10 Life & Love Lessons from Me and Navy SEAL Admiral McRaven

I bet you didn’t know (and I’m sure he doesn’t know either) but Navy SEAL Admiral William H. McRaven is an accidental dating and relationship expert.

When he offered his 10 life lessons in a commencement speech to the University of Texas at Austin, he wasn’t exactly talking about LOVE, but he could’ve been. In urging the graduating students to find the courage to change the world, he unwittingly offered profound, powerful, and practical analogies to love. So much about how we live, translates to how we love. Both require courage.

Below are the Admiral’s life lessons, and my translations:

1. If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

He says: “If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.”

I say: Love requires that you work on YOU first. You’ll never be a happy single or a healthy partner unless you take care of yourself. Fix what’s broken; resolve old issues; build your worth and value; savor the small wins, and never stop self-improving.

2. If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.

He says: “You can’t change the world alone—you will need some help. To get from your starting point to your destination takes friends, colleagues, the good will of strangers, and a strong coxswain to guide you.”

I say: Have a good support system to keep you strong and loved, people who will be there when you need them–like after a breakup, or in between a relationship, or when you don’t want to be alone. Surround yourself with friends, family, advisors, and mentors. They’ll come in handy.

3. If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart, not their flippers.

He says: “SEAL training was a great equalizer. Nothing mattered but your will to succeed. Not your color, ethnic background, education, or social status.”

I say: Don’t measure a person by their bank account, age, car, or looks. In other words, don’t be shallow. Get past the exterior and go deeper. Ask questions, listen, be curious. Find out what’s in their heart. Your soulmate might not be what you expected, so don’t judge too quickly.

4. If you want to change the world get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.

He says: “Sometimes no matter how well you prepare or how well you perform, you still end up as a sugar cookie.

For failing the uniform inspection, the student [in Basic SEAL training] had to run, fully clothed into the surf zone and then, wet from head to toe, roll around on the beach until every part of their body was covered with sand. The effect was known as a ‘sugar cookie.’ You stayed in that uniform the rest of the day–cold, wet and sandy.

There were many a student who just couldn’t accept the fact that all their effort was in vain. Those students didn’t understand the purpose of the drill. You were never going to succeed. You were never going to have a perfect uniform.”

I say: When it comes to the pursuit of love, you may have the best intentions and still not measure up. Life isn’t fair, and neither is love sometimes. No one’s perfect, we all have flaws. Accept it as an opportunity for growth and change, and a chance to deepen the relationship to yourself and others.

5. If you want to change the world, don’t be afraid of the circuses.

He says: “Everyday during training, you were challenged with multiple physical events–long runs, long swims, obstacle courses, hours of calisthenics–something designed to test your mettle. Every event had standards you had to meet. If you failed to meet those standards, your names was posted on a list, and at the end of the day, those on the list were invited to a ‘circus.’ A circus was two hours of additional calisthenics designed to wear you down, to break your spirit, to force you to quit.”

Life is filled with circuses. You will fail. You will likely fail often. It will be painful. It will be discouraging. At times it will test you to your very core.”

I say: Love is filled with circuses. Despite your good efforts, you’ll make mistakes. You’ll get down on yourself. You’ll fight with your spouse or argue with your BF/GF. You may not get the guy or the girl, you may breakup or get dumped, or be single longer than you’d like. Don’t get discouraged, don’t let it break your spirit. Keep your eye on the prize, and keep moving forward.

6. If you want to change the world sometimes you have to slide down the obstacle head first.

He says: “The record for the obstacle course had stood for years when my class began training in 1977. The record seemed unbeatable, that is, until a student decided to bravely go down head first. It was a dangerous move, seemingly foolish and fraught with risk, but he ended up breaking the record.”

I say: Love takes guts. Being single, dating online, putting yourself out there, is scary. Commitment is daring. Marriage is brave. Relationships take conviction. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable takes courage, so does being alone. Love of all kinds requires risk, but with the risk comes great rewards.

7. If you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks.

He says: “There are a lot of sharks in the world. If you hope to complete the swim you will have to deal with them.”

I say: Haters and shamers are a part of life. They’ll either be jealous, begrudge your happiness, or judge you. Rise above it with dignity and grace. Never cower, never let your relationship status define you.

 8. If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest moment.

He says: “At the darkest moment of the mission is the time when you must be calm and composed, when all your tactical skills, your physical power, and all your strength must be brought to bear.”

I say: There will be times when the search for love will feel impossible, or sustaining your love will feel daunting. Love is not a losing cause. Stay calm, breathe, trust, and never abandon yourself–especially in dark moments.

9. If you want to change the world, start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.

He says: “If I have learned anything in my time traveling the world, it is the power of hope. The power of one person–Washington, Lincoln, King, Mandela, and even a young girl from Pakistan Malala–one person can change the world by giving people hope.”

I say: Nothing will bring you more unconditional love than helping others. Volunteer work gets you out of your head, puts things into perspective, and instills compassion. When you lift others up, you lift yourself up; when you change someone’s life, you change your own.

10. If you want to change the world don’t ever, ever ring the bell.

He says: “In SEAL training, there is a brass bell that hangs in the center of the compound for all the students to see. All you have to do to quit, is ring the bell. Ring the bell and you no longer have to wake up at 5 o’clock. Ring the bell and you no longer have to do the freezing cold swims. Ring the bell and you no longer have to do the runs, the obstacle course, the PT–and you no longer have to endure the hardships of training. Just ring the bell. If you want to change the world, don’t ever, ever, ring the bell.”

