly. Concealing the time and content of that kind of communication takes effort.

It’s the concealment that triggers the worry.

If your partner sees that you’ve left the door open, it’s hurtful.

It would be best if you were transparent and immediate when someone reaches out to either of you.

Sunlight, above all, for both people’s sake.

Love is supposed to be easy and it’s supposed to be kind. Love is easy but daily living distracts us from the essential nature of a one-on-one relationship. Love is easy as an emotion and much more difficult as a commitment and an action.

I think all of us expect transparency. We just don’t know how to get there. I believe this is especially true for younger people. You achieve it by doing it first. If there’s no reciprocity, that’s something you will have to learn to accept, change, or learn from. In my experience, I have learned that it’s impossible for things to get sideways for either of you in a relationship is transparency is the foundation.

Never catch yourself behaving in a way that would hurt you if your partner did it.

Remember, I confess my hypocrisy.

I’ve seen the danger.

Beware, but love openly and fully.

Protect your partner and your relationship.

It starts with access and ends with concealment.

Love, X

Stones Away

Every stone is a story. Of love, loss, regret, lessons, and acceptance.

I put one down, a singular stone, yesterday.

I placed it on a stem I bit off with my teeth.

Looking closely at the picture, you’ll see it handing in the branches. I took the picture when Erika and I walked the trail yesterday. Our walk went by the place that inspired my “¿” story from last Sunday. Pictures don’t capture how eerily overcast and beautifully the morning was. It was a stolen moment of warmth, falling leaves, and intimacy as our feet moved us along the path.

Fifteen years I carried that weight. I broke the watch purposefully all those years ago. A memento.

It’s on the trail now, maybe forever, maybe for a day.

It’s behind me now. Just as everything really is. I forgot I still had it. As I have with so many mementos lately, I wanted to release it and take back the power it once contained.

Everyone’s wounded in their own way. It’s easy to forget that because we feel like we have to conceal the hurt.

Because optimism is a consequence of love, the stone I left behind yesterday left my fingers easily. Erika stood behind me on the trail, watching me clumsily find my way closer to the abandoned trucks decomposing in the brush. After I walked back to the trail to meet her there and continue our lovely walk, I was happy.

Stones aren’t meant to be carried. They are meant to be measured, appreciated, and then left behind. If I had to carry all my accumulated stones, walking would be impossible, as unlikely as finding happiness if I were focused on my missteps.

Don’t forget your stones. Just don’t carry them.

Every stone in your pocket, in your heart, or in your head reduces your ability to siphon the good from whatever awaits you today.

Love, X
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PS I hadn’t heard the song “Stones” by Barbarossa until yesterday. I didn’t watch “HIMYM” like so many other people did. It got in my head to remind myself that every morning I get to decide whether to carry the stones or hurl them into the air – and away, where they belong.

Bona Fide

I’ve written that the worst feeling in the world is knowing you are the villain. Or at least the one who has hurt someone, regardless of one’s intentions. In one’s head, you don’t think or plan in a straight line. The water starts out warm and then begins to boil. It’s easy to get into that mindset wherein you begin to believe that there is no resolution; hopelessness is often the result. Emotion, doubt, and undesired consequences merge into a mass of something that seems infinite.

“On a long enough timeline, everyone is going to be an asshole.” – X

I’ve learned again and again that my intentions are meaningless when compared to the consequences, much in the way that love is diluted when you observe behavior versus intentions. If love is indeed a verb, then it follows that consequences are the fruit of intentions.

I tapered off Lexapro by going through three reduced cycles and finally just tossing the remainder. This website might sanction me again for discussing it. (Which I still shake my head about, though it was a year ago.) It was a huge help for months; now, it lies on me to practice what I supposedly learned. For run-of-the-mill idiots like me, such medications don’t add value after an indeterminate time. My doctor’s office helped my decision along by being profit-oriented rather than patient-focused. I’m used to it. And maybe, in this case, it is for the best. Everything seems inevitable after the fact precisely because it happened that way. But as adults, we know that isn’t true, even if we cling to the comfortable idea of inevitability.

