Tag Archives: dating advice

Avoiding the Vacuum Syndrome

stoptalking

The ‘vacuum’ is a syndrome. And I’m a magnet for it. Just ask my college BFF. She can tell you many stories about ‘girls night out’ that resulted in me getting sucked into this vortex by a man who needs a therapist to help him. It sort of goes like this: all the other girls are having fun at a bar, a party or a venue—giggling, talking with all the men who have flocked over, dancing, etc. At one point, someone in our group wonders, “Where’s Laura?” until they find me sitting at a corner table with the first man who introduced himself to me. I’ll have a panicky look on my face, that he clearly doesn’t notice. I’m desperate to get away, but am stuck in his mid-stream confessional rant. I am a magnet for TMI conversations with random strangers.

Now I know the only way to true intimacy, joy, and a real connection is through vulnerability—but Jiminy cricket, not in the FIRST encounter! Why is it that I’m the girl random men, at bars or events, or first dates, like to confess to? Why can’t I be that girl that fun men drag to the dance floor? Why can’t I be like my college roommate who always ended up meeting men who’d later take her to concerts, dancing, or to see comedians?  I’m the gal men want to take out to eat, or go on walks with and TALK. I mean, I have countless stories like this. I’ll go to a bar with friends to hear the local band and dance and instead, end up hearing about one man’s horrific child abuse; or another man’s endless thoughts of suicide after his divorce; or how another man just can’t get over the fact that his mother died of cancer 5 years earlier. These sort of deep convos happen within minutes of our meeting. Well, not always within minutes, but SOON after. I call it the vacuum syndrome because by the time I realize I’m in one of these situations, I have a hard time just getting up and leaving, as the man is typically mid-sentence about something horrifically sad and I feel bad for this person.

But the thing is, I need to feel bad for myself. I need to have more healthy fun in my life! I need more levity, more spontaneous dancing, more gut-hurting laughter. I need this sort of abusive encounter to stop. Especially now. I’m a single mother. So I take care of my sons 24/7. Even when I’m out, I wonder if the babysitter fed them well. Only during the 4 weeks they are with their Dad, do I get that mental vacation from responsibility and worry. I don’t need another drain to my energy or another person who needs a mother, therapist or savior. That needs to be clear.

My line of work is also very giving. As a therapeutic yoga teacher, I listen to others a lot. I can also feel their dis-ease and we talk about it and practice meditations that will help ease chronic pain, anxiety, fear and even combat cancer. I love what I do, and I love my boys and my life. But when I go out, I want to laugh, be silly and basically not be asked to listen to horrific tales as a bar-stool therapist.

Recently, a few girlfriends convinced me to do online dating. I don’t date the men I meet in my yoga classes, that would be unprofessional. And I don’t go out as much as I’d like, so meeting new people outside of my neighborhood or my circle is a challenge.

I naively thought this vacuum syndrome was over. I mean I live in sunny southern California where the skies are blue, the ocean is near and there are many playboys who want to stay young and play forever. But my recent parlay into online dating was disastrous. I mean, ridiculous. I should send each and every man I met for a date a bill for my services.

First, there was the man recently separated who went on and on and on and on about his ex. I told him to stop. Did he even read my online dating profile that said only to reach out if you want to try to make me laugh and lets not talk about exes? Um, clearly not. I ended up coaching this gentlemen and reminding him that his ex is the mother of his children. That it’s important to try to understand before being understood. To practice taking deep breaths and responding, rather than reacting, and to stop talking smack about her in front of their children. At the end of the date, that I cut short, he gave me a big bear hug and told me he loved me. YUP. I RAN to my car!

