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What Are You Looking For?

by Jan Edmiston

My friend Lisa is looking for a husband. In fact, it is her new year’s resolution.

 

A Person

"What exactly are you looking for?" a group of women asked her over coffee.

"Well," she said, "I’d like to have someone with a little money and a good job." (Lisa, I should mention is in debt.)

"So you are looking for financial security," said one woman.

"Not exactly," Lisa said. "What I really want is a person who will help me branch out a little bit, someone who likes to travel, someone who reads books."

"We read books," one of the friends pointed out. "We like to travel. If you are looking for a pal to do things with, you’ve already got us."

"Not exactly," Lisa replied. "I guess I’m looking for someone who will worry about me, someone who will take care of me when I’m sick."

"It sounds like you’re looking for a new mother," said one not-so-helpful friend.

"No, that’s not what I’m looking for," she said, getting a little bit peeved. "I’m looking for a person who is fun, but who sticks around when life is not fun. I’m looking for someone who will be with me on dark, stormy nights and on sunny summer days. What I’m looking for is a soul mate."

"Ahhhh," they all said. "A soul mate."

 

A Place

We have neighbors who are looking for a new house. "What kind of place are you looking for?"

"We want a house with a bay window and a fireplace. We’d love to have a front porch big enough for Adirondack chairs and a swing so we could invite the neighbors over and talk. We’d like a quiet backyard with a bench and a weeping willow and a place for birdfeeders."

"It sounds like you want a retreat center," we said.

"That’s it! We are looking for a place where we can relax and live in peace."

 

& More

"May I help you?" a salesperson said to a man shopping alone in a department store.

"I’m looking for a blazer," the man said.

"What kind of blazer?" the clerk asked.

"Mostly I’m looking for something that fits. I’ve lost a little weight recently," he said.

"How about this one?" she said as she pulled out a gray windowpane plaid.

"No, my wife would have said that’s a little bit loud for me. She had great taste in clothes." He continued to thumb through the selections, and then muttered, "She died last summer."

"I’m sorry," said the salesperson, noticing that although his eyes were on the jackets, he wasn’t really looking at them.

"How about this one?" she said as she pulled out a nice tweed with a trace of blue in the weaving.

"I don’t know," said the gentleman, as she took it off the hanger and held it up for him to try on.

"Not bad," she said. "It brings out the blue in your eyes."

"You think so?"

"Definitely! You look wonderful," she said. "Very distinguished, but very stylish."

"Could I wear this to a party?" he asked.

The Question

 

It is one of those core questions of life. What are you looking for? Are you looking for a different job? A new car? A new set of friends? A special friend? A soul mate?

Or are you looking for work that is more than a paycheck. Something to make you feel young and snazzy as you wheel down the road. A group of people who do not care about the kind of car you drive or how much spendable money you have. Someone who can appreciate you as you really are – deep inside.

 

What are you looking for?

When John’s disciple and Andrew followed Jesus, he turned to them and asked, "What are you looking for?" They did not answer directly.

"Where are you staying?" they asked. Perhaps they were thinking about lodging. Perhaps they were inspired to seek encouragement, inspiration or something to believe in. But when Jesus answered, there was more to think about.

"Come and see," he told them. When Jesus spoke, he was talking about life. Jesus was staying with the lonely, the sick and the confused: rich and poor, men and women in every phase of their lives.

After spending some time with Jesus, Andrew seemed to find more than he anticipated. "Come and see," he told his brother Simon. "We have found the Messiah!"

Often when we think that we are looking for – a new car, or a new job or a new person in our lives – what we are really looking for is a new life.

If we are looking for meaning in life, maybe the place to start is by seeking to find the purpose God has planned for us. God can refocus us – it will seem that we have a whole new identity.

We feel most at peace, most at home, most secure when we know that we are doing whatever it is that we are meant to do in this life.

Notice that Jesus did not call people to him – they were attracted to him, because they sensed that he could give them what they were really searching for.

We are a searching people. Sometimes we are searching for a little peace and quiet. Sometimes we are seeking purpose and meaning. Sometimes a little encouragement. Or comfort. Or assurance.

And God leads people into different paths. Sometimes difficult paths. But for those who hear his voice, something amazing happens. He seems to give these people what they are looking for.

What are you looking for? A good night’s sleep? Relief from pain? A job that satisfies? Someone to love you? A way to survive another day until you wake up again tomorrow?

