My biological clock is ticking

Dear Betsy,

I’m 27 and my biological clock is ticking. I just started dating a guy. I don’t want to rush things, but I also don’t want to wait too long and miss my chance to have a family.  Any advice for how to proceed?

My advice: Relaaaax.

Why not enjoy this phase and give yourself plenty of time to get to know each other? Let yourself discover who this man really is by seeing him under a variety of conditions, with a variety of people (friends, co-workers, family).  If you’re thinking seriously about this guy, you need to get a feel for who he is off-stage as well as on.  Take your time. Enjoy the excitement and newness of it all.  And don’t put pressure on yourself to know how it’s all going to turn out, before you know who the guy really is.

Speaking as a family therapist–and as a mother–who you have kids with is the most impactful decision you’ll ever make.

So don’t rush. Your biological clock is ticking, but you still have time. Make good use of it by doing basic research. Ask yourself these questions.  They’re the questions I wish everyone would ask before they take the ultimate plunge with someone.  If you don’t like the answers to the following questions, don’t waste your time with this person.

So here’s my list:

  1. Is this man a friend to your excitement, or is does he act threatened, bored, or judgmental when you talk about what you love?
  2. Does he regularly ask you questions that show he’s really interested in who you are and what you think–as opposed to taking up 90% of the airspace talking on and on about himself?
  3. Does he bring out the best qualities in you, or do you feel bad or “less than” in his presence?
  4. Is his masculinity fully-developed or does he still act like a grown-up teenager?
  5. Does he make you laugh?
  6. Does he find you amusing?
  7. Does he want kids?
  8. Do you trust him?
  9. Does he keep his promises?
  10. Does your family love him (and vice versa)?
  11. How does he treat his own family members and friends?
  12. How does he treat the people he’s had conflicts with?
  13. Does he have a drug or alcohol problem he’s not dealing with?
  14. Is he generous with his time, money, talents?
  15. Does he ever scare or threaten you? Do not stay–or leave your kids with someone who scares you.
  16. How does he treat you when he’s angry, upset, or not getting his needs met?
  17. Can he apologize when he hurts someone, or is it always someone else’s fault?

The answers to these questions will tell you a lot about who this man really is, and whether he’s someone you want to build a life with.

I hope I haven’t scared you off.  With the right person, love is grand.  So enjoy. But go slow. Pay attention to your needs, feelings, hunches, and observations, and don’t ignore or find reasons to justify actions or behaviors you don’t like. If over time everything feels right, then take the next step. But until you have the answers to these questions, proceed with caution. Better to take your time now than to find out too late that you let your itchy DNA decide your future.

A note from Betsy Sansby

For years I’ve wanted to share this tool with a wider audience. In its original form, it was a paper and pencil homework tool  I called “The OuchKit.” I designed it for couples in my therapy practice who kept asking me to come home with them so they could have the kind of conversations on their own that they were having when I was there.

And now, with the advent and convenience of the iPhone and iPad, anyone interested in deepening their relationships can use Express Yourself ECards to understand themselves better, and express their feelings more effectively to get a more positive response.  And the best part, is that you don’t need a therapist in the room to help you do it.  For 99 cents, you can do it all by yourself. And it can change your life.

Please let me know how you like using it, and feel free to send me your Express Yourself ECards stories, good or bad.

Express Yourself Ecards app



I don’t know what to talk about in therapy. What topics should I talk about?

Here’s a question for you that might help. Why are you seeing a therapist if you don’t have anything to talk about?

There are no tricks that will help, but if you’re seeing a therapist, I’m assuming it’s because you’re struggling with some kind of challenge or conflict. It could be, that verbalizing that conflict is a problem in itself.

Therapy is supposed to help you, not entertain, support, or hold the interest of your therapist.

Also, keep in mind that while therapy may produce insight, insight alone doesn’t produce change.Only taking action produces change.

Here are some questions that might get you moving in the right direction. Just remember that your therapy is supposed to help you, not entertain or hold the interest of your therapist. And that insight isn’t change, so even if you get great “Ahas!” what gets people to change is action, not insight.

On to the questions:

• What feels familiar about the challenge you’re dealing with?

• Is there a familiar role you’ve been playing that keeps you stuck or lands you in the same place you’ve been trying to avoid

• In whose company have you felt the most alive, the most accepted, respected, at ease? (There might be different people in each category.)

• When you are in this person’s or people’s company, what is it that they say or do that elicits those feelings in you? For example, I laugh the most—which feels GREAT—with my cousin, Sharon. She thinks I’m hysterical and the more she laughs, the funnier I think I become. But it only happens when we’re on the phone. In person, we don’t laugh as much because she smokes cigarettes and is always antsy to have one, so I don’t think either of us is as relaxed in person as we are when she can smoke while we talk.

• What regrets do you have and what are some concrete steps you might take to forgive yourself, heal an old wound, or try a do-over that will erase your regret?

• Who are the people in whose presence you feel small, unsafe, dull, less-than, or unsure of yourself?

• What is it that each person on that list does that makes you feel this way, and why do you keep going back for more?

• What do you wish you could tell someone from a safe distance about how you really feel? (By the way, if you’re interested in doing this, I’ve created an iPhone app called Express Yourself ECards you can download for free at the App Store. It has a “Can I Be Honest?” ECard you can fill out and send via email. It will help you find the right words to express yourself, without getting blasted for it.)

• What are you spending money on, and what does your spending reveal about your values? For example, are you spending money to fill a void? Create art? Help others? As a substitute for meaningful activities?

All of these questions can be jumping off points for discussions that are likely to lead you to insights. With those insights, you’ll be able to see concrete steps you might need to take to move forward in your life.

I hope this list was helpful. If not, and you still can’t think of anything to talk about, you might be better off spending your time and money doing something that brings you closer to living a more balanced and meaningful life.

All the best, Betsy