Real villains and narcissists don’t worry about whether they are villains or narcissists. But just because I’m not bona fide does not mean that I am not quite often an asshole.

I yield to the truth when I’m able to recognize it.

Discomfort. Doubt.

Ignoring it doesn’t erase it.

I yield.

PS I’m okay! I just like to write and share what’s in my head. Attempting to control how it’s interpreted is a fool’s errand.

Love, X
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Relationships With Men

A friend said something to me recently that made me promise to compile a list of dating and/or relationship advice for her. I give you my guarantee that you will find something in here to love and laugh at. It’s not finished. Yes, I’m a hypocrite.

If you’re older, you’re in a quandary. Any man you find is going to have a history. If he’s been alone for a long time, he’s telling you he either is very happy staying that way or he’s been traumatized by the process. Either one will wear you out if you’re with him. The other alternative is that he’s been with a lot of women without commitment. That brings its own issues. People are meant to be with people, no matter how much we piss each other off and disappoint one another. “I don’t need someone” is a yellow flag.

“Sex is like the playground. Intimacy is foremost. But you shouldn’t expect each other to sit on the bench at the playground. The equipment is there for enjoyment.” – X

That tingly feeling, or butterflies you feel? That’s your common sense fleeing your body.

Find a man who looks at you like a piece of cake or his favorite beer.

Don’t expect a man who’ll ask if you want something to drink. Find a man who will know what you like and bring it to you without asking.

Find a man who doesn’t hesitate to give you reassurance. It’s not needy. It’s normal. In my opinion, anyone who balks at doing so doesn’t have the empathy required to love deeply.

If you’re interested in someone, tell them. As soon as you can muster the courage. No man worth having will worry about not being the one to initiate.

In the initial stages, if you find yourself waiting on him to call or text, shout “Next!” He’s either playing games or letting you know he does indeed have connection issues with you.

Men find the time if they are blazing for you. They call. They text. They make plans and keep them. Anything else is at least a yellow flag. Don’t accept less. “Next!”

If your potential partner kisses you with firm, hard lips, he’s no good. You think I’m crazy? Think about it. That includes pecking.

Do your best to not chase someone who seems to be reluctant. It’s hard, I know. It’s an adult response to tell them, “I feel like I’m chasing you and I don’t do that if I can help it. It’s time to move on.”

“I’m not looking for a relationship” versus “I’m not ready for a relationship.” Those are two vastly different sentiments. The latter should be a warning to you. They are hedging their bets. That reluctance will translate into problems for you if you don’t know the difference.

“I’m not interested in being spoken to like that” is one of the most powerful things a woman can practice saying and learn to say. A man who likes you will listen. A man who will use you will be defensive and threatening.

Enthusiasm is a great predictor. Are they excited to see you? About life? About having to unload the dishwasher? No one with a lackluster attitude makes a good partner. This is doubly true if you’re generally outgoing and optimistic. They’ll make you feel stupid for being energetic.

If your partner puts in a lot of effort, make sure you do the same. Unequal partnerships tend to fail. If your man isn’t showing effort and patience, he’s not the one for you long-term.

Don’t be with someone who hides their feelings, even if they are otherwise good or good-looking. They are hiding more than their feelings. You’ll be trying to fix this forever.

Expectations are not standards. Expecting a potential partner to behave a certain way is almost impossible. But standards regarding any behavior are yours alone to determine. These standards translate as boundaries. Know what they are before you start dating. And communicate them as directly as you can. If he screams in anger in the early stages (much less threatens physical harm or actually doing it), he’s going to do much worse after you’re invested in him.

Find a man who knows that the bathroom is yours and he has just enough space for his five items. A man who has more than deodorant, a razor, soap, and the cologne you like is too metro to put up with. Yes, that’s only four things. YOU get to pick the fifth item. Fight me if I’m wrong.

