Tom Blake is an expert on dating after 50. He has appeared twice on the "Today Show" and has written more than 500 columns on dating and relationships. His "Single Again" column appears in The Orange County Register in southern California, is read worldwide and is often featured on msn.com. He is a professional speaker. He spoke at the national AARP convention in San Diego in 2002, and Chicago in 2006. His book, Middle Aged and Dating Again, is a humorous account of his first year of dating after his third divorce. His new book, Finding Love After 50: How to begin, where to go, what to do, is hot off the press. To ask a question or receive Tom's free weekly column on middle-age dating and relationships by e-mail, click on www.findingloveafter50.com See Archives 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, and 2003.

A wasted month in the life of a cougar

The term cougar, as it pertains to older women dating younger men, has been making headlines lately. Because I wasn't sure of a true definition of the term, I consulted Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, to learn more about it.

Wikipedia defines a cougar as, "A woman over 40 who sexually pursues younger men, typically more than eight years her junior."

Also mentioned by Wikipedia was the origin of the word: "The term is Canadian, appearing first in print on the Canadian dating website Cougardate.com and has been used in TV series, advertising and film."

I am in favor of women our age (50 to 80) being open-minded about dating all kinds of men--goodness knows it's hard enough to find decent, available single guys. Included in the universe of suitable men are considerably younger ones, as long as the women are treated with respect and are happy with their younger dudes.

But, I hate to see our women putting too much hope for a long-term relationship into a cougar arrangement.

Jane, not her real name, but one of our members, just experienced a potential cougar encounter and agreed to tell us about it.

On November 5, she emailed: "I have been communicating with a single man and will be meeting him for the first time on Saturday.

"He wrote to me on an Asian Singles website, although he is not Asian, but I am. We have been communicating for two weeks and are having LOTS of fun joking and teasing; so much that, even if we do not have 'chemistry,' I am SURE that we can be great buddies because we seem to have a meeting of our minds.

"Although not a major problem according to him, I am concerned that he is much younger than I. There is a possibility that I 'may' look younger than he, and Saturday will be the proof.

"I did NOT choose him, he chose me! (Prior to meeting him, I was involved with someone 9-years-younger, but it didn't bother him either.)"

Jane and the younger man had a date on Saturday, November 7. She reported: "Although we've been communicating for only three weeks, it was so satisfying to talk in person. He then treated me to a Japanese dinner."

At that point, it sounded like the relationship might have a future--taking it slow, them getting to know each other--the usual precautionary steps in dating at our age.

However, six days later, Jane wrote, "He absolutely adored me! However, he was only an 'actor,' looking mainly for sex and had lost four weeks of his life, and mine, by 'pretending' to be an honest Christian, seeking another Christian lady."

So the young man wasted a month of his own time, and Jane's time, and came up short of his goal to have sex with a cougar.

The wasted time reminded me of the song, "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights," by Freddie Fender, the 1960s Tejano country musician. I had forgotten what a great song that was. If you'd like to hear it, follow the link: Link to song "Wasted days and wasted nights."

Jane added, "Everything he told me is questionable!"

Jane's experience highlights one of the problems with a cougar relationship. The age diversity usually means different maturity levels and can mean different expectations. He wanted sex; she wanted a relationship (which, by the Wikipedia definition, means she's not a true cougar).

In a November 16, 2009, article, titled, "In Dating Jungle, Cougar Relationships All About Fun," on the website ThirdAge.com, written by Megan K. Scott, Scott stated, "Dating experts say they have seen a rise in older women seeking younger men, but not necessarily the other way around. And they say those matches don't tend to turn into long-term relationships."

Scott also stated in another cougar-related article, also on ThirdAge.com on November 16, titled, "Relationships All About Fun," that cougars don't seek long term commitments of marriage, they date younger men only to have fun.

I see nothing wrong with women 50-80 wanting to date younger men. But, if these women consider themselves true cougars, then by definition, sex is going to be a major part of the deal, and expectations of anything long-term should be held in check.

The last time I got in trouble with the women of our group on the topic of older women having sex with younger men was years ago when I poo-pooed the book, "The Round Heeled Woman." I still have the scars on my back from the flak I received. I learned from that experience that many women our age do just want to have fun. And that it's okay.

When a considerably younger man wants a date with you, the old light bulb should illuminate telling you, this kid wants to have sex with me.

If you want to be a true cougar, be prepared for the frosting, but not much of the cake.

From the Mailbag

Responses to "Do multiple marriages matter?"

Jennifer: "You sound rather defensive about the subject of multiple marriages."

Rachel wrote, "Said gently to you, seems a bit of a sore topic still for you."

Let me answer those two comments first since they state the same thing. No, you are both dead wrong. I'm not the least bit defensive about being married three times. In fact, my three marriages were a gift.

When wife #3 bailed on Xmas Eve, it turned out to be the greatest favor anybody has ever done for me. Not only did it plant the seed for a second career in journalism, but it opened the door for Greta to enter my life. She and I have been blessed to have 11 and 1/2 years together, which have been the best of my life.

I included personal information--not because I'm defensive about multiple marriages--but to enrich the article, to share with readers that I know a bit about the topic because I've lived it.

Gale, "No, multiple marriages shouldn't matter, unless the person who's been married many times just hops from one marriage to another at the drop of a hat. I know someone who did just that, but he always married the same type woman for the same wrong reasons, expecting different outcomes. It never happened and I believe he was on #5 when last I heard. That's the kind of person to stay clear of. Otherwise, enjoy the moment!

