Make the Honeymoon Period Last

Unless you’re getting relationship counseling from Charlie Sheen, you’re probably gonna want to make the heat of a new relationship last a little longer than “The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien.” How? Just follow these tips and watch the spark of those first few months together turn into a lasting glow.

1. Keep Dating: Let her know you’re still working to woo her and not just satisfied to have her. And be a little open-minded about the kinds of dates you choose. Taking her to every new Adam Sandler movie does not count, even if he does play a different kind of adolescent in each. “Find out what she wants to do,” says Dr. JoAnn Magdoff, a New York City-based psychotherapist and relationship expert. “You won’t only be pleasing her; you’ll be exploring new fun options for yourself.” Make it a regular Saturday night ritual -- or a first-Saturday-of-the-month ritual if you’re broke or cheap.

2. Mix up the Program: Nothing gets you into a romantic black hole like falling into a routine. Get too comfortable with your girl and you’ll miss out on all her signals. And when you become a dull dude, she’ll start looking for Mr. Excitement. Who’s that? Anybody who isn’t you. In fact, it will work better if you actually talk to her about how to make things more interesting. “If you come up with romantic ideas together, you’ll learn more about each other and might wind up trying stuff neither of you would think of doing on your own,” says Magdoff.

3. Wanna Get Away? Don’t fret -- you don’t have to hit Paris or Honolulu to take your baby over the rainbow. Any trip away from your regular surroundings will give you a chance to focus on her alone in a different environment and rebuild the romance. According to Magdoff, you don’t even need to go outside the door to get it done. Instead, construct elements of a romantic trip at home -- a little luau, French love notes hidden around the apartment -- to let your love know you can still work it like Paul Rudd in her favorite rom-com.

4. Co-hobby-tate! Ouch! OK, why don’t you try writing all the snappy headlines? The point is, get into something with your girl that you can learn and grow in together. Whether it’s taking Pilates to get in shape for the summer or an Italian cooking class to keep things hot in all corners of the house, women love it when guys stretch themselves and make an effort to grow the relationship. Yeah, we think it’s goopy too. But it will get you into shape, bring you better meals and make you more attractive to her! It’s a win-win-WIN!

So get off the couch and wipe the crumbs off your shirt. You’ve gotten fat and complacent … and to be honest, even we’re a bit turned off. Just imagine how your girlfriend feels! All it takes is a little effort and innovation to let her know you haven’t forgotten why you asked her out in the first place.

Negotiate Like a Girl

It’s the oldest story in the world. Boy meets girl. Boy dates girl. Boy ends up watching Sex and The City 2 and hanging out with girl’s friends all night talking about shoes. And boy starts to wonder: How did this happen?

The answer isn’t actually so complicated. Girls are just better at negotiating for what they want. While boys tend to either make demands, or more often than not just shrug and mumble something incomprehensible to avoid the discussion altogether, girls come to the conversation prepared: They know they want to go to the mall to buy that dress, and they have reasons why it’s that dress and not another, and why it needs to happen when they say. As a result, malls are full of boyfriends schlepping around like the “Walking Dead,” while they could be doing something they actually enjoy. It’s frustrating for them. And frustration builds. The longer things stay this way, the shorter their relationships will be.

But there is a way through this. It’s the art of negotiation, possibly the most useful skill a man can learn. And it’s actually quite simple.

Stage 1: Learn
“The main thing to realize is there are two stages -- a learning stage and a solution stage,” says Laurie Puhn, a lawyer, relationship expert and best-selling author of Fight Less, Love More. “In the learning stage, you’re a detective. You’re searching for the hidden reason she wants to do one thing or another. So you ask neutral questions, like ‘Is there a reason for that?’ You want to understand where she’s coming from.”

Typically -- and much less successfully -- men just skip the learning stage altogether and announce what they want and when they want it. Commands and demands. No one likes to be talked to that way. “You negotiate so people like you,” says Puhn. “It’s very important. And by learning what it is you’re actually negotiating, you gain the high ground. You have the information.”

