WHEN YOU KNOW YOU KNOW….AND THEN YOU FORGET I remember a friend calling me years ago and saying “I met the woman I’m going to marry. She’s THE ONE. I can’t explain it. It’s just like, when you know you know!” He wasn’t the first to say this and I’d certainly seen some degree of this certainty phenomena. If you haven’t figured out where this is going, he did marry her and divorced her a couple years later. This brings me to the theme of having a clear understanding of what you want in a relationship and forgetting your pre-relationship established truths.


People often get stuck when they can’t decide if they are “settling” in a relationship or having “too high of standards.” Most people tend to lean towards one end of the continuum but seeing a relationship clearly can be really difficult if you feel like you’re stuck finding this balance point.

For most people some degree of self-sacrifice and compromise is essential in a long term committed relationship. Hopefully not to give up one’s values or engage in unnecessary suffering. But in the case of love or at least commitment, one is usually okay with a little compromise and putting another person’s needs first. No big deal, right? It is when we forget our pre-determined relationship standards based on previous experiences, and compromise by being with people who don’t meet those standards. This isn’t about shopping around for the perfect match. This is about knowing what your bottom line is. What your needs are. These come from the few bullet points we all have based on the lessons we’ve learned in previous relationships.

Recall how you would finish this next sentence about 6 months after you ended a relationship a couple of years ago: I will never be in a relationship with __________ (fill in the blank) problem/issue again. Could be “a guy who is selfish,” “a guy who chooses work or football over me.” Whatever it is. Most people commit many of the same mistakes in relationships, go for the same guys, experience the same types of disappointments. Use your history and your MEMORY to keep you on track! You don’t have to worry about gaining more insight into why you or he (some ex) did the thing he did. Trust me, you know enough. You know the take home points, the final conclusions. Honor yourself by remembering them in the next relationship!


It’s a difficult balance to strike. When should you show your true self, including vulnerabilities with a partner and when should you remain behind a romantic shield? One that keeps the other person from getting to know the real you- the good and the bad.


This one is particularly common in the early stages in a relationship, but also is used when one is feeling a little unsafe or insecure in a relationship. It’s not always a bad thing but people…I suggest you’re subtle if you use it. Using the self promotion shield includes selectively choosing to discuss topics that will assumingly will make you look “good” or “desirable.” It’s a difficult game to play because particularly early on, you can’t be sure what is going to be good or desirable to another person. At the same time, people can be a little more judgmental early on. Things that someone would normally be forgiving of when they are already attached may be totally appalling and out of the question when they are just getting to know you. The down side of course is that while attempting to protect yourself you ultimately may remain in a cloud of doubt and insecurity about the feelings the other person has for you. After all, they’ve only seen parts and who is to say if they really like/love the REAL you.


At the other end of the continuum there is this “show all my cards” approach. It can be a wonderful way to get to know someone and develop a genuine lasting connection. Unfortunately, again – people are not necessarily as forgiving of all qualities or as understanding of “flaws” in people they don’t know. Still, if you happen to be two very empathetic and open individuals this approach can send you both into a wonderful sense of genuine connection. The balance to strike between these two approaches will be for you to determine. It will be a unique set of risk and benefits analysis you develop from your history of experiences, and the relationship you are seeking. Good luck!


Have you ever noticed that you spend a little more time thinking about the flaws (as opposed to the strengths) in your partner or in your relationship? It’s no secret that many people tend to hold their partner to some standard that they would not hold their friends or other close people in their lives. Whether or not this is verbalized or just tucked deep away to slowly negatively influence your relationship, it can have a big impact. For some, this tendency to focus on the negative occurs most frequently in the early phases of the relationship, when trust is being established. For others, it only creeps up after trust is established and things are going well.


A similar type of mind trick that can be equally harmful to your well-being is the tendency to bring focused attention to the “good memories” of a relationship that no longer exists. For example, a relationship is over (that you felt disappointed about) and your memories of your ex become further and further from the truth. Your tendency to dwell on memories of the things you miss about your ex become more and more false. This new image of your ex basically becomes one of your mental creation. The mind is a powerful tool! This seems illogical and can be difficult to spot in yourself.