"For my late husband, I was his 3rd marriage and by far, he told me, the most rewarding marriage he ever had. That included over 10 years with his 1st and 35 yrs. with his 2nd wife. For me, he also was my 3rd, and I'll be hard pressed to find anyone who can compare to him. I'd had 17 yrs. the 1st time around, and 11 with my 2nd husband. Though my 3rd to Ian was short lived, it was, without a doubt, the most fulfilling and loving. It was also beyond compare to any others I'd had."

Carol, why would the number of marriages matter; they were at different stages in his life so why? And her marriages were probably at different stages also. And why does that enter the picture? Enjoy the companionship currently and see what may happen. The future is or should be far off anyhow.

Paula, "I have been married 5 times and have no desire to remarry. I would just appreciate having a special gentleman for companionship and activities. Been divorced 13 years and those types of gentlemen are very few and far between. They all seem to have marriage or care for me on the brain.

"Appreciated your, from the heart, response."

The comment I enjoyed the most came from Terry, aka the funny plumber, "Hell, I've been married four (4) times. Now I have a full set, one of each color. Love from Thailand!"

Should multiple marriages matter in a mate?

When we are dating and meet someone new, should we be concerned if he or she has been married multiple times?

Marjorie emailed, "I met 'Garth' two weeks ago at a musical theater performance. I am 63, he is 66. Neither of us has ever been widowed, although one of my exes is deceased.

"We have only been out twice, but we talk every two or three days. I have been married three times and certainly think I am a fairly good choice, but he is being somewhat reluctant to reveal the number of times he has been married, although I am at this point aware of at least three.

"I haven't pressed this issue. He apparently has an excellent relationship with his children and grandchildren. It is obvious that the most recent marriage was short-lived and somewhat bitter. How many previous marriages before it becomes a red flag?"

My response to Marjorie: Egads, woman, give it some time! You've only been out with him twice, and talked to him what, maybe five times?

If you press the issue, you may chase him away before you even find out how many times he's been married. If he's reeling from a recent bitter marriage experience, the last thing he wants is to defend himself or talk about it. Instead, why not enjoy the moment and forget about his marriage tally?

Why are you concerned about how many times he's been married? Are you so intent on getting married again that that's all you're worried about?

And besides, Marjorie, you're not exactly a golden angel either, with three divorces under your belt.

So what if he's had four? That's only one more than three. If he's had five or six, well now that's a bit of a red flag, but only if you're dying to get married again.

It is not uncommon these days for people our age to have had more than one marriage. Does that make us tainted? Does that mean we're bad people? No.

Were our decisions to marry mistakes? No, they just didn't work out. Sometimes it's hard to remember what we were thinking when we decided to get married in our earlier days. Most likely, at those times, we thought getting married was the right thing to do. So we did it.

How about people who've been widowed? They had no choice in losing a spouse. Some have even lost two spouses. Should it matter how many marriages they've had? (Well, if they've had four, and all have died under suspicious circumstances, then it might be a red flag).

I've had three marriages, and my partner of 11 years has also had three. Having the same number of marriages was one of the things we found we had in common when we were sharing information on the first date, so it was a good thing that we both had multiple marriages.

And despite three times, we've got the best relationship I could ever hope for. We live together but are not married; neither of us feels that it's necessary. (Neither of us would want the number four emblazoned in scarlet upon our chests either, but that's not the reason we haven't married.)

After my third divorce, and then an unsuccessful live-in relationship, I decided to scrutinize my mate-selecting methodology and created a list of the qualities I wanted in a relationship. I wanted to make a more intelligent decision than in the past. I had always put the superficial qualities of beauty, looks and physical attraction in the top spot. Sort of lower-brain thinking. Well, obviously, that didn't work.

At the top of my new list: someone who was nice, considerate, loving and who allowed me to be me. And my gosh, in a very short time, along came "nice" who just happened to have lots of other special qualities. We've been together 11 years.

On the list back then, chemistry tumbled to the seventh spot, although I'd rank it higher now, but not above the items noted in the previous paragraph.

Having a list was so beneficial to me, I devoted an entire chapter on characteristics to look for in a mate in my book, "Finding Love After 50. How to Begin. Where to Go. What to Do." (Web page for Tom's book)

Also in the same chapter, I included a qualities-wanted comparison list, where one compares the qualities of ex husbands to the qualities of a new love. That can be a revealing exercise in trying to avoid previous mate-selecting habits.

I should state that a list is not gospel. It' just a guideline. We should be flexible in case old Garth doesn't measure up in the order we have on our list. A list is more helpful in identifying the person we shouldn't select, rather than the person we should.

One of the benefits of presenting a question to this group is getting an array of opinions from sensible and intelligent 50, 60, 70 and 80-year-olds who have walked the walk and are rich with life experiences. You're among them. What's your opinion? Does the number of times a person has been married matter?

The futility of loving an image

(I was only trying to help)

On June 19, 2009, 10:35 a.m., Rhonda wrote, "I am 54 and live in Reno, Nevada. I was born under the sign of Sagittarius. Have any women mentioned whether a prospective date's astrological sign is important in deciding if a man is a good match?

"I recently became acquainted with a man born under the same sign. I had misgivings because I previously had a boyfriend who was born under that sign and our relationship was a disaster. I went ahead anyway and got to know this new man better, only via IM chatting and email. He would run 'hot and cold' like my previous boyfriend. I hung in with him for three weeks, trying to read between the lines.

