Posts Tagged With: dating

What Are You Looking For?

About 10 years ago, the concept of listing out what I wanted in a future spouse was introduced to me and like an obedient girl, I started my list.

A few years later when sifting through my life in therapy, I was told that I didn’t know what I was looking for in a spouse. Au contraire! I had my list! I showed it to my mentor/friend Katharine.

“Laura, you wrote the Proverbs 31 for men! This is completely unrealistic. And it says nothing about real things you want in a husband.”**

Me: “I did?”Gold pen with signature

Yet, not to leave me hanging, Katharine helped me pare down my page-long list to 3 columns. She guided me through selecting traits (physical, character, spiritual, personality, even how he spends his leisure time) into three categories:

  • Non-negotiable
  • Really want
  • Bonus!

One thing that has contributed to “success” is that my list is short; I think I have less than 15 items between all three categories. I’m also guided in my conversation on first dates by having “The List” in the back of my head. For example, I hate doing taxes due to a traumatic experience with them in college. Thus, I want my husband to be financially sound. On dates, I’m not shy to ask questions related to money and saving – while I don’t ask about his debt, savings, or salary, I am able to guide the conversation in order to ascertain his attitude towards retirement savings, budgeting, and financial management which let me know if I even want to keep considering spending time with him.

Depending on how long you’re in dating land, the list might need tweaking as years pass.  A small part of me dies when I look at “4 kids” in one column. It’s good to think about the number of kids you want (even if the number is zero), but being 30 with few prospects makes me less optimistic towards that original number as I’ve lost those years of childbearing/child-rearing. Also, “ministry group” had a specific meaning in my Protestant days; not so much in Ortho-world.

Here’s my suggestion, Ladies and Gents: write down what you want in a spouse. Be specific, even painfully and stupidly specific. Hair color. Ethnicity. Quirks. Height. Interests. This is your list. It might be longer than my 12-15 items, but if that’s what you need, do it. Then go through the list and pick out the “Absolutely, 100% MUST HAVE” for column A. Go through and pick the “I would REALLY WANT” items. Everything else is in “BONUS” – column C. You must have at least one criterion in each column, and it’s best to do this when you don’t have a specific object-of-your-affection in mind.

It’s frustrating to be in The Land of Few Prospects or The Land of Not-Right-Now and even The Land of Everyone-Else-Is-Married. The last 6 to 7 years of my dating adventures have been a little easier thanks to my list – if something doesn’t feel right on a date or in a relationship, generally one of the criterion in my first column isn’t present. And knowing what you’re looking for helps you not be distracted with Mr. Not-for-you-but-definitely-single no matter how great his personality.

**It has come to my attention that cradles or non-Protestant converts in the Ortho-world have not heard of the Proverbs 31 standard for choosing a wife. Proverbs 31:10-31 is an Old Testament passage describing a virtuous woman/wife. Some women, especially Protestants, feel it an unattainable standard held over their heads while wife-seeking men can never find their “P-31 woman”. It was only recently that it was brought to my attention that Proverbs 31 is an allegory for the Church and Christ. Yay, Protestant literalism!

Categories: Articles, Words of wisdom | Tags: , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Guest Post: Dating in your 40s

Stephanie is our guest blogger today, and brings with her excitement and experience. Most of The Orthogals’  writings come from the  twenty- and thirty-something crowd, but we know that the over-forty demographic needs to be represented as well. Stef does not identify as a “typical forty-something”, but admits that her share of dating disasters should count for something. When not keeping her friends in laughing fits with her stories and animated style, she enjoys the active cultural offerings of her Midwestern college town.

I have a very robust inner third-grader.  My “i3g” generally serves me well; it’s kind of like having an internal fun magnet.  It reminds me of the mystery of how my dad can make open parking spaces magically appear in front of him, and my mom has a sixth sense of when there’s a sale in the vicinity.

Maybe my dating life would be more successful if I put my i3g on the case.  I really think I was a lot smarter when I was about eight.  The younger version of myself wouldn’t put up with some of the things that I do now, things that we are taught as adults to accept.  For one, my i3g wouldn’t go out with someone “just to be nice,” even when not interested in the other person.  She also wouldn’t spend an excessive amount of time worrying about her appearance or trying to be cool.

