Are Women The New Men?

There is a new trend that is slowly impacting romantic relationships as we know it. A societal shift so monumental, it is changing the way women and men relate to each other. Gender roles now cease to exist as women are more likely to graduate from college, maintain their jobs and are increasingly becoming the breadwinners of their households. Conversely, Fox reality channel featured a series entitled, “Househusbands of Hollywood.” What’s going on? Are women becoming the new men?

While working on my Masters  thesis, I realized how much the Women’s Liberation Movement impacted the roles of women in the 20th and 21st centuries. What started out as a movement to eliminate gender inequality in our laws and culture soon became a complete transformation of gender roles as women were taught to be independent and strong. Women could do anything a man could do; possibly even better than they could. But where did these beliefs place men? What’s now their role in the romantic relationship structure?

It seems men are totally confused: “Do I open the car door or do I not?”, “Do I buy her flowers or do I not?”, “Do I pay for the date or do I not?” Every woman’s expectation of men differs when it comes to dating. However it seems there are still several women like myself, who prefer the old fashioned gender roles, especially when it comes to courtship. Let me give you a personal example of how this plays out today:

Recently, I met a man who volunteers with me in a group. He approached me about going on a date which I positively responded to. We settled on a day and time and I text him suggestions regarding restaurants we could meet. He text me back saying he couldn’t decide and that he trusted me to pick the place and he would meet me there. Being attracted to decisive men, I text him back stating I would prefer him to pick the place as I was just making suggestions. We went back and forth on this minor detail until finally I just ended up picking the place. He then asked for the address which I sent. Then he asked for the cross street. Infuriated, I explained to him that I was not 411 or Google Maps. I was trying to be helpful, but I felt like I had to spoon feed him everything and it was becoming a turnoff. He responded that he “liked a woman who could make things happen to her with her own ideas and plans. He could take directions too as it’s a modern world.” But is it? I don’t want to be with a man with whom I have to be the head decision maker. I like the role of the woman being the support and the help mate! Am I setting the Feminist Movement back by feeling this way or am I restoring order to gender roles in romantic relationships?

Please also check out a video from the Mo’Nique show that touches on this very same topic and let me know your thoughts:

Photo: gcoldironjr2003/ Flickr

Is Having A STD Better Than A PHD When It Comes To Dating For Women?

For the last three decades women have outpaced men in graduating from college in the United States. With women drastically outnumbering men in their age groups, it is having a tremendous impact on dating and relationships as most people prefer to marry equally educated partners. But it is becoming increasingly difficult for women to find eligible marriage partners. According to an American Council of Education report published in January of 2010, Undergraduate enrollment and degree distribution is 43% male and 57% female; however, women account for 60% of graduate school enrollment. So what does this gender gap mean for women who have attained graduate degrees? Has getting a higher education sabotaged their chances of finding a suitable husband?

The majority of my girlfriends (myself included) who have yet to be married, have obtained graduate degrees and have found finding “Mr. Right” to be a challenge. While several of them are open-minded and will date a guy at almost any academic level, many of them feel having an advanced degree puts them at a disadvantage when dating. They believe their degree intimidates men and makes them feel insecure. Rather than being seen as a strong teammate and companion, men see it as a threat to their manhood and would rather date someone who is not as educated. One of my girlfriends in particular hates for a guy to know in the beginning of a relationship that she has a doctorate degree and says, “It’s better for me to have a STD than a PHD. At least a guy knows what to do with a STD. He’ll say, ok well we can do some things, but maybe not everything. But a girl with a PHD, he doesn’t know what to do with that.”

As a woman who has many highly educated and open-minded male friends, I decided to ask them about this. Did they truly feel threatened by a woman who had an advanced degree? While some said, “No” and thought of it as an asset to the relationship, one man even stating, “Not only do I prefer to be with someone who is intelligent but she’s going to be the mother of my children. She’s going to be our children’s first teacher.” Others agreed it did intimidate them. Another man stating, “Yea, she’s going to expect more and demand more. I’m not down for all of that.”

What do you think? Does a woman’s education have an effect on her marital status? How much of a role does a person’s educational level play in your decision to seriously date or marry them?

Photo: Aprilzosia / Flickr

Summer Lovin’

It’s officially summer! Time to break out your sunglasses, bathing suit and….your summer love! How can you do that when you couldn’t get a winter romance or even a spring fling? Well I’ve got five suggestions to get your summer sizzling…and it won’t just be because of the heat!

