Before you commit her to hell …

by Joey Garcia, who advocates romance without regret.

I met a woman at a singles party last year. We hit it off right away and seemed to have a lot in common. She lives in the Bay Area, so basically, we were spending weekends together getting to know each other. We were really attracted to each other and got involved physically right away. I invited her to join me recently on a vacation I had already planned to Cancun. It seemed like the perfect location for romance, but she flipped out. It was like she was a different person altogether—moody and complaining about everything. It seemed like nothing I did was right. Then she began talking about her ex-husband and how she wished he was dead. This is a beautiful, church-going woman! I suggested that she fly back early and alone. Then I hung out by myself and tried to figure out how a perfect romance went haywire. Any ideas?

Shrink your dating pool. When you date someone in or close to your own ZIP code, you have a better opportunity to see how they really live, work and play. If your romantic interest lives more than an hour away, each date can feel like a honeymoon. Those five days of “I miss you so much!” build expectations and sexual tension. By the time you actually meet in person, the encounter is slathered in sex and romance but often not much substance. And since both people are presenting their “best” selves, it may be impossible to discover that you have few common interests or completely different values or that he or she has no conflict-resolution skills until after your body tells you that the great sex you’re having with this person means that they are The One.

Long-distance or short, the healthy way to begin any romance is as friends. That’s not an anthem against sex but rather a respect for it—and for our hearts. When a relationship turns physical too soon, we become committed to someone we barely know, and who we sometimes later lament should be committed (to prison or a mental-health facility, or hell!), when the real problem was that we didn’t take time to take care of ourselves in the beginning by learning about the person’s character before we surrendered to our biology. So the next time you are tempted to begin a romantic relationship, keep your mind and body from arguing with each other by starting that romance off on the solid foundation of friendship.

When I was new on my job, I dated a guy I work with (different department) who was a real jerk. My boss found out and keeps teasing me about it. Even though he only does this when we are alone, I want him to stop. But I worry that if I say the wrong thing I’ll look too sensitive. Suggestions?

Yes, laugh and say, “You’re right! I made the mistake of mixing work and romance once. I can’t wait to forget about it.” If that doesn’t help, opt for the straight response: “I agree it was a silly mistake, and I would prefer to leave it in the past. So could we stop talking about it?” Then if he forgets and launches into another comment, say nothing. Or greet his teasing with, “Old news!” then smile (from the heart) and proceed with the work at hand. Remember, his comments tell you more about him than about you.

Meditation of the Week

I majored in political science and journalism in college, so election season is among my passions. Now, with my interest in relationships and religion, I watch candidates through the lens of the Zen Buddhist, saying, “How you do anything is how you do everything.” For example, if Hillary Clinton was in denial about her husband’s affairs, I wonder if she will be in denial about domestic issues in the United States, too.