If you are newly single or divorced, dating again can prove to be quite challenging and intimidating. You may miss the comfort and stability of your previous relationship, but you do not miss the heartache that led to your breakup. Navigating the singles crowd can seem like a scene straight out of "The Hunger Games." As a divorce attorney and a past serial dater, many of my former clients and single friends come to me for dating and relationship advice. I share with you here what I tell my clients and friends. I encourage you to learn from the mistakes of your dating past and to reevaluate your goals and expectations in relationships. How you treat others may come back to bite or benefit you later. Below are 10 "rules of engagement" for navigating the dating and relationship minefield.
10. Tread lightly with passive aggressive men. You have probably encountered this type of personality though you may not have known it had a name and was once categorized as a personality disorder. The passive-aggressive man has expectations he cannot effectively communicate to you, and he doesn't know how to handle conflict appropriately. Instead, he hides his anger and resentment under a mask of passivity. When he gets angry at you for something that you had no idea was bothering him, he will get back at you in covert ways instead of just talking to you about it. For instance, he may have a drink with that co-worker who was rude to you or have dinner with his ex-girlfriend with whom you had no idea he was still in contact. Then, to top it off, he will lie to you about it and hide it from you. Imagine how toxic this behavior can be to a relationship. Ambiguity and sarcasm are early warning signs of this type of personality. This type of man is incapable of making a true and lasting intimate connection with you. If you ignore the red flags of passive aggressive behavior, it may take you years to see through his camouflage.
9. Stay away from the nice narcissist. Beware of the man who plays nice in the beginning. He will bring you chocolates, text you sweet nothings and make you actually feel like the special woman that you are. Then, as you get to know him, the tables turn, and he forgets birthdays, Valentine's Day, or anything else that is remotely important to you. (This behavior also ties in with #10.) You will begin to realize that the relationship is all about you paying attention to his needs while he completely ignores yours. Being in a relationship means being valued and appreciated. Remember, friendly fire can be dangerous.
8. Watch out for the man who believes 50 is the new 20. You've been dating a nice guy and you are dreaming of a future with him. Watch out if, by turning 50, he believes he has been reincarnated into the body of a 20-year-old professional athlete. It is great to have a young mindset, but if your man becomes more irresponsible by ignoring basic day-to-day obligations, then get rid of him.
7. If the new man or woman in your life seems too good to be true, then he/she probably is. Google your new lover or obtain a background check. It is better to be safe than sorry. You never know if someone may just want to drive your new AudiTM or dip into your great grandfather's war chest. Disaster preparedness is key in dating.
6. Don't be anyone's "Plan B." If the new man in your life sends you text messages like, "What's up" or "What's going on?" instead of "Let's go to dinner at 7:00 pm on Friday night", then you are most likely his Plan B -- i.e. his second choice. You deserve to be a man's top priority, so retreat and move onto the next guy.
5. Show up and look good. Ladies, your job as you date is to show up and look good. Let the man be the man. If he really likes you, he will want to court you. If you find yourself doing all the work in the beginning of the relationship like arranging dates, texting first and calling first, dump him. He is most likely too lazy to be with you. Laziness in dating usually equates to laziness in other aspects of his life. You deserve to be cared for and sought after. Stand your ground.
4. Never take a risk with someone who has less to lose than you do. For men, if you work for a conservative corporation, you may want to rethink having that office romance with the loose-lipped 25-year-old contract worker -- you know, the type who tries to get all the attention at the company happy hour by getting overly intoxicated. Resist the urge to try and save and/or mentor this young girl. When you end the relationship, her mouth and emotions will certainly spill over onto your floor or in your cubicle. The rule of thumb is this: if you have more to lose than she does -- i.e. a job or career -- then don't do it. It's not worth it. For women, if you are going to take a big risk with that new dating prospect, make sure he has more to lose than you do. For instance, if you've been invited on a weekend jaunt aboard the yacht of a single CEO who heads a multi-million dollar corporation, make sure his net worth is more than yours. You'll arrive back at the dock safely and relaxed from a wonderful mini-vacation. Make sure you provide your itinerary to your personal assistant though because a working gal covers all her bases. A lady rarely gets to a position of power and prestige by failing to secure her perimeter.
3. Make sure your new love isn't having sex with an ex. If you've been dating a new guy for a while and you learn that he is still doing favors for an ex, like picking her up from the airport, then be on the lookout for ex-sex. Your new man may be keeping his ex around for the occasional roll in the sack. Kindly suggest to your new man that his ex should call a cab for her rides to and from the airport. It is fine to remain casual friends with an ex, but continuing to do favors that are normally reserved for relationships suggests something a little more sinister. If you don't want to share the spotlight then leave this guy and jump off the battleship.
2. Be cautious with the guy who moves too fast. While it is normal to want to eventually meet the family/friends of that hot new guy you just starting dating, look out for the guy who tries to integrate you into his life too quickly. If he wants you to meet his kids within the first month and wants you sitting on the sidelines at every soccer game immediately, then this guy many have an issue with being alone. Remember if he moves too quickly in the beginning, then chances are he will discard you and replace you just as quickly. Pace yourself, protect yourself, and and get to know him better.
1. Don't draw your weapon unless you plan on firing it, i.e. don't make empty promises or threats in your relationship. If you promise to do something for that new man/woman in your life, then do it. Likewise, if you've been treated badly, don't threaten to walk out unless and until you are completely done.
Strap on your body armor and get out there!