Likewise, having two bathrooms will save a lot of relationships. But most of the second one is still yours, too, even if you want to put up horrid guest towels and decorative soaps.

If someone gives you the silent treatment early in a relationship, it will only worsen later. Communication will diminish to the point where anger builds a nest around your heart.

Most men know what “catch and release” means. Remind them of that if they aren’t the one for you. The longer they are out of the water, the worse it is for you both.

“Love is a fire. But whether it is going to warm your hearth or burn down your house, you can never tell.” – Joan Crawford If you can’t open your heart fully, it doesn’t matter what the intentions are of the person you’re with. Everyone – and I mean everyone – has been burned by love. But it’s essential to living a full life. It doesn’t have to be romantic love, but we are wired psychologically and emotionally for one component of it to be that kind of love.

Men don’t like pillows all over the bed and couch. Learn to laugh about it.

Don’t be an option for anyone, no matter how many butterflies are swimming inside you.

“Ask a man the best book he’s read since high school. It doesn’t matter so much WHAT the answer is. How long it takes him to respond or how he answers will tell you all you need to know about how elastic his mind is.” – X

“If a man watches SportsCenter an hour a day while you’re dating, he’s gonna watch five hours a day after you are.” – X This is gospel. If you’re okay with that, that’s cool. If not, get another man.

Never date a man who won’t drink after you – or let you drink out of his. A corollary to this is that you should take it as a red flag if he legitimately objects to you eating off his plate.

“Love, at first sight, is possible, but it pays to take a second look.”

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A red flag for a man is if he keeps his truck or car detailed. Men who love moments don’t worry about the aesthetics of their vehicle. There are very few exceptions to this. His car should be cluttered – just like yours.

Keep in mind the Rhianna joke: unless you are her, tell your man that you are not going to love the way he lies.

In any relationship, make sure that you are the crazy one. It will save you a lot of tears. And unless you’re an onion, that will wear you down.

“Once someone told me: ‘Put your finger in your partner’s nose. If it disgusts you, it means you’re not in love.’” – The Internet

Treat a man like a magazine subscription. Get a few months of issues in your life before you pay for it.

If you’re older, it is safe to date a man who isn’t great-looking. No risk of passing on his ugly genes because you’ve already had your kids. You can love a man with a sense of humor and just turn off the lights. It’s easier than being with someone super attractive.

Being wanted while wearing a bikini is easy. After six months, your man should love seeing you in a t-shirt and with your hair messy. And if your hair isn’t a mess afterward, he is not the right one.

Lingerie is highly over-rated. It might be a component of his fantasy life, but he will be just as lit up by your enthusiasm and Royals t-shirt as he is by crazy, frilly underwear.

Never be with a man who is afraid of therapy, or looks down on those who need or want it.

If a man wants to be honest with you, even if it’s painful, see it as a gesture of love. If he didn’t want to be with you, he would do like most people do and just leave, to avoid potential conflict or discomfort. Staying and saying the hard things is a nugget of pure gold.

“Honesty is the key to a relationship. If you can fake that, you’re in.” — Richard Jeni

When a man tells you that you are beautiful, believe him. Likewise, he needs to be able to say that yes, your butt does look big in those jeans or that your favorite shirt reminds him of a jailbreak. You’ll know by the way he touches you that you light him up.

“The ideal husband understands every word his wife doesn’t say.” — Alfred Hitchcock

“Love is telling someone their hair extensions are showing.” – Natasha Leggero

If you both don’t have a lot of laughs, you can’t be happy. Yes, it is that simple.

Don’t fight about the color of the couch. Fight about who gets the last bite of ice cream. And always offer it to one another.

Always choose a man who wants you to be pleased first. It’s one of the biggest red flags. Yes, in bed. And everywhere else. If both of you have this attitude, it’s hard to ruin.

The clever way to express the above paragraph is this: “Nice guys finish last.”

