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11

Date Your Mate – For Free! (Part 2)

So how is the mate-dating going? Did you try out any of the free options in last month’s Date Your Mate article? Or any of the great ideas shared in the comment section? Well, whether you’re a slow-starter and looking for more options bigstock-romantic-dinner-date-5704986before you get rolling or a savvy dater who already exhausted last month’s suggestions, here are more ideas to follow the advice of experts and date your mate – for free!

  • Local Photography/Art Shows. If you’re looking for something a little more sophisticated than a hotel’s (one day only!) starving artist’s sale or meandering around Sam’s hitting all the free samples, this option might be for you. You can locate shows by checking the art section in your local newspaper, putting yourself on the mailing list for local galleries, inquiring with someone in the art or photography departments at nearby colleges and universities, as well as internet searches. Often such shows have light refreshments and complimentary wine (bonus!).
  • Learn something new together. There are so many possibilities here that you could stay dated-up for a year just by checking out a few.

All Things Food – call gourmet food or cookware stores to see what scheduled demonstrations are coming up. Or check out videos from your local library. Oh sure – the food you cook has a cost to it, but you were going to eat anyway – it might as well be that impressive dish with the new ingredient you just learned about!

Crafts/Projects – I see the guys wincing as scrapbooking images loom large. And hobby stores are a good place to check out free classes. But did you know hardware stores often offer free classes/demonstrations in things like tiling,building a deck or sandbox, using new tools and gardening ideas? Now is that a dream date or what??

Languages – Whether you check out selections from your library video section or tape classes from educational TV, this is an option that has you meeting on a regular basis, bonding over homework, and motivating you to save up for the ultimate date to the land that speaks your new language!

And more – If you are interested in topics like history, culture, or politics, check with higher educational institutions for free lectures and seminars that are open to the public. Libraries often offer classes on topics that come up in daily life. From couponing (yes, that is now a verb) to financial issues to social media tutorials (you can be FaceBook friends with benefits!) there is something to snag the interest of everyone.

  • A twist on stay-at-home-movie night. You know that favorite show you have? The one you both like? The one you look forward to watching all week? Don’t watch it. At least not at the regularly scheduled time. Record it for three weeks. Three long weeks. Set the date for the marathon view. The deprivation heightens the anticipation. (Anybody who ever gave up sweets for Lent or “to make weight” for their sport knows what I’m talking about here.) The designated time finally arrives. You’re snuggled in with cheap snacks, phones off and three hours of viewing pleasure. Ahhh, sweet relief!

C’mon – admit it: you’re starting to actually get enthusiastic about date night! And we’ve just scratched the surface of cost-effective ways to have fun outings with your mate. Let’s meet back here next month with part three of this Date Your Mate series. Meanwhile, please keep those great free(ish) date ideas coming in the comment section below!

18

When to Dump the Date – 6 Red Flags

You don’t have to make every relationship work. The whole point of dating is to get to know someone. Whether you’re looking for current companionship or an eventual long-term commitment, dating is an evaluation period. So evaluate.

If an aspect of the relationship makes you uncomfortable, don’t be quick to dismiss it because you’re in serious like. Or becauseRed Flags to Dump the Date they have the cutest dimples you’ve ever seen. Or because your knees get a little jelly-like when you kiss. Gut reactions and hair rising on the back of the neck is a body’s way of trying to be heard over the noise of a palpitating heart. Listen. It might be trying to alert you to one of the following red flags that it’s time to date elsewhere.

