Ask Elana: Communicating Clearly


Dear Elana,

My fiancée wants to call off our engagement because of differences in our parenting styles. We both have children from previous marriages, and she wants me to provide the kind of structure and consequences for my daughter that she has with her own kids. The problem is that I only get to see my daughter on weekends and I don’t want to spend the whole time arguing with her.

Please help,
Believes Lenient Expectations Now Doomed


Blending two families is a challenging feat. Fortunately, many couples that I’ve seen in my practice have paved the way and you can learn from their mistakes and successes.

First, you need to safeguard your relationship with your fiancée. Spend time enjoying each other apart from the kids: stroll through Night Market Cleveland, bond over shared appreciation of one of the great summer exhibitions at the Cleveland Museum of Art or snuggle up together with a crossword puzzle on the couch.

Once you’re in a good place as a couple, you can discuss your expectations for parenting. Agree on consistent rules that apply to all of the children. If possible, it’s a good idea to include your ex-partners in the parenting decisions to maintain clear boundaries across households. Your kids will feel secure knowing they’re not supposed to spread strawberry jam over Fido’s fur at either house, and that jumping on the bed is only allowed after their teeth are brushed (“Aw, Dad!”).

Arguing does not have to be an inevitable part of setting limits. Young children generally accept rules without a lot of theatrics, especially when the rules make sense. It sounds like you may have a close relationship with your daughter, and you can leverage that relationship to get her on your team. A firm and consistent approach works best: ”We can’t go to the movies until your toys are put away.” There’s nothing more to say. The car is simply incapable of starting when toys are scattered on the floor.

I understand that you want to make the most of your limited time with your daughter. The problem with being the roller-coaster-and-cake-for-breakfast parent is that it sets your daughter up for conflict when she returns to her mom’s house, where she has to wash dishes and study for exams.

Kids thrive when they spend time engaged in mundane tasks with their parents. Teach her how to rake leaves, inflate a tire on her bike or volunteer at Menorah Park or Montefiore. When your fiancée sees that you are raising your daughter to be confident, self-disciplined and helpful, she might just fall in love with you all over again. There really are few things sexier than a man who is a great dad. 

Dear Elana,

What pictures should I post to my online dating profile?

Seeking Exciting Loving Feelings In E-dating


Frustrated singles often call me after giving up on internet dating. They tell me it’s useless because they didn’t meet anyone. The truth is online dating is a great way to connect with a pool of available people that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to access. The key is presenting yourself with skill and style. Many profiles contain blurry, grainy or dated photos that cause them to be overlooked. Your headshot is competing with thousands of other profiles for attention, so if you want to get noticed, you need to stand out from the crowd.

I’ve seen the best results from posting five to seven photographs in the following categories:

  • One to two portraits that show your face clearly;
  • One to two full-body shots that show your figure;
  • One to two “conversation starters” (hobbies/travel/pets); and
  • One to two “social proof” (evidence that you have friends and sometimes leave your house).

In addition, consider these tips.


  • Match your pictures to your profile text. For example, if you write about pinball competitions at Gordon Square, then include a snapshot of your amazing score in Medieval Madness.
  • Include casual pictures: cheering at a Cavs game, wearing a goofy Purim costume, standing next to a sign that says “No Standing” (you rebel).
  • Post recent photographs.


  • Use the same photograph for LinkedIn.
  • Post pictures where your ex- was obviously cropped out.
  • Exclusively post selfies – find at least one friend who’s willing to take your picture.

Lastly, get a second opinion. Ask a close friend, your mom or another trusted adviser to give their honest opinion about your photographs. The free online service can also help you select your best photographs. You gain karma points by rating other user’s pictures, and in return you get their feedback on whether you appear smart, trustworthy and attractive. For professional advice, schedule a couple of sessions with a dating coach to get a polished profile.    

Elana Hunter is a dating coach and founder of KickStartLove. She helps singles find love through online and in-person coaching. Learn more at

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