On not being asked if I’m seeing someone

Graffiti of a green fish with sharp teeth

This conversation can swallow you whole.

Lately, friends and family that I see occasionally—say, once or twice a year—are getting less likely to ask me if I’m dating anyone.

This conversation point used to come up reliably. Now, it seems to be sliding farther down people’s mental lists of things to enquire about.

This is good and bad. On the one hand, I sometimes get tired of the conversations with my female friends in which we endlessly deconstruct our love lives.

Those discussions can be wonderful: fulfilling, revealing, fascinating. But they can also make me feel like my girlfriends and I don’t pass the Bechdel Test—like every conversation has to come back to some dude.

On the flip side, though, when I hang out with someone and they don’t ask me if I’m seeing someone, I’m not sure how to take that.

*

I had dinner with good friends recently, whom I hadn’t seen in several months. After we’d talked politics, movies, family, and work, one of them asked if I had updates about my love life. He said he didn’t want to bring up a sore subject, but was curious to hear the latest.

I told him I was happy that he’d asked. If he hadn’t, I would have felt like he’d given up on my ever finding anyone.

But as with anything involving human intimacy, it’s more complex than that.

I know people who have never, or rarely, mentioned a romantic interest in anyone, and have always deflected my occasional questions away from that zone. I don’t know if they identify as asexual/aromantic, or if there are other forces at play.

In any case, I’ve stopped asking. I do pose open-ended questions, like “So what else has been going on with you lately?” I figure that will invite any stories, romantic or otherwise, that the person wants to offer.

I know someone whose parents ask her, every time they talk, when she’s planning on getting married and having babies. That gets old too.

I also know people who have been single for years or decades, and who simply don’t get asked any more. Is that a relief? Or is it demoralizing?

*

It’s a tricky balance, between asking too often and not enough, showing interest and poking a bruise.

How do you all navigate this?

Photo by Merlijn Hoek via Creative Commons.

Advertisements

Two Qualities to Look for in a Romantic Partner

 

There are tons of appealing qualities to look for in the people you’re dating. But two keep standing out to me as essential: kindness and curiosity.

These aren’t at the top of most people’s wish list. They tend to get outshone by flashier traits, such as “hotness” (whatever that means). Especially for straight women, unpredictability and even a sense of danger can be enthralling.

But kindness is where it’s at. Observe your date’s behavior. How do they treat the bartender, the person making coffee, the police officer who pulls them over for speeding? Is there an innate respect and gentleness there? Or do they get pissy and whiny?

Curiosity is also beautiful. Does your date ask you questions? Do they follow up and remember your answers later? If you ask them something, do they reflect before answering? Can you see them thinking?

Curiosity can take many forms. It can be intellectual, emotional, sexual, or a range of other things.

But beware the lack of it. Steer clear of people who don’t want to expand what they know about the world.

Curiosity and kindness. Keep your eyes open for them. They’re signs of someone who’s worth your while.

What other qualities do you look for in a romantic partner?

Which Way to Go?

Two paths in a wood diverge around a tree.

Photo by Carsten Tolkmit via Creative Commons on Flickr.

I’m deciding whether or not to keep this website going.

Over the last six months, I’ve been posting rarely. I like what I’ve written, but it’s been feeling like a chore.

Several factors are contributing to this.

I’m not thinking so much these days about being childfree/childless/not having kids. It’s still a big part of who I am, but I’m also seeing routes to becoming a parent someday (whether as a stepmom, or through fostering/adoption).

This may not happen. I enjoy my independence.

But I don’t want to define myself by what I don’t have, and am not. And as I continue to date and meet new men, I don’t want them coming here and making assumptions about where our future together could go.

Also, my mind is busy with a variety of new subjects. I’ve started taking graduate business courses, and am becoming fascinated by the power of capitalism to create and solve problems.

I’ve joined a laughter club, and somehow am now a co-leader.

I’m still deeply involved in a codependent love-hate relationship with Boston.

There’s a lot going on.

More and more, this blog is feeling like a box, built to contain something I’d rather set free.

I don’t believe in leaving websites up gathering dust. But it makes me sad to trash it!

What should I do? Some options:

Rename the site and revise the “About” so it doesn’t have a childfree focus.

Leave it up as an archive.

Hit the Delete key and move on.

Advice?

Photo credit: Carsten Tolkmit via Creative Commons on Flickr.

Mating in Captivity: Book Review

herons
Image by Matthew Paulson via Creative Commons.

Emotional intimacy can suffocate sexual excitement. Sometimes, it’s important to objectify the one you love. Verbal communication is often less effective than the language of the body.

These are a few of the counterintuitive and challenging ideas in Mating in Captivity, Esther Perel’s fascinating book about sexuality in long-term relationships.

The author is a therapist and an expert on human sexual connection. In her book, she describes some of the couples she’s worked with, the problems facing them, and how she helped them find solutions.

