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Singles Notebook – "Get-Real" Thoughts and Opinions
"Charisma: 10 Traits that Help Make a Woman 'Relationship Material'"
By Jim Senhauser (Copyright 2012 IdeaTree, Ltd. All rights reserved.)

Charisma is generally regarded as the positive and compelling connection and influence that some singles have with others beyond the physical presence, or presents, that God gave us. Our parents often referred to it as "charm."

Being involved in singles groups for more than 25 years, I have interviewed hundreds of single men and women regarding how they felt about relationships and witnessed thousands more. I have been especially fascinated with the traits that cause a woman to be attractive to a man, beyond physicality. What is it that sets her apart as being "relationship material," possibly even "the one" for him?

Not surprisingly, there appear to be major disconnects between what women feel men are looking for and what men say they want. Perhaps it should not be so surprising. The women frequently attribute lack of success in relationships to not finding the right guy, which certainly can often be the case. However, it totally discounts the factors of being the right woman or recognizing the right guy when he comes along. While the latter situation is too complex to go into here, the points about personal and romantic charisma do merit some discussion. Here are the top 10 charismatic traits I compiled. See what you think:

  1. Is She "Nice"? Is she a moral, caring person who exhibits self-respect and respects others? Does she take care of herself by not abusing sex, alcohol, drugs or other substances? Does she have good character? Is she kind and compassionate? Does she have faith in God, others or at least herself? Or… does she talk negatively about or belittle others? Is she overly judgmental, or does she show signs of contempt, superiority or entitlement. Is she a cheater?
  2. Does She Have Good Integrity? Does she tell the truth -- the whole truth? Is she open, honest and trustworthy? Is she loyal and faithful? Can she keep her word, doing what she says she'll do? Or… does she "work the edges" trying to gain some advantage or hedge her bets in the relationship? Does she do anything that she would be ashamed of having "out in the open – integrity-wise."? Is she trying to hide something from her partner in the relationship?
  3. Is She a Good Communicator? Is she good at expressing herself, both verbally and non-verbally, and her needs appropriately? Can she and her partner talk out problems together? Is she a good listener? Does she provide effective feedback? Does her behavior reflect her verbally expressed attitudes? Can she accept and give constructive criticism? Has she mastered effective persuasion? Or… does she shrink from discussing problems, internalize them or take them only to her girlfriends? Does she send mixed messages through actions inconsistent with what she says? Does she ever nag or get abusive to get her own way? Does she continually gripe to others instead of discussing things with her partner?
  4. Is She Flexible and Accepting? Is she willing to experience new things, new places and people to broaden her horizons? Is she accepting of changes in her life? Does she handle adversity well? Is she open to new ideas? When she disagrees with her partner, is she willing to explore common ground or just confront him? Does she accept or even revel in her partner's flaws? Or… is she rigid and inflexible, unwilling to try new things? "But, we've always done it this way?" Does she cut off any opinions contrary to her own? Is it important that she always be right or have her own way? Does she belittle her partner for his shortcomings?
  5. Does She Have a Giving, Supportive Disposition? Is she considerate? Can you disagree with her without her becoming disagreeable? Is she thoughtful and considerate of others? Does she not only of{er to, but insist on, paying some of the time? Is she someone who can be counted on? Or… is she a taker; someone with a "me-first" attitude? Is she selfish and largely self-centered? Does she hold a grudge? Do her disagreements with their partner somehow become personal? Does she try to control her partner and the situation?
  6. Does She Have a Positive Outlook on Life? Is she a happy person? Is she fun to be around? Does she have a can-do attitude? Is she willing to try new things? Or… is she a pessimist, always seeing the glass as half-empty? Would others describe her as a complainer? If she is unhappy about something, does she try to enlist others to be unhappy with her? Does she sulk a lot? Is she envious of others' success?
  7. Is She Warm and Affectionate? Does she readily and openly express her emotions in a positive way, letting her partner know both verbally and non-verbally that she cares? Does she touch her partner? Does she ever send cards, notes or little gifts to her partner other than for his birthday or Christmas? Does she call just to let him know she is thinking of him? Is she comfortable accepting expressions of affection? Can she give and accept compliments? Or… does she express her caring reluctantly or only when she is persuaded by her partner? Does she have trouble talking about affection? Does she withhold her affection as a bargaining tool? Do her partner's timely words or expressions of affection make her uncomfortable?
  8. Is She a Fully Formed Adult? Is she self-reliant, dependable and self-confident? Is she resourceful? Can she bear up under adversity? Does she demonstrate maturity and good judgment? Is she intellectually curious and constantly looking to grow? Can she work well with her partner and others? Or… is she undependable, erratic or unable to function without significant support? Is she overly needy or a "drama queen"? Does she avoid responsibility, blaming others or the conditions for her failures or shortcomings? Does she lack common sense? Is she seemingly unable to manage money? Is she vain?
  9. Is She Effective at Expressing Her Sexuality and Femininity? Is she comfortable and effective at expressing her desire for or initiating sex? Does she effectively express her sexuality in her dress, talk and actions without coming across as cheap, crude or whorish? Can she be playful, vulnerable or flirtatious with her partner? Does she know when to tone back the sexuality (e.g. in the workplace)? Is she secure with her sexuality and view it as a gift and not a weapon? Or… does she send the wrong signals to other men at the wrong time or not know how to cut off inappropriate sexual advances? At times does she use her sex appeal to try to "show up" other women in mixed social situations? Is she sexually unadventurous, lack creativity and insist on a routine? Does she express jealousy excessively or inappropriately? Must she flirt with other men in order to boost her self-esteem?
  10. Is She Living in the Present? Is she getting the most out of each day? Is she willing to build for the future? For her, can the past be the past? Can she be confident in and trust her partner based on what he has demonstrated, not what other guys have? Does she demonstrate the capacity to forgive and forget? Despite any past disappointments, can she still see the basic good in guys? Or… is she not healed from past relationship failures and disappointments? Does emotional trauma from her past cause her to prematurely cut short current potential relationships? Is she unable to trust men (or herself to make good decisions about men) due to past relationship failures? Does a negative relationship with her father poison her view of men in general? Would both men and women say she is carrying a lot of emotional baggage? After 6 months have passed, does she still talk bitterly about the man in her last relationship or men in general?

