“You’re a Cool Chick and All But I’m Just Not Interested In a Relationship Right Now”
“Didn’t I give it all?
Tried my best,
Gave you everything I had,
Everything and no less,
Didn’t I do it right?
Did I let you down?
Maybe you got too used to,
Having me around,
Still, how can you walk away,
From all my tears?
It’s gonna be an empty road,
Without me right here,
But go on and take it,
Take it all with you,
Don’t look back,
At this crumbling fool,
Just take it all,
With my love,
Take it all,
With my love”
Ladies, how many guys have you been with where you wanted something more while he claimed to not feel anything for you? Men, how often have you really liked a girl and gotten the “it’s not you it’s me” line? We all experience a situation or two or ten at some point(s) in our dating lives in which we allow ourselves to feel for someone while they claim to feel nothing for us (other then just below the waist of course). As girls, we swap stories of the shitty men we date and grumble about how much men suck. We like to rationalize and blame it on the gender and men do the exact thing about us. However, while often times we tend to read into things that aren’t there, in some instances there is something going on that is more than meets the eye.
While over my friend’s house last night having a relaxing, chill evening enjoying various shows via Netfilix on her XBOX, we decided to watch an episode of “My So Called Life.” For those of you who have never heard of it, MSCL is a drama from back in the 90’s when my age was not even in double digits yet. It starred Claire Danes and I believe it was actually her big break. I recall the show airing originally on ABC but it only survived one season. MTV ended up picking up the show for syndication and it became an instant cult classic. I haven’t seen the show in years but I remember loving it is as a kid. Well, nearly 20 years later and the show’s concepts still are relevant and relatable.
In the episode I watched entitled “Guns and Gossip,” the plot line revolved around the main character, Claire Danes’ Angela, having rumors spread about her that she slept with her crush Jordan (a young, dreamy Jared Leto). Near the end of the episode there was a moment where Jordan told Angela that she means nothing to him and he doesn’t feel anything for her. While in this particular instance the show Hollywoodized relationships and in later episodes the two date and you realize he was lying, to her and to himself at this point in the courtship. However, this got me thinking about how many guys I’ve dated or hooked-up with on regular basis who wouldn’t commit. Lately, I’ve come to realize this isn’t an irritating issue that I alone face repeatedly but rather, this is a factor that effects most single girls my age. I’ve recently been hanging out with some single friends, as opposed to my merry band of coupled-out pals, and have begun to hear them complaining about situations just like my own. They are hooking up with certain guys and want it to be something more but because he doesn’t they all settle for what it is. But why is it that we settle? Why do we let men control the fate of a relationship? Not to sound all feminist because I’m sure guys have been in similar sets of circumstances and feel the same but I just do not get why we allow our own hopes and happiness to be remodeled into someone else’s desires. How do we make the conscious decision to sacrifice what we ultimately want so that we can enjoy some portions of needs and wants rather than losing everything all together?
Well while I obviously don’t have the answer, I do have an opinion or two about the rationale behind it. I believe that we often subconciously or consciously convince ourselves that when he tells us that he isn’t looking for anything serious or doesn’t want a relationship right now what he really means is “keep hooking-up with me and you can change my mind” or “I do have feelings but I am not going to admit them easily so continue to be with me to draw them out.” We like to think that they are just hiding their true emotions or that given more time with us they will learn to appreciate and love who we are and what we have to offer. In some cases this happens to be a true. When grumbling to a guy friend of mine about how I was dating someone who said he didn’t want a relationship, he laughed and said “no guy wants a relationship, but then one day you wake up and you realize ‘shit I’m in a relationship.'” Hearing something like that gives us girls false hope though because this guy is somewhat of an exception and is quite romantic with his now girlfriend. Not all guys are like this but we tend to base our interpersonal and sexual relations and decisions on the exception to the rule as opposed to the norm. If 1 girlfriend of ours who is in a serious relationship would adamently state that her man was not looking for anything serious when they started but now he’s in love, we ignore the 30 other friends’ stories to the contrary and believe our situation can be the exception too. But again, why do we torture ourselves? There are plenty of guys out there that are better men or more suitable companions so why do we try so hard to make things work with the ones who do not want us?
I personally happen to have the irritating flaw of/obsession with wanting the ones who don’t feel the same way back and this is true for both friendships and intimate relationships. If someone isn’t interested or rejects me, I want them even more. I somehow get myself into a situation where I am regularly or semi-regularly sleeping with guys that don’t want anything serious. This gets me to a point where I want something and get frustrated with the lack of respect or he decides he’s bored and moves onto an easier lay (not that I’m easy though!). I’m sure there are times I try too hard or I buy into their false intentions early in the game and get screwed. With other guys, I just fizzle them out when I realize we aren’t compatible. In order to protect myself from getting to attached or having sex to soon I recently had a phase where I dated guys that were not my type who I wasn’t that attracted to. The rationale was that I would date these men and be capable of waiting a long time before caving in and having sex and in the process I would grow to be attracted to them and they would fall for me. Well, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad I suppose. This situation backfired to the point where the guys fell for me and wanted me badly and actually were really trying (cooking me dinner, etc.) and I never gave in sexually; however, I never became attracted to them either. Part of it was not just appearance but personality too and the whole experiment in dating made me wonder if I waited longer with other guys I’d hooked up with would I realize they weren’t compatible as well?
