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Ask Ellie: When chatting with someone new, ask questions and listen

Dear Ellie: I’m a man in my late 40’s, separated for almost a year (amicable split). But I’ve completely forgotten how to chat/interact with women. I want to get into the dating scene, tempted to search dating sites.
Advice columnist Ellie
Ellie

Advice columnist EllieDear Ellie: I’m a man in my late 40’s, separated for almost a year (amicable split). But I’ve completely forgotten how to chat/interact with women.

I want to get into the dating scene, tempted to search dating sites. My problem is what to say when asked for profile information. I don’t want to come across as desperate or sad.

I’ve chatted with some women in passing e.g., in a lineup somewhere. I end up getting my tongue twisted and a little overwhelmed. I struggle with topic finding. I miss the “signs” or hints and especially body language.

I used to have no such problems. I can chat with anybody about everyday things. I just get flustered when meeting women and forget what to do and say.

Stumbling at Hello

Many women and men alike find it initially difficult to chat socially with the opposite sex post-divorce. Some seek the help of dating coaches to assist them in writing attention-getting dating profiles.

But divorced or single, here’s what works best in casual conversation with someone new: Show initial interest by asking about them more than talking about yourself.

Example: You introduce yourself when in line for a patio table, say, and make a comment, as in, “Have you eaten here previously (if yes,) what’s been your favourite dishes?”

That can become, “Have you travelled in that part of the world? I’d like to hear more about it some time.” Not intrusive, just friendly and showing interest.

Practice with someone trusted, such as a sister or friend. Choose a popular topic such as favourite shows/ documentaries to stream. Always start with asking about the other person’s choices, and some reasons why.

For your dating profile, ask both a male and female friend what they think are your appealing qualities. Don’t call yourself “ordinary.” If music is your passion, mention a favourite musician and album.

Above all, choose a photo that says something about you - e.g., outside with your dog, or with your tennis racquet in hand, or relaxed with a great book.

Don’t worry about getting flustered. It’s only an introductory chat, not a political debate.

Dear Ellie: My wife and her family are night owls, awake until midnight or later and sleeping in until 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. I’m a morning person — bedtime around 9:00-10:00, up at 6:00 a.m.

When her extended family visits our cottage most weekends, there’s raucous partying until at least midnight (table thumping, screams of laughter, etc.). Alcohol is involved.

I try to sleep using ear plugs but it’s difficult. Contrast with the morning: if I talk above a whisper, or don’t walk tip-toe, or generate any sound at all, my wife gets furious with me for disturbing her family’s sleep.

I’ve often asked why their morning sleep is more valuable than my evening sleep. It devolves into a full-scale argument with her telling me to grow up and deal with it. We can’t even talk about it anymore. We need help to resolve this.

Sounds that Divide

This is an unhealthy power grab on your wife’s side that can ultimately destroy the marriage as much as your sleep.

It’s arbitrary and unfair. The first change should be not having these same inconsiderate guests every weekend. Invite thoughtful friends periodically. Also, go there as a couple to relax together if possible.

If none of this is negotiable, the cottage will become the subject of your divorce discussions. You two need sooner-than-later marital counselling, to recognize how divided you already are.

Reader’s commentary regarding a husband’s wife of 40 years who’s become difficult, untruthful, vindictive, and accusatory (June 30):

The husband’s added statement that “there’s plenty of alcohol in the mix,” signals to me that her negative, nasty behaviours can all be attributed to alcoholism.

I’ve been involved in helping families regarding alcoholism for more than 20 years.

There’s no doubt that the first, most important thing that needs to be addressed is the wife’s drinking. Sobriety can, and often does make changes in behaviour.

Education about alcoholism is so important and a must. Important considerations: Does the husband drink also? Would he go to Al-Anon (resource for family/friends living with an alcoholic)? What about the adult daughter who’s “treated similarly” to her father? Would the wife be willing to go to Alcoholics’ Anonymous?

I recommend two books: Beyond the Influence by Katherine Ketcham and William Asbury, and Co-Dependency No More by Melody Beattie.

Ellie’s tip of the day

When meeting new potential dates/friends. ask about their past highlights, current interests/hopes, and listen.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.