"This week, he stopped all communications. I had been planning to make a trip to visit him in California next week, which I have cancelled. It's kind of hard to feel so close to someone and then have my hopes dashed, but at least my heart wasn't broken, as it was in the past.

Tom's response: "Three weeks? So close? You did the right thing by canceling."

June 19, 6:20 p.m. "You won't believe what happened. My friend had a mild heart attack. He hadn't been ignoring me, he's been in the hospital in the San Francisco Bay Area. I feel terrible. Maybe this will bring us closer. He feels awful. One never knows what the future will bring."

June 19, 10:26 p.m. "He has been emailing me a lot tonight and we just talked on the phone for the first time. He sounds so nice. He wanted to be sure his heart attack wouldn't affect our friendship. If anything, it's brought us a lot closer just in a few hours.

"I've been involved with domestic violence with my sons' father and another ex-husband and in a couple of past relationships. John is like a dream. I just keep pinching myself. I have been listening to Sarah Brightman and Josh Groban's song, "There For Me," over and over on UTube."

Tom's response: "You haven't even met him and you're already in La-La Land. How can you judge that he too isn't an abuser, given your track record of picking men who are?"

June 20, 8:28 a.m. "He is starting to recover. I will take a friend with me when I go visit him. John is the most open man I have ever been with. I trust him. If you don't have trust, how can you start a relationship?"

Tom's response: "He sure seems to be recovering quickly. You say he's the most open man you've ever been with, but you haven't been with him yet. You're merely trusting an image."

June 22, 1:22 a.m. "My friend John and I are getting much closer. I am grateful I can offer him moral support and love as he recovers. Our relationship is almost a miracle to both of us."

Tom's response: "Morale support, yes. Love and a miracle? Too early."

5 months later

November 20, 9:27 a.m., "I hope to eventually make new friends here in the Bay Area. I've been living here just over two months. The holidays will be very quiet and probably a sad time for me, but I'll survive. Occasionally, I touch base via e-mail with John, but we don't get together anymore. He has a new girlfriend now."

November 21, 9:56 a.m. "John prefers much younger Asian women. His first wife was Korean. That's fine with me. He has a very controlling, sarcastic, 'macho' side. I've been married to two men with similar personalities and don't want to have a relationship with anyone like that again."

Tom's response: "Guess you didn't know him after all."

Dec 1, 8:13 p.m. "I am not renewing my subscription; I don't think another partner is in my future. I don't need your advice anymore."

The elephant in the room

Last week, we wrote about the 14 G's of dating and living as we grow older. One of the interesting aspects of the responses: the geographical diversity.

Arun Kumar wrote from Mumbai, India. "I am alone in Mumbai and always want to have a good partner for sharing my happiness and sorrow. I shall be happy if you suggest some web site in Mumbai where I can go for good friends."

How in the world this man found the newsletter I have no idea; I'm not even sure if he's for real. For sure, I can't recommend a website in India for singles. However, if he follows the 14 G's, perhaps he'll meet a woman in India.

I also heard from Terry (aka the funny plumber) and his partner Daeng from the city of Chiang Mai, Thailand. Terry is one of our regular subscribers who commented about the 14 G's: "I love #13, GO GRAY. Like I tell older folks, and like my age, we spent many years learning and we are now who we are. We should just be ourselves and share ourselves the way we are."

Jennifer, Southern California, says she would add "improve your appearance" to the list of 14 G's: "Looks are the first impression we have of others and if older seniors neglect their appearance, they will handicap themselves.

"Getting back into dating and socializing means shedding unwanted pounds, getting in physical shape, and dressing attractively. Obesity, in particular, is a major turn-off to others. I see many overweight seniors following all your advice, developing their interests and getting out all of the time, but they are overweight, and they don't do anything about it.

"Then they wonder why, with so much exposure, and after meeting so many people, no one is asking them out. They are ignoring the proverbial elephant in the room."

Comment from Tom: Losing weight is difficult. I have a buddy who had rapidly gained weight from a medication he was taking. Sixteen weeks ago, he decided to shed 23 pounds by Thanksgiving. He challenged his daughter to lose weight at the same time. They both signed up for Jenny Craig.

He looks terrific and is very near his goal, as is his daughter. Having the food designated and provided for him helped. "I wanted a weight-loss program where they tell me what to do and eat," he said.

If I decided to lose weight, I would sign up for a regimented weight-loss program--as my buddy did. I'd only hope I could be as disciplined as he's been.

A New Hampshire woman commented on the 14 G's List. "Oh how I dislike #4 (Go alone to activities if you have to), being the age I am and having gotten married the first time at 19 with it lasting until he died 31 years later."

She explained that she has just gone through a second divorce and fears having to go out alone. "In retrospect, that is partly why I remarried when and who I did, I disliked the whole dating scene and wanted no part of it," she said.

"Will I try going out alone again? At this point, NO. I need to figure out how to get #10 (Gain self respect) back. Bit by bit I am putting myself and my life back together with the help of my church and my friends."

Karen, Michigan, said, "Sometimes it's helpful to 'relearn' the things we should know and do, but all too easily put aside. To have so many reflections in one column was an early holiday gift."

About our subscribers

I've been doing a lot of thinking about this newsletter lately. Probably because I've been reviewing the mailing list and weeding out the names of people who no longer open the email that brings them the newsletter. Plus, I've been sending out subscription reminders to people whose subscriptions are about to expire. It's like a 2010 housecleaning, only it's being conducted in November of this year.

What occured to me is the incredible loyalty of most of our subscribers. Many have been with us for more than five years. And what drove that point home occured in my Dana Point (California) deli twice in the last two weeks.

