Relationships For Dummies book cover

Relationships For Dummies

By: Kate M. Wachs Published: 03-15-2002

“Follow the advice of the top romance specialist, and you can’t go wrong.”
Woman’s World

“She’s interviewed with Oprah and Phil Donahue, Time, the New York Times, USA Today, the Washington Post, Redbook and Cosmopolitan. Clearly Dr. Kate engages in no false advertising—she’s a nationally acclaimed relationship expert.”
Chicago Tribune

Let’s face it, making a relationship work takes patience, perseverance, energy, and an unflagging commitment to maintain a happy healthy relationship. And sometimes, it takes a little help from a wise and knowledgeable friend.

Written by celebrated psychologist-matchmaker, Dr. Kate Wachs, Relationships For Dummies is a source of inspiration and ideas on how to find and keep a healthy relationship. Whether you’ve just started dating or have been together with that special someone for years, Dr. Kate can help you:

  • Tell the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy relationship
  • Have a more loving, fun-filled relationship
  • Enjoy a more vibrant and satisfying sex life
  • Work through most relationship problems
  • Find the positive and the fun in every relationship stage

Dr. Kate explodes common relationships and compatibility myths that cause people grief, and with the help of insightful quizzes, case studies, and real-life America Online letters Dr. Kate covers all the bases, including:

  • Finding that special someone and knowing if it’s really Mr. or Ms. Right
  • Pacing and nurturing intimacy in the early stages of a relationship
  • When, where, how, and with whom to have sex when dating
  • Knowing when and if it’s time to move in together
  • When and if to get married
  • Keeping psychological and emotional intimacy alive
  • Keeping physical and sexual intimacy alive

From compatibility to communication, commitment to connecting in the bedroom, Relationships For Dummies is your total guide to having the relationships you want and deserve.

Articles From Relationships For Dummies

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16 results
Relationships For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 02-14-2022

Your relationship with that special someone plays a large role in your life. First, you have to find The One and then take the time to develop the skills to build the relationship and keep it going. And because no relationship is without some conflict, you need to know how to resolve the disagreements that crop up so you can actually grow closer as you work things out.

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Knowing When Not to Marry

Article / Updated 10-15-2021

Just as there are signs that you are ready to marry, there are also signs that you're not. A surprising number of people are able to look back on their marriages and say why they weren't ready to marry at that time, and how that lack of readiness contributed to their divorce. Review your motivation for marriage before you wed to help you avoid making these mistakes. If you fall into one of these categories, avoiding marriage at this time is probably a good idea. Instead, follow the suggestions listed as an alternative remedy. At the very least, you should understand the risk you're taking if you choose to get married for the following irrational reasons, or while in one of these situations: To escape a poor, chaotic, or unhappy home: Consider going away to school or even the armed services. Focus on developing as an independent, psychologically healthy person, so you can live a happy, healthy life. The more dysfunctional your home, the more work you'll need to do to avoid repeating the mistakes of your parents When you're too young or immature: Enjoy your adolescence, and delay marriage until you're older and more mature. When you lack dating experience: Start dating a variety of people casually to get the experience you need. Figure out what you need in a relationship and how to differentiate a compatible partner from someone who isn't healthy or compatible. When you've just graduated, are not self-sufficient, have never been on your own as an independent single person, have no stable career or means of support, are afraid to be alone, or your partner is leaving soon for a long time: Finish your education and advanced training for your field. Forge a career that has some flexibility and can support you and a family for the rest of your life. Live on your own as a single person and learn how to pay bills, balance your checkbook, save money, and become self-sufficient and independent. Learn how to be alone without being lonely, and how to be happy single. To make someone else jealous: Read books and see a psychologist to become more emotionally mature. Don't marry anyone until you have matured, and have also acquired a variety of adult behaviors and coping skills to rely on when you're hurting. Take assertiveness and communication skills classes to help you talk through problems amicably, rather than resorting to manipulation. To supply self-esteem: Seek cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy with a psychologist. Replace your low self-esteem thoughts with positive self-thoughts. Don't marry anyone until you feel confident and comfortable with yourself. Be sure you're choosing someone who really is compatible, not just someone to fill in because you're needy. Because everyone else is doing it: Read books and see a psychologist to learn, grow, and become more emotionally mature. Date a variety of people casually, or your current flame exclusively, but do not marry anyone until you have matured. When you're pregnant: Don't assume that your boyfriend will be there for you and the baby if you carry it to term and keep it. Consult an impartial psychologist immediately and review your options carefully and completely before making your choice. When your relationship is not compatible or fun, but you're growing older and you're afraid you won't find anyone better:. Discuss your relationship history with a psychologist, and explore how compatible you and your partner really are. Don't marry until/unless you're fairly sure that you are compatible and could sustain a happy marriage. If your current partner isn't very compatible, consider joining an introduction service or placing a personal ad to efficiently meet people who may be much more compatible with you. When you haven't spent enough time together to know if you're compatible: If your partner has just been too busy to make the relationship a priority, discuss your perspective with him or her. See if you can come up with a compromise that is satisfactory to both of you. If you've just met someone recently, relax and give yourself time to get to know one another. If your partner is long-distance and you've communicated mainly through e-mail, letters, phone calls, and occasional visits, don't marry until you've gotten to know each other better in person and the relationship is strong. When one or both of you haven't been broken up, divorced, or widowed long enough, or one of you is on the rebound: Enjoy your current relationship while it lasts, but understand that it could end at any time. When the jilted partner heals, you may find that you're not compatible enough to sustain the relationship long-term. When one or both of you suffer from serious personal or psychological problems: See a psychologist to resolve your problems. If your partner is the one with the problems, invite him to couples counseling with a psychologist. Rely on the therapist's judgment as to whether or not the two of you can progress. If your partner is addicted, not motivated to pursue treatment, or abusive, terminate the relationship with the psychologist's help. When one or both of you have committed physical, sexual, or child abuse: This relationship has very little potential. If you're the abuser, you need urgent treatment by a psychologist. Seek treatment immediately, and let the psychologist know that this is an emergency. If you are the abused person, you also need to see a psychologist immediately for help. Check into local services for abused people and take measures to save yourself. Stay in therapy until you have broken free of your abusive partner and your pattern of being attracted to abusive people.

