Questions submitted by the members of Relationship Coaching Institute-
1. How long was it before you had sex with Darlene?
Wow … not wasting time getting to the juicy stuff! For Conscious Daters, more important than "how long" is "at what point in the relationship?"
I’m happy to report that I practiced what I preach and we did not have intimate physical contact until "the talk" when we became an exclusive, pre-committed couple.
A few weeks after first meeting online and getting together in person a few times, we both knew that this might be the start of something big and had a five-hour conversation about our vision, requirements, needs, and wants.
I had a reservation about being her first "relationship" after her divorce a year and a half ago and asked the RCI coaches for feedback. We discussed that feedback during "the talk" as well. After five hours of hard questions and close examination of our compatibility we decided we were a match and officially became a pre-committed couple and have been inseparable ever since.
2. Did you kiss on the first date?
I’ve never kissed anyone after just meeting them for the first time! Our first meeting in person was the classic "coffee date." I’ve had lots of these first meetings as a single and most did not lead to a second date. Our first physical contact I call "the hug" was after our third date. The chemistry was so strong for me after that I had insomnia and couldn’t sleep for two nights straight.
3. Have you ever had any doubts, after becoming engaged, about getting married to Darlene?
This is the first time in my life I can honestly say that I have no doubts or reservations. I’ve talked myself into relationships in the past by rationalizing the red flags, and amazingly, in this relationship there are none. For awhile I was disbelieving and tried to find red flags until one of my mentors kindly, but firmly, told me to stop and enjoy my good fortune before I sabotaged it by looking for things that aren’t there.
4. Don’t you think that 6 weeks is a bit soon for an engagement? You barely know someone in that length of time.
Yes, for 99% of the population, six weeks is an insanely short amount of time. In this case, we both worked from home and have flexible schedules, and were able to spend every day (and night) together. As I mentioned before, we became inseparable. Practicing Conscious Dating, we were both testing each other and the relationship as thoroughly as possible. Both of us are very direct, upfront people that don’t wear masks. We were not BS-ing ourselves or each other. We were both very clear about what we wanted and clear that we’ve found it in each other.
Ironically, being married and divorced twice gave me the life experience that helped me to be so clear about this relationship. As a result I’ve learned that when two people are truly right for each other it is unmistakable and unambiguous.
When you’ve had a lot of life experience and have done the work to clearly know who you are and what you want, you’ll recognize it more clearly when you find it! It was hard for me to believe at first, and a piece of feedback from an RCI coach was very helpful to me at the time- "When it’s right, it’s right."
5. What will you do if this relationship fails? What’s your exit plan should things go awry?
Well, I’ve survived two divorces and I suppose I can get through another if it happens. Failure isn’t the end of the world; it represents a new beginning. As one RCI coach put it- "It’s a risk — but so is crossing the street."
6. With knowing someone just 6 weeks, you didn’t really have time to test any of your requirements – how did you test your requirements?
I tested enough to want to be with her for the rest of my life, and for Conscious Daters the testing continues up until the actual commitment is made. Even though we were engaged, both of us had enough wherewithal to call it off if it turned out to be a bad idea.
7. Why did you get engaged so soon? Couldn’t you just have dated a year to see how things worked out and then get engaged? What was the rush?
There was no rush; it just felt right. Yes, we could have waited, but for what? Some useful feedback from the RCI coaches included giving myself permission to follow my heart (which is a challenge if you don’t trust yourself), and my heart wanted to say YES to Darlene at every level. I’m a "go for it" person and not a fan of being passive or waiting for the sake of waiting.
8. My therapist told me that many relationships fail within the first two years – so it’s better to date at least two years before getting married? Do you agree with that or have you heard about studies supporting this?
I was with my second wife for three years before getting married and it didn’t work out. There’s quantity and there’s quality. A quantity of time, by itself, doesn’t ensure success.
9. Many relationship red flags don’t rear their ugly head until you’ve invested more time in the relationship. Has anything come up for you in the last 9 months? It’s hard to believe this relationship is without its ups and downs?