I say: Love will challenge you, test you, teach you. Love is a lesson; it shows you what you’re made of, and if you’re up to the task. Love ultimately starts with YOU, happiness is an inside job, and it’s worth it. It doesn’t matter if you’re single, coupled up, or married forever, stay the course. Don’t give up on love, and don’t ever, ever give up on yourself.

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Watch the full speech here:

 

Falling In Love Is Scary AF

Falling in love is a death-defying act.

You’re head-over-heels, topsy-turvy, with zero gravity, zero certainty, and no way of knowing which way is up.

When you fall in love, you have no control, no grip, no balance. You’re vulnerable, powerless, dizzy, exposed. You don’t know how you’ll land, where you’ll land, or if you’ll land safely.

You take a chance when you fall in love. You throw caution to the wind. You leap and hope the net shall appear. You open your heart, cross your fingers, and hope not to die.

Falling in love is risky business and scary as fuck.

For a control freak with an anxious attachment style, falling in love always caused too much stress. Were those butterflies in my stomach or gastritis? Was my heart aflutter or was it anxiety? Was I high on life, or was it the weed calming me down? Don’t get me wrong, I love LOVE, but I hated falling into it.

Love fucks with your head, and it’s not my imagination. According to science, falling in love causes all kinds of crazy changes in your brain chemistry, which Dr. Rosemary Guerguerian MD explains:

“When you first fall in love, your heart may also be pounding. You might have sweaty palms and nervous butterflies. You might feel exhilarated, elated, and full of energy. This is the effect of norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter closely related to increased levels of dopamine. Norepinephrine controls the fight-or-flight response. It makes us hyperalert during times of stress–so you may notice you feel unable to eat or sleep. Love is a stress we actually crave and search for the world over.”

I’ve been in love enough times to know it’s an exquisite experience, but it’s also a trigger for hurt and rejection. This lead me to OCD-level worry and rumination: I wonder if he’s into me? I wonder if it will last? I wonder how he feels? I wonder if he’ll call? I wonder if I’ll ever stop wondering?

Even as the relationship started to develop, there’d be a whole new list of things to worry about: What if he loses interest? What if we don’t share the same goals? What if I’m honest and he thinks I’m nuts? What if he finds out I’m not perfect?

What I should’ve been wondering is: Where the hell was my self-worth?

Why was I so worried about someone liking me, when it should’ve been the other way around? Why was I allowing a guy to determine my value? Why was I waiting for someone’s approval, when all I had to do was give it to myself?

It took me until I was 51 to get married, and it took me about that long to understand the problem: When you lack confidence, when you question your worth, and when you look outside of yourself for validation, falling in love will always be frightening.

And if you’re still nervous or fearful after the initial love high wears off, if you’re still in fight or flight mode and your heart’s still pounding as the relationship goes on, you’re either with the wrong person, in the wrong relationship, or you need to talk to me.

Falling might be scary as fuck, but landing should be as uneventful as hell. It took work on myself and a good man to tell you this is true. No one should feel unsafe, and no one’s palms should be sweating beyond the first few weeks of a new relationship.

Whether you’re dating, in a relationship, married, or in the middle of a break-up, having a strong safety net of self-worth underneath you will save the day. Having your own sense of security is what will bring calm and stability into your partnership, or single life.

The truth is, there are no guarantees when it comes to love. We all take our chances; we throw caution to the wind and leap.

Love should not feel like a high-wire act. It shouldn’t give you gastritis or anxiety or make you need a bong hit just to deal. It shouldn’t make you question yourself or worry incessantly. When I finally met and married someone who accepted my neuroses and imperfections after being honest with it all, it all became clear AF:

If you accept yourself first, and your partner does too, you know you fell for the right person.

Dating Post-50: You Just Might Get What You Need

So what does a single man in midlife looking for love really want? A lot less than you’d think.

A few weeks ago I read an article about a widow in her 50s named Kerry McAvoy, who had just entered the online dating world after 30 years of marriage. What she found shocked her, but it didn’t shock me. Prior to getting married, I was single for a long time, so I already knew about online dating’s pitfalls, perils, and pervs.

What shocked me was a comment I read in the comment section, written by a single guy in his 50s. It was refreshingly sincere, incredibly honest, surprisingly simple, and I loved every word of it.

It made me wonder: Can finding love in midlife be this easy?

Or rather: Are we making the search for love too hard?

I feel so strongly about his comments and the sentiments he expressed, I want all of my single friends to read it–both men and women–because it’s really a commentary on the state of dating, not to mention a tutorial on how to date at this age.

“A really enjoyable read, Kerry. Thank you for enlightening me, as someone who is on the other side of those things that are on the female mind. There’s a lot of crossover in those mini-anxieties, and while you ladies have to put up with middle-aged Tom Cats on the prowl, I’ve also had my run ins with the female equivalent. I’ve been sent the equivalent of dick pics…I’m not sure my English slang carries over to the USA (I’d call it a fanny pic but I know you guys place the fanny at the rear, whereas we’re somewhat more to the front). As for sex, I’ve been surprised how many want first date sex. This would feel weird admitting this as my 20-year-old self…Much as I love sex and flattered by the offers, it’s not something I find appealing…it can muddle things up too much too early.

