A friend of mine (married) recently chuckled as he said, “Oh I love that one story about the guy who went on a date with you and didn’t ask you anything about you. That’s my favorite.” I looked at him in complete deadpan calm and said, “That’s EVERY date.”
Truth is… the NUMBER one thing men do wrong on dates (are you paying attention, guys? This is it! You’re always asking and I’m here to tell you) – is using all the time to talk about themselves and never investing in getting to know the woman. Not engaging at all in getting to know who I am.
And I’ve tested this a bit. When on a date with a guy and having realized we’ve spent the last 10 minutes talking about him (partly because I ask…I really do want to learn about him!), I’ll use a counseling trick and let us sit in up to 30 seconds of silence (which, on a first date, is a LIFETIME, by the way) to see if he’ll fill the uncomfortable quiet with something meaningful. And 9 times out of 10, it’ll end with me having to pick the conversation back up with, yet, another question for him.
I’ve even tried just inserting facts about myself into conversation, unbidden. He’ll finish a story about his family and I’ll say something overwhelmingly smooth, like, “speaking of families, I’m the oldest of four kids…my dad’s a pastor…”… and then wait as the crickets play their symphony of discomfort around us.
A few times when the guy texted the next day to ask for another date after a first date I wasn’t thrilled with…I’d explain that I felt like he wasn’t particularly interested in getting to know me. One time, a guy came back with, “I know ALL about you! You’re the oldest of four kids! Your dad is a pastor!”
Good job, detective. You pieced that together from me TELLING YOU, did you? Sigh…
I suppose this isn’t just a male problem, per se… it’s a cultural problem that plagues us all – men and women.
We are increasingly self-absorbed and unaware. (which is a paradoxical combination, if you think about it.)
One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone is walking into a building/store/restaurant in front of you and instead of holding the door open for an extra 2 seconds to allow you in, they let it slam behind them. As if you weren’t even there.
And don’t talk to me about how chivalry is dead. Letting the door shut on the girl behind you goes way beyond chivalry (which, I don’t actually think has all the way died. It may be on life support, but there are still a few gentlemen out there opening doors and telling women they look pretty. Not many…but they’re out there.)
No – the reason people don’t hold doors open or ask questions on dates is, I think, not because we’re losing our sense of good manners…but we’re losing our sense of SPACE.
My brother posited a theory which I’m loving more and more (well…not LOVING in its application, but in its wisdom). He said… as we become increasingly drawn to the small space between our eyes and our smartphone, we’ve become ONLY aware of that small field of vision… so much so that, even if you’re not currently looking at your phone, you’ve trained yourself to be unaware of anything outside that zone of attention. The world, for all intents and purposes, is invisible.
I think he’s right.
As technology has grown, our awareness has narrowed. Noticing the beauty and peculiarity and intrigue around us has been replaced with apps that do just about anything we could ever want or need. No need to even make eye contact with the Starbucks barista… just swipe your phone and move along. If you play it just right, you might not even have to stop your game of Trivia Crack to get your drink. Walking to your car after grocery shopping? No need to look up… just use your app to find your car and then let another app tell you what route to take to your next location. Heck… there are apps to tell you how you slept and if it was a particularly restless night and your phone got lost in your sheets, just use your FitBit to find it.
I have no problem with technology, mind you. I love all my nifty apps. But, it seems if we want to have things/people in our life that MATTER, we’re going to have to make a concerted effort to look up from our screens and see the world around us… engage with it… ask it some questions. I know I’m not the first person to say this. But, I contend that this issue is part of what makes people BAD at dates.
You see…as the space we ‘live’ in has narrowed, so has our scope of interest and awareness. It’s like we’ve trained ourselves to only care about what’s right in front of us…what’s easily accessed… what doesn’t take any work or energy on our part.
Not only that… but our smartphones haven’t just made us stupid about things like mapping your way to a new location, but even knowing yourself. People depend so much on devices telling us what to do, where to go, what’s funny, what’s trending…that we spend less time in self-reflection and self-awareness. And if we can’t even be self-aware (a very sexy quality in a date, by the way), then how ever will we manage being “other aware?”
I suppose if all you’re interested in is getting me into bed, plying me with the drinks and talking about yourself all night might actually work. (I don’t know…that’s not really my thing).
But if what you want, ultimately, is to make a meaningful connection with someone and build the relationship to a place where it brings you pleasure and a deep-down satisfaction, …then you’re going to have to KNOW me. There’s no getting around it. So, why not start from the beginning? Move your attention from your virtual smartphone and engage the world around you….or at least across the table from you.
It’s easy to do. Ask questions! Anything, really. People love to talk about themselves, so you don’t even have to be particularly clever…just provide the conversational springboard and let narcissism do the rest.
The world of first dates would be infinitely different if people could begin to look away from their smartphones, look inside themselves, and then look at me. Eyes up here, folks.
Right, right, I can hear many of you reciting that over-used line, “It’s just a ‘Hallmark holiday’.”
Is Hallmark inherently evil?
Don’t thousands of companies latch onto holidays to boost sales? We’re capitalists!
We don’t hate Presidents Day because linens are discounted, do we?
Does Egyptian Cotton trump flowers and candy?
Perhaps you’d say, “It’s an invented holiday.”
OOooooooh, ok… not like those organic ones we’ve found while out farming the land. Right…
Maybe you’d respond with, “Why should someone else tell me when to show the person I love that I love him/her. I SHOULD be showing them all year ‘round!”
Go do that! Valentine’s Day isn’t keeping anyone from showering their loved ones with affection on the other 364 days of the year.
Are you afraid you’re going to think up a romantic gesture for your sweetheart and right when you’re about to leave her that note or give her that gift, you’ll get a firm knock on the door from the Valentine’s Day Police?
“Sir, …sir, are you aware that it’s April 12th? What were you THINKING? Loving your significant other is strictly forbidden. Any thoughts, words, or actions of amorous expression must wait until next February 14th. V-day LAW.”
Truth be told, Valentine’s Day isn’t making anyone do anything. It just is.
