2013: The Best is Yet to Come

2012 began with a morning stroll down a quiet Duke of Gloucester Street with James. It was unseasonably warm, and the blue sky and warm sun filled us with hope and excitement. After 12 months of various ups and downs, and learning to adjust to my new identity, the year ended with a crackling fire in the cozy basement of our darling new house.

The holiday season was very good to us this year. We decked our newly purchased halls and had a merry time doing it. We hosted our first holiday party (2 in fact) and hung our first outdoor lights. We each had a birthday, and it seemed the whole month was one long feast of merriment. Most importantly, this Christmas season gave us an opportunity to step away from all the stress and think about all the wonderful things that we have done this year.

Strangely, the night before my 25th birthday, I found myself in a state of panic. “I’ll never be 24 again,” I said to myself. “How is it that my 20s are slipping by? What have I to show for it?” Silly, I know. I’m engaged, I have degree, and I own a single family home. Not to mention the numerous bucket list items I have fulfilled already. Still, that night I felt so much anxiety, like none of that had mattered at all and that I wasn’t good enough. I had spent so much of 2012 worrying about jobs and money that I hadn’t spent near enough time enjoying my life.

So, I have resolved to spend the New Year of 2013 being happy. Actually, I have 3 resolutions this year. First, to enjoy my house more, as that is the only reason I trudge through my job each day. Second, to grow deeper in my Catholic faith and read more spiritual literature, both alone and with James. Third, I’ll be keeping to Jorge Cruise’s eating method the entire year. My dad lost 40 lbs in 2012 by eating like Jorge, so I’ve decided to do the same. My plan is that these three small resolutions will feed off of each other and grow into a better-adjusted, happier me.

So much good is set to happen this year. In less than 5 months, I will finally marry the love of my life, and I will finally get to live in the home we are building together. Following the teachings of our Faith and living apart has not been easy by any stretch, but engagement is almost over now, and we know our sacrifice will make things all the more wonderful when our marriage finally begins. I’m so happy that 2013 is finally here, and that the best is yet to come. I’ll be seeing you.

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Dating on Faith: How important is Spiritual Compatibility?

It’s time-honored advice, marry someone with the same religion as you. Or at least, be compatible on a spiritual level. What does this mean, really?

From the time I was a little girl, my parents told me to marry a fellow Catholic. Marriage, they said, was hard enough without a difference of faith. This was a little surprising coming from my mom, as her dad was Catholic and her mother was Lutheran. When I got a little older and went to Catholic University, I still held on to this belief. It took a few years to realize though, that there was more to faith than a religious label.

Plenty of people say they are Catholic, or Lutheran, or Jewish, or Episcopalian, or whatever. It’s easy to find someone with the same religious label as you. What is NOT easy, though, is finding someone with the same view of God.

You can tell a lot from a person by asking one simple question: “What would this person do if God showed up at their front door?” Some people would fall to their knees and beg forgiveness. Some people wouldn’t care. My family would answer the door and say, “Hey man! How’ve you been? We’re just sitting down to dinner. Want some spaghetti?” If you’re type who would invite God as part of the family, find someone who shares that. At the end of the day, a person’s ingrained view of God can affect everything! A person’s relationship with God affects every aspect of their life. This includes how they treat others, how they raise their children, and how they deal with the trying times of their life.

Like a lot of naive young women, I learned this the hard way. Spiritual incompatibility can make you lose sight of who you are. It wasn’t until I found my James that I remembered why my faith was important. James’s faith reminded me of my dad’s faith: a strong belief that God is a friend, a member of the family. God is a sweet, loving father who will always be there for you, no matter what you do. Go to church on Sunday, pray every day, at least just to say “hi”, because God loves you and wants you to be happy. Love God with all your heart, love your neighbor as yourself, and put your family first no matter what age you are.

It usually takes a while to figure out what kind of faith someone has. You can listen to them talk all day, but you’re not going to know who they really are until you spend some time with them. Faith isn’t just a personal thing, it’s a life changing, cultural thing. For me, it took a lot of mistakes and years of searching to figure out what was important to me. It’s not all bad, though, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Without those years of searching, I would never have found myself, my fiancĂ©, and my faith.

