7 Key Questions to Ask on the First 3 Dates

Here’s a quick test to help you determine if you’re truly ready to go after your goal of having a long-term, successful relationship:

Picture this: You’re on the 3rd date with someone you really like – and who seems to like you. Can you imagine yourself saying something along these lines?
I think it’s pretty clear we like one another – and I think you’re a terrific guy/gal. As we talked about on our last date, we’re both interested in finding someone to be in a long-term relationship with. If we’re going to continue dating, I think it’s a good idea to share with each other what we envision for ourselves to further test our compatibility. Would you be open to talking about that?

Yikes, right?

You’d be surprised. It’s actually not a tough question for people who are both ready to be in a relationship and relatively confident and clear about what they want and need. This type of person understands it could take time to find the right partner. So even when there’s chemistry with someone, they believe it makes sense to ask the difficult questions early on to make sure their relationship values and goals match up.

What might seem like the Mt. Everest of questions is also easy to leapfrog for those whose life goals (i.e., marriage and family) are tied to age. Many like-minded folks in their 30s and 40s have already dated a lot and are ready to make a decision on a partner. And don’t think biological clocks just affect women. Even though men may be capable of fathering a child at age 60 doesn’t mean they want to wait until then to do so.

The “7 key questions in 3 dates” timeline this post proposes isn’t for everyone – nor is it even appropriate for everyone.

If you’re in your early 20s or just want a casual relationship, then taking it slow and letting a relationship evolve organically is to be encouraged. On the other hand, I have a 55-year-old client who hasn’t dated in 8 years. Since she doesn’t want marriage or children, she’s absolutely fine with taking her time so she can uncover what (and who) feels right for her.

In between these two camps, there are many people who truly, (and perhaps desperately) want to be in a relationship yet always seem to get tripped up by common dating pitfalls like fun-but-futureless serial dating or ending up with the wrong type of partner…again.

These people suffer, but I believe there’s a way to end the pain. More about that at the end of the post.

But first, here’s why I believe there are 7 key questions serious daters should ask on the first 3 dates!

I like to compare the first few dates with someone to how we typically size up a buffet line. Think about it. Most of us stroll up and down the table, seeing what looks good before deciding what to commit to our plates. Why? Because if we simply selected the first several items on the table – we could end up missing the really yummy and satisfying entrees further down the line!

That’s how I lay out my 7-questions approach to my relationship-coaching clients. I encourage them to look at dating as a way to get clear about a person’s rightness for you before you’re in too deep. If you take the approach to let things “develop organically,” you could end up spending a lot of time with someone, only to find out they’re not someone you can be with long-term.

Plus, asking the key questions early on can save some heartache. Many people, women in particular, have a hard time letting go of a relationship once there is physical and/or emotional intimacy. So even if you come to know that he or she can’t meet your needs, it can be hard to say goodbye to someone you’ve really connected with.

One final note before the questions themselves:

I’m not proposing that these are the only questions you’ll ask, (or answer) on dates 1, 2 and 3. You’ve gotten to know hundreds, perhaps thousands of people in your lifetime, and that aspect of dating is no different. But if you’re nervous or unsure, a quick trip to the Internet will provide ample first-date conversational tips.

OK. As promised, here are the 7 key questions that will help you move on to the next date – or simply move on.

Date #1
1. What do you do for fun or as hobbies? Do you prefer adventurous or quieter activities?

This icebreaker is perfect for discovering if there are any interests you share, which is an important aspect of healthy relationships. Of course there is nothing wrong with having dis-similar interests, too, as they help people develop their individuality within a relationship. There are no right or wrong answers here; you’re simply looking for a sense of your date’s temperament and personality.

2. What should I know about you that I’d never think to ask about?
3. What do you wish people would stop asking you?

People aren’t generally asked these questions, so they have to think about their answers. You can learn a lot from their verbal – and nonverbal – responses. For example:

Do they get defensive or are they intrigued?
Do they give themselves the time they need to respond?
Do their responses reveal some vulnerability or perhaps a “silly” side?

If there were enough positive signs and good feelings on the first date, you’ll likely find yourself making plans to see one another again.

Date #2

4. How would you describe your family…and your relationship with them?

Every child plays a unique role in a family. This question invites your date to tell you about his or hers, as well as share about the values, ideals, religious and cultural influences that were part of growing up. What you’re looking to see is if your date talks about his family with warmth or annoyance. If the latter, why is that?

5. What’s your relationship / marriage history?

If you want a serious relationship, the second date is not too early to talk a little about your histories.

You’re not asking for every single detail (nor should you share yours). Instead, you’re after an overview of their relationship experiences. Pay attention: Your date may reveal his or her attitude toward exes (positive or negative), as well as if she or he shares the responsibility for a relationship’s or marriage’s end – or puts it all on the partner. The conversation can also be a sneak peak into what they want in future relationships.