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Considering the Four Happiness Myths

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Humans appeared on this earth without an owner's manual. Luckily, one of our advances has been in figuring out what causes happiness — and what doesn't. For example, everyone wants to be happy. But have you ever noticed how some people have few material possessions, yet seem very happy, while others have an abundance of material wealth, yet seem very unhappy? How can some people remain strong through many crises, while others fall apart over nothing? If money and possessions don't determine happiness, what does? Moreover, if the amount of stress you feel isn't determined by the intensity of an event, then what does control it? Myth #1: Optimism isn't realistic Negative, pessimistic people think that optimists are delusional; they pity them for their inability to see life as it really is. In contrast, they see themselves as understanding the "truth" about the world, and not being afraid to face it. They tend to be critical and cynical, even putting a negative spin on their humor. They look around them and find proof for their pessimistic ideas, interpreting ambiguous situations as negative. Their negative observations seem correct, but it's really a vicious self-fulfilling cycle. Doom-and-gloomers think negatively, so they feel critical and pessimistic, which then makes it easy for them to act in negative, distrustful, critical ways. Then other people either shy away or react negatively to them — which then confirms their belief that the world really is a lousy place. Therefore, the cycle continues downward. In essence, pessimists trap themselves in a self-perpetuating cycle of gloom and doom. In reality, escaping this cycle is easy. If you think that the glass is half empty, it is. On the other hand, if you think the glass is half full, it is. In fact, the glass is both. How you think about the situation determines how you feel, and how you feel makes acting in an optimistic, uplifting way more or less difficult. In addition, how you act greatly influences how others respond to you. Myth #2: Other people are happier than me If you believe in this myth, you probably notice other people a lot — too much — and you idealize the relationships of others. You believe that other people have better lives and perfect relationships. You see a loving couple cuddling on the street and assume that those people have no real problems. Then you look at your own life and your own relationship, and feel very unhappy because you're not as happy as others seem to be. Moreover, nothing will make you more miserable than thinking that everyone else is having more fun than you are. No one has a perfect life or a perfect relationship. People who enjoy great blessings often find themselves dealing with great tragedies as well. For example, if you have money, you have to take precautions so others don't steal it. If you don't have money, you don't have to worry about anyone loving you for your money; you just need a way to pay the bills. Money never makes anyone happy, and not having it doesn't have to keep you from being happy either. Likewise, no other material possession ever equals happiness either. Myth #3: Other people and things make me happy The person who believes this myth uses expressions like, "You made me mad!" and, "You make me so happy!" Although these figures of speech are very colorful, they also imply that the responsibility for your happiness lies outside you. If someone makes you feel happy/sad/mad/whatever, then that person can also make you feel unhappy/less sad/not mad/whatever. If your mental state is controlled by what another person does, then you can never be truly stable. After all, you can't control what anyone does, so how can you ever be truly happy for extended periods? Well, the good news is: No one and no thing can cause you to be happy. In fact, people and things don't cause happiness at all. It's what you think about those other people and things that determines whether you feel happy or sad. Your thoughts — not outside events, the presence or absence of material objects, or other people — cause your feelings. Just as money can't make you happy, other people can't make you happy either. No one can make anyone think or feel or do anything. The only person who has that distinction is the person who owns the thoughts, feelings, and behavior. When you accept this truth, then and only then can you be truly happy. If you stop waiting for circumstances to change in your life, you can make yourself happy — every day — no matter what life brings. Myth #4: I can't be happy single and alone Many people believe that they can only be happy when they're with a partner. If you believe this myth, you may also believe that your partner makes you happy. Not only does such a belief place responsibility for your happiness outside you, it puts that responsibility smack dab on your partner. Wowwweeee! That really leaves you dangling in a precarious position, doesn't it? Even if you have a partner for a while, eventually that person will leave or die. So believing in this myth guarantees that you'll be unhappy for a substantial period of time. In addition, when you believe that your mate makes you happy, you tend to blame him or her when you don't feel happy. Doing that will virtually ensure that your relationship will either become very unhappy or nonexistent before long. Of course, if you believe in this myth, losing that mate will cause you to feel even more unhappy. Because happiness is a state of mind, not a reaction to a particular person, thing, or event, you can be happy no matter what happens to you. You can be happy married, widowed, divorced, or single — or in whatever marital state you find yourself. You can be happy at any age. As long as you're alive, you can make yourself happy, no matter what. Accepting that truth and acting accordingly makes you an extremely powerful person.