If there were such a thing as “Hug Day,” would you fold your arms and refuse free hugs? What about “Compliment Day?” or “Get $100 Day?” These are all good things… things that should not make people bitter, but excited!
The beautifully sweet thing about this holiday is this:
It’s one day a year, set aside, to celebrate love.
The most important thing in this life… ought to have a day…right?
I mean… even people who aren’t at all religious, let baby Jesus have a day. (That’s Christmas, y’all)
And hardly anyone turns away green beer on St. Patrick’s Day.
No one complains that the 4th of July FORCES them to play with fireworks and eat BBQ.
Why does Valentine’s Day get such a bad rap?
I think the answer is this: people resent the fact that they don’t have the love they most want.
Valentine’s Day shines a light on the places where we feel lonely or hurt. Stick with me for a moment.
– Married people who are unhappy in their marriages – hate the idea of a spotlight on love… because they are feeling that awful cringing pain of not feeling loved.
– Boyfriends and girlfriends in undefined, ambiguous relationships, don’t enjoy the holiday that breathes down your neck and whispers, “you know… you really ought to think about what you want, and what this is. …I’m just sayin’…”
Anyone who is at all unfulfilled in any relational way – feels the heat of a day whose focus is the very thing you want, but don’t fully have.
And I get that… if there was a day that celebrated designer clothes or cool cars or fancy big houses, …I might feel left out. Like, “hey – I want those things too… but, alas… not this year.”
The DIFFERENCE is that Valentine’s Day is about ALL love… not just the Rom-Com, smoochy, McDreamy, end-of-the-movie-swoon-worthy-speech, PDA, fluttery tummy, grand gesture, sweeping soundtrack, surprised by flowers and poems kind of love. Valentine’s Day is about so much more.
Those things are all fine…but they are one sliver of the story.
I propose… you look a little further.
Celebrating love doesn’t have to be a romantic love.
I know, I know…this sounds trite…you’ve heard it before, …but all those super classy corner tables/tents full of roses and cheap teddy bears don’t exactly scream equal opportunity love…they ONLY make us think of 2 groups:
1. gooey-eyed lovebirds – new to the sweetheart scene, and untarnished by the world. Or,
2. guilt-driven men in panic-mode, on their way home from work
But, I’d encourage you to look beyond the consumeristic piece of this holiday and contemplate the heart of it. Aha! The HEART! 😉
You really can take a step back and look at your life…and appreciate the love of your parents, you can ponder the love you have for your children. You can take an honest look at the friends, co-workers, roommates, neighbors, etc. in your life…and have a moment of happiness when you realize they are all gifts. And maybe, …maybe you’ll even be inspired to tell them so!?
And if you look around at your life, and you truly have NO one to love… then (and I’m not pandering… I mean this), reach out. Maybe that means seeking out friendship, maybe that means reconciling with someone who’s caused you pain or who was the recipient of your anger/distancing/etc. Maybe it means visiting a church to find a new community. Heck, come visit MY church!
I know you all probably get sick of me going on and on about how I still have hope for finding love… and I do. But today is about appreciating and celebrating the love you ALREADY have. I’m blessed to have so much love in my life – amazing friends (I mean, AMAZING), awesome family (who I can call ANYTIME when I need a ‘shoulder to cry on’), and the two most beautiful, creative, sweet children a person could hope for. So, on a day made to honor love… I am full to the brim. 🙂
Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you!
I was talking with my kids the other day about love. Yes – this is what life is like in the Stone family… is anyone really surprised? When I asked my daughter, “how can you tell if someone loves you?” this was her answer: “Because he’ll be mean to you.” *record scratches* Wai….wha….huh??? Where have I gone wrong in my parenting? How have I failed her so? With pained eyes and a pleading furrowed brow, I asked her to tell me why she thought that. She went on to tell me a story – that inspired this post. See, there’s this bully at Charlotte’s school. For the purposes of protecting his identity, let’s call him ‘douche-face.’ Oh…am I not allowed to call a 7-year old that? Fine… FINE! We’ll call him Jordan. Jordan has picked on Charlotte (that’s her REAL name…isn’t it pretty? Yup – just like she is) for a couple of years now. He’s a real piece of work. One time last year, I had to come to the school to pick her up early after an ‘incident’ where he acted very inappropriately and the school had to write it up. They were great about it – he, on the other hand, is a predator in the making… So, apparently, this last year, after some skirmish on the playground, Charlotte told a teacher what was happening, and the teacher’s response to her was that “Jordan probably just has a crush on you. When boys like little girls, they’re mean to them.” Let’s hear that again: “When boys like girls, they’re mean to them.” Ok – let the record show that I HATE this. [The record shall so reflect.] I do not think there’s a fine line between flirting and bullying. I think it’s a wide highway of bad choices. And it’s why some grown men think that insulting a woman will win her heart. Or, in extreme cases, it’s a slippery slope to an abusive relationship. I know, I know… it’s true that little kids often display their burgeoning romantic feelings with teasing… out of an immaturity of understanding relationships. I remember those days. I get it. I really do. Insert funny caveat here… (yes – click this and watch). My problem isn’t so much with the occurrence of that immaturity, but the way we TEACH it to the girls. Thanks to one teacher’s misguided philosophy of love, my daughter has now been given an incorrect (or at the very least, an incomplete) message, by a grown up, about how love works. Yes – A message. We all collect messages as we grow up, that help shape what we believe about the world around us. Heck – aren’t the college years basically just a time to sort out which messages we’ll keep and which we’ll dismiss? Between parents/families, school, friends, civic organizations, churches, etc., we all get an enormous amount of data about how things are – social mores, rules of conduct, ways to think about finances, love, work, sex, and on and on it goes. So, now my daughter has another data point that says – “boys show you they like/love you by being mean.”