6. Are you looking for a monogamous relationship or do you prefer to date a variety of people?

I know it’s only the second date. And Yes, this is a big question. But if you’re serious about wanting a long-term relationship, it’s better to know your date’s intention sooner rather than later. He or she can’t give a wrong answer… but there is only one right answer for you. If it’s “looking for a monogamous relationship” and the chemistry is good, you’re probably going on to a third date.

Date #3

7. When it comes to a long-term relationship, what are your must-haves…as well as your must-not-haves?

Obviously this isn’t the only question or topic for the third date, but it’s the core one. This question presumes you know what your must-haves and must-not-haves are, of course, and are willing to share them honestly.

If you mention you’d like to be married and start a family within a year or so and your date freaks out, it’s a pretty clear sign that it isn’t in the cards for him or her – at least not on your timetable. It can be tough to distinguish someone’s ‘potential commit-ability” from their actual interest in a commitment… but that’s precisely what this question forces you to reckon with.

So there you have my 7 key questions to ask on the first 3 dates.

Before I sign off, I want to make good on my commitment to daters who want a serious relationship, but are no where near being able to ask these very direct questions.

First, let me assure you there is nothing wrong with where you are! Nor does a resistance to asking these questions mean you’re not meant to be in a relationship.

What it may mean is that you have some old belief systems about yourself and your fitness for a successful relationship that you may not even know you hold. In my experience, (personal and professional), these old beliefs need to be examined. Through that process, you will learn some truths about yourself – and the many positive traits you can bring to a relationship.

Some people can do this emotional work alone, but most find it more effective and efficient to work with a therapist or relationship coach. Eventually, doing it helps you become more clear and confident about what you want and need in a successful relationship – and how to go about achieving that goal.

In fact, I did exactly that to get unstuck and find the relationship of _my_ dreams. And now my coaching practice helps people just like you do the same.

If you’re interested in learning more, please take advantage of my free 30-minute phone consultation.

Happy Dating!

Keep the 80/20 Rule for Relationships in Mind This Valentine’s Day!

valentine's day advice

It’s that time of year again! Heart-shaped candies are filling the aisles, red and pink decor is filling up every available space, and love songs are in the air. That can only mean one thing – Valentine’s Day is almost here!

Whether you’re in a relationship or not, Valentine’s Day is a holiday that can cause a lot of joy – and also a lot of stress. However, there’s another way to look at “the day of love.” We can use this as the perfect opportunity to reflect on our current relationships. Whether you’re single or in a loving, committed relationship, it’s always important to reflect on behaviors and patterns that may be holding you back or causing issues. That’s where the 80/20 rule for relationships comes into play.

The 80/20 Rule for Relationships

If you’ve never heard of the 80/20 rule, it’s the theory that you only get 80 percent of what you actually want out of a relationship. Even if that 80 percent is really amazing, we still search for that missing 20 percent. And the search for that missing 20 percent of what you want out of a partner is what causes people to cheat.

Why do we feel that the 80 percent isn’t good enough? Why are they constantly searching for that missing piece? Many place the blame on their partner because that’s the easy explanation. They aren’t giving you everything you want and need in your relationship, so of course it’s their fault. However, I beg to differ. I have my own take on the 80/20 rule.

80 percent of the issues we have with others are actually our own internal struggles. The other 20 percent are issues within the relationship. Oftentimes, we project our own judgments, fears, and ideas onto others. We go into a relationship expecting to get something out of it, and when we don’t get what we want or need, it’s hard to feel completely settled or happy.

Look Within This Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is all about showing others how much we love them. But in order to do that, we must first start with loving ourselves. This Valentine’s Day, I challenge you to take a look within to identify patterns that are causing challenges in your relationships. In order to do this, you have to take a close look at your own judgments, assumptions, and expectations. The next time you’re on a date and find yourself annoyed with something your partner is doing, take a step back to reflect on the judgments you’re making. Ask yourself if what they are doing is really that bad, or if it’s your own internal struggles that are warping the way you’re looking at the situation. Taking a moment to work through it before rushing to irritation will help you handle anything your date is doing with ease and maybe even a sense of humor.

Remember that YOU have the power to work on the 80 percent of your relationship, while the 20 percent is a joint effort between yourself and your partner. In order to build a relationship that lasts, it’s important to work through you own personal issues to be able to build something real with your partner.

If you’re not sure how to go about working through that 80 percent, you might want to consider relationship coaching. Together, we can figure out the difference between your own needs vs. what you need and want out of a relationship. Contact me today to get in touch and learn more about my relationship coaching program!

Overcoming Internal Barriers to Love

Overcoming Internal Barriers to Love (1)

Are you looking for love but struggling to find it? Have you been deeply hurt by love in the past? Are you looking to let go of past relationships and feel a renewed sense of confidence? If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you may be interested in attending my upcoming workshop with Paula Rosenfeld on February 4th!