If you have been in a relationship for awhile you may be torturing yourself with a similar type of selective attention. You may remember all the good memories that occurred at some time in the distant (or even not so distant) past. This search for the contrast between how things were and how things are can be pretty detrimental but it can be useful if you really address these questions. Ask yourself: Are my needs the same as they were then (whenever that was)? What were instances where this (these wonderful memories) did not occur? These are two important questions because they help you look at your relationship (or past relationship) as a whole. Something a little closer to reality, something you can work with!


It’s an amazing gift to have a partner that brings excitement, joy, and happiness to your life. For the most part, including friends, we spent time with those who enrich our lives, not those who make our lives less positive. But what if you’re a person who finds that you only feel truly happy when your partner is around?


Is it so bad that you are experiencing (or are recalling your last relationship where you experienced this) this set of positive emotions exclusively through your partner? I have to say, yes. If each time your partner is not around you realize you go from about a 10 on the happiness scale to a 4, that’s a problem. I’m not meaning to instill panic in your. This just means that you need to take experiencing positive emotions in other ways as a significant priority. This is for the success of your relationship as much as it is for your own well-being!


I do believe that people have genuine connections with others….even ones that feel so amazing and magical that it’s difficult to think that it’s not about the most unique special thing on the planet. Yes, you should acknowledge that this person has this impact on you. However, it’s really important that you realize that the experience of positive emotions (happiness, excitement, joy) are coming from within YOU. You are responding to a unique set of factors in this person, but the experience itself is created inside you. Your mind, along with your unique history have managed to experience wonderful things with this person. It’s important to know that these are YOURS. Therefore, you can experience them in other ways, with other people, and through other experiences.  It’s amazing that you have the capacity to experience such positive feelings. Great- now go practice finding new ways to experience them even more! 


At all phases of relationships (the first month) to 10 years in, there are times when you may see your partner in a less than attractive or in a less than positive light. Perhaps it’s when you decide that it’s a good idea to be gym partners. You didn’t know that he/she had the ability to perspire in such a way or wear the same gym cloths three days in a row. Or maybe it’s when you realize that they only brush their teeth at night (hope this is not the case). The first time it happens it may instill a bit of panic in you. “Am I REALLY attracted to this person?”, “What if I stop liking/loving them?” ATTRACTION FRACTION

There is some basic math here that I hope you find comforting. Lets say in a pie chart of initiating contact and expressing interest, you dominate this 2/3 or the time. Your partner only 1/3 of the time. There needs to be more room for your partner to initiate and express interest. Whenever the balance if off you can become frustrated and over-think things. Also, if your partner is the one that is taking up 2/3 of the pie, that loving feeling may decrease on your end.


Men seem to have an easier time acknowledging that other women than there partner are attractive and don’t tend to over-think it. Comparing your partner to others can be both a good and bad thing. I’m not asking you to go do this, only to acknowledge that you already do. Take for example, you’re at a party and you run into your super hot ex-boyfriend. At the same party another charming and attractive single guy is paying attention to you. You go home and find yourself a little less attractive to your guy. Perspective changes things. That can be frightening, but it should really be reassuring. Everything from your mood to the people you’re around can influence how much you experience that loving feeling.


 It’s important to have at least a small amount of challenge in any relationship to keep that loving feeling. A good challenge to take on is flirting with your partner at an unexpected time. People become predictable and as a result others become bored with us and we become bored with ourselves. Being turned on and attracted to someone else can be as much about you as about the real aspects of your partner (are the actually attractive).


Don’t worry if you’re not that into your guy one day. Wait it out and don’t take this too seriously. Reevaluate/check in with yourself about the issue two weeks from now. I find that most people can put off anything for two weeks and you can't usually make many conclusions in a shorter amount of time. You get to decide what you value in relationships. I find that most people need to be attracted to their partner most of the time. It’s up to you to decide what your needs are. Whatever they are, know that attraction is fluid and changing. Don’t stress too much about it but look for patterns. If there is a theme (and it’s not a good one), then you may need to address it more directly and decide if it’s something you can live with.