The Answer

We want so much, but what we want is very simple. Whatever you want, whatever you are looking for, whatever you will become – can only be found by seeking the One with the dove on his shoulder. He knows about our purpose in life. He knows our true identity. He wants us to stay near him. And God seems to have the power and desire to give us what we are looking for.

 

Jan Edmiston is one of the co-pastors of Fairlington Presbyterian Church, King Street @ 395, Alexandria, VA. Visit their web site at www.fpcusa.org

Eight Dates to True Love, 
how to avoid wasting time on the wrong relationship

by Janet L. Jacobsen

At coffee one evening we asked ourselves which activities were best as first dates, which were better as second dates, etc., and before you know it we had collectively come up with a set of dates that we believed would positively guarantee true love forever Ė if you could just get through all eight dates with the same person.

But we were wrong. This list will not guarantee true love.

What I think it will do; however, is weed out the wrong ones real quick. Follow this set of eight carefully and strategically planned dates, and the odds are very good that before date #8 you will have eliminated all the insincere ones, totally incompatibles, only-interested-in-one-things (whatever that might be), and major game players. (A "test date" is any date that in some way forces people to get to know each other Ė as opposed to just killing time.)

You could, however, get through all eight dates and later discover that you are each wildly intolerant of your religious differences, or that one of you wants kids and the other doesnít, or some other totally irreconcilable difference. But properly handled, these eight dates will get you way more information about the other person than any other eight dates you ever had (not counting the time you were stranded together at the lake for days when the road washed out.)

Keep in mind that for maximum effectiveness, dates should not be skipped or moved up in order. You may repeat lower order dates as often as you wish, however. Also, this is based on you inviting them on each of these dates. (Yes, ladies, you too.) If you get through date eight and they havenít invited you out even once (and preferably more than that), dump them.

If they invite you on a date that doesnít fit the order, it is OK, provided it is not too far out of order. But you still have to invite them, per plan.

Also, a word about timing. Packing all eight dates into eight days or less is probably cheating and lowers the "test effectiveness" of these dates. On the other hand, spreading them out over several years may be a bit much (but maybe not).

Date One: The Coffee Date

This is the best first date, even if you have worked across the hall from each other for years. The coffee date (which could also be tea, soda, or ice cream, but absolutely not alcohol) must be at a public location, NOT either personís home, and you should arrive separately Ė and leave separately. The date can last 20 minutes or several hours (depending on the patience of the restaurant staff).

Date Two: The Cultural Event

Go somewhere you like to go that has no built-in time frame, total opportunity for conversation, and plenty of things to talk about. Possibilities include the zoo, museums, botanical gardens. Do NOT pick a place that you arenít particularly interested in but think they would like. Being in familiar territory will put you at ease and help keep the conversation going.

Date Three: Dinner Out

OK, now you can go on the traditional dinner date, but nothing too elaborate (meaning expensive), please. Again, go some place you like to go, or have been wanting to try. The only requirement is that the place be quiet enough that it is easy to talk.

Required topic for Date Three: you tell me your life story, and Iíll tell you mine. Keep repeating dates one through three until you have this conversation. It is essential.

Date Four: Personal Choice

Introduce them to something important to you. If you like to golf, take them golfing. If opera is your passion, now is the time. Whatever. The test is not whether they emerge from the experience as opera lovers, but how they handle giving it a try, how supportive they are of your interest (even if they really would prefer NOT to go to a tractor pull ever again), and whether they are a good sport about it all.

Date Five: Give a Party

Next you need to give a party and invite them. Load this party with your friends and family, the more the better. This can be fancy or informal, a Halloween bash, a sit-down dinner, a picnic, whatever suits you best. For maximum test date effectiveness, include some kind of competitive team event: charades, volleyball, team Trivial Pursuit, whatever. It doesnít matter whether you are on the same or competing teams.

Date Six: The Home-Cooked Meal

Even if the party was a formal dinner, Date Six is still a home-cooked meal with just the two of you. Do not prompt them in any way to help with this meal, before, during, or after. Part of the test is to see how they naturally behave in a possible volunteer situation and if their choices fit your expectations.

Cook things you like to cook; if you absolutely do not cook, it is acceptable to provide pizza, take-out chicken or Chinese, or deli.

