Friday, September 23, 2011

Dating Anger

I was out with a friend last night, talking about relationships, and the topic of anger came up. While we discussed various ways about how anger can manifest and cause trouble, I had a flashback to a woman I dated several years ago. More specifically, the flashback involved how I responded to her telling me she was sleeping with another guy.

Here's the basic set up. We had been dating about a month. We got along pretty well, and things appeared to be heading towards a committed relationship. Given that I'm not into "juggling dates," I had stopped going to the online dating sites, and had told the other two women I was writing to that I had started seeing someone. Judging by her increased interest in spending time with me, as well as the increased physical intimacy, I assumed she had done the same. Turns out that wasn't the case.

As a relative newbie to online dating back then, and also someone who really didn't have much experience dating outside of my "friend and acquaintance pool," I was unprepared for the kind of issues that can come up when you date people you have no prior connection with.

So, there we were, sitting at a coffee shop having a conversation, and I must have brought up something about her being "my girlfriend" or something of the sort.

And she says "But I've been seeing so and so as well."

"What?" (with confused look)

"Oh, I've been spending Fridays with so and so, and Saturdays with you."

Tensely, trying to hold it together, I respond, "But I thought we were becoming a couple?"

"Well, I like you a lot" (touches my hand) "but I don't know if you're "the one?"

"How can you know something like that for sure after a month?"

"I don't know." (looks away) "I didn't think it was a big deal. Are you angry?"

I pause, briefly surveying the room as my body began shaking. "No. No. I'm not angry."

"You seem angry?"

"No. I'm not."

"I'm sorry. I just don't know."

About ten minutes later the relationship was over.

Looking back on this situation now, there are plenty of signs and missteps that were taken. First of all, there were the assumptions both of us made that ultimately led to things unraveling. Next, there were the signs I missed that clearly pointed to something not being quite "right" about the relationship unfolding. Friday wasn't the only day marked off on her calendar. I actually only had two or three evenings to choose from to spend time with her. And I had no idea what she did with the rest of her free time. In addition, she didn't really make a lot of contact in between dates - it seemed like I was often the one initiating contact. At the time, I thought it was because she wanted me to "chase her," to be "the man," but obviously that wasn't the issue really.

And then there's the anger during that conversation. Back then, I was highly attached to an image of myself as a guy who is basically nice, kind, and respectful. I really loathed those men who screamed at their girlfriends or wives, and who basically had no control over their anger. Unfortunately, though, I was almost the opposite. I tended to stuff or minimize anger, to the point where it actually sucked some of the life out of me. My confidence was shoddy. I too willingly placed my needs to the side to support others, including the women I dated. And then would have these occasional angry outbursts over usually quite trivial things, which when they came within a dating situation, often were surprising for the person I was to dating experience.

This particular incident is an almost comical expression of that. But it would be another three to years before I would start to see the pattern, and make changes in my life as a result.

One of the main things I took out of the work I did around anger and relationships is that much of it was tied to the assumptions I would make and then believed in wholeheartedly, even when there was evidence to the contrary. And I have to say that in more recent years, I have had much less anger drama in my relationships because I make fewer assumptions, and hold those assumptions I do make in a much looser, lighter hand. And I'm more honest, in general, when I'm not happy with something going on.


  1. Hi Nathan!

    I've been reading your blog for a while and like your perspective on dating. I just broke up with the man I was dating for 8 months. The first six months were perfect(vacation, weekends, seeing each other regularly, future plans, etc). As soon as I asked him if we're gf/bf, he tells me he's not looking for a relationship of any sort. Yet, he still wanted to keep on dating me. I hung in there for two more months, thinking things would change, but it was no use. I told him I couldn't keep doing this anymore. He was sad that I decided to stop dating him. What made me angry was that he never once mentioned, when we started going out, that he was only interested in something casual. We were friends before we started dating. What I did noticed, when we had the talk, is that he's never been in a LTR relationship. Longest time he's dated someone was eight months (me).

  2. Hi,

    It's disappointing that he wasn't clear with you about what he wanted, and I would have done the same in terms of the break up. The lack of LTR history is definitely an area of concern. How old is he?

    I do think it's possible for someone without an LTR history to become a great partner, but they have to want it, and be willing to make the effort.

    This is one of the tricky things about dating these days. Many people in their late 20s, 30s 40s, and 50s, who you'd think would be aiming for something long term, are instead opting to mess around for years on end. Sometimes, there's this hope that something casual will turn into something more - that they won't have to make a choice. Maybe you're ex was in that group. And sometimes it's just people who don't want to commitment.

  3. Hi!

    My ex and I are both in our early 30's. You're right Nathan; what made me angry and dissapointed was that he wasn't clear to me in the beginning. Although I don't regret the time I spent with him, I would have prefer for him to be honest, specially since we were friends prior to dating. The last time he had a gf was in his early 20's, and that lasted only 5 months (according to him). He's really stressed that he's in his 30's (he told me this).

    I like your blog and Evan's blog. Is good to get a man's perspective on dating and relationships. I've got a lot of good advice from both blogs.

  4. That's definitely a long gap between girlfriends. It might be that he doesn't know how to change the "casual" pattern - getting used to not having someone in your life can make it hard to have someone in your life.

    I've noticed that a lot of us in our 30s who aren't either in long term relationships or marriages have some stress around being single. In addition, there is often a sense that we can't really "screw around" anymore - that the pass society gave us to play, experiment, and make mistakes in our 20s is gone. That goes for careers, relationships, personal finances, and the rest. It's a really heavy story, and one that I think isn't very helpful.

    I don't know what you're ex is stressed about exactly, but it just sounds familiar. And I just hope that whatever it is, that he figures out a way to feel lighter about it all.

  5. Yeah, this post is real good for angry people who never went into proper dating. You just have to leave your Anger and have to deal with your partner very carefully.

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  6. There are relationships that is good at the start but in few months pass by it will become cold. But I think to prevent this to happen, dating will be the one way to make a relationship alive. Like on putting a date in every weekends or at free time, especially on Monthsary or Anniversary.

  7. that must have been awful, a woman telling me that sh's been sleeping with another man!!! i'd have gotten crazy mad about her.

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