And let’s talk about cooties.  Your i3g knows they’re real.  When the thought “that person has cooties” goes through your mind, it means that something is creepy–a boundary has been crossed and things are not right.  The adult world might tell you that you are jumping to conclusions and that you need to override that sentiment.  But your i3g knows that things are amiss–listen to her!

Dates:  Most of the stuff that’s considered part of the standard repertoire for dates is somewhere on a continuum between stressful and boring–certainly not anything fun that brings out the best in each of you.  Or maybe the fun activities *don’t* bring out the best in my date, in which case I’d like to know that, as it would be a whole lot more helpful in getting to know someone than some contrived, artificial situation.

Here’s a quick checklist for anyone wanting to take me out:  Does it involve roller skates, bubble wrap, ice cream, animals, or bluegrass music?  Count me in.  A big no:  overpriced pretentious food, excessive air conditioning, shopping, or anybody asking me, “And now what exactly is it that you do?” in a snotty tone of voice.  I’ll make sure I need to stay home and do laundry that night.

What about gifts?  You got me flowers to show me how you feel about me.  They died within the week.  Not really, I think, what you were trying to convey.  But you found me a heart-shaped rock when you were out hiking?  This tells me you were thinking about me even when I wasn’t there.  If you catch me a frog, we’re in business.  (Especially if it’s a talking frog.  No, not one that turns into Prince Charming.  I mean a real talking frog.  That would be pretty neat.)

We should address another adult concept–the dreaded Friendzone.  Kids aren’t really concerned about this.  “So you don’t wanna be my girlfriend?”  Pause.  “Ok, how ’bout we climb trees instead?”  And everything is all good again.

I think I’ll approach dating with my i3g at the helm.  At the very least, I’ll have fun and end up with some good stories.  And maybe I’ll find someone out there with his own i3g–and no cooties.

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Q&A: Matushka Material

Q: I feel like I’m running across a number of young men who want to be priests but would like to be married first. If you don’t have a clear and certain calling to being a Matushka, would it be foolhardy to consider it?  What are some things we need to consider when trying to decide if we want to take on the possible responsibility of being a Matushka by dating (seriously) a seminarian who is open to the priesthood? ~Could-be Khouria

(Note: In answering our reader’s question, I will continue with the use of “Matushka” through this answer. This is not discrimination against those who go by “Khouria”, “Preoteasa”, “Presbytera”, or which ever title your priest’s wife prefers.)

A: Well now, this is a loaded question, Could-be Khouria. None of us Orthogals are Matushkas, so we are pooling our resources to answer your questions.

First, it is worthy to mention that like-minded people tend to meet each other. If you are seeking growth in your faith, you will probably meet others who are seeking the same. For the men, seeking growth might mean they entertain the thought of, or attend, seminary. Thus, it is not foolhardy for a woman, herself interested in a growing faith, to acknowledge that she could be called to marry one of those men.

On that note, I asked a Matushka and a seminarian separate from one another, “What is your advice for dating a seminarian?” Both said the same answer: Don’t! Run away! Run far, FAR away! Their collective point in the ensuing conversation: DO NOT, under any circumstance, seek out a life that is glorified by many, yet a HUGE target for spiritual warfare. If you know that in no way, shape, or form you would EVER want to be a Matushka, don’t date a seminarian and run far away if the guy you’re dating says, “I might consider seminary at some point in life.”

I personally have reservations about a woman with a “clear calling to be a Matushka” for herself. Red flags instantly go up for me on whether or not she sees a “calling” or rather a power trip to fulfill her control-freak nature. Honestly, I don’t know of any woman who has said, “I’m called to be the wife of a(n) _____.” Why do we suddenly let her off the hook for a symptom of crazy if she fills in the blank with “clergy”??

But what if you do end up seriously dating a seminarian? Remember that the best people to dialogue with when things become serious are your Priest and his Matushka. You need to talk about the future in a positive way, but one which acknowledges the struggles to come. Here are a few questions to consider in those conversations:

– How do you feel about staying in the same community for 10, 20, 30+ years?
– Your life is not yours; are you ready for the sacrifice that you and your spouse are each others’ top priority, yet he is given to serve others?
– What does he think your contribution to his and the parish’s life should be? What do you think your role is?
– Is he getting married solely so he doesn’t have to be a celibate priest or is he marrying you?
– How do you deal with others’ expectations of you?