I have had my share of rejection and being as sensitive as I am I tend to take things far more personally than I should. There was one guy I dated whom I really liked. I cannot exactly articulate what it is that I loved about him, it was likely just that he had a certain je ne sais quoi about him the drew me in. It also didn’t hurt that the sex was great and he was very attractive in an unconventional way…just my type. He also was super sweet in the beginning and acted like he was really looking for something and we had mutual friends so I envisioned things going somewhere. Then one day three hours before we were supposed to go on a date I got a phone call that basically said “Hey so you’re a cool chick and all but I’m not looking for a relationship right now and we can like be friends and all but I just wanna hang out with my guy friends and do the brother thing…you know?” I think the saddest part of this story is that following this call I still would hang out with him, sleep with him, and convinced myself that someday we would be together. Needless to say, things never worked out and I wound up getting hurt in the end when I believed that we were at the very least friends and thought he could be there for me during a tough time and he instead avoided me.
Despite things not working out, I had fun while it was good, I had a few months of great sex, and I learned a number of important lessons. Going through a rough time also helps you see who your real friends are and the ones who don’t call, visit, send flowers, or at least just tell you that they hope you are ok aren’t worthy of your time. If a guy or girl ever calls you up, texts you, facebook messages you, or meets you in person to tell you that he/she doesn’t want to be with you or isn’t looking for a relationship be glad you are hearing this now while it is still early and not months or years down the line when your heart is capable of being crushed because heartbreak is far worse than rejection. Respect their honesty and head for the hills because if you are looking for something real you sure as hell do not want to be caught up in a situation where you waste months hooking up with someone believing it will go somewhere only to get hurt and realize that you could have missed viable opportunities with men capable of commitment to be with a dick who just wants you for sex. As I said in the Lust vs. Lovearticle, if you take away the sex, what is there? Would he still come around? Would you?
The opposite of love
Held on high
From up up up above
Kept my high
From the second one
Kept my eye
On the first one
Now take these rings
And stow them safe away
I’ll wear them on
Another rainy day
Take these rings
And stow them safe away
I’ll wear them on
Another rainy day”
-Yeah Yeah Yeahs
As I grow older, gain more experience in the dating world, continue working on this blog, and increase my number of friends, the more I learn about the dark side of dating.We like to believe that the hardest part is finding the right person, that once we find that special someone we are set for life. However, oftentimes that isn’t the case. When I began the blog I started to become more in tune with all things dating, including my friends’ perceptions of it and experiences with it. I also am frequently coming up with ideas as the world is so inspirational to me. One topic that keeps recurring in my life is cheating and all variations on it.
I’ve worked in bars for years and seeing business men from out of town taking girls home from the bar while they were wed to someone else was an early glimpse of just how dubious people’s ethics can be and how dishonest and shameless people can be in relationships. While in Albuquerque on a work trip my friend and I met a group of cute guys who we were hanging out with and who wanted to take us back to their hotel; however, only one of them was not married. So we turned down these married navy men because neither one of us could stomach being the other woman in an extramarital affair.
Some men hide their rings, knowing how wrong what they are doing is. Others wear them and expect us to be ok with the fact that they have a wife (and maybe kids) at home who think her husband if off working hard for the family when really he’s getting hard betraying his family. I am so curious as to who these women are that see a wedding ring on a man’s finger but ignore it and bang him anyway. They know it can’t go anywhere, especially if he is from out of town, and no matter who you are you can envision how much it would hurt to learn you’ve been cheated on. How any girl can violate girl code and do that to another woman, whether they know her or not, is beyond me. It’s just so wrong and there is no way to justify it.
The above tales are examples downright cheating; however, I have also seen and experienced a lot of instances where something may not technically be cheating but still isn’t right. A friend of mine recently learned that while she was out of town, her live-in boyfriend had a female coworker whom she had never met over for wine alone. This woman drank wine in her place with her boyfriend and used her computer to go on Facebook. My friend uncovered the secret and her man at first lied about it. While he claims that nothing happened and they are just friends, what he did was wrong. There are lines you don’t cross and gray areas you don’t enter if you want to stay in your relationship and be a good person and putting yourself into situations of potential cheating is one of those lines.
Interestingly, I am currently friends with a guy who is in a relationship and lives with his girlfriend. The other night we met up for a drink on a Saturday at about midnight. He had just finished work and I was heading home from a friend’s house and we had been texting throughout the evening. I outright stated to him that this hang out session was strictly platonic. There was potential for some cross promotional work with his company and my blog plus we just got along well and I want to be friends with him. However, what was supposed to be a friendly get together definitely felt more like a date. His body language and things he said made me certain that he was interested in more than just friendship. So, here I was in a bar, having a drink with a man who wants to sleep with me who also has an unsuspecting live-in girlfriend. I questioned why I was there because I knew that this was wrong. Of course I didn’t allow for anything to happen and kept the meeting physically platonic with nothing transpiring beyond a good-bye hug but I still feel as though I had betrayed girl code and done something that was immoral. My intentions were nothing beyond friendship but he had impure motives that I was aware of which makes this one of those gray areas that can be seen as cheating and end a relationship.