Mr. Right, Mr. Perfect, Mr. Good Enough

Recently, author Lori Gottlieb sparked controversy, thanks to her advice to women about choosing “Mr. Good Enough” instead of waiting for “Mr. Right”. After the onslaught of women accusing her of advocating “settling”, she answered that what she really meant was that too many women have stupid requirement and expectations, making it completely impossible to find a life partner. (See original article here)

She was right, really. Some women are too picky. How many of us know people (including ourselves) who have ditched a guy after the first date because of some odd quirk? At the same time, we complain when we’re on the receiving end of such quick judgment. The truth is, you need to give someone a chance before you can really get to know them.

Let’s look at an example:

James and I had a lot in common. We grew up in the same town and knew a lot of the same people. We had never met as kids, but later on, towards the end of college, we met online. Here comes the first date. We had a nice time talking over milkshakes for about an hour. At the end of the date, he walked me to my car, gave me a little hug and got the door for me. I said my polite “this was fun,” and I meant it. I just wasn’t sure if I would give him a second date. Sure, he was nice. He was a gentleman. He paid the bill and opened the doors. We had a similar childhood and had the same religious beliefs. To top it off, he was extremely good-looking. What was the problem?

I wasn’t sure if I felt a spark. I wasn’t sure if we would have much to talk about. I wasn’t sure that we would enjoy the same things. I wasn’t sure if his good manners were just a show. I wasn’t sure if our different levels of education would become a problem down the road.

Still, I was intrigued. I did want to find out the answers to my questions. I knew he would probably be a nice friend to have. I just wasn’t sure that I could date him. So what did I do?

I decided to tell him that I wasn’t ready for a relationship. But, we enjoyed each other’s company so we went out a few more times, as friends. Then came “date” number 3, when the sparks finally hit full-force and we ended up kissing goodnight and planning DATE number 4. We’ve been very happy ever since.

I’m not 100% perfect, and neither is James. We’re human, after all. My mom always told me, don’t look for the guy who is without fault. Look for the guy who has faults that you can live with. Give a guy a chance. You never know how happy can be until you try.

(Of course, many women, especially young ones, make the mistake of dealing with WAY too many faults in a partner, thanks to their insecurity. See Are College Relationships Detrimental for Women?)

3 Steps to a Perfect Valentine’s Day (or any date, really)

Valentine’s Day 2010 was a smash-hit… probably thanks to “Snowmageddon”. Being snowed in for over a week and not being able to see James for almost 2 weeks wasn’t too much fun. But it did make Valentine’s day even more special. For future reference, however, I’ve realized that there are 3 easy steps for a perfect valentine’s day, or any memorable date, for that matter.

1. Do something different for a change

James picked me up in the morning and took me to brunch at this fun French place in Columbia, MD called “Cafe de Paris”. Very original, I know, but the owner really is French, we met him, and French is clearly his first language. The decor was fun, faux plaster/stucco-ish walls with vintage French posters and big comfy red leather couches. The Crepe Cafe was the section of the place that served breakfast. I had a crepe filled with eggs and ham, and James had one with brie, tomatoes, and onions. The onions were a little heavy and he didn’t like it very much, but he was a good sport about it, and I gave him some of mine.

2. Have a thoughtful and heartfelt surprise planned

The best surprise of Valentine’s day this year was the gift James gave me. He made a CD of all the love songs he sings to me in the car. You know, those classic 90’s love songs like Brian McKnight’s “Back at One” and All 4 One’s “I Swear” (best re-make in pop history, in my opinion). I love it. He couldn’t have done anything else that would have made me so happy. What made it so great was that it really means something to us. He was so thoughtful.

3. Make it clear, you love spending time together

After brunch, we spent the day together. We ended up going to the mall and walking around for a while, before heading back to my house just to hang out. Sometimes it’s really nice just to be together. Later on around 7:30 we watched a movie and ate pizza for dinner. Maybe that doesn’t sound special, but it’s the attitude that matters. Sometimes there’s nothing better than cuddling on the couch with take-out. Love stories aren’t about fancy restaurants and expensive presents. They’re about hearts.♄

Boxes of Love

Getting balanced for the New Year involves all facets of life, including relationships. I came across and interesting passage in a book recently where the author was arguing that common interests are essential to the longevity of any romantic relationship. Then he went a step further and said that people tend to take on the interests of their partners subconsciously, out of love. Then he said that, in terms of interests and life pursuits, every relationship needs 3 “boxes”: his, hers, and ours.