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Signing Up for a Personal Matchmaking Service

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Personal matchmaking services vary enormously, depending on their population; the credentials, training, skill, professionalism, and ethics of the matchmaker; whether the company is a nationwide franchise or a more personalized boutique service; whether the matchmaker meets you or not; and whether the service is a real business or a hobby the owner is doing to meet a special someone. A difference also exists between businesses run predominantly to make money and those run by someone who actually cares about the service sold. Most personal matchmaking services will interview you extensively, asking questions about your relationship goal and match preferences. The service screens and researches matches for you and then notifies you via mail or phone that your match is ready. If both parties accept the match, names and numbers are exchanged, and you and your match get in touch to arrange a date. The service does the work while you have all the fun. Not bad, eh? Prices vary from almost nothing ($150) to $4,000 or more, depending on your city and the type of program involved. Good services cost at least $1,000 because of all the work involved and the cost to the company. Services go by time (one or two years) or by the number of matches you receive. Prices for personalized matchmaking services tend to be firm — and should stay firm. In contrast to library-type matchmaking services, where you basically do all the work and can consequently bid down the price, personalized matchmaking services do as much of the work for you as possible. Your membership fee has to cover the more in-depth interviewing and screening, the matchmaker's time, and the salary of the people informing you by phone or letter about your match. Just like library services, personal services have to pay for rent, office expenses, advertising, and direct mail. Therefore, these services reap much less profit than library services and, hence, have less room to cut costs. The benefit of all that, however, is that you'll feel less like you're buying a used car! Pluses: There are many advantages to using a credible matchmaking service. If you're a busy person with many responsibilities, you'll appreciate the convenience and time saved. Because the service does everything that you don't have to do (interviewing, screening, and researching your matches), and you spend your time doing what only you can do (dating the people and figuring out who's more compatible for you), this is the easiest, most time-efficient way to meet people. Everyone burns out when they do too much of something for too long, so allowing a service to do what you don't have to do enables you to date longer before burning out. Since dating burnout is often a problem with other methods, this is a big advantage over library services, personal ads, and any other dating method where you do more of the work. The personalized, confidential attention is often more comfortable than flipping through photos of prospective mates in a large room filled with strangers — or putting your personal information on a library shelf or in an ad for others to review. In addition, because the matchmaker has to match you, she has to keep the numbers relatively even with regard to sex, age, and other variables. This is a huge advantage over the library services. Minuses: Nothing in life is perfect. So like all methods of finding a special sweetie, personal matchmaking services have their drawbacks, too — the amount depending on the specifics of that service. For example, some services have you fill out forms and interview with someone other than the matchmaker. Others claim to send your data out of town to a person or computer program that supposedly matches you. Do not use these kinds of services. If a matchmaker hasn't met you, then that person knows very little about your personality, so your matches are less likely to be compatible. Also, be wary of any service that says it's testing you. Valid, standardized psychological tests must be administered, scored, interpreted, and kept under lock and key by a psychologist. Chances are, the tests you take are just quizzes, and results may not even be taken into consideration. Quizzes aren't necessarily bad, but don't let a service convince you that it's best simply because it uses non-standardized, unreliable quizzes.