Bear in mind that these lines are not only crossed by men and that women are equally as guilty. A few years ago I had a girl friend who was in a serious, committed relationship and was living with a man she loved and whom she intended to one day marry. However, she would infrequently text an old flame or sometimes even sext him and would occasionally meet up with this boy in person but do nothing other than chat at a public place. There were times I was with her at a bar when he would meet up and hang out for a little then leave with nothing more than conversation and a little flirting having taken place. He was aware that she had a boyfriend but definitely was interested in her beyond friendship and she still was attracted to him, placing her in one of those gray areas that just isn’t worth the risk.
At what point is one crossing the line in these above examples? Is it only when any form of physicality takes place between the two? Must it be kissing or sex? Is just the fact that one was alone with someone whom they are attracted to who is single a violation in the relationship?
Over the past few years I’ve sadly learned how ubiquitous cheating is. Be it a gray area or outright cheating with a someone becoming sexually involved with someone other than his/her, I see it all around me. My friends have been cheated on, some of my friends are players, and most of my friends have crossed a line without actually getting physical with someone. Essentially it all boils down to what the terms and “rules” of your relationship are and of course trust is key. However, if you are in a relationship and spending time away from your partner with someone whom you are attracted to and would like to be something more with, what you are doing is wrong if you feel the need to keep it from your significant other because he or she would be angry and your actions could possibly lead to a breakup. It is best to stay out of these gray areas and on the right side of the line if you want to hold onto your man or lady. And ultimately, if you aren’t happy with whom you are with end it, don’t cheat. I never have understood cheating because if you don’t love the person you are with, don’t see a future, or have feelings/attraction for other people then you should get out before you risk hurting your significant other (and even yourself) even further.
“What the Hell?” Follow Up: “And I Don’t Really Care About If You Love Me, If You Hate Me”
Over the weekend I couldn’t help but to think more about the article I wrote last Friday about post-breakup backlash. While I discussed how women glam it up and hit the town to feel sexy and desired, I did not talk too much about the heartache part of this process. I mentioned how the last time I allowed myself to be really hurt by a guy’s rejection, I went out looking like a classy prostitute (if there is such a thing) in hopes of replenishing my wholly depleted sense of self-esteem. Sure I put on a smile, had a few drinks, and talked with friends but at the time I was just a shell of my former self. I felt hollow and broken. In reality my upset was not even truly about this particular guy who decided that he did not want to see me anymore. This malaise was due to a feeling of worthlessness I inflicted on myself by letting myself believe I was not good enough for anyone.
People date and sometimes (the majority of the time) it doesn’t work out. While there is plenty of blame to go around in a big, long-term split; when you are newly dating someone and that person decides that he would rather be single, there really is not any wrongdoing on your part. However, while men tend to think “oh well” and move on to the next one, we women rack our brains for all that could be wrong with us and tear our self-worth to shreds.
That night that I had my date canceled last minute and had it broken to me that there wouldn’t be any subsequent dates was an emotionally exhausting evening but it also ended up serving as a wakeup call and changing my life. While I shared the beginning of the story in my piece “All My Life I’ve Been Good But Now I’m Thinking What the Hell? All I Want to Do Is Mess Around,” I never finished the other half of that story. I received a call from the guy I was seeing and learned that it was over. After getting over the initial shock I cried a bit but pulled myself together and went out friend friends in hopes of cheering up. I stood like a ghost, trying my best to look un-phased by the rejection but I’m sure it was thoroughly evident. I held it together until I go back to my car, then I rested my head in my hands, leaned my face into the steering wheel and lost it. I probably cried for a half hour before I snapped back to reality to realize that I was in a residential area with people walking by returning home from the bars and decided that I should continue my wallowing in private.
I was not crying so much because this guy did not want to be with me but because I convinced myself that there was something wrong with me. I obsessed over my flaws and became consumed with fear that I would die alone and that no one could ever love me. Now of course all of this was happening while my grandma was dying, I was already in an emotionally vulnerable place, and was before I was put on anti-depressants so we could say that I’m more stable and in better spirits now but getting to a content place in life was not easy. It took me a long time to accept that I did nothing wrong and just because at twenty-five I haven’t found “the one” doesn’t mean that I never will. I am not saying that every time you are dumped that you are without fault but sometimes two people just don’t work out and whether you are to blame or not doesn’t change the fact that it’s over. Crying, sulking, wallowing, and living in fear won’t change the past but it will impact your future and your ability to move on with your life.
Certainly it is easier said than done to just move on after a breakup and return to your normal self, but it is something you have to strive for and work at. We all hit the town dressed like porn stars post-breakup at least for one night and then we get back to reality and return to being our normal selves. Some people take Avril’s approach and spend a few months or even a year thinking “what the hell” and live like a hedonist. While it is not what I would do, if you are being safe, having fun, and not losing yourself in the shuffle then I do not see the harm. I chose to spend just that weekend devastated and self-loathing before I made a number of positive changes in my life. I kept myself busy every night after work. I made new friends and reconnected with old ones. I attended parties and concerts, went on a lot of casual dates, and threw my own parties. I traveled back home to NJ and dealt with my past and started seeing a therapist. Obviously, my upset was over something a lot deeper than just a boy but I think that everyone compounds their upset when they are down and in this instance the guy was the last straw for me.