Date Seven: Go Canoeing

Rent a canoe at a lake. (If neither of you knows how to canoe do not attempt this date on moving water, but a park lake is just fine.) Actually, the less either of you knows about canoeing, the better. And you must both paddle. If only one of you paddles, it drastically reduces the test-effectiveness of this date: you can learn more about your compatibility in stress management, blaming, and sense of humor than is possible by any other method in as short a period of time (except maybe with small children and a car-sick dog on a long drive).

In cold weather sledding on a two-person toboggan might be almost as good.

Date Eight: The Overnight Adventure

In the best possible case, this would be a camping trip, because it requires the maximum mutual dependence and cooperation. A weekend in Las Vegas absolutely will NOT do, or will an "overnight" in which room service is available, even if not used. Meal preparation, advance planning and provision of supplies (What do you mean, you forgot towels?) should be included. You can borrow a friendís summer cottage, rent a cabin in the woods, or a houseboat, if camping is just not your thing. But remember, the more work, the better the test.

And thatís it.

I have "lost" relationships at every one of these stages. And I am glad! I also have relationships that have settled in at a stage and never moved on, which is also fine, because neither of us has any illusions that the other is "the one." The goal is to date with maximum effectiveness, and a weeding out at any point is great because it saves both of you weeks of wasted movie dates, for instance.

Nope, no movie dates on this list, unless that is what you want as your Date Four. In general, movie dates have minimal test effectiveness unless you are a movie fiend; then definitely go to the movies for Date Four.

It is not necessary that either of you go to the otherís house until Date Five, you will notice. You can "meet" at dates one through four, quite easily. If this has started as a blind date, "meet" out through Date Two at a minimum.

Also, there is no presumption of sex anywhere on the list, not even Date Eight Ė which may afford the maximum opportunity but certainly allows for separate tents. Most counselors would say that if you have had a tendency to let your hormones be your guide in past relationships, then no sex until Date Three at least.

If you get through all eight dates together, youíre now either great friends, seriously interested in each other, or never speaking to each other again (which is better to know now than after the marriage vows are said). Enjoy!

Reprinted by permission. Janet Jacobsen is publisher of Single Scene, Box 10159, Scottsdale, AZ 85271

Fishing and Hitchhiking

by Jim Chamberlin

 Dad was a great fisherman. He loved fishing for trout in the clear mountain streams of the California Sierras. He could catch fish where nobody else could. 

  At sundown, he'd always return to camp with the biggest fish that had been caught that day. I learned a lot about fishing from Dad and applied those lessons to an unlikely field of endeavor Ė hitchhiking.

I was a great hitchhiker. In my late teens and early twenties I hitchhiked over 20,000 miles. This experience included three trips, coast to coast to coast, and countless trips up and down the California seacoast. 

I never had to wait long for a ride. I always had good experiences. I met some of the nicest people in the world. Hippies in VW vans. Grandmothers in Buicks. Hot babes little red sports cars. Rednecks with gun racks. Families of seven in motor homes. Truckers with 16-wheelers. Even hitched a ride on a corporate Leer jet.

Many took me home to dinner and put me up for the night. I'd get in the car, and they'd say "I've never picked up a hitchhiker before in my life. I don't know why, but I picked up YOU." Many would take me miles and miles out of their way to take me to exactly the place that I wanted go. Many of these wonderful people became lifetime friends. I attribute all of my success as a hitchhiker to what my father taught me about fishing.

What's the analogy?

The stream is the highway.

The fish are the cars.

The bait is ME!

In order to catch a fish, four things have to happen. These are the same four things that have to happen if you want to catch a ride.

FIRST "The fish has to SEE you." If the fish doesn't see the bait, he's not going to be caught. As a hitchhiker, I would plan at least a hundred yards of visibility, to allow plenty of time for the driver to see me.

SECOND "The fish has to LIKE what he sees." Fishermen know that there are some lures that no self-respecting fish will touch, and there are certain lures that no fish can resist. The fish has to think, "That looks like a yummy morsel." There are certain hitchhikers that no car in its right mind would pick up. It's up to you to give as much positive information as possible about yourself in a very short period of time. That means no hat, no long hair, no dark glasses, and no beard. All of those are threatening.

A clean cut, casual appearance meant a blue short-sleeve dress shirt and cords for me. I always tried to make eye contact with the driver. I always smiled. Sometimes Iíd talk: "Nice car, nice driver, helpful person: youíre going to pick me up, arenít you?!"

