Tag Archives: couple

Open your Heart

A dear friend sent me a link to an interesting TED talk on love and relationships given by Mandy Len Catron. The theme of love and relationships had already been playing on my mind.

After watching the clip, I confessed to my friend that I long to share intimacy and affection with someone of the male variety. I quickly added that I’m just feeling impatient and that I should simply be present.

My friend replied: “There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have a special connection with a man. What you mustn’t do is ever make yourself feel bad because that want is there. It’s human nature.” It was nice to read her words.

Mandy Len Catron’s TED talk came about because Mandy, in the midst of a breakup, turned to science to better understand love. While researching the workings of the heart, Mandy discovered a study undertaken by psychologist Arthur Aron 20 years ago.

The study involved having two strangers ask and answer a series of 36 questions designed to make the participants fall in love. Six months later, the participants were married.

One evening, Mandy described Arthur Aron’s study to a university acquaintance. He proposed that they put the questions to the test. And they promptly fell in love!

Mandy went on to write an article about her experience for The New York Times. Since then, she has received endless calls and emails from people who all want to know one thing: Are Mandy and her university acquaintance still together? And the answer is that they are.

This may seem like the happy ending that we’re all hoping for. But what Mandy learned from this incredible experience is that there is no happy ending. There is no ending.

Falling in love is the easy part. The challenge lies in the decision to continue loving each other through the good and the difficult times. The hard part is to allow yourself be vulnerable and to give your heart to someone who may or may not choose to love you back.

These are the parts of love that many single people forget about when we crave a relationship. We want the smiles and the glances, the cuddles and the kisses, the electricity of attraction and the rush of romance.

However, closeness with a partner can really trigger you and bring all your issues to the surface. The choice then is to succumb to the temptation to close your heart and retreat (or defend) or you can deal with these issues and expand, both as a human being and as a couple.

It’s exciting and scary to open your heart to another human being. Being loved can make you feel blissful and secure one moment and out of control the next.

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Today, I told another friend about all of this. She excitedly suggested that we ask one another the 36 questions. “Imagine if we fell in love,” she laughed.

My friend and I answered all 36 of Arthur Aron’s questions. The questions encouraged us to share our life stories, embarrassing incidents, favourite memories, fears, problems and dreams. We were also invited to tell each other what we liked about one another.

Did we fall in love? I can honestly say that my heart was bursting by the end of the exercise. In truth, my friend and I already love one another.

However, this exercise highlighted how much we have in common and how much we value our friendship. Being let into my friend’s life in this way deepened my love for her. Answering these questions also reminded me of how far I’ve come, how great my life is and how wonderful I am.

How do a series of questions make people fall in love? I believe that these questions inspire you to share yourself with another human being openly and honestly. This vulnerability allows someone to get to know the real you. And this can greatly speed up the falling in love process.

I’d definitely recommend completing this exercise, preferably with someone dishy. It may just make you fall in love – with your friend, your partner, or an attractive stranger. It may also make you fall in love with your journey, with your life, and with you, the real you.

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How different my life is…

I was watching an episode of Downton Abbey recently when I was struck by how different life was in the early 1900s. Any expression of emotion was frowned upon; the working class was forbidden from befriending the upper class and vice versa; and unwed mothers were cast into disrepute.

As the drama onscreen drew to a close, I began to give gratitude for all the freedoms I possess but usually take for granted. For example, how different my life is from that of a woman 200 years ago. I can vote in the elections during the day and read about how to bag a lover in a glossy magazine by night. I can attend university and choose how to make a living from any number of possible occupations.

How different my life is… from that of a strict Muslim. I can style my hair whichever way I please (and show it off as I strut down the street in a short skirt and stilettos). I can order a steak and sip on a Mojito, while holding hands with my latest fancy-man across the table.

How different my life is… from that of a prison inmate. I can leave my room whenever I choose. I can breathe in all the fresh air I need and stare up at the open sky for as long as I like… I can jump in the car and drive to whatever destination attracts me. I can live with love and determination and hope instead of fear and frustration and longing…

"Man is free at the moment he wishes to be." Voltaire

How different my life is… from that of a single parent. I can go away for a weekend at a moment’s notice. I can stay in bed all day when I’m under the weather… I can decide not to cook when I’m feeling lazy. I can read romance novels or watch soppy movies for hours on end… I can sleep through the night, without being woken up by a screaming infant or a mischievous teen.