I know, it is hard to believe that two people can be such a good fit that there are no red flags or roller coaster dynamics, but that’s the reality here and a big learning for me about how settling for less in the past hasn’t served me. I unconsciously assumed that I couldn’t have what I really wanted so I had to settle for the best I could find. I see many, many singles doing this. My new message is, DON’T SETTLE! Assume that what you really want is out there and give yourself permission to say "no" to anything less.
An important difference about this relationship is that we are both mature enough to know ourselves and not take control issues seriously. We’re both strong individuals and might be arguing a lot if we met before we had the communication skills and mature attitudes to handle differences effectively. I tease her about being a control freak and she teases me about being stubborn. We marvel at how different (and more difficult) our relationship would be if we had met 20 years ago!
10. How soon did you introduce Darlene to your children? Is this the soonest you’ve ever introduced someone to them?
After we decided to become an exclusive pre-committed couple Darlene was introduced to the kids. Yes, I would say it’s the soonest in my history.
11. I am twice divorced, and one coach who knows this about me made a smart remark/question — "Is this like ‘those who can … do, and those who can’t … teach’?" Obviously, you’ve been successful despite your history. How have you transcended stigmatization?
I never liked that saying as it’s derogatory of teachers, a critically valuable role and profession. For anyone, it’s not that we "can’t" – it’s that we need to learn how. When you are passionate about something you will pursue it, whether to "do" it, teach it or help others with it. Teaching (or counseling, therapy, coaching, etc.) allows you to immerse yourself in your passion and you continue to learn and become more accomplished. I don’t believe in absolute "can" or "can’t"… we are all learning.
12. Was it a common purpose or mission that helped you make the decision that Darlene was the one? Was it mostly chemistry that drew the both of you together?
Very simply, she is my soul mate. Certainly having a common purpose/mission is important and having strong chemistry is important, but the alignment was so broad and deep it was unmistakable and clear.
13. Was it the feeling that if you did not move on this one, that you would lose her? (I’ve always wondered if the reason you and Maggie broke up was because you wouldn’t marry her.)
Maggie broke up with me! Looking back, she was very wise, as I was/am just too committed and loyal to quit when I should. No, I had no sense of urgency that I might lose Darlene. To the contrary, I was very willing to walk away if it wasn’t a fit.
14. What questions did you and Darlene ask of each other that you felt were the most important questions to ask?
The hard questions related to requirements, with an absolute willingness to walk away if it wasn’t a fit.
15. I am happy that you were able to find "The Love of Your Life, and The Life You’re Gonna Love!" What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from your previous relationships that will help you keep this one together forever?
To tell my truth, especially to myself. I’ve avoided conflict, held back my thoughts, needs and feelings, rationalized unsolvable problems, put other’s needs before my own, and every other mistake a co-dependent, nice-guy type can possibly make. My most important lesson was to love myself enough to not settle for less than I really want.
16. If you were coaching someone as a single and they came to you and said they were getting married after 6 weeks of meeting someone, what would you say as their coach?
I would ask a lot of questions!
17. Since you met and got engaged to Darlene, is there anything about the Conscious Dating or Couples material you’d change?
I would add something about the reality of "soul mates." It’s always been a romantic fantasy of mine, but the "realist" in me left this out of Conscious Dating. Hard to write about something you’ve never experienced!
Also, I would strongly highlight the Scarcity Trap and the dangers of settling. You really can find what you really want by saying "no" to what you don’t want, but it takes courage. This can’t be over-emphasized enough.
18. How did you "hands down" know that Darlene was the "one"?
Being married and divorced twice gave me the life experience that helped me to be so clear about this relationship. As a result I’ve learned that when two people are right for each other it is unmistakable and unambiguous. When you’ve had a lot of life experience and have done the work to clearly know who you are and what you want, you’ll recognize it more clearly when you find it!
19. How did you know after 5 years that Maggie was not the one? Did you have instincts from day 1? What was missing, what was present, what was the turning point for you in "knowing what you know?"
