Dating and relationship advice from Susan Dunhoff, professional matchmaker and relationship adviser, and Stacy Polacek, Client Liason, who has a BA in Professional Counseling and an MA in Human Services and Family Counseling. Both are with The Modern Matchmaker here in Pittsburgh and volunteered to answer some of our reader’s relationship advice inquiries.
Our first installment of Matters of the Heart featured online dating safety tips, and we put out a call to hear from our readers with their stories about dating. We’ve put together an advice column answering some of the texts, emails, and Facebook messages we received, changed the names to protect the innocent, and asked our friends at Modern Matchmaker what they thought.
FRIEND ZONE: My buddy’s ex and I have had a thing for a while. It’s discreet, just for fun, nothing serious. I’ve decided it’s best left unsaid, but I can’t help feeling awkward around my friend. Do I owe him an explanation?
Dear Friendly Fire,
When it comes to your friend’s ex, I would never encourage you sneaking around behind his back to date. You need to think about your friend’s feelings and your relationship together. Are you willing to risk it all for the sake of sex? Think of the time you both have invested in your friendship. No matter how much you try to justify this position, your friend would likely feel hurt if they found out a friend lied to them, especially when their ex-partner is involved. In fact, they may even think that their ex was cheating on them with you, leading to the end of your friendship.
If you’re willing to lose your friendship for sex, then you may not value your friend’s feelings as much as you thought. But, if the idea of fighting with your friend and damaging your relationship upsets you, cut out the ex and the sex right now and have a conversation with your friend about it. A true friend would never sneak behind your back and lie to you about a relationship with somebody so close to you. I highly recommend not keeping this a secret. If you truly value your friend’s feelings, you’ll come clean.
ON THE REBOUND: I just started dating this guy and everything has been going really well except for one little hiccup. He just got out of a long-term relationship of seven years. He says he’s ready to start dating again, but he and his ex ended the relationship just 2 months ago! Should I keep dating him knowing that I may be a rebound girl?
-The New Girl
Dear New Girl,
This exact same thing happened to me. I was introduced to a guy at a work function in my hometown. I was unaware that his girlfriend was there with him at the time. He was also the son of the CEO of my place of employment. My employer called me over to introduce me to his son. Did I want to meet him? No. Did I meet him? Yes, he was my boss’ son. I could not be rude. He had a girlfriend at the time, and they had been dating for five years at this point. They broke up a couple weeks after he and I had met, and as fate would have it, he moved back to our hometown and I became his boss. Ironic, right? After accidentally hanging out one night, he and I soon started to date. Four years later, he is now my husband.
Needless to say, I completely understand your hesitation. What may provide reassurance to you is that many relationships become stagnant long before a breakup takes place.
You need to focus on the good of what is taking place right now. For one, your boyfriend was upfront and honest with you and told you that he recently came out of a seven-year relationship. Don’t allow his past to dictate your present. Enjoy you, enjoy him, and enjoy this amazing adventure that the two of you are on together.
ON THE THE HARD TRUTH: I’m having some trouble with online dating. I go on dates with men regularly that I meet on OkCupid, but it never seems to amount to anything serious. It seems like every guy I meet only wants one thing-sex! I’m looking for something serious, but I’m afraid there’s something about me that screams “one night stand” material. I don’t have any inappropriate profile pictures. Is it me? Or do men just want one thing?
-Waking Up Lonely
Dear Waking Up Lonely,
When it comes to online dating profiles, a lot of people only look at profile pictures. My advice is using only one profile picture, and having your profile’s content focus more on personal details about your life rather than your appearance. That will urge potential dates to read about you and find out some deeper information. When they read about you in your profile, you need to be upfront and precise. State that you are looking for a serious relationship and that you will not play games.
You might also want to take better stock of the people you’re meeting online. Watch out for people who say they’re looking for casual, good time, fun people. These profiles are screaming, “I only want sex.” Also, be wary of people who are looking for a date ASAP, late night dates, and anybody who asks to meet last minute. Men who are serious about finding a long-term relationship do not display such behavior. They respect women, they take their time, and they usually have more meaningful conversations before meeting for the first time.
Look, men and women both enjoy sex. However, the online dating world has made it a thousand times easier for both men and women to satisfy their sexual needs in an immediate and sometimes anonymous way. Today’s hookup culture has made one-night stands commonplace, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a lot of men who are after a meaningful, long-term relationship based on more than just sex. Ultimately: you need to take your time and remember you’re far better off being single than dealing with sex craved men.