So, first, take a breath. Don’t just assume that she wants you to do A because she doesn’t want you to do B. And don’t say, “Sure, whatever” or “Hell no, I’m watching football on Monday night.” Instead, use your questions. For example: “Is there a reason we need to go to the mall when the game is on?” Or: “Why would you like me to be there?” The answers may surprise you.

“It may come down to ‘We don’t do enough stuff together’,” says Puhn. “So it’s not a football issue; it’s an attention issue. You wouldn’t know that if you didn’t ask. And just by asking, you’ve shown that you’re concerned about her needs and goals. That’s very important to girls.”

 

Stage 2: Find a Solution
The second stage -- the solution stage -- is trickier. It requires tact and calm and some measure of forethought. But the first thing is to actually know what it is that you want. You’ve asked her what her goals and needs are, so be clear on what yours are too. Then you’re ready to start offering solutions.

“You can make trade-offs,” says Puhn. “While you’re learning where she’s coming from, you can put your own interests together and say: ‘You’re right, we don’t spend enough time together, so how about we go out on Tuesday instead?’ That way you’re solving her real problem. Then explain what you want: ‘I’ve always watched football on Mondays, that’s all. I’d like to continue if I can.’”

A common mistake is to assume that she knows what you want and is just stopping you from having it. And that misunderstanding goes both ways. “A lot of girls think that a guy should just know what she wants,” says Puhn. “It takes some women till they’re in their 30s before they realize that he actually doesn’t -- they need to articulate it!”

Finally, says Puhn, watch your tone. “Speak in a kind way. Stay calm and manage your emotion.” When talking solutions and trade-offs, it’s possible to get a bit exasperated, but it won’t work to fly off the handle. “Remember, your goal is to find a solution, not to win,” explains Puhn. “Because if you win, she loses, and that means she’ll be motivated to win the next time. So you both lose, really. It leads to a rollercoaster relationship with a scorecard.”

In other words, try to remember that she’s your girlfriend, not your opponent. And if she’s determined to watch some dismal chick flick with you, then consider it an opportunity to negotiate for something you want … like renting Jackass 3-D next time. It’s only fair!

Dating Apps: The Lowdown

Technology has an uncanny way of making our lives more complicated, even as it vows to simplify them. Hard drives that crash. Voice recognition that doesn’t recognize. Online bank accounts that get hacked. Smartphone apps, however, tend to deliver, getting us where we want to go, finding the free Wi-Fi, calculating tips. But can they help us get our dating lives in gear? To that end, MLT looked at three popular dating apps to see how well they cut through the hassle of the singles scene and put us on the path to a love connection. Read on for the results.

P.S. If you need advice on where to go and what to do on that first date, you’ll be happy to know there’s an app for that, too. (Several, actually.)

ZOOSK

  • The Bottom Line: Free to download, but have your credit card handy. When you want anything more than superficial contact, like sending a “wink” to a woman, it’s gonna cost you. One month of service is $29.95. Discounts apply for multiple-month subscriptions.
  • Looks: Interface and menus are clean, evocative of Facebook.
  • Stars in Your Eyes?: At press-time, Zoosk had received an average of three stars (out of a possible five) from iTunes users who’ve downloaded it.
  • Tell Me About Yourself: Zoosk asks about your perfect match, your ideal date, favorite movies and music.
  • What We Liked: If its claims are true, the site signs up 80,000 new users a day, for a grand total of 50 million people looking for love.
  • What We Didn’t Like: The fact that users are called Zooskers. If we wanted to date a zoosker, we’d go to the zoo.
  • Connection potential: Before even completing our application, we were sent an email letting us know we’d been matched with a single mother of three boys. She was also an Eagles fan (not of the Don Henley kind). Uh, thanks, but no.

IDATE

  • The Bottom Line: Free to download. Subscriptions start at $9.99 per month. You can also use the service gratis by allowing the app continuing access to your Facebook account.
  • Looks: Startup screen is a bit girly (very heavy on the whole red-heart thing), but the toggle-laden search page is much more Teutonic.
  • Stars in Your Eyes?: At press-time, iDate had received an average of two and a half stars from iTunes users who’ve downloaded it.
  • Tell Me About Yourself: A quick and easy form asks for basic info, such as your height, religion, latitude and longitude, and whether you’re a smoker.
  • What We Liked: The only one of the three apps reviewed here that allows you to complete your profile entirely on your phone.
  • What We Didn’t Like: Giving iDate unfettered access to our Facebook profile (including letting it post updates on our wall whenever we did something on iDate) is genius marketing, but a bit too invasive for our liking -- and not worth the savings on the fee.
  • Connection potential: The pickings are easy to narrow down, although the pool of prospects seems pretty narrow to begin with. Even the broadest of search specifications returned few or no match results. The developer’s site notes that iDate has “thousands of personals and pics” -- not exactly great odds for finding your soul mate in a world of 6 billion people.

