Dating Scripts: A Personal Story

Miriam, who keeps churning out brilliant posts, just wrote an article on whether it makes sense to follow traditional dating scripts:

Conventional dating scripts are being challenged all the time, but they still cling to life in the form of movies, TV shows, Cosmo, and many other bits of culture. They also continue to drive the actions and desires of many people, albeit not of me and the people I hang out with.

Part of the reason for this, I think, is that they make things so deceptively easy. Dating outside of the conventions seems riskier, scarier. But in reality, it’s not. There’s so much joy and freedom in writing your own rules, or forgetting rules altogether. It opens up the possibility of meeting someone who likes to play by the same rules, or lack thereof, as you do.

I agree with Miriam completely and I wanted to share a personal story demonstrating why what she says makes a lot of sense.

N. and I met when he came to New Haven for a summer job. I had been planning to move to Canada for my last year of grad school, so we knew from the start that I would be moving to another country within three weeks. N. couldn’t (and still can’t) leave the US because of his visa issues, which we also knew from the start.

From the moment we met, we were so much into each other that we start living together on our second date. Now what you have to know about me is that I prefer to initiate everything during the dating process. I like to be the one who invites the man on a first date, initiates the first kiss and the first sexual contact, etc. That’s just who I am. It makes me happy. I’m a total find for a shy guy who is afraid of rejection and doesn’t know how to go about such things. N. is the perfect partner for me because he is precisely such a guy.

So I got the chance to initiate everything and we were both happy as clams. Then, the moment came for me to move to Canada. Since the relationship was going so well, I really wanted to move my stuff to Montreal and then come back to New Haven and stay with N. while he kept working his summer job.

Here, however, I decided to adopt the traditional female role of sitting there like a patient little wallflower and waiting to be invited to come back to New Haven. I didn’t do it because I enjoy this role. I actually hate it. And I didn’t do it because N. had given me any indication that he wanted me to be this way. He obviously doesn’t, or we wouldn’t be together still. So I waited to be asked. And he was waiting for me to show that I wanted to come back.

And then we waited some more. And some more.

Finally, when all of my stuff had been packed into the mini-van and I was on the doorstep, resigned to leaving and never seeing him again, N. blurted out:

“But don’t you want to come back and continue being together??”

Of course, I did come back and we hope to remain together forever.

It really scares me to consider that I almost lost the opportunity to be with somebody who was very obviously made for me because at a ripe old age of 31 I suddenly decided to fake being all passive and traditionally feminine. I was afraid that I’d scare N. away by being all pushy, in spite of how clear it had become that he liked my pushiness, which is an integral part of my personality.

So I agree with Miriam: all of these traditional behaviors and dating scripts are bunk. It makes no sense to force oneself into a role that one doesn’t enjoy. And what’s the point of attracting a partner by acting fake? It isn’t like one’s true nature won’t come out eventually.

Towards a Happy Personal Life: Maybe It Will Just Happen

The first step in making meaningful changes in your life involves gaining a better understanding of yourself in essential areas that impact your life. This self-knowledge can provide you with direction as you try to maximize your efforts at change. Self-knowledge can also help you be more efficient and focused — and more effective — in producing change because you’ll know precisely what you need to work on.

What I find very strange is that people have no problem working on, say, their Spanish or their writing skills. But in the realm of their personal life, they just sit there expecting things to happen magically on their own. And even the fact that nothing all too positive (or nothing at all) has happened on its own for almost a decade is not an indication to them that maybe something needs to be done.

I know quite a few people who keep whining and whining and whining about how they are lonely and miserable and everybody they meet turns out to be a jerk. Yet, do they do anything to figure out what’s wrong? Oh, no. In the realm of their personal lives, things need to happen on their own.

If a person goes to 20 job interviews but gets rejected every single time, chances are s/he will work hard on figuring out what it is that s/he is doing wrong, will work on his or her CV, try to pick up useful skills, etc. Will this hypothetical person keep going to interviews without even trying to understand why they aren’t working out? Better yet, will s/he just sit at home, waiting for an employer to find him or her through some miraculous intervention of benevolent forces?

The stupid romance novels and movies are to blame, folks. That and this horrible “everybody is special” and “love yourself the way you are” slogans. And this other one that goes something like “there is someone for every one”, or whatever. Brrrrrr.