How different my life is… from that of a person who’s confined to a wheelchair. I can walk and run and skip and cart-wheel. I can go on bike rides to the beach and roller blade in the park. I can dance with my future husband and play Tip the Can with my prospective children.

How different my life is… from that of an impoverished child in a forgotten third world country. I can afford to complain about eating too much and putting on weight. I can make myself a double-decker sandwich at 3am, after a night on the beer. I can stuff myself with smoked salmon and roast turkey and airport-sized Toblerones every Christmas. I can kiss my family good night without worrying that they’ll have starved to death before dawn.

How different my life is from that of an unemployed father… A victim of domestic abuse… An addict… A criminal… A widow… Somebody suffering from mental illness… A blind person… Somebody who’s just been told they have a terminal disease…

Most of the time, we’re too busy to give thanks for all that we’re fortunate enough to have. To a certain extent, we’re all afflicted with problems and difficulties. But do we ever stop to think about how lucky we really are? Why not pause for a moment to consider the other tree-lined avenues or dark alleyways our life journeys could have taken us down… Some of them appear to be fuller and richer and more exciting. But others are sad and horrid and painful.

Wherever you are right now, that is where you’re meant to be. Give thanks for that. And make the most of it. I know I will.

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." John F. Kennedy

Images: http://www.fotolog.com.br/meninadetpm_s2/99789618; http://mrbiswinning.tumblr.com/; www.flickr.com; http://weheartit.com/entry/18528887;  http://youaretherhythm.tumblr.com/page/11

Crushes: writing your name next to his surname is normal, right?

Once upon a time, Boyzone’s Ronan Keating was my ideal man. I loved his wonky teeth, his cheeky smile, his friendly, generous nature, and the way he said “God bless you” on repeat. And, oh, how he warbled! I recorded his every interview and music video off the telly and watched them over and over, sighing in frustration because I needed to be with him.

Cut to six years later when my crush waltzed in to the bakery where I was working. His posters no longer wallpapered my bedroom and I couldn’t even tell you where I’d stored those self-made videos. And he was married. And he had a child. And he was a lot shorter than I’d thought. And he’d had his teeth done. My crush had dissipated.

Still, for old times’ sake…

And then, not too long ago, these familiar feelings resurfaced. This time, for a guy in a class I was taking. He was cool and interesting and creative. His smile would light up a room, and his eyes twinkled with indescribable colours. He took my breath away. Literally. Like I was so winded I couldn’t even string a sentence together. I discussed him with friends, who enjoyed convincing me that he fancied me. I analysed his every move. My, he’s standing very close to me. He must want me. But though he had my number and my email and he knew where I worked and lived and socialised, he never asked me out. And when, one day, I heard that he was with someone else, I burst into tears. Irrational, I know. There was nothing between us. We’d never even had any one-on-one time together. Now, I look back and make fun of that tongue-tied, loved-up fool. I realise that this guy wasn’t all smiles and flirtations. He was just a person, with insecurities and imperfections. And maybe if I’d been real with him, and actually spoken to him as a human being, things would have been different.

It’s not called a “crush” without good reason. Thefreedictionary.com defines “crush” as: to press between opposing bodies so as to break or injure; to break, pound, or grind into small fragments or powder; to put down; to overwhelm or oppress severely; to crumple. Sound familiar?

A crush lights up your day. The tiniest sign that he might be interested in you fills you with hope and excitement- the slightest touch, the way he says your name or looks you in the eye. His dimples, his scent, and even his handwriting (girls are weird, I know!) make you classify him as the cutest male to have ever walked this earth. And then, one day, he crushes your crush by rejecting you or by not being all you thought he’d be. He doesn’t put his cups in the dish washer, he can be quite self-centred at times, he’s vainer than you are, his feet smell…

Here’s how to survive a crush (without getting crushed):

1) Snap back to reality

If you’re crushing on Zac Efron or Ryan Reynolds, that’s okay. Just don’t base all your future plans around becoming their blushing bride. It’s pretty normal for a teenager to swoon over images of soap stars in gossip magazines but if you’re still doing it when you’re in your thirties, you need to get out more. Find a hobby, hang out with friends, and spend some time around real live members of the general public. A fantasy won’t keep you warm in bed at night.

