Friday, October 22, 2010

SR Nuts & Bolts: Dating Around an Active Theme

The family holiday scene, left, represents a variety of cooperative and collaborative dynamics. Those dynamics contribute to make the event a success--or a disappointment. Some of the dynamics represented there are complex and demanding. Others are simple and comparatively "free"--all a person had to do was "show up."
In general relationships are about cooperation and collaboration.
Of course cooperation and collaboration can happen at many levels. Cooperation on a championship football team, for example, requires a high degree of complex behavioral dedication to a collaborative effort. By comparison, your daily relationship to your neighbor, although you share some geographic proximity, may require little cooperative or collaborative energy at all.

In my book,
Smarter Romance,
I discuss the merits of people dating around some mutually agreed upon themes. I encourage dating partners to think of themselves as a team. SR helps couples explore the merits for dedicating themselves, from the very beginning of a dating relationship, to the idea of working together as teammates. Consequently, their initial shared goal is about getting to know each other just well enough to launch into a shared project. They do so with the understanding that they will learn a lot more about each other in the process of working together.

The "getting to know each other" process enlists teammates immediate and active dedication to accomplish something constructive
--something they can have fun accomplishing as a team. I call these constructive events "projects," and they can be as simple as building and flying a kite, tag-reading through a book together, or planning a surprise birthday party for a mutual friend. On the other hand they might be comparatively more complex, like planning and then coordinating a big, fun happening for friends, volunteering together to help build a house through Habitat for Humanity, or orchestrating a cross-country trip.

So, the agenda for your first date is already set.
It's specific and simple: Get initially acquainted by asking each other a lot of good questions! (Of course you can do this over coffee or dinner or...?) The idea at this point is to discuss the things you both like; discover what kinds of things you are each into? This initial effort shouldn't take more than an hour or two and the information will help you get a sense for the kinds of creative projects you might want to set-up and tackle together as a team. Perhaps you realize after even this first date, "Nope, I really don't want to spend any more time with this person." That's real; it's OK.

If you decide on a second date together, your agenda is effectively set. You can meet to firm up what you want to do and how you want to do it together, or you can launch out into your first shared project. Your pooled efforts to accomplish something will quickly uncover a sense of purpose beyond the usual contemporary and predictable dating events with all their associated lulls, surprises, and confusion. "Themes" will quickly and spontaneously play out of what you choose to do together and they will help you identify a larger meaning and purpose for your developing relationship whether it proves to be long or comparatively short.

SR is about character development through constructive dating relationships. Give it a try! You've got everything to gain. Learn more from previous postings, and by all means SIGN UP for the updates, then let me know what you are thinking...leave a comment.

So, until next time...have fun, be safe, and be smart!


Monday, October 11, 2010

Practice Makes Perfect

I learned to whistle. I was pretty young. I don't remember who I saw doing it although it might have been my Uncle Ben. I had a pretty high estimation of him. He was one of those "self made man" kind of guys. So whoever it was who got me started, from about six or seven years old I was a whistler. As the years of whistling slipped bye I developed a whistling reputation. I enjoyed it, I did a lot of it, and all that practice developed some skills as a whistler that other people recognized and appreciated. They told me so! (Although I think some people secretly wanted to shut me up....BTW...have you seen a puppy try to whistle?).

I was also a trumpet player. I've met a bunch of them through the years. (But nobody like the young man in this video.) I started playing in the sixth grade and then played throughout junior high and high school. I was a pretty good trumpeter, too. I took private lessons for a while--off and on. I was generally first or "second chair" in the band. (I never felt I had had the time to play in the orchestra but I gave the jazz band some serious thought.) Then I thought about playing when I went to college. But I decided my engineering classes demanded more time than I could spare if I was in the band and trying to study for the applied science and engineering classes. It took a lot of practice to get good and stay good, and if I was going to do it I wanted to be one of the best.

I can still whistle. I can probably still "play" the trumpet, too. (Nobody would want to hear me.) It's interesting how that works, because even though its been many years since I picked up a horn and gave it a serious buzz, there is a lot about it that still feels natural. My fingers can still do the scales and "read" the music even though I can't remember consciously how to do the fingerings--the fingers just "do" it--they somehow know.

As a general rule we get good at what we practice. It gradually becomes part of us. In the case of things we want to get good at it's a good thing. But practicing can also be compromising. As a sophomore in high school I had a good friend, (I'll call him) Ted. Ted and I had grown up in the same neighborhood. He lived half a block from my house. We spent many hours together. Fun in the neighborhood, birthday parties, classes at school, Cub Scouts and the Boy Scouts, summer get the idea. The problem really started shortly after we were becoming men--blame it on testosterone? No. But it was about that boy becoming a man process and how Ted focused it's influence on him. Yah. He would spend hours looking at his dad's girlie magazines. Playboy was one of his favorites.

But I was of course a red-blooded, 98.6 degree Fahrenheit, Caucasian male, too. (I still am!) I enjoyed looking at those with him, but I became mildly concerned for Ted about the way he would create stories around those pictures. We'd be in his room and he'd start up, "Here's what I would do if I met her in the hallway, or if she came to my room at night..." Then he would rehearse a very elaborate scenario, obviously well-practiced, and he'd unflinchingly act it out detail by small detail. He had many of these. They were little "one man vignettes" each with a bucket full of scintillating plots and scenes carefully choreographed; all-male stuff reaching for and ending punctuated with orgasmic sexual fulfillment.

Long story short: I was uncomfortable! I don't remember what I said to Ted in those moments. I do remember finding excuses not to go over to his house when he'd call. Then months flew bye. Gradually we spent zero time together. As you might guess, by the time we were seniors at CHS we'd become "just good ole friends," old acquaintances. We had developed different sets of social connections and effectively walked out of each others lives.

I was in college at OSU when I heard the sad news that Ted was in trouble. He was messed up. A woman had charged him with sexual assault. All those uncomfortable experiences I'd had with him there in his house, all my discomfort, it all came flooding back from my memory banks. I realized how all that hungry sexual appetite and behavior Ted carefully, albeit tragically, trained had turned to devour him.

Since that time researchers have learned a lot more about the relationship between people's thinking, fantasy-behavior, and its impact on reality. It boils down to this: Practice makes perfect. Of course in reference to it's impact on Ted, a similar colloquial way of saying it is, "Garbage in, garbage out," or in a Biblical phrase, "You are what you think!" Ted was seduced by a hormonal buzz. He embraced it. Stupidly then, he dedicated himself to practice a way of being with women that ultimately he acted out--and maybe more than once before he found himself in trouble? Whatever, it didn't have to happen! It did.

Smarter Romance (SR) understands Ted's situation. In fact, SR exists, in part, because of my old friend--and so many other "Teds" just like him. SR recognizes and appreciates the mystery, frustrations, and the joy we all experience as Guys and Gals in daily male-female interaction. SR is about learning and practicing a healthy, fun, and character-developing set of disciplines that will serve your relationships for decades. So, whether you are 13, 31, or 81 "practice still makes perfect." So, here's the awkward question: "What are your dating expectations, and are you stupidly training any not-so-complimentary "secret" male-female behavior? If you are, what are you going to do about it?

Have fun, be safe, be smart.