  1. You’ve broken up and gotten back together more than twice. If you’re working that hard just to keep dating, how hard is it going to be to stay married if you take the next step?
  2. You are discussing getting counseling. I’m not talking pre-marital counseling as you approach wedlock or individual counseling for issues in your lives.  I’m talking about counseling to fix your dating relationship problems. Really? Couldn’t ‘relationship problems’ be an indication that you’re not a good long-term match? But, you may argue, I’ve already invested two years in this relationship. Well, let me ask you this: if for two years you contributed money to an investment account that consistently decreased in value, do you keep adding more money?  No – you’re not getting a return on your investment. You stop putting money in the draining account you donated to for two years and find a better place to invest. Your time, your future, your piece of mind are worthy of even more respect than your money.
  3. Your mate is a victim. The traffic made them late. The boss that fired them is incompetent. They’re on the outs with family members because they’re tired of being taken advantage of. They only argue because you provoke them. Ready for a lifetime of it’s-your-fault? Just stick around.
  4. It’s all about the physical. The ‘dates’ seldom include dinner and a movie. You are not included in other areas of their life and you haven’t met their family members or close friends. Umm, do I really need to elaborate further here?
  5. Questions are increasing. Where were you? Who were you with? How long were you there? Where else did you go?  These common questions could have a valid place in a healthy relationship. However, if you start feeling a little smothered, feeling that you have a third parent to account to, or feeling hair rise on the back of your neck when you are asked these questions yet again, know that the escalation of controlling behavior generally doesn’t reverse itself. Move on before the symptoms turn into disease.
  6. You become their incentive to get fixed. Problems with alcohol, drugs, gambling, or any other type of addiction should be a dating deal-breaker. And yet, you’re in love. You hear yourself utter the ultimatum: “If you don’t get help for your problem with [fill in the vice], I’m going to stop dating you.” NO, NO, NO. You have that backwards. Flip that sentence right around: “I am going to stop dating you. I hope you get help with your problem.”

I’m not saying it’s easy or painless to end a relationship with someone you care about. I’m saying it’s less difficult and less painful to snatch your hand back from the scorch of a candle flame than to avoid being consumed by a forest fire.

Evaluate. Be discerning. Dating is a time of exploration as you head toward a long-term relationship. Each experience is an opportunity to learn and grow. Take all those well-learned lessons and find a fit for you that has no flame-red flags.

What was the warning sign you picked up on that enabled you to avoid making a bad long-term decision? Was there a warning sign that you, unfortunately, missed or ignored? Please comment below.

20

Date Your Mate – For Free!

Part 1

            We’ve all heard it – if you want a better marriage, make time for you and your mate. Have a date night – once a week. Or at least monthly. Go. Do it. Date. There are lots of good reasons. Psychologists are telling you to do bigstock-romantic-dinner-date-5704986it.  Counselors, pastors, wise family members and authors are telling you to do it. But is anybody telling you how during those times when the month lasts longer than your paycheck?

OK – so maybe somebody mentioned something about going to the park, taking a bike ride or stashing the kids at a neighbor’s to have a movie night at home. Not bad options. But let’s get a little more creative.  Following are ways to date your mate for very little cost. (I know it says “free” in the title – that was to get your attention. It would be more accurate to say “free-ish” – but I’m pretty sure that’s not a real word.)

  • Do you both like to read? When was the last time you were at the library? Head on over with a fun challenge. If you both like the same genre, split up for a designated time and each find three books that you would both like. Meet back, share, rate them 1-5, and then trade ratings. Pick out the best match and check out a copy for each of you. Don’t talk about the book until a predetermined time. The anticipation of waiting to connect to finally discuss it sets you up nicely for the next date!
  • If you both like to read but have different tastes, the challenge would be to find three titles that the other would like. Meet back and trade your finds. Rate the books (you’re on your honor here) 1 to 5 with 5 being “Perfect fit!” on down to 1 being “Have you met me before today?” Have a predetermined date-extending prize for the best rating total. Maybe something like the winner gets to pick the snack (frozen yogurt versus hot pretzel?) or loser makes dinner.
  • Being a factory-loving-fool, I can find an outing wherever I go by checking out what is manufactured at my destination. Cereal in Battle Creek, Michigan, New Balance Tennis shoes in Maine, Kodak cameras in New York (that one was a little dry), muumuus and Dole pineapple in Hawaii, a brewery in Missouri (now we’re talking!) to name a few. If you’re a fan of ‘How It’s Made,’ factory tours are for you. There are websites with national lists, but there are many options that won’t show up there. Google your state and the words “factory tours,” too.

In addition, call factories’ human resource departments and talk to people you know who work in manufacturing. Sometimes factories that don’t have public tours will allow employees to show someone around. When my husband worked at General Motors he was allowed to schedule times to conduct private tours (seeing a whole car assembled was fascinating!).  A client took me around the Coke plant. Visitors we met at a mutual friend’s arranged a private tour at the Pepperidge Farm plant when we visited family in Florida. Not only do you learn something new, but there are often samples.  Although the GM factory didn’t allow us to take their product home, the food places had edible samples, the tennis shoes had discounts, and the brewery had repeat tourists!