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How to Make Love Last

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Everyone knows that it's much easier to start a relationship than it is to make one last. If you've found your special someone, keep your love alive with the tips in the following list: Make it special and nurture emotional intimacy: Share feelings, thoughts, and experiences with one another that you don't share with others, and keep your communication healthy. Share healthy, fun-filled sexual experiences only with one another to promote sexual intimacy. Remember that good communication is Superglue #1, and good sex is Superglue #2. Use both generously and often to bond tightly with your mate.

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How to Build a Relationship

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Getting involved in a romance is the first step toward building a relationship that lasts. If you're looking for a long-term love, the tips in the following list can help you develop your attraction into something deeper: Keep the relationship reciprocal, especially in the beginning, so you can keep the balance of power — and resulting feelings — even, too. If you're female, try to let your partner lead. If you're male, most women will prefer that you lead — so don't be afraid to do so. Be cautious about sex early in the relationship. Know what you're risking, and if you choose it, go into it with your eyes open. As you get to know and trust one another, move gradually and slowly from being strangers to being lovers. Don't ruin the relationship by trying to make the jump in one — or a few — dates. Use thought-stopping to avoid fantasizing about a future with someone you barely know, and to help you keep your emotional intimacy, sexual intimacy, and time actually spent in the relationship in sync.

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How to Use Arguments to Improve Your Relationship

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Every relationship has conflict — arguments and disagreements go hand-in-hand with love and affection. But with Dr. Kate's Make-A-Deal technique, you can settle disagreements and grow closer in the process. Just follow these steps: Make a date to talk about the problem, choosing optimal time and place. Ask questions about your mate's thoughts and feelings first and throughout discussion: "How do you feel about . . . ?" "Are you saying that . . . ?" Keep reflecting back as long as your partner shares new info: "It sounds like . . ." Express empathy and support: "I'm so _____ (happy or sorry) for you." "I hope that everything goes better tomorrow." Agree with whatever you can agree with: ("I agree that . . ." "I can see that . . .") Alternate/take turns doing steps 2–5: reflective listening, asking questions, facilitative agreement, supportive statements, and positive reinforcement. Deal time! Brainstorm and pick a compromise: "Okay, so it sounds like we've ruled out ______ and ______, and we both seem to like ______ better. Why don't we try that this week, and get back together next week — same time, same place — to see if we're both happy with it?" Evaluate compromise at a later date and compromise again if necessary. Agree to disagree or rediscuss if you can't find a suitable compromise: "It seems like we both have strong feelings on this topic, and we're not going to reach any agreement tonight. So why don't we just agree to disagree for now, and get together next week — same time, same place — to talk about it again?" List agreements and leave on an upbeat, friendly note: "Okay, so we've decided that we're going to ______. Thank you for making time to talk about this and for meeting me halfway. I really appreciate your time and effort tonight. I think we did great!"

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How to Find a Relationship

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

If you're looking for love, you know it can be hard to meet someone you want to have a relationship with — especially given the constraints of modern life. Use the tips in the following list to determine the best way to meet that special someone given your circumstances: If you have more time than money: Try running a personal ad — offline or online at any of the numerous dating sites. Because you write/post the ad, and contact/screen responses, this process takes time, energy, and good judgment. But it's usually less expensive as a result. If you have more money than time: Try offline dating services — the personal matchmaking type, where someone else does as much of the work for you as possible. The service recruits, interviews, and screens everyone, and based on knowledge of both parties, selects and often arranges the first date to streamline the process and eliminate any rejection hassle. If you have lousy judgment in people or have chosen unwisely in the past: Stick to an offline dating service — the personal matchmaking type, especially one that offers you feedback from your dates and helpful advice. The matchmaker who interviews, screens, and selects potential mates for you may be more objective and effective, and there's an easy-to-follow paper trail for added security and safety.

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Pacing a New Romantic Relationship