Overcoming Internal Barriers to Love is a two and a half hour workshop for women who are single or in relationships. During this workshop, you will learn energy tools that will help you catalyze change in your life, including: meditation, guided imagery, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), and essential oils. You will also learn how to identify and understand the blocks and fears that are preventing you from moving forward in your relationships.

WHAT: Overcoming Internal Barriers to Love

WHEN: Sunday, February 4th, 2018 from 2pm – 4:30pm

WHERE: Moving Life Studio, 5115 North Ravenswood, Chicago 60640

COST: $49.00

Paula is a shamanic practitioner, holistic health coach, author, clairvoyant reader, and meditation instructor who passionately helps people to be happy and whole. I, Sue De Santo, am a clinical social worker and relationship coach with over 20 years of experience. Through my 3 month one-on-one relationship coaching program, I help individuals understand their hidden barriers to love and how to move through them.

If you’re ready to learn how to “ignite” love from within, contact Paula at paula@fromtheheartcenter.com or call (773) 791-8425 to register today!

Embrace ‘Liminal Space’ this Holiday Season

holiday dating

Are you having a difficult time navigating the dating scene day in and day out? Do you find it is especially difficult during the holidays? If so, you’re not alone. For many, the holiday season is just another reminder that you are alone and not where you want to be – celebrating with a special someone.

It can be easy to allow this time of year to get to you, but it’s important not to let the fact that you are alone affect your sense of self-worth. If you are feeling anxious about where you are in your life, you may be in liminal space.

What is Liminal Space?

Liminal space is a space between what has been and what is to come. It is a place of transition, waiting, and not knowing. Liminal space is not talked about often, but it is a necessary part of the journey to your next adventure. If you short-circuit this phase or try to avoid it, it could add more difficulty to your life in the long run. If you embrace liminal space and are patient, you will see a transformation begin to take place.

Author and theologian Richard Rohr’s definition of liminal space explains it perfectly:

“It is when you have left the tried and true, but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer. If you are not trained in how to hold anxiety, how to live with ambiguity, how to entrust and wait, you will run….anything to flee this terrible cloud of unknowing.”

Liminal Space in Real Life

Chances are, you’ve probably never heard of liminal space before. Don’t worry, you’re not alone! I had never even heard of the term until I spoke with my friend Adrienne Kijak who is a psychotherapist and art therapist in California.

We were catching up when she began telling me about her experience at a recent Art conference. She was working on a painting project called “progressive painting,” where she combined paint, objects she had found, and collage to create a piece. She picked a jagged piece of black glass and a smooth aquamarine piece of beautiful sea glass. During our conversation, she shared the painting process with me, explaining that she spent several days working on layering the paint and objects through all of the phases from the initial “ugly” phase to the finished piece. She explained that at times it was difficult to look at the art project because she hated being with that “ugly” part of the painting and seeing it over and over again. She didn’t want to feel what it was eliciting in her and wanted to cover over it. In her own words, “it was on the page. I couldn’t cover it over, couldn’t make it work. It was there, I couldn’t hide it.” She hated the feeling of not knowing, and more than that, she hated the fact that showing that part of her art left her feeling exposed.

As she spoke about her painting, I realized she was describing exactly how many of us feel about dating, or any other changes we may experience in our life. Whether it be divorce, a job change, or the death of a loved one, we have all experienced those exact emotions she described. That feeling of not knowing, feeling unsafe, exposed, and even “dumb,” is exactly what liminal space describes. But the important part of Adrienne’s story is what she took away from it. In the end, the black edge of “ugliness” she saw and felt in her art ended up being an integral part of the painting that brought the entire process together.

How Have You Experienced Liminal Space?

Often when we date, we experience liminal space.

Many of my clients struggle to move through the dating process. They want to be with their ideal partner already and don’t want to have to go through the trials and tribulations of dating. This is because it feels too hard, too exhausting, and too all-consuming. But dating is a crucial part of the relationship process. It is where you truly discover who you are and what matters most to you in a relationship. Dating can be uncomfortable because you may feel it is taking too long, going too slow, or not really getting you anywhere.

But, next time you are being hard on yourself and feel like you should be further along in your journey, take a second to stop and think about liminal space. Remind yourself that this phase of your life is important and try to have patience with yourself.

Don’t let liminal space put a damper on your holiday cheer. Allow yourself to reflect on your journey and embrace where you are in life and where you are going. If you trust in yourself and where you are on your journey, things will fall into place.


We often need a roadmap to help us navigate the changes in our life. If you’re struggling with liminal space and need some support throughout your journey, I can help! Contact me today to learn more about my relationship coaching program. I look forward to speaking to you about your journey and helping you through this time of liminal space.