For me I need to see and feel the honesty in a profile. Recent pictures rather than obvious older ones. Maybe a smile rather than a grimace. A few pics that show personality and pastimes. I personally switch off from over idealistic wishes…swept of feet, soulmates, wishes of ‘tall, dark, & handsome’ or gym toned. I’m imperfect. I accept imperfection. In fact, no, I embrace it. Anything that denies our natural imperfections is a red flag. I’m wary of wishes of chemistry & compatibility. To me, that’s where we’re trying to end up. It’s not a given and it’s only sustainable (in my learned life experience) if it’s built & maintained. I’m 18 months into this middle-aged dating and learned so much about myself, and others. I haven’t given up hope. It takes patience and resilience. As an old mentor of mine safely advised ‘don’t rush, don’t panic, don’t give in.’ That, plus a dose of honesty, keeps me broadly happy with life.”

Like I said, I love this guy. And I’d love for more men to be like him: evolved and forgiving.

Men, learn from him. Women, listen to him. 

What should you be looking for in a partner? What are your expectations? Are you asking too much? Wanting it too soon? Are you putting up obstacles? Making people jump through hoops? Are you asking someone to give you what you ultimately need to give yourself?

I want my single friends to meet an evolved, forgiving person like this. Someone who’s romantic, but realistic. Someone who wears his midlife imperfections with pride. Someone who appreciates courtship and the value of waiting. Someone who accepts himself and embraces his flaws, and in turn, will embrace and accept your flaws too.

Chances are at this age, you won’t be swept off your feet–you’re too smart for that anyway. You know that love takes time, and it’s more of a slow build than a love bomb. You also know that soulmates aren’t made in a day or even a date.

The Rolling Stones were right. You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.

If you can get past the pitfalls, perils, and pervs, you’ll see pretty much everyone’s looking for the same thing in midlife: a nice, normal, decent person, with integrity, experience and wisdom, who might have some wrinkles, possibly a little baggage, maybe a few extra pounds, but has a good heart and soul. Just like you, just like all of us.

Shockingly, I don’t think it’s too much to ask for.

Single In A Pandemic? You’ve Got Options

How’s your dating life going since the pandemic? Non-existent or “what pandemic?”

Has it ground to a halt or going gangbusters? Have you gone into hibernation or gone wild? Or, have you realized you just don’t give a shit and deleted all your dating apps? There’s no bad answer here.

It’s a weird time to be single, but it might not be the worst time. Life and love will go on. We are social animals and need interaction. We need connection. Human contact is an essential business! There’s only so much social distancing/isolating/quarantining a person can take before losing their mind.

The good news is, as lockdowns lift, dating IRL might pick up again.

Or not.

From what health experts are saying, we’re not even done with the first wave of COVID. Things are spiking again, and with that comes the possibility of more sheltering-in-place. Regular dating might be put on hold. But there are workarounds. Single people are very resourceful in finding ways to adapt. When faced with challenges and adversity, singles think outside the mask (but the smart ones keep it on).

If you’re single right now, you need to be prepared for any eventuality. I wrote an article about this at the beginning of the pandemic, and things actually haven’t changed much. You’ve got options.

Option A: Stay active, keep your dating apps open.

Why let a pandemic cramp your dating style? There’s no reason not to keep swiping, scrolling, and staying out there. Everyone’s at home on their devices, so why not take advantage of your captive audience?

If you’re not sure which app/dating site is right for you, check out ConsumerAdvocate’s online dating guide here. And if you need a little dating coaching, you can always contact me here.

Before coronavirus, when you met on a dating app, you’d have a few text exchanges, maybe a call or two, then meet in person as soon as possible. You can still do that, but video dating is now the safer alternative for those too freaked out to meet face-to-face.

I love the idea of video dating. It’s like old-fashioned courtship. Very Victorian, very Jane Austen, very hot. Courting via video slows everything down, which I find very romantic. Delayed gratification is sexy as hell.

If you haven’t done video dating, or gotten good at it, there’s still time. There’s still time to meet the love of your life in the middle of a deadly virus, and look great doing it.

Watch this video dating tutorial for pointers. When it comes to lighting, camera angles, techniques, tips, and best practices, Hot & Flashy really nails it.

A video date is a real date, so treat it like one. Don’t be lazy. Clean up, put some makeup on, be as charming as you would IRL. This is your chance to get to know someone, and possibly get laid sometime next year, so make an effort.

Or, you can throw caution to the wind and throw your mask off, along with the rest of your clothes like this woman did. Read her pandemic dating story here.

Because physical intimacy might be too risky for the less adventurous or horny, chances are, anyone dating right now is searching for something more substantial, perhaps longer lasting than a just a hook-up or booty call. Maybe they’re searching for a shelter-in-place partner for the next pandemic (or the rest of this one).

Option B: Take a break, temporarily deactivate your dating apps.

There’s nothing wrong with taking a dating break, especially if you’re burned out or going through a hard time. If you’re not actively dating, hide your profile, or turn off auto-renewal until you’re ready to venture back out.

Use the downtime to catch your breath, work on yourself, get in better shape, and get clarity on what you want. When there’s no obligation or pressure to date, it frees you up to make smarter, more thought-out choices. Pandemic or no pandemic, pressing pause on your dating life presents a great opportunity to weed out the riff-raff and regain your sanity.