When we get dumped we are emotionally vulnerable and spend a lot of time in self-contemplation. While racking our brains for what went wrong in a particular instance, it is inevitable that we drudge up our pasts and open the gates for all of the other depressing facts of our lives. We reflect on old boyfriends and prior breakups, we assess our friendships, and we think back to our childhoods. We over analyze ourselves and our lives and find flaws that no one else would even notice. Then, we either accept defeat or improve ourselves. I opted for the latter and now am almost thankful that the relationship did not work out because it was push I needed to get myself together. I was a holding back upset for a long time and it kept mounting as I refused to deal with it. Then, one day, it broke through like a dam and I had to deal with everything at once; and, while I would not recommend a breakdown to anyone, sometimes we have to tear ourselves down to build ourselves back up.
I managed to pick up the pieces, put them back together with sturdier glue, and evolve into a stronger, more self-assured version of myself. It took a number a heartbreaks and break-ups for me to get to that level of self-acceptance; and, while at the time I couldn’t imagine getting through it, I now look back and smile because it was a defining moment. Most people’s heartaches aren’t this profound but we all get hurt at some point or experience the dissolution of a beloved partnership. We can either gain new fears and put up walls to keep people from getting close enough to damage our spirits again or we can take the pain and channel it into positivity.
Next time you get dumped or go through a bad breakup and begin to analyze the situation and yourself, try not to make it about the other person at all and aim to use the self-reflection for good. It is not a matter of what he didn’t like about you but what do you not like about you? What are your strengths and endearing qualities and how can you accentuate them? See every negative course of action as a chance to become an improved individual. Not only will you find it therapeutic but also, the next time you see that significant other and you are even more incredible and are glowing with happiness, you can feel vindicated that he did not get the best of you and acknowledge that you truly are better off without him.
“All My Life I’ve Been Good But Now I’m Thinking What the Hell? All I Want to Do Is Mess Around”
For those of you who do not frequently listen to pop stations, the above title might seem a bit naughtier than it actually is. They are lyrics from Avril Levine’s latest single, “What the Hell,” which is clearly a backlash from the end of her married life with Sum 41’s Deryck Whibley. While the song is really not my taste and her sound has changed from grunge-femme-pop to bubbly-commercialized pop, I think the lyrics are something that guys and girls can very much identify with.
While driving home from a friend’s house last night listening to the radio, this song came on and engendered some fodder for the blog. As grating as the song is, I cannot help but think of how many guys and girls alike can identify with those lyrics. I had just watched the most recent episode of Jersey Shore with Ron moping around andcrying like a baby over Sam prior to getting in my car; so, of course break-ups were already on my mind. It seems as though there are universal steps in the process of grieving the loss of a relationship to someone, one of which is choosing to relish being single over wallowing in solitude. Shortly following a bad break-up or the end of any long-term relationship, one or both partners hit the town to get drunk and slut it up with their pals. While it seems like a simple fun thing to go out and have meaningless sex with someone new when you have been with the same person for an extended period of time, it is actually far harder than a random hookup while long-term single.
There are two types of daters in the world. There are those who never look for anything serious, date but never commit, and like sex but dislike the strings; and, conversely, there are the relationship lovers who crave the consistent companionship a significant other provides them with and who find comfort in committing to have sex with one person who is exclusive with them. In some rare instances a casual, serial dater can be lured into a relationship by the right girl; yet, the latter type of dater really is not equipped for casual sex. They may say they want to get wasted and go wild but when it comes down to it they either cannot follow-through or they do so and regret it. Both situations typically result in transitioning from the shock and denial phase of the breakup to the next stage of pain and guilt. However, I will save the 7 stages of relationship grief for another day and will focus solely on the first one for now.
When we break-up with someone, be it our choice or theirs, it is never easy. Seriously dating is something so much more than regular sex. A couple is a partnership between friends who share everything with each other including significant life moments and mutual friends. When the relationship ends, all other aspects of life must still go on except we must face them solo rather than as a team. This compounded with the sudden and complete loss of someone who had been so integral to our lives leads to a lot of raw emotionality and strain. It is much easier to “look on the bright side” and focus on all the fun aspects of singledom than grasp the reality at hand. I will admit that the last time I was dumped by someone I really liked my initial reaction was to cry, but an hour later I was making calls and setting plans into motion. A few hours after that I was out with friends wearing the tightest, shortest, lowest cut dress I owned and paired it with sexy black strappy six-inch heels. I am sure I looked somewhat ridiculous but the point is, most often we are not actually going out looking to hook up or get creeped on. I am not entirely sure how guys perceive this step but I can speak for the majority of females when I say that getting dressed-up and looking sexy allows us to take back some control, feel attractive, and reassure ourselves that we are not doomed to be alone. It is not that we are actually looking to engage in risky sexual behaviors, we just want to feel desired and take our mind off of things.