I used to know this guy who was permanently alone and “there is someone for every one” was his favorite expression. His second favorite expression was “all women are bitches.” Of course, it was very obvious to everybody around him that had he resolved the issue making him want to denigrate women, he would not have needed to console himself with fantasies of some hypothetical woman appreciating him in spite of everything. But who needs all that hard work when you can just sit there, hoping that things will work out somehow in the end?

Towards a Happy Personal Life: A Step-by-Step Guide Out of Loneliness

I believe that in order to repair one’s personal life, it is first necessary to find out where the problem lies. Some people are lonely because they never meet anybody they like. Others meet plenty of people who interest them but their feelings are always unrequited. There are those who don’t have these issues but can never get past the second date, those who get abandoned right after they first have sex with a new partner, those who have many short-term relationships but can never translate them into long-term ones, those who keep getting cheated on, those who keep cheating, and so on. All of these folks have completely different issues and should look for completely different solutions. Lumping them all together under the umbrella label of “lonely” is not productive.

So here is the algorithm of how to define where your specific problem lies:

1. Do you meet people who attract you on a regular basis? If yes, move on to question 2. If no, ask yourself the following questions:

Is it possible you are depressed? Do you have serious health issues? Is your sexual drive OK? Are you taking any medication that depresses sex drive? Have you experienced some serious trauma (physical or psychological) recently? Are you a victim of sexual violence? Was there any form of sexual abuse in your childhood? 

These are all very serious issues that need to be addressed, confronted and resolved before you can expect to proceed any further.

2. Do the people you find attractive normally find you attractive, too? If yes, move on to question 3 (that will appear in the next post in the series). If no, consider the following:

A tendency towards unrequited feelings means you have a severe reluctance or fear of being in a relationship. Only you know where that comes from. I had this issue for a while and, in my case, it was a terror that any form of a mutual interest would lead me into a very serious long-term relationship I wasn’t ready for. This is why I kept choosing “impossible men.” They posed no danger for me. If your situation is at all similar to mine, giving yourself a permission to have many short-term flings in rapid succession really helps.

Just remember: this isn’t bad luck or coincidence. This also doesn’t mean that you are unattractive and nobody ever wants you. All that this string of unrequited episodes means is that you are choosing people who will not want you on purpose. There are tons of folks who are attracted to you right now but you are not seeing them. You are fulfilling your need for rejection. And only you can know why you have this need. The moment you figure out why you do this, you will immediately discover all of those people who do find you very attractive.

And we all still remember that there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be single, right? These posts are aimed only at those who don’t want to be single and are interested in exploring how they could improve their dating lives.

I will continue the algorithm in the following posts in the series.

Towards a Happy Personal Life: Learning to Be Happy on Your Own

Let’s now continue the fascinating discussion started by blogger Miriam:

Similarly, people are expected to be “happy on their own” before they can be dateable. That’s preposterous. If you’re 100% happy being single, why would you need a serious partner in the first place?

As we discussed in the previous post in this series, wanting “a serious partner” is in itself deeply problematic. Wanting to have a serious partnership with your boyfriend James or your girlfriend Lisa is, I believe, the only healthy approach. Nobody can be expected to be “a” partner for you. A desire for a partnership or a relationship should not come before a desire for an actual human being. If it does, you are not ready for a relationship. At least, not for a healthy one. You can, of course, find another seeker of “a serious partner” and get involved with them. I can guarantee, though, that within a very short time you will drive each other nuts with endless demands, nagging, sulks, fights, etc.

Now, let’s address the issue of whether you should learn to be happy on your own before becoming ready to date. In my opinion, yes, absolutely. Looking for a person to solve your psychological issues and fill a vacuum in your life is wrong. If you do that, it means you are planning to use a person before you’ve even met them. Another person can never solve your issues and fill your vacuum. No matter how much they give you, it will never be enough.

Recently, I quoted a post by a young woman who met a man of her dreams. They were very obviously made for each other. However, she had severe emotional issues she tried to resolve through him. As we can all guess, they are not together any more. Using one’s partner as an emotional crutch, a psychotherapist, a parental figure, or a wet-nurse is never a good idea.