The first was a week ago, when June, who lives 50 miles away, one of of our long-time subscribers, stopped in to say hello. She wanted to introduce me to a new guy she was dating. Unfortunately I wasn't there so I missed her.

The second was this past Monday afternoon. I was in the office finishing up the week-end paperwork when Rosalinda came to the office to say, there's a man here to see you. That usually means there's a salesman wanting to pitch a new product. I looked through the one-way glass, saw him, and thought, I don't know him.

Turns out, it was Vince, one of our subscribers, who was visiting his daughter in Southern California. But what makes Vince so unique is he lives in Puerto Rico, near Ponce. He wanted to renew his subscription in person and to ask a question about a relationship issue.

Now think about that. A subscriber takes the time to write down the deli location and comes for a visit, all the way from Puerto Rico. When he handed me his credit card to renew his subscription, I said, "No way am I taking your money. I'm honored to have you come to say hello from such a long distance."

Before he left, Vince had a discussion, in Spanish, with my two employees of 22 years each, Teresa and Rosa. They thought he was totally cool.

The 14 G's of dating and living while growing older

This week I was interviewed on two local TV stations. The interviewers asked me for tips to improve dating--and living--for people in their 60s, 70s and 80s. Later, I thought about their questions and wrote down what I call the 14 G's of dating and living while growing older.

1. Get off the couch and out of the house. This advice is always the first I mention. It's so simple and yet so basic to the whole concept of expanding our horizons

2. Get involved in external activities you enjoy where you will meet new people. Unsure of where to go? Check out www.MeetUp.com for a list of clubs and activities in your area. Yesterday, I received an email from MeetUp.com saying there are 2,463 Meetups in my geographical area. Granted, many of the listings are for the younger set; simply weed out those choices

3. Get organized. Don't wait to plan the upcoming holidays. If you have nowhere to go for Thanksgiving, consider volunteering to serve meals. Do something that makes you feel good and nothing is better than helping others. Start making plans for the December holidays and New Year's as well. Invite others who have nothing planned to your home for a small potluck dinner party. Start rounding up your single friends now

4. Go alone to these activities if you have to, if you can't find a friend or group of friends. Granted, this isn't the easiest thing in the world to do, but it still beats sitting home alone wishing you were out and involved with new people

5. Go out to enrich your life, not with the sole purpose of seeking to find a mate. If the only reason you go out is to find someone, you'll come off as desperate, which people can sense, and then you'll become discouraged and frustrated because meeting someone may not happen right away. It might not happen at all. But if you go out to broaden your horizons and enjoy new experiences, just getting out will rejuvenate you

6. Get it in gear. Meeting new people and finding a mate at this stage in our lives requires energy and making a concerted effort. It's like finding a job in the current economy. To do so is difficult. The people who are successful work the hardest at networking and putting themselves out there. The same goes for meeting a mate, make the process as important as you would if you were seeking a job

7. Get assertive. Note, I am not saying aggressive, but assertive, there is a big difference. Start conversations with strangers--on a plane, standing in line at the post office or at the bank, waiting for your car to be washed, in line at Starbucks-anywhere there are people waiting and biding time. If you see someone who looks kind, warm or friendly, don't hesitate to make a simple comment or ask him (or her) a question--how he likes the book he's reading or the car he's driving. And be prepared to provide a way to contact you. An email address without your name in the title works well. A cell phone number also

8. Gain flexibility. Open your mind to new avenues, new cultures, new religions and new thinking

9. Gain efficiency. Don't waste time by playing games. Either people are interested in a relationship or they aren't. If you meet someone that you think might be a potential partner, and the excuses start flowing, or the games begin, move on

10. Gain self respect. Improve your appearance; add exercise to your daily regimen. Screen what you eat. Take care of yourself. You will have more positive energy, which will make you a more desirable person. Implement the power of a positive attitude. A smile is the ticket to making yourself approachable and likeable, both necessary traits when seeking a new mate

11. Grieve first. If you've recently lost a spouse or partner, grieve and heal before seeking a new mate. But that doesn't mean you don't go out to enrich your life and be involved with new people. If you are a recently widowed person, I recommend this website: www.laurieannweis.com/

12. Gain knowledge and insight through learning and enjoying new experiences. Go back to school. Take an acting class. Travel. A group travel website I recommend: www.margestours.com

13. Go gray, it's okay. Remind yourself that being single later in life isn't so bad, in fact it's pretty darned good. It gives you the freedom to do and pursue whatever you want

14. Give yourself credit and a pat on the back from time to time. After all, you've made it this far in life. And, there's a lot of life ahead to live.

How a widow of one year found love

A couple of years ago, Mary, a widow of one year living in Orange County, Calif., was seeking places to go where she could meet and socialize with educated and interesting people in her age range. She read in one of my newspaper columns about The Inside Edge, a foundation for education, that meets weekly at the University Club on the campus of the University of California, Irvine campus.

When Mary contacted me for further details, I told her The Inside Edge was not a singles club, but a group of well educated, successful, men and women interested in enriching their lives by listening to weekly speakers and and enjoying a diversity of social events.

I also told Mary The Inside Edge wasn't for everybody, that most of the club's meetings took place on Wednesdays from 6:30 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. and one had to be pretty motivated to get out of bed that early. In addition, there was a modest membership fee.

Mary decided to give The Inside Edge a try.

Last month, Adrian Windsor, the Edge's Program Director, invited me to attend one of the special evening sessions, which the Edge sponsors from time to time. Adrian said she had a surprise for me.