OKCUPID

  • The Bottom Line: Free. If you want an upgrade to what the site calls A-List Extras, you’ll pay $9.95 per month.
  • Looks: The app icon is a half-full beaker. The apparent message: Chemistry at work!
  • Stars in Your Eyes?: At press-time, OkCupid had received three and a half stars from iTunes users who’ve downloaded it.
  • Tell Me About Yourself: As you build your profile, you’re asked a battery of questions -- some sensible, some off-the-wall. The more questions you answer -- from how often you Tweet to whether you’d ever date a pot-smoker -- the more potential matches OkCupid unlocks for you.
  • What We Liked: The app’s Quickmatch feature, which is the dating equivalent of Google’s “I’m feeling lucky” option. Don’t like the match OKCupid picked? You can easily skip it and move on to the next prospect.
  • What We Didn’t Like: Answering random questions is fun -- to a point. At one stage well into the process, a message informs you that the average guy answers 200 of OkCupid’s questions, but that answering 50 is “an adequate start.”
  • Connection potential: When the site found us a blonde ultra-runner who loves craft beers, indie films and dancing, we sent her a message immediately. Fingers crossed that after a 50-mile day, she’ll still have enough endurance for a night on the town.


Photo: @iStockphoto.com/IvanaKorab

Six Signs She’s Just Not That Into You

Hey, Romeo! If your killer material gets nothing more than crickets over coffee with a girl you’ve been chasing ... or if you can’t even get her to go out for coffee ... it’s probably time for a reality check. That’s right: There are women out there who are impervious to your limitless charm.

Too many dudes are caught up in the notion that a girl’s just playing hard-to-get if she’s not showing you love. That might sometimes be the case ... or, more likely, you’re delusional. In the interests of Bro Code, we at Men’s Life Today consulted someone who’d know (a woman, and in this case, a woman who’s also a relationship expert) to identify six sure-fire signs that you’re wasting your time.

No. 1: You have a better relationship with her voicemail than with her.
If the only time you can ever get this girl on the phone is when you call her -- and if she seems surprised that it’s you when she finally answers -- you’ve got a bad connection! Face it: If she doesn’t call you back -- or ever call you at all -- she’s ducking you. “If you think she’s avoiding you, tell her that the next call has to come from her,” says Dr. JoAnn Magdoff, a New York-based psychologist and relationship expert. “If she doesn’t make it, you’ll have your answer.” In other words, it’s time to lose her phone number.

No. 2: She cuts you down with a crappy cliche.
When a woman utters the universal escape clause -- “I’m just not ready to be in a relationship” -- the most literal translation is: She’s not ready to be in a relationship with you. It could be that she’s got a lot on her plate. But in most cases, if she’s not buying what you’re selling now, she won’t be shopping in your store anytime soon. “If you can hang long enough, she might turn around,” says Magdoff. “But don't hold your breath.”

No. 3: You can’t find your way onto her calendar.
It’s easier to predict the ponies than the next time this girl will be available to go out with you. She’s either “working late,” “gotta get up early,” “gonna be out of town,” or “having her blood drawn.” And she always asks if she can get back to you in case she works things out at the last minute. Meaning: You’re in the permanent bullpen, and you’ll only get the call if her intended starting pitcher comes up lame. “These are the classic signs of being a fallback option,” explains Magdoff. “The only way to capture her imagination is to show less interest in her.”

No. 4: She talks dirty … but not about you.
When she describes her fantasy man, it doesn’t sound like anybody who might ever be remotely mistaken for you. Or even speak to you. “If she’s describing her fantasies to you, and you’re not in them,” warns Magdoff, “you need to be talking to someone else.”

