On Modern Relationships.

First–a few things.

  1. Yes, I am single.
  2. This is not a lament/man-bashing session.
  3. I am not trying to get you to ask me out by writing this.
  4. These are observations and theories, not black-and-white truths.

Ok. Now that that’s out of the way, here goes.

I never write about relationships. Ever.

Since I’m single, I always feel a bit under the microscope when talking about them. And since I don’t actually date all that much, I have a tiny fear that I won’t be viewed with credibility on the topic. In actuality, my singledom is partly on purpose. I’m 29 years old and at this point, I know what I’m looking for. If someone doesn’t have that “thing”, I’m not wasting my time enduring the awkwardness and inevitable breakup conversation that hurts and humiliates both parties just because some married person told me, “You never know!” Actually- I do know. If you got married at 21/22 and you’re telling me that you married someone who totally wasn’t your type and I should be open to the fact that I might end up married to someone I never thought I’d be attracted to, sorry, but I’m not buying it. You were a baby when you got married and even you probably didn’t actually know what you were looking for–which is why it surprised you. Im old enough now to know what I’m looking for. And when I see it, I recognize it. And the fact of the matter is, I just don’t come across “it” all that often. Thus, my singledom. Which I’m quite happy in, by the way. Most days. πŸ™‚Β Even though I don’t go on millions of dates, I have friends that do. I’ve gone on SOME dates in the last fifteen years of my life and even had a few boyfriends here and there. And since my top strength is Maximizer and my mental wheels are always turning and criticizing and judging (it’s really kind of annoying), I’ve picked-at and analyzed patterns and behaviors I’ve observed over and over again. I’ve been thinking about a few of them lately. Here they are:

Never talk about the future unless you intend for there to be one.

A common pattern I’ve observed in my friends’ dating relationships as well as my own is that men will talk about the future, then quickly break up with you. What is that about? I’m not even talking about not discussing marriage unless you intend to propose. I mean, that’s a no-brainer. I’m talking about statements like, “Oh, have you tried this place out? We have to go there sometime!” or, “I’m so excited to take you to this/that place that I love…” or, “My sister’s great, I mean, you’ll meet her sometime, but she has this great house…” It’s as simple as that. Little statements, almost in passing, that imply there’s a future. Since guys are rarely up front about their intentions in taking you out, girls are constantly spending hours of gut-wrenching, mentally-exhausting energy just trying to figure out whether or not you’re interested in her. Leading her to believe there’s a future when you’re really not sure there will be is just careless and it’s guaranteed to hurt her a little and probably make her say mean things about you to her girlfriends when it all falls apart. Also- don’t introduce her to your family unless you’re really serious. Don’t invite her to Christmas unless you’re thinking of proposing at some point. I cannot stress this enough. If you are bringing the person you’re dating around your family just to get your parents and siblings off your back about being single, or because you want a serious relationship so badly that you’re trying to make this into one when the chemistry is just really not there–don’t do it. Just don’t do it. For your sake, for your family’s sake, for the person you’re dating’s sake. Be careful about how you lead the other person’s heart into really personal places.

On that note…

Is this a date?

This clip is from My So-Called Life, (1995). Angela Chase is a 15-year-old girl talking to her dad about dating. To her–dating is dead. It’s just about people. With people. Hanging out. In a bunch. What’s important to recognize is that Angela Chase is 15 and even in 1995 she wasn’t an expert on modern relationships. But still, I’ve read New York Times and Huffington Post articles THIS WEEK stating that this is the current state of relationships for modern twentysomethings. Really? At 15 it makes total sense to just hang out in groups. You have no idea what you want or what dating should be. Hanging out with your group and pining over one particular person for months, maybe years, is expected. But when you’re in your 20s and 30s, saying you want to get married someday, and you’re perpetually hanging out with the same group of people but not dating any of them–what are you doing? If you’re in it for community–awesome. I know it’s possible for these groups (maybe even a church small group) to become really close without there being a romantic element. Just be careful to not settle down with your friends if you hope to one day settle down with a spouse. Also-on the flip side-if you want to get married someday, don’t waste your life on frivolous physical non-dates for the entirety of your twenties because you think your twenties are for having fun and figuring out life. It’s dumb. You’re not practicing for sex once you get married, you’re just messing it all up. And it starts to get really confusing to figure out whether you’re interested in dating someone or just want them physically. Why mess yourself up like that? If you have a desire to get married someday, pursue that with intention and be open to the age at which it could happen.

Additionally, on the Is This a Date? note. Men–Declare your intention. I know, it’s risky and scary. But most of the time a girl isn’t going to do it and is waiting for some validation from you. And if you give her validation, I promise you’ll get it back. If she isn’t interested, she’ll let you know. Rip off the bandaid and move along. Are you interested in her? Say so. It’s as easy as, “If you’re not seeing anyone, would you want to get coffee sometime?” or, “You seem cool and I’d like to know you more. Want to get together Friday?” Simple. Whatever you do, don’t make girls wonder. Don’t keep asking them to hang out with you casually, don’t repeatedly invite them to group events and only talk to them half of the time, don’t make her decode your texting behaviors (frequency, tone, etc.), don’t pay for them sometimes and not others. Just be real. Be vulnerable and honest.