I also tried to provide additional information about where I was going. I had a dark blue T-shirt with me, and a roll of masking tape. I'd spell out in two or three letters where I was going, and I'd hold up the T-shirt sideways so the driver could read it. Give the car as much non-threatening and positive information about yourself as possible, so he can size you up and say, "That hitchhiker looks like a nice guy. Iíve never picked up a hitchhiker before, but I'll give him a lift."

THIRD "The fish has to have a calm place in the stream to STRIKE the lure." In hitchhiking, the car has to have a place that he can pull over safely to let you in. If the traffic is going too fast, cars won't stop because they can't do so safely.

FOURTH "The fish has to SWALLOW the bait." When you're fishing, you can tell when a fish is nibbling on your bait. You can feel a little tension on the line. You can see the end of your pole bob a little. In order to actually get the fish, you have to set the hook. The analogy for hitchhiking is very important.

After you get in the car you have a chance to engage the driver in conversation. Be courteous and helpful, of course, but most importantly, keep the driver talking. The driver is not going to let you out, as long as he's talking to you. Get them talking about themselves and their lives and what is important to them. In going across the country, I learned how to talk to anyone about anything for as long as it took for them to take me exactly where I wanted to go.

Donít dismiss this strategy because it seems to be calculated or manipulative. Just realize that most of us make choices based on self-interest Ė expecting others to go out of their way to meet your needs is unrealistic. Each of us has our own fears, wants, baggage, history, comfort levels and resources. If you go for a "win-win," both of you will get what youíre looking for.

To summarize, four things need to happen in order to catch a fish, or to catch a ride.

1. The fish has to see the bait.

The car has to see you.

2. The fish has to like what he sees.

The car has to see you as non-threatening and friendly.

3. The fish has to have a place to strike the bait.

The car has to have a place to safely pick you up.

4. The fish has to swallow the hook.

If you can keep the driver talking, 
you'll go much farther!

As a fisherman, you make choices in presenting yourself in order to catch the fish. As a hitchhiker, you make choices in presenting yourself to oncoming cars in order to catch a ride.

Dad taught me a lot about fishing and a lot about life. He taught me that to be successful as a fisherman you have to think like a fish.

Not planning to go hitchhiking anytime soon? Not even fishing?

Well, then, you will just have to apply this information as you can!

HINT: If you want other people to like you Ė If you want to be a pleasant person for others to spend time with Ė it might be helpful to think like the person you would like to attract. If you are looking for a special someone to spend time with, you will have to think like the person (real or idealized) that you are trying to attract. Understand what would attract them, and make it easy for them to interact with you and know you better.

Jim Chamberlin is a consultant in association management, a professional massage therapist, and a free-lance author/editor, living in Washington, DC. His father passed away in June 1999. This article is based on a speech to Capital Toastmasters 1 on January 9, 2001. Jim can be reached at jim_chamberlin@hotmail.com

Dating the Second Time Around

How Have Things Changed?

by Jennifer Johnson

Finding yourself single again in your late thirties or beyond can seem very intimidating. Hopefully you have had time alone to heal from your loss, and your grieving is behind you. You are feeling ready to move forward and get on with your life, but now you are faced with doing something you have not done for many years Ö DATING.

Dating again at a mature age is not the same as it was when you were twenty. Your values and standards have probably changed. Physical appearance and job status seem less critical than responsiveness to one anotherís needs. Since time seems to be the most valuable thing you possess, you want to spend it with someone you can truly enjoy.

Getting back into circulation will likely take time to evolve. With the knowledge that customs and lifestyles have drastically changed since earlier years, you may have reservations about dating again. Unless you are a man over fifty, finding available partners will require more initiative and effort than it formerly did.

You may have to force yourself to go out and find dating opportunities. When you attend singles club functions, discussions, parties, dances, and outings, keep in mind that everyone is there for precisely the same reason you are. The people you see and meet, or who answer your personal ads, are generally ready, willing , and available to socialize.

Getting comfortable with the new social scene takes time and patience. Each time you go out it will get easier. The breakthrough will come if you stick with it and practice. Think of your early dates as exercises in spending time with someone you donít know very well. When entertaining each other by talking and doing things together, you are experimenting with a new relationship.

Avoid thinking about your possible future together; instead, enjoy the present. Learn to be a fun person, and remind yourself that you are going out mainly for the experience of dating.