1. Unplug

As a technology addicted, Blackberry always in hand person, I totally understand how hard it is to separate yourself from your laptop, cell phone, MP3 player, etc. As much as these devices make our lives convenient, they have hindered our interpersonal relationships. We spend more time looking at the text our friend sent us than around us to discover what hottie might be checking us out! This summer, make it a point not to be distracted by these devices when out. Take time to be in the present moment and really enjoy the “scenery!”

2. Smile

Now that your technology is safely tucked away (it’s the #1 suggestion for a reason friends), notice everything great happening around you: the happy faces on a Ferris wheel, a child enjoying an ice cream cone, skateboarders doing stunts, and smile. When you smile, you look approachable. You become more attractive.  There’s a great quote, “Always remember to be happy because you never know who’s falling in love with your smile.”

3. Get Out

You’ll never meet Mr. or Mrs. Right in your house and there’s no need to. With the elevated heat comes less clothing so why not enjoy the view? Many cities offer great summer events which include concerts, outdoor movie screenings and festivals. Several of these events are even free so you can’t use lack of finances as an excuse. Google summer events in your city and see what you find. Then go out and explore!

4. Speak To Strangers

Ok, when you were five your mom probably told you not to speak to strangers which was good advice at the time. Now you’re old enough to know which strangers you should and should not talk to. The cutie by the bar with the drink in hand might be someone you should strike up a conversation with. How do you speak to a stranger? Use simple conversation starters or compliments such as, “Hello. Is it hot enough for you?” or “I really love your watch. Where did you get it?” Make sure the questions are open-ended (nothing that can be answered with a “yes” or “no”) and your compliments are genuine and G-rated (let’s keep it clean people.) Don’t use lines. Just say the things that you are naturally thinking anyway. After some small talk, find a way to close it, “I really enjoyed our conversation today. Maybe we can meet up again sometime soon. Are you on Facebook?” This is great, because most people are on Facebook and there is less pressure to give someone a name or email for Facebook than a phone number. However, if you’re really feeling the chemistry is there, then step it up and ask for the digits or offer yours.

5. Join an Online Dating Website

According to recent studies, 1 in 5 new relationships now begin on an online dating website. I personally know many friends who have met quality partners and even got married to someone they met from an online website. With such a high dating ratio, it’s no longer taboo to place your picture on a site to meet new people. It’s a great tool to pre-screen potential partners before you’ve even gone out on the first date. It will also give you the ability to go out on several dates, keeping your summer social calendar quite full.

Now that you’ve read these valuable tips, get off the computer and go enjoy your summer!

Photo: Lasana Smith

Creating The Space For Love

We may think to ourselves or confide in others our desire to have someone special in our lives, but the question is are we truly ready for a mate? Have we created the space to share our lives with another? Many times we live such busy lives and say, when I meet someone, I’ll make the space. No, the time to create the space isn’t once you meet someone; the time to create the space is now. So when the person enters your life the transition is seamless. It feels right. Like a glove, the space within is meant for a hand to enter. The manufacturer didn’t think, “Well until I have the EXACT measurements of the hand, then I’ll make the glove.” Instead, they had the mentality, “If you build it, they will come.” You should have that mentality too when it comes to having a serious relationship.

One of my girlfriends was great at this! While she was single, she created the type of moments she wanted to share with her life partner. Oftentimes she would buy herself beautiful, fresh flowers or take herself out on a “date” where she would go on a picnic, the movies or even a romantic dinner….alone (which I know strikes fear in the hearts of many, but shouldn’t). However, she really took the time to appreciate herself. To acknowledge her value and self-worth during those times and the fact she didn’t have to depend on someone else to do it for her. When she did meet her husband, she was able to continue these great outings and share them with him. She didn’t have to find the space. She had already created it.

What can you clear out of your life to make room for your potential mate? What activities have you been putting off until you meet…the “one” that you should currently be doing? Think about the type of relationship you would like to foster with your mate and do those things now! What space can you create in your schedule to meet people and go on dates? Is your living space a welcoming, comfortable environment where you have the ability to nurture love and allow it to grow? Where would you like to share time with your mate: art museums, music concerts or a comedy show? Then don’t wait until you find him or her, go now! Maybe you’ll even meet someone special while attending one of these events! You will at least be meeting people who share common interests with you which could lead to a good friendship or a possible romance.

Creating the space allows you to realize that your enjoyment in life is not dependent on someone else but comes from within. No one else can ever make you happy anyway. Also, who knows, maybe your life partner will be perfect except he/she hates something you love: sports, the museum or never buys flowers. It will be ok, because during your singlehood journey, you have been assured that your happiness is not contingent on anyone else but yourself. This will take unnecessary pressure off your mate and give you the opportunity to simply enjoy being in love.