Perel explains that as we become more emotionally intimate with a partner, the distance between us shrinks until we become less and less distinct from one another. The problem is that eroticism and arousal are dependent on a certain amount of mystery and separateness. When we allow emotional intimacy to erase the distance between us and our lover, it smothers the flame of attraction.

In long-term relationships, we’re drawn in two directions. We crave stability, but we also crave novelty. These opposing desires often create issues. After all, can we desire what we already have? How can we balance the search for sexual adventure with the desire to deeply know one partner?

This book is essential for anyone who’s interested in human sexuality, especially in how sex plays out in long-term relationships. A great pre-Valentine’s Day read!

Why the Abundance Mentality Wins

angel-flowerPhoto by Hartwig HKD via Creative Commons.

Most people approach dating with a scarcity mentality.

In this mindset, we’re focused on a perceived lack of available partners, or the one we wanted who was taken or who didn’t want us back. We are tormented by jealousy for our friends who have found someone.

We see love as a zero-sum game, where if someone else is winning, we must be losing.

An abundance mentality is the opposite, and more useful. It means believing that there’s enough love to go around. That there are plenty of wonderful people out there to desire and be desired by.

As the Yiddish expression says, “There’s a lid for every pot.” Even if we’re weird, unconventional, flawed–which is to say, human and interesting–there’s a match out there for us.

I’d venture to say that every pot has several lids. They may be made of different materials, heat up to different temps, and be decorated differently. But they all fit.

Why do we get trapped in a scarcity mentality? It can happen because we grow up deprived–whether of money, security, respect, or love.

It can happen because we get tired of the chase, the hunt, the love safari, and don’t know how to re-energize ourselves.

But the abundance mentality is worth cultivating. The universe responds generously when we express our own generosity–whether to others or ourselves.

Here are three ways to grow an abundance mentality:

  1. Make your Top 5 list of people who make you happy. Could be friends, family, or coworkers. Then drop them an email or shoot them a text telling them they’re awesome.
  2. Write a paper letter to someone you’ve been out of touch with. Ask about their life and tell them a couple of good things going on in yours.
  3. Be brave enough to admit to optimism.

What do you think about scarcity and abundance?

Stepping Up

A couple months ago, I moved in with my new roommate Aimee and her dog Darla.

This is Darla:

darla-1

I love living with these girls. Having my own place was awesome too, but it got lonely sometimes. It’s wonderful to come home to a positive, enthusiastic roommate and a dog who thinks I’m a superstar.

My friend Holly refers to Darla as my stepdog. I know what she means, though it’s definitely a slacker version of being a stepparent. I have all the benefits of having a pet, while Aimee handles all the major responsibilities. (Though I have been helping out with taking Darla for walks sometimes.)

This all made me think about potentially becoming someone’s stepmom someday. I’m probably not going to ever get pregnant, but I could fall in love with a guy who has kids from a previous relationship. In fact, a lot of the single men in my age group (30s and 40s) are divorced and have anywhere from one to (yikes) four kids.

The more I think about that idea, the more I like it. I’d make a great stepmother–though I know it must be extremely complicated and challenging in ways I can’t even conceive of.

For now, though, my stepdog is more than enough to keep me fulfilled.

darla-2

New Advice Column: Ask Anya

3776887321_379ebd7a93
Image courtesy of Jen Collins via Creative Commons on Flickr.

I’m starting a new feature here at Better Than a Baby, and I need your help!

Over the years, many friends and acquaintances (and strangers) have come to me for relationship advice. Recently, several people suggested that I start an advice column.

Well, your wish is my command! I love answering questions about love, dating, and relationships. Today, we’re kicking things off with a question about the early stages of the dating process:

Hey Anya,

I just started seeing this guy named Cliff. We’ve been out on two dates now, and they’ve both been quite awesome. He is very handsome and sweet and smart, that’s for sure!

Here’s my dilemma. He told me he can often “work” an awful lot, and also told me some crazy stuff about his family/upbringing that I’m unsure of whether to feel worried about.

Should I be concerned/run away screaming? Or see how things play out?

Thanks,
Sharita

Dear Sharita,

I’ve been in relationships where my guy’s job seemed to consume him. It becomes a problem for me when I feel like my man is putting more energy into his work than he is into our relationship.

However, I don’t think this is necessarily a red flag with Cliff. It’s possible for someone to have a very intense job but then, when he’s with you, to be completely focused and have lots of energy for you. If that’s the case with Cliff, I wouldn’t think it’s an issue. Time will tell.

As for his family history…Again, I’d say what matters is how those dynamics are affecting his behavior today. For example, if he grew up in an abusive home, but has done therapy and figured out his issues around that, he can still be very healthy in a relationship.

But if he hasn’t “done the work” around whatever the issues are, they will definitely pop up in all his relationships–romantic and otherwise.

Good luck and keep me posted!

Warm regards,
Anya

Got a question about love, dating, or relationships? Send it my way: anyaanswers@gmail.com!

