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Tag Archive 'midlife'

Apr 26 2011

How to Read Someone’s Intentions Like a Pro.

In almost every counseling and coaching session I end up teaching this particular tool, so I’ve decided to write down the mini-lecture. It’s the sort of thing that took me years to finally learn and appreciate. So rather than repeat it as many times as I needed it repeated to me, I’m going to write it out. Please read and re-read. Please pass it along. As far as I’m concerned, it’s gold.

“The dangerous man is the one who has only one idea, because then he’ll fight and die for it. The way real science goes is that you come up with lots of ideas, and most of them will be wrong.”  Francis Crick.

If you’ve settled into a relationship, really settled, you know your partner’s quirks and you know how your partner is unique and different from you. But if you haven’t settled in, sooner or later you are going to be challenged by something your partner does that doesn’t make sense to you and which, often, you won’t like.

It’s important to remember this: You don’t know this person intimately. Not yet. The only people you know intimately are people you’ve had previous enduring relationships with, and maybe not even them. You are still learning.

What mental habits do you need in order to help you understand this new person’s intentions?

Here’s the golden rule: Always have three guesses about what’s really going on. And then watch how things unfold to see which of your guesses is best.

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Mar 09 2011

“Is there something wrong with me for wanting what I want?”

Sometimes people want too much in a romance and just as often they don’t want enough.

It helps if you know what you want and what you are willing to do to get it. Often dating at midlife teaches you this.  At the same time, if you’ve had a string of unsatisfactory relationships, which is not unusual in dating at midlife, you will be a bit unsure about what you can reasonably expect.
A little pessimism is forgivable, especially if you’ve been burned in the past, but still, it is better to know what you want and to be able to say so clearly, at least to yourself.

In the last 20 years psychological research has systematically investigated the psychology of successful romantic relationships…and rediscovered what many folks simply knew all along. But still, there are a lot of opinions out there and it’s good to know what some folks have found out with rigorous thinking.

A good relationship contains three main elements – technically they are called “behavioral systems.” The term means that our brains are set up to create three different, somewhat independent kinds of relationship conditions. Relationships that live and flourish tend to contain all three.

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Oct 02 2010

Hatred, Emotional Baggage, the Book of Jonah, and the Lessons of Yom Kippur in Dealing with an Ex.

Sometimes intimate relationships fail because the partners grow to hate each other’s company. “Hate.”  It’s a strong word.

Hatred is wild and strange.  I’ve counseled people who are dealing with an ex who is intoxicated by hatred.  Such people are willing to use children, the legal system, and vandalism to make a former partner’s life miserable. They do it in a gleeful frenzy. They are scary because they feed off their hatred and there’s no stopping them except by going to war against them and defeating them thoroughly.  Most of us don’t like going to war.

For most of us hatred is  uncomfortable.  For most of us, when we are angry we are angry about a principle, a value, something that seems bigger than the issue at hand.  But when anger shifts to hatred it’s because we’ve made the issue personal. Often people who like to hate are also proud of the fact that their values are so personally held.

Because hatred is a personal matter and because the pain associated with it is often so close to the surface, most folks shift from hatred to disgust.  Disgust is the way we put distance between our self and the thing we hate.  In disgust we don’t have to resolve the hatred. We can simply go past it and seek the more comfortable state of denial.  We resolve to simply never see, speak or think about the person we “used to” hate.  We do this for our protection, and sometimes for their protection. We cut them off.

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Jul 23 2010

Tisha B’av and Jewish Grief, versus “Get Over It!” and “The Power of Now.”

By Philip Belove, Ed.D.

Datingatmidlife.com , Drbelove.com, Drbelove@datingatmidlife.com

“When I look behind, as I am compelled to look, before I can gather strength to proceed on my Journey” –Stanley Kuntiz, from his poem, The Layers.

This blog starts out with a story about an argument I couldn’t win. It ends with a teaser about the next blog entry, which will be about forgiveness.

But about that argument. It was difficult for me. I like to be an agreeable person and don’t like disagreeing. Yet disagreeing is a skill I feel obliged to practice, along with speaking up.  Still, I work hard to find ways to do it respectfully.  My commitment to being able to argue well is, in part I believe, because I’m Jewish. In our tradition, every word in the holiest books is surrounded by pages of discussions about what they really mean. Having your own opinion is an obligation of Jewish adulthood.