My relationship with Maggie was a constant challenge, for many reasons, especially the blended family situation and our different parenting styles. We both worked hard on our relationship and making our life together work, perhaps too hard. Maggie was wise enough to break up with me as I focused on adapting and making it work out of loyalty and commitment. I loved her and she loved me, but love is not enough. This relationship reinforced that I needed the clarity and wherewithal to take care of myself in my relationships instead of attempting to please, "make" it work, and adapt by putting my needs aside.
20. Given your experience with Darlene, what has changed for you as a coach, and some of your stances regarding scouting, sorting, testing and "playing the field" before committing?
"Playing the field" is a necessary phase for many singles, but risks getting involved with someone that is not right for you. My experience with Darlene encourages me to be a strong advocate for my client staying true to who they are and what they "really" want, as the temptation to settle is so strong. Before Darlene, I "believed" that Conscious Dating would result in finding a relationship that is right for you. Now I "know" it will!
21. Did you both have AIDS and STD tests before having sex?
No, didn’t seem necessary as both of us are the monogamous type that did not sleep around while dating.
22. When you first had sex … who came first? And it’s an important question! (If he did, it often shows that the man is putting his needs first… and drowning her out – because once he’s done — it’s over. If she’s treasured and honored, the relationship generates more life, and mutual giving!)
Wow, now THAT is a highly personal question! Let me just say that as a man I derive much pleasure from my partner’s pleasure.
23. What’s the first gift that you bought Darlene?
That would have to be coffee at Starbucks for our first meeting. I asked her in advance by email what I could get her as it didn’t make sense to me that we both wait in line. Her response was "tall, non-fat vanilla latte," which was waiting for her on the table when she showed up.
24. What’s the first gift that she bought you?
That’s a hard question as Darlene is very generous in many ways but pretty unsentimental when it comes to cards and gifts. We’ve agreed that our gifts to each other would be "experiences" and not "stuff." I would say that her first "gift" to me was to cook an incredible meal for our third date.
25. What’s your favorite personality quirk about Darlene?
Being macho. She’s petite (5′ 1" and 95 lbs) and feels much bigger as she’s not intimidated by anything or anyone, embraces physical challenges and proudly asserts that she’s "not a girly-girl."
26. Do you have endearing nicknames for each other?
We both use "Sweetheart" a lot, and I occasionally call her "Cutie" and she’ll call me "Handsome."
27. What do you both find as the best way to spend an evening together? Out on the town, quiet at home?
We both like to adventure outdoors during the day and cuddle on the couch at night watching DVDs, TV, or playing games. We hit the sack around 9:00 p.m. so spending "an evening together" is typically a couple of hours after dinner and dishes. The key here is that this is truly what we both like to do… neither is giving anything up.
28. What has changed within you after meeting Darlene? Sometimes we find that different people awaken different parts of our souls or psyches? How are you an even better person as a result of meeting Darlene?
Very simply, I don’t feel alone anymore. It’s a wonderful feeling to love and be loved by your soul mate; like a completion. How am I a better person? Darlene influences me to be more patient, trusting, tolerant, and compassionate (among other things).
29. What have you found in Darlene that you’ve never found/experienced with anyone else?
A soul mate. Someone who truly "gets" me and loves me for who I am, including my flaws and weaknesses. In all my other relationships I felt that I wasn’t good enough, couldn’t do enough to please and make my partner happy.
30. Is Darlene changing her last name to Steele?
Yes. She looks forward to leaving behind the vestige of her 24-year previous marriage to embrace our identity as a committed couple in name as well as fact.
31. How do you plan to balance your time with your wife and with work?
My dream is to work with my wife! Darlene and I have dreams and plans in this direction.
32. What does a typical day look like now and how will it change when you’re married?
Darlene is an RN who works days as a Psychiatric Nurse at the V.A. We get up together at 5:45am to share coffee and the newspaper, our favorite time of the day. She leaves for work at 7 and I start my work day. She gets home around 4:30 p.m. and we typically go for a run and/or workout together, make dinner (she’s the chef, I’m the helper if she lets me), do the dishes (I wash), cuddle on the couch to talk, watch a DVD or TV for an hour or two then head to bed at 9:00 p.m. This will stay the same when we’re married.
