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Dating and Mating by Susan Alexander and Christina Taylor

Reviewed by Alison Richardson (Editor ASSERT NSW)

When it comes to dating the rules of engagement seem to be constantly shifting. It’s hard enough navigating the mating minefield when you are young. But what about the late starters or those who have been in long term relationships and are re-entering the fray? With so much relationship breakdown and marriages ending in divorce it’s clearly a growing market – one that sex therapist Christina Taylor and co-writer Susan Alexander are hoping to corner with their “really useful grown-ups guide” to Dating and Mating.

This book is an “instruction manual” for men and women (yes, it’s a heterosexual handbook).  “It’s a How to and How not To guide to getting out there again – when you’ve already had (at least) one failed long-term relationship” and is packed with witty advice, pithy comments and a wealth of collective wisdom from a wide number of real people as well as the combined relationship experience (divorces, de-facto relationships and dating disasters and successes) of the authors.

As therapists and relationship counselors many of us see first-hand the anxiety surrounding post-divorce dating and the fears of “going out there again”. While there are plenty of self-help books about managing relationships, Dating and Mating fills the gap when it comes to a step-by-step guide to the process of dating for “grown-ups” - and it does it in an amusing but practical style.

Christina, a practicing sex therapist (and member of ASSERTNSW) and Susan, who wears many hats including that of writer, consultant and executive coach, begin by asking the searching questions we should all address before stepping out into the minefield including: Are you over your ex-enough? Are you available enough? Are you brave enough? There is the saying “A broken relationship is not a horse. You don’t need to get right back in the saddle after you’ve been thrown off”.  But for those deciding they are ready, there are some excellent tips on how to start looking, beginning with questions designed to assess both your own desirability as well as those aimed at zeroing in on what attributes you want in a prospective partner.

There is an excellent chapter on working out who you really want as well as what you actually want in a relationship (casual, primary, sex only etc.) as well as some old chestnuts about what men and women seek in a mate. Once you have your “shopping list” the authors help you determine where to shop with some fun quizzes and practical lists about how to promote yourself on line etc.

The art of flirting is something many of us forget as we get older and the authors offer practical tips and funny anecdotes along with a guide on recognizing a blind date and how to withdraw with dignity from dating disasters.

Perhaps one of the most valuable chapters is on “Exploring". This includes down-to-earth ways of assessing what is really happening for those prone to having stars in their eyes and a fantasy model about relationships. For example: If there is a clear disconnect between what people say and what people do, always believe what they do. People’s behavior speak volumes, especially your own!

And there is a chart to ascertain what is acceptable in a would-be mate and what constitutes a “Slippery Slope” or a strong “Whoa!”
In the chapter on “Romancing” the authors look at boundaries and our established patterns of relating. “Some of us simply do not see the similarities running through our relationships”. We think because the new Object of Our Attention is ‘different’ that the relationship will be different” but unless issues are addressed it can often be just another Groundhog Day!

As a sex therapist Christina is happy to tackle the thorny subject of seduction and sex offering some excellent tips in the chapter on “Bonking” about both technique and logistics adding that performance problems “are not a problem if you both don’t care about them”.

Finally there are chapters on “Bonding” and “Deciding” which many of us would benefit from reading even if already in a relationship. And, of course, there’s advice on how to handle rejection and when to embark on the whole cycle again.

Dating and Mating aims at taking the element of chance out of the mating game. Unabashedly aimed at the more mature market it earns praise from sex therapy guru Gina Ogden (www.expandingsextherapy.com) who says: it is “not only useful, it’s really fun".

As a sex therapist and relationship counselor I would happily recommend that my clients of a “certain age” buy a copy – both to provide them with some armor for “amour” but to also reminded them that, while dating may bring some disasters there can also be delight. As Christina says: “It’s not serious literature but it’s about a serious part of life” adding that mating and dating preoccupies nearly everyone at some stage of life!

Christina Taylor will launch Dating and Mating at the Australasian Institute of Sexual Health Medicine Conference in Melbourne on November 15, 2014 (www.aishm.com.au) where she will speak about: “Grown-Up Sex – Dealing with Mature Clients in Sex Therapy”.

Dating and Mating (www.grownupsguide.com) is available on Amazon.com for a very reasonable price.

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