I realize that this particular column could hit a few nerves, I fully expect that some women will question whether it lets men off the hook for bad behavior. To the contrary, most of these same desirable charisma traits also apply to men ("bad boys" need not apply). The undesirable traits apply as well.

Some women have questioned the one on being giving and supportive. They feel that it would lead to them being run over by their man. My response to that is simply that yes, that's the case if she is not self-reliant and confident and he is a "taker." If she is spineless and chooses to be with a man who is not also giving and supportive, no doubt she'll be dominated. That's where these traits come in handy in selecting the right person as well as being the right person.

Can anyone live up to these high ideals all the time? No, of course not. But, they do give women and men goals to strive for. Hopefully, they are an insightful reminder and point of reference for things we might want to do differently to make our future relationships successful, satisfying and full.

Here's to building relationships based on greater understanding!

"Today’s Commitment Crisis, and the Power that Comes in a Decision"
By Jim Senhauser (Copyright 2012 IdeaTree, Ltd. All rights reserved.)

As singles, many of us can identify with what I will refer to as the commitment crisis, especially as it relates to our relationships. The commitment crisis is not isolated to us as singles, as evidenced by the rising rates of divorce and infidelity in our society.

This gap in personal integrity also leaves its footprints in our willingness to honor far more simple commitments. Think of the times that we singles say things like:

  • "You can count on me."
  • "We’ll have lunch next week."
  • "Of course I’ll be there."
  • "I’ll call you."
  • "Why don’t we get together Friday night for sure."
  • "I’m going to drop 10 pounds by Christmas."

Innocuous as these commitments seem, we often totally ignore the gravity of our stated promises and are guilty of a subsequent lack of follow-up. Unfortunately, this pattern sometimes carries over to more weighty commitments as well.

I believe that the commitment crisis for singles is actually a symptom of two larger, more pervasive problems. The first is that we are growing less and less willing to have our word mean anything and to honor it. We rationalize that the statements we make only need to be meaningful when WE want them to be. As a result, we totally ignore or at least markedly discount how much others may be relying on our words.

This lack of integrity is especially a problem in the case of new acquaintances (as most dates are). They do not yet know how unreliable we can be. Any resultant broken commitments not only hurt anyone who counts on our statements, they diminish us as trustworthy individuals. Just think about any of your unreliable friends who have consistently broken commitments and disappointed you in the past. Do you really want to be thought of in that way?

An equally sizeable challenge that plagues many singles is our ability (or inability) to be decisive. There’s a few of us who may not have grown sufficiently beyond the stage where our parents, teachers and others were there to make decisions for us. Perhaps more widespread, however, is an indecisiveness among singles that comes from trying to be perfect rather than optimal in our decision-making. Somehow many of us think that being a good decision maker comes from looking at EVERY possible alternative and angle and then incessantly pondering over each before reaching a decision. Exactly how attractive is it being a waffler?

For others of us, it may even mean reaching one decision while, all the while, actively continuing to explore the possibility of better alternatives. These folks continually try to devise alternatives for keeping as many of their options open as possible, while still being able to fall back on their initial decision. Those who practice the dubious art of the "bigger, better deal" utilize this approach to avoid true commitment until the last possible moment.

I’ll give you a good example of this behavior. I used to have a buddy in Cincinnati that I spent a lot of time with on Friday nights. He was a good-looking guy, having an outward air of confidence and a gift of gab. Because of this, he was able to attract a number of very attractive, bright, interesting and fun women. He dated a lot of them, but his relationships continually faltered because was constantly looking around to "upgrade" his choice. It didn’t take long for the women to pick up on this and usually that would the end the relationship. I was one of the few people who knew him well enough to realize the underlying insecurity that caused him to doubt his choices.

Sadly, it was many years before my buddy recognized that, more often than not, good decision-making, especially as it relates to relationships, is not finding the absolute best possible choice from every available option. Instead, it is selecting from a number of excellent possibilities and, through your commitment, hard work and diligence, making sure that your decision ends up being the right one for you. In other words, it’s less a matter of making the right decision than making your decision right!