Let’s just consider the implications of this: 1. Because it’s a sign of their deep affection, being treated unkindly should be allowed, perhaps even enjoyed. So – don’t be upset that someone’s hurting you. In fact… maybe you could learn to like it – since, after all, it’s a sign he likes you. Awesome message to give a little girl. And we wonder why our young women are in and out of therapy later in life. A corollary assumption would be: Boys/men don’t know how to express affection, so either put up with their meanness, or take it on as your own project to change them. And I think we can all agree that a woman trying to change a man – is a recipe for relational disaster.
(A note about boys/men expressing their feelings… I DO know that guys often use teasing or physical methods of communication with each other… I’m not here to say that needs to stop… but there’s a difference between razzing other guys, and being mean to a girl or making her feel unsafe, hurt, or uncomfortable.)
2. If YOU love someone (or you’re on your way to love), you show it by being mean. Hey – if little boys can do it, and it’s ok, it must work for anyone! And we wonder why women use passive-aggressive behaviors. It’s just a sophisticated form of mental bullying. 3. Lastly, not only is it how boys show you they’re into you – but it’s GOOD. The teacher didn’t say, “I’m sorry he’s doing these things…I’ll tell him to stop, but it’s probably because…blah blah blah,” no, she used the “he has a crush” mentality as a rationalization… as if to say, “so that’s why this is happening – isn’t it adorable?” This might seem like splitting hairs from number 1 on the list, but it makes a difference later in life when women chase after the ‘bad boys’ because the’yre seemingly better. I recognize that this is an age-old issue and that boys aren’t going to stop teasing girls anytime soon. BUT… I think we have an obligation to teach our girls that, while that may be the case, it is NOT acceptable or good. We need to give them a lexicon of assertiveness. Phrases like, “I do NOT like it when you do that. Stop it.” Pretty simple, right? Yeah…..try saying it on a date when a guy is pressuring you for more than you’re up for… sigh… As far as the Stone household, we had a nice long talk about how Stone girls look for guys who use their cleverness for flirting, not belittling; their strength for protecting, not bullying; and their words for engaging conversation, not emotional tearing down. Granted….I’m still looking. But, at least I’m not chasing the bad boys… and in my book, that’s coming out ahead of the game.
The other night I was playing the radio game with some friends. (If you’ve never played the radio game, you should remedy that posthaste. It’s great car-trip fun.)
Anyway – on one song, my friend named the artist before I did, and in his excitement, put up his hand for a high-five (for his amazing musical catch).
Without even thinking about it, I slapped his hand in reciprocal excitement…only to then think, “wait…why am I celebrating his win? He’s my opponent? He’s the enemy!”
So, why did I high-five him?
And it’s human nature to respond.
I’m basically just a sheep, blindly following non-verbal commands…even if it means praising my adversary.
And while that’s fine for me and a buddy playing the radio game, its more insidious counterpart in the dating world…isn’t so fine.
But it happens ALL the time.
Men and women both do this – me make assumptive gestures – in words and actions – and on a date, it’s hard not to return the metaphorical hi-five.
Picture this… you’re 5 minutes into a date and the girl makes a comment about how you’re going to just LOVE her parents….
Or, before you’ve even finished your first drink, the guy is planning your next date.
This is an issue I keep encountering in my own dating life… men who assume. (And we all know what happens when you assume…)
Everyone jokes that women all do this – practically plan out your wedding before you’ve closed out date one. But, I’ve experienced it recently, comin’ from the menfolk too. It’s not just us girls.
These are the guys who, by their references and actions, presume all manner of things…about a level of mutual attraction that isn’t necessarily there.
There are two main forms this unrequited “we have a real future together” attitude comes in: verbal and physical.
This includes, but is not limited to…
– making plans to do things or visit places together, inlcuding international travel
“Oh, you haven’t seen the new Mummy exhibit at the Science museum? We’ll HAVE to go…”
“Well – you’re going to LOVE the margaritas in Cabo… you’ll see…”
– speaking about meeting family and attending family functions
“That’s totally something my mom would say! She’s gonna love you.”
“You haven’t experienced St. Patrick’s Day ’til you’ve spent it with my crazy family. You’ll see.”
– talking about what kind of house you want to live in, how many kids you could have together (or how to blend your existing kiddos), who would move to the others’ place, etc.
I was on a date recently with a sweet guy. We were hardly 15 minutes into our date… as in – the food hadn’t even been ordered yet – and he was pulling up photos of RV’s we could use for future camping trips.
(Now, a caveat – most men, when they hear that I don’t like to camp, always want to win me over… so, this isn’t THAT strange, but when he continued on later in the evening, showing me more spacious and convenient road-living options… it was too much.
Really – ANY talk of RV’s is too much.)
These are tricky in first-date land. Because everyone comes in with a different set of rules and limits on what they will/won’t do on a first date. Will you hold hands? Snuggle? Hug? Kiss?
These are already sticky wickets for 2 people who LIKE each other…but what about a date you’re just ‘enduring?’
Assumptive posturing in the physical arena may look like:
– Putting your arm around my shoulder
– Opening up your hand to you, as if to say, “hold this”
– Leaning in eagerly, and oh-so-expectantly for a kiss.
These (and more) are all things that it’s hard to NOT reciprocate, without feeling like a 1st-class jerkface.
Say you’re watching a show/concert/movie and a guy puts his hand, open/face-up on your knee… …what would you do OTHER than hold it? Give him an akward low-five?
Put a Werther’s in it and give him a friend-zone-worthy smile?
Cross your legs at that exact moment, as if you didn’t even notice his hand there, and watch his arm fall off with a thud?
Shoot him that “not gonna happen, buddy” stare? (Seems harsh!?)
This happened to me recently on a date… I wasn’t feeling the spark at all… but the guy sweetly put his hand out… and what did I do? I took it! And we held hands for easily 10 min! And all the while I was conflicted about the mixed messages I was probably sending. Argh…
Same for the arm around the shoulder!? Wriggling out of that isn’t exactly a subtle communication. Sigh…
Now… the more egregious faux-pas are easy to sidestep.
If I’m dancing with a guy and he presumes to grab my hiney, I’ll take his hand RIGHT off. That’s culturally acceptable… and often expected.
