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May 2010

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Ask Our Coaches: 
What's the Biggest Dating Mistake?

"... and what can be done to avoid it?"

This column answers questions submitted by our readers. Submit your questions to who will forward them to our coaches all over the world. Each issue, we'll publish a few answers from our RCI coaches.

Dear Coaches,

What's the biggest mistake singles make when it comes to dating?

Tara Kachaturoff, Editor, Relationship Coaching Institute

Mari responds …

One dating mistake singles make is continuously looking to a partner for fulfillment; that is, believing someone else has the ability to complete them -- allocating their happiness to someone else. This path always disappoints because no one has the ability to satisfy or fulfill us as well as we can ourselves.

When singles operate through the lens of this limiting mind-set, often life and their enjoyment of it is placed on hold. Every situation is weighed and seen through the filters of "single" and "couple." "I can't go to that party, that movie, that trip . . . by myself. I'll be alone!" These thoughts diminish them; opportunities that abound for fun and relaxation, or whatever might present itself are then wasted and never realized. They tuck themselves within themselves -- like turtles -- and stay hidden from the world.

The remedy for this? Self-coaching. Try it for thirty days. Every thought we think bears fruit when combined with enough energy and emotion. Complimenting ourselves on our uniqueness must take the place of berating ourselves. Over time, when done with enough persistence, we'll believe we're capable of doing anything in our wondrous state, and deserving of happiness and joy with another individual.

Mari Lyles | 301.249.0979

Lisa responds …

Becoming an exclusive couple too soon is likely the biggest mistake a dating single can make. Although a monogamous relationship holds great appeal to those who seek one, taking shortcuts to get there is risky. You wouldn't build a home without a foundation, so don't do the same with a relationship.

Committing too soon could be the result of being caught up in the exhilaration of chemical attraction. Those thrills that feel so good at first might actually postpone discovery of incompatibility by compromising objectivity. You might have sex soon after committing and find yourself invested in a way that would not come about if sex had been postponed. You might ignore negative character flaws even if they are glaring because you want to avoid the discomfort of a break-up. Worst of all, you might miss a better suited partner because you got locked in too soon.

To increase your chances of finding the right partner, date several people at once because having options keeps your dating lens clear. When you do settle upon one individual, move slowly, including in the bedroom. Take your time to be sure this new relationship is truly ideal for you.

Lisa Manyoky | | 609.890.6645

Maeve responds …

The biggest mistake singles make when it comes to dating is not being themselves. This is a problem because while you are getting to know someone, they want to get to know you, too. If you spend your time being someone other than yourself, they are going to get a false sense of who you are, and ultimately you are not going to be able to maintain the façade.

The other thing about not being yourself is that you prevent the other person from being their authentic self with you so you really don't get a true idea of who they are. This will prevent you from being able to tell whether or not you have a true match, or if the other person is someone you would rather not pursue. It is altogether better to totally be yourself when you are dating, to know and be happy with who you are and to make choices based on your authentic self and not what you think others want you to be.

Maeve Crawford |

Jennifer responds …

The biggest dating mistake singles make is to assume that they do not have to put forth any effort to find their ideal partner. This is a problem because many singles expect the love of their life to just magically appear without any work on their part. Some of the problems that result from making this mistake is accepting the misguided belief that good relationships "just happen" and experiencing immense frustration and discouragement each time the relationship fails.

In order to avoid this way of thinking, it is important for singles to take responsibility for their love relationships just like they would for their career, health, and finances. Singles should become an active participant in their quest for love by first taking the time to learn more about themselves and identifying the things that are most important to them in a relationship. When singles are clear and committed to their vision and goals, dating can be more effective. And once singles begin revealing their true self to others, they will have the most success in finding a partner who is right for them.

Jennifer Fraser, CRC | | 301.875.6936

Randy responds …

The biggest mistake singles make is not becoming knowledgeable about relationship pitfalls. Love is a minefield. Love is so important to life, it is a shame to see it blown up by lack of information. It is possible to navigate the minefield of love, but only if you know where the hidden bombs are.

Singles try to go through the minefield aided only by their own desires and the (mis)guidance of friends. Sooner or later (usually later) the relationship or marriage fails. They do the same thing again, somewhat more cautiously, but they make the same mistakes and get the same result. In the end they avoid relationships or settle for unfulfilling ones.

There are tons of pitfalls. Making wrong choices, succumbing to cultural conditioning, holding tight to limiting beliefs, failing to prioritize needs, etc. All these things, and more, are lurking in the dark to frustrate your dating efforts!

The solution is to become knowledgeable. Read books, take classes, and get coaching. Look for a variety of sources that challenge you to take risks outside your comfort zone. Staying within a narrow path usually leads to a dead end. "The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom." (William Blake)

Randy Hurlburt |

Feature Article:
The Three Stages of Love

by Michelle E. Vasquez, MS, LPC,

Dr. Helen Fisher's research on how the brain changes when a person is in love revealed three stages people go through in the process from initial lust to producing a long-term relationship. The three stages of love include lust, attraction, and attachment. Each stage is distinct, with different hormones being released in the brain. These hormones serve a variety of functions to get us to mate and to form lasting relationships.