I maintain that the best-case scenario is one where you are having a great time being single, then fall in love with a person, and have an even better time being partnered with them. A moment comes in one’s life when you say to yourself, “I have so much, why not share it with someone?” And from there a healthy relationship will grow. If, however, you say, “My existence is so incomplete. Let me get what’s missing out of another person (whom I’ve never even met but whose role in my life is already defined by my unfulfilled needs)”, I can’t see happiness ensuing as a result.

Towards a Happy Personal Life: Is It Unhealthy to Want Someone?

I have received many grateful messages for my series of posts on dating. This makes me think I should continue discussing issues people may confront as they attempt to build their personal lives. Today, I am inaugurating a new series called “Towards a Happy Personal Life.”

Blogger Miriam makes the following observations on her blog*:

Similarly, people are expected to be “happy on their own” before they can be dateable. That’s preposterous. If you’re 100% happy being single, why would you need a serious partner in the first place? Why is it considered unhealthy to really, really want someone to share your life with?

I believe that addressing these concerns is crucial for anybody who is currently on a journey towards personal, romantic and sexual happiness.

Let me start with the last of the questions Miriam poses:

Why is it considered unhealthy to really, really want someone to share your life with?

I am one of those people who considers this unhealthy and who always fled at a fast pace from folks “wanting someone to share their lives”. It is wrong to want “someone” because nobody wants to play the role of “someone” in your life. People normally hope to be wanted not in the capacity of just someone but, rather, individually. Wanting a specific, concrete John, Anna, Daniel, or Pepita is healthy. Imagining a relationship and then trying to massage live human beings you meet into this vision of what you want your personal life to look like scares people away.

In the course of my long and eventful dating life, I met quite a few folks who were looking for someone, for a relationship, for marriage, for commitment. Every single time, these people turned out to be completely toxic as romantic partners. They were incapable of caring about me, a specific, concrete human being with a multitude of issues, problems, distinctive features, etc. They needed a “someone”, an actor to play the part of a romantic interest in the scenario they had created for themselves. This made them completely incapable of loving another person. They loved the idea of having a partner. The actual partner, however, was a lot less exciting to them.

So here is my advice: stop wanting “someone”, stop creating scenarios of relationships in your head. Look around yourself, identify a specific Jill or Jack you like and concentrate on wanting them. If there isn’t anybody like that and hasn’t been for a while, this means you have a serious problem that you need to address.

* None of this is supposed to be a personal criticism of Miriam who is a blogger I highly respect.

(To be continued. . .)

How Shoes You Wear Affect What Kind of Men You Date

And this is the most recent weird ad I found:

As strange as this ad is, I have to confess that in terms of shoes, I’m definitely number 3 from the top. I have very sensitive feet and prefer ballet flats to any other kind of shoe. And the guy that corresponds to those shoes on this graph is really my kind of guy. My eyes immediately go to him out of all these men. Hmmm. . .

Are you noticing any similarities between your preferences in shoes and in men?

Dating Advice, Part III

My third piece of advice is to stop counting. Applying arithmetic to your romantic life might make you feel in control but that’s a very unhealthy illusion. The greatest challenge of our romantic lives is that we do not control them. The sooner you accept the idea that you can do everything right many times in a row and still not end up in a blissful relationship as a result, the better. And do I need to tell you how crucial relinquishing control is for achieving sexual fulfillment? All of those anorgasmic people of both genders are the ones who are terrified of relinquishing control.

So forget all the silly advice about counting the number of days you need to wait before calling up a person for a second date or counting the number of dates before you allow yourself to have sex. If you need to call the person, just do it. If you are afraid of looking needy by calling too soon, consider the following: shouldn’t you aim for a partner whose neediness matches yours? Why would you want to start a relationship with someone who has a much weaker need for company than you do? Besides, nobody can transform themselves completely for each new date without suffering a nervous breakdown. Trying to anticipate the needs of a complete stranger to the detriment of your own is not a road to happiness.

The same goes for sex. The only good time to have sex is when you feel like doing it. What’s the point of getting involved with someone whose sexual temperament or sexual morality are completely different from yours? If you don’t feel like having sex for the first six months of the relationship, just be open and unapologetic about that. If you feel like having sex six hours after the first date, I suggest you do the same. Of course, I’m talking about cases when people are in tune with their sexuality and can distinguish genuine sexual desire or lack thereof from the need to manipulate a partner.