Featured on DatingAdvice.com!

online dating advice

I’m excited to announce that I was recently featured in an article on DatingAdvice.com, entitled: Relationship Coaching for Singles: Sue DeSanto Teaches Women to Love Themselves & Change Their Dating Patterns.

Self-described as “The Authority On All Things Dating™,” DatingAdvice.com is an online platform featuring daily articles and resources about love and dating from over 250 dating experts. With over 2.4 million visitors a month, it is a leader in online dating advice. The site covers a variety of topics, including: men’s dating, women’s dating, gay dating, lesbian dating, online dating, and senior dating. No matter who you are or who you love, DatingAdvice.com has the resources available to answer all of your relationship questions.

I was honored to be interviewed by contributing editor Amber Brooks about my relationship coaching services, and enjoyed discussing my personal and professional experiences. We spoke of my own journey as a newly divorced single mother with two children who had no idea what to do next. I was back in the dating world as an adult and I was absolutely terrified. That’s when I decided to seek guidance from a relationship coach, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. After a six-month relationship coaching program, I knew what I wanted in life and from a partner and was excited to date again. That’s when I knew I wanted to help other women the same way my relationship coach helped me, and decided to add a relationship coaching program to my Chicago therapy practice.

The article also details my one-on-one relationship coaching program, explaining how it works, and even features quotes from some of my clients who have benefited from the program. As Amber wrote, my Chicago relationship coaching program is “all about overcoming negative dating habits and developing the skills it takes to succeed in the modern dating world.” I work one-on-one with my clients to “foster a mindful approach to dating,” and help them bring out the best in themselves.

This particular section of the article describes my relationship coaching philosophy pretty well:

“Many clients describe Sue as a compassionate coach with thoughtful insights into the inner dynamics of dating and relationships. She gets to the core of what’s blocking someone from reaching their goals and how they can flip the switch and start improving. Her mission is to pair understanding with action and motivate her clients.”

The interview ended with a key message I try to communicate to all of my clients, which is:

“We all have areas of strength and vulnerability. I love going out there and saying there’s nothing wrong with you — it’s just stories you’ve been told and tell yourself. And we can change those stories.”

To read the full article, visit DatingAdvice.com! I’d like to thank them for choosing to feature me in the Women’s Dating section of their site. It was a great experience!

Interview With Next Act for Women

next act for women interview

Recently I sat down for an interview with Hélène of Next Act for Women. As a life coach and writer, Hélène has created a fantastic website where she showcases women, telling their stories in the hopes of inspiring other women. Next Act for Women is a great resource for women seeking advice from other women who can relate to the struggles they are experiencing as they transition to the second half of their lives.

I was honored to be featured on Next Act for Women, and spoke to Hélène about my own personal experience and my journey as a relationship coach. I explained how my divorce helped me understand what I didn’t want in my next relationship, but I still struggled to figure out what I did want. That’s when I worked with a relationship coach who helped me pursue my passions, which gave me the confidence to begin dating. That journey inspired me to become a relationship coach and help others break through their barriers so they can have the confidence to reach their relationship goals.

In the interview, we focused on the unique challenges and opportunities that women in midlife face when it comes to dating and relationships. As I explained to Hélène, many women have a tendency to put their all into their professional lives, while inevitably putting their personal lives on hold. It is easy to put off dating because you believe you will find someone when the time is right or you aren’t comfortable with it. However, I’ve seen that when women reach a certain point in their lives, they realize “life is finite and if they want a special someone to share their life with they need to take action.” This particular excerpt from the interview sums up my thoughts pretty well:

“The opportunity for women in midlife, I believe, is their determination to achieve a sort of balance between their personal and professional selves. The good news is that the traits that make them successful at their career can be put to work for their personal fulfillment through relationship coaching.”

I also gave my advice for women who are just getting back into the dating scene at age 40 or older. As I explained to Hélène, I believe women have to allow themselves to be open to whoever may show up. Don’t say no to someone right away. Allow yourself time to think it over – You never know what may happen! I also offered this piece of advice:

“Yes, the dating world has changed, but that doesn’t mean you can’t meet someone with depth and great character. And in some ways, it has been made easier because all you have to do is go on your computer and find an activity of interest and go meet people. There are also many meet-ups organized around particular hobbies and singles events. Have fun in the process!”

Thank you to Hélène for featuring me on Next Act for Women! I enjoyed speaking to her about my experience and offering advice to her readers who are interested in getting back into the dating scene.

If you think you may need some relationship coaching of your own, or would like to learn more about my 3 month one-on-one coaching program, please fill out my contact form. I’ll reach out to connect!

8 Points for ‘Tapping’ Your Way to Relationship Success

  • Do you sometimes find yourself flooded with anxiety before a first date?
  • Do negative feelings about yourself keep you from attending singles’ events where you might meet someone?
  • Do you have doubts about being worthy of love by a special someone?

