Stop Making Dating So Hard

You know you want to.

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Lucas Ludwig on Unsplash

Just so you know, I have no answers. So if you are looking for some, I apologize in advance. What I do have is observations and suggestions, and a personal story or two.

We are all subject to our emotions, which can be triggered by any number of things, some of which we are aware and some we are not. As self aware as I try to be, there are reactions I have to certain people on first or second or third dates that I have no explanation for, at least right away.

If I am drawn to you, that may be so even if we would not get along well long term. For instance, I am drawn to organized, buttoned-down guys at first, largely because I am the opposite. And opposites do attract, if only because we admire in others what we wish for in ourselves. It’s called an Imago, which is partly seeing our shadow side, as in a fun house mirror. In like manner, buttoned-down types are drawn to my free spirited, unpredictable ways, and my effervescent personality. Until they aren’t.

When that time comes, they want to change me or “help” me. Never mind that I have been me a really long time and am generally happy with who I am. Sometimes I am glad for the help. One guy would make my bed, and since my love language is acts of service, I didn’t take that as a criticism (even though it probably was one). It felt and looked nice.

Jason Abdilla on Unsplash
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Steven Ungermann on Unsplash

I am also open to suggestions as to how to make my life more organized and therefore better. But it doesn’t usually stop there. They then want to know if I have implemented the suggestions, and if not, why not, and when will I. Okay bye.

I’m sure I have also been guilty of trying to change them by getting them to loosen up. And, like me with organizing help, they probably actually want help to be more free-spirited. That’s their Imago. If we acknowledge the joys of sharing our strengths with one another, then birds can sing and rainbows can appear, and love might grow from lust and infatuation. If, instead, either of us really wants a different version of the other, then we won’t feel seen or heard, much less appreciated.

One suggestion for this scenario is to find out early what differences there are and discuss them. Infatuation focusses on what we have in common, but that is not the predictor of happiness we think it is. Focus on the differences to enrich each other and the relationship, and to grow and evolve. But also to discover if the differences are so great that we will eventually be more frustrated than infatuated. And if so, move on and let them find someone with whom they are more compatible.

Sometimes creative, free-spirited types get together. I am equally drawn to artists and musicians (yes, I have eclectic tastes), and they to me. However, creative people often need emotional support, which is fine, and one of the things a relationship can help provide. But what if only one of the people in the relationship supplies the emotional support for the other’s creativity and receives none or little for their own? This might happen because of professional jealousy, or time and energy constraints, or downright selfishness on the part of one of the partners. Whatever the reason, emotional support has to go both ways for a relationship to work. How do we know this when first dating? We don’t. Once again, clear questions must be asked, and behaviors must match words.

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Nicole Harrington on Unsplash

Another big issue in dating is what each person is looking for. Dating apps have categories where you can list whether you are looking for a relationship, something casual, not sure yet, or new friends (one presumes with benefits). However, I have found these aren’t reliable. Someone might list Relationship because they figure that is how to get the most responses. Others list Casual, but are actually hoping to find something that will develop. Even so, it’s best to swipe right only on the ones who match what you are looking for. It’s still a roll of the dice, but it evens the odds. And, if you are someone who doesn’t know what you want yet, then only swipe on those that say the same thing. For someone who doesn’t know or who wants casual, hooking up with someone looking for a relationship is asking for trouble.

This all sounds self-explanatory, right? Then why do so many of us get it wrong? That’s partly due to confirmation bias. If we meet someone online who says they want what we want, we keep that stuck in our minds, even when the other person is showing by actions exactly the opposite. That doesn’t take into account that maybe that person just doesn’t want that particular kind of relationship with YOU. But the sex is good. Or you have fun together. So neither of you want to end it. It also doesn’t take into account that people and preferences change and grow with time and exposure. Maybe what you each want will come together as you date each other. But that leads to waiting too long for those paths to merge for some of us. My suggestion if you find yourself in a waiting game is to move on. We actually do have limited time on the planet. Don’t waste any of it waiting for someone to decide to be what you want.

All of these scenarios, and all others in dating, require communication. And I am preaching to myself here as well. Although I communicate for a living, I find that there are questions I am not eager to ask at the start of dating someone. Why? Maybe I’ve already decided what I want with them and am afraid they don’t want the same. Maybe I am afraid to scare them off with too many deep discussions too soon. Plus, it’s fun to just go with the flow at the start, at least for those of us who aren’t the buttoned-downs. It’s nice to have an interim of feeling the butterflies and the rapid heartbeat without the need to examine right away. And yet, jumping on that carnival ride without checking if you are both tall enough to ride, is exactly what leads to misunderstandings later on.

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Paolo Nicolello on Unsplash

Psychotherapist, Hypnotherapist. Leans Left. Mindfulness practioner before it was cool. M.Ed., LPC.

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