Ask Vu: Love, Dating, and Romance Advice For Nonprofit Professionals

[Image description: Two hands holding, one with what looks like an engagement ring. Image by Belle Collective on Unsplash]

Hi everyone. Valentine’s Day is coming up next Monday, which means that many people are thinking about romance, love, and relationships. These are areas that can be complex and tricky. So here, in this week’s post, I am providing advice to readers who may need a little help in this department. Now, you may be thinking, “What does this guy know about love and dating and relationships?” The answer is that I don’t know much about it at all. But, I bet love and romance have a lot in common with nonprofit and philanthropy.

Dear Vu, I was recently asked out by someone I’ve had a crush on for a while. We are getting dinner at my favorite restaurant (with outdoor seating). Here’s the problem: It’s been a few years since I’ve been on a date, and I am nervous. What do I say? How do I not make a fool of myself? Nervous In Chicago.

Dear NIC: Dates often go awry because people just show up without doing any prep work. To ensure your evening goes well, create a simple survey and send it to your crush in advance asking what they hope to achieve on this date, and come up with an agenda. At the beginning of the date, start with an icebreaker. Then, review the agenda, objectives, and some ground rules. Brainstorm discussion topics and use sticky dots to vote on which topic you both would like to discuss. Also, write “parking lot” at the top of a napkin and jot down any topics that fall outside the agreed-on list of topics, so that you can circle back on the second date. Have fun! And remember to send a post-date evaluation survey.

Dear Vu: How do I get someone, anyone, to notice me? I am a mid-age executive director who is not unattractive, I don’t think, but it’s just been hard to catch potential admirers’ attention. What do I do? Is it too late for me? Sincerely, Seldom Asked on Dates

Dear SAD: The phrase “It’s lonely at the top” was coined for a reason. EDs/CEOs, by their very nature, are undesirable. I mean, who would want to be with someone who works constantly, wakes up freaking out about cash flow regularly, and ages twice as fast as normal people? You could try changing up your style, like wearing the jewelry you bought at silent auctions over the year. But your best bet is to stop being an ED and ideally find a job as a program officer at a foundation, in which case you would instantly become 27% more attractive.  

Dear Vu: I have two people who have expressed romantic interest in me. They are each great in their own ways, and I don’t know how to choose which one to explore a relationship with. I’ve been really ambivalent, and I’m afraid I’m going to lose them both if I don’t decide soon! Help! Overwhelmed in Yaroslavl

Dear OY: If polyamory is not for you, release an RFP (Romantic Fit Proposals) and ask both your admirers to apply. Have questions like “How do your romantic plans align with my values and priorities?” and “How will you sustain the affection once the honeymoon period is over?” Have at least 48 questions, make sure many of them repeat themselves, and give 500 characters to answer each question. It’s an important decision, so take the next 6 to 18 months to decide.

Dear Vu: I’ve been with my spouse for over 10 years. At first, we couldn’t keep our hands off each other. But now, with work and kids and generalized global anxiety, it seems the romance has fizzled. How do we bring it back? Bored from Lack of Affection and Hanky-panky

Dear BLAH: Romance has a life cycle that goes from start-up to growth to maturity to decline/turnaround to dissolution. You are now hitting the romantic decline stage and you must figure out how to do a turnaround. Hire a consultant to conduct an assessment of your romantic life and work with you to create a plan. This plan may involve simple solutions like attending more fundraising galas together, which has been shown to really get people in the mood. It may also include some difficult decisions, including having one or both of you step down from the relationship, possibly to be replaced by one or more interim partners.

Dear Vu: I’ve been seeing a really great person for nearly about three months now. Everything has been swell. Except for one small thing. They want to announce to the entire world that we’re together. This makes me uneasy, as I am a rather introverted person, and I don’t see the point of making our relationship other people’s business. Am I in the wrong? Sincerely, Somewhat Hesitant in Yorkshire

Dear SHY: Relationships are a lot like capital campaigns. You are in the quiet phase, which usually lasts 6 to 12 months. Tell your partner that this is important, as you need this time to conduct a feasibility study to determine whether you have a future together, as well as secure the approval of major parties in your life, like your respective parents. Work with your partner to plan for the full public launch of your relationship, which should only happen once you’ve secured 50 to 70% of your friends’ and families’ approval.

Dear Vu: I’ve been dating someone who works outside the nonprofit sector, in IT. It’s been great, and we certainly have more money now to spare and I don’t feel the need to take home leftover food from community events as often. But they have no understanding of my work in equity, social justice, and undoing racism. It’s frustrating. I like being with this person, but I’m just not sure we’re compatible. What do I do? Unsure in Garfield Heights

Dear UGH: It can be hard for people outside our sector to really grasp what we do, and why we mostly shop at Ross Dress for Less. Take some time to show your partner your work. Invite them to events and workshops. During your time together, casually slip in questions like, “So, what are your views on white supremacy?” See if they express a willingness to learn more and to help you take down capitalism and patriarchy. If not, there’s plenty of other pita chips on the snack platter.

Dear Vu: I’ve been with someone for several years now. We love each other, but lately, it’s been difficult. We constantly argue about the most ridiculous things. We sleep in separate rooms. We have been doing couples counseling, and it’s been helping a little, but I am not sure it’s enough. How do I break it off with my partner without hurting them? Frustrated In Nashville

Dear FIN: I’m very sorry to hear this. You’ve tried to make it work. But it’s OK to accept that not all relationships are meant to last. And just because something ends does not mean that it wasn’t beautiful and amazing. Be honest with yourself and your partner; celebrate the years you had, the memories you made, and the growth you achieved together. Then conduct an exit interview to learn lessons that could help you with the next relationship.

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