No. 5: The next time she laughs at one of your jokes will be the first time.
If you think you’re the king of comedy but can’t command even a couple of laughs from your intended queen, it’s time to take your seltzer bottle and chattering dentures act on the road. “If she’s not finding your humor or personality interesting, you need to ask yourself what you find alluring about her,” says Magdoff. “Don’t get into this because you like a challenge.” Face it, funny boy: You’re chasing after somebody who’s laughing at you, not with you! (Sorry, we always wanted to use that one.)

No. 6: She keeps telling you that you are so perfect for her sister!
Sadly, this is only a good thing if she’s siblings with Megan Fox. On the other hand, says Magdoff, “Maybe it’s not such a bad idea to meet her sister. Let’s face it, you’re not getting anywhere with this girl!”

Breakup Recovery: Prevail in the First 72 Hours

She dumped you. And now you’re contemplating a patriot’s death, hurling yourself onto your own sword -- except you don’t own a sword, and your Swiss army knife would merely leave you maimed. Plus, you’re plagued by irrational thoughts about unfinished business (read: unreturned DVDs) and an afterlife of embarrassment (read: your adult comics stash).

Sure, a girl can curl up with a Bridget Jones’s Diary marathon and a quart of Chunky Monkey after a breakup. But what are you supposed to do?

Triumph, that’s what. Because that’s what you do. Here’s how:

1. Get some sleep.

The z’s are the first thing that go: You lie in bed, thrashing around, dreaming up coulda/shoulda/woulda scenarios. The next morning, you feel tortured, tired and lonely.

But like it does for many other conditions, sleep can help spur the recovery process, so you want to make sure you get your share. Here’s how:

  • Tire yourself out as much as you can during the day.
  • Resist the urge to pull down the shades and sleep indefinitely (or you’ll find yourself up all night watching “Tool Academy” reruns and kitchen appliance infomercials).
  • Can’t stop your brain when you finally lie down? Try safe, natural homeopathy Coffea, a sleep aid.
  • If all else fails, a little pharma help might be the way to go: If the over-the-counter stuff leaves you groggy and sedated, beg your doc for just three or four days’ worth of prescription sleep medication. That way, for at least eight of the day’s 24 hours, you won’t be writhing in emotional pain.
2. Get a baby sitter.

If you hit the town, have a strong, dedicated wingman who won’t let you out of his sight and will make sure you don’t get in a fight or end up crying on the shoulder of some girls you just met on the waiting line for the bathroom.

3. Lose her data.

Think ahead and take steps to ensure that in a moment of weakness (when you are tired, sad, lonely or any other of the 500 variations), you can’t write or call her and leave a message that will get you arrested or humiliated for the rest of your life. Delete her digits and email address(es) from all binary and tree-product storage (and make sure to hit those places you used to hide things from yourself).

4. Resist revenge.

You’re itching to call her co-worker who flirted shamelessly with you at your ex’s last Christmas party. But be the bigger man. This “pool of prohibited women” includes her younger sister, her MILF-y stepmom, her buxom neighbor … you get the point.

5. Avoid music.

Don’t avoid all music -- just John Jackson, Lionel Richie, Celine Dion and Frank Sinatra … all that sappy easy listening you indulge in when no one else is around. You know, the songs that include messages about “being nothing without you” and “If you don’t come back, I’ll die.” In fact, temporarily delete all such songs/albums/playlists from your iPod and stick with Metallica- and Kid Rock-type fare at all times. Swing music or a cappella will do in a pinch.

6. Launch you 2.0

OK, so you’ve done all the above to control the damage. So what do you do now?

First, join a dating Web site ASAP. There are, like, millions of single girls out there. So when you hear yourself start whimpering that she was the only one, get off your pity pot and cruise over to match.com.

And finally, hit the gym … with a vengeance. Funnel all that breakup angst into a Herculean upper body workout. After all, there’s nothing more therapeutic than looking strong and lean and confident to get other girls to notice you, pump up your ego and -- when you finally run into her -- get this ex to start doubting her judgment for giving the boot to a hunk like you.

But by then, of course, it will be too late, since you will have already moved on.