But, refusing to hold a hand…just seems mean!?
And yet…I really don’t want to hold the hand of someone I’m not feelin’ chemistry with. Am I locked in, simply by rules of courtesy?
What’s a girl (or guy!) to do?
I need some super suave, stealthy tricks to evade these unwanted gestures.
Not unlike the “hug & roll.”
Open to suggestions here, friends.
The moral of the story is this…
When you’re on a first date –
READ THE ROOM!!
Use the clues your date is giving you to know if you can pull off the hand-holding or even a little goodnight snogging. Watch for things like eye contact, light touching, sitting close, etc. to know.
If she’s making frequent trips to the bathroom…with her phone, or looking off into space, or checking the time, or scooting away… it’s not the time for a smooch OR showing her the latest motorhome models.
“It sleeps 6! That means we CAN have those 4 kids!”
They say that men are like waffles and women are like spaghetti – meaning that men compartmentalize their thoughts/emotions whereas women let everything get entangled together.
But I’ve been thinking lately that the older you get – if you are single – whether you’re a man or a woman – the more we all get waffley. Our lives are more compartmentalized by virtue of our age and experiences.
Being single at 40 is an entirely different beast than being single at 20. When you’re 20, you’re just getting READY to start your life – to start a family, grow a career, figure out where you stand in the world… do I want a family? Am I a ‘pet’ person? What do I like to read? Eat? Listen to? Will I be a scrapbooker or a salsa dancer or a candle-stick-maker? When you’re 40, it’s likely (dare I say ‘probable?’) that you’ve figured some stuff out. You might even HAVE a family (thinking of folks who have kids from previous relationships), you probably have a job, you likely have hobbies and interests that you’ve cultivated over the years, you’ve gone in and out of being a vegetarian or a hipster or whatever ‘thing’ you wanted to explore – and you’re just more ‘set’ in your life and in what you believe about the world, people, and the universe.
What’s my point in this? Well – if we have more of the puzzle pieces of our lives figured out.. I maintain that we look for partners in a different way.
We no longer (necessarily) need someone to START a family with or to be our cheerleaders as we define ourselves in the working world, or experiment with different hobbies/activities. No… now we just need someone to come ALONGSIDE us in our existing lives. And that looks different.
We have friends, hobbies, routines, favorite shows, activities, clubs, etc.
Now we’re looking for someone to fit into our world, not help co-create it.
And this matters….why? Well… I think that this opens us up (at least for me, I’ve found this to be a danger)… to lowering our standards.
Instead of searching for someone who will be the BEST partner for all facets of our lives, we tend to look for someone who will make one or a few of our ‘categories’ a little better. Someone who’ll make a great ‘add-on’ to our social life, let’s say. Or someone who’s a great sounding board for our job life. Someone to go listen to jazz with, someone to eat out with, someone to simply provide adult conversation, watch shows with or go dancing with. But there’s a tendency to settle for someone who only ‘fits’ in SOME of our life and not all. Because…well – it’s better than nothin’. Better than doing everything alone.
I’ve been in a surreal place recently where I feel like one of the only single people left in my age bracket who is still waiting for her ‘person’ – the whole enchilada. Someone who won’t just be icing on the cake of my social life, but who will be my lover and friend through my WHOLE life. That means – my church life, my life as a mom, my veg on the couch days as well as my get dolled up for 2-stepping nights. Someone who – as my online profile says – will throw me around the dance floor and kiss me passionately on Saturday night and then hold my hand in church on Sunday morning.
I want it all. So do most 20-year old singles I know. But creeping up in the late 30’s/40’s… so many people seem to just want SOMEthing.
Because we’re lonely.
And SOMEthing is infinitely better than no ONE.
Someone we can insert into part of our lives… who may not truly know us to our core and GET us in our most vulnerable places, but who makes us feel attractive and is fun to have around… is far better than being alone for one more pitiful weekend.
So, I’m writing today’s post as an encouragement and a reminder to myself mostly – but also to anyone else out there who has started to rationalize dating people for the sake of soothing PART of your/our loneliness… rather than holding out for the one who will be the BEST partner/teammate/lover/friend/soulmate in EVERY part of our lives.
Being waffle-ish is ok. Having our lives compartmentalized and more figured out than the fresh-out-of-college folks – is great! But I say we hold out to find syrup that reaches every little square. Doesn’t that sound more tasty to you?
I’ve been struck lately by the power of words. Especially coming from people I love.
Words from Friends.
Sorta like Words-With-Friends, only fewer Triple-letter tiles and trash talk.
Thing is… We live in a world that not only provides us with the beauty and provision of nature, but we also have a history of a people who – over the centuries – have given us art, music, the internet, craft beer, high thread-count sheets, the remote control, G2 pens, Target and mint chocolate chip ice cream. And yet… with all this richness and so much artistry in the universe… it is still not enough. We need more.
No, this isn’t going to turn into a lecture about the God-shaped hole in each of us …or me evangelizing to my readers. No, today, I’m just reveling in the wonder of people and relationships. Friendship. Connection. And verbalizing that connection.
We were built for this. Regardless of your worldview, most people can recognize the benefit of community. That we thrive in the company of friends and wither in its absence.
A friend recently described an abusive person as someone who wants to alienate, and a healthy person as someone who seeks out togetherness.
Now, I’m not saying we all need to live in a commune…. um…er… I mean… an “intentional community.” I’m not going all Yearning-for-Zion on us. I’m just saying, a la Barbara Streisand… that people NEED people.
And I forget this from time to time.
I mean, don’t get me wrong – I’ve never met someone MORE extroverted than myself – I plan get-togethers and parties like a mongoose chases cobras. I mean, if you throw around a buttered biscuit, it’s BOUND to land on one of my evites… (holla, Aziz Ansari). But, with all of that energy expended to be WITH people, I forget how unbelievably powerful a simple encouraging message can be.
This last week I was blessed to have several unexpected moments like this. Wow moments. Texts, IM’s and e-mails from friends who took less than a minute (in some cases) to use their words as a gift… and it changed my day.. my demeanor… my very emotional state – for the better. (If I share this post with you, …you were one of those people).