Mary, who had joined the Inside Edge, and became a dedicated member, was there and wanted me to meet someone special. She introduced me to Marty Lopata, her fiancé. Not only had they met at the Edge, but they were going to be married that night by none other than Adrian, and they had wanted me to attend. They felt my newspaper article was responsible for bringing them together.

Mary and Marty Lopata being married by Adrian Windsor

And what made the event even more special were the six couples who were in the wedding party and stood up for Marty and Mary. All 12 of these individuals had met their spouses at the Inside Edge. Although it's not a singles club, The Inside Edge certainly is a prolific place for singles to meet. And there are places similar to the Edge all over the United States that are not singles clubs but are conducive to bringing singles with similar interests together.

This story goes to show what can happen when older singles get out of the house and involved in stimulating activities.

Granted, most of the readers of this newsletter can't attend the Inside Edge, they don't live in Southern California. I understand that. However, there are other options where singles can go for information on where they can meet people in their cities and towns.

A rich resource for ideas on activities and places to go is the free website, www.MeetUp.com, which lists thousands of special interests groups across the country seeking participants.

One types in one's zip code for local activities. Some of the MeetUp.com groups are for the younger generation, which older singles might want to skip.

What happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas

Last week, my partner Greta and I were among the 25,000 people who attended the AARP Vegas@50+ National Event and Expo. Each year, AARP sponsors this national event in a major convention city in the USA.

We attend these annual events because they are stimulating, informative, fun and reasonable. We learn from the impressive array of presenters and 360 exhibitors who display the latest information on healthcare, travel, and technology.

In addition to the exhibitors, there were 60 informative workshops, sessions and speakers at the Sands Convention & Expo Center.

We always feel recharged after the three-day event. This year was particularly enriching.

How could you not be fascinated listening to Magic Johnson talk about how he helps inner-city kids get a break in life? And to hear him ad lib about playing against superstars Michael Jordan and Larry Bird.

Or, hearing Norman Lear--the creator of "All in the Family," "Sanford & Son," "Maude," and "Good Times"-share his experiences of producing those shows and many movies.

Greta and I had the good fortune of interviewing Gail Sheehy, the author of 15 books including Passages, considered to be one of the 10 most influential books ever by the Library of Congress. Sheehy is a leading advocate for Americans 50-plus and is now focusing on the crisis of caregiving in this country.

Tom, Gail Sheehy, Greta

Whether you agree with AARP on all issues or not, give them credit for appointing a love, sex and relationship expert named Dr. Pepper Schwartz, who opened her talk by saying, "If you aren't having sex, you're not taking care of your health."

Pepper's message for people 50+: "Lighten up on sex. Use it or lose it." She would like to see older Americans rid themselves of the guilt surrounding sex and focus on its benefits and pleasure.

We also met privately with Olympia Dukakis, the Academy Award winning actress (Moonstruck), and her husband Louis, about his battle with Type2 Diabetes. That was an easy conversation to have since I am also a borderline Type2 diabetic.

Tom, Olympia Dukakis, Louis Dukakis, Greta

Nearly 5,000 attendees were treated to an hour-long open dialogue between Lear and the remarkable Renaissance woman, poet and author Maya Angelou, one of the great voices of contemporary literature in America. Both are in their 80s and have no intention of stopping their contributions to the world.

Award-winning actress Jane Seymour and three other former participants of Dancing With the Stars, answered questions about being on the show and demonstrated their talent as dancers.

My favorite session: James Brown, known as "JB," host of CBS's NFL Today, who talked about the importance of sharing the gift of experience that we as seniors have acquired during our lifetimes with others less fortunate. He was engaging, dynamic and inspiring, and showed why he is much, much more than a sports television host. He's a great humanitarian.

For older singles, this national event is a appropriate place to meet friends who live in other parts of the country, and to make new friends. Just start a conversation and you've got a new friend, everybody is willing to talk.

The cost for AARP members is only $25. Next year's event is in Orlando and in 2011 the event is in Los Angeles.

For this particular week-end, what happened in Vegas didn't stay in Vegas. The information gained was simply too valuable to leave behind.

Do yourself a favor. Start planning to attend one of these events in the future. It will be a life changing and rewarding experience.

Future columns will discuss individual interviews at AARP with some of the featured and well-known speakers.


Reader responses to ex-wife helping present wife re: abuse

All women who responded overwhelmingly agreed that Candace was doing the right thing. Here are just a few of the many.

Pat, "The ex-wife did the right thing in giving the current wife the phone # of a woman's shelter. I would be eternally grateful if I were in that position and she came forward to help me.

Virginia, "Absolutely, the ex-wife is doing the right thing. Under no circumstances should a woman tolerate abuse or devaluation of any kind just to have a man in their life."

Ann, "Candace was an absolute saint to assert herself and become involved. More people should care about their fellow human beings and act when necessary."

But men--just a few--had a different viewpoint

Larry: "There might be some concern by the ex-wife but, this comes across as a bitter vindictive stalker who has not gotten over the divorce. She should stay out of the ex-husband's marriage. People change and it is not any of her business to get involved!"

Jon: "Candace needs to be very careful not to let ex-hubby find out about her involvement in the situation. He could easily come after her for revenge. It happened to a friend of my fathers. I think she should stay out of it from now on. Not very heroic but safer.

Married to an abuser. Should the ex-wife come to the new wife's rescue?