When you make a decision, you are not automatically cast into some maelstrom of fickle fate. You, more than anyone, have the power to determine how your decision ends up. THAT, my friends, is the real power in making a decision.

One final note – a lot of singles struggle with decisions because they are afraid of making a mistake. For many, the fear of making a wrong choice is completely out of proportion with the real risk involved. From personal experience I can tell you that some singles struggle as much with whether to spend $100-$200 a year to join a social club as they do with deciding to shell out $30,000 on a new car!

Again, it all gets back to realizing that:

  • You, more than anyone else, have the power to make sure the decisions you make turn out to be the right ones for you.
  • You have to gauge the absolute and relative risks of a wrong decision. Choosing whether to go out with somebody or spend $100 is not as dire as whether to get married or buy a house.
  • Even if you do make a few occasional mistakes, they are rarely the fatal foul-ups that you sometimes make them out to be. Don’t beat yourself up. Instead, embrace your mistakes and learn from them.
  • The more you come to realize the power you have over your decisions, the more comfortable and confident you will become in making them.

Just keep in mind that the real power in a decision comes from examining several good options carefully, taking a reasonable time to choose the best one for you, and then committing fully to your choice to ensure that it is successful. Being half-hearted or wishy-washy about your decisions or looking with one eye on your choice and one on the door won't get it done. You have to learn to not only make your decisions but to BE YOUR WORD — and therein lies the real power.

“In Building Relationship Success, It’s Best to Take the Stairs, Not the Elevator”
By Jim Senhauser (Copyright 2012 IdeaTree, Ltd. All rights reserved.)

The other day, a bit of incite came to me while I was climbing a set of stairs. I know it's a strange place to come up with an original thought, but it seemed apropos. You see, I could have taken the elevator, but I forced myself to get a little more exercise.

As I ascended each step, my inspiration that day was that when it comes to building relationships, success in the process is usually a matter of climbing a set of stairs rather than taking an elevator. After all, relationships are built one step at a time rather than by bypassing the process and shooting straight to the top. I know, I know — it's hardly the most profound thought in the world. But, if you think about how relationships progress, this approach can help you avoid some major, costly and often painful pitfalls.

Take, for example, the most common roadblock to relationship building for those of us past the age of 35. I am talking about patience. As children, we are taught from the moment we first hear the story "The Tortoise and the Hare" that "slow but steady wins the race." Yet, in a relationship, when passion kicks in, too often that wise logic is quickly forgotten. Tutor Turtle suddenly turns into Ricochet Rabbit.

How many times have we all heard our friends say, "I know it's important to go slowly, but our relationship is the exception to the rule"? No, there is a reason that it came to be known as a rule. If you think you are always the exception to that rule, you're only being exceptionally short-sighted. Take things a step at a time, gauging yours and your partner’s feelings and comfort level all along the way. I'm not saying you can't be impulsive and spontaneous some of the time, but don't be stupid.

The stairs analogy also applies to the idea of creating successful relationships by first becoming friends. As you gradually go from being acquaintances toward developing into friends, the qualities you admire and those you do not are revealed. The same is true of going from friends to lovers. If you try to skip those intermediate steps, you may somehow miss finding out those key attributes and shortcomings that you need to make a rational decision. Or, you may be confronted with them later all at once (and often at the most inopportune times).

But the surprising thing that also happens during this gradual climb is that your relational skills and you as a person grow as part of the process. In effect, you develop a set of relationship muscles. This process simply doesn't happen if you try to bypass the stairs. Creating relationships a step at a time is hard work. You have to put yourself out there, taking measured steps, risks and reasonable chances. As you succeed along the way, your confidence grows and you learn to trust your relationship instincts. At the same time, you're building your network of friends and your support system. Fortunately, the mistakes you make along the way are not usually the catastrophic kind and you can actually learn from them.

For those singles who try to jump straight to the top, very little of this personal progression takes place. They want to skip the patience part as well as the gradual development in favor of more immediate gratification. I am not suggesting that this approach is always wrong. However, if there is no personal development or self-awareness involved, long-term success in relationships is questionable.

That's one of the key reasons I have a lot of respect for and confidence in organizations that try to help singles succeed through building friendships, personal development and networking. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of "b u y-a-d a t e" companies out there that realize singles are impatient. These services prey on that attitude. They may rely on ego-appealing slogans like, "We know you are successful in your career and don't have time to meet the kind of man or woman you deserve." You've heard their shtick, I'm sure. Then, for several thousand dollars, they promise to help their new client jump the relationship development line. After all, he or she "deserves it." So, the solution is for a stranger to introduce you to another stranger? I don’t think so.

The idea that a person need only pay more to insure success in relationships is certainly an appealing one to a broad spectrum of singles. Why not bypass the stairs and the lines and the having to take personal responsibility for your own relationships and leave it all in the hands of your handlers. Trouble is, it puts all the emphasis on "finding" the right person and not much on "being" the right person.

I suggest you take the stairs. You'll be better and stronger partner having done it.