But anyway, the argument I had with the woman went like this:  Her new boyfriend told her about his grief for his ex. She said, “If you still have such feelings you aren’t ready for a new relationship.”  He said, “I still have grief and I might always. It was a genuine loss.”  She said, “Live in the present.” He said, “I can’t. I’m Jewish.” So they broke up.

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May 31 2010

Little Steps that can Make a Big and Positive Difference in a Relationship.

What’s the biggest challenge in dating at midlife? I don’t think it’s finding an available single. The dating at midlife sub-culture is enormous. Census figures suggest that more than 30% of all adults are not married. It’s easy to find another single person who is looking for a relationship.  It’s even easy to get into a  relationship if you aren’t particular.  The real challenge is once you are in.

And it’s not so much the relationship per se that’s the problem. It’s the process of designing the relationship.

Every relationship needs a little tailoring. (I once read an interview with a fashion designer and the question was, how does an ordinary person, who can’t spend thousands on clothes, dress to look good. The designer said “tailoring.” He said that even those t-shirts the movie stars are wearing get a little bit of sewing here and there.)

The challenge is in finding a way to tailor the relationship to fit well for both of you. In other words, you both need to find a method for negotiating that relationship.

Every friendship has its little storms. The challenge in dating at midlife is creating a climate that, despite the ordinary storms, is so pleasant you want to settled down and live in it. How do you do that?

The Gottman Ratio.

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May 20 2010

Pick Yourself Up, Dust Yourself Off, And Learn to Trust Again

Dating at Midlife: How Can You Trust Again?
By Philip Belove, Ed.D.


If you are dating someone, you are probably considering letting him or her get pretty close to you. Yet at this midlife stage, you have probably also been involved in one or more major relationships that failed or ended poorly. That is why one of the most common questions asked by ThirdAgers is, “Can I trust this new person?”

It takes a while to get to know someone, and good judgment doesn’t descend upon you overnight. It is something you have to work at. Here are a few ways to start practicing:

  • Learn to trust yourself: Trusting another person more than you trust yourself is the definition of naiveté. In midlife, you have to develop your own judgment and honor it above the wishes of others.
  • Pay attention to your inklings: You know the tiny voices that tell you about things thatmight be true, but you just can’t be sure? These are the seeds of your intuition. Don’t dismiss them. They help you develop caution and they also help you discover opportunities. When you are dating, you usually have little feelings — good or bad — about something or someone. Never, ever brush those feelings aside.
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May 20 2010

How to not get ahead of yourself when you are creating a new relationship.

Evaluating Relationship Readiness in Yourself and in a Potential Partner.

by Philip Belove, Ed.D.

Being single at midlife is a form of midlife crisis.

“Oh, no, not me,” you say. “I’m the good one. The crisis is what the other person is having.” But the truth is, when a couple breaks up, they are both in a crisis.

A crisis is a situation in which, no matter what you do, something new is going to happen.

There are doors in life that only go one way. Once you’ve walked through them, you can’t walk back. Being suddenly single at midlife is one of those doors. And someone who’s walked through it is in a crisis.

Is a person in midlife crisis really ready for a long term relationship?

Usually not. But there are lots of people out there like that, not yet ready for re-marriage or its equivalent and none the less acting like they are. There are others who don’t know what they are looking for. As you no doubt know, not everyone out there is honest, even with themselves.

What determines the kind of a relationship a person in a midlife crisis is ready for?

Relationship readiness. There are four stages to a midlife crisis. In each stage there is a change in both the kind of relationship a person wants and what the person is capable of. Each stage has a different kind of relationship readiness.

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May 20 2010

“Okay. What’s this guy really like?”

Will Your Partner Treat You Well?
By Philip Belove, Ed.D.
Director, Dating At Midlife Research Project

When people first enter into relationships, they are generally on their best behavior. However, even in the early stages, new couples reveal how they will treat each other in the future. The problem is that this critical information is often obscured by the swarm of other new information that