  • Fairs and festivals abound. I googled the word “festival” with the name of 6 small to medium cities within a 45 minute drive of me and every one of them had an annual event that included theme related contests, entertainment, arts and crafts, and fun food items. There was Fried Onion Burger Day (boasting the world’s largest onion burger – we’re talking big), Pepperfest, Watermelon festival (free watermelon and a seed-spitting contest), Medieval Fair, Jazz and Blues Festival and – I might be giving away my location with this one – a Noodling Festival.

And that wasn’t even every town within a 45 minute radius. Imagine if I had more time to look and added another 15 minutes to the allotted drive time – I could have monthly spousal dates booked up for the rest of the year. This category is why I had to qualify ‘free’ with a ‘low cost’ option. You will want to bring at least $7.00 to try one of the tasty treats available at these functions. I mean, who wants to go to Fried Onion Burger Day and leave burgerless? Or go to the Medieval Fair without noshing on a turkey leg the size of Rhode Island?

Take time to have a fun outing with your spouse – to do something different while enjoying each other. Now that you know it’s (almost) free, there’s no excuse not to!

 

Next month I will post Part 2 of this Date Your Mate series. Meanwhile, if you have a suggestion for a way to date the one you used to date for free(ish), please let us know in the comment section below.

8

Google the One You’re With

The best way to avoid divorce is to not marry the wrong person. There’s no 100% guarantee when you pick a mate it’s the right choice. There is a way, however, to improve the odds. How? Glad you asked!

Laptop Magnifying glassIf you are buying a new car, you would likely look on the internet and find out everything you could about the model you’re interested in.  Have there been any recalls? What’s its safety rating? What kind of mileage does it get? How will it hold up over time? The better informed you are, the better your judgment in making the decision about which vehicle you are going to invest in.

We should be no less informed about a person we are contemplating allowing into our life in more than a casual way. We need to know ahead of time – before investing time and emotion – if they are safe, honest, trustworthy, reliable. If you are considering dating somebody with a hope or possibility that love will bloom, it is smart to have some basic information about the character of the person you’re dealing with. Not taking the time to look for those answers makes you foolish. If you have children, it also makes you negligent.

So, what are we looking for? And where do we find it?

  1. Criminal history. Check law enforcement sites for your state, city, and county. If you believe they lived in another state for a period of time, check that state, too. By checking all the relevant sites you may see a pattern that you wouldn’t otherwise discern. A public intoxication charge six years ago may not seem all that significant. Until you see a DUI (driving under the influence) in another venue two years later and a DWI (driving while impaired) in a third venue.

If your state has court dockets on-line, check there, also. Not only will you be able to   see what the actual crime(s) they were charged with, you will be able to see what the disposition was – whether or not they served time, are on probation, or if something is actually pending. Many states have sex offender registries on a separate site.

Some law enforcement entities will disclose if there is an existing warrant for arrest.  Helpful to know so you can avoid being in a situation where a routine traffic stop with your new pal turns into an episode of “Cops.”

  1. Civil Court Dockets. Don’t limit your court docket search to criminal activity – there is a lot of good information that can be obtained from examining civil dockets and cases one has been involved with.
  • Marriage license (she didn’t mention she was married?)
  • Divorces. How many are there? Were Contempt of Court actions filed in any (thus indicating that your buddy violated court orders)? Was the litigation lengthy?  Is it ongoing?
  • Paternity actions (he’s got how many kids???)
  • Small Claims Court. Collection actions from apartment complexes, credit card companies, and finance companies tell you something about how they handle their bills, if they live beyond their means, and their reliability quotient.
  • Evictions or Foreclosure actions. Anybody can have bad luck or hit on hard times, but if there is more than one or they are in addition to small claim or other actions, it’s starting to look more like a way of life.
  • Traffic Violations. A history of excessive speeding? (Note to self: he doesn’t transport the children). A plethora of unpaid parking tickets?
  • Victim Protection Orders. What were the assertions that led to an Order? Is there more than one? By more than one person? (Violations of such orders will show up in the criminal dockets.)
  1. Property records. A county assessor’s records will show who the property is titled to. If your friend indicated he has a place with a couple of “roomies” and you see that the house is titled to his parents, unless their last name is “Roomie” it might indicate that he is less than straight-forward.
  2. Social Media. Compare their profiles on their different accounts. Do they represent themselves the same way on their FaceBook (FB) profile as they do on their LinkedIn site? Scan over the pictures they post. Nature nuts? Party pics? Scan over their friends.  We all know FB “friends” does not necessarily equal real-life friends, but if you see 20 friends in matching bandanas making the same hand gesture, or numerous friends in neon orange holding number placards under their faces, a red flag might go off.