33. What will you have to sacrifice after you’re married?
Hmmm… being alone, unilateral decisions and freedom. I enjoy my alone time and find that I equally enjoy being alone with Darlene, so it’s not really a sacrifice. I like to make my own decisions and it’s a bit of a challenge to share decision-making with someone who has a different process (the outcome is usually the same as we’re like-minded, but I reach a decision in seconds while Darlene likes to "think about it" for minutes, hours, or days). I won’t have the freedom to do what I want when I want, which is a sacrifice I willingly make to share my life with this amazing woman.
34. What concerns do you have about getting married?
None. Eyes wide open with the benefit of past experiences and accumulated (hard-earned) wisdom.
35. How confident are you that you’re making the right decision?
36. How challenging has it been to be a relationship coach while being both single and divorced?
It was more challenging to be a divorced therapist as some clients tend to put you on a pedestal and want you to be perfect. As a coach, I’m free to be transparent about who I am and share my journey with my clients as they share theirs with me.
37. What advice do you have for married couples that are juggling a lot (work, kids, in-laws, household duties, church, etc.) and having a hard time finding quality time to spend together?
It’s about quality, not quantity. Rituals and routines are the key so that no matter how busy they are and how demanding work and kids can get, couples need to continue to connect and re-connect through their rituals and routines. For example, Darlene and I go to bed early and get up early to spend more time together, such as sharing coffee and the paper every morning, no matter what.
Before I met Darlene, my pattern was to stay up late and get up at a correspondingly late hour. I gladly changed my habits for Darlene. Going to bed at the same time is a great routine as well that is necessary for a good sex life, which is also very connecting! Sometimes the kids make this a challenge, but we work to be a team and stay one step ahead of them. You have to WANT to spend the time together and be WILLING TO CHANGE HABITS to do so.
38. How do you think your life will change after you get married?
On a surface level, not much. Over the long term, we will build a life together that neither of us could on our own, full of intimacy, love, adventure, family, and growing old together.
39. What do you do to show your future wife how much you love her?
Make her important in big and small ways every day. For example, I time my work day so I can be available when she gets home so we can be together, share about our day, and work out together. I walk her to her car every morning when she leaves for work. If she identifies something she wants or needs I get it for her as her frugal nature resists getting them for herself (most recently a new pair of sunglasses).
Keeping our rituals and routines, such as, "Good night, Sweetheart" being the last thing she hears from me before going to sleep (one night I forgot and she reminded me!). John Gottman’s research shows that happy couples perform over 100 loving acts per day for their partner and I commit to meeting or exceeding that every day.
40. What caused your previous divorces?
Divorce #1- Married too young, incompatibilities too large to overcome.
Divorce #2- Drug addiction and unwillingness on her part to commit.
41. What does Darlene say she loves most about you?
"He’s pretty lovable, don’t you think? David is an even-tempered, honest, direct man who proves to me continuously that I am The Love of His Life. There are so many things I love about David. First, the little things he does, like getting up with me early in the morning before I go to work so we can have coffee and newspaper time together. When I get home from work, he eagerly takes my hand and leads me to the couch so we can catch each other up with the day’s events. He watches my favorite shows on the Food Network with me. Etc, etc, etc…
I feel very safe with David and love talking with him about anything and everything. When I was looking for someone to spend the rest of my life with, an important trait I was seeking was someone I could talk to in an intelligent, rational way. I want to be able to talk about politics, religion, family, money, food choices – any subject – reasonably and safely, without fear that my thoughts or feelings would create upset or conflict.
David shows up as a true partner. He willingly accepts responsibility and wouldn’t dream of putting a burden on me. We share running the household, but I have to admit, since he works from home, he does the majority while I’m at work! He teasingly refers to himself as my “house husband.” I love that he values personal health as I do and we enjoy the same activities, like biking, hiking, kayaking, running, and eating well. And, I absolutely love that he loves to cuddle with me on the couch in the evenings. He’s a great cuddler!"
Note from David- Thank you for indulging us in celebrating my wedding this month. I hope you found this interesting, and perhaps even inspirational. Answering these questions while preparing for getting married was a fantastic gift. I thank the RCI coaches for submitting their questions.