I’m fascinated by the criticism of the D.C. dating scene. When I moved here a few months ago I tried to ignore the chatter that D.C. was an awful place to date. I’ve tried to be understanding to the women and men (all orientations) who voice their concerns:

  • DC is just a bunch of adult high school cliques
  • All people do is talk about their resume
  • Everyone tries to one up everyone
  • Everyone’s snobby
  • Nobody wants a relationship, everyone’s just here for a couple years
  • It’s too transient to date

I wondered if there was some truth to this. I consulted with a friend/researcher at Harvard and he sent me his own take on the chances of a single woman (around my age) meeting a guy. His response:

“Based on Census data for the 20002 zip code, I've estimated that your probability of meeting a college-educated guy between the ages of 26.5 and 42.9 is 8.2% (algorithm available upon request).  But we know these things don't follow the laws of math.  There are numerous guys out there right now, in DC, with values and goals that align with yours and they're searching for someone."

I appreciated his optimistic last thought. Especially given that I think that his statistic was complete B.S. However, I do agree, these things do not follow the laws of math. I’d like to share some insight into why your probability is MUCH MUCH higher than 8.2%. I’d like to actually take a leap and move the freaking decimal point over one to the right.


I hope I don’t seem unsympathetic, but I think it would be good for the locals here to get some perspective. Now, sure, dating wasteland is variable in terms of your personal dating preferences, ages, demographics, etc. A general definition should still apply.


OFFENSIVE LEVEL OF STAGNATION: There is a degree of limited movement in the wasteland area. The same people will frequent your local bar, grocery, and coffee shop. You unavoidably run into your ex weekly. Also, your ex, ex.

THE TRIAD DILEMMA: You get no more than three different types of guys to choose from for example. Peter-pan types (can’t grow up and live in the college town they graduated from 10 years ago), Gym rats (limited conversation. Speak only gym), finance types. Whatever, it doesn’t matter the type. The point is, a real authentic dating wasteland would have no more than 3 types of guys to choose from. If that’s not your type. Well, it sucks to be you.

MY EX ISN'T SO BAD: You find yourself with (hooking up, hanging out, whatever) someone that already determined with complete confidence that was less than pretty much unacceptable to be around except in cases of extreme boredom (or limited human resources). As a result, you find yourself spending time with said person in cases when only mild boredom has struck.

If you’re in DC…if these are your issues, you’re doing something wrong. Although based on my limited amount of research I can’t say that this place in is a gold mine, but there is a lot of reason to be pretty damn optimistic with dating. Ignore your friends and some lame weekend news article. Assess the dating scene on factors that matter. That’s where the real statistics will shine.

TRANSIENT FACTOR: People complain about this because many people apparently don’t stay in DC. Here’s the thing though - when new people constantly move into the city it’s like all your dating non-potentials are being magically power-washed away with new people. This is fantastic!!

NOVELTY: Do you have access to new places constantly (new business, new events, (ummm…have you seen how many thousand meetup groups there are?), new locations, new festivals, etc.)? Shoot, you can’t find anyone in the NW quadrant (something like 64% single people live in Columbia Heights alone), go ahead and get crazy…walk over to a different quadrant.

RECREATION PLAYGROUND: This place is like the land of joining stuff. Adults work hard here, but they also like to play. I mean, sure it’s also very network based and that can be obnoxious. But you can still join 6,831 groups and clubs or events (I’m still not totally sure what that means here….but people use it a lot) on any given week and meet new people.

Honestly, I could go on and on but bottom line, there are OPTIONS…there will always be options in a city like D.C. because it is alive, and moving…so go be alive and move!


I can see how this could sound like a downer, but hear me out. Your boyfriend (or ex, or girlfriend) is not special. We can learn a lot about why and how we love by looking at the endings of relationships. Think about what you miss about an old guy/gal if they left you or about what you would miss about one that you are with now if they were no longer around. Get in it…sink in it. Feel all sad. No one is stopping you.  Now, come up with a list of five short answers to the following: NOPE, I'M NOT IMPRESSED. BUT TRY ME...WHY IS HE SUCH A BIG DEAL?

Now, I can’t predict exactly what you’re going to come up with but it may be something like the following:

He is/ was someone

  • to talk to at the end of a hard day (supports me no matter what)
  • to lay on the couch with (feel connected)
  • who thinks everything I do is cute  (unconditional love, affection)
  • will help me if I need help (dependable)
  • to try new things with (keeps me from feeling lonely)


Go back to lets say….two boyfriends/girlfriends before that one. Same deal. You really liked/loved them and missed several things. Think of what they were. What I’m trying to get at here is that no matter who you are with, if you are at a certain level of love (strong feelings, whatever), there are JUST A FEW OF THE SAME EXACT THINGS that make you feel that you really want to be with them, and don’t want to be without them.  I call these PRIMARY COMMON FACTORS of relationships. They are the things that make us stick around with someone and make us hate thought of letting someone go.