Dr. Fisher had her subjects scanned with an MRI. She discovered that the hormones the brain releases during these three stages look an awful lot like your brain on drugs. If after reading this article you want to know more, I highly recommend her book about this research, Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love.

Stage One: Lust

The hormones in your brain have an agenda: to get you to mate, thus propagating the species. "Be fruitful and multiply" is a command the brain gives you. You don't have a choice here; these feelings and reactions are involuntary and powerful.

When you are in an environment with the opposite sex, you release pheromones, the chemicals your brain emits to attract a partner. You don't do this consciously; your brain does it for you. Your brain also senses the pheromones someone else is releasing, thus paving the way for lust. Testosterone is increasing your sexual desire and your sex drive. In men, the testosterone increases. Women get a dose of both testosterone and estrogen.

Of course, just because the brain is releasing hormones to get you to respond by mating, doesn't mean you have to obey blindly. As a conscious dater, you know that giving into lust without considering whether the object of your lust is an appropriate love interest can have serious, if not devastating, consequences.

Stage Two: Attraction

I'm sure you have felt the rush of attraction to someone, so you know what it's like. You have probably expressed feeling "high" or "on top of the world." Countless songs have been written about the feeling of being in love. Can't sleep, can't eat, can't concentrate…it must be love. What you're experiencing is attraction. It's the chemistry that happens when you find that you and another person have created a spark together. Or, sometimes, it's a spark that only you feel.

During this stage, the brain releases some more hormones. Dopamine and norepinephrine are natural mood enhancers, affecting the pleasure centers of the brain. Phenylethylamine (PEA) is a natural amphetamine. It also makes you feel good, giving you that "high" you may have experienced when you have felt attracted to someone.

Adrenaline, the same hormone that has sometimes allowed people to become much stronger than normal during a time of high stress, is present during this stage. This may be why you don't need to eat or sleep as much. It allows you to function in your daily tasks after staying up way too late with the one to whom you're attracted.

A word of caution: this stage may make you feel a bit crazy. Your judgment will be a bit off. If your family and friends don't approve of the person you are attracted to, you may ignore them or even become angry when they suggest you slow down or take a good look at your situation.

You may even ignore blatant warning signs. If you see the signs that your love interest is inappropriate for you, you may begin to make excuses for her/his behavior or minimize it. You may think, "That will change once we're married," or "It's just a phase he/she will grow out of."

I know you're having fun and you feel really good in this stage. Still, I urge you to pay attention to those nagging red flags. Listen to your family and friends. Resist the urge to ignore their advice or to think, "They're just jealous."

Stage Three: Attachment

During the third stage, you feel bonded to your love interest. You feel you can trust the person you are attached to. Life is great and the two of you are progressing toward a relationship as a couple.

Hopefully the two of you have taken the time to get to know each other, but even if you haven't, sexual intimacy can bond you to each other. The hormone oxytocin affects the hypothalamus, creating emotions. It has been referred to as the "cuddle drug."

When a woman reaches orgasm, she produces oxytocin. As a result most women will become bonded sexually to their partner when this happens. Men release vasopressin during orgasm and this leads to bonding behavior in males. As a caution to women, this bonding is stronger for females, in general, which is why women must be even more cautious.

What does all of this mean for you?

Your brain doesn't care whether the person in front of you will be a good life partner, nor does it care whether you are happy in a relationship; it only cares about the survival of the species. It's up to you to choose carefully, balancing your knowledge and judgment with what you feel when you meet someone with whom you have great chemistry. It's important you do not let your emotions and attraction for someone override your common sense. Your success and happiness in relationships depends on your choices!

Two Cautionary Tales:

As a conscious dater, I would never want you to end up in the situation I see repeatedly with some of the couples with whom I work. One of the most heartbreaking situations is working with couples who should never have gotten together in the first place.

With one couple, when I asked a typical question about how they got together, they said that they had met at a bar, had sex the same night, and then he moved into her place within the week. They wondered why they could not get along. The sad truth was that they had nothing in common but great sex, which was not so great now that they were fighting all the time.

Another couple had gotten together because of great chemistry (lust) and the man told me, "The sex is great. The problem is, I love her, but I'm not in love with her." The woman added, "We argue all the time except when we're in bed." The more we talked, the clearer it became that they were confusing lust with love.

Great sex won't keep a couple together. What makes my work so painful with these couples is that they are not right for each other. They never were. They had come together because of an initial attraction and they had never bothered to figure out if they had the same values, the same requirements, and the same life goals to make a relationship work.

It was all about chemistry. Chemistry alone may get you about 18 to 24 months of pleasure at best. As a conscious dater, if you are serious about finding someone for the long haul, be careful.

What does this mean for you?

When you are attracted to someone, see your hormonal responses as just another piece of useful information to determine whether he or she has other qualities that fit with your requirements, needs, and wants. Otherwise, you are setting yourself up for failure.