Then there was the guy who told me about horrific abuse by his father, toward him and his mother.  We had just ordered our meal. I had given up alcohol for lent, but was DYING for a drink as he spoke. I felt like an addict needing a fix. He just wouldn’t shut up. And he was beautiful. So damn beautiful. I remember just mentally drifting, so his voice sounded like Charlie Brown’s principal, wa wa wa wa wa wa wa. As I looked up at his gorgeous mouth I recall thinking: What a pity. If he could’ve just made me laugh, had a casual evening, I would be kissing those lips later. But NO, this former football player and model kept going on and on about how much his mother went through at the hands of his father, their divorce, being raised by a single mother—and then he started crying. Not just a little tear, FULL FORCE crying. Shoulders shaking the whole bit. “I’m so in awe of what you do. Single mothers are beautiful.” Um, OK. What the hell do I do with that? Again, what a pity. He drank an entire bottle of wine and most of the evening I barely got a sentence in, and when I did, it was to reassure him. He even told me a detailed story about a horrific rape he witnessed. I had to put my hands up and stop him. My stomach was turning. By the time we said goodbye, I had NO desire to kiss that man. No attraction to this gorgeous person. I drove home calculating the babysitter costs and feeling super drained and resentful.

Didn’t these men see my profile? In the headline, it clearly stated “Life can be too serious these days. Reach out if you can make me laugh or have a silly evening.”

There were a few other dates that were nearly as bad. So, the online profile is now down. The only reason I did this experiment was to get over someone, but instead, I ended up missing him even more. I miss silly energy. I miss laughing. I miss having someone need me as a woman, and not as a mother or a therapist. Single moms and yoga teachers give and give and give. I want someone to lift me up and not take care of me necessarily, but to add some lightness to my highly responsible world. Just because I’ve lived through a lot, doesn’t mean that I necessarily want to talk about it all the time, or marinate in deep heavy topics. There is a time and place for everything. These men need to contact a therapist, a counselor, a support group or come to one of my yin restorative yoga classes. But going out on a Saturday night, for me, needs to be light and fun.

For now, I’ll either stay in and binge on netflix comedies, or go to a friend’s hip hop dance class, or take paddle boarding lessons to hopefully play with some dolphins. If I meet someone doing things that make me smile, great. But I’m not going out of my way, paying for a sitter, to just get sucked into the vacuum any more!

Here’s to Healthy Love & LIGHT & SILLINESS this week. 🙂

L. XO

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Relationship Guru Dr. Pat Allen Sets Me Straight!

Photo by: Monkey Wrench Collective

So you want to find Mr. Right? It’s simple: stop doing all the wrong (albeit fun) things when you first meet, says Dr. Pat Allen, Ph.D., relationship and communication therapist in Los Angeles. Allen is also the author of several best-selling books including: Getting To I-Do and The Truth About Men Will Set You Free, (But First It Will Piss You Off!) You may be more familiar with her, however, from her multiple TV interviews or her work on the TV show Millionaire Matchmaker where her blunt talk about sex and relationship blunders borders on the comical. Here’s a clip to see what I mean. (It’s ok, go ahead and watch it, I’ll wait!)

I met Dr. Allen in 2009 when I was desperately trying to keep my marriage together. Through a friend’s psychic vision (yeah, I know, but it really happened), I discovered that my husband started an affair when working abroad while I was at home with our six month old baby and his older brother. I try not to focus on all the details of this sordid time, and the time that followed of yo-yo-ing back and forth in this cycle of forgiveness and betrayal again and again. My life had become the car wreck that friends and family couldn’t stop themselves from slowing down to look at. When I think back to that period when I was still breastfeeding and down to 92 lbs from sheer sorrow, I just die inside. So, like a race car driver who refuses to look at the wall when he races, I’m keeping my eyes on the better road ahead.

Just know that three months of therapy with Dr. Allen helped me let go of an impossible situation. She taught me about the male brain and the drug-like effects of dopamine on men who are ascending into places of power. And, I learned that I was too nice, codependent, and had lost my power and my ability to say no in relationships that resulted in mistreatment.

I turned to Dr. Allen to advise all of us single moms who are venturing out into the dating world as newbies. Her books will teach you many things, including how right-handed men think (very interesting, but for another blog) and how you have to negotiate commitment with men and never assume they can be monogamous…which is a bitter pill to swallow, isn’t it? So my first question to her on the night we met at her office in West Los Angeles was this:

“What is the biggest tip you can give women entering the dating world again?”

Without hesitation, she replied: “Stop drinking. Pure and simple.”