Option C: You’ve actually come to enjoy your alone time, and realize that social distancing/isolation isn’t that bad.

The quiet and stillness of lockdown at first might’ve been uncomfortable–possibly unbearable—but now you’re getting used to it, and even LIKE it. It’s given you time to think, reflect, read, and relax. Becoming friends with silence and solitude is a skill, and mastering it will get you through single life (and pandemics) like a pro.

“Man conquers the world by conquering himself,” said Greek philosopher Zeno. Now’s the time to prove it.

Some people avoid being alone at all costs, but according to research, the ability to be alone with yourself is actually essential for a healthy social life. Researchers Jeffrey A. Hall and Andy J. Merolla spell it out:

“We’d seen lots of research suggesting more social interactions are better,” Hall says, but “the one that had the strongest empirical support was that when you’re alone and content that way, that’s a great indicator that you’re socially healthy.”

Being single in a pandemic is a great test of your self-reliance. Enjoying your own company is everything.

“That’s why there are some people in the world who are almost never alone but feel lonely, and some people who are always alone and never feel lonely,” she says. “Solitude works when you feel satisfied on the whole with your connection to other people. Once you have that basic need met, it’s much easier to spend time alone.”

The bottom line with pandemics (and other shitty things that happen in life) is there’s always an upside: it can be worst thing ever, or the thing you needed to make changes, practice new skills, and find strength you thought you never had. Your choice.

Single or not, you always have options.

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Post-COVID Dating: The People You Still Need To Avoid

There’s going to come a time when life gets back to normal, and normal dating will resume. Other than still practicing some social distancing and washing your hands every five seconds, chances are, you’ll still be the same person you were before the pandemic, and so will the people you’ll be dating.

Except you might be feeling a little more desperate. Or lonely. Or starved for affection and human contact. And who could blame you? The problem is, these feelings might lead to making hasty choices.

How much a pandemic changes people, we don’t know, but what we do know is that coronavirus or no coronavirus, there are still people you need to avoid dating, no matter how horny or deprived you are.

I just read a great article by James Michael Sama about the five types of people you should avoid dating:

The Control Freak:
The person who tries to mold you into the person he/she wants you to be.

The Constant Complainer:
Someone who drags another down emotionally.

Silly Putty:
Someone who doesn’t have their own identity and relies on you for every decision.

The Center Of The Universe:
Someone who is so self-absorbed that everything needs to revolve around them.

The Ultra-Materialistic:
Someone who tries to use you for what you have, or someone who tries to use what they have to “get” you.

All of these are excellent, and I wholeheartedly agree with each one of them. If you’re going to be dating now or anytime in the future, stay the fuck away from the aforementioned types of people.

While you’re at it, here’s a few more types I came up with that I highly recommend staying more than six feet away from until the end of eternity:

The Person Not Over Their Ex:
If you thought COVID19 made you miserable, try dating someone who’s not over their ex. This type might physically be there, but their heart and minds aren’t. This person will keep you a secret, keep you guessing, and keep making excuses as to why they can’t be fully present. No matter how hot, smart, brilliant, cute, sexy you are, the ex will loom over your relationship, and you’ll either be forced to compete, or take a back seat. The worst part is, they’ll never admit they’re still hung up on the ex. They’ll just wait for the situation to become so untenable, you’ll have no choice but to leave. And good for you if you do.

The Person Looking To Be Needed, Saved, Or Has Attachment Issues:
Unless you like a damsel in distress or a wounded bird, avoid these types like your life depends on it. I know men and women who live to be needed; it gives them power and pumps up their ego. People with “savior complex” come in like white knights to save the day, and it’s all very noble and chivalrous until it becomes co-dependent and weird. Neediness is never sexy. Attachment is not love. Put your mask on and go find someone that doesn’t need saving, fixing, or rescuing.

The Chronically Bitter/Angry Person:
When you date someone who’s chronically bitter or angry, it’s always a fight: either with you, or with themselves. And if someone’s anger and bitterness is really entrenched, it becomes like a third person in the relationship who won’t go away. NEWSFLASH: your love will never soothe a person who constantly bitches or seethes about past disappointments, slights or failures. But good luck trying. Oh, and did I mention the walking on eggshells part? Good luck with that too!

The Crazy Person:
I don’t care how great the sex is, when you date a crazy person, you’re asking for trouble–and chaos, instability, inconsistency, and drama. Do you really need that after a pandemic? Like you haven’t had enough stress? How many refills of Xanax can you get to keep adding more anxiety to your life? Even after the coronavirus, you’ve got to keep practicing good habits, which starts with staying the hell away from crazy people.

The Newly Separated/Divorced Person:
If the word “Rebound” gives you a dry cough and shortness of breath, your body is telling you something: STAY AWAY FROM NEWLY SEPARATED/DIVORCED PEOPLE. More than likely, you’ll be a rebound after their relationship ends, and it won’t end well for you. Dating this type has serious side effects including general pain, suffering, frustration and fatigue. If you happen to meet one of these highly seductive creatures, lock yourself down immediately.

What’s the post-COVID dating prognosis? Until there’s a test that tells you what type you’re dealing with, you’ll just have to depend on your own good judgment to stay safe and healthy. But if you start getting symptoms, or suddenly feel lousy, you’ll know you’re dating the wrong person. Avoid them like the plague.