No, my boyfriend is totally special! He’s different. He talks about history and politics and we have these deep philosophical conversations and we try new things…it’s all VERY specific. True, it’s great that you have these shared moments. These special details are actually things that help you reach the feeling states of the common factors (those original 5 things.) Having great intellectual banter or sharing musical interests (what I call SECONDARY COMMON FACTORs of a relationships) for example draws you into a person and provides you with a pathway to experience the thing you are seeking (i.e., affection, unconditional love, support). The underlining theme that keeps you with him or makes you miss him…well, it’s the same darn primary common factors that will come up in every pseudo normal relationship.


The whole point of this is not to make you think that your boyfriend isn’t worth anything. I actually believe that he, like all humans is pretty special in some way. So this is GOOD news! Just know that if you are missing someone or are afraid of losing someone it’s about missing (or fear of losing) the PRIMARY COMMON FACTORS in a relationship à  Something that is NOT unique to that person. Something that will absolutely come to you again, the next time you fall in love. I think that’s actually pretty reassuring and pretty freaking wonderful.


It’s painful to watch people try to make sense of a relationship that has already ended. It’s like putting together a puzzle blind-folded. You may eventually get it. But you’ll never know for sure.

Clara at 15 was already in it pretty deep. I wished that she had been given a few more years before she would become victim to the epidemic of wasteful meaning making. Even at her age she knew the clichés, the main truths present in our society. Let go of the past. Forgive and move on. To her credit, she did each of these. The problem was that she revisited each of them over and over again. Every morning when she woke up in the months post break-up she tried her own method of moving on. She would engage in a repetitive, torturous, insight-seeking session whenever left alone.

Did he really like me when we were together? (Fear, confusion)

Develop the same list of contradictory behavior: He said and did (fill in the blank), but he also did this (fill in the blank). Conclusion: That doesn’t make sense. (more confusion, fear).

This is all especially concerning because of the next point.


After a break-up when things don’t go as planned, it can make you trust yourself less. If you were with this person and things ended, how can you trust that you know how to make good decisions, and that people you’re with are who they say they are. There is this increasing doubt in your ability to see things as they are. It’s like doubting yourself when you look up at the sky and knowing if it’s green or blue. You don’t trust any of your conclusions about the relationship or the present state of the relationship, break up, or lack of relationship. This is shown by your tendency to go over the same exact thing in your mind, or by telling the exact story to friends to finally “confirm” the final point.


Trying to figure things out and living in the past….or overanalyzing present behavior (texts, social media, etc.) is not present time. The mental space you use to analyze the past is wasted important space. Space that could be used to live your life, keep hope alive, and keep moving forward.  Bottom line: The more time you spend trying to understand what went wrong, the less room you have to live your life. And it will certainly only prolong your grief. 


It’s not easy to love when you know that there are risks involved. The equilibrium between thinking with the mind and feeling with the heart is difficult to reach. It’s a unique balance based on our attachment experiences and history in life and love. Know these common mistakes and you have a chance at warm fuzzy relationship success instead of prickly fearful romance.



This mistake is a big one, and one that usually occurs even in the early stages of a relationship or after a few months. People are sometimes ready to put out their list of concerns early on as a part of the process of deciding whether or not the other person is a good match. There is this initial evaluation period. After a period of time things tend to settle down and then after real intimacy has developed, some of those skeletons of fears resurface. This occurs when one or both partners feel a sense of safety in disclosing some of their concerns. This may include divulging concerns about level of commitment, long term goals (living together, meeting family). When it comes to talk about the future, limit it to a ratio of 90-10, positive, negative. Say you mention several future oriented things (a vacation, meeting his family), make sure that you focus on the positive.

Fear is contagious! I can’t tell you how many times things have gone completely fine in a relationship and then one person’s concerns ooze into the unconsciousness of another person. Example: there was an age discrepancy and the woman was worried how age may impact the relationship. The male was present focused and didn’t worry about the future in general. After a while, the boyfriend actually started to be concerned about all of the fears that the girlfriend was verbalizing.