That all said, being the wife of a priest or member of clergy can be rewarding. The Matushkas we asked expressed love for their communities and the privilege of serving. They feel blessed to be the wife of the priest, and they have learned how to brush off the people that expect too much or overly elevate the wife’s status. Having good boundaries, for them, was key. Again, your best resource is your Matushka. Open eyes and conversation will be your best friends in the decision process.

Categories: Articles, Q&A | Tags: , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Danny and Annie

StoryCorps provides this week’s ordinary, yet extraordinary, view of relationships and love. It is not shown in grand gestures or extravagance; the sweetest stories are in the daily giving of one’s self for another.

Tear-jerker alert!

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Piña Coladas, Long Walks on the Beach

username: LiveLoveLaugh2013

My self-summary: Gosh, what do I say in these things? LOL! I can’t believe I’m trying internet dating, but my friend swears this site is good, so I figured I’d give it a shot.
I have an old soul but am young at heart. I love to laugh and have a good time. I can be sarcastic. I’m loyal, spontaneous, open-minded, and laid-back. I’m really down to earth, and I have a big heart. I like to live every moment of my life to the fullest! I’m passionate about everything I do.
I want to be treated like a lady. I look just as good in a little black dress and heels as I do in jeans or sweats!

What I’m doing with my life: Living it!

I’m really good at: making ppl smile! 😉

What I’m looking for:
Looking for my knight in shining armor! I’ve kissed a lot of frogs, so I’m hoping for a prince. LOL I’m a hopeless romantic. 🙂
I want a man who knows what he wants, doesn’t take himself too seriously, and can laugh at himself. Sense of humor is a must for me! If you can make me laugh that is a huge bonus!
It doesn’t matter what you’re passionate about, as long as you’re passionate about something!

The first things people usually notice about me: my eyes n smile 🙂 🙂 🙂

My favorites: I ❤ music—everything but rap and country! My favorite books are Eat, Pray, Love and Twilight.

The six things I could never do without: my family, iPhone, friends, um…I’ll get back to you on that LOL

I spend a lot of time thinking about: romance 🙂

On a typical Friday night I am: I like to go out and have a good time with friends, but sometimes I like to stay in.

The most private thing I’m willing to admit here: If I put it on here, then it wouldn’t be that private would it ? 😉

You should message me if: If you think you can handle me! I don’t do drama. I don’t want a player. If you’re just going to cheat, don’t bother. Ugh, I’m so tired of games! Please show me all men aren’t pigs.
If you’ve gotten this far, you should definately send me an email! I don’t bite, I promise! LOL!

* * *

username: princecharming4u

My self-summary: Man, I don’t know what to say. I lost a bet so I had to make a profile…
My friends and family would probably say I’m loyal, hard working, but still totally laid back. I’m just an average guy who likes to chill. I’m a nice guy, pretty active, funny, intelligent and straightforward. My friends and family are very important to me.
I enjoy the finer things of life. I love to travel! I like the beach, mountains, fine dining, sunsets, wine. I know how to treat a woman like a lady.
I’m really laid back and looking for a partner in crime to take advantage of everything this city has to offer while living life to the fullest.  I work hard and play hard. What you see is what you get.

What I’m looking for: I’m looking for someone fun loving! I want to have my last first date. I’m looking for a good-hearted woman who can be my special someone.
I don’t want a gold-digger, a liar or a drama queen.
I’m looking for a girl that looks as good in a baseball cap and jeans as in a little black dress. Someone attractive, interesting, intelligent, fun and sweet. I’m as comfortable in jeans as I am a tux.

The first things people usually notice about me: I’m tall.

My favorites:  I love to eat good food. I love listening to all kinds of music. I love to travel. I love to have fun. I live life to the fullest.

The six things I could never do without: air, shelter, food, water, family, YOU

On a typical Friday night I am: probably out with friends

The most private thing I’m willing to admit here: If I told you I’d have to kill you! LOL. I hate talking about myself, but I’m an open book, so if you want to know anything, just ask.