I was thinking about James and me. He likes basketball and coaching and playing xbox, while I like reading and cooking and art and history. Honestly at first glance you’d think we didn’t have much in common. But then we got to know each other better and soon enough there were plenty of common interests. Whether these were “developed” or “discovered” is up for debate, but sure enough, they’re there. It turns out, we both like reading poetry, we both enjoyed taking ballroom dance together, we both like the history channel, and… I like to cook and he likes to eat!

I still don’t love basketball, but I do like going to the games when he is coaching (I think it’s really cute when he jumps up and down cheering on the kids). And I don’t think I’ll be watching wrestling with him anytime soon, despite the fact that he loves it so much. I think that falls squarely into the “his” box of this relationship.

And the “hers” box? Well, I don’t think the day will ever come when James enjoys watching “The Bachelor”.

“Dating in the Dark” & Internet Dating: Does it Work?

I’d have to say yes. James and I have been together for a year and a half and, believe it or not, we met online. My cousin Tony is getting married this September to a girl he met online. People everywhere are finding love over the internet. On the other hand, I have a lot of friends who have tried internet dating with absolutely no luck whatsoever.

Why is it that tons of people are still single after months and months of being on dozens of websites?

Recently I’ve been watching that new show on ABC, “Dating in the Dark”, and it seemed to me to have a lot in common with online dating. In both case, you choose your partner from a pool of “applicants”, and get to know them without knowing what they look like. (It’s true there are pictures in online dating, but people often have a different impression of a person once they’ve seen them in real life.) In both “Dating in the Dark” and online dating, people who develop fantastical expectations in the beginning get turned off and run away when they are forced to see the person in the light.

From watching the first few episodes of the show, it looks like the biggest factor that breaks up a couple is unrealistic expectations. There was one couple in the first episode that seemed to get along great in the dark. They hit it off so well, actually, that all they did was make out. They didn’t spend any time getting to know each other beyond the physical aspect. When their true appearances were revealed, the girl was put off by the guy’s sloppy attire and decided right away to break it off. Was she shallow? Maybe so. But the real problem here wasn’t her, exactly. It was her unrealistic expectations–and her inordinate infatuation–fueled by a few too many smooches.

In internet dating, like “Dating in the Dark”, your perception of the other person is going to change after your first meeting “in the light”. There’s no question, it will change. Your only hope of surviving this is to keep and open mind. You have to go into the meeting with a blank slate. Nothing ruins your impartiality like too much flirting beforehand. If you say something sexual online to the other person, you’re going to feel awkward when their looks don’t match up to what you’ve been imagining. If you keep your online conversation to a PG level, you have a much better chance of having a good first meeting.

I think the problem with internet dating, for a lot of girls, is that they either are too naive to know what to avoid, or too jaded to keep and open mind. It’s true, for every prince charming there are a hundred slimy toads. If a guy sends you an introductory email containing the phrase “I think we’re meant to be”, RUN. Learn how to smell bonafide BS. The other thing you have to avoid, if you’re serious, is overbearing flirtation. Sure, it’s flattering, but usually if a guy is layering it on in the beginning, he’s not going to amount to much later. A guy like that is building up his own expectations in his mind, rather than taking the time to get to know the real you.

The most important advice I could give anyone who’s looking for love online would be to keep an open mind. For example, when I saw James’s profile for the first time and notice his lackadaisical writing style, I didn’t think he was for me. In fact, when I met up with him for our first date, I still didn’t think he was for me, but there was something about him that sparked my curiosity. After our second date, I was intrigued. I bought a new outfit for our third date, and after that I knew this was something special. Sure enough, he turned out to be absolutely perfect for me.

The keys to success in internet dating are common sense, perseverance and open-mindedness. People are usually much different in person than they are online, so its good not to get emotionally involved before meeting them in person. The people on “Dating in the Dark” might be shallow, but I think the real problem is that they let their imaginations ruin their chances.

So what’s the lesson from all of this? Give people a chance. You never know who could turn out to be the best friend you’ve ever had.