If so, I have a tool that can help. Emotional Freedom Technique – known as EFT or “tapping” – is a gentle tool for helping you regulate your emotions…move beyond your fears…and help you feel more confident in yourself and your ability to choose the right person to be in a relationship with.

Tapping has been described in a variety of ways. Its founder, Gary Craig, calls EFT an “important emotional relaxation process” that allows users to “get to the issues faster and resolve them more thoroughly.” My EFT trainer, Ann Adams, describes tapping as “a relaxation and calming technique that uses acupressure points to modify the anxiety response, foster body awareness and enable positive cognitive shifts.”

I like to use the image of a garden hose to explain EFT to my relationship-coaching clients.

Have you ever tried to water your garden with a hose with a kink in it?  It’s practically impossible! But straighten the hose out and there’s no stopping the flow of water!

That’s what EFT can do. It can help you shift self-defeating patterns of thought and behavior, whether they are triggered by momentary events (nervousness about a date arriving to pick you up) or childhood trauma (a parent saying no one will ever want to marry you).

Many healing therapies like acupuncture, acupressure and Chinese medicine are based on the idea that human beings have a life energy that runs along specific pathways in the body, called meridians, and that negative emotions, stress and change can interrupt the flow of this energy. Where acupuncture uses needles (and requires a certified practitioner) to straighten out the kinks in one’s energy flow, EFT utilizes a light tapping motion on key acupressure points to help release whatever is making you feel emotionally charged. You virtually “unblock” your energy so it flows freely again.

So how does tapping work? It is a simple tool you can teach yourself and experience its benefits in about the same amount of time it takes to read this post! With more complicated issues, a practitioner can help you get to the core issue of the disruption.

To use tapping effectively, the first step is to identify the feeling or issue that is bothering you. It’s important to be as specific as possible, e.g.:
I’m overwhelmed by the fact that I’ll be 40 next week — and I’m still single
I’m triggered by my date’s remark that my online photo made me look younger than I do in “real life”
I’m afraid to tell the person I’ve been dating that I want to get married and have children because I’m not sure that’s what he / she wants

Next, you perform the “set up.” To do this, you tap on the “karate chop” point (see diagram below) three times on either hand, saying something like “Even though I am experiencing this (specific negative emotion / issue), I deeply love and accept myself.”

Then tap on the following eight (8) points, repeating your phrase as you do:

  • Top of head
  • Eyebrow
  • Side of eye
  • Under eye
  • Under nose
  • Above chin
  • Collarbone
  • Under arm

Then simply repeat the same pattern until your negative thoughts or feelings have dissipated or are manageable.

The practice of tapping may feel a little silly at first – but don’t let that hold you back. I’ve been using EFT both personally and in my practice for 7 years with really tremendous results. What’s so compelling about EFT is that most of us use the tapping points naturally to soothe ourselves. Who hasn’t hugged him-or herself or gently patted our chests when we needed consoling?

And of course, tapping isn’t just effective with issues around dating and relationships. It can help reduce cravings for unhealthy food, help integrate traumatic events from your childhood and simply give you renewed energy to face life’s challenges.

If you’re someone who learns best by demonstration, you will probably enjoy this video.

So get tapping! I’d love to hear your experiences — whether you try this technique on relationship concerns or other circumstances in your life. You can share your thoughts by either commenting on the post or sending an email.

Until next time…
Sue

Sue DeSanto, LCSW, is a relationship coach with a proven three-month program for helping people gain the clarity and confidence they need to be in a successful relationship. She offers interested singles a no-cost 30-minute strategy session to help them determine if relationship coaching is for them.

Imagine 100 Things to ‘Do, Be and Have’ this Summer

It’s August, which means it’s summertime…one of the best times of the year.

And since a summer’s day offers the perfect conditions for daydreaming, I suggest you laze away a sunny afternoon (or more) blue-skying about all the things you’d like to Do, Be and Have in your life.

100 of them, in fact.

This is your chance to dream. An opportunity to open up your mind and heart to this big wide world and I-M-A-G-I-N-E what your ideal life could look like. To allow yourself to give voice to all the fun things you might like to do…the traits you’d like to have and the ways you’d like to be in the world…and the things, tangible and intangible, that you’d like to have.

This is a zero-pressure exercise! Think big. Think small. Write it all down.

That’s what makes it so fun – and so valuable. Sometimes, putting our dreams and desires down on paper actually reinforces the fact that, “Yes, I really would like to have a beach house” or “What I want more than anything is to feel more confident!”

Will everything you write down be super practical? I certainly hope not!

What I’m encouraging you to do is open the door to your hearts desire as wide as possible and write down anything that comes to mind in whatever column it fits. When you’re done, take a look at your list and see what emerges repeatedly just in different guises.