Message me if: you want!

* * *

Do you see the problem here?

These profiles say nothing specific, though they repeat themselves frequently—they’re almost obnoxiously bland.  They were created by mixing together as many clichés and stereotypes as I could find, and to my horror I realized I’d read at least a dozen profiles like these.

There’s a lot of words there that don’t really MEAN anything, and many are impossible.  I guarantee that you are not passionate about everything you do.  And if you are truly passionate about wiping the silverware dry as you take them out of the dishwasher, then you are insane and I want nothing to do with you.

Generic adjectives like attractive, interesting, intelligent, fun and sweet are so subjective that they’re basically useless.  What does it mean that you’re laid-back?  In reference to what?  Are you trying to say you’re not high maintenance, or that you’re a hardcore homebody, or that you don’t get riled up over the small stuff? Great!  Say that instead.

Here, have some examples.

Literally says nothing unique about you: I love to laugh.

  • Honestly, when’s the last time you met someone who said they hate laughing?  (I thrive on tedium and have cultivated a superb scowl.)  “I like to enjoy myself” is a tautology, and a particularly inane one.

Better: I’m lighthearted, or I have a dry sense of humor and collect bad puns, or I’ve memorized everything Monty Python ever made.

*

Says darn near nothing about the person you’re looking for: I’m looking for someone attractive, interesting, and fun.

  • Gee, who isn’t?

Better: I’m a sucker for green eyes and big muscles, or I love being able to have long conversations where literature, stories from our childhoods, and world events all intertwine, or I really want someone I can go rock climbing with, and make cheesy knock-knock jokes all the way up the ascent.

*

Says nothing particularly illuminating about you: I live life to the fullest.

  • How many people do you know who openly admit to half-assing their lives?

Better: I love the thrill of pushing myself for a goal. I make an effort to pay attention the many blessings life offers, big and small, and to never take anything for granted. I fail of course, but hey—try, try again, right?

*

Says something, but it’s both vague and somewhat foreboding: I work hard and play hard.

  • What, do you make execs cry in the boardroom and then come home to do a line of coke?  Do you manage 200 head of dairy cattle and the state’s largest organic cabbage farm, but stay out at the disco til 3am? This does not necessarily sound balanced or healthy, and it’s really nonspecific. What does this mean?!

Better: I love my job (at a PR firm working mostly with non-profits) and tend to put in a few extra hours, but I don’t take work home with me.  To unwind, I really love going for long runs on the trail, though I’ll never say no to a fierce game of Scrabble and a glass of scotch.

Do you see the difference?  Good.  Now go forth and fix your bloody profile.

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Be assertive.

I rewrote the title of this post three times before I could let it sit as simply, “Be assertive.” I tried things along the lines of “The Value of Being Assertive” or “The Squeaky Wheel” or “Sometimes, you have to ask for what you want” first—gentler, less direct options designed to encourage you to be assertive without actually making it a command.

Ha.

Anyway, I bought a cheap Goody hairbrush a month ago, and last week I was dismayed to realize that the rubber coating on the bristles was wearing away—my morning routine was becoming painful, and I was going to need a new brush.  I didn’t want to have to buy a new one already, so I did a quick search of Goody’s website and found their contact form.  I didn’t expect anything to come of it, but I wrote a quick note:

Hey there, I’m feeling a little frustrated. I bought a grey paddle-style hairbrush from you a month or two ago and the rubber coating on the bristle tips is coming off–it’s definitely becoming painful. Would you be up for replacing the hairbrush?

I wasn’t rude or demanding.  I still dithered a bit—”Would you be up for replacing the hairbrush?” instead of “Please send a replacement”—and I honestly didn’t think they’d even read my comments.  But to my surprise, three days later I got an email.  Pick out a replacement of comparable value from their website, it said, and they’d include a prepaid envelope so I could mail the crummy brush back for their engineers to mess with.

The brush I was interested in was a little more expensive than the brush they were replacing.  I didn’t want to claim it was of comparable value, but it didn’t hurt to ask.  After all, no harm done if they said “nope, choose again.”  So I just said, “I’d love to try this brush, if that’s all right.”  And then I never heard back.