"I had a rather unnerving experience today. I met my ex-husband's current wife, a Chinese woman in her 30s, who works at the local post office where I went to ship a package. My ex is 68," Candace (not her real name) emailed.

Candace detailed her experience with her ex, and why encountering the new wife was unnerving.

"He was charming and generous during courtship, but revealed his true nature-stingy, possessive jerk-after we married," she said.

"I lived with him for 10 years. Over time, he had become more paranoid, moody, and jealous for imaginary reasons. A 'rage-aholic.'"

Candace cited an example. She was driving an older car in the middle of summer when the radiator overheated. She had to stop at three different gas stations to cool the engine before she got the car to limp into the driveway. She was proud of herself for getting home okay, thinking he might be sympathetic, only to be met by a raging husband who was convinced she was late because she had stopped to have an affair.

"He refused to see a counselor, never taking responsibility for his behavior, always blaming others, with statements like, 'If you hadn't said/done that, I would not have gotten so upset,' Candace said.

"He has a loud voice. When he's angry, that voice will boom throughout the house at 200 decibels. I consider such yelling to be a form of domestic violence.

Candace said her family hated her husband because he was so mean. Her father paid for the movers when she moved out.

She added, "After our 1996 divorce, I read an article about controlling abusers and Mr. Ex matched up with 9 out of 10 abuser traits.

Which leads us back to the post office encounter. How did Candace recognize the Chinese woman's name on her nametag?

As a former journalist, Candace knew how to check public records to gather information about people. From time to time, she monitored his whereabouts because after they divorced, he called her at work every week for two years. She was happy he had moved 20 miles away, but she didn't want to be taken by surprise if he moved back to her neighborhood.

Candace said, "That's how I learned he had remarried in 2006, plus the name of his new wife--a most unique Chinese name--and what part of town they had moved to. The woman was working a few blocks from the house where Mr. Ex and I had lived, so I figure they moved there

"I quietly asked if she was married to Mr. Ex, she said yes, and then I revealed that I am ex-wife #2. As the conversation progressed, she opened up and told me how unhappy she was.

"The wife despises his super-controlling ways and wants to leave, but feels trapped. They have just one car, which he controls, and he won't let her drive. Instead, he makes two 30-mile round trips each day to take her to work and pick her up. Mr. Ex has driven off all of his wife's friends (just like he tried to do with me). They're living in a retirement community, not exactly the place for a woman so young. Big differences in age, cultures, and expectations..."

Candace says the wife was under the assumption that hiring a divorce lawyer would practically bankrupt her, and unaware that domestic violence shelters can help her get a lawyer at reasonable cost.

Candace added, "She asked how I was able to leave Mr. Ex; I told her, and added that neither of us needs anybody's permission to leave a lousy marriage!

"I felt bad for this woman, who was living without hope. And, I was alarmed that Mr. Ex's behavior had gotten even more controlling.

What did Candace do?

She said, "Before leaving the post office, I got her e-mail address, which she and only she (not the husband) has the password to, then I went home and called the local domestic violence shelter.

"In my e-mail to her, I provided the local domestic violence shelter's 24-hour phone number and advised her to write it on a small piece of paper and stick it in her shoe. A woman's shoe is considered the safest place to hide such information. I said to call the shelter during her lunch hour, adding that once she gets there, the shelter will provide free bus tickets for her work commute so she can keep her job and become financially independent.

"The rest is up to her. Fingers crossed."

Is Candace doing the right thing?


Did the 68-year-old Canadian man featured last week get scammed by the 25-year-old Nigerian woman?

Here is what he emailed later, "Tom, you were right about it being a scam. Right after you wrote me, she was going to Lagos to get on the plane, but she needed money for the travel agent, accommodations for two days in Lagos and other things. I told her I have no money and why didn't she borrow it from somebody there and I would pay them back after she got here.

"I told her I knew it was a scam, and that I had talked to two other people there. I could tell by the difference in their letters. Some all upper case good spelling. Another all lower case, spelling atrocious. I am now much more aware of who I'm talking to, on the net. I was a little hurt but because of your heads up, I realized it was just a fantasy and no harm done to me. Thank you for getting in touch with me so fast."

Anatomy of a scam: The downside of Internet dating

One of the benefits for older singles of using the Internet to find love is its ability to search out singles all over the world. No longer are singles limited to meeting someone at local tea dances or being introduced to a friend's brother or a co-worker's sister.

But the Internet is a double-edged sword. With the good, comes the bad: scammers and fakes use the Internet to search for lonely people ripe for a rip off. And it's not just vulnerable widows who are targets. Men get reeled in also.

An example arrived in an email I received Sunday afternoon.

Paul, a Canadian, wrote, "I just had to share a story that occurred the first of October when I got an e-mail from Liberia. I was suspicious at first because I have received a few from various places that wanted me to bring them to this country. They must think Canadians are stupid.

"We started exchanging letters and photos. I am 67 and she looks about 25. She has a B.A. in international relations and is a volunteer Jesuit. She is a store keeper and distribution officer and has just been posted to Nigeria.

"To make a long story short, she never asked for money, she has diplomatic immunity and she is coming to see me, even though I am disabled with an amputated leg. She has 30 days for orientation at a new post and will use some of that time to come to Canada.

"So people, I never thought it would happen for me, but we never know what our destiny is or what life has in store for us. Don't give up."

I felt it was so urgent to get back to Paul before he got ripped off that I took a break from watching NFL football and immediately wrote him back:

"Canadian Friend Paul,

"Please do not take offense at my comments. My interest is only to protect you and your assets. I imagine a 67-year-old man could get his juices flowing thinking a 25-year-old woman is actually interested in him.