Here’s an example:
One of my clients told me that when she stepped back and looked at her completed “Do, Be, Have” list, she realized a subset of her entries – being in the mountains; loving snow; wanting to be more fit; an interest in hiking – all seemed to “go” together. As a result, she ended up planning a vacation to Colorado and loved it! Do you know what’s on her list now? She’d like to have a second home in Denver!

Seeing those patterns is what can help you define your needs and wants – not just in terms of a relationship, but for your personal fulfillment and happiness as well.

Reality check: If you were raised like I was – where the point of life was to get a good job and save for retirement (which I dutifully did for a long time, of course) – then writing this list may not be so easy at first.

So just go with that. Try jotting a few things down. If you begin to feel a little stumped, put it down and take a break. Let the idea of free-associating happen unconsciously as you go about your life. If you’d like some inspiration, perhaps leaf through a magazine and see if the pictures bring to mind anything you want to do, be or have in your life.

You’re not going to end up doing or being or having all 100 things. But given my personal experience and that of my coaching clients with this exercise, you will have some pretty amazing insights.

You know what they say, “if you build it, they will come.” So build yourself the framework for a great big life.

Why ‘Red Flags’ can Reveal Patterns and Lead to More Conscious Dating

We learn from our experiences. At the beginning of life to about 7 years old we do not possess logic and reasoning, we learn from identifying and associating (experiences).

Some of our experiences were positive and some were negative. All these experiences taught us what to do and what not to do in order to keep us safe in the world. And it forms the core of our unconscious mind. It is what I’m going to call our life story.

That makes our unconscious exceptionally powerful. Why? First, because it can drive unwanted behavior in ourselves. Second, the unconscious can shield us from seeing problems in our behavior or that of others – even when issues are hitting us over the head!

Because the unconscious is largely inaccessible, we might think we have no agency or power over it. Yet we do.

In dating relationships, what it requires is making ourselves aware of – and staying alert for – red flags that can warn us of problems or prospective dangers. Once we’re aware of a red flag (or a trusted friend brings one to our attention), we need to investigate it carefully so we can figure out what unconscious belief is being triggered – and what we need to do to make a fully realized, conscious decision on how to move forward.

Let me illustrate that with an example.*

Stephanie is dating Matt, who has many good qualities. Topping the list is that he’s kind, cute and smart. Sadly, however, he does not want kids or marriage – which are precisely what Stephanie wants and needs. Even though she’s absolutely clear about that, she’s having a tough time breaking up with Matt so she can concentrate on finding someone who also wants marriage and family.

Why is that?

Her relationship with Matt is known, and to the unconscious mind equals safe. Leaving Matt to find a relationship that better suits her is an unknown and life threatening. That is why Stephanie is staying in this relationship despite consciously knowing she wants more.

Let me tell a story to illustrate how the unconscious and conscious minds work.

Think about our mind as a ship. The captain is the conscious mind and the crew the unconscious mind. The captain can give the orders but if the crew does not want that to happen, it will not happen. You need both the captain and the crew to work together to get what we want in life.

Why? Because the unconscious minds job is too keep us safe and it does not like change!

Here’s where things really get interesting.

Did you know that the unconscious mind makes up 90% of your brain. It’s true! Which means your conscious mind constitutes a measly 10%.

So what does all this have to do with Stephanie’s difficulty breaking up with Matt?

Everything!

Stephanie’s parents divorced when she was young and her father was largely unavailable. Not surprisingly, she has an extremely strong “unconscious association” to the idea of significant people not being available. Even though it’s not in her best interest and doesn’t make logical sense, it makes perfect sense to her unconscious. It’s almost like a heat-seeking missile. To her, life partner = not available.

Which is why Matt seems to Stephanie like her ideal match.

Her unconscious is simply seeking out the life story imprinted on her mind from her childhood…what her unconscious believes to be true.

Leaving Matt to find a relationship that will give her what she consciously wants (marriage and children) actually “feels” foreign and life-threatening. That’s why her unconscious mind is resisting her conscious efforts to break up with him.

Stephanie’s story illustrates why making the unconscious, conscious is so vital in relationships.

That’s what relationship coaching can help you with by using tools that gently work with the unconscious mind to reveal the patterns of our “life story” with out threatening our minds existence or safety.

By gently becoming aware of the “life stories” our minds hold on to, we can learn effective tools for bypassing them. Tools like meditation, guided imagery, and EFT tapping (Emotional Freedom Technique) which let us slip in through the back door to understand our unconscious mind and bring it into our conscious selves.

When you are in a relaxed state you’re highly suggestible to allow new associations to be created. This state allows 90 % of mind participation without the unconscious mind feeling threatened creating a foundation for positive change.

“Conscious.” That’s the way you want to enter – or continue – a dating relationship. Fully conscious of your motivations and behavior and fully aware of who your partner is, shortcomings and all.