On that note…

Ask Girls Out.

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I recently had a few guys tell me that they were under the impression that girls don’t like being asked out directly. Really? I mean, where did this rumor begin? Because I’d like to squash the person who perpetuated it. It’s wussy. Waiting for a girl to give you 150% reassurance that you will NOT GET SHOT DOWN if you ask her out is a waste of time and shows a lack of courage. Sure, no one wants to get shot down. But chances are, she’s nice and she’ll do it nicely if she isn’t interested, and you can just dust your shoulders off and move along. No harm done, right? There’s nothing more frustrating in the dating game today, than the fact that girls are expected to throw themselves at a guy to give him the most undeniable confirmation that she’s interested before she’ll get asked out. It’s ridiculous. Guys. Man up. It’s really all I can say. πŸ™‚

So you’ve spent the evening with a group of mixed friends, just people, “in a group…hanging out.” Say there’s a really interesting girl you chatted with a few times. What should you do? Take a line from the Is This a Date? paragraph and ask her out. In fact, if you think of it later, even a Facebook message will suffice. Just do it.

Payment.

It is the 21st century and many girls have jobs that pay pretty well–but still not as well as yours, men. πŸ™‚ As an old-fashioned courtesy, it’s always nice to offer to pay for her. If she says, “Oh, you don’t have to do that…” you should insist on paying for her still. Most girls won’t be offended. If you pay for her once and you want to keep dating her, something you should be ready for is that if you stop paying for her suddenly, she’s going to think you’re not interested in her anymore and trying to send a message. I know this is twisted and it sounds like you’re buying her…but somehow over the years it has become a decoder-point. If the guy is paying for you, that’s confirmation that it’s a date. And since most guys aren’t up front about their intentions, girls rely on these little cues to tell whether or not you’re actually interested in romance and/or how much longer you’re going to be interested in her. If you stop offering to pay, she’s probably going to think you’re losing interest. Cue the stomach knots and hour-long girlfriend analyzation sessions. That’s just not nice. However, once you’ve been dating someone for awhile and you’re calling each other girlfriend and boyfriend, it makes a lot of sense for the girl to start offering to pay again and you should let her sometimes. Girls–you should absolutely offer to pay. But not until then. πŸ™‚

Why I Hate Bars.

I won’t go into all of the reasons why because I could honestly write an entire blog post about this topic. I rarely walk into a bar unless it’s also a restaurant, the music is at an appropriate level and they don’t play country music, the lighting is good and I can sit down with my drink. (Liz Lemon. I know. I know.) I’ve found myself at bars in recent years for bachelorette parties or a fun reason to get dressed up for a night out with girlfriends. And I’m a two-drink girl because that’s enough to enjoy a good-tasting drink, have a nice time with friends but still keep my wits about me. I’m not a person who thinks getting drunk is funny or cute or necessary. In fact, if you’re drunk around me, chances are I’ll bolt. Guy or girl. I just don’t like being around it.Β But in my experience, the bar is the best place to get disrespected. I’ve never been approached by a polite male in a bar. Never. They’ve always had some suspicious smirk on their face, they’re always touching my lower back like they know me, buying me drinks I don’t want, and when I shoot them down, eventually calling me a slut or whore because I’m wearing a totally modest all-black outfit and for refusing to play along with their ridiculous game. Yes. This has happened to me. Several times. Time after time at bars, I’ve found myself feeling threatened and scrutinized by tipsy guys who are overly confident and persistent. Guys, you should know this is how a lot of girls feel at the bar. Don’t treat her like garbage. Instead of disrespecting her, stand an appropriate distance away from her and ask her questions about herself. And if you’re only interested in “getting some,” don’t approach a girl who isn’t sending off the same signals you’re putting out. Don’t play a game and if she’s not interested in you–handle it like a man.

Oh! And another thing– if you are going to repeatedly send a girl drinks from across a room but never approach her, your sensual eye glances aren’t going to flatter her. They’re going to weird her out. This whole drink-buying game has become a really weird process. I’ve seen it happen so many times (and yes–it has happened to me). Don’t send a drink if you’re just hoping to get in her pants. I’m just being real here. Nothing makes a girl feel more like a prostitute than being sent drink after drink only to have you FINALLY approach her and stand rudely in her personal space, touch her like you’re her boyfriend already and suggest you exchange numbers, only to have you not call (or only send weird “It sure is sunny today.” text messages or forget who she is when she contacts you). Also, in my observation, most of the time this drink-sending game has something to do with wanting to get busy with someone, not date them. When you send a drink, it means, “Hey, I like you physically. I don’t know you, but I wanna get with you.” And to me, that’s just weird. You don’t even know the person. Maybe I’m being a little Liz Lemony here, but I really don’t think the drink-sending game should continue. Let’s just stop it.

Bachelor/Bachelorette Syndrome.

