Ah, the world of love. It’s my least favorite thing to write about, but is by far my most requested topic. Guys ask for my input because I’m a girl. Girls ask my for input because the vast majority of my friends are dudes. I guess my equal love for both my endless shoe collection and the WWE yields some sort of perceived balance. But there is no formula. There are no rules. Most of the lessons learned from love end up being about you as individual, your relationship with someone/something outside of you, and universal truths. To me, it doesn’t appear radically different from how most of life’s lessons are learned . So when it comes to love, why do we insist on trying to figure “it” out? Why do we examine what we are doing “wrong”? The insight that I regurgitate to friends who are “on break” with a significant other or single-but-not-quite-ready-to-mingle is now readily available below.
Exclusive, unwarranted advice from a complete non-expert who learned (and re-learned) some of these the hard way. Here is my Lucky 7: Relationship Myths Addition.
1) It’s Social Media’s Fault: Countless articles on dating in the age of technology have surfaced, advising us on how to navigate the social media ecosystem and the dating scene at the same time. How do you navigate both? I say, try not to.
Having constant accessibility to someone’s virtual presence literally at our finger tips in a fairly new phenomenon. But aren’t we giving the social media boom a little too much power? Technological breakthroughs have been happening for centuries. We didn’t exactly jump from carrier pigeons to iPhones without any sort of graduation. If you were wondering what someone was up to before social media was invented, you used to ask them. Now, you can ask them, OR you can take actual time out of your real life trying to deduce what they’re doing based on the timestamp of their latest Facebook post or who they’re tweeting at. Just because social media has made option #2 possible doesn’t mean that it’s the right option. When the typewriter was invented, it wasn’t natural for people to send hundreds of letters to the same person in a single day because they could, was it? Looking at your ex’s page to see if they’ve “downgraded” since your break up or not probably isn’t the best use of your time. There’s a reason “unfriending my ex” sounds right and “following my crush” does not. There’s no need to abstain entirely, but if it’s consuming you or you’re using it to justify bad habits, it’s time to log off for a bit.
2) This One Night Stand Is Different: No, it’s not. I’ve never really been a huge proponent of the one night stand, much less, stringing them together. I’m not just saying that because my parents are probably reading this (hi mom), it just was never something that appealed to me. This is NOT a judgement against people who do participate. Your sex habits have a 0% effect on my life (+/-0%). But, if you’re going to sign up for a one night stand, you are going to end up with a one night stand. Just because you both had the same favorite cereal the next morning or your moms have the same middle name doesn’t mean that this is the “real thing.” I actually know a few people that had romances born out of one night stands, and NONE of them went into that evening looking for a relationship. If you’re seeking out a one night stand, make sure you’re not attempting something more and pretending “you’re totally cool with it.” There’s no shame in wanting more, but trying to manipulate what the other person perceives as one night of fun is, well, manipulative. You’d be starting your relationship off with a lie from the first drink.
3) All Men Are Cassanovas And All Women Want To Be Wifey’d Up: I don’t have a lot of insight on this one other than that real life is not a bad 90’s sitcom. (Women DO want to have sex sometimes, Deborah from Everybody Loves Raymond). There is a trend that ladies seek out relationships more than gents, and that’s probably undeniable. But like all trends, it’s based on socialization and what your friends think is cool, not on a difference in capabilities of men and women. Also like all trends, you’ll probably outgrow this mentality. You’re not still wearing modeling your clothes after Saved By The Bell, are you? I know plenty of guarded, jaded women who are allergic to relationships and plenty of needy men who want to be just want to be loved. Neither extreme is cool or healthy, and we’re all inclined to bend one way or another. I’ve traveled towards both ends of the spectrum, and it seems like you can shed either skin through maturity. Balance is pretty neat and gender neutral.