“Never love anyone who treats you like you’re ordinary.” – Oscar Wilde

Trust your instincts if you feel this way!

If you haven’t wanted to use a skillet on him at least a dozen times, it means you’re not experiencing the depth of love characterized by depth of feeling. It also means that you’re avoiding conflict. Anyone worth having will have habits that drive you nuts. But it will also keep your life interesting.

“Only time can heal your broken heart, just as only time can heal his broken arms and legs.” — Miss Piggy

“Always kiss after an argument. Even if you tell him to kiss your ass.” – X

You cannot be happy with a person who doesn’t text you back, or comfortably say “I love you” when you do. There are exceptions, but someone who can’t say “I love you” when the fire is burning hot will piss you off exponentially later.

“I don’t dance” is a red flag. Even if they look stupid, they will dance with you in the living room.

If your man doesn’t randomly reach out to touch you, hug you unexpectedly, or want to sit with you, even if it’s intolerably warm in the room, he needs to be left outside.

If your relationship is healthy, no man will ever utter the words, “This is how I am. Take it or leave it.” Leave it and find someone willing to change and adapt.

He should show you appreciation each day, even if only to acknowledge that you haven’t kicked him in the shins. Because he’s certainly done or said something stupid. Little things matter just as much as the big things.

Quality time matters. But so does incremental time. A good man will seek connections that are quick, too. They will share moments or interesting things. If they don’t, although you would be reluctant to trust me, it means that he doesn’t love you creatively or intimately. “Strong and silent” always ends up, “Strong and gone.”

A good man will be afraid for you to meet some of his family. Because some of them are crazy and don’t want him to be happy. He will take you anyway, trusting you to respond with humor when the lunacy starts. Even when Uncle Steve hugs you in a weird way.

Never be with a man who hesitates to tell anyone that you are together. There is almost no exception to this rule. If you ignore it, you’re in for trouble. It’s possible for him to be going through a divorce or separation that necessitates VERY temporary privacy. Everything else is a large waving red flag if he wants to limit who knows about you. It’s toxic and if you acquiesce to it, you’re asking for trauma and heartache.

Ask for a man’s credit report. If it’s bad, he will still gladly show you.

If your man has one DWI, he might be worth it. If he has two, throw him back to the sorting pile. And if his mother answers to the name “Butch,” pick again.

Ask your potential man, “Tell me a story where you did an ex dirty or behaved badly.” All men have at least one such story. If he won’t or can’t, he’s misbehaved a lot and you’ll be next.

“Do what you did at the beginning of the relationship and there won’t be an end.” – Anthony Robbins

Never date anyone who has nothing positive to say about any of his exes. If they are all bad in his mind, either he has poor decision-making ability, or he is the bad one.

Likewise, if he is really close with one or all his exes, be very cautious. Good partners can be friendly with exes, but it should be extremely transparent and you should be welcome to have a voice and presence in these arrangements. If you don’t both agree and have the same expectations, find another man before investing a lot of time with him.

Every relationship is work sometimes. But clock in and grab his butt. Light-hearted intimacy is a glorious indicator of both interest and enthusiasm. Just because it requires work doesn’t mean it doesn’t pay well.

What do you do if your boyfriend walks out? You shut the door. If you smile, another man will knock. Trust me.

From Beth on Yellowstone: “Because you have all the p****, and half the money…”

“Men with pierced ears are good. They already experienced pain and have experience buying jewelry.” – The Internet

The joke in today’s world: you can touch each other, but not each other’s phones. Keep that in mind.

The Phone Enthusiasm Rule: if your potential man is sitting on the couch tired and his phone rings… if his level of energy jumps and he suddenly starts sharing with whoever is on the other end, it’s a signal he’s not engaged with your conversationally and probably emotionally. This is a generalization. But it’s exactly like watching a co-worker greet everyone else with a bright smile and energy while mumbling “hey” to you. There’s a reason for that and over time it becomes almost subconscious for them.