Many girls who are single are envious of their friends’ relationships and strongly desire a boyfriend. However, most girls who are in a committed relationship for a long period of time are secretly jealous of their single friends because they have forgotten just how lonely and unpredictable single life can be. Sure you can have sex with whomever you want and there is a tremendous amount of freedom, but you also do not have the dependability, security, and connection to someone that you have in a boyfriend. Sometimes this selective memory about singledom leads them to become consumed with fear and end the relationship or feel trapped and cheat. Neither of which is a smart idea. However, we cannot help it. Single life seems so carefree and full of endless possibilities until you are riding solo long enough to remember how tiresome it is. A good relationship is hard to find and we should not throw one away because we want to see what else it out there.
When you are the dumpee in the break of a lengthy, serious relationship, a phrase similar to Avril’s lyrics may run through your head…especially if the split was bitter or cheating was involved. If you have spent your adult life being honest, sweet, and mature about dating only to get your heart broken, it may seem not only logical but empowering as well to go out, meet new people, and gain life experience. As long as you are safe and smart about it, then the more power to you. However, before you rush out to jump into bed with someone, make sure you are capable of handling the consequences of your actions. I would suggest waiting because there is so much raw emotionality post-breakup or you may be in denial about your own sensitivity. Ultimately, while getting over the old guy by banging a new guy might seem helpful or fun, the next morning you are still single, you still got dumped, and now you have just upped your number with a complete stranger.
Why You Shouldn’t Wait Until Marriage For Sex and Why You Shouldn’t Marry the First Person You Have Sex With
While I am fairly certain that abstinence is a dying notion saved only for bible-toting homophobic teens living under a rock, it is preached in many high school sex education programs. Do not get me wrong, I think it is great to mention no sex as a form of safe sex, but our youth need to be made aware of other ways to protect themselves. Let’s be real, the majority of high school students have more active sex lives than people our parents’ age and know moves even we may not yet be aware of. However, my blog is not aimed at kids or teens. In fact, I would actually encourage girls to wait until they are ready before sleeping with someone because sex is something that you can never take back. I personally waited until college and do not regret it and I am sure there are people who entered college very experienced and did not lament about it either. While, you should not go out giving it up to every interested guy, for the sake of self respect and in fear of STDs, you should also not live your life with the perception that a picture-perfect marriage involves betrothing the first and only person you sleep with. If you do, you are setting yourself up for heartache.
I would recommend having sex with a few people before you commit to “the one” for a number of reasons. (nsfw)
First, a lot of people build up their first time to be a special occasion. Whether there is candlelight and rose petals or just an exceptionally significant amount of time dating prior to the sex, all the romance and anticipation around it could do one of two things. You can mistake lust for love and assume he/she is the one or it can be terrible because of the nerves and inexperience but you may just assume that sex is overrated. Give it time to get better but if there is no physical chemistry after a while, you may have to be just friends. Also, make sure that if you take away the sex from your relationship that there is still sufficient reason to be with him.
Second, gaining some experience will make you a better lover and also will help you be more capable of settling down with one person in particular. If you marry the only person you have ever had sex with, you will likely find yourself wondering what sex with other people is like. Furthermore, if your husband or wife has had sex with other people and you haven’t, it will grow increasingly hard to handle that disparity. Jealousy, one of the most useless emotions, will undoubtedly creep in (both envy of his/her experience and suspicion of all members of the opposite sex) and may become too much to bear.
I have a friend who married a girl relatively quickly out of college. They grew up together and never dated in middle school or high school but reconnected later and fell in love. Shortly after the wedding there was trouble in paradise—and in reality, their relationship was really never the bliss they guised it to be. While he had dated a few people before her and slept with a few girls, she was a virgin when she started dating him. As a result, he is presently guarded like Fort Knox and can no longer see his female friends. The protectiveness actually is so extreme that no single ladies other than his sisters were allowed to attend the wedding, leaving those of us who had known him since he was freshly out of diapers having to view the wedding through his relatives’ Facebook pics. They are both great people as individuals, but they have a number of issues to work out if they are going to make it as a couple.
I have another friend in an alternate situation. She has had sex with a number of people and is with a man who is most likely with “the one;” however, she still has fears and dread about marrying him. It is not that she doesn’t love him or is not capable of spending the rest of her life with him because they are great for one another and still make each other happy every day. However, in the back of her mind (and sometimes at the forefront of it) she wonders what sex with someone else would be like and is afraid to fully commit to him for eternity based on this wanting for one last sexual encounter just to make certain that he is right for her. It is a hard enough decision to commit to one man or woman for a lifetime and feel utterly confident that he/she is the one even when you have seriously dated other individuals. While it may seem like an easy decision at the time to marry the only one you’ve ever been fully intimate with because you have nothing to compare the experience to, after a few years you will unquestionably have doubts; and, at that point, you will be so invested that it will be hard to leave.