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

New relationships are fragile. If you rush through important intimacy stages, the relationship takes a hit — and often ends prematurely. Following are a few suggestions about how to slow things down and keep your new relationship on a healthy track. Don't jump into bed on the first date This may seem like a no-brainer, but lurching full speed ahead in lust mode is one of the more common mistakes — becoming sexually intimate too soon. People get caught up in the passion and wanting to please. But . . . if you have sex early in the relationship, you're sharing the most intimate behavior you can possibly share with someone you hardly know. Credit: "Relaxing in Shade," © 2008 Ed Yourden, used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode Talk about getting your feelings, behaviors, and time spent in the relationship out of sync! Because your partner hasn't had time to get to know or care about you, he or she may neglect to inform you about a sexually transmitted disease (STD), fail to take appropriate pregnancy and STD precautions, and/or even disappear after the act. Resist spending the entire weekend together If you've been seeing one another once a week, suddenly spending the weekend together can be too much, too soon. Your relationship just isn't ready for it. Instead, have dates that gradually increase in length and frequency. The same advice applies if you initially meet online. Communicating via e-mail is fast and easy, so you and your partner can begin to feel close very quickly. However, when you live in different cities or states — or even farther away — having a normal first date can be difficult. Instead of spending a relaxed three hours together, for example, your first date might last the entire weekend. After all, you've both spent a lot of time, money, and energy to travel some distance to meet. Don't do it! Moreover, don't let that great build-up of excitement convince you to hop into bed together either. If you do, you may very well break up shortly after the weekend, and one or both of you could get hurt. So no matter how you meet, online or off — pace yourself. Leave your new friend wanting more of you — not less. You'll be glad you did. Keep your own life People sometimes make the mistake of dropping their friends when a new love enters the picture. Whether you're male or female, it's best to maintain your friendships and family ties, and keep a healthy, balanced amount of activities with those people, even when you're dating someone special. Remember, your romantic mates will come and go before you finally settle in with a long-term partner. On the other hand, if you show loyalty and nurture them properly, your friends and family will usually be there for you. So treat them with care; don't blow them off. Be careful when you're needy If it's Christmas (or New Year's Eve, or Valentine's Day, or the anniversary of your last breakup, or . . . , or . . . , or . . . !), and you usually feel alone and needy around this time, be careful. Avoid bars, curb your drinking, and keep in touch with your common sense. Don't spill your guts about your ex or your loneliness, and avoid jumping into bed with someone just because he or she is there. Spend time with friends rather than someone too tempting to resist. Take it with a grain of salt when someone else is needy People often make emotional statements they don't mean. A friend or child might yell, "I hate you!" when angry. An adult might profess to be in love when he or she desperately wants to love and be loved. When that person later calms down and feels less needy, he realizes he doesn't feel that way after all. If you meet someone online who quickly becomes intense about you without even meeting you in person, or if she says she loves you after knowing you for only a few weeks, take it with a grain of salt. Understand the comments in context; factor in the person's state of mind before responding. Be respectful, positive, and polite, but keep realistic expectations about your friend and the relationship. The odds of any one relationship working out long-term are low, so chances are, this one won't work either. When you're realistic in your expectations, you're not hurt and shocked if your date does a 180-degree turn. Moreover, if the relationship lasts, you can be pleasantly surprised.

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Honesty in Healthy Relationships

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

To form a healthy relationship with someone and become emotionally intimate, you need to share experiences and secrets with your partner that you don’t share with anyone else. That kind of intense, intimate, highly private interchange requires both parties to be honest with one another. Honesty involves giving accurate information about events that are known or have already occurred. Honesty is telling the truth as you know it about factual events that have already occurred. Honest partners in a healthy relationship do not knowingly give misinformation. However, being honest doesn’t mean being rude, unkind, or aggressive. It doesn’t mean sharing things to hurt your partner or “spilling your guts.” Discretion — using good judgment about what to reveal and what not to reveal — is important in any healthy relationship. So it’s usually best not to attack your boyfriend’s new clothing or make remarks about another woman’s “hotness.” It isn’t necessary to share these feelings, and doing so may hurt your partner. If you’re going to leave your girlfriend for that “hot” female, you will need to tell your mate that you want to break up. However, you still don’t have to tell her that she “isn’t hot enough.” There are far kinder ways to end your relationship. In addition, you don’t have to reveal everything you think and feel to anyone, including your partner. You can always opt to keep something confidential because you’ve promised someone that you would, because you don’t feel comfortable sharing the information, or just because you want to keep it to yourself. You also have the right to be vague if you don’t want to respond to someone’s detailed questions. But don’t lie about an issue. If it relates to a secret someone else has told you, you can say, “That information was given to me in confidence, so it cannot be shared.” It’s much better to hold back information than to give inaccurate information. It’s also OK to talk about your goals and intentions in good faith, then not be able to follow through all the time. That’s not lying. However, if you’re unable to keep your word for any reason, discuss that with your partner as soon as you realize it, and try to find an acceptable solution that also protects your partner’s best interests and respects your relationship. People generally trust that someone is being honest with them until/unless they find out differently. After someone violates the code, however, there’s no way to know when that person will cross the line again. That’s why cheating is so destructive to a relationship and why trust is so difficult to repair. For partners to remain strong in a relationship, they must remain bonded to one another in honesty and good will.

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