The process of becoming aware of our unconscious patterns can be difficult and takes time but the process will bring your captain the conscious mind and you’re crew the unconscious mind into alignment and you will experience tons of benefits as a result!

One of the most helpful exercises I give my relationship-coaching clients is the “Conscious Dating – Red Flags Checklist.” Before I list some of the red flags, here’s an important caution:

If you find yourself strongly identifying with or living out any of the red flags, no self judgement…please. We don’t contemplate these ideas to punish ourselves. After all, it’s not fair to berate ourselves for something we’re not even aware of! So if you see yourself or someone you’re dating in any of these red flags, be compassionate. They can help put you on the path to a healthier relationship._

Here are some red flags that indicate your dating life is being driven by your unconscious mind:

* You continue seeing someone not because of who they are, but rather because you see so much “potential”

* You focus on an important quality you want (generosity), yet ignore evidence of one of your non-negotiables (drug use)

* We accept, make excuses for, or avoid acknowledging unacceptable behavior because we think it’s what we deserve or can change it.

* We continue to date someone we don’t particularly like – or even respect

* The person you’re dating is still pining for a past relationship

* We may believe (or others may tell us) that we want too much in a mate or are “too picky.”

There’s another subset of red flags that could be viewed as negative, but in some situations, they could also be the beginning of a healthy dialogue about what each partner wants and need in a relationship, as well as the personal changes one is willing to make. When the following are problematic is when the person you are dating is hostile about or unwilling to discuss your concerns.

Recognize any of these in your partner?

* Seems pessimistic and negative about things that matter to you

* Talks a lot, but doesn’t listen particularly well

* Is very quiet or withdrawn

* Is judgmental toward themselves or others

No one’s perfect. In fact, we may even see ourselves in some of these “red flags.” If so, that’s our opportunity. The sooner we can identify and get honest about our behavior, the sooner we have the opportunity to work on changing it.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out red flags that are clear warning signs that should not be ignored. Remember…people are typically on their best behavior early in relationships. Behaviors like these tend to worsen, not improve, over time – and they can be dangerous:

* Your date shows signs of wanting to control aspects of your life

* He or she reacts to frustration with rage or blame

* There is active substance addiction or addictive behavior

* Your seeing someone who is married or otherwise unable to commit

If you would like to take the complete “Conscious Dating – Red Flags Checklist,” email me and I’ll send it to you.* It only takes about 10-15 minutes to complete – and you can measure your results. It can help you decide whether to proceed – or not – with the person you’re dating.

Happy Dating!

7 Key Questions to Ask on the First 3 Dates

Here’s a quick test to help you determine if you’re truly ready to go after your goal of having a long-term, successful relationship:

Picture this: You’re on the 3rd date with someone you really like – and who seems to like you. Can you imagine yourself saying something along these lines?
I think it’s pretty clear we like one another – and I think you’re a terrific guy/gal. As we talked about on our last date, we’re both interested in finding someone to be in a long-term relationship with. If we’re going to continue dating, I think it’s a good idea to share with each other what we envision for ourselves to further test our compatibility. Would you be open to talking about that?

Yikes, right?

You’d be surprised. It’s actually not a tough question for people who are both ready to be in a relationship and relatively confident and clear about what they want and need. This type of person understands it could take time to find the right partner. So even when there’s chemistry with someone, they believe it makes sense to ask the difficult questions early on to make sure their relationship values and goals match up.

What might seem like the Mt. Everest of questions is also easy to leapfrog for those whose life goals, (i.e., marriage and family) are tied to age. Many like-minded folks in their 30s and 40s have already dated a lot and are ready to make a decision on a partner. And don’t think biological clocks just affect women. Even though men may be capable of fathering a child at age 60 doesn’t mean they want to wait until then to do so.

The “7 key questions in 3 dates” timeline this post proposes isn’t for everyone – nor is it even appropriate for everyone.

If you’re in your early 20s or just want a casual relationship, then taking it slow and letting a relationship evolve organically is to be encouraged. On the other hand, I have a 55-year-old client who hasn’t dated in 8 years. Since she doesn’t want marriage or children, she’s absolutely fine with taking her time so she can uncover what (and who) feels right for her.

In between these two camps, there are many people who truly, (and perhaps desperately) want to be in a relationship yet always seem to get tripped up by common dating pitfalls like fun-but-futureless serial dating or ending up with the wrong type of partner…again.

These people suffer, but I believe there’s a way to end the pain. More about that at the end of the post.

But first, here’s why I believe there are 7 key questions serious daters should ask on the first 3 dates!

I like to compare the first few dates with someone to how we typically size up a buffet line. Think about it. Most of us stroll up and down the table, seeing what looks good before deciding what to commit to our plates. Why? Because if we simply selected the first several items on the table – we could end up missing the really yummy and satisfying entrees further down the line!