To share a more personal example or the tribulations of why committing to a life with the person who took your virginity is never a good idea, my father was the only man my mother was ever with and their marriage did not work out. Obviously there were a countless number of reasons for their relationship’s failure but I do not doubt that this played a role in their arguing and I know it made her heart break even more after her twenty year marriage was dissolved. He, being ten years older, had been married once before, and I guess was somewhat of a ladies’ man (gross). My mom was actually really beautiful when she was young and probably could have had her picking of men but she fell for the first man she slept with and devoted herself to forever with him. A few years later I was born. Not many years after that, they were two of the most bitter, miserable, and argumentative people you could ever meet. They stayed in the marriage for me and, before they knew it, two decades had gone by and they could not even be in the same room together.
While my dad moved on and married less than three years later, my mom started the cycle again. Rather than go out and have some single fun, she fell for the first guy she dated post divorce. She probably felt that being in her mid-forties put her at a disadvantage because the market of single men in her age range is slim pickings. This man was separated from his wife, living in his mom’s basement, had two small children, and was a pothead evolving into a cokehead. Less than a year later it was the divorce PTSD all over again. Had my mom had more confidence and not allowed physicality and emotionality to become so intertwined, perhaps she would not have had such an unfortunate, heartrending dating life and would be a happier woman today.
Ultimately, I am no way saying to go out and have some meaningless sex just for the sake of practice and a fear of perceived regret later had you not. I just know from the experience of so many friends and family members that forever is a long time and before you walk down the aisle and commit yourself and your future to one person, you have to be certain that in 3, 30, and 50 years you will be satisfied with them being your only sexual partner and life companion. The person you marry should be your best friend whom you go to for guidance, trust implicitly, and find pleasure in spending your days with. He/she should also be someone you are wildly attracted to and with whom you see decades of passion with. This individual should share similar ideologies with you such as religion, views on children and child-rearing, long-term goals etc. Marriage is not about taking the next logical step or “just something you do because it is time;” it is a choice you make whenever the time is right if it is ever right. Do not mistake lust for love or allow societal pressures to drive you to be with the wrong person. Ending things because you do not see a future with someone or because you are too sexually naïve does not mean you cannot remain friends and, in fact, the odds of you having positive interactions are greater if you break up early on than if you divorce after years of feuding and resentment.
Lust vs. Love
How Do You Know If It’s Real?
I’m currently at the age where slowly but surely my friends are getting married. Facebook statuses continue to update with engagements, weddings, and committed relationships (complicated and not). While it seems that everyone around me is taking their next steps into adulthood with ease and pleasure, I remain single. When catching up with old friends after years of distance and they learn of my professional and personal successes, their eyes light up awaiting to hear exciting news of my relationship bliss only to be dimmed when they learn I still have no significant other. I often am asked if I have a boyfriend, to which I’m not sure how to reply. I hate lying but I don’t want them to think I am some loser who can’t get a guy to stick around. Regardless of who I’m speaking to, I seem to default to “it’s complicated.” But really, it is not. I’m single, plain and simple. I am constantly going on dates but I am not exclusively with any one guy. However, if I dare say that I’m dating but no one person in particular I look like a slut or as if I choose to be single. Irrespective of my marital status, I am without a significant other and this leaves me feeling left out—like a kid picked last for gym class. Life to me is this long, exhilarating, mysterious, and sometimes calamitous train ride in which we have a series of stops we must get on and off at. Stop one birth, stop fifteen high school graduation, etc. While everyone is getting on the train to head for the next stop, I am stuck standing on the platform and just can’t seem to get on and I pray my train hasn’t crashed at some prior juncture and that it reaches me one day soon.
Every time that I ask my engaged or married friends about their significant others and how they found the one and made it work, they seem to reply “when you know, you know.” I often hear that within the first month of dating someone, or even on the very first date, they find themselves telling friends or family that ‘he/she is the one I am going to marry”—and flash forward to two years later, she has a beautiful ring and he’s whipped. Inevitably my mind, jaded by years of dating disaster and a few heartbreaks, jumps to the erroneous conclusion that there must be something wrong with me. For a long time I convinced myself that I was single because I wasn’t pretty enough and focused the bulk of my energy on my aesthetics in an attempt to “fix myself.” However, a few years and a few dozen dates later, I have accepted that my appearance isn’t really the issue and decided to dig deeper. The reality is, there isn’t anything wrong with me and there isn’t anything wrong with most girls who have bad dating luck—and no, there isn’t anything wrong with most men either. The real problem is that we either tend to get caught up in compelling lust and engage in physicality before the emotional component has time to grow or we go on a few dates, feel no spark, and call it quits. Sure, we all have friends who married someone they weren’t attracted to in the beginning but “grew to love” or who are engaged to someone they slept with on the first date—but this is not as commonplace as it may seem. Many people will say that if someone is the one then it doesn’t matter if you sleep with him on the first or fifteenth date because if it is meant to be it will be. But this is just a lie we tell ourselves to accept being dumped, endure things not working out, or assuage the guilt we feel when we rush into sleeping with a guy and he doesn’t call.
Sure, we all set limitations and rules for our dating lives such as “no sex on the first date” or “don’t get attached.” However, these rules are more like goals and we strive to not break them so we don’t do something that could later make us vulnerable or have regrets. And, of course, we have all broken our rules at some point and our fears were made realities. This doesn’t mean our rules weren’t meant to be broken it just means that we know our limits and sensitivities and whether consciously or subconsciously, we struggle to protect ourselves or at least guard our hearts.