4) The Crap In Your Head Matches Reality And What’s In The Other Person’s Head: Hypotheticals are a bad neighborhood. Don’t go there. Dating can draw out your insecurities, and one of the biggest dating crimes you can commit is projecting them onto another person or a relationship. Whenever anyone comes to me with dating issues, I always tell them to work from a place of fact; the things that have actually happened instead of the junk you’re generating in your head. Focus on what someone said rather that “what they meant by that”. Think about what that person did instead of what they didn’t do. Remember that you’re dealing with this person in the present, not their past mistakes or someone who hurt you in the past because “all men/women are the same.” I’m not inviting you to ignore your instincts–they are there for a reason. But, I am suggesting that you don’t let the noise in your head dictate the actions you take with someone. Listen closely: That voice is probably echoing your insecurities back at you.
5) Texting Habits Are Indicative Of More Than How Someone Texts: One of my friends texted me the other day saying that she hadn’t heard from the guy she’s dating in an hour, and it feels like he’s “really checked out on her” because of that. I responded to that text message four hours later, and it wasn’t the slightest bit unsettling to her. We don’t need to put so much gravity behind each passing minute between text messages. Texting is strange because it’s virtually the only form of communication we have that lacks a finite ending. Some people don’t respond immediately to text messages. Maybe they’re busy, or maybe they’re trying to craft *the* best response to your perfectly worded, perfectly timed, waaaay over thought initial text. If an immediate answer is that important, give ’em a call. If you’re taking their silence as a sign that they don’t care about you, see #4. Some people do respond right away. Conversely, that doesn’t mean that their every movement hangs on their phone’s pending buzz. Maybe their life is centered around that little wonder device (guilty), or they’re worried they’ll forget to text you back at all if they put it off (guilty). There’s also a debate on how we text. Exclamation points and emoticons are too wildly excited (guilty on all counts), but periods are too serious. Are we such overanalyzers that we’ve made proper grammar the enemy? Keep in mind what’s significant with a significant other. If it’s a persistent issue, talk to them about it. Sometimes we need to communicate about how we communicate.
6) Other People’s Opinions Matter: Opinions from outside sources can be great. Third parties can sometimes see situations more objectively than the people who are caught up in it. Despite the value that can come from the viewpoints of family, friends, and articles you’ve stumbled across on fantastic blogs ;-), you know yourself better than anyone. Chances are you know your partner better than a third party does, too. Remember that at the end of the day, it’s your decision. Be clear about what you’re seeking out from others. Some people need honesty. Some people need support. Others need both. Just because you’re seeking outside wisdom doesn’t mean that you’re obligated to take anyone else’s advice. Similarly, it does not let you off the hook if you do take their advice and it doesn’t work out.
*Glaring exception: If someone raises concerns of physical or emotional abuse, and/or a genuinely concerned about your well being, be sure to listen. The people raising these concerns are people that want you to be happy. They wouldn’t introduce such darkness into the situation unless they absolutely had to. If they were doing so just to make you miserable, you may want to reconsider your friendships.
7) Relationships Validate Your Self Worth And Fixes All Of Your Problems: Building a life with someone can be great, but I’ve always been from the mindset that you should build out your life as an individual, too. If you don’t learn how to stand on your own two feet, how is someone adequately supposed to sweep you off of them? There’s something sensationally rewarding about taking ownership in something that belongs to you entirely. Whether it’s work, a hobby, a philanthropy, or something in between, it’s important to grow your individual self before you pair off. It will make you a better, less selfish partner. Otherwise, you’ll seek out attachment, not love, and your partner will be overextending himself/herself trying to fill your voids. Your purpose is not their problem. Knowing how to fulfill someone else’s desires and reach milestones together will be easier if you have experience doing so by yourself.
Owning your own life also gives you freedom to validate your self worth outside of a relationship context. There are a lot of rotten people who are in love and a lot of really wonderful single people. You are no less of a man or a woman if you aren’t in a relationship. In fact, you’re establishing more character by managing to go it alone.
So there you have it. A brief synopsis of what I’ve untangled about dating as a 20 something in New York City so far. Passed onto a bunch of 20 somethings who never asked and a few that did.