Show enthusiasm for being with the person you are out with. Safe topics to talk about (while you are discovering what things you share in common) are travel, sports, hobbies, talents, cooking, and current events. NEVER, NEVER gripe about how another partner treated you. Concentrate on having a good time without anticipating what might go right or wrong. Be yourself. If you say or do something stupid or awkward, it is not the end of the world, and most people intuitively understand. Experience leads to confidence, and confidence leads to social ease and skill.

Find your own comfort level in how often you choose to go out. Everyone has a comfort level, a style and speed, a way of acting and reacting that works best for them. Find yours. Once you do, donít let anyone else make you think you would be better off being anyone other than yourself.

Dating again successfully is almost as much a process of unlearning old ways as it is learning new ways. What changes have occurred? First of all, it is now acceptable for either a male or a female to introduce him or herself, ask each other to dance, ask for a phone number, ask for a date, pay for a date, split expenses, or telephone one another.

Equality is the name of the game.

Women need not play the helpless role anymore, and meeting a date at a given place is quite appropriate. The old trend of being picked up and returned at the door doesnít work too easily if you live fifteen or twenty miles away from one another.

Children could be in the picture and complicate things a bit. The ability to obtain baby-sitting services is often the rule and not the exception when there are others to consider.

You may be disappointed to learn that you will not be the answer to every personís dream, nor will you find all the people you meet to be your ideal, either. Being back in the dating world often means learning to cope with rejections when a relationship doesnít work out. If a person has a preference that doesnít include you, recognize you are going to get hurt at times. Be personally wary of misleading people so as not to cause distress to others.

By remaining in old patterns of thinking and acting, you will have little success in establishing new relationships. The people one meets later in life are fairly set in their personalities. Sometimes it might be difficult to click on a subject. If someone doesnít share your own thoughts and ideas, adjust your attitude. The way around this dilemma is not to say, "He/she is wrongÖ I am right." But rather, "That is interesting!" Try to accept the other personís differences.

People love to talk about themselves and not too many people let them do it. Talk with the person, not to (or at) him/her. As you converse, focus on the positive aspects of your life, omitting any complaints about past or present events. Ask questions about what makes the other excited or happy, and be a good listener. Make use of open-ended how, what where, when, and why types of questions rather than those only requiring a yes or no answer. Establish eye contact and nod as you listen. Exercise caution when you find a subject you both take pleasure in, so as not to start talking like crazy from a one-sided perspective.

Dating skills, like all skills, are learned. They improve with knowledge and practice. At first you may feel awkward, but as you date more, you will gradually notice a change in your comfort level.

People want to be acknowledged by the outside world, and this acknowledgment starts with the person they are with. Every new experience from the people you encounter in the world of dating will help you grow and move forward. In time, you will become more relaxed and comfortable in any social situation.

Reprinted by permission from Singles Choice, 17125C W Bluemound Road, Brookfield, WI 53005.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE:

Observations from the Dating Game

by Cathryn Stephens

1) Dating is a serious sport. Your entire future hangs on the potential mate nervously sipping ice water across from you. Be sure to hang all of your childhood fantasies on him, as well as your ego. This should make for a wonderful, spontaneous, fun evening for the both of you.

2) Donít date men who wear skirts. Kilts count. Just trust me on this one. Makeup also falls into this category.

3) College bands are Godís punishment to us all. The only thing they can do well is turn up the volume on their amplifiers. "Singing to the cantaloupe cooking in a microwave" is not a good song title. Itís a cry for help.

4) Beware of men with well-groomed spiky blonde hair. They reek of insolence. And impossibly beautiful girlfriends.

5) Young men should not attempt to grow a beard Ė unless they can prove that they can do so well. Otherwise, they resemble nothing so much as foolish chickens.

6) If you really want to annoy your date, talk to them excitedly about your favorite band, and then insist on playing only that bandís music during your conversations, and any other times you can find to fit it in. Donít forget to have some tapes for the car so that your dateís listening enjoyment will be uninterrupted Ė for the entire evening.

7) True, you are a very interesting person. However, your date has not been hungering for endless information about your sordid past Ė in fact, your date would rather eat the fish plain, without all your sauce.

8) People who have a cell phone permanently attached to their hands should also be avoided. That is, unless you plan to have emergencies with fair regularity throughout the evening. And they are willing to stop their conversation about their sisterís rash for a few minutes and place a call to 911.

Reprinted from August, 1999 edition of the Singles Network Newsletter.