Taking the rule of no physical intimacy until there is a strong emotional connection as a tenant of most women’s dating etiquette, it seems to be both the most widely held and most frequently broken parameter in the book. We all slip up and have sex too soon because sometimes there seems to be this crazy physical connection to a person, like powerful magnets destined to be together. Anyone who has slept with more than a few individuals knows that there are some people with whom you meet and on day one find yourself struggling not to break your rule with; yet, there are also other guys or girls with whom you have sex with after a respectable amount of time only to find that it is awkward or “good but not great.” Sure we all want that insane passion where you can’t keep your hands off the other person and the sex is phenomenal, but is this possible with love or is it just the catch 22 of lust? How can you tell lust from love and are they mutually exclusive? I may have been on a lot of dates and know a lot of do’s and don’ts but I’m not that wise of a guru to have a definitive answer. What it all really boils down to is how you answer the question: what happens if you take the sex away—is there still something there that intrigues you, excites you, and keeps you coming back?
In all my years of dating I’ve been dumped, had mutual splits, and blown off guys who really liked me but it is highly uncommon that my upset after parting ways lasts more than a few weeks. Typically I am dismayed and especially insecure until I meet someone new, sufficient time has passed, or I become physical with someone else—all of which I render as proof that those connections were just regular plain old dating or lust in the heat of the moment, not love. It is, however, in those very rare instances in which I still hold a part of my heart open for months or years after our active relationship has ceased in the hopes that he will come back that I really question what went wrong and was that my chance at love.
To date, there has really only been one person whom I haven’t given up hope on. When I look back at all the guys I’ve dated over my adult life, there are so many who at the time of our involvement I was convinced were the one. Yet, after time passed and the dust settled they developed a drug problem and married a stripper or never grew up while I grew light years or still can’t commit or came crawling back but the spark was gone and I ask myself “what was I thinking” while simultaneously telling myself “thank God I dodged a bullet.” Everyone has these moments when reflecting on the ghosts of boyfriends past but the real confusion and malaise strikes when we think of “the one who got away” or the one who still gives us butterflies in our stomachs, brings tears to our eyes, and who makes us doubt ourselves because if they were so were right, what went wrong and is it fixable? Many times we continue to sleep with them in hopes of changing their minds or making them fall for us, but most guys don’t operate like us. To the vast majority of them, sex and emotion are separate, at least they are in the early stages of dating whereas for a large percentage of the American female population, the two are intertwined, and thus the lust/love dilemma ensues.
In the case of my “one who got away,” if you were to take away the incredible sex, unparalleled attraction, and certain “je ne sais quoi” he possesses, is there still something that would bring me back? The answer is maybe. Sure, I can be myself with him, am comfortable and confident around him, would “bring him home to mom,” and have to hide neither my intelligence nor my deepest secrets and fears. We may share common interests, like each others’ friends, and despite having seen me at my worst he still hasn’t stopped caring about me. But, to admit that this might be love, not lust, and that my feelings for him stem from my heart not my something further south would also be to admit that he is in fact quite possibly “the one who got away.”
I am not the only person I know to have a story like this. In fact, most people have experienced a similar set of circumstances in which they had an intense relationship with someone whom they shared a consummate connection and for an indeterminate amount of time after it ceased they continued to hold feelings for that person—feelings that they didn’t quite understand and were afraid to face. To confront these emotions would force us to determine whether this was just an instance of us having mistaken lust for love or having had something real and lost it. Realizing that we may have been with the best person for us and thrown that chance at happiness away or that despite our unwavering perspective on things that we weren’t the best person for them and so they chose to walk away is the hardest reality to endure. This would bring about a series of questions, worries, and tears that could never be answered, eased, or dried by anything other than being with that one person or finding someone more suitable. We typically opt to hold on in desperate hope for the former because the latter seems unachievable. However, whether he or she was “the one” is irrelevant and it is only our belief that he/she was the preeminent person who could one day be worthy of our eternal devotion that makes it so impossible to move on.
There’s a saying that all the power in a relationship lies with the one who cares the least. Sadly, this leaves the one who cares the most vulnerable and dependent upon another for happiness and self-worth. So, how do you tell lust from love? The answer lies in how you respond to the two part question of “how do you feel if you take away the sex and are you willing to admit powerlessness in your own life and take the risk of diving into something that may very well render you heartbroken?” If you can articulate what you love about the other person aside from all things physical, are willing to admit that your contentment no longer lies in just your hands, and are prepared to risk heartache for a chance at lifelong devotion, desire, and friendship that is how you know you are in love. Anything short of this is lust, desperation, fear of loneliness, and/or settling and no one should ever base a serious relationship on anything but love because it is the only entity worth the risks.