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Keeping Love Alive In The Time Of Coronavirus

If there was ever a time to rethink how we love and live, it’s now.

The coronavirus has changed life as we know it: how we live, function, do business, socialize, and date. But all is not bleak. Life will go on, and hopefully with more awareness and mindfulness. In the time of coronavirus, I think there’s a real opportunity to instill good habits and make positive changes.

SOCIAL DISTANCING: The greatest thing to happen to dating?

For someone who’s a huge fan of meeting IRL, coronavirus is really cramping my style. It’s completely thrown a wrench into my plans for people to meet the old-fashioned way. As a dating coach, I’m always telling clients to put down their phone and look up. Stop living behind your screens and engage; make eye contact, smile, talk to each other. Can’t do that now, we’re stuck inside. Social distancing was already a problem, and now people are retreating back into their devices again @#$*!

Social distancing is pissing me off, but at the same time, I know it’s teaching you single people mad skills on how to be alone with yourself (which makes me feel better).

Being alone is a big challenge for singles. It’s also a big reason why people hate being single. When you’re unable to be alone, it shows. It shows discomfort, desperation, fear, anxiousness, and lack of confidence. I’ve always said the happier and more secure/stable you are alone, you’re not only more attractive to potential partners, you’re better equipped to weather storms like the one we’re having right now.

Being stuck at home sucks, especially if you’re single. But while you’re sitting around, why not try to make friends with solitude?. Why not learn to stop needing noise and distractions, and fall in love with stillness and quiet? You may be alone for a while, so it’s excellent practice for when you’ll be back up and running again. Mastering these skills now will make you a better dater.

My secret weapon for weathering any storm where you find yourself alone, single, isolated, lonely or afraid (like after a breakup or during a pandemic), is mindful meditation and guided visualization. Nothing will make you stronger than sitting still for 10 minutes doing this:

  1. Have a seat on a couch or chair, with your back supported, hands folded in lap, eyes closed.
  2. Take a few deep breaths, from the belly up to the top of your lungs. Hold a few breaths at the top for five seconds, then fully and audibly exhale.
  3. With each exhale, drop your shoulders, and let the rest of your body release and relax.
  4. Do a body scan starting at your feet, moving up the body. Release any gripping or tension as you go. Make sure you also relax your mouth, jaw, and space between your eyebrows.
  5. Bring your awareness to your breathing, to the rise and fall of your chest. Observe it as you inhale and exhale. You’ll find your heart rate/anxiety slowing down at this point.
  6. Take your awareness outside your body for a moment, listening to the sounds around you, including the silence.
  7. Start your guided visualization.
  8. Think of all the things/people you’re grateful for. See them in your mind’s eye.
  9. Pick a few words/sentences that bring you strength, comfort, or inspiration. Like “I relax, release, let go,” or “I will be well no matter what,” or “I am strong and confident,” or “I can be alone no problemo,” or “Nothing can fuck with me.”
  10. See these words/sentences on a black screen in white type, and repeat them.
  11. Now visualize yourself doing something that brings you pride. See yourself finishing a tough task, meeting a challenge, or successfully being alone.
  12. Finally, take another few deep breaths and just be. Feel the peace and calm surround you. Open your eyes slowly, and go about your day.

I try to meditate everyday, especially when the shit is hitting the fan. The key is to make it a habit, and part of your emotional upkeep and maintenance. Meditating regularly will create changes in you to help you stay grounded–whether you’re single or coupled up.

Social distancing might not be optimal for dating, but it does force you to SLOW DOWN (another one of my faves along with mastering solitude).

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH TAKING YOUR TIME AND GOING SLOW. And there’s nothing like a virus floating around to make sure you do. You can’t hurry love, especially now, but you don’t have to completely isolate either. You can still connect and interact virtually, on your phone or computer.

Hello teledating!

FaceTime, Skype, or Zoom, and start meeting and greeting. Usually, I advise online daters to meet as soon as possible, because I hate endless texting and messaging. But now that we’re all sequestered, this is a great solution. You can see, hear, and get to know each other. It could be romantic, even intimate, since it’s not in a Starbucks. Pour yourself a glass of wine, put on some makeup, and treat it like a real date.

Things will get back to normal, love will survive, but to stay safe, fellow dating coach Sandy Weiner suggests taking the slow dating approach one step further in her article “Could Coronavirus Be The Best Thing To Happen To Dating?”:

“What if when we finally met, we didn’t touch—like no handshaking, kissing, or hugging? What if by keeping our hands, faces, and bodies apart for a month or two, it helped us get closer emotionally?

I believe it would be good to date during this viral epidemic. Go on more substantial dates. Less touching/more talking might help us deepen our emotional connection without the complications of adding sex to the relationship. Because we all know what happens to our common sense and ability to spot red flags once sex is in the picture.”

The coronavirus needn’t be a deal-breaker for daters. By all means, keep swiping, keep scrolling, keep putting yourself out there online, just make sure you wash your hands after, and use plenty of sanitizer too.

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Get more information on my favorite method of meditation here “Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).

We Need To Have A Talk About Having “The Talk”

Picture this scenario:

You’ve been in a relationship for a few months, and things are going well. There’s intimacy and possible signs of real commitment. There’s potential here, but you’re purposely keeping it light and letting things unfold. You see a future with this BF/GF, so you’re making sure not to pressure or get ahead of yourself. 