When people express love (in whatever form that comes in – validation, praise, listening to you vent, encouragement, thanks) – it changes you. If you’re lucky – it changes you for good, not just for the moment.
None of this is new. The whole “random acts of kindness” and “pay it forward” movements have been inspiring people for so long. But it merits reminding. And having been on the receiving end of several of these moments inspired me to remind you.
Lest you think I’m just surrounded by sweet mushy people, I’ll tell you that two of the sweet messages I received were from introverts who I like to tease about not having/showing emotion (which is ridiculous… they know I don’t really believe that they can’t express emotion, but it’s fun to give them a hard time nonetheless). This kind of communication does not come as naturally for them… and so… being more unexpected – made the words have that much more impact. They moved me. Literally! (Ok, not literally… I was stationary while I read them, but still…)
Point is – the key to this isn’t being a naturally smooshy person… but simply being an authentic one.
If you love someone – tell him or her!
If you are thankful for someone in your life – let them know.
It’s just an outward verbalizing of what you’re already thinking.
It’s taking your internal honesty and putting words to it… which, if done authentically, may just stop them in their tracks for a moment and cause them to write a cheesy blog post.
One of the most dramatically powerful artforms in human relationships is a good apology.
A good apology can soften the hardest heart, heal deep wounds and restore hope to what seemed lost.
But…there are a lot of bad apologies floatin’ around out there. And I’m here to point out the bogus ones and help us learn how to do it right.
Most of the times I hear someone attempt an apology, my inner George Costanza comes out and I start muttering, “You can stuff your sorries in a SACK!” And George is right… most sorries are only worth a sack stuffing…
Because I dare say that 85% of apologies – blow. Yup. They’re terrible. They’re either disingenuous or lazy or just plain wrong.
First – let’s talk about what a good apology is NOT:
1. A passive aggressive way to criticize someone.
I have a friend who’s in a bit of tense ongoing conversation with her parents and she receieved a text from her mother, apologizing, seemingly sincerely, about not having told my friend earlier all the ways in which she was disappointing her. What? That’s like saying, “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner that you suck.” That, friends, is NOT an apology. That’s a coward’s way of skirting around an issue. Just say what you mean – don’t couch it as something good and kind like an apology, when all it is is criticism.
2. A sneaky back-handed way of shifting the blame back onto someone else.
This one is common in romantic relationships. Example: “I’m sorry that you were sensitive and took what I innocently said and heard it as something hurtful.” Translation: “You’re insane and I did nothing wrong. But, I’m sorry that you’re crazy.”
If you really don’t think you did ANYthing wrong… then there is still a way to do a “sorry you got upset” without invalidating the other person…but that’s a conversation for another day.
3. A way to end an uncomfortable situaion, rather than a true attempt at peace.
Saying something generic like, “I’m just sorry this whole thing happened…let’s move on” leaves the other person thinking (and correctly so), that all you’re really sorry about is that you’re having to endure some relational discomfort. A much better tactic at this point would just be to take a break and come back calmer to do the real apologizing.
4. JUST saying “sorry.”
Sure, the world of romantic-comedies has women HOPING for the empassioned and pleading “I am a lout and am unworthy of a woman like you…. is there ANY way you’d take me back???” apology that dips into the pool of idol worship and unquestioned adoration. Heck – I’d take one of those any day! But, it’s not realistic. And not particularly healthy.
However, the other end of that continuum – the weak, half-hearted “whatever” of apologies is no bueno either. Pushing out the word “sorry” from your unyielding, annoyed lips doesn’t count. It’s not honest. And everyone knows it.
A true apology contains these elements:
– Acceptance of responsibility
That’s it, folks. I’m here to say that you don’t even need to FEEL a ton of remorse to offer up a decent apology…though, remorse definitely makes it better.
But, sometimes you apologize for something because you KNOW you erred and you hurt someone, but the feelings of sorrow haven’t caught up with you yet because your body’s too busy feeling frustrated or embarrassed or….the biggest player in this game –> stubbornly prideful.
And yet…you recognize the wrong you’ve done, and you make it right.
That’s all it is – seeing your error and making it right. Restoration. Repair.
When my children mess up and hurt each other, they have to apologize to the other person and include WHAT they did wrong.
Bad: “Sorry…” (eyes rolling, half whispering it as you walk past the other person)
Good: “I’m sorry for scratching you with my toy.”
They have to identify what the ‘wrong’ piece was and own it.
That’s all we have to do as grown-ups too! The problem is that our silly pride gets in the way. And so often, BOTH people are at fault, and in our stubbornness, we don’t want to admit our OWN culpability until they do theirs. We want things to be FAIR.
But, what would happen if we tried- even as a social experiment – apologizing for our part of something REGARDLESS of whether the other person ever owned up to his/her stuff. And see if it doesn’t make relationships move more smoothly and make you feel better.
The other day I had a small moment of friction with a friend where he said something that hurt my feelings. But, when we talked about it, I realized that I am probably overly-sensitive in this area because of some junk in my past… and so I may ‘require’ my friends to tread softly in that arena. And that’s not altogether bad… good friends recognize each others’ areas of woundedness and can be especially tender in those places. But, I also have to own up to my fragility and not put all the blame for my hurt on him. So, I said so – without demanding anything back… and it was HARD! It’s hard to press the pause button on waiting for someone to say, “Oh – I hurt you? I am SO SORRY!” and simply call myself out on my own transgression. But I did… and it was quite freeing. For us both!
I think my willingness to take the one-down approach to the situation made him feel less like he was on the chopping block, and so he felt free enough to say he was sorry too.
And my apology didn’t negate his wrong. He still did say something hurtful. Me admitting my own frailty and apologizing for being overly senstitive doesn’t take away his role in the hurt. But, it helps shed light on the situation AND shows him that I’m willing to turn toward him, even while hurt, and do my part to make this right again.