But a few days ago I got a package in the mail.  I now have a new “Heritage Collection” brush, Goody may learn something from my hard head destroying the other one, and my hair feels amazing.

Moral of the story?  Well, partly to say that it’s worth giving your business to companies that want to protect their good name and that listen to their consumers.  Partly to plug this rather delightful new brush of mine, because good customer service deserves a callout.  But mostly to remind you that you get to make your voice heard.

There are times to be gentle and beat around the bush and imply things.  There is value in that, and there’s a reason we’re taught to do it.  But there are also times to cut to the chase and be upfront about what you want.  You’re allowed to say, “I’d like ______, please.”  Even if _____ is an inconvenience.  Even if you’re not guaranteed to get it.  Even if, even if, even if.  You get to speak up.

It can be so uncomfortable.  As often as not, it won’t do any good.  You still won’t get what you asked for, much of the time.  And that’s okay.  Your odds are a damn sight better than if you just sit there wishing silently.

I still wasn’t hugely direct when making my requests.  I have to work on that.  I still spend a lot of time and effort not-saying things, because I’m still figuring out how to speak boldly—I don’t want to become a harpy, but I also don’t want to become a doormat.  It’s easier when it needs to be said, when I’m speaking up for someone who needs me or against some grand injustice where many voices need to be heard.  But our voices deserve to be heard over little things too, and it’s a good life skill to have in the arsenal.  A crucial one, in fact.

Many women I know are very sensitive to the effects of their requests, sometimes too sensitive.  There’s a link between being open with one’s desires and trusting that it’s okay to be vulnerable enough to say what you want.  It takes courage to speak up.  It also requires paying attention and noticing that there’s something you need, and preferably recognizing what it is.

And too, we have to trust that the other person can handle the request without becoming resentful or guilt-ridden if they can’t acquiesce.  Especially in relationship and business situations, you need to be willing to speak up.  Your mama can’t read your mind to know that you now hate hooded sweatshirts, and she’ll send one every Christmas unless you say you’d love to receive her favorite novel instead.  Your boyfriend doesn’t know that his new cologne reminds you of your ex, your roommate genuinely wants to know what you’d like for dinner, and your boss (or client) will pay you as little as you’ll accept.  Even if your request is denied or thwarted this time, it’ll still be a net win.  They’ll know more about your needs and wishes, you’ll know more about how the two of you handle this sort of situation, and you’ll know you can speak up about more and harder things in the future.  Communication is a Very Good Thing.

There’s a difference between being assertive and being aggressive.  Being rude is aggressive.  Being demanding is aggressive.  Acting entitled is obnoxious and often aggressive.  It’s aggressive to say, “You need to give me a new hairbrush yesterday!”  It’s aggressive to say, “Your company is horrible and my hairbrush is lousy and I’m gonna smear your name all over the internet unless you placate me.”  It’s aggressive to say, “If you don’t give me a new hairbrush, I’m calling my lawyer.”  (Nota bene: There are times when, to protect yourself, you may need to be aggressive.  And calling a lawyer is not necessarily aggressive in all situations.  But if your initial contact is threatening to sue over a broken brush, that’s aggressive.)

It’s assertive to say, “I’d like a replacement brush.”  It’s assertive to say, “Actually, I’d prefer pasta for dinner.”  It’s assertive to say, “That comment made me uncomfortable.” And there is nothing wrong with that.

So.  Be assertive.

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Words of Wisdom

In truth, the Lord does not seek virgins nor married women, and neither monks nor worldly men, but doth value the free intent of the person within the arbitrariness of his free will to offer thanks to the Holy Spirit, which acts and which rules the life of each person yearning to be saved.

Saint Macarius the Great, via OrthodoxHelp

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Words of Wisdom

When we have a disagreement or some kind of problem with someone we shouldn’t keep going back to the same problems over and over again. It’s like when you are waiting for a train and it is late; once it comes, you get on. You don’t get on and keep thinking about when it should have arrived or when it wil get here. Live every day like someone waiting for a train. We don’t know when the train will come to take us away.

