Q: How do I "fall in love using my head and not my heart?"

A: Most of today's grandparents heard the love lesson "use your head not your heart" long before they looked with interest at the opposite sex. But just what do these words mean--and how do you apply it to your love life? Consider the following stories.

1. Carla was devastated. She thought Charles really loved her. Soon after they started dating he bought her a car and paid her rent, so she was shocked when Charles almost hit her in the head when he threw a bowl in her direction. He was angry that she wanted to go back to school. Images of her past boyfriends flashed across her mind. Yep--once again she chose a mean man. And then she remembered one other time when Charles swore at her and punched the wall.

2. Dorrie was thrilled to meet Dave. He was so exciting--and so unlike the other dull guys she dated. And so unlike her routine life as a school teacher. By day he was a stockbroker, but every weekend they took off for destinations unknown on his motorcycle and partied until dawn. They were great at fun but not so great at ordinary life. She discovered Dave had lots of gambling debt and used drugs.

3. Frank was just past forty-five and never married. It was time. He had a good job and he thought he should have been happy. But all his friends had families, and he wanted that lifestyle, too. When he met Francine at a wedding, he was smitten. She was a thirty-nine year-old attorney and she was desperate to get out of the rat race and have a child. They married within seven months and now, after almost five years of marriage he was miserable. Life with Francine was an obstacle course between Francine's unhappiness with motherhood and her depression.

All of these people thought they had chosen the right person. What went wrong? he stories above represent a few of the most common ways we rule with our hearts. R

1. Seduced by Safety, Hurt by Control.

In the first story about Carla, Charles' seeming generosity fooled Carla into thinking he really loved her in a mature way. She felt safe and taken care of--which are good things to feel in a relationship. But Carla missed the warning signs: Charles was doing too much too soon. She also did not step back and take a look at her dating pattern of choosing mean men. She should have known that because she had what I call Dangerous Love Radar for mean men, she should have taken her time to know Charles better before allowing herself to be with a man who confused care with control.

2. Drawn to Excitement, Hurt by Reality.

In the second story about Dorrie, she wanted so desperately a ticket out of the everyday doldrums that she missed seeing the signals that Dave was out of control. At first, she felt they were the perfect pair. They both longed for intensity, fun and a touch of danger. Dorrie didn't see that Dave was often high, out of money or had excuses for where he was--which was usually the race track. He made too many bad stock trades and was trying to recoup his losses. Dorrie could have avoided being so hurt if she had realized that she was bringing too much unhappiness and too much expectations to her dating life.

3. Motivated by Desperation, Hurt by Haste.

In the last story both Frank and Francine felt as though they were at the end of the happiness rope. They both got trapped in what I call "The Last Chance Syndrome." They allowed themselves to fall in love and get married too quickly. They both had time clocks ticking, and this state of intense emotional need blinded them to each other and to the consequences of their decisions. Francine realized too late that it wasn't exactly motherhood she wanted but to be taken care of and to avoid being alone.

I hope by now you are getting the message that letting your emotions rule can get you in big trouble. I'm not saying that you should ignore your feelings. Instead, I advocate combining self-awareness and thinking with feelings. Here is a guide to help you choose more wisely.

Tips for Joining Your Head and Heart in Love

1. Identify your emotional state. For example, are you just coming off a bad break up or divorce? Are you getting older and you fear being alone or childless?

2. Recognize your past dating patterns. Do you tend to choose bad boys? Difficult women? But be careful about "over-correcting" and choosing someone with opposite problems. For instance, if you dated men who like to control, it's unlikely that you will be happy with a man who wants you to do everything. Aim for balance.

3. Concentrate on whether you like yourself in the relationship. Don't get caught up in cute categories or names for types of men or women. It's more important to pay attention to how you act and feel in this relationship. You should be bringing out the best in each other and learning from each other--without compromising your values or self-respect.

4. Take your time. Postpone sex until you've seen the person in different life situations. Don't rush to move in together or get married. What seems great in the beginning may not be so great later. One exercise you can do is to imagine an exaggerated version of your partner's behavior. For example, exciting men can be very wearing. They can also have trouble with ordinary life and responsibility.

5. Set limits as to what you will accept. When your emotional needs are high, it's easy to excuse and tolerate unacceptable behavior. In the story about Carla, she was so appreciative of Charles' ability to provide safety and comfort that she overlooked Charles' temper. If you still have trouble "seeing" your partner, ask yourself: Would I want my best friend or child to be with someone like this?

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Author's Bio: 

Dr. LeslieBeth (LB) Wish is a nationally recognized therapist and researcher, honored for her work with women and their relationship, family and life issues. The National Association of Social Workers has selected her as one of the top fifty social workers who is making a contribution to the field. She is on the Advisory Board and writes features for qualityhealth.com, a top ten health website, in affiliation with WebMD. She also writes regularly for other top websites. Her own website/blog, lovevictory.com, has been included in the Top 101 Blogs to Watch and The Top Fifty Mommy Blogs. She is an Official Guide to Family on www.selfgrowth.com and is finishing up research for her next book on the relationship problems of today's strong women. Join her research! Go to her website and click on the Research Box in the upper right. You will be linked to a confidential online survey.