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Dating has only one purpose if your goal is to one day establish a healthy, sustainable, loving relationship of H.E.R. (Honor, Esteem and Respect): That is to learn the truth of who people are, in order to determine who is safe for intimate access to your body, money, heart and home; who is not; and most importantly, to recognize and avoid the latter before they can do damage to you and your life. As we say in the Grown Zone, this is not a process of chasing and losing, but of attracting and choosing, with unlimited and unconditional self-love and self-protection as your standard.

With this in mind, we’ve added The 5 Phases of Dating: The Grown Ass Woman’s Guide to Attracting and Maintaining Authentic Relationships by Anita M. Charlot to the Grown Zone Book Shelf of resources and tools for those who will settle for nothing less than Grown, healthy relationships. Charlot is a Chicago-based relationship coach (AnitaCharlot.com), author and speaker, with a focus on teaching women how to attract and maintain authentic relationships. (Disclosure: Charlot is also the cousin of Grown Zone Relationship Education Co-founder Zara D. Green.)

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In the 5 Phases of Dating, Charlot delivers as promised: a credible, easy-to-follow road map of each stage of the dating process, excellent advice on what is safe and advantageous to do at each stage, and more importantly, what readers should refrain from doing for their own good. The latter includes sharing too much information prematurely with a relationship candidate and failing to recognize acts of deception and manipulation that can cause you to stay in a relationship longer than you should. Chapters cover everything from laying the groundwork for successful dating by establishing an authentic relationship with self, to the importance of not rushing into dating anyone exclusively, to safely navigating the stages of engagement and lifetime commitment (including marriage).

A main strength of the 5 Phases of Dating is Charlot’s personal experiences as a person who has had long-term intimate relationships with both men and women, which she shares candidly and credibly. (At this writing, she is happily married to a man.) This allows her to, for example, authoritatively debunk the myth that unhealthy and abusive relationships are exclusive to heterosexual couples. In fact, Charlot makes the case that emotional and physical abuse are at least as prevalent in the relationships of same-sex couples (and lesbian couples in particular) as they are in relationships between men and women. This is in line with the Grown Zone principle that the characteristics of healthy relationships, and the behaviors supportive of such relationships, are the same regardless of the gender or sexual orientation (or, for that matter, age, race and other characteristics) of those in the relationship.

One caveat: In the chapter “Phase II: Dating, But Not Exclusively – Surveying the Landscape,” while neither expressly endorsing nor condemning them, Charlot does spend time on the concepts of maintenance (a sexual relationship with no commitments or expectations by either party) and a “situationship” (a popular term for ongoing intimacy between two people in an otherwise undefined relationship). In the Grown Zone, these arrangements fall under the category of things we all have the adult right to do, but are not Grown, healthy things to do, especially if the goal is to secure healthy, loving H.E.R. relationships.