VISION

"Watching a tiny girl share the joy of a new discovery with her dad 
I realized that none of us are aware of our insignificance -- until another person convinces us. 
We all know, deep inside, that we are essentially lovable -- if only others would accept us as we are and notice us when we venture out of our private shells.

by Mary Carol Lewis

I have a vision: If Singles can learn to accept one another as they are and love one another as precious, then we will all be stronger individually and corporately. Perhaps we can even teach the Christian church how to love!

Loving is not automatic. Love requires knowledge and acceptance. Love requires a perception of the vision, the "passion" within a person.

We cannot love ourselves without these things. We cannot extend that love toward others unconditionally without this groundwork.

If someone brought a beautiful child and set it before me right now and commanded me to love it -- I could not do so instantly. Love is not an emotion that can be consciously turned on. We do find ourselves suddenly loving someone because of something we recognize in them.

But the ability to love, I believe, requires not only a stimulus, but also a conscious acceptance of human beings with all their frailties (and this particular human being especially) and enough personal confidence to allow openness to growth and change and the inevitable vulnerability that loving someone induces.

I believe that a person must begin by learning to love himself.

Some of us have difficulty seeing ourselves as attractive or precious because we have endured such trauma that we fear the experience has permanently altered our appearance for the worse -- but think of this:

Suppose a dozen young children were lined up at the front of the auditorium. Wouldn't the hearts of the entire assembly go out to the one who was poorly dressed, misshapen or ugly?

If we can learn to accept and value that one, we can learn to love ourselves (and others), misshapen as we feel we are. Remember that the good shepherd leaves the flock of smart, healthy sheep and goes out to seek the one who has missed the path somewhere along the way and is now hurting, lonely and scared.

This is one of my favorite bits of poetry. I think about this poem when I feel crippled by my past and unlovable because of all the damage I have sustained. It was written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning as she was determining to leave her childhood home and elope with Robert Browning, even though her father had forbidden it because of her crippling illness:

" If to conquer love, has tried,

To conquer grief, tries more,

as all things prove;

For grief indeed is love and grief beside.

Alas, I have grieved so I am hard to love.

Yet love me, wilt thou?

Open thy heart wide and fold within

The wet wings of thy dove."

This article appeared in the May 1997 edition of the Singles Network Newsletter. The most recent publication by Mary Carol Lewis is Season of Lovers. Read more about this book on this site.

Red Chips Playing

by Mary Carol Lewis

For those of you who did not grow up playing poker, a little explanation may be necessary:

*The white chips are worth the least, and every one almost always opens the bidding with one or two white chips.
*If someone has dealt you a good hand, however, and you want to stay in the game, you must also put out some red markers. You use red markers not only to match someone elseís bid, but also to preempt the bidding and perhaps cause the other players to pause
- or even stop their aggression. (I have also used other tactics such as removing a warm sweater at a crucial point in the bidding - but that is another story.)
*The blue chips are the most valuable and are used on the most promising occasions, such as high stakes betting and big time spenders.

Dating activities and relationship building are like card games ó only your goal is not to run away with the goods (yours or someone elseís) but to make investments that will lead to a successful future for all of the players ó and provide a delightful game for everyone in the process. And you never know the outcome. Each player is betting that something good will happen, but no one knows what is in the otherís hands, or how anyone will play their luck "when the chips are down."

In the dating & relationship game, each person has something to give, and needs to be met, and the potential for more satisfaction than either of them could experience alone. But dating & relationship games are not like a marketplace where the goods are put out on the counter and a fair price is agreed upon and paid. For one thing, the goods may not be what they appear to be. And one of the greatest joys in this game is that there is always "treasure" hidden where you least expect it.

But human relations donít do well in a buy/sell quid pro quo system any way. When relationships take on the marketplace approach, at least one of you begins to expect something in return for what has been given. Some people honestly believe that, regardless of anything else, a woman should feel obligated to have sex with a man who has spent a lot of money on her. Many people look for a payback for all the work, worry, management, good will, direction, money, favor, etc. which they feel they have provided for their partners. But love does not work on a pay back system.

I have some past experience in "commodities market relationships," where there was an attempt to strike a bargain with red chips. So I tell everyone close to me, "Donít give me anything or do anything for me or say anything to me unless you can do so expecting NOTHING in return."

I love to give, and I accept what is given to me, but sometimes I am unaware of the expense of something that has been provided. I believe that expecting returns (equal to or greater than what was given) puts too much pressure on a relationship. So I give out of my abundance and request out of my need. There are occasions when I cannot give what is desired ó sometimes for a very long time. But what I give, I give freely.

I do not give lectures or a little charity. When I give, I give myself." Walt Whitman

Relations with others are always a gamble ó the outcome is never predictable and we always get far more than we bargained for (in all directions!).

So when we meet someone, we begin by putting out a few white chips: smiles, hand shakes, hugs and a compliment here and there. But as we discover that they are interested in further developments and we are interested in future developments, we must begin investing our red chips.

One of the marvels of being a human creature is that we all have lots of red chips and they are all different. What a glorious variety! A "SHORT LIST" of Red Chips might include the following: good looks, musicianship, courtesy, thoughtfulness, kindness, skills, insights, money, gifts, understanding, connections, listening, humor, cheerfulness, grace, peace, intelligence, warmth, cleanliness, softness, tolerance, care, knowledge, gentleness, health, energy, youth, maturity, speed, artistic ability, talents, perseverance, good will, faith, humility, honesty, forthrightness, stylishness, active lifestyle, athletic abilities, vision, strength, wisdom, family, independence, property, presence, awareness, passion.

And my blue chips? Iíll be playing them soon with someone very special.

Season of Lovers, published in 2001, is the most recent book by Mary Carol Lewis. A paperback copy is available for purchase at this web site or at Amazon.com.

Title idea is from a chapter heading in How to Make Your Husband Your Lover by Lois Bird, Doubleday, 1973

 Ten Things to Know

When Ending a Dating Relationship

by Janet L. Jacobsen

Leading a singles discussion on breaking up, I asked participants how many had been the "leavor" in their last relationships. More than fifty percent answered that they had been the one to leave the relationship (59% women & 54% men).

So the majority of the participants had done the breaking up, and yet they were here for information on breaking up. Apparently singles do find breaking up hard to do.

Some folks might say that part of "whatís wrong with the country today" is that people go into relationships expecting them to break up. After all, much-married Mickey Rooney, who certainly speaks from experience, advises, "Always get married early in the morning. That way, if it doesnít work out you havenít wasted the whole day."

Others, however, suggest you do the planning earlier than the wedding day. Says comic Rita Rudner, "Whenever I date a guy, I think, is this the man I want my children to spend every other weekend with?"

But with most singles, what they are wondering about is not the problems of breaking up a marriage Ė thereís a whole legal system designed to do that for you. The problem is how to end a dating relationship.

Some of us made the case that in certain situations "fading away" is the best Ė seeing each other less and less frequently. This is a good alternative when you feel the relationship isnít quite working out, but still has value. By seeing a little less of each other, you may get some new perspective on how to make it work Ė or why it should end.

"Fading away" also has some merit if you have concluded that the other person may react violently to an outright breakup. I suppose it has a certain ring of dishonesty, if you are seeing less of the person because your intent is to stop seeing them altogether, and they do not know that. But with the violence associated with some relationships today, self-protection has to be a consideration.

However, when you are both balanced, reasonable people Ė and the relationship is not working out Ė what makes a breakup a "good" one? Here are some suggestions from our discussion:

1. Be sure you have given the matter careful thought Ė no heat of the moment breakups. Understand what is motivating your decision as best you can.

2. When you know it is over, say so, and stick with your decision. Hanging on until you find someone better is incredibly unkind to the other person.

3. Let the person know your decision in a face-to-face discussion, if at all possible. It shows respect, and helps give a sense of real closure.

4. Have the breakup discussion in private, in a non-threatening location. A walk in the park is one way.

5. Show respect. There is no need to place blame Ė both parties are equally responsible for any relationship, after all. Game playing Ė such as not returning phone calls, or hanging up Ė is not respectful.

6. Allow the other person to express his or her feelings. You can hear them out without having to change your decision.

7. Preserve the other personís dignity. They are still a good person; it is the relationship that is unworkable.

8. Donít hash over old wrongs, past problems.

9. If you are the person being "rejected," accept the situation. Behaving maturely may help things; behaving badly certainly wonít.

10. Negotiate the territory so that you both have time to heal. If there are places or events you regularly go together, divide up your interests for a certain period of time Ė a few months usually Ė so each of you can feel confident that you will not run into each other. Keep those agreements.

Reprinted by permission. Janet Jacobsen is publisher of Single Scene, Box 10159, Scottsdale, AZ 85271.
Look for more of Janet's insightful comments at  www.AZSingles.com 

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