The point is this – when friction arises… there’s a strong possibility that you’ve done SOMEthing to contribute to it. Even if the part you played was only 10% of the problem… if you identify that and take responsibility for it – you’re intentionally participating in restoration. And restoration is ALWAYS a good thing.
Don’t wait (necessarily) until you “feel” sorry… we are grown-ups… we can recognize when we’ve messed up even if our feelings of remorse haven’t caught up to our brains. Do the hard work of swallowing your pride to apologize for your piece…and see if it doesn’t move the whole relationship closer to wholeness.
I’ve recently started dating again and was trying a “new MO.” I confess that I watch The Millionaire Matchmaker and she has a rule of ” no sex before monogmamy.” So, I thought I’d give this a try. So, I dated this guy several times, liked him a lot, had lots in common etc. After we had a discussion about seeing other people, we decide to make the whoopee.
Bad bad bad.
It was so bad on so many levels that I’m embarrassed to go there again. Here’s my dilemma…in the old days, it was an easy fix.
But since I’ve gone out so many times and I genuinely like him as a person, how do you ditch someone over bad sex (not to mention unfortunate anatomy issues)?
Thanks for your wisdom and advice.
Dear Disappointed in bed,
First – let me just applaud you for making the bold and counter-cultural decision to wait on having sex. I know this couldn’t have been an easy choice when the temptation is so strong!
And the issue of when to take intimacy all the way is a touchy one (no pun intended) because I know I have readers on every part of the continuum from no-rules to no-sex-before-marriage and everything in-between. So – let me make this caveat that my answer to this question isn’t a commentary on when people should enter into a sexual relationship, but rather, thoughts on how a less-than-desirable sexual partnership can be turned around.
Ok – so – are you sure you want to end it? Have you come to that conclusion? Or is part of you wondering if this is salvageable? Not surprisingly, I have some thoughts on this.
I don’t think bad sex is insurmountable. Now – please don’t hear me say that I think people need to settle for less than everything they want in the bedroom… I think it’s great to aim for an amazing sex life. BUT – I think the factors that make the sex bad – can be fixed. Hear me out.
If you find a good man (and that’s a big if, I’ll admit), then you can turn bad sex into hot sex.
If the problem isn’t the sex, but the person behind it, then…yeah …it may be time to end it.
But, if the person you’re with WANTS you – that is, he wants you physically AND he wants to know you and love you, then you have all the tools you need to have great sex…with a little help.
My dad used to tell us (yes – my pastor father …dispensing sexual wisdom to his children…it’s true!) – that the most important sex organ is the mind. Not the “bathing suit parts.” If you devote yourself to another person, make their wants/needs as or more important than your own, learn about them and care for them in this way, you can have the hottest sex life. It’s true.
But, it also requires the scary step – communication. And communicating about sex is one of the most terrifying subjects, especially when you’re not on the same page. Talk about vulnerability! Talking to someone about how they are when they’re at their MOST exposed (literally naked) is the trickiest conversation to have.
THIS is why many people save sex for when they’ve reached the point in the relationship where they feel emotionally safe enough to talk about anything. Where they feel loved and cared for so much that they have the FREEDOM to speak up about any issue. This might also be why first date sex isn’t always as sizzling hot as you’d hoped… because you aren’t in a place where you can let your desires be known.
Reader – if this man seems like a catch in other ways, (and…heck…if you’re ready to, as you say, “ditch” him, then you really have nothing to lose), why not talk about this in a gracious way? You might be surprised that he WANTS to have this talk because he’s eager to please you in this arena. Now, obviously, this is an area in which to tread softly and use non-judgmental language. But, I’ll bet if you broach it tenderly, maybe over a glass of wine, and using phrases like, “I really like you and I’m excited about making this thing great. Would it be ok with you if we try a couple things differently next time we’re in the bedroom? I really like it when…”
I know what some of you are thinking… “some people just aren’t sexually compatible.” And I call BS. If you have the right parts, you’re sexually compatible. That’s just physics. A plug and an outlet will always WORK, unless something else is wrong. What most people mean when they say that, is that they’re not compatible in other ways – communication, intimacy, levels of desire, the ways you express passion, etc. But all of those things are areas that CAN be changed or modified if you care about someone enough to truly learn them and they you.
That whole joke/phrase that women say and men scoff at: “size doesn’t matter… it’s how you use it,” ….well, I think there’s some real truth to that. I’m not saying that body types don’t enter into this discussion at all – but at the core of great sex – is desire, care, understanding, ….love.
So – I say, don’t go down without fighting. You don’t have anything to lose. If you try to talk about things and his ego can’t handle it…then you’ve just gained more information about him and he’s perhaps not the catch you thought he was. And then, breaking things off becomes easier too – because you have more reasons than just bad sex – you have the much greater dealbreaker of his unwillingness to do the work to make the relationship great.
But, maybe you’ll be surprised that he likes you enough to endure a little conversational discomfort for the sake of compatibility – in every room of the house.
Today’s topic: the internal monologue, also known as intrapersonal communication or, “self-talk.”
Now, before you go all Stuart Smalley on me, (“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and doggone it, people LIKE me!)… I’m talking about something a little more nuanced and therapeutic than all that.
This is a skill I’ve been working on in my own life over the last decade, …though, at some level we do this from birth. Remember talking to yourself as a child? Or talking to an imaginary audience? Or just that silent dialogue in your head that you’d go through when thinking about something? It’s all part of it. But, for today’s post, I want to talk about self-talk, as it relates to interpersonal conflict.
One of the most difficult elements of relationships, is that all-too freely given – criticism. Some people are well-intentioned and offer up “constructive criticism” to help you – and to help heal/improve the relationship. Others are narcissistic jerks who feed on tearing others down to feel empowered and adored. And then there are all those moments in-between – moments that have SOME truth, and SOME unnecessary damage – all in one tidy conversation.
What do we do when criticism comes our way? And it will!
One of the first lines of defense, is the art of self-talk.