Photo: Mike Baird / Flickr

When Being Great Isn’t Good Enough

I don’t have a short list when it comes to the attributes I look for in a potential mate.  However, my list of “must haves” and “nice to haves” are not based on quantity but quality. Some may think my standards are too high, but the traits I am looking for in another are ones  I believe are not only attainable but ones in which I also possess. Being spiritual, educated, open-minded, loving, supportive, cultural, fun and handsome are just a few of the characteristics I seek in my future husband. For me, marriage is not just about love but a lifetime partnership. This man will not just be someone I live with but an integral part of my life. He should be adding to and enhancing my life and our future. Therefore when I date a man I can’t foresee in this position, he either gets placed in the “friend” category or we cease being in contact.

The challenge becomes when I meet a man who completely fits my potential mate criteria, but there is still something missing…chemistry. It’s the most frustrating thing. Recently, I’ve been dating a great guy who on paper is my ideal man. However, after several dates, I have come to the conclusion that I am missing an emotional connection with him. How is it possible to kiss someone and feel nothing? To be caressed and feel numb? I don’t even dream, fantasize or long to spend time with him.

I mentioned my dilemma to a girlfriend who suggested I give it more time, “Maybe he’ll grow on you” she said. After a few months of trying, another friend seeing how frustrated I was getting said to me, “Why are you even still trying? As a dating and relationship expert, you should know better than anyone else that chemistry is either there or it’s not. You can’t create it if it doesn’t exist.”  Oh, but how I wish I could! Would dating a guy who has the majority of the attributes I’m looking for in a potential mate although I’m lacking an emotional connection with him be considered a form of settling or a mature decision for a secure future?

Do you also have a list of characteristics you look for in a potential mate? Have you ever dated someone who possessed the qualities on your list, but with whom you were lacking chemistry? How did you handle the situation?

Photo: Lasana Smith

Let It Go

Have you ever been out with a couple and thought to yourself, they shouldn’t be together? Maybe it’s because of how one of the partners treated the other, because they constantly argued or simply an energy you picked up on, but you didn’t say anything because technically it’s wasn’t your place to. However, what do you do when you’re the one in the relationship that’s not working out? Do you end it? Do you stay in the relationship hoping things will change or do you stay in the relationship because it’s easier to maintain the status quo than it is to leave?

Recently, I had dinner with a friend and his girlfriend. The girlfriend was very much committed to the relationship, even being willing to move to another state to sustain it. My guy friend on the other hand had clearly checked out of the relationship. He was seeing his future as a single man and longed for his freedom. Problem was he wasn’t quite sure how to end the relationship. He was too emotionally involved, his family knew and liked his girlfriend and he didn’t want to break her heart. So four years later as she’s contemplating marriage, he’s still trying to figure a way out of the relationship. Whenever the break-up does happen, it’s not only going to be devastating for her but both of their lives will be changed forever. Does this sound familiar to you?

It didn’t have to be this way. Usually within the first six months to year of a relationship, the parties involved are aware of where they see the relationship going. This is the point where the person who may not see the relationship going long-term should let the other person know how they feel. Breaking up with someone is never easy, but if it has to be done this is the time to do it. Before feelings become intensified and the other person can walk away with little to no baggage. However, when you stay in the relationship for an extended amount of time thinking you are “preserving the other person’s feelings” or because it’s easier to stay in it than to leave, you are not doing what’s in the highest good for yourself or your partner. If you really loved him/her, you would let it go. Let them have the freedom and opportunity to meet someone else who will love them in the way you are not able to.  It also gives you the freedom and opportunity to attract the type of love and relationship you truly desire and deserve.

This advice also works in reverse. If you are in a relationship with someone and within the first six months to a year into the relationship you sense your partner’s feelings are not as strong as yours or if you and your partner’s vision of the relationship’s future is not aligned, this is the time to have a serious conversation with him/her and gain an understanding of where he/she is. After having this discussion, it is up to you to give it some critical thought and decide if this relationship is right for you. Is it worth your time? Don’t allow guarding your heart to be someone else’s responsibility when it is yours.

Are you in a relationship where it’s been challenging for you to depart? Have you ever been in this type of relationship? Do you have any advice you’d like to share with someone in this situation?