But as a few months slides into a year, you start wondering why the relationship isn’t progressing. You’re going along and getting along, but you’re not moving along. It seems comfortable enough, but you’re uncomfortable. You’re trying to be easy going, but you’re uneasy. The sex is still good, so why worry? But still, you wonder:

Why haven’t I met his kids or family yet?

Why aren’t we talking about the future? 

Why isn’t he asking me to move in?

Why is she going on trips and not inviting me?

Why don’t I ever get texts, cards, or little gifts saying he’s thinking about me? 

Why doesn’t she include me with friends?

Why is he always too busy?

Why haven’t we said “I love you” to each other?

You feel something’s up. You want answers, but don’t dare ask, lest you rock the boat or appear needy. You’re probably being paranoid anyway. Maybe there’s a good reason for their distance. Maybe they’re taking their time, or they’re cautious, or maybe they really are busy at work.

You keep your mouth shut until you can’t take it any longer. The unknown is killing you, so you finally say “We need to talk.” 

So you make a date to sit down either at your place or somewhere neutral like a restaurant, and have “The Talk.” You ask “Where is this going? Do you want to be in a relationship? What are you looking for? Are we exclusive?” All the questions you’ve been dying to ask because you need to know your future. And who can blame you? No one wants to get hurt, be rejected, give their heart away, or invest time and energy into something that’s going nowhere. 

But here’s the thing with “The Talk:” what you gain in answers, you lose in self-determination. Twice in my life I had “The Talk,” and both times made me feel pitiful. I knew my boyfriends probably didn’t want to move forward, but I didn’t have the guts to pull the plug, nor did they have the balls to end it, so I swallowed my pride and took my lumps as they handed me my fate. When you have “The Talk,” you not only give all your power and agency away, you put your future into someone else’s hands to determine.   

If you have to have “The Talk,” you already know the answers. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for having “The Talk,” but instead of waiting to be handed your fate, be proactive and tell them where YOU stand. State YOUR needs first. Tell your BF/GF what YOU want. Tell them where YOU want to go, and if they’re not on-board, then end it on YOUR terms, with dignity and grace.  

Here’s “The Talk” I want you to initiate:

YOU: “We’ve been dating a while, and I’m sensing some reticence on your part. I’m not sure if you share my goals for this relationship, but if we’re not on the same page, then let’s not keep spinning each other’s wheels. I’d like to move on if that’s the case.” 

If you approach “The Talk” from a place of resolve and strength, power instead of passivity, it will arm you for what comes next.

Be prepared for answers you may not want to hear. Be prepared to breakup. Be prepared to cry. Be prepared to walk away. Be prepared for shit to get real. Your BF/GF might not fight for you, or they may profess their true love. The good news is, whatever “The Talk” reveals, you will be well prepared to take your future into your own hands.  

One Day You Will Thank The Ex Who Dumped You

Believe it or not, your anger will turn into gratitude.

It might not be tomorrow, or next week. It might not be a month, a year, or even a few years, but in time, you will look back upon the ex you once reviled and the breakup that almost killed you, and say thanks.

I had a boyfriend I was madly in love with many years ago. We had passion, chemistry, similar interests, backgrounds, and potential. The only problem was, I was in my early 40s with a ticking biological clock and a palpable desperation to get married and pregnant, and he didn’t.

He was newly divorced, conflicted on every level, and not really emotionally available, although he made a good show of it. He gave me what I needed at the time: HOPE. He also gave me enough encouragement to feel like we were viable (actually it was more mixed signals than encouragement). Whatever we had, I took because I wanted a relationship that bad.

Dating him was a labor of love. I had to contend with his ex-wife, his young kid, and ugly divorce. Didn’t matter, I was devoted. I tolerated his reticence, took on his baggage, and kept hope alive.

I gave him my heart and soul, and then he crushed both when I found out he was cheating on me.

To be honest, he technically didn’t “dump” me; he didn’t “officially” break up with me. Rather, he let his actions do the dirty work. That he didn’t fight for me was the actual dumping.

To say I was destroyed was an understatement. The betrayal and pain were visceral. I felt taken advantage of, and my good efforts felt rejected. I took to my bed and cried for days. I couldn’t eat, sleep, or function. Eventually my pain turned to seething anger, which felt like progress at least.

Suddenly, I hated the guy I was in love with.

One wise friend said to me, “You know, Treva, one day you’ll thank him.” And I said, “Fuck off, no way.” I swore to myself I’d despise him forever, and I did for a while. That is, until I didn’t.

I don’t remember when I turned the corner, but somewhere in between therapy, support from friends, self-care, wine, weed, and time, I healed. Only after I pieced my heart back together and was on the other side of rage, did the lesson become clear:

I would never ignore my needs, betray my better judgment, or dishonor my highest good again. I would never grovel, compromise my dignity, or sell my soul for a relationship. Most of all, I refused to be desperate.

These epiphanies not only changed my life, they forever changed the way I love, and let myself be loved. Most of all, they changed the way I love MYSELF.

None of this could’ve happened without the ex.

I never thought I’d say this, but my wise friend was right. I owe my ex a debt of gratitude. Because of him, I grew into a much better version of myself. All that pain paid off, and it will for you too, if you ever get dumped. When you see how much you’ve grown, you’ll realize the struggle was worth it.