On Googling Exes

The other day I did an online search for some ex-boyfriends. Afterwards I felt like I’d just binged on candy: hollow inside, and with an acidic taste in my mouth.

Was it nostalgia that made me Google their names? I certainly don’t want to revive any of those relationships. They’re long over, digested by both my brain and my heart. I’m with a new guy now, and life is fulfilling.

But my exes have been blundering through my mind lately, like half-hearted zombies. One lives right near my friends in their new neighborhood and we walked by his house when I visited them. Another is a new dad and Facebook is plastered with photos of his cute offspring.

Does being childfree make me more vulnerable to nostalgia and wondering what might have been? It hurt me, a tiny bit, to see my ex holding his baby and beaming.

I’m glad he has that happiness. But it’s also slightly alien. It’s like he’s cracked a code I’ll never decipher.

The fact that I don’t particularly want to crack that code doesn’t stop the twinge in my guts at the family portrait, the affectionate comments from his friends, his bountiful harvest of “likes.”

Any of you fall down this rabbit hole recently?

New Year’s Notions: Set an Intention, Not an Agenda

EventIntention9854front1293

Image via Tribal Harmonix.

As we drift closer to 2014, I’ve been thinking about things I’ve learned over the last year that have helped me enjoy life more. Here’s one I’ve taken to heart recently: set an intention, not an agenda.

What’s the difference?

If you have an intention, you’re adjusting your energy and focus in a particular direction. This is under your control. For example, “I’m going to bring my enthusiastic spirit to this party. And I’m going to compliment at least one guy on his tie.”

If you have an agenda, you’re directing your energy and focus away from yourself, toward a particular outcome. This is not under your control. For instance, “At this party, I’m going to talk to a cute guy, and get his number. Or get him to ask me for my number. I’d like to leave with a couple of good prospects.”

Why is intention better than agenda? Because agenda is stressful. You can’t control how other people will react to you. All you can control is yourself, your own mood, and the vibe you bring to the party (or any other setting).

Having an agenda is what makes a stranger come across as slightly creepy. They want something from you, but you’re not sure what it is. Intention isn’t creepy–it’s healthy. (As long as the intention is positive, that is.)

So as we head into the New Year, set a cheerful and healthy intention for yourself. And leave the agendas back in 2013, where they belong, with the rest of our discarded baggage.

Top Four Kissing Crimes–Are You a Perpetrator?

Gentlemen, hear me when I tell you that ladies are into kissing. It’s one of the most intimate and sublime sensations out there–when done well. 

But lately, some of my friends have been sharing stories of kissing woes. Guys that they stopped dating, because these fellas did not know how to smooch properly. 

Herewith I submit the top four kissing crimes. 

Kissing Criminal #1: The Goldfish

Image
Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Goldfish is an insecure and tentative makeout agent. He will purse his lips before planting them repeatedly on his chosen paramour’s mouth, cheek, or other exposed body part. 

Essence of the crime: Annoying smacking noises; pursed lips are not passionate, but redolent of a disapproving great-aunt. 

Rehabilitation: When you’re kissing a lady, let your lips relax and be soft. And if you hear cartoony smacking sounds resonating off your face–beware! 

Kissing Criminal #2: The Vacuum Cleaner

Image

Image courtesy of Wiktionary.

The Vacuum Cleaner goes for what he wants, which is a plus. But he mistakes penetration for passion. Having some guy shove his tongue down your throat is about as sexy as getting a root canal. 

Essence of the crime: Dental connotations; lack of sensitivity. 

Rehabilitation: Even if she’d be open to it, it’s hotter to postpone any tongue action until it’s clear there’s some chemistry going on. When things start to get passionate, let her lead, and go slowly–this is neither deep-water drilling nor fracking. 

Kissing Criminal #3: The Monk

Image

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Monk may be really into you, but you’d never know it. He’s too scared to even try to place his lips anywhere near yours. Nice guys don’t want to go in too fast and scare you off. Which is commendable! But The Monk veers too far in this direction, leaving his lady wondering if he’s interested at all. 

Essence of the crime: Not going for the gusto. 

Rehabilitation: Start with a kiss on the cheek. See if she seems happy with that. If so, try a gentle kiss on the lips. See how that goes. If she pulls back at that point, all is not well and it’s best to find out what’s up before proceeding further. 

Kissing Criminal #4: The Saint Bernard

Image

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Saint Bernard has lots of puppy-dog energy and enthusiasm. Unfortunately, he also lacks control. Nothing is less hot than having a damp splotch of drool left behind after a kiss.

Essence of the crime: Excessive saliva distribution.

Rehabilitation: Some people just kiss wetter than others, which is fine. But make sure you’re taking time to swallow your own spit. And if you lick your lips before a kiss, make sure it’s just to lube them up for action–not to saturate that whole area.

On behalf of women everywhere, thank you for avoiding these criminal activities!