Lessons from Generations

Lessons from Generations

How My Mother's Dating Wisdom Led to a Successful Engagement

One of my clients came to her session last Thursday night and announced that our project of getting her engaged was officially successful.  She joyfully showed off her beautiful ring and told me all the details. She reminded me that it took only seven months to accomplish. I had promised her that she would have results if she followed my coaching.

My client is a petite woman in her 30s. She works for a corporate business and has a divorced mom who lives nearby. Her father has been out of the picture for a long time. She started sessions with me because she was disappointed in the array of boyfriends she has had over the years. She wanted a serious relationship that leads to marriage and ideally a family.

So, I gave her instructions. She already knew the guy she was dating did not fit in her future. That is important information. I told her he is history. She needs to start dating, really dating.  Dating means you have three men on your calendar at all times. You spend time with each one for conversation and getting to know his interests, his values, his personal story while you share about yourself. As soon as you know a man is not your man, he is off your calendar.  It is not a judgment. It is the reality of temperament, interests and values and how important those affinities are to partnership.

Then you add someone new to your calendar to keep the number of men you are dating at 3. The purpose of this is to not get attached to any one man. Also, I coach that sex is off the table until you realize who is your life partner. I am not a prude. Sex is awesome and bonds couples. That is the wonder of sex and the challenge. It is not smart to bond with someone who is not your life partner. It is a waste of your time and affects your biological clock.

Men can follow these same directions. It works both ways.  If you are single, this is a good time to be contemplating this kind of project because there are a lot of single adults who are lonely and wanting a partner. Covid has slowed down the progress of connecting, and the national marriage statistics are way down. From what I hear in my office, men want a life partner as much as women do.

I learned this approach from my mother and I saw her live this. She initially married a handsome man in a World War II uniform, had a baby (me), and then divorced him because he was not a responsible adult. She had no idea what she was looking for in a man when she married him.  She did not grow up with a father. All the men were at war when she became an older teen. She had no experience in dating.

I remember being a little girl, from kindergarten to second grade, and seeing the various men who would come to pick mom up and take her out.  There were always new faces, and they would always make sure to be nice to the kid (me). She dated like that for a couple of years.

Then there was a weekend retreat that my mother decided to go on in New Hampshire. At the time, we lived in Philadelphia so it was a journey for her to get there. I heard her tell the story many times because that is where she met the man who became my dad. She knew before the weekend was over, and she came home to share her excitement. My grandmother and I met him the next weekend. He was from New York and he traveled to meet the family and they made their announcement. They were a very happy couple for the rest of their lives.

How did my mother know in a weekend? I asked her that question many years later and she shared many of her observations and evaluation of the man who would become her beloved. It was obvious that she had learned what she was looking for in a man. She knew herself and what was important to her in the way of character and maturity. She chose a man who was similar in temperament to her in important ways, but also different. The way he was different was an important balance to her. She was not analytical about it; she just knew what was right for her.

My story is a variation of my mother’s process. I started having boyfriends in sixth grade. Not heavy, deep and real boyfriends, but my education started early.  By the time I finished high school, I had had four boyfriends, one of whom was a special guy. When I went off to college, I was still dating my high school guy, and I met a new boyfriend that tested my judgment about who is right for me. I was unsure and realized that both men were good men, but neither were my man.

When I met Michael, and I met him through my philosophy professor and mentor, I knew within two months that he was my guy. We had deep conversations; we did a community project together that involved spending time together. He is a very kind and responsible man. We read the same books and had similar and different interests. Michael is a science guy who is interested in philosophy and psychology. I am a psychology and philosophy person who is happy to hear that the latest science sounds more like spirituality.

I might not have said it the way I am saying it now, but the connection was so obviously right to me that I just knew. And, I knew all this at the age of 19.  I contend it was the product of my research with men and learning about myself at the same time. My message is that it is not smart to spend years in a relationship that you are not sure is your future. You want to meet many prospective partners and learn about yourself and what you want. If you are not sure about someone you are dating, then you need to be dating others at the same time. That is the essence of my coaching.

I wish you all love in a partnership that bonds your hearts, grows your mind, and improves your character over time. It is great to have friends, but partnership is a bigger ballgame. The proof is the 80-year Harvard study of adult development that shows married couples live longer and accomplish more personal integration and maturity than single adults. I invite you to practice my dating instructions. I am happy to hear from you about your progress.