2) Test the waters

If you’d rather not spend your entire adult life mooning over a guy who may not even know you exist, why not cut the crap and tell him how you feel? Or you may feel safer engaging in the dipping-your-toes approach before plunging into that ice-cold lake. Mention that you’ll be down the local pub later and see if he shows up. Or give him a compliment. It’s not flirting unless he takes the bait and compliments you back. If he throws in a wink, you’re in there!

3) Learn to see the wood for the trees

You may think he’s staring at you when actually he’s fixating on the giant spider in the corner. You read somewhere that if he crosses his legs towards you or his eyes dilate as you converse, it means he’s into you. But first make sure he’s not eyeing up the hot blonde to your left. You wonder why he keeps showing up at your work place, but if you work in McDonald’s, have you ever considered that he doesn’t want to father your unborn child, and that he just wants an Egg McMuffin? You decide that he must like you because he’s on Facebook chat when you’re on Facebook chat. Has it ever occurred to you that the guy has other friends too? 213 of them! His world doesn’t revolve around you. Yet anyway.

4) Be yourself

If you’re acting all “school girl crush”, you’re probably just gonna annoy and/or freak the dude out. Unless, of course, you’re wearing the uniform. Guys really are suckers for things like that. On a more serious note, if you’re true to yourself and act accordingly, your crush may be attracted to such a genuine, down-to-earth gal. And if he’s not, then he’s simply not the man for you. And who said Princess Charming needed a man anyway?

5) Give your crush a break

Maybe you’re smothering him/her with your stares, your constant compliments on their new profile pictures, your texts that (not so) subtly hint at your single status, and the way you’re just always there. Take a step back and allow him/her to breathe. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Maybe they’ll miss you when you rein in all that attention you’ve been lavishing upon them. I know a couple who have been happily married for almost 30 years. The man had been pursuing the woman for weeks but she was after another dashing young man. However, when the first guy stopped showing an interest in her, it made her think about things and she realised that the man she wanted to be with was her now husband. Bingo!

6) Be careful

If you’re daydreaming about your best friend’s girlfriend, your boss, your teacher, your student, or even your little brother’s wingman, you’re treading on thin ice. It’s not a crime to indulge in the fantasy once in a while but it’s when you act on it that things get complicated and people get hurt. If acting on a crush may lead to a loss of a job or a friendship or a marriage, or if it may even get someone into trouble with the law, then it’s not worth it. You may think you’re in love but, trust me, remove yourself from the situation for a while and, like any craving, it’ll soon diminish or will be replaced by something else. Crisis averted!

7) Be confident

Confidence is sexy. Believe in yourself, your good qualities, and your desirability. If you’re happy with your own company, others will be drawn to you, including your crush.

Dimitri is a stud and he knows it. Check out how confident he is and how he goes after what he wants. Granted, poor Olga probably got his number blocked and possibly toyed with the idea of a restraining order…

Dumping someone: kickin ’em to the kerb, but with less violence

One could argue that it’s the dumpee who needs the help but sometimes it’s hard to be a dumper. The last thing you want is to hurt the other’s feelings, you’d rather not face their tears and/or wrath, and you worry that you might not make it out of there with all your bits intact.

I know it’s hard but, please, don’t employ the “never contact again” approach. It’s just cowardly and unfair. A number of years ago, I met a handsome fellow skier in Austria. We hit it off and went on a couple of dates when we came back to Ireland. And then, nothing. We’d had a great last date, he drove me home, and we kissed. And then, not a dickie bird. I spent the next week checking my phone and wondering. Maybe he dropped his mobile down the loo. Did he get back with an ex? Did my breath smell? I shouldn’t have worn my hair up. He could have been in an accident. Maybe he’s dead. I kinda hope he’s dead.