Elder Sergei of Vanves

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Stop telling me to missionary-date.

I had the pleasure of being asked to contribute a post to the Sounding. Here’s an excerpt.898643.542335

Missionary dating is dating the non-Orthodox in the hopes that they’ll convert and you can live happily ever after raising cute little Orthodox babies together. And for some reason, people keep suggesting I give it a go. Again.

Yeah, about that?

No.

How many times am I expected to have my heart shattered before I can call it a day?

No non-Orthodox men. I’ve said this before, and I’ve made exceptions before. And I feel I was right to make those
exceptions, because they were amazing men who could have been great partners for me–they were worth the work, and worth the risk.
And eventually it all fell apart because I’m Orthodox, he wasn’t, I’m not willing to give up my faith, and he decided/realized he had no interest in sharing it, and there’s only so far you can go before the differences become unbearable.

It is not my job to convert the non-Orthodox. It is my job to love them and pray for them and live my faith with honesty, courage, and humility. And that job is big enough, thank you.

Read the rest at the Sounding.

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Q&A: Long Distance Relationships

TRS volunteered to take this one as this is her current relationship advantage/predicament.

Q: Okay, you have told Orthogals to make lists of what they want in a future husband. You’ve given advice about where and how to meet these guys. But in Orthodox world, there is a distinct possibility for a long-distance relationship. How do you navigate this territory?

A: Long-distance meeting and dating is an issue for Orthodox singles these days. In America, we are a Christian minority and for those who do not want half of their dating life to be catechism, well, the pool of potential singles is relatively small. Even in my city where the Orthodox churches have great interaction with one another, the opportunities to meet other singles intentionally are few and far between. Meaning that, unless metro areas have some movers and shakers to offer spiritual and social events for the locals, meeting and dating long-distance is a potential reality.

I personally define a long-distance relationship as one where regular daily/weekly times in each other’s physical company cannot occur without serious planning. To me, this starts happening around a 2-3 hour driving distance, for you that might be closer to 1 hour. Basically, hopping in the car to see your sweetie because you suddenly have a day off and/or extra time just doesn’t happen. Rather you call or text to say, “Hi! Wanna Skype?”

This is also a representation of your life:

far_away

One thing to keep in mind with long-distance is that it is still a genuine and valid relationship – regardless of whether the long-distance was before or after you met.  You have to work around schedules and preferences; there are communication gaps. You are still two people navigating that time where you really like one another but have yet to know what is in store.

Advantages? Yes! Yes there are! The lack of physical presence feels like an immediate problem, but the long-term trajectory is our focus which means you need to know how to communicate with this person. When you see each other, there is a definite relationship that has built up.

So, what can you do to while in the long-distance period:

  1. Mail – Find out some favorites and send them. Might not hurt to send a card or letter, that way you either give them something to burn OR your kids find it later and are totally grossed out.
  2. Spiritual direction – You go to different parishes, in different states, dioceses, and jurisdictions. You can still say prayers together, people!!! My boyfriend and I both balance laptops in or near our respective icon corners and say evening prayers. While it sucks if the call gets dropped, a little static is okay because you can keep going on your own until the connection fixes itself. It’s also a great way to say, “Hi!” to St. Xenia, since there might have been an Akathist or prayer of desperation to her regarding this individual.
  3. Let your priests know. They know what works and fails when it comes to love and relationships. Learn from their wisdom, plus it gives them a heads up when confession rolls around.
  4. Over time, be honest with each other how you feel about the distance. Maintaining decent communication while missing the presence of someone can be a needed test for the relationship. Depending on presence or contact with someone for simple maintenance of a relationship is a clear warning sign that something is not right. And it lets both of you know how much whining occurs with impatience.
  5. Yes, the long-distance is now, but if the relationship is hoping or intending to lead to marriage, either or both will eventually need to move. Be intentional in looking for the right opportunity and time, but don’t rush this step either. Keep in mind that one or both sets of parents might be monumentally disappointed.
  6. Plan time together. Don’t wait for a free weekend to pop up. Just like your close-distanced friends, you have to plan intentional time. Maybe you already have the next 9-10 months of trips planned (*cough, cough*). What a great way to know each other is a priority!
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