Sunday, February 2, 2014
Don't Assume Anything!
Photo credit: mrmac04 from morguefile.com
I was thinking recently how people get themselves in such messy situations when they rush things.
Flashback to an experience I had several years ago.
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 we parted ways.
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.
Overall, the whole situation speaks to the lesson "Don't assume anything." Which I think is best manifested by having a curiosity and openness to not knowing. Which isn't terribly easy all the time, but in my opinion, is the path of most joy and least misery.
Instead of assuming the other person is dating multiple people, or only dating you, you don't assume at all. Sometimes, things just naturally become clear over time. Other times, someone has to bring the issue up for direct discussion.
It seems to me that if you're opting to date multiple people at the same time, being upfront about that earlier in the process rather than later is better. I'm not talking on the first few dates here. But if you're spending more time together with someone, with the physical intimacy increasing, it only seems fair to be as clear as you can about where things stand.
On the flip side, if you are someone used to rejecting out of hand anyone who opts to date multiple people early on (the first month or two), you might consider rethinking that. My mid-20s novice self couldn't handle dating a woman who was seeing someone else, but if I were in the same situation now - knowing we had only been going out for about a month - I might handle it differently. We hadn't had sex yet, and I could have kept that in place for a little longer to see what happened between us. Yes, it's a bit of a blow to not be the only one, but again, we're talking a month here.
I say this only because there's a lot of unknowns in the dating world these days. It's easy to get trapped in absolute rules and approaches that may not be serving you.
Don't assume you know based upon X, Y, or Z. Be more curious and open to things not being exactly as you expect, or hope for.