Skip to Content

The Renegade on Relationships: Your Dating Questions Answered

Dating coach Ashley Kelsch weighs in on dating doubts and droughts

Hello Dear Reader! This month, we’re taking a break from our usual column to answer YOUR dating and relationship questions. So if you’ve been wondering about love, dating, or relationships, don’t be shy — send us your questions. We assure you, others out there are wondering the same things. As always, your anonymity is guaranteed.

“Why do people have relationship ambivalence? Does it mean their partner isn’t the one?”

Relationship ambivalence is built into the human brain. We are designed to look for shiny objects and question everything especially the longer we are with someone and the chemical highs subside.

On a TV show I was watching, several high school students were having a discussion about the similarities between human beings and animals in class. One student made the argument that humans are not meant to mate with one person for life and that monogamy is unnatural. Another student interrupted to explain that even though monogamy is a man-made construct, what separates humans from animals in this context is the critical thinking brain.

Tribeza’s relationship coach, Ashley Kelsch. Photo by Cristina Fisher.

The second student is correct. Humans are naturally polyamorous animals, meaning we’re wired to mate with multiple partners. Monogamy is a social construct created by humans for various reasons I won’t get into here. But monogamy is still the dominant relationship structure in our society.

What happens to our brains when we go against our natural instincts and our critical brain chooses monogamy? The human brain has historically evolved by being pushed beyond its nature and limitations. This is precisely what monogamy does; it pushes you beyond your natural instincts.

In short, monogamy changes you.

From my own experience, I can attest to my evolution as a person who committed to showing up for my parent. Day after day, even when I didn’t think I had it in me (and the many days when I didn’t want to), I showed up. In my mind, there was never an option to leave.

Despite total frustration, running on empty and yes, being lied to or betrayed by my kids, I learned to let go (not hold it against him) and genuinely forgive. I’m a better person for having the opportunity to grow in that way, even if it didn’t ultimately work out for us.

In a world of disposable dating, the marriage and partnership narrative has shifted significantly. Shiny things are in abundance, distractions are everywhere, and options are endless. Divorce is more accessible than a generation ago not to mention that women have more options than ever to live differently than their mothers.

It’s no wonder that sometimes we have mixed feelings about our relationships. We’re constantly bombarded with messages telling us there’s something better out there.

There will be times in a relationship when you feel completely in love and times when you feel frustrated or annoyed. But those feelings don’t mean that you’re not in the right relationship. They just mean that you’re human — and perhaps struggling with your natural instincts within the framework of monogamy.

If you’re in a relationship that makes you feel safe, respected, and appreciated, and if you can openly and constructively communicate with your partner about anything, think of these mixed message moments as a chance to grow your critical brain. Work together to find solutions that make both of you feel secure in what you have.

“I haven’t had sex in over 5 years and I am approaching 50. What dating advice do you have? What apps do you suggest?”

It’s perfectly normal to feel a little rusty when it comes to dating after a long break, especially when it comes to sex. But don’t worry! Many people find themselves in the same situation.

The first piece of advice I would give you is to take it slow. Don’t rush into anything. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Dating should be fun and enjoyable, so try to relax and enjoy the process.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that communication is key. Be honest and open about your desires and boundaries, both with yourself and with your potential partners. Don’t be afraid to have those difficult conversations about your sexual history and your expectations for a new relationship.

When it comes to meeting new people, be open to trying different things. Try online dating, join a social club or activity group, or ask your friends to set you up with someone they think you might hit it off with.

The key is to be proactive and put yourself out there. You’re never too old to find love and companionship.

As for the apps, I’ll be honest: they are a mixed bag. I can’t be sure the apps will make you feel confident or great. I can’t say where the person or people you are looking to date will be ready to receive you and all your amazing-ness.

I can’t guarantee results if you use apps.

The apps, even with their touted success rates, also offer plenty of options that maybe aren’t ones you’d consider.

But therein lies the beauty of the apps: on any of them, you have the opportunity to connect with people you would not otherwise meet and to practice having conversations again after your hiatus. You begin discovering what feels right for you and what doesn’t.

They empower you to get clearer on what   and who you do and don’t want.

I personally think of dating apps as a way to keep things light, meet new people and, every so often, connect on a deeper level.

The key is to be proactive and put yourself out there. You’re never too old to find love and companionship.

Much like in real life, finding the person who stimulates you on a profound level  where the chemistry is just right and your dating goals are aligned is rare. But it doesn’t happen unless you put yourself out there. Apps are a great, low-commitment, lower-effort place to start.

Since it’s been five years since you’ve had a sexual partner, I also want to encourage you to get sexually connected with your mind and body before anyone else does (if you haven’t already).

What we forget though, because this isn’t woven as the obvious into the narrative around commitments is that you have sovereignty and autonomy. You get to decide. Which, in my opinion, therein lies the beauty; waking up and choosing your partnership on the daily because you want to.

Ashley Kelsch is the former owner of Teddies for Betty’s, a lingerie and well-being boutique that she ran for a decade. Kelsch is also a certified professional dating, relationship and intimacy coach. She works with ambitious women who have everything but their love lives figured out. Follow her on Instagram @ashkelsch and read more of her Tribeza columns here.