That’s how I lay out my 7-questions approach to my relationship-coaching clients. I encourage them to look at dating as a way to get clear about a person’s rightness for you before you’re in too deep. If you take the approach to let things “develop organically,” you could end up spending a lot of time with someone, only to find out they’re not someone you can be with long-term.

Plus, asking the key questions early on can save some heartache. Many people, women in particular, have a hard time letting go of a relationship once there is physical and/or emotional intimacy. So even if you come to know that he or she can’t meet your needs, it can be hard to say goodbye to someone you’ve really connected with.

One final note before the questions themselves:

I’m not proposing that these are the only questions you’ll ask, (or answer) on dates 1, 2 and 3. You’ve gotten to know hundreds, perhaps thousands of people in your lifetime, and that aspect of dating is no different. But if you’re nervous or unsure, a quick trip to the Internet will provide ample first-date conversational tips.

OK. As promised, here are the 7 key questions that will help you move on to the next date – or simply move on.

Date #1
1. What do you do for fun or as hobbies? Do you prefer adventurous or quieter activities?

This icebreaker is perfect for discovering if there are any interests you share, which is an important aspect of healthy relationships. Of course there is nothing wrong with having dis-similar interests, too, as they help people develop their individuality within a relationship. There are no right or wrong answers here; you’re simply looking for a sense of your date’s temperament and personality.

2. What should I know about you that I’d never think to ask about?
3. What do you wish people would stop asking you?

People aren’t generally asked these questions, so they have to think about their answers. You can learn a lot from their verbal – and nonverbal – responses. For example:

  • Do they get defensive or are they intrigued?
  • Do they give themselves the time they need to respond?
  • Do their responses reveal some vulnerability or perhaps a “silly” side?

If there were enough positive signs and good feelings on the first date, you’ll likely find yourself making plans to see one another again.

Date #2

4. How would you describe your family…and your relationship with them?

Every child plays a unique role in a family. This question invites your date to tell you about his or hers, as well as share about the values, ideals, religious and cultural influences that were part of growing up. What you’re looking to see is if your date talks about his family with warmth or annoyance. If the latter, why is that?

5. What’s your relationship / marriage history?

If you want a serious relationship, the second date is not too early to talk a little about your histories.

You’re not asking for every single detail (nor should you share yours). Instead, you’re after an overview of their relationship experiences. Pay attention: Your date may reveal his or her attitude toward exes (positive or negative), as well as if she or he shares the responsibility for a relationship’s or marriage’s end – or puts it all on the partner. The conversation can also be a sneak peak into what they want in future relationships.

6. Are you looking for a monogamous relationship or do you prefer to date a variety of people?

I know it’s only the second date. And Yes, this is a big question. But if you’re serious about wanting a long-term relationship, it’s better to know your date’s intention sooner rather than later. He or she can’t give a wrong answer… but there is only one right answer for you. If it’s “looking for a monogamous relationship” and the chemistry is good, you’re probably going on to a third date.

Date #3

7. When it comes to a long-term relationship, what are your must-haves…as well as your must-not-haves?

Obviously this isn’t the only question or topic for the third date, but it’s the core one. This question presumes you know what your must-haves and must-not-haves are, of course, and are willing to share them honestly.

If you mention you’d like to be married and start a family within a year or so and your date freaks out, it’s a pretty clear sign that it isn’t in the cards for him or her – at least not on your timetable. It can be tough to distinguish someone’s ‘potential commit-ability” from their actual interest in a commitment… but that’s precisely what this question forces you to reckon with.

So there you have my 7 key questions to ask on the first 3 dates.

Before I sign off, I want to make good on my commitment to daters who want a serious relationship, but are no where near being able to ask these very direct questions.

First, let me assure you there is nothing wrong with where you are! Nor does a resistance to asking these questions mean you’re not meant to be in a relationship.

What it may mean is that you have some old belief systems about yourself and your fitness for a successful relationship that you may not even know you hold. In my experience, (personal and professional), these old beliefs need to be examined. Through that process, you will learn some truths about yourself – and the many positive traits you can bring to a relationship.

Some people can do this emotional work alone, but most find it more effective and efficient to work with a therapist or relationship coach. Eventually, doing it helps you become more clear and confident about what you want and need in a successful relationship – and how to go about achieving that goal.

In fact, I did exactly that to get unstuck and find the relationship of my dreams. And now my coaching practice helps people just like you do the same.

If you’re interested in learning more, please take advantage of my free 30-minute phone consultation.

Happy Dating!
Sue DeSanto, LCSW, is a relationship coach with a proven three-month program for helping people gain the clarity and confidence they need to be in a successful relationship. She offers interested singles a no-cost 30-minute strategy session to help them determine if relationship coaching is for them.