TEXTUAL SEDUCTION: So, I know people are into checking their phones every second, but on a first date? Can’t people go an hour without outside stimulation? I had a date a few months ago that I never called back because she made eye contact with me like two times the whole night. I get offended if someone checks their phone at all during the first date- it’s almost a deal breaker for me. Am I crazy? I’m a millennial in my 20s, I get it, but where’s everyone’s sense of etiquette?
Dear Old Fashioned,
First of all, I agree with you. I do not find it polite to be on your phone at all during a date. Anybody you’re having a conversation with deserves your full and undivided attention. When on a first date with someone, your phone should be out of sight. Never place your phone on the table, ever! It’s a sign of addiction and it’s basically a signal letting people know that you’re not completely there with them at that moment.
You had a bad experience and therefore you have no desire to see her again. It’s understandable, but I wouldn’t let a one-time experience like this turn you off completely. A minor etiquette flaw shouldn’t be enough to exclude anyone from your dating pool. You’re not running a finishing school, you’re looking for someone enjoyable to spend time with. If you don’t feel comfortable politely asking your date to put her phone away, you could make a point of pulling out your phone, and saying that you are placing it on silent because you want to focus 100% of your attention on her and enjoying the date. This should signal that you value an uninterrupted conversation, and encourage her to do the very same. I’d also make an exception for things like a babysitter or a caretaker calling from home, or for somebody who is on-call at that time.
I’ve been with her for a few weeks. Things are going good. But, last week, after sleeping with her, I found out she has herpes. She said it’s safe and doesn’t want to use protection anymore. Online it says it’s not that risky if your partner is taking medicine. They also said it’s more prevalent than people realize, and not that big of a problem at all. Should this be a deal-breaker for me?
Dear Leery Lover,
You have two problems to deal with here. My main concern is that your new girlfriend did not tell you about her condition when your relationship became physically intimate. She should have disclosed this, and explained the safest way to be intimate with her that is safe for you. She should also have told you if it was active or in remission. Since I am not a physician, I cannot comment on the safety of your situation.
What I can say is if she did not tell you that she had herpes when you started dating, I can’t help but wonder what else she is keeping from you. She sounds like the type of person who is willing to keep important information from you, even if it puts you at risk. This brings up an issue that will be the foundation of your relationship if it continues: trust. If you continue to date her, I would speak to a physician to understand the risks of unprotected sex with an infected partner rather than trust what you read online. Most likely there are ways to minimize the risk factors.
ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS:I’ve been dating this girl for a couple months now and I really like her. Every time we go out, though, she expects me to pay for everything. I’ve tried telling her with subtle hints, like not pulling out my wallet right away when it’s time to pay, but she just stares at me, like she’s waiting for me to cough up the cash. I like this girl, but I don’t feel like I should be expected to pay for everything. How can I tell her she needs to contribute once in a while without offending her?
Dear Big Tipper,
What’s more important than the balance of your transactions is the reciprocity in your relationship. If it’s a problem of finance, there are many ways for your date to reciprocate like planning a special, inexpensive evening in or making a thoughtful gift. The thought is more important than the cash. If it’s too expensive for you to go out to eat and pay for the both of you, then eat in.
If the person you’re courting never reciprocates, this may be a sign of worse things to come. It may mean that they want a one-sided relationship, or perhaps they’re taking advantage of you. Surely no one needs to date someone like that. I recommend that you bring it up and speak with them. There are subtle ways of doing this, but honesty and clarity are paramount in any relationship, and this is a good place to start.
ANGER ISSUES: This guy I’ve been dating for six months has a bit of a temper. It’s never out of control, but super uncomfortable when it happens. The first time, we were in the car and someone cut us off and he slammed the steering wheel and yelled. He also got in a screaming match at a bar last week when some guy spilled his drink at the table I was at. What can I do to get him to calm down? I don’t want to tell him to go to therapy if it’s not too serious. Meditation? Breathing exercises? Help!
Dear Chill Pill,
Run as fast as you can! A temper is a bad sign and I recommend that you get away from this man as soon as possible. It sounds as though he has a very short fuse over trivial things, which is a sign that he most likely has anger management issues. You are not safe around a man who cannot control his temper because one day his target may be you. No one should have to fear that they may be treated in an abusive way, whether it is emotional abuse or physical abuse. No form of abuse is acceptable in any way at any level!
You need to meet people who are even-tempered. If you have to tell a person to go to therapy because they’re scaring you, then you shouldn’t be dating them. This is about having respect for yourself and making sure your partner holds the same level of respect for you, too. You deserve better than staying with an abusive person that you feel the need to change or fix.