Tuesday, January 21, 2014

He's Not Interested. She's Not Interested.

Photo credit: jade from morguefile.com

So, you're doing the whole online dating thing. Say you're a woman who has been writing some guy and he seems interested. Maybe you've talked on the phone, and even gone on a first date. It all appears to be going in the right direction. And then - poof! He's gone. What happened?

Unless someone tells you directly why they've chosen to stop contacting you, the answer to that question is always another question: "who knows?" In fact, even if someone tells you something directly, it might not be the truth. Or the full truth anyway.

Being a student of meditation, I have become familiar with the way the human mind likes to work. And one thing it desires whenever facing something unpleasant is resolution. Usually in the form of an answer. Or set of answers.

Now, there's nothing wrong with thinking that someone disappeared because "he/she wasn't interested." Or that "he/she must have met someone else." Either of those answers might very well be true. And no matter what you do, chances are that you're brain will produce that kind of story to help sooth your feelings.

The problem, in my view, comes when you 100% believe in the story. A story that, if not told to you directly from the other person, you can't 100% prove is correct.

Further trouble comes when you take this same story and begin applying it to everyone who does something similar.

I can hear a few readers shouting "But that's just common sense, using the past to predict the present." To which I'd like to say "Yes, but also remember that everyone is different as well."

Here's the thing. If you have decided that you want to move on from someone, then thinking something like "he/she isn't interested" is useful. It might be the very thing to help you detach from any emotional connection that may have developed.

However, there's a big difference between using an answer like that to help you move on, and allowing an answer like that to dictate how you're going to respond to someone who you're still interested in.

Letting assumptions control your behavior often leads to missed opportunities and shoddy connections.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard or read a woman describe a dating situation where a guy didn't write or call her back within a few days, and she decided "he wasn't interested," I'd be rich. Filthy rich. This kind of narrative seems less common amongst men, but I have to say that I was guilty of writing off at least a few women in the past as "not interested" for not responding quick enough.

Given that "traditional" dating patterns aren't a given these days, it's incumbent upon us - regardless of gender - to be a little more assertive. That might mean being the one who makes the next move, even if the old rules say you should wait X number of days or you're a woman, and that means letting the man do the contacting. You can disagree with me about this, but I feel like a lot of that stuff is just game playing. It may have served folks well when roles were more fixed, but now it's less likely to.

Whatever you do though, the biggest point remains to question your assumptions. And to make a conscious decision about what to believe and/or what to do in a dating situation.

It's your mind's nature to want answers. If there's a lack of a clear answer, it will make something up. Learning to hang without an answer when there isn't one, or only a partial one, is a major dating and relationship skill. As is choosing to act based on reality, as opposed to your fears or other mental scripts.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Why Deal Breaker and Must Have Lists Aren't That Helpful for Daters

Photo credit: cohdra from morguefile.com

A lot folks, when asked about their ideal mate, have a list of particular physical characteristics, set of basic qualities like having a sense of humor or being intelligent, and perhaps something about the person's career or level of income. In addition, many people will have another list (either revealed or in the back of their mind) of similar kinds of deal-breakers. The "I don't want no liars, cheaters, drug users, players, living in mama's basement and smoking pot" type lists.

Now, there's nothing really wrong with these lists per se. But do they really do much in terms of helping us find a quality partner?

When I was doing online dating, I found most of these kind of lists rather useless. A few things, like a check in favor of drug use or smoking, were helpful in weeding people out. However, with qualities like honesty, intelligence, humor, and the like, only time spent with someone can really flush them out.

The modern dating world makes us prone to doing the one or both of the following:

1. Rushing to judgment, usually based on a very limited sample of facts. (One or two dates.)

2. Zeroing in on a single area of a person's life, and failing to take in the whole person.

While there's a lot of good advice these days around rejecting "instant chemistry," the way I see it, many of us replace the search for instant chemistry with the search for someone with "financial stability," "good humor," or "wicked smartness." Others simply expand the criteria to include several "must have" qualities, while failing to realize or remember that great relationships are much more than the sum of some list. Or set of lists.

In addition, a lot of us make the mistake of thinking what we WANT is the same as what we NEED. Or that what we want in our lives will always be the same.

Many of the qualities I want in a partner today would not have been on my list 10 years ago. I can imagine the same is true for many of you reading out there.

At the end of the day, any list can only be a base level guideline. It can't save you from heartache, nor can it really help you reflect deeply enough about someone you're dating, and whether or not they could be a good match.