Photo: Edgar Dacosta / Flickr

The 3 C’s: Chemistry, Commitment and Communication

If you’re a woman or an engaged or married man, you most likely have heard about the 4 C’s:  Cut, Carat, Clarity and Color. Although these C’s may be important to know if you’re about to embark on a marital relationship, are you aware of the C’s that will help you sustain a relationship before and during marriage? In my recent blog, “Why Do Americans Need To Be Married?” I shared with you what psychologist Steve Brody called the 3 C’s: Chemistry, Commitment and Communication. Let’s discuss why the 3 C’s are important in building and maintaining a healthy relationship:

  • Chemistry: It’s challenging for a relationship to thrive and flourish without chemistry. Chemistry is the emotional glue that makes you connect and want to stay with a person. Some people experience chemistry as a spark, that “being swept off your feet” feeling. Others experience chemistry as a feeling of connection or “knowingness” they are supposed to be with a certain person. However you experience chemistry, the important thing is for it to be present in the relationship.
  • Commitment: Everyone knows relationships can be challenging with two people coming together having distinct personalities, backgrounds and life experiences. Add to that life’s ups and downs along with spontaneous situations and circumstances and you can have a recipe for disaster to any relationship. Even if there is a lot of chemistry in the relationship, if there is no commitment the relationship will not last. Commitment isn’t just about staying in the relationship but truly being there for each other, supporting each other in reaching goals and becoming the best person each can be. Commitment is also about staying true to your partner. Safeguarding your relationship from outside influences. This could be from family members who don’t like your partner, friends who don’t get along with your partner or members of the opposite sex who may seduce you to cheat on your partner. Being truly committed gives your relationship the ability to weather the storms of life no matter how tumultuous they may become.
  • Communication: Effective communication is the “secret sauce” of maintaining a healthy relationship. It is a known fact that men and women communicate differently. Because of this, miscommunications within relationships happen frequently. A lack of communication is also harmful in sustaining a healthy relationship. So how can we get communication to work for us instead of against us? By having direct oral communication, we can easily stop making assumptions and thinking our partner can read our minds. Notice I stated direct oral communication. In this day and age, technology has made it easier and quicker for us to communicate, but text and email communication is still nowhere near as effective as oral communication whether in person or by phone. Communication allows each partner to share their needs, desires and expectations. This knowledge is necessary in allowing a relationship to survive and thrive.

Instituting the 3 C’s in your relationship will ensure both parties remain happy and fulfilled and your relationship will be a stronghold providing you with love and security for years to come.

Do you have the 3 C’s in your relationship? If so, what do you do within your relationship to strengthen them?

Photo: Pink Sherbet Photography/ Flickr

Nice Girls Finish Last (So Do Nice Guys)!

You don’t get it! You’re loving, kind, conscientious, accommodating, caring and hospitable, yet you still find yourself alone. Why is this? Maybe you’re just too nice.

It’s great to posses the characteristics listed above. It’s also great when we share them in a relationship with someone who deserves and appreciates them. Unfortunately we often share these attributes too early during the beginning stages of a relationship hoping the object of our desire will revere us for it, before they have even shown us if they are worthy. In doing so the reverse happens. We get taken for granted, the relationship ends and/or we get placed in the “friend zone.”

For years, I never understood this concept. I always thought being nice would make me more attractive and desirable to a mate. For the first few months, my charm would seem to work. Boyfriends would be mesmerized by my sweet and agreeable nature. Then all of a sudden, disturbing thoughts would creep into their minds, “Can she really be this nice?” “Does she really never get upset?” “Can a relationship be this smooth?” A few weeks later, the relationship was over and my heart was broken.

After watching this pattern repeat in my life and the lives of others over and over again, I finally realized that what we were doing was unnatural. We weren’t being nice because we were “just that nice.” We were being nice because we were putting the other person’s thoughts, needs and desires before our own. We didn’t want to ruffle feathers or come off as disagreeable for fear of losing the person. So in some ways, we were changing ourselves to become more accommodating. If he was a vegetarian, on dates we stopped ordering meat or if she liked romantic comedies, we wouldn’t even suggest seeing an action movie. What we weren’t realizing is that by doing this we were alienating ourselves by displaying insecurity, lack of self confidence and the perception of trying too hard. None of these attributes were sexy. People wanted to date who we authentically were and we were giving them the image of who we thought they wanted us to be.

Over the years I have learned that most individuals appreciate the differences and even the disagreements because it makes life interesting. So be yourself. Say what’s on your mind even if you feel it may be an opposing view point. Feel free to be who you truly are. Being your true self allow others to have an appreciation of the real you and gives them the opportunity to asses who they are actually dating. Whereas being too nice will assure that you end up as someone’s emotional doormat or alone.

Do you feel like you have been “too nice” in previous relationships? What was the result? What ways do you feel you can be more of your true, authentic self in relationships?

Photo: US Army Africa / Flickr

What? You’re Engaged?