You may hate your ex initially, but eventually you’ll be grateful for the gifts he/she gives you.

You will thank your ex for giving you clarity.

You’ll see more clearly and have better insight into who you are and what you want. You’ll identify danger signs and red flags faster, and take quicker action when your needs aren’t getting met.

You will thank your ex for giving you motivation.

You’ll raise your standards, get in better shape, tie up loose ends, heal old wounds, stop repeating patterns, break bad habits, and resolve old issues. Your ex will give you newfound motivation to fix everything.

You will thank your ex for making you stronger and more resilient.

Your confidence will improve, so will your worth and value to yourself. You’ll find the power to speak up, the courage to demand better, and the self-respect not to take anyone’s shit. You will find resolve you never knew you had.

You will thank your ex for setting you free.

Instead of wasting time constantly worrying about your relationship, your energy will be freed up to do more important things, like meet someone great who truly wants you, appreciates you, and gives you the love you deserve.

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Like I said, none of these things will happen quickly, but the first day you’ve gone without crying, seething, or hating your ex, or the first day you’re more hopeful than angry, you’ll know your grudge is turning into gratitude, and you’re on your way to saying thanks….and forgiving them too.

I’ve Co-Hosted A Podcast About Love For A Year, Here’s What I’ve Learned

It began five years ago when I got married for the first time at 51. My husband, also a marriage first-timer, was 57.

I thought it was an interesting story. Here we are, two people in our 50s, with no exes, no kids, no baggage (emotional, maybe) manage to find each other after a lifetime of looking.

To tell the story, I created the blog The Late Blooming Bride, which documented my journey from single life to first-time midlife wife. It included dating tales, my relationship fails, bad choices, breakups, dating advice, and menopause. I shared my pain, triumphs, night sweats, and never skimped on honesty.

A year ago, the VoiceAmerica Talk Radio Network contacted me to see if I’d want to turn the blog into a podcast. I agreed, but only if my husband Robby could join me. “Dating advice podcaster” seemed to fit with the other hats I wear as life coach, dating coach, and fitness professional, so we said yes and they said yes.

So began “Done Being Single,” a podcast that covers all aspects of dating, being single, and finding love later in life. I like to joke that between Robby and me, we have a combined 107 years of single life under our belt. We were pros at being single, and we know our shit.

After being in the dating trenches for so long, Robby and I come to the podcasting world with tons of knowledge and wisdom about love, but we’ve had help along the way in the form of top notch therapists, relationship experts, personal development influencers, and thought leaders of all kinds, who’ve come on the show to share their wisdom. All of our guests have given us incredible insight, for which we are grateful.

In the year we’ve been on the air, we’ve amassed over 80K active listeners, and recorded close to 50 episodes, ranging from sex tips to self-improvement, prenups to personal growth, manscaping to money, dating intervention to dating single parents.

The following is a snapshot of what I’ve learned from some of our guests (included are links to their full interviews):

Gay & Katie Hendricks, personal growth pioneers, authors

“Everything You Want Is On The Other Side Of Fear”

http://bit.ly/2P8iLAJ

Love is a fear-based emotion. People have a fundamental fear of getting close, a fear of criticism, and a fear of not being enough; they despair and feel helpless. Gay & Katie describe limiting beliefs about love as “Upper Limit Problems,” self-sabotage when things start to go well. When you feel unlovable, think of someone you love–a friend or a mate–and love yourself just like that.

Arielle Ford, relationship expert, author, personal development teacher

“The Magic Is In You”

http://bit.ly/2uXcr5K

Arielle, one of the original practitioners of the “Law of Attraction,” believes our ability to love matches our state of being. We draw people, places, and experiences that align with our vibration. If you think you’re a loser or unlucky, that will be your experience, and you’ll manifest those unconscious beliefs and thoughts. You need clarity about what you desire, believe that it’s already yours, then take action steps to manifest it.

Lori Gottlieb, psychotherpist and best-selling author

“Is Good Enough, Good Enough?’

http://bit.ly/2UM5dQo

Our episode with Lori was about settling, not lowering your standards, but having higher standards about the things that matter to you. People need to change the way they think about settling. If you settle for less, you’ll not only compromise to be with another human being (because humans are imperfect) someone’s going to compromise to be with you. There is no perfect person, but there is someone perfect for you.

Guy Finley, self-help writer, spiritual teacher

“Admit It, You Suck At Relationships”

http://bit.ly/2Gcuw61

Guy believes love is about fulfilling expectations, and seeing our partners as a special kind of mirror. The things we see in them that disappoint us–their faults or limitations–are actually things we see in ourselves that we blame on them. No one can disappoint you without your permission. No relationship can grow when blame is the game two people play. We get too attached and dependent on our partners for our happiness.

Dr. Karin Anderson Abrell, psychologist, author, podcaster, fellow late blooming bride

“The Best/Worst Dating Advice You’re Ever Going To Hear”

http://bit.ly/2Uch5qw

Love can’t fix people, nor can you heal people with your love. It’s not your job, and it’s not sustainable. If someone is a project, they’re not your partner, and they will never be emotionally at your level. If you’re thriving in terms of your own growth and development, that’s the kind of person you will attract. “Water seeks its own level,” as she says. Fixing someone never works, because once you fix the fixer upper, the dynamics aren’t going to work anymore.

Ken Page LCSW, psychotherapist and author

“Forget New Years Resolutions, Make Valentine’s Resolutions”

http://bit.ly/2IosFMV

People are victimized by dating advice that says you’re not sexy enough, feminine enough, confident enough, etc, Fixing those things in order to find love is just a path to hell, as Ken says. It looks like self-help, but it’s really self-hate. If you really want to find love, you’ve got to work less on your attractiveness, and more on your attractions. Ask yourself: With whom does my heart feel safe? With whom does my heart feel right? When that becomes your question or filter, your search for love will change.

Lou Paget, sex educator

“Everything You’ve Always Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask”

http://bit.ly/2IkghyA

The best partners aren’t the best looking, or have the best so-called body parts, the best partners are secure with themselves. Everyone wants to be loved, they want to love, they want to be heard, they want to be understood, and they want to know they’re making a contribution. Be honest with yourself, and about what you want. Honesty is your most seductive behavior, nothing has more magnetic appeal than for someone to see you as you are.

Allana Pratt, intimacy expert

“Too Picky, Or Not Picky Enough?”

http://bit.ly/2VxYJBP

Allana says love can’t happen if we’re not in communion with ourselves. We need to be present, secure, and have a connection with self. We wear masks, create limiting beliefs, put up obstacles, and make excuses not to get vulnerable. When we seek love and approval, we give our power away, and hold people responsible for our happiness. We need to let go of judgment of self, and feel the divine on the inside.

Of all the lessons I learned about love though, here’s the biggest:

How you love and who you love, all comes down to SELF-WORTH.

No shocker there, but after interviewing the best in the business, and hearing the stories, complaints, and experiences of our listeners, I can confirm that love is all about how you value yourself, and what you feel you deserve.

No matter what we talk about on the show, no matter who the guest is, no matter where the conversation goes, it always circles back to self-worth.

Another thing I’ve learned about self-worth? You can never have enough of it. So go love and have love, just start with yourself first.

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Tune into Done Being Single www.donebeingsingle.com.

To learn about Treva’s coaching services, visit www.trevabrandonscharf.com.

 

Self-Improving Your Chances At Love

“I am the most important mover of my chances in life.”

I don’t know where I found this saying–probably in a self-improvement or personal growth blog—all I know is that it resonated so much with me, I highlighted the text, enlarged the font, printed it out, cut it into a strip, placed it on my desk next to my computer, and have been looking at it ever since for the last two years.

This little piece of self-improvement kept me going when I wanted to quit; it pushed me to work harder when I got complacent; and it reminds me on a daily basis that my future is mine, and only I can make it happen. It’s a pep talk every time I look at it.

You can apply it to everything in life: career, family, success, money, etc., but it also applies to LOVE—finding it, knowing it, and keeping it.

You are the most important mover of your chances to have all three.

Self-improvement isn’t sexy, or especially romantic. But if you want love, if you want to be a better dater, attract better people, have better relationships, you must first become a better you.

Here’s how:

Take Responsibility

Everything starts with you: your emotions, choices, actions, and behavior. You have total control when it comes to managing YOU. Stop blaming others for your unhappiness, and stop making excuses for your singleness. If you’re unsatisfied with your looks, your weight, the quality of your relationships, etc., take ownership and be accountable. Take charge and be the boss of you.

Stop Complaining

Everyone’s got problems, no one’s life is perfect. You may have legitimate grievances, but you worsen them by complaining. Hearing yourself bitch and moan (or posting it on social media) not only gives your misery power, it feeds into your self-loathing. Moreover, it turns people off. No one likes negativity. Like I said, we’ve all got our shit, but we deal with it. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Envision The Best Version Of Yourself, Then Keep It In Your Mind’s Eye

Whether it’s a slimmer, smarter, fitter, happier, healthier, more successful you, see a picture of yourself as that, and refer to it often. Commit it to memory. When it comes to your potential, dream big, aim high, drill it into your head, and convince your self-doubting psyche that anything’s possible. Don’t take “no” for an answer, especially from yourself.

Have The Courage To Change

Recognizing what needs to change takes honesty, making changes takes guts. If you find the courage to do both, the rewards will more than pay off. Face your fears, put in the effort, push yourself a little everyday, and fight against procrastination with everything you’ve got. “Do hard things,” as artist/blogger John P. Weiss says. It will force you to grow, it will build your confidence, and help you become more resilient.

Stop Wasting Your Time With Losers, Or Loser Situations

Get rid of toxic people, unhealthy friendships, and dead-end relationships. Draw boundaries, don’t engage in drama, and remove yourself from situations that cause chaos and bring you grief. Real love and true friends should always make you feel valued. If a person or situation doesn’t inspire you, bring you joy, empower you, or lift you up in some way, dump them.

Fall In Love With The Process

As personal growth blogger Reece Robertson says. All rewards are found in the process, not the results. Results are important, but the process is EVERYTHING.

Your goals really shouldn’t be about dating more, or being in a relationship, or getting married. Your goals should be about developing yourself.

How you get there, and how it changes you in the process, IS the goal.

In the process of finding love, something amazing will happen: you will find yourself. You will find that you’ve grown, evolved, gotten stronger, smarter, and more loveable. You will find that you’ve gained more self-respect and dignity. In improving your chances at love, you will have actually improved yourself.

You are the most important mover of your chances to have just about everything, so get moving.