Keep in mind that lust is not love. Lust is hormonally-driven and it is how the brain makes the body respond to the instinctual drive to mate. Lust is powerful and there is nothing wrong with it, but in your quest to find a life partner be aware of the effects of lust. Likewise, attraction is not love. Attraction can lead to attachment; however, by itself, it is not love.

Take your time and be aware when seeking the one for you. Enjoy the feelings of lust, attraction, and attachment while recognizing them for what they are. Meanwhile, keep testing to see if your relationship requirements are being met.

If you are serious about creating a strong foundation for a lasting relationship, balance your heart with your head. Most likely you have let your feelings of lust and attraction do the thinking too many times already. Are you ready to do something different? Talk with your Relationship Coach about creating a plan for successful dating.

Exercise: Balance Your Heart With Your Head

Take some time to think and write out your answers using extra paper. To do this right, you will need more space than I've allowed for here.

When you consider these questions, take time to write your responses and be very honest with yourself. If you are working with a relationship coach, ask her/him to evaluate your answers and talk with you in detail about them. If not, ask someone you trust to do this.

Decide that you will stop and allow yourself time to figure out whether the person you are attracted to would be a good fit. Lust and attraction are wonderful and feel great. Think about how much more wonderful it will be when you have great chemistry and your requirements, values, and goals for your life all wrapped up together!

Copyright ©2010 by Michelle E. Vásquez. All Rights Reserved for all media.

Michelle Vasquez Michelle E. Vásquez, MS, LPC, is an RCI Relationship Coach who helps singles and couples attract the life they want and create the relationships that bring them joy. She specializes in working with couples who are experiencing relationship difficulties as well as with singles who want to find the love of their life. Bilingual, English and Spanish speaking. 714.717.5744 

Bonus Article:
Dating as a Single Parent

by Katherin Scott

As a single parent, the dating game has just gotten more complicated. In addition to the usual difficulty of meeting people, dealing with rejection, and dealing with jerks, you have the kids. You also have the ghost of your past relationship to deal with—which, thanks to your kids, keeps coming back.

It's easy to say I'm too busy for all that and just snuggle in with your children for some wholesome family movies. But the desire for romance and companionship is just as real as it was before you had kids, and you are no less deserving. It's worth getting out there, once you're ready and to try again. All it takes is a little planning and a little care.

Your kids always come first. You know it's true, and you have to make sure your kids know it, too. You also have to make sure your dates know it. Remember that your kids are dealing with relationship changes, too. You don't want to have them attach to a revolving door of role models.

Don't introduce your kids and your date until the relationship is serious. Go meet your date instead of being picked up at your home. Let the kids have their space. If your kids are older, you can let them know you're dating—a fifteen-year-old is just going to be annoyed if you introduce someone you've been out with three times as your "friend."

The key is to let the kids know that your dating life doesn't infringe on or threaten their stability or their relationship with you. You go to work; you talk with friends; you go on dates. Keep it simple and separate.

Portion your time so your kids get enough focused one-on-one time. Don't let your dating life take much time away from your kids. If at all possible, schedule your dates for weekends when your kids are away. If you're dating another single parent, find out right away what your custody schedules are. If they conflict, you'll have a problem.

Remember that you're your kids' role model. You don't have to kill your sex life, but you have to be more careful than when you were single. You have to stay healthy, and you have to behave the way you’d want your children to. Don't subject your kids to a parade of strangers coming out of your room in the mornings. Make sure your dates understand your need for discretion.

If you're dating another single parent, they'll probably understand, but an adult without children may need to have things explained. Dating as a parent is different from what they'll be used to. Talk to them about behavior around your kids and about what to expect from your ex. When you're a single parent, you have to interact more with an ex than non-parents do. Your current relationship will need to understand and accept that.

When it's time to introduce your kids, talk with your kids first. Explicitly affirm your commitment to them. Make sure they understand who it is they're meeting. Solicit their thoughts and feelings, but do not ask for their permission or approval. You are dating, but you are still the parent. Your kids need to know they are first, and they also need to know you're still in charge.

Keeping your kids a secret will waste your time. You can't end up with someone who has a problem with children. Be careful not to date someone who'll use your children to get good with you. Date someone who is genuinely comfortable with kids.

As for yourself, you do deserve to be in a healthy, loving relationship. Don't let your past experiences trip you up. Also, don't tell your dates about them. Obviously, if you tell them you're a parent, it may come up you're divorced. But you don't have to subject your date to long stories of your ex's misdeeds. It's always in bad taste to complain about past relationships, and that still holds true when your past relationship was ten years long.

Finally, go for it! If it's been awhile since you joined the dating game, don't worry. Some things have changed. The essentials haven't. Look out for your kids, look out for yourself, and have fun.

Copyright © 2010 Katherin Scott. All rights reserved worldwide. No part of this article may be copied or distributed in any form without the author's information intact.

Katherin Scott, MA is a dating coach, speaker and author of "ABC's of Dating: Simple Strategies for Dating Success." As an internationally recognized authority on dating and attracting love, Katherin coaches singles worldwide and regularly conducts seminars and workshops to help people empower themselves to find love and happiness., 425.681.2620

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