Are you dating more than one person? First- look at you! Popular!! Second- Make that clear to both parties. Now. Do it now. Do not wait. Do not create margin for overlap if one relationship seems a little more serious than the other. And don’t become “official” with one person if in the back of your mind you’re still thinking about the other. Decide definitively who you’re more interested in and pursue it. Note: This may mean dating neither of them. I’ve seen this pattern repeated over and over with certain people and I do not understand it. Date one person at a time, unless you’re making it clear that you are dating other people. It’s not fair to treat one party like a test/control, then bail for the party you initially left behind because you realized maybe you liked the other person more. It’s like Dawson/Joey/Pacey. Brad/Angelina/Jennifer. It’s TV drama. It’s not real life. It’s not how you should be acting. It’s shady. Stop. Respect the people you’re dating and care for their hearts, not just your own.

If You Just Got Out of a Serious Relationship.

I’ve seen it happen a few times where a serious, long-term relationship ends. Whether that be a long dating relationship, a divorce or a death of a spouse. Suddenly one of the parties starts dating a new person really quickly. The reasoning given every time is, “I didn’t see it coming. I wasn’t looking for it. It kind of just happened.” Relationships don’t just happen. If they did, I’d be in one. They take effort and pursuit. If you just came out of a really serious situation and you’re presented with a new dating prospect immediately, no matter how appealing it sounds to be secure in someone’s arms again–be man or woman enough to stop and think. Decide if you are really ready and if this is fair to the person you’re about to date. Have you learned anything from your previous relationship? If you haven’t, it might be worthwhile to take a beat and think about it. A strong, brave, confident person will stand up for what’s right and protect both people’s hearts. Blindly running to the next comforting relationship is reckless and potentially harmful for both people involved.

If You Won’t Have Sex Until You’re Married.

Maybe you already did. It’s ok. Maybe you’re not a Christian and you’re like, what? I know. Here’s what’s up. This just isn’t a popular stance. And being a Christian isn’t all that popular, either. So when a Christian person is single for a long time and the married folks around them wonder what’s wrong–I have to assert the argument that it’s partly because we’re not willing to have sex before we’re married. That is just SO countercultural of a stance in 2014, it’s really kind of insane. I recently found this short video based on a study by the Austin Institute explaining something I’ve experienced but haven’t been able to put words to. The no-sex predicament we find ourselves in makes us more expensive in this present culture, thus extending our period of singledom for longer than has been historically common. Take a quick look, it’s fascinating:

If You’re Married.

If you’re a husband, treat your wife’s single friends how their husband should treat them someday. That might sound weird. But what I mean is this–I’ve been so touched by my married friends’ husbands who’ve stepped up and shown me respect in ways I have rarely gotten from guys I’ve dated. Flat tire? They’ve put my spare on for me. Cold night? They start my car for me before I leave. Hanging out at their house? They offer to refill my drink while I chat with my friend. Out to dinner with the couple? I’m not the third wheel, in fact, he pays for me too. It has just warmed my heart and blessed me so much to see this from my friends’ husbands. Not only does it remind me that I have worth and value when some of my dates have treated me otherwise, but it gives me hope for the good guys who are still out there.

If you’re a wife, be open to giving guys advice about dating. If they’re at your house hanging out with your husband talking about a girl, chime in. Even if he doesn’t ask for it. He’ll take it or leave it. πŸ™‚ It’s the least you can do. πŸ™‚

A note to the married couple: It’s fun to set people up. I totally get that you want to be friends with people in your same life stage. And your marriage is so fun and fulfilling, you want to evangelize marriage to your single friends and help them get married too! I understand, really. And honestly, I don’t mind being set up. But if you are going to set your single friends up, here are two guidelines to follow:

  1. Don’t set two people up just because they’re both single. Are they actually a potentially good match? Or are they both just…single? Nothing is more annoying than being set up with someone you’re blatantly incompatible with just because your married friends hoped some divine act would happen where their two perpetually single friends who have nothing in common suddenly got married and you could start double dating and eventually your kids can marry each other. I take it as a compliment that a friend thinks I’m worthy of setting up with one of their friends. But they have to be a good match. Otherwise, it’s uncomfortable and a waste of time for both parties. If they do go on the date, they’re really just doing it because they care about you, married couple.
  2. If you tell your single friend you want to set them up- FOLLOW THROUGH. Follow through, follow through, follow through. I can’t tell you how often this happens to my single friends. It’s a married person tic, I swear. “I should set you up with…!” Then it never happens. If someone is perpetually single and the dating options are scarce, a “potential” can be exciting. Don’t give them a potential then dangle it over their head for a year. Don’t say you want to set them up unless you intend to do it.

In Summary.

Dating has become super complicated. Is it even called that? The media would probably tell you us Millenials/hipsters are calling it, “hooking up,” or something weird and stupid like that. Really, I don’t think any of us know what we’re doing. The rules have gotten muddy and unclear. The roles have been reversed. And both parties lack a serious amount of guts and courage. (Myself included). I think this has played a large part in much of the country’s twentysomethings’ prolonged adolescence and delayed adulthood.

These are just thoughts. I have no solutions.

All I can say, is it’s a jungle out here.

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