After a week of theorising, I decided to bite the bullet and text him myself. I asked how he was. He complained about being sick all week. But I knew something wasn’t right. So, I told him that I’d wondered why I hadn’t heard from him. It was only at my courage and prodding that he finally told me he wasn’t interested in having a girl friend. I replied: “That’s ok. Just needed to know.” It wasn’t the response I’d been hoping for but at least now, I knew where I stood. I didn’t have to waste any more time inventing scenarios where his sexy female friends had lured him into an alcohol-induced coma. So, I stopped acting like a crazy person and moved on.

It’s not easy to be the bearer of bad news. Your partner may be oblivious to how you’ve been feeling. Things had been going great. You like them as a person but you no longer want to share your saliva or your plans for the future with them. You’d rather study/work/wash your hair several times in a row than hang out with them. And your partner deserves to know this. Well, not about the washing your hair part but you know what I mean. Your future ex will be unhappy for a bit but it’s better to end it now than have two very unhappy people further down the line.

Here’s how to end a relationship (and come out alive):

1) Be honest

If it comes from the heart, it’ll make sense to your soon-to-be ex and it’ll hurt a lot less too. Tell him/her how you’re feeling and what you want and don’t want. This will allow them to fully understand what’s happening and to air their own feelings. Who knows, you may even wind up being mates.

After a (mostly) wonderful four months of fun and kisses and romantic sunsets together, I decided to end it with a lovely chap from Wicklow. Because, despite the fun and kisses and romantic sunsets, there was just something off. I felt he was trying to be something he wasn’t just so I’d like him more. After a good stint of gentle pleading, flattery, and pulling at the heart-strings, he changed tactics. He told me I was too afraid to commit, that I was gullible, that I lived with my head in the clouds, and that I clearly had issues with my mother. He obviously knew deep down that I wasn’t suitable for him. But he chose to ignore our differences, and instead tried to change himself just so we’d have a chance at working out. And it was only when he knew he’d lost me that he was finally honest. No doubting my decision so!

2) Choose your moment

Don’t dump them on their birthday/Christmas/Valentine’s Day/New Year’s Eve/right before an important exam or job interview/on the anniversary of their mother’s death. This doesn’t leave you with a lot of time. So, do it on a Saturday when they’re not in work. This will give them space to blubber and wail and plot your assassination without having to hide their tears and snotty noses from their co-workers.

3) Choose your medium

Ideally, do it face-to-face. Your partner deserves this. You need to suck it up and deal with their shock, sadness and possible rage. Having said that, it’s not always possible to end it in person. Thanks to modern technology, you can also dump someone via text message, phone call, email, Skype or Facebook chat. DO NOT dump someone on their Facebook wall, even if they did cheat on you with the young wan you used to babysit. It’ll just make you look like an insecure, psychotic, bitter biatch.

4) Know that you’re doing the right thing

This knowledge may make it easier for you. You’ll both be better off in the future. If two people, who are totally unsuited, stay together, they’ll only damage each other with resentment and anger in the long-term. At least, once the pain-staking break up is over, you can move on, and enjoy being single for a while. And as a result, you’ll know a little bit more about what you want (and don’t want) from your next relationship.

5) The beauty of the white lie

If you want to make a clean break, maybe it’s best not to divulge how much you hate the way they chew, and how you sometimes had sexy dreams about their brother. Or that their new hair style makes them look like Susan Boyle. Before the makeover. If you haven’t been together long, the white lie manoeuvre is ideal. Tell them that you’re just not ready for a relationship, or you’re not over your ex, or that they’re just too good for you and you’re too messed up to appreciate that right now.

Alternatively, you could do like Chandler in Friends and tell them that you’re moving to Yemen. 

Attachment: Loved ones, identity crises, and negative thinking

This is a big one. Attachment affects every area of our lives. Some of us believe that if we weren’t attached to people and to things, we’d have no reason to be here on this earth. But letting go of attachment is the biggest lesson we have to learn. The biggest hurdle to overcome. And once we do this, we will be free.

