DR. GILDA CARLE (Ph.D.)
Even relationship experts make mistakes! Finally, it’s MY turn to be put on the couch! I broke my own 3 cardinal rules, and got a reminder that I’m still human!
Courtesy of Match.com’s Happen Magazine
Over the years, I’ve taken heat for my mandate that divorced and separated singles should wait before looking for love again. I’ve gotten, “Hey Doc, during my ‘wait’ period, should I just put myself on ice?” Well, it’s the freezing and thawing processes that prep us for relationships that last. And isn’t that what we want? To achieve that goal, I stand by 3 definitive love guidelines:
- Do not date married or recently separated people.
- Wait at least 9 months before dating someone just out of a relationship.
- Don’t enter into a lustful affair until you really know your partner.
Now single again myself, I am proud to affirm that I walk my own talk, so to speak. So why didn’t my talk resonate after meeting a certain man at a TV show’s reunion party? He warmly asked, “Dr. Gilda, how are you?” I did not know who he was. He said, “It’s Peter.” Although he wasn’t familiar to me, we exchanged a social hug and then moved on.
Two days later, Peter left a greeting on my Facebook wall. He described how he had been behind one of the many cameras, filming, which explained how I had appeared on this TV show for years but had never noticed him. He recounted my every move and expression, and I was shocked… and flattered. As we spent time reminiscing, he appeared to be a sensitive man with depth. We discovered that when we worked at the network, our hearts were tied to other people. That was not the case now.
I’ve dated many successful powerhouses who have shut off their emotions entirely, and this vulnerable guy seemed like a refreshing change. We spent hours going from wall postings to private messages to speaking on the phone. A psychic said that because Peter and I had been married in a past life (!), our attraction would be earth-shattering. No kidding!
We chatted about the TV show, the media business, and life in general. Much later, Peter said that he would be divorced in two weeks. What? That put him in what I call the “ING” position, as in, grievING the loss of his marriage. In this state of mind, no person is capable of real love. Besides, if I broke my own three love rules, that would make me a fraud to my clients and fans. I was in grave distress.
I called handsome heartthrob Dave Singleton, founder of www.davesingleton.com, author of two books and a fellow Match.com writer. He admitted, “There have been times I have broken my rules and not been quite as wise as I advise my readers to be.” He recounted meeting someone with whom he spent a few days before leaving town, and then returning home only to find they were incompatible. I asked how he could disavow his own counsel. “The fact that I’m human doesn’t take away from how I’m able to help others,” Singleton replied. “In fact, it makes me a more compassionate relationship expert.”
Ahhh, this was the advice I wanted. I’ll just follow my heart and be human. And become “a more compassionate relationship expert” because of it. Thanks, Dave!
Armed with this reassurance, I proceeded to ignore the red flags I saw with Peter and jumped wholly into long phone calls, lustful fantasies, and breathless togetherness. I counseled Peter about his ex, his love history, his spoiled kids and everything else wrong in his life. All the while, I assumed that we were making a connection. For my efforts, Peter predicted I would one day win a Humanitarian Award. Please! I wasn’t looking to be the next Mother Teresa; I just wanted this man’s love.
Peter’s problems dominated our interactions and my desire to heal him evolved into codependence. He often asked what I saw in him (another red flag, this one denoting shattered self-esteem, post-divorce). He was incapable of knowing me, because he barely knew himself. Also lacking healthy dating experience, he was unable to appreciate the value of our amazing rapport. For a change, my Gilda-Gram to Dr. Gilda was, “You can’t be more therapist than lover to the one you love.” I was still in deep trouble.
I consulted another fellow Match.com writer, dating/relationship coach, Kimberly Dawn Neumann, author of two books and founder of www.DatingDivaDaily.com. She commiserated, “I’ve broken my own rules, too. Once, in a new relationship, I let issues go just because we seemed so simpatico.” Neumann ignored the reddest of flags for a year. She regularly communicated online with this guy, who presented a host of excuses to avoid actually seeing this gorgeous woman in person. Pushed to her limit, Neumann concluded she wanted “a real boyfriend, not a cyber one.” But, she sighed, “The relationship expert can still have hope in fairy tales, can’t she?” I explained that it was that exact mentality that prompted me to write Don’t Bet on the Prince! As Singleton puts it, “we always teach what we need to learn.”
So that still left me with the question of what to do about my situation with Peter. Before I could bring it up myself, the decision got made for me, though. The very day after his divorce was finalized and we enjoyed a celebration dinner, Peter told me — over the phone — that he wanted to be free. Of course he did! A person in the “ING” position needs independence before he can love in a healthy way. Therapeutically, I knew this was the best choice for this aching man to make.
Will I ever break my own 3 love rules again? Of course not--unless I find someone to whom I had been married in another past life!! All kidding aside, if I didn't occasionally test my rules, how would I know they work? Like Singleton and Neumann, I'm just another human being who dispenses better advice because I've lived it, suffered, and learned from my mistakes. Yes, I walk my talk . . . but once in a great while, I may love imperfectly--just like everyone else.
GILDA CARLE (Ph.D.) is an internationally known psychotherapist, relationship educator, and management consultant. She is Match.com’s “Ask Dr. Gilda” advice columnist published on MSN.com. She is also known as the Country Music Doctor, with her “Country Cures.” She is a motivational speaker, professor of psychology & communications, the author of the well-known “Don’t Bet on the Prince!,” a test question on “Jeopardy,” 99 Prescriptions for Fidelity, How to Win When Your Mate Cheats, and many more. She was the therapist in HBO's Emmy Award winner, "Telling Nicholas," featured on Oprah, where she guided a family to tell their 7-year-old that his mom died in the World Trade Center bombing. She is currently developing her own TV show. Visit her website and get Instant Advice!