"But, do not delude yourself into thinking this is anything but a scam.

"It's the most blatant type of scam: One originating from Africa, particularly Nigeria. Of course she hasn't asked for money yet, but she will. She hasn't gained your confidence yet. After she lures you into her lair--with promises of love, sex, and a visit to you--she will likely say she's unable to cash her paycheck in Nigeria, and could you wire her $4,000 Canadian so she can pay for her airline ticket to come visit you.

"If you wire the money, then she will say the authorities won't let her out of the country and will you wire her more money.

"The ultimate insult: She probably isn't a she; she's probably a "he," sitting in some sweltering boiler room generating emails to hundreds of men, hoping to reel in one or two a month. Can you imagine the standard of living someone could have making $4000-$8000 a month ripping people off?

"Ask yourself this Paul: Why would a 25-year-old woman be interested in a 67-year-old man who lives across the ocean.

"You ended your email with: 'So people, I never thought it would happen for me, but we never know what our destiny is or what life has in store for us. Don't give up.'

"Well Paul, It has happened to you. You have been approached by a scammer. Do not, under any circumstances, send this scammer money.

"Canadians are not stupid. Don't let your country down by proving otherwise. I hope my warning saves you from losing money. Let us know what happens."

Paul's reply was encouraging: "I will let you know. If there is any asking for money, it won't happen. Thank you for the heads up. By the way, my wife who passed away last December was 20 years younger than me."

Take heed everybody. This is just another scam.

See below for a link to the Yahoo! Groups Romance Scams website, where more than 15,214 members--most who have been scammed--have posted nearly 1/4 million messages with their stories and warnings. Paul might find his Nigerian friend's mugshot posted on the Scammer wall of fame.


Kit, Upper Midwest, "I don't remember if you have discussed men who think a 'nurse with a purse' i.e., the thought of a widowed RN like me, is their ticket from now until they die. I have had much rushed correspondence with several of these men on eharmony recently.

"One, in particular, was a very good writer. When I asked about employment, he carefully tried to slide by this by saying, the last time he was employed full time. After that, he was on to much prose about how he had to be married to the next true love of his life.

"Please put out another warning to those of us who have resorted to the Internet to meet people--be sure to read between the lines. If the gentleman has nothing to hide, he will give you answers you can trace if you feel the need. There are too many who want a 'sugar mama' to care for them until they depart."

A gut-wrenching love Importance of communication among couples

Last week, I asked for your opinion: Should Barb move back to Los Angeles to be near her daughter's family and two new grandchildren, or stay in Las Vegas to be near her 86-year-old man friend who convinced her to move there with him four years ago. They do not live together.

She had decided to move back and then he was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm.

More than 50 of you responded. So many, in fact, I had to set up a spreadsheet to categorize the answers.

By a ratio of nearly 5-to-1, you feel Barb should move back to Los Angeles and presented your reasons why.

Nancy: "Barb absolutely has to move to L.A. and be with her daughter. Family should always be a priority and, in this case because Barb only loves him in a 'friendship way,' she shouldn't feel guilt. If she was in love with him, the decision would be more difficult. They live separately, and this should make her move a little easier."

Pat: "The decision is not based on his failing health; she had already made the decision to leave to be with her daughter and family. God gives us one life and we have to do what we feel is right for us and our immediate family."

Holly: "People change, their lives and circumstances constantly change. Barb had already decided that it was time for her to be near her family. If she wants to move back to L.A., his illness should have nothing to do with that. Each of us is responsible for our own lives and our own happiness."

Janice: "She has to be true to herself."

Bobbie, "Barb's first responsibility is to herself, next is her family, and beyond that whatever she chooses."

However, you didn't let her off the hook easily. Nearly half suggested the communication between Barb and her gent should have been more open.

Mary said, "Sounds like this type of discussion should have occurred a long time ago."

Lisa: "Now that she's made her decision, how she tells him and the way she exits the relationship will make all the difference. She needs to have an honest discussion with him about how she feels and the reasons she is leaving and then do everything she can to make sure he is well taken care of, e.g., find senior support for him in his area."

Almost everyone agreed with Lisa about getting him get re-situated in Las Vegas, including ensuring his medical care is in order, that he will be looked after by friends and people who care, or possibly a caregiver. None of you wanted to see him left high and dry.

A few, however, felt Barb should stay in Las Vegas. One was Ann: "Be with the daughter for a couple of weeks when she delivers her baby, but stay with the gentleman until he passes away."

Many still see an opportunity for compromise between them, including Rick, who lives in L.A. He hopes Barb stays in touch with her friend, even visiting him from time to time.

Rhonda: "Although he doesn't want a long-distance relationship, now that he has a health issue and the possibility of losing her completely, he might feel differently."

Marta commented on the long-distance relationship aspect: "I wouldn't be too worried about the emotions of a man who would end the relationship due to the not very long, 'long-distance' of Las Vegas to Los Angeles. Seems like having Barb in his life is more a matter of convenience than truly loving Barb."

And speaking of compromise, Vaughn offered: "Why don't the two of them simply move back to LA? Win, win."

Others agreed with Vaughn by suggesting the gent sell both houses he owns. But think about that. The Las Vegas economy is in the tank. Houses aren't selling. Foreclosures are rampant. Unloading two houses would be nearly impossible. If his pockets are deep enough, he could hire a property manager, rent both Las Vegas homes, and move back, but that sounds stressful to me.