If a man is really into you, you won’t have to beg for texts, phone calls, or time. He already has shifted his life to make time. That some men can do so means that most men can. They just don’t want to. Find another man.

If a man tells you that you’re asking too much, you are asking the wrong person. Don’t dampen your energy, your laughter, or your need for intimacy. For any man. Emotionally unavailable men easily convince women that they are unreasonable.

If you feel like you have to chase a man for attention, time, or energy, get another man before you’re too far down the road. It is easy to fall in love despite that feeling.

“You wouldn’t know love if it kicked you in the fangs.” — Lorena (True Blood Season 7, 2010)

“You can of course find someone special using online dating. But you can also use YouTube to teach yourself how to take out a kidney.” – X

Relationships fail when the boat has too many passengers. Your canoe should hold two tightly and three if one of them is in the water. Keep your partner in your mind and close. Leave everyone else outside the boat but in your life.

You can’t be happy with someone who won’t provide you with the physical intimacy you crave. If you outmatch them, they will be threatened. And if they outmatch you, you will wonder where they learned it. Remember that it doesn’t matter how they got there, it only matters where they end up.

Ask and you shall receive. And if you don’t, ask it of another. Seriously. You know what you like and what you love. Ask twice if necessary, but never a third time.

True love is halitosis and still kissing.

Love is unconditional. Relationships have boundaries. It’s hard to keep that in mind and separate them. Almost impossible.

The Kink Rule: if there are sexual things you enjoy that your potential partner doesn’t like, it greatly decreases the odds you will be happy long-term. It’s one of the reasons it is better to scare him off as soon as possible if he’s not compatible. The same holds true for him.

You need to openly talk about sexual rejection before you fall in love. These expectations erode relationships when each person has different reactions to it. Talk as candidly as you can. Your sexual energy will decline eventually. Your intimacy doesn’t have to. You need to be prepared.

Your partner should be the one who hears about your ups and downs first. If you don’t do this, over time your connection will erode. Find someone who actively wants to hear about yours – and share theirs, too.

Don’t romanticize who a person could be or their potential. Start a relationship with the idea that they’ll probably BE that person.

Unless you’re a handyman or handywoman, don’t plan on fixing anyone.

If you love someone and you are both happy, your relationship doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else. Stop letting prevailing notions affect your partnership. It’s all between you and all the shoulds disappear if you’re both happy and satisfied. No matter what it looks like to others.

Telling someone how you feel can’t ruin a good relationship long-term. If you are afraid to share with your partner, it is hard to blame them when they are reacting to a version of you. It’s a popular cliché to say that talking about your feelings should never lead to an argument. If it does, that dynamic is waving a red flag to you both.

Note whether someone “can’t” with you, but “can” with others.

If a man drinks or uses drugs often (and especially so when you don’t), it greatly increases the likelihood of disengagement and unacceptable words and behavior. There are exceptions – but not enough to warrant a serious look.

A good man will say nice things to you and about you. If they stop, the honeymoon is over. If a man noticeably stops complimenting you, you’re in trouble. Likewise, if he’s overly critical of you or begins to swap compliments for criticisms, it’s time to talk.

A good partner shouldn’t have trouble regulating his emotions. There’s a fine line between passionate and batsh!t crazy.

A good rule of thumb: the hotter a man is, the harder it is for you to be rational. Our biology is the culprit. I’m not recommending that you find an ugly man, but if you’re with someone who is eye candy, remember what too much sugar does to you. You’ll put up with a lot of crap from someone who is better-looking.

Avoid men who criticize instead of complaining. It’s a subtle difference and hard for most people to put their fingers on. There is a difference and one will wear you down emotionally.

Find out whether your potential partner has different ideas about what ‘tidy’ and ‘clean’ mean. You’re going to argue in the long-term if your man isn’t as ‘tidy’ as you are. 9 out of 10 times it’s the woman maintaining your place, fair or not. Also, don’t let a man avoid doing his share of the chores, housework, or cleanup. Even when dating.

