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Office Hours With Dr. Jim
by James Houran, Ph.D

In this column, "Dr. Jim" honestly and candidly answers your questions about dating, love and sexuality. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear – he tells you what you need to hear. Dr. Jim is committed to offering you guidance based on responsible clinical practice and hard data from the latest scientific studies. Send Dr. Jim your questions today for consideration in an upcoming issue.

This Week:
A Good Idea for an Online "Date"
Best Way to Tell Someone Goodbye

Ok, Dr. Smarty Pants, what’s a good idea for an online "date"? Chat rooms and regular IM are getting dull!


My keen clinical acumen and rigorous doctoral training senses sarcasm here. :-) My attempts at humor aside, I really liked this question. It’s a “real world” issue that I suspect affects a great deal of seasoned online daters. My solution to this perplexing challenge is – eBay. Yes, you read that correctly – eBay.

I’m not suggesting running bachelor auctions or taking Russian mail order brides to new lows. Instead, I’m proposing that an online couple via IM or webchat can open a new browser window and have a blast by “window shopping” eBay. Here’s some ideas to better explain what I mean:

» Have an online scavenger hunt

» Show each other the types of toys you had as a kid, as well as the toys you really wanted but Santa somehow forgot

» Find what you think are most tasteless items currently on the auction and tell each other why you choose those particular items

» Share with each other what you might bid on (and how high you would go) if you had suddenly won a 10 million dollar lottery

» Reveal what items are exactly like the ones you tried to auction off on eBay yourselves

» Find clothes and fashion styles you used to wear growing up but are pretty embarrassed about today

The point is… it’s a quirky, fun and novel activity for an “online date” or for just casual social networking. And, it allows individuals to be spontaneous, express their sense of humor, and provide each other with a little harmless but insightful self-disclosure. Please let me know if you try this! I’m eager to hear if an eBay “window shopping extravaganza” really is a clever idea that works, or if my advice is as much of a dud as a bottle of Limited Edition Barry Mannilow Skin Cream which you can “Buy Now” for $.35 (plus $125.00 postage from Taiwan).

What's the Best Way to Tell Someone "Goodbye"?
The sad but inevitable fact is that not all relationships, having started online of off, will cross the finish line. Online dating can be stressful – you’re learning about thousands and thousands of eligible people in a short time, participating in online “meet and greets” via email, IM, and chatrooms and either being rejected or rejecting others who don’t meet your needs and preferences.
My take on all of this is that saying goodbye isn’t necessarily a sad or undesirable event. Think of it this way… what’s worse (a) enduring temporary pain and discomfort by breaking off a relationship in order to find someone that truly is compatible with you, or (b) enduring a lifetime of pain and discomfort staying in an unfulfilling relationship? Obviously, it hurts to give or receive rejection; however, I feel that saying goodbye should be about opening new doors rather than closing old ones.

Even with this in mind, I feel a bit inadequate to answer concretely the question of how best to say goodbye to someone. You see, psychologists don’t know everything – much less me personally (despite the Dr. Smarty Pants reference above). So, not to let the Online Dating Magazine readers down I took the opportunity to ask many of my professional colleagues with clinical training, as well as a multitude of actively dating singles for their insights and guidance. I found consistent patterns and agreement in their responses. It seems to boil down to six general points to keep in mind when contemplating or actually saying “goodbye”:

1. Have the right attitude.
Realize and accept that saying or hearing “goodbye” is not synonymous with personal rejection. Just because some one isn’t right for you, doesn’t mean they’re not right for someone else. Two wonderful, attractive and vibrant people can be completely wrong for each other – even if they’re in love.

2. Always show respect.
When it becomes clear you need to separate, be as kind and respectful to each other as possible. You may not be able to achieve this until you’ve had breathing space to reflect about why the relationship doesn’t meet your needs or the other persons.

3. No blame game.
Never blame the other person. Saying goodbye is not about accusations – it’s about an understanding why two people don’t fit with one another. So, avoid finger pointing. If a break up is motivated by some one doing something wrong, then it might be best to simply communicate to the person that the relationship doesn’t meet your needs or expectations. In the same vein don't blame yourself for everything. Be willing to see what you contributed to the break-up. This may help you and the other person to move on and not stay stuck in difficult feelings.

4. Parents should remember the bigger picture.
If you’re a parent, do your best to protect them from any mudslinging and never use them to get back at your partner. Also, try not to make them take sides or choose between you and your partner. Even if parents separate, they can still be good mothers and fathers.

5. The glass is half full.
Hold on to what was good in the relationship and communicate that to the other person. Don't pretend it was all bad.

6. Goodbye is not a word, but a discussion.
If you can talk to each other about what when wrong, do. See if you can meet socially on neutral territory to address any unanswered questions. Closure is important and healthy for both sexes.

I want to hear your feedback and ideas on this! Email me examples from your own personal experience, and let me know which “goodbyes” worked and what ones didn’t. I’ll post the best ones in a future column.

> - The best approach to find the one. <

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