Jane Ann added an interesting slant, "Barb is subconsciously hoping her 'friend' will marry her."

I don't think so. She wants to get on with her life. Marrying an 86-year-old man with a heart problem? That could be viewed as gold-digger action, which Barb isn't into.

Ursula warned, "Many seniors are looking for someone to take care of them in their old age. Before you get too deeply involved, be aware that you might spend the rest of your life as a nursemaid."

Nearly everyone agreed about the importance of family, of being able to see and be with grandchildren. But Madonna questioned whether being near family is the entire reason Barb is moving back: "She says her daughter needs her. Why? Are she and her husband unable to care for their two children themselves?"

Mary cautioned, "I am not in favor of making major moves just to be near our children unless there might be a crisis. They have lives of their own and will move on according to their own needs, not hers."

Lessons learned from this story:

  • Most of the angst in this situation could have been avoided if Barb had laid it on the line with him when her thoughts of moving back to L.A. started to materialize. Couples need to communicate, to be open and honest.
  • As Holly pointed out, as we age, our situations, wants, needs and priorities change. As couples, ideally we change and adapt together. But, that's not always the way it is.

So, when the fork in the road is reached, sometimes couples part. One of them takes the road less traveled. There are always strong emotions when this happens; after all, we've shared a large part of ourselves with the other person. The decisions in life can be painful, but, as individuals, we have to be true to ourselves.

The "Rubber Band" theory in relationships-- Is it real?

If you've ever felt like you couldn't say what you thought or how you felt to your partner or spouse out of fear for what they might say, do or how they'd react...

If there's one dynamic that's a sticky issue between two people who decide to be a couple, it's this...

One person feels the need to "retreat" every now and then and the other person feels unloved and abandoned when it happens.

Pretty simple to describe but not simple to deal with!

One of our long time subscribers to our newsletters wrote to ask if we support the "rubber band" theory in relationships in relationship breakthrough coaching practice.

We hope we're talking about the same thing because as we think about it, the first time we heard about the "rubber-band" theory was when we originally read John Gray's book "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus."

While we know that many people get a lot of benefit from John Gray's gender difference information, we think the issue is much broader and deeper than just being about a differences between men and women.

We have seen this dynamic too many times in both genders to assign one set of behaviors to one and another set to another.

In the past, we've called this dynamic the "relationship push-pull."

Here's a description of what we've seen...

One person (either gender) pulls away for whatever reason and the other person pushes in some form or another because he or she feels a loss of love and connection.

Why do some people feel the need to pull away at times?

  • Overwhelm --the need to feel "in control" when emotions get out of control.
  • Habit--the way you learned to "resource" yourself or make yourself feel better--maybe from watching someone in your family do it that way.
  • Protection--you may feel threatened in some way and feel the need to withdraw and protect yourself.

So why do some people "push" when the partner pulls away (even though they may not think they are pushing)?

  • Fear--you feel abandoned and fear that yourlove will be taken away from you.
  • Habit--you learned to "push" when you weren't getting what you wanted.
  • Protection--you learned to protect yourself from losing what you have by reacting and pushing.

We could go on and on but the point is that we are all different and react differently to situations and to the triggers in our lives.

What can you do about it if you're in this kind of dynamic?

The woman sent us the question told us that she and her boyfriend were working through it. He is beginning to recognize when he pulls away and is also trying to reassure her that he will be back.

She has shared with him how his pulling away makes her feel and she "allows him to pull away" but maybe "not at the level he thinks it should be."

We think the two of them are taking solid steps toward understanding one another, allowing each other to be who they are, and keeping their connection-- even when it's tough.

Here are some more suggestions...

1. Notice your patterns and when you either withdraw and pull away or feel abandoned and either push against or withdraw.

Don't label it "right or wrong." Just notice what happens.

2. Go inside.

When you notice you are doing whatever it is you are doing to separate from each other, instead of trying to figure it out in your head, take your attention to the feeling.

From the feeling, you may get a sense of what you need.

For instance, if you withdraw, you may get a strong sense that you feel out of control or fearful for some reason and you need to be alone for awhile--and it may or may not have anything to do with your partner.

Or you may feel suffocated and it comes down to a fear of commitment and a fear of opening deeply to another.

If you feel abandoned, feel what you need-- maybe it's reassurance and maybe it's just to learn to resource yourself in some way.

3. Keep the lines of communication open.

Like our newsletter subscriber, allow yourself to open to listening and understanding how the other person thinks and feels.

Even if you've been in a relationship with each other for many years, there is still much to learn if you truly listen.

Have the courage to say what you need--not from blame but from your heart.

4. Resource yourself in new ways.

If you withdraw, as soon as you realize what your needs are, ask for time alone if you need it but reassuring your partner that you will be back and that you do love them.

Also take a look at your stories about why you need to withdraw. It might be a very real need but it also might be a habit that you no longer are willing to keep doing. You may want to learn how to "stay" when it's tough.

If you are with a partner who withdraws, you can begin to challenge the stories that are running in your head--that are old, habitual ways of thinking.

These stories might be--"I'm not good enough" or "They always leave." One way to deal with them is to challenge them and choose a better outlook for yourself.

Whatever pattern you discover, allow the space for something different to happen in your life instead of playing and acting out old, worn out tapes that no longer serve you.

Becoming conscious of what takes us away from love and then taking steps toward more love is life-long work.

But it doesn't have to be "hard."

It just takes a little courage and a willing, open heart.

We wish you all the best. Talk to you again soon.

© 2009, Tom Blake

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