Deciding Whether to Fold or Go All-In
A Matter of Differentiating Fears from Reality
It happens to all of us at some point or another… You are dating someone and things are going well. Facebook relationship statuses have not been updated and you do not refer to each other as boyfriend and girlfriend yet, but you are sexually exclusive and the exchange of “I love yous” is imminent. You’re filled with excitement but also with fear because admitting love is accepting that you are no longer an autonomous individual, but rather, are a part of a whole and that this other half consists of someone you have no control over. Your mind races with a flurry of thoughts and you begin to overanalyze all the times you’ve spent together and every conversation you have ever had. Before you know it, the fear takes on a life of its own and you are filled with self-doubt, upset, anger, and confusion. You convince yourself that this isn’t going to work out and that he/she doesn’t care about you and is going to end things, even though there really has been no indication of such intent or you’ve taken an ambiguous set of circumstances and filled in the blanks. So, in the battle of rationality vs. fear, mental trepidation often prevails. Anxiety and dread overwhelm you, you panic, and subsequently you decide to end the relationship before you get in too deep.
Before you freak out and proceed to block his calls, blow him off, unfriend him, and/or call or text him to say “it isn’t going to work out,” take a day or two to thoroughly deliberate the rationale behind your decision. A tenant of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT, which is one of the most widely utilized and effective counseling and behavioral modification techniques of modern psychology) is the belief that external stimuli such as people, places, and everyday occurrences do not lead to our behaviors and moods, but rather, our thoughts about such events and individuals do. The benefit of this logic is that we can change the way we think to act or feel better even if the situation that initially upset us does not change. If we apply this logic to our dating distress, it can be reasoned that our negative thoughts and inner fears lead to our anxiety and depression. Thus, if we evaluate our thoughts and change our rationale, we can improve our mood. This seems simple, but it is actually a rather arduous task. How often do our friends tell us to stop worrying or that we are overreacting, but we remain just as stressed because our emotional response has resulted in physical discomfort?
The trick to effectively analyzing our thoughts and separating the accurate assessments from the irrational assumptions is to validate or disprove the notions that are upsetting us. Essentially, this means if you take your thought that “X doesn’t love me, is sleeping with someone else, is going to end things with me, and/or is a jerk thus I should end things with X” and compile all the evidence to substantiate and refute the belief, does it still hold merit? I don’t mean to discount gut feeling or intuition because they have their place, but more often than not, it is our own fear that leads to our strain. It is the creation of a perceived reality, not any actual occurrence, that results in our mental anguish. This ultimately effects our disposition, actions, and reactions which either leads us to end the relationship or gives the other person involved no other option then to end things with us. The latter appears to affirm our belief or fear but it is likely that things ended not because we were right and they were going to anyway, but rather, that our actions and behaviors as a result of our thoughts about his feelings led him to react in the way we expected—also known as self-fulfilling prophecy.
Since I’m not a psychology expert and merely majored in it during my undergrad, I will end my psych 101 lesson there. The point of the brief educational session on psychology is merely to repudiate your notion that you are crazy. I would safely estimate that 9 out of 10 people will experience a version of the aforementioned scenario at some point in their lives and will feel like they are going insane as a result, but the reality is that this is just part of the complexity of being human. So, next time you find yourself in this predicament and decide to end a relationship or convince yourself he will end things with you, take a day or two to cool off. Thoroughly assess the situation because you may be letting your thoughts and emotions take on a life of their own and thus be allowing for the creation of a reality that does not exist anywhere but in your mind. Take every experience and conversation for exactly what they are and leave suspicion, anxiety, and stress aside. All you will ever know for certain are those conversations and experiences at face value; everything else is unnecessary speculation and supposition causing you undue strain and anguish.
Entering a relationship and realizing that we are in love with someone is as frightening as it is thrilling because everyone is afraid of being hurt, whether they will admit it or not. We live in an age of divorce and a time where someone being on their third marriage doesn’t raise an eyebrow. Television shows and tabloid magazines are filled with stories of break ups and heartache. Even the most respected novels and timeless plays are filled with the eternal struggles of love, adultery, and betrayal. Taking all of this into account, it is no wonder so many of us are afraid to be happy though it is the sentiment we covet most or that so many of us expect the worst and question the world when thing are going well because that is just too good to be true. We become afraid to have feelings for someone or truly care for another person as deeply as we care for ourselves because we are terrified of getting hurt. We convince ourselves that what we feel is not real in order to avoid upset only to still end up feeling tremendous angst because our conscious and subconscious minds experience cognitive dissonance—we are so close to getting what we want the most which just so happens to simultaneously be our greatest fear. Concerned that they will hurt us, we instinctively persuade ourselves into believing that the relationship is not going to work out for a myriad of reasons, that we will inevitably be dumped, or that we hate them as opposed to love them. This allows us to retain the power over our hearts and feelings and so we end things in order to make it our decision not theirs and thus making the power ours as well. Being in love means admitting that we are powerless to this other individual which takes a lot of pride swallowing.
In assessing your decision to end a relationship, or your choice to stay in one for that matter, you must determine that your decision is rooted in sound judgment and facts of reality and not based on unfounded thoughts and emotions. We really have no control over anything but ourselves and so the best thing we can do is focus on the constants in our lives such as work, school, and close friends and we just must accept that the rest will fall into place one way or the other in due time. Ultimately, refrain from overthinking or personifying your emotions and just stay true to yourself in your most comfortable, confident, and productive state. If you can avoid allowing your thoughts to dictate your actions then the consequences of your behaviors will be the best outcomes not only for what you want in life, but for you truly need.