So…what are we?”
Ever since college, I’ve struggled with this whole dating thing. Miscommunication. Misplaced expectations. Hurt feelings. These are often the result of an (over)complicated dating life.
After taking a few steps back and analyzing the dynamics that comprise our current dating world, I’ve determined too many women are involved in the sport of dating without having a clue as to the rules of the game. Ladies, if you wonder why you’re locked up in your apartment eating ice cream and watching Law & Order marathons for the past few weekends, you should read this.
Here are 5 signs you’re probably the #1 culprit in complicating your dating life…
But, before I begin, here’s a story I’m sure we have all heard before…
I remember overhearing a conversation between two female classmates regarding a guy that had apparently committed a big dating no-no. The guy asked one of the girls out to dinner. They had a great time, great conversation, and agreed to reconnect soon. Two days later, while at the movies with a group of friends, she spots him on what appeared to be a date. When he noticed her, he became tense and gave a strained smile while she gave him some serious side-eye. When he called the next day, she ignored his calls, told her friends he was a player, and took the liberty of smearing his name around campus.
It Hurts Because You’re Doing It Wrong…
While I’d like to put the onus all on men to correct behaviors and make right our world of dating wrongs, I can’t do so in good conscience. I was shocked and confused by my classmate’s simple-minded thinking. Not only was she short-sighted and unrealistic, she involved other people in her nonsensical response. Years after hearing that conversation, I continued to ponder why dating gets so complicated when it’s meant to be simple:
1. Starting with unspoken limits
We have to realize that dating is an activity, and until a title is determined, you’re in an “activity-ship.” Most of the time, we start feeling a sense of ownership or possessiveness about a guy long before we even know his middle name. That’s why we don’t want friends to date him even though we may determine there’s no real chance for a relationship to blossom between us. We expect commitment long before the relationship even starts, if it would start at all.
When you first begin dating someone, there aren’t limits unless they are discussed and agreed upon. Unspoken expectations tend to yield confusion and feelings of betrayal. We often create these “if/then” relationships: If he asks me out again, then he must really like me and want me as his girlfriend. If he takes me around his friends or family, then we must be exclusive. If he’s sleeping with me and says I’m amazing, then he definitely isn’t sleeping with someone else.
Communication is key and until expectations/boundaries are discussed, assume things are fluid and free. He can date other women just as you can explore your options with other men. That’s precisely why it’s called dating.
2. Living tomorrow vs. today
We often don’t give ourselves or other people a chance to determine if there’s compatibility or a potential for a future. That’s because we bypass today and start daydreaming about tomorrow. We think about marriage, kids, possibilities of where we’d live and how we’d live. We pull friends into our premature fantasies, and unfortunately instead of snapping us back to reality, they usually chime in with a few premature thoughts of their own.
The goal of dating isn’t just to meet new people but also to understand yourself. Focusing on today means learning what drives, motivates, and interests you.
You should ask yourself some questions. What are your negotiables and non-negotiables? How well do you communicate your feelings? Are you open-minded when your partner communicates their feelings?
If you spend too much time living in the future world you’re crafting in your head, you miss the chance to learn and grow in the real dating world. You cannot speed into commitment with a man you barely know and then act surprised when you find yourself married to a stranger.
3. Reacting with anger and responding with fear
Okay, I have to put equal responsibility on both genders for this one. Reflecting back on my earlier example, why did my female classmate feel justified for her feelings of betrayal and hurt? Why did the guy respond as though he was doing something wrong?
Guys, when you react like a caught criminal, women will feel betrayed because your action or response validates our feelings. Trying to hide or runaway as though you’ve committed some horrible act justifies our reactions. If you’re doing nothing wrong, why are you acting like you are? I’m sure that question sounds familiar to many of you.
4. Getting intimate too soon
This is pretty straight-forward, right? We have to pull back from being so open with a guy after just meeting him – both emotionally and physically.
If you offer all of yourself to any man willing to buy you a steak, what will be left for the man most deserving of your intricacies and complexities? When we live in the fairytale and make assumptions based on if/then factors, we miss enjoying the experience. Don’t fuel your actions with emotions, dismissing more appropriate sense and logic.
Because guys aren’t as quickly blinded by feelings when dating us, the situation can become lopsided. We wait for texts and calls and feel a certain way when they aren’t received. We start wondering if he’s with someone else when not with us and we feel abandoned. Maybe it’s because he called us “beautiful” and sold us dreams of forever. Maybe we’ve bypassed meaningful in a rush to physical (which is largely why we feel possessive).
Regardless, dating is about the journey and what one learns along the way. Be present and in the moment, without giving up so much of your power. Don’t rely solely on words but actions too. Reserve the right to stop feeling until the RIGHT guy is emotionally and intimately invested in you.
5. Allowing competition and control to drive you
I really (really) hate to admit this, but in the past I’ve definitely fought for relationships even when: a). I knew it wasn’t the best thing for me, and b). I didn’t know if I ultimately wanted to be with the guy.
Even Olivia Pope‘s associates have nothing on a woman with a possessive nature and competitive spirit. We are gladiators that will fight for something, even if we haven’t determined its purpose or priority in our lives. Don’t become so focused on winning someone that has yet to prove a prize for your life.
Maybe you don’t want another woman to “have” him, or maybe you’ve already sold the fantasy of your relationship to your friends and you fear looking a certain way to your social circle. Regardless, your basis for pursuing a relationship with a man cannot be simply to “win.”
Let’s be honest with ourselves and assess whether we’re dating right or whether we’re dating wrong…and in doing so, UN-complicate our dating lives!
Have you ever overcomplicated a dating situation? What are some other ways to simplify dating?
This post was written by Renita Bryant and originally shared on Renita’s Mynd Matters. She is the author of the critically acclaimed novella, Yesterday Mourning. You can follow her on Twitter and read her blog on life & relationships.