As comedian Simon Taylor said: “Ahh, Tinder. The crystal meth of online dating.”

If you think you’re in love with someone but it’s draining you, you need to listen to the voice in your head and how much loneliness or feelings of unworthiness are keeping you from finding someone who listens to you and lights you up.

I don’t remember who said it, but these are wise words of dating advice:

Don’t. If you do, be careful. Lastly, you’re going to do it anyway because chemistry and biology inevitably drive you bonkers if you don’t.

If you are independent and stable, red flags aren’t warnings: they are deal-breakers. You need to decide what those might be before falling in love.

You are not selfish for wanting the same love and enthusiasm you give to your partner to be returned in equal measure. If you feel like you are, you need to look hard at your relationship expectations.

If they give you distance when you need love, find another man. Life is short and the primary purpose of a partner is love and companionship.

“Someday you’ll meet someone amazing who just gets you. And they won’t want to date you either.” – The Internet.

Be who you are so that you don’t have to worry about slipping up or being inauthentic. The man you’re interested in is going to find out anyway.

Whether you think so or not, most men are intimidated by you.

Everything is negotiation. If he won’t, move on. If he pushes you too far past your comfort zone, examine it closely.

The Magician’s Observation: you’ll look at him like everyone else has disappeared.

An easy way to learn a lot about your potential man is to fold your arm around him in public when you start dating. Or reach for his hand to hold. If he is reluctant in the first stages, he’s going to be a royal pain in the ass long-term. There are no exceptions to this except in cases where a man has no hands or arms. If he shows reluctance around certain people or friends, he’s hiding something.

The Friendship Reciprocity Rule: it’s okay for your man (or you) to have friends of the opposite sex. But… the only way it will work is if you’re always welcome to be friends with them, too, and be with them comfortably. I learned and earned this one the hard way. Each case is different. But if he has female friends you don’t know, can’t communicate with, or anything less than transparency, run. If he’s flirting with his female friends, sexting, or anything across your boundaries, he’s keeping his options open or using the attention. Whether it’s harmless to him or not, if it bothers you, it is not harmless to you.

Most people are “independent” until about 11 p.m. at night. It’s an old joke. It’s true, though. Take note of how your interactions spike and at what hours of the day. If a potential partner puts you mostly on hold until sundown, it generally is a bad sign.

It’s also a bad sign if he won’t commit to making plans short-term. Trust me, he’s making plans with someone. Most people, with some exceptions, have their phones on them most of the time. “I’ll let you know by 5 p.m.” is a hell of a lot better than silence or something vague. Ten seconds is all it takes to send a quick reply or emoji. They can’t be playing Diamond Crush all day.

The Four Horsemen, as they are called: contempt, criticism, stonewalling (or withdrawal), and defensiveness. Especially when arguing. It’s not about WHAT you fight about, it’s how. Any of the four will kill your chances. Pay attention.

Although I touched on it earlier, if your man generally has a low opinion of all women through his comments (not just his exes), run. Most people of both sexes are generally good people and want to be happy. Anyone focusing on their experiences to justify statements such as “all women are _______” has larger issues that you’ll have to endure.

Most men don’t care if your nails are done. Most don’t even notice them. Men also don’t care if your legs are perfectly shaved, either. In fact, I personally believe that ones who do are prone to being a&&holes.

When someone is pissed off, you are not speaking to the person, you are speaking to the mood. Learn early if they need a little space or prefer to argue without using it as an excuse to be mean-spirited.

A good man will want to share his tastes in music with you. But he’ll be equally fascinated to know yours, too. If he’s selfish about it, take it as a larger sign.

When you first get to know a man, use these questions: “What kind of washing detergent do you prefer?” “Does your vacuum cleaner use bags or is it bagless?” “How do you like to cook your vegetables?” They seem innocuous but convey a lot more information than you’d think. Pay attention.

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The above list is not all-inclusive, nor universally applicable.

Love, X

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