Was on the phone with a friend a few weeks ago when the conversation turned to a guy I used to date. She said to me, “I saw him the other day. Did you know he’s engaged?” Stunned, I suppressed my feelings of dismay and confusion as I recently spoke to this now friend of mine about his current relationship, having even directly asked him a few days earlier, “Do you see this relationship getting serious?” His response to me was, “Yes, I could.” not “Yes, I have actually asked her to marry me and we’re planning the wedding.”

Several weeks later, I ran into one of my male neighbors. We often spoke about our personal lives when we would bump into each other in the lobby. We talked about his girlfriend and being the investigative person I am, I started asking him questions about the relationship. He told me him and his girlfriend had been dating for three years and had recently moved in together. Intrigued I asked him, “So are you thinking about marriage? Are you saving up for the ring?” to which unlike my friend above he responded, “Yes, we’re actually engaged. We’re clearing out our personal debt so we can be financially prepared for the wedding.” Again, I was astonished. I have had several conversations with this guy and never once did he call his lady his “fiancée” only his girlfriend. I had no idea the relationship was at that place.

There was even a time when I was speaking to an ex-boyfriend about the commitment level of his relationship when he referred to his fiancée as simply his “roommate.” How was I supposed to know he was engaged?

If that’s not enough, I have even started to notice that when my guy friends are engaged, they either will not display their relationship status on Facebook or it will simply only say “in a relationship.” Very few of my male friends change their Facebook relationship display or relationship status until they are actually married.

When a woman is engaged, it is a major deal. She usually has a physical symbol of her impending union to show and tell all of her friends and family and her Facebook relationship status seems to change almost immediately. However, from my observation, it seems to be the total opposite for men.

Guys- Why does it seem so difficult for you to reveal your relationship status as “engaged?” Is it because you still want to “have your cake and eat it too” before making the “ultimate commitment?” Is it you would like to continue enjoying the benefits of being single before you say your vows? And how is a single girl supposed to know if a guy is about be betrothed if he fails to mention it to her? Does she need to wait until after he’s said “I Do” to know the truth?

Photo: Lasana Smith

If Engaged, Am I Still Single?

“Lasana, I have a question for you” said my friend on the phone to me this week. “I was having a battle of the sexes debate with some friends a few weeks ago and someone asked the question, ‘If I am engaged am I still single?’ The pro-single debaters argued that on your taxes, it doesn’t say anything about engaged. The marital status boxes read ‘single, married, divorced or widowed.’ Further defending their point, they explained there are several people who will still engage in intimate activities with an engaged person who may not do so with a married person. The anti-single debaters criticized these comments responding if a person has told someone they want to spend the rest of their life with them, they should no longer see themselves as single and hold themselves accountable to their partners.” “So Lasana,” my friend continued, “in your opinion, which group is right?”

Taking the points of both sides under consideration, I decided I most agreed with the pro-single debaters. It is a fact that until an individual is married the government formerly recognizes that person as single. No vows have been taken and no official papers have been signed. Engagement is the final stage a couple enters before officially merging their lives and assets together. It is the stage when the relationship should go through a final evaluation. Any lingering questions should be asked. Arising issues should be discussed. Compromises that will benefit both parties should be made. Engagement is not a stage that should be taken lightly. Successful completion of this stage will yield a strong foundation for a fruitful marriage. Conversely, this stage can also cause the dissolution of a relationship. Although it may be painful, I strongly feel it is better for a relationship to disband during the engagement stage than deal with the complex emotional, financial and legal ramifications of a divorce.

The anti-single debaters did have a major point I agreed with. If an individual has told their partner they would like to spend the rest of their life with them, then emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually they should be preparing themselves to make that commitment. In doing so, they should be as accountable to their partner as they would want their partner to be to them. If an individual thinks it is still acceptable to date or see other people intimately while engaged, my question would be to this individual “Is your partner aware of this? Would you find this behavior acceptable from your partner?” If the answer to either of those questions is “No” then it is glaringly clear the behavior is unacceptable. The idea of “what my partner doesn’t know won’t hurt them” or “until I take those vows, I’m still completely single” is setting the future marriage up at a disadvantage because that individual is being deceitful to their partner. Secrets, lies and betrayal are not the types of foundation that will yield a strong and peaceful marital union. If an individual still finds dating and/or being intimate with other people of value to them, then they should remain single. It is unreasonable to partially commit to another person. In this case, engagement and marriage should be delayed until both parties are fully ready.

Which side are you on? If a person is engaged, are you pro-single or anti-single?

Photo: Lemonjenny/ Flickr