If you take the time to know yourself and to know what it TRUE about you, one of the most powerful tools you have at your disposal is to TELL YOURSELF those truths WHILE someone is berating you. Imagine a scenario where someone is talking to you in a condescending way and intimating – not full-on saying it, mind you – but implying that you aren’t smart enough. You can be saying to yourself, in your mind – “I know that I AM an intelligent person.” And while it definitely doesn’t take the sting of the criticism away – it does take the “BUY-IN” out of the scenario. The buy-in (my own lingo) is that slippery slope where we allow ourselves to believe untrue things about ourselves because of others’ critical remarks.
A friend and therapist I really respect, told me that when you’re dealing with a narcissist (and this applies to generally disagreeable or critical people as well), you only have two paths to take:
1. Escape. This can come in the form of numbing the pain (drugs, addictions to distract, etc.), divorce/separation, or the ultimate escape – suicide.
2. Belief. This is, in some ways, the emotionally easier route. Though, it is extremely self-destructive. Believing that what the other person says/believes about you is, in fact, true.
This can look different for lots of different situations:
- Your boss makes you feel small, so you accept that you’re not an important piece of the workplace.
- Your boyfriend criticizes your appearance, so you begin to believe you actually are ugly/unattractive.
- Your mother questions your life choices so much that you start to think you’re not smart enough on your own. The list goes on and on.
Accepting criticism and hearing the truth in it is an elegant character trait. But, to do that wisely, you have to know what is true and what isn’t, and be able to hear criticism for what it truly is – to be able to tease out the truth. And the best way to do this is to know yourself and speak to yourself during and after conflictual moments.
Example: I had someone in my life who would become easily angered and then tear me down. It went quickly from the actual point of frustration to claiming things about me in more global attacks. Often, this person would call me “lazy,” or “selfish” or “foolish.” And while those words cut – and hurt – I was running my own internal conversation with myself, self-soothing if you will, where I reminded myself of what was true about me – that I do work hard; that I care about others; and that I try to be thoughtful and wise. Obviously I’m not perfect. And everyone is selfish. But, to the extent that I CAN overcome that base human instinct, I give it my best. I would remind myself of specific circumstances that prove that to be true – mothering my children, sacrificing things I wanted/desired so that others could be happy, etc., etc. So – when the conversation was over, instead of having TWO problems (licking my wounds and wondering how I’d become so worthless), I could concentrate on the injustice at hand – that untrue things were said. Because my self-talk kept me confident in what was true.
Try it. Next time someone comes at you with anything remotely conflictual, be listening to them while running a script in your mind at the same time about what’s true about you. Even if you don’t yet know what do say, you can begin wtih thoughts like, “I’m worthy of love. I matter.” And see if it doesn’t help shape your emotional response to the attack. Sure, you’ll still have an obligation to respond gracioulsy, but your own spirit won’t be crushed. You will be able to recognize the truth in what that person was saying (that is – areas where you maybe DID mess up or areas where you DO have a blind spot), as well as shield yourself from the more broad-stroked personal attacks.
Because, despite the enormously high cheese factor, Stuart Smalley was onto something …unless you’re in the estimated 3% of society who don’t operate with a conscience (and that’s a whole other post!), you ARE good enough. And knowing your worth can make a world of difference when your enemies attack.
The post last week about women’s expectations of fantasy/romance (you can read it here) has sparked quite the feedback, especially from my male readers. Totes interesante.
In particular, my friend and blog-reader I referred to in the post as being a real-life romantic, wrote to me about a theory of his, that WOMEN create the unromantic men. Interesting, no?
So, I decided to post our sparring here for you to read. Enjoy. And feel free to weigh in with your opinions!
For far too long, women have claimed they mature earlier than men. When it comes to relationships, I posit a contrary hypothesis. Men learn in their early teens that sensitivity is rewarded with rejection. Middle and high school girls enjoy the bad boys. They cling to guys who treat them poorly. Guys learn quickly to deal with heartbreak and – perhaps through survival instinct – that an ounce of prevention is worth far more than a pound of cure.
Sarah asked whether women’s expectations have been skewed by romantic comedies. I prefer to believe that women are capable of distinguishing between fantasy and reality. Instead, women are reaping the rewards (or consequences, as a matter of perspective) of years of male training.
Here’s a muscular analogy in honor of Sarah. Think of men in the comfortable colloquialism piled on us for ages. Men are dogs. In a sense, this is true. We have been trained to salivate for the bells women ring. Our greatest desire is to be happy with a woman. To achieve that end, we strive for attention. When we fail, we observe those who succeed. When women/girls provide attention to the bad boys and ignore the nice guys, we notice. We learn. We adapt.
The next time the bell rings, we salivate in the desired way, expecting the reward. It works. The behavior is reinforced. This pattern continues with reinforcement of those behaviors through high school and college. By the time women realize they want something different, those dogs are trained.
Not wanting to accept the responsibility for their actions, women blame men’s behavior on movies, porn, immaturity, selfishness, or not being raised right. The dogs continue to salivate at the sound of the bell. Women, now desperate to find something more tangible, provide rewards for less than they want – further reinforcing the behaviors they no longer desire.
Women begin to adapt. The security of a relationship being their reward; lowering their expectations, their salivation. Men continue to observe.
Today’s moral, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
Brad… may I?
I wholeheartedly agree that much of what women complain about in men – we have only to blame ourselves for. We have contributed to the unfortunate cycle by settling for less than what we truly want, or rewarding the sort of behavior that feeds on insecurities rather than cultivates confidence.
But… (and there’s always a but in this contrarian mind of mine)… in the same way that not all men drink the kool-aid of high school conditioning, not all women are drawn to jerks. In
fact, there is a large contingent of us who didn’t even DATE in high school because the inverse of your theory was at play.
Guys want to date the girls who don’t have self-esteem and will LET themselves be abused. And girls like me – who were raised in a healthy home and taught that our value lies in our character – don’t get asked out. So….which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Sure – high school boys look around and see weak-willed women swooning at a guy who has the emotional intelligence of a doorknob and so they slowly morph into a bad boy archetype. But, aren’t women (girls) taught the same thing – just mirrored back? We look around at the girls who get asked out and it’s the ones who are throwing up in the bathroom between classes to keep their waists thin, who are panting at the scraps of attention thrown their way by a self-centered tool, and who laugh at the jokes that subversively make fun of them – not standing up for themselves because that would probably push jerky-boy away.