She speaks in a quintessentially blunt, staccato voice. I’m listening, expecting a more elaborate explanation. When she doesn’t continue I push her for information on this topic as how many women like to have a glass of wine on a first date to take the edge off? The relationship expert explains that a woman can’t size up a man correctly if she even has one drink on the first date or before commitment.

“Wine (on the first date, first meeting) knocks out instincts for her and knocks out intelligence and intuition for him. They go home, have sex and wake up with strangers. The chemistry is all wrong,” Dr. Allen explains.

The relationship guru continues that “you need to be sober to feel chemistry.”

Sexual attraction that builds over drinks isn’t true chemistry, she reminds me.

Ok, I can do that. I don’t drink that much anymore anyway. The other tip for finding Mr. Right might be a bit trickier: NO sex.

And I don’t just mean on the first date, which isn’t an issue for many of us. Dr. Allen says a woman shouldn’t “consummate a relationship” before commitment.

“Don’t have sex without a commitment and don’t make a commitment under the influence,” she explains.

Before having sex with a man, women need to have at least “a gut feeling of the goodness of the person we are with.” That can’t happen under the influence and women bond too quickly with a man after sex—but clearly, it’s often with the wrong man.

This is science at work. If a woman is attracted to a man, the hormone oxytocin is released into her body, which heightens the sense of touch and orgasm. If she drinks and then has sex with a man that she knows little about, she can become addicted to him. This makes her disregard any red flags that she would have normally picked up on—such as drug use, a history of infidelity, sexual addiction, mental illness, anger issues, financial instability, etc.

“The problem with oxytocin-based addictive bonding to an inappropriate man is that the intellect is relegated to a secondary status in choice and judgment. The good counsel of parents, friends, religious leaders and psychotherapists is of no benefit. Addiction to oxytocin as a pleasure takes over,” Dr. Allen says.

Ok, Dr. Allen’s advice makes sense to me. But, like a lot of things in life, it might be harder to put all of it into practice. I always wait to have sex with a man until I feel a bit of goodness about him, and never on the first date. I remember hearing about the “3 Date Rule” when living in New York. Do you guys know of that one? Well, waiting until the third date to have sex is complete rubbish, according to Dr. Allen, unless you just want to have fun and don’t care whether you end up abused or in a long-term relationship.

What do you think single moms (and single women in general!) out there? I ran across a couple of great single mom blogs recently where this debate is raging. MsSingleMama.com, (who rocks, btw!) often writes about her dating adventures and chats with other single moms about the importance of having sex. In a forum asking how long it had been for her single mom readers some moms wrote in that it had been 18 months or even 2 years! Wait, these are gorgeous, smart, savvy, young women. What’s going on here? Well, most of us just won’t bring a man home to the kiddos. And, many of us are completely gun-shy after the heartbreak of our divorces. Dr. Allen says we all need to know that “No man is monogamous.” (Why this should be reassuring is hard to get right away!) A line from our interview that is so apropo for this is: “The man you’re afraid of is THE MAN.”

All men want to cheat, but not all do, she says. In order to find the good guys, the ones who will cherish and love you and feel horribly if they hurt you, you need to weed out the bad.

As a recap, here are Dr. Allen’s top tips to successfully find a good guy:

  1. Don’t drink on the first date, even one glass of vino, so you can determine chemistry and listen to your intuition.
  2. Don’t have sex on the first date, ever.
  3. Don’t have sex until a firm commitment, so you don’t bond with the wrong fella.
  4. Don’t drink with your new man until you have a commitment.

Why does she insist on these rules? Because you have to have true chemistry, compatibility and great communication to make a relationship work. “You will know in three minutes whether you have great chemistry with a man,” Dr. Allen insists.

Ok, I think I have three minutes.

And, she says give a potential good guy at least three dates in order to realize whether your intellect is disregarding him prematurely. But don’t drink on these dates!

Well, I’ve got three minutes and three evenings to spare. … Maybe I can tip-toe back out there after all. How about you? Do you think you can follow her rules? Do you even want to? Please chime in!!