It is our attachment to people, to things, to ideas, and to our thoughts that keeps us stuck and causes us endless amounts of pain. Initially, the severance of these attachments may also cause pain. After all, these shackles have had us chained for many, many years. They’ve prevented us from moving forward but it’s all we know. Then, one day something happens that breaks these chains and sets us free. There is a new world out there, bright and exciting and pain-free. Do you want to join me on this magnificent journey? Here’s how.

1) Awareness

First of all, it’d help if you could figure out what it is you’re attached to. Once you recognise your self-destructive patterns, you can do something about it. In the following sub-section, I’ll discuss the different things we become attached to.

a) image

If you’re attached to your external image, prepare to be saddened, disappointed, angry and depressed. An attachment to how you look will lead to pain and suffering every time you break out in pimples or gain a bit of weight. Hair loss, sagging skin and wrinkles will cause you to sink into a spiral of self-disgust. However, if you can let go of this attachment to your image, you’ll soon realise that there are more important things in life than how you look on the outside. Your spirit is beautiful. Allow it to shine.

b) other people

We become attached to our parents, friends, other halves, and to our children. We believe we couldn’t live without them, and we understand that they make us whole. If you feel this way, I have two words for you: Uh oh! People leave. People die, move away, or move on with their lives without us. Relationships break up. Children move out. Friends drift away. This is a normal part of life. But if you’re too attached, you’ll find it very hard to survive a loss like this. First, work on becoming whole yourself, then any relationship you have with another person will be an added bonus to your already full and healthy life. Their presence may enhance your experiences but their absence will not diminish you as a person.

c) identity

Many of us fall into the trap of defining ourselves by our job title, our gender, religion, social class, and even by our taste in music. This is dangerous. And this is why many people commit suicide after a job loss. Lately, many Irish people have become extremely disillusioned by the child abuse scandals in the Church. We were once a very Catholic country. Now, we are losing our attachment to our religion and this isn’t a bad thing. For the breaking of attachment creates an opening for more understanding, acceptance and inclusion.

Who are we without our identifying labels? For a short while after letting go of attachment, you may feel lonely, lost and confused. Confusion is a good thing. It means you are questioning life and your place in the world. Sit with it. You may think you’re lonely, lost and confused when in fact you’re now free and open and alive.

d) thoughts

The attachment to our thoughts is what causes us most pain. We think: I am fat, I am useless, no one loves me, life is difficult. When we attach to such thoughts, we believe them to be true and we live them. We manifest our own reality of hardship and self-hatred. But we don’t have to attach to such thoughts. We can choose to view things in a different light. When it’s raining, for example, you have a choice. You can attach to the thought This weather is awful OR I love the sound of the rain.

The death of a loved one is probably the most painful thing any of us will ever go through. And even at that, we have a choice as to which thought we attach to:  They are gone forever. I’ll never love again. I miss them so much. Life will never sparkle without them OR I am so lucky to have met such a wonderful person. They taught me so much about life and about myself. I will always remember the love we shared. And I will bring what I’ve learned from them with me on this fascinating journey of discovery.

2) Do nothing

You’ll be glad to hear that you don’t have to do anything at all. The more you fight against something, the more it fights back. You are now aware of how you’ve been behaving. So, allow this awareness to wash over you. And the rest will take care of itself. Eckhart Tolle wrote the following in his marvellous book, A New Earth:

“How do you let go of attachment to things? Don’t even try. It’s impossible. Attachment to things drops away by itself when you no longer seek to find yourself in them.”

That first date: It’s like a job interview, only fun!

First dates are nerve-racking exercises. You’re meeting up with someone you hardly know (or may not have even met yet) with the purpose of deciding whether the two of you may be suited as a couple. Talk about pressure! Questions and concerns swirl around your frazzled head: What if I don’t fancy this person? What if I make a fool of myself? They might not like my style. They could be an axe murderer.

I’ve often wished that I’d never agreed to go on a date in the first place. I’d prefer to curl up with a book in the safety of my own home and live vicariously through fictional heroines playing out their lustful encounters. But you’ve already promised to meet this possible stalker/love of your life. Here are some tips for surviving that anxiety-inducing first date.