Informing yourself is not cyber stalking – you are not employing any deception. You’re not even hiding your activity.  When you mention something you learned about them on-line, are they flattered that you looked them up, or angry that you “invaded their privacy?”

There is no reasonable expectation of privacy with public records and information tossed out in social media. Peeking into someone’s briefcase when they leave the room, checking their caller ID while they  refill your drink, and searching their medicine cabinet while using their bathroom is invasion of privacy. In contrast, looking up your potential more-than-just-a-friend’s criminal, civil and social media behavior is just common sense.

Oh yeah – while you’re at it – Google yourself so you know what they’ll see when they check you out!

 

If you have a tip about a helpful site to check or have had an experience that could have been avoided had you checked on-line resources, please let us know in the comment section below.

 

10

STOP THE WEDDING! 4 Questions to ask Before You Say “I Do”

Actually, these questions should be asked before you even say “I might.” Once the invitations have been sent out and a deposit has been made on the reception hall, it becomes more difficult to get honest discourse about expectations after marriage. By the time the flowers have been ordered and the gifts start arriving, the blissful couple focuses all attention on THE BIG DAY and the “happily-ever-after” is left to fend for itself. The earlier in the relationship that realistic expectations are discussed, the more likely that bad matches will be weeded out – leaving the parties to find someone whose marital philosophy is closer to their own. These 4 questions should be asked before wedding plans are discussed.

  1. Do you want children? I can hear you rolling your eyes and thinking it’s a no-brainer to ask a prospective mate that question. If it is, there must be a lot of people out there withMetal people no brains. I’m amazed at the number of people who either don’t ask or gloss over this question prior to marriage. He assumes marrying means a dog and 2.5 kids. She assumes because they met in college it is a given that their priority is developing their careers. Don’t assume. (I’ll skip the tired saying about people who assume – but that doesn’t mean it’s not true!) And speaking of assuming, don’t assume that “I don’t want kids”  means “I can be talked into it after we’ve been married a year.” I believe it was Maya Angelo that said “When people tell you who they are, believe them.” Good advice, Maya.
  2. Cash or credit? Divorce courts are full of people whose financial incompatibility led to irreconcilable differences. Few of us can buy a house outright, so some financing is probably not unexpected. What causes the rifts is not having an understanding of the other’s financial philosophy. Do we have credit cards? If so, what can they be used for? Do we charge the expenses of a vacation or Christmas gifts, or do we save up until we can afford to make the purchases? Somebody who has a strong pay-as-you go ethic may be seduced into the spontaneity that credit card purchases allow. But will the glow of the last vacation sun be enough to diminish resentment that grows when bills start mounting?
  3. Yours, mine, or ours? Do we have separate funds and split the bills, a joint fund where all income gets tossed in, or some combination thereof? If the bills are split and circumstances change – job loss, illness, unexpected pregnancy – how is that handled? Think about this prior to a crisis and discuss options. Realize that if the agreement is that he is responsible for the electric bill and fails to pay, she is sitting in the dark, too. If she is responsible for the mortgage and doesn’t pay, he is just as homeless.
  4. Where will we spend the holidays? If both extended families are local and one traditionally celebrates Christmas on Christmas Eve and the other on Christmas Day and no other holidays are observed, you may be among the very few that have stress-free holidays. However, if your folks are in Georgia and your spouse’s are in Indiana, you need to chat – before the holiday season relevant to your families. There’s no need to bring family in on the discussion and make announcements regarding division of time for the next 5 years, but expectations about how things will go should be discussed with options explored. If your future spouse only entertains one option – the major holiday always spent with his or her family because (fill in the blank here: it’s always been that way, my mother would be crushed if we didn’t, it’s my favorite holiday and that’s how I want to spend it . . .) you need to understand that this attitude will not be limited to where holidays are spent. Do you want to marry someone who is not ready to move from ‘me’ to ‘we’?

The best time to tackle these topics is in the getting-to-know-you dating period when learning about jumbo philosophical life-style differences aren’t traumatic. Differences are what make relationships interesting – most people aren’t looking for an opposite-gender clone. But some differences can be so divisive that, if not approached with realistic expectations, can turn an “I do” into a “Wish I didn’t.”