One of the great things about people and relationships is that they are more fluid than imaginable. Sure, that’s one of the scary things, too. Things can change very quickly. But relationships have dips and things don’t go well for a period of time, all to later reach a greater sense of balance and a stronger foundation. Every relationship is tested with disagreements and discussions that are the result of the fears of one or both partners.  This brings me to notion of “testing.” Testing is when you’re do things to test the status of the relationship, either through action or passive-aggressive attempts. If you see yourself needing to test the relationship let it be a signal to you that you are not addressing your insecurities, or you have not expressed something that will eventually need to be expressed. Also, be sure to own what is yours. Know when you’re projecting your history onto your current partner and relationship. Own it by acknowledging it to yourself, and if necessary communicate it. But don’t go into too much detail.


Your alternative to not taking the above recommendation seriously will likely bring you to the common mistake, of filling in the blanks. You’ve probably already done it since most relationships start out with this unhelpful method. Filling in the blanks is when you make assumptions about what the other person is thinking, feeling, and what the hell they are actually doing in the relationship. I know you may consider yourself insightful and “good at reading people.” That gets you nowhere in your personal relationships. Your only chance is looking at real facts. Don’t assume you know what another person is feeling if you don’t. Go with the most logical assumption (if they hang out with you a lot, say they like you, you can at least assume that they do like you. If they hang out with you inconsistently and don’t say they like you, assume that they like you some but that’s all you know.)


Do you recall the story “Chicken Little” from childhood? I don’t remember most of the details either honestly but what I do recall is that there was this constant irrational fear that the sky was falling. Moral of the story (I think) was that no, the sky wasn’t falling, and even if it was, going around yelling in or outside your head about it is crazy making and does nothing. If the sky is falling, it’s going to freaking fall. End of story. If you are at that point where you aren’t sure if your guy or girl is about to pull the plug on the relationship (or whatever the labeled contemporary version of spending time together earns), there are ways to decrease the crazy making. Step 1: ASK YOURSELF IF YOU’VE ALREADY TRIED TO COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR GUY.

If you have, good for you. However, you (or both of you more likely) have failed to some extent because there is continued ambiguity on your future status (based on my assumption that you’re reading this). It’s okay though, this is a common experience for modern day mates.


I don’t really want to hear your rationale about how you guys had an awful weekend and all these issues came up. It’s not enough to draw conclusions. Choose 3 significant intimate moments during the past week. Since we are in the technology age I’ll include (squeamishly) texts and over public displays of irritation or affection via social media walls, tags, and tweets. Don’t get too held up on which three points you chose. The fact that you chose them means something. No need to overthink them.


Assess the three data points by filling in the following sentence with one word, and make it a different word for each example: More or less, this data point that occurred in the past week represents the  ________ (fill in the blank) part of my relationship. Choose just one word.  It could be any adjective you can imagine (i.e., fun, adorable, amazing, exciting, loving, caring, withdrawn, hopeless, hopeful).


Now you’re going to pretend (if you are one, wear a different suit) to be a lawyer. Make your case to a judge. Just for fun, assume that’s me. Hi, I’m Dr. Marie Land. Judge of all relationships. Make me your case using the three instances of data you filled out above.  I stand before you (confident lawyer representing yourself) and say “Explain to me why I should believe that there is any chance in hell that you and your partner will last another two weeks?” You can use your three data points and accompanying adjectives to make me a case.

Step 5: VISUALIZE HOW THIS WENT DOWN. Take your time. Close your eyes and see my facial expressions (I apologize if they were less than friendly). I know you don’t know me personally, but what do you think Judge Marie would say? If you had to guess….would you be granted another two weeks to remain in the relationship? Be real with yourself. None of that self-doubt and lack of confidence crap. Just pure evidence, pure argumentation and pleading your case.


You have permission to stop thinking about the status of your relationship and will actually be fined (maybe not monetarily, but definitely emotionally) if you violate this request. You have two weeks to accept that that person is going to remain with you and your only job is to trust that they are. You will always deal with the outcome later….the future is inescapable so lets just get on with trusting what the data says now. If I did not grant you two more weeks…guess what? You also get the same piece of advice. Sorry if it’s anticlimactic. Your job is not to break it off right now. But you are to take two weeks from looking at the data. When you’re two weeks are up you get to do the same exercise. If the data has not changed, then you have to think about acting on the data. For now, fearful loving and lusting is a fast track to destroying any hopes of a relationship. Don’t do it.