1) Do it

This tip may be stating the obvious but some people get cold feet and cancel, or even worse, stand up their dates at the last minute. It’s not the title of a best-selling book for nothing so “feel the fear and do it anyway”. What we stress about is rarely as bad as we’d forecast. You may even enjoy yourself, meet someone new and interesting, and possibly fall in love. You’ll wonder why you worried your little head in the first place.

2) Have a metaphorical ejector seat ready

If you’re really unsure of your date’s character or whether or not you’ll die of boredom/fear, have a back-up plan arranged before you go for that drink. Make sure someone knows where you’re going and always rendezvous in a public place. We’ve all watched enough CSI, Cold Case, and Criminal Minds to entertain the possibility of rape and/or murder. If the date is going pear-shaped, send a sneaky text to a sibling or best friend, and when they call you, gasp in appropriate amounts of horror and concern. Then, give your unsuspecting date your “sincere” apologies for having to rush to the hospital/vet/police station.

I went on a date with a German guy a few years back. We strolled through the Englischer Garten on a balmy Friday evening. How romantic, I thought. This shows that he’s different. And different he was. He spent the whole time pontificating about God, sociology and literature, and how he doesn’t drink alcohol or believe in true love. The guy didn’t even like sunshine for crying out loud, instead preferring to spend his summers sweating over encyclopedias in Munich’s library. It was time for the ejector seat text. Five minutes later, I hopped on the U-Bahn, smiling with relief as I sped off to an imaginary flooding in my student digs.

3) Ask questions

Most people love talking about themselves. So, feed into this by asking lots of questions. It’ll also give you a chance to take a few deep breaths and settle your nerves as you allow them to waffle on. And how else are you going to find out if you share the same passion for The Cure and scuba diving? Show an interest in the person and in their job and hobbies. But if your eyes are glazing over and you’re swimming in and out of consciousness as they drone on and on about bondholders or fly fishing, change the subject. There’s no point in feigning interest in a subject that makes you want to rip your eyelashes out. Maybe you’re just not suited as a couple but your date won’t realise this if you make like a nodding dog throughout the whole conversation.

Don’t make the mistake of acting like the next Vincent Browne. Too many questions may make your date feel like they’re being interrogated. Recently, I had a date with a shy younger man. I felt the need to fill the awkward silences by asking question after question after question. I knew I was doing it but I just couldn’t help myself. I never saw the terrified crater again.

4) Be open

Tell your date you’re nervous. It’s more than likely that he/she is too and this will help break the ice, and show the person that you’re only human. If you want to go home after just one drink, tell your date this. There’s no point in dragging out the night for the sake of being polite. You’ll only spend more money, drink more than you’d planned, and lead on the person you’re squirming beside.

5) Don’t get drunk

This is very tempting and easy to do on a first date. You’re shaking with the nerves and there’s nothing you’d like to do more than down five pints of cider. But with this mass consumption of alchohol come the not so helpful beer goggles. This strategy will leave you in the exact same predicament as you were in before the date. Do you actually like/fancy the person or did the booze make you do it? If you want to get to know a person without the booze-fogged spectacles, or you can’t trust yourself not to do shots with this almost stranger, how about going for coffee instead?

6) You can’t hurry love

Don’t expect to feel that lightning bolt of lust and romance straight away. It takes time to get to know a person. Enjoy the process. Also, don’t jump into bed with each other. There’s something magical about that in-between stage so why not bask in it? Employ the delayed gratification approach. Court each other and go on dates. Some schools of thought insist that men are like hunters who love the chase. And if a woman gives it up too easily, they’ll lose interest. This may be the case for some men but if they’re any way more advanced than their primal ancestors, this shouldn’t be a problem. I know of couples who are still together and madly in love years after their “one-night stand”. However, it’s nice to have something to look forward to. And it’s not a bad idea to decide if you can stand the person before you have a one-night stand.

7) Don’t oversell a version of yourself that doesn’t actually exist

Yes, put on your war paint/lucky knickers/favourite shirt/Lynx aftershave. You’re dressing to impress after all. But don’t play games or present an image of the person you think your date wants to be with. This will only lead to disappointment, resentment, and a hell of a lot of work to keep up the façade. If the thought of wearing stilettos and a tight dress brings you out in a rash, don’t force yourself into them on a first date. You’ll only be uncomfortable for the night and you’ll be pretending to be someone you’re not.

8. Break the ice

Do something different. A fun activity will zap the nerves. Even if you don’t fancy each other, at least you’ll enjoy yourselves. Go ice skating, laugh it up at a comedy club, try go-karting, go to a gig. I’d vote against going to the cinema on a first date. You won’t get to chat and you probably won’t be able to concentrate on the film anyway because you’ll be too busy debating whether or not to throw the arm around.

9) White lies and honesty

White lies were invented to get us out of cringeworthy situations without hurting the other’s feelings. There’s nothing wrong with making up an excuse to make life easier for both parties. Once, I went on a date with a guy I’d gotten to know over the internet. The moment I walked into the bar, I knew he wasn’t for me. We had absolutely nothing in common, and the thought of kissing him made me throw up a little in my mouth (true story). So when, after two glasses of Guinness, he asked if I wanted another drink “for the road”, I told him I was a light weight and simply couldn’t handle another. When he tried to take my hand as we walked out of the pub, I busied myself with putting on gloves, a hat, a scarf, and buttoning up my coat. He offered to drive me home. I told him I was meeting a friend. When he still wasn’t getting the hint after all those subtle attempts to let him down easy, I told him I wasn’t over my ex and therefore, was not ready for a new relationship. Then, I ran. This didn’t stop him from begging for reasons by text and by email. “Do I look different from my pictures?”, “What did I do wrong?”, “Did I waste your time?” Actually, maybe lying wasn’t such a good idea after all. If all the lying isn’t getting you anywhere (like in the case above), tell the truth. Honesty rarely lets you down. So, I told him we just had nothing in common. And I haven’t heard from him since. Check out this short film about being completely honest on a first date. 

10) Keep your options open

Don’t settle for the first half-decent person who shows an interest in you. Just because you’ve gone on one date, doesn’t mean you’ve lost your single status. Think of yourself as a soon-to-be bride sampling lots of wedding cakes before deciding on “the one” for her wedding day. How can you find out which is most suitable/tastiest if you don’t try out a number of them? This can be a fun process. So, get out there and enjoy whittling down your options.

11) Enjoy!

Finally, enjoy the date. You’re lucky enough to be in demand. Think of all the bored folk sat at home with only their remote controls for company. The nerves will soon dissipate. Just get out there and have fun.

Singledom: the undiscovered land of the free

To be perfectly honest, I don’t think single life is something to be survived. It’s rather something to embrace. When you’re single, you only have yourself to worry about. You can do what you want when you want. You can sprawl star-shaped across your bed. You can watch reality TV to your heart’s content and never have to compromise. My motto is: You’re better off being single than being in a bad relationship. Some people are so afraid of being alone but you’re never lonelier than lying beside someone who doesn’t care for you or respect you.

Despite my views, I’ve decided to write about how to survive single life because we are conditioned to believe that our lives will not start until we meet “the one”. I believe that we have many “ones” out there. It’s a matter of timing. We’ll meet them when we’re ready and open to it. It’s very important to be in the right head space when you hook up with someone, otherwise you’re going to attract in someone who isn’t good for you.

The movies we’ve been watching since early childhood make meeting that special someone seem like THE most important thing in life. The ending is only satisfactory if the dizzy but adorable heroine and her floppy-haired love interest declare their undying love for each other. Heart felt love songs spout about all-consuming love, soul mates and near death heart ache. Some people think they won’t be happy and their lives won’t properly commence until they meet their future spouses.

And the type of love we’re all searching for is like some form of voluntary disease. We want to lose our appetites and ability to sleep, reason, and function. We want to miss them terribly when they’re not around. To sob into pillows and long-suffering friends’ shoulders when there’s any glitch in this supposedly perfect relationship.

Why can’t the “twin flame” type of love be romanticised? The type of love where you find a wonderful friend, who you’re attracted to, and you live your lives together in content companionship. Where you can both do your own thing and be apart from each other without one of you melting down in jealousy and neediness.

And so, as we sleep walk through our single lives, while desperately seeking our soul mates, here’s how to survive:

1) Be proactive

If you really want to settle down, don’t be fooled by those cheesy romantic comedies. You’re probably not going to lock eyes with your soul mate as you accidentally bump trolleys in Tesco. Stop waiting for it to happen. Get out there and up your chances. Try internet dating, for example. It’s become less of a stigma to become involved in virtual flirtations. Many of us interact more online than in the real world anyway, with the prevalence of Facebook, Twitter and online video games. So, lash up a cute photo of yourself, and present your witty, lovable self to the world of online dating. Don’t worry. I’ve tried it. It’s not full of weirdo geeks and serial killers. Many people simply don’t have the time, energy or lust to go out two or three nights a week any more. And as one guy ranted, “You’re just as likely to meet someone online as you are drunk in a club at 2am”. Even if nothing serious comes of it, you’ll chat to some interesting people, and get a few dates out of it. Another Friend is an example of an Irish dating website.

2) Get word out

Let your friends and work colleagues know that you’re on the market. Not many can resist the challenge of playing match maker. Before you know it, you’ll be invited to many the house party/work do/concert, where, conveniently, you’ll be introduced to “the nicest person ever who just can’t seem to find that special someone”. Snap! Even if you don’t fancy each other, at least your social life will flourish.

3) Nights out

Though we constantly complain about the price of the pint and the local club’s astronomical entrance fee, and the lack of potential in our home towns, a night out seems to do it for a lot of couples. Many’s the long-term pairing meet on the dance floor. Having said that, I don’t think the club scene is ideal. Women go there to find a boyfriend. Men go there to get laid. The men are often drunk and grabby and the women dress provocatively and dance sexilly with their female friends to get the men horny, then bitch when the men just want to sleep with them and don’t take their numbers. The pub scene is much better. It’s that bit more casual and the drunkenness hasn’t yet reached a debilitating level.

Beware- don’t go on nights out purely to find someone. Otherwise, any evening that doesn’t end in a snog/number exchange will be a disappointing waste. Go out with people you have a laugh with, put on your favourite outfit, and get your dance on.

4) Do something different

If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got. So, if you’ve been going to the same club for the last 10 years, and still haven’t met anyone good enough to introduce to the ould pair, stop going there! Try a weekend by the sea and get chatting to some fun-loving surfers. Go skiing. Join a backpacking group around Central America. Camp at a cool festival either in Ireland or some unusual European destination. Try on the Traena festival on a tiny northern Norwegian island for size. Start a hill walking or book club. Take a class in meditation. Log on to a social networking site that specialises in creating a community. Check out Yelp, a review website where you can stretch your writing muscles, participate in hilarious Talk threads, attend fun, free events and meet some interesting new people.

5) Do your own thing

Don’t wait for that mysterious stranger to sidle on side stage for the action to begin. Get a life. Find something you’re passionate about, be it your job, studies, sport, hobby, or all of the above. If you’re busy and enjoying it, you’ll have little time to worry about your non-existent other half. You want to be a whole person first, then you can meet another whole person with whom you can start a relationship. Relationships based on neediness are a recipe for disaster. As someone pointed out to me, “A half multiplied by a half equals a quarter.” If you both enter into love expecting the other person to complete you, expect mayhem.

6) Live it up!

It’s usually when I’m single or just out of a relationship that I learn most about myself and take a huge leap forward. When you’re unattached, you have time to take up Tai Chi, go for long walks by the river, hang out with mates and laugh ’til you cry. You can book that trip to China. Enjoy girlie chats or nights out with the lads. Follow that exercise regime/new diet. Get a makeover. Watch The Notebook for the forty-fifth time. Flirt your ass of with every cutie in the club. Go on dates.

Just make the most of it and enjoy it, because when you’re (finally) part of a couple, you may not have as much time or leeway to do all these fun and spontaneous things. You’ll even find yourself getting jealous of your single mates’ escapades. Grass is always greener…