I’m not sure what the answer is (not that I don’t have lots of THOUGHTS about how these things begin in our families of origin, experiences, etc.). But I do know that unilaterally blaming women for men acting like trolls can’t be right…
I mean, c’mon – sugar and spice and all that!? (wow… who’s thirsty for tea?)
Of course there are exceptions, but on the whole, human beings develop behaviors that are rewarded. The problem now is that women in the dating pool are competing for extremely limited resources. You addressed this in a previous post to your readers. Ignoring exceptions, I see two possibilities:
You’ve made your bed. Lie in it. The pool of men has been shaped by your hands ladies. Accept the results and move forward. I suggest treating the sculpture the way you would children’s artwork. It isn’t pretty, but you find the good in it and focus there. Most guys are still worthy of refrigerator magnets.
Take your ball and go home. So you don’t want to face the results of your creative efforts? Fine. Enough women will choose to accept the flawed men in the dating pool – providing no reason for the men to change. Stay home and complain about how terrible the men are “out there”.
Enjoy the “Spinserthood of the Traveling Rants”, available now in paperback.
So, there you have it folks… what do YOU think?
Brad Culbertson has been teaching elementary education in Florida for ten years. His two children, Kendall, 14, and Gabriel, 12, and his love, Jaime, are his greatest passions. He has published a book of poems dedicated to her available here and he is currrently writing his first novella. Sneak a peek here.
A friend of mine threw a costume party recently and I bought an outfit online to wear (dumb move). When it arrive and I tried it on, it was immediately apparent that it wasn’t gonna work. So, I offered it to a sweet friend of mine who I thought it would flatter better than me. She came over to try it on and looked like a goddess/model in it. And, while I was happy to help her out, a dark corner of my mind thought, “great… you’ve just fueled your competition” – as if I’m in a race with her to see who can look the cutest at this party. Almost as if she is the enemy. Ridiculous.
What is my DAMAGE? What is ALL of our issue(s)?
Because y’all KNOW it’s not just me who has these undesirable thoughts creep in…
Women are competitive. Everyone knows this.
But just because it’s a universally understood thing doesn’t make it ok. It’s NOT ok!
It hurts us as a gender.
It hurts friendships – even if you truly love the person you’re ‘up against,’ this sense of rivalry is divisive.
This happens in the most deceptively subtle ways… oftentimes I think men don’t even pick up on those nuanced jabs we throw each other in conversation. But, we know. Women – no matter how sweet your face and tone are… if you use your words or implications to even slightly tarnish another woman’s reputation – you’re doing something wrong. I think we so often justify those little barbs by denying our true motives. We feel threatened. So, we attack FIRST.
I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit in the last few months. Being single on the dating scene exaggerates any existing insecurities or fears that feed into the feminist competition. “Why is she getting more dates than I am?” “Why did that guy message HER on OKCupid, but not me?” “Why don’t they serve brown rice at the upscale sushi place?” Ok… so some rogue questions sneak into my emotional inner dialogue. Sue me.
And it occurs to me, that – like SO many ‘bad’ things in this life – the root of this struggle is – fear.
We fear that another woman will be better than us.
We fear she will…
- get the affections of men more than we will
- succeed in her endeavors more than we will
- make us look bad/worse by being more beautiful/skilled/witty/etc.
- be happier
And this happens in every arena:
- Working moms vs. Stay-At-Home-Moms
- Single women vs. Married women
- Blondes vs. Brunettes
- Extroverts vs. Introverts
- Athletes vs. Academics
And on and on it goes…
In the physical realm alone, there are SO many ways to beat out the competition if you want to. It starts small – sucking in the tummy and wearing high heels… then to wearing spanx to “smooth the curves” to dying your hair… And then it’s eyelash extensions and vein lasering and electrolysis and hair extenstions and microdermabrasion… and tummy tucks and breast augmentation and nose jobs and ….. I’m out of breath.
And I can’t keep up.
I can’t AFFORD to!… but also – I’m not sure I WANT to. Where does it end?
It’s an endless climb up a seemingly futile ladder…
Just the other night, I was in a conversation about hair removal where I realized two of my friends spend ultimately thousands of dollars on hair removal… do you KNOW how much ice cream that would buy??
How nice would it be if we did the same thing we want men to do with us – assigned each other good motives, encouraged each other, helped each other JUST because we love one another and not just to gain some kind of moral high ground…?
The way it starts – is by identifying the reason behind the fear.
For me – and for anyone who still has hope/optimism – I believe that there is something greater than me at work in my life. I believe that God is “sovereign” (meaning – he is in charge and orchestrates all things). If I REALLY believe that, then I wouldn’t have to try to control my own circumstances SO much. I wouldn’t have to worry that my friend looking smokin’ hot in a dress I gave her, will somehow bring HER the affections of the man God has for ME.
Do I think I can thwart his plans with expensive makeup and shapewear? Ha!
And for those of you who don’t believe the way I do… you must still see the foolishness in trying to control something by way of sabotage… Regardless of religious beliefs, the concept of right & wrong is universal to humanity. So, rather than tear down the competition, why not build up confidence in ourselves?
This is all easier said than done, especially in this ‘cat eat caddy’ world where botox and body-wraps abound.
So, for now, the best thing I can do – is be aware…
For my part, I want to be constantly self-analyzing my thoughts/feelings/motives when it comes to the women in my life. And I have some pretty AMAZING women surrounding me – women who deserve my love and encouragement, not my subconscious hope that they’ll fail in areas that will make me look better.
If we ALL do that… think of the money we’ll save on laser treatments and Keratin rinses?!? Sounds dreamy to me.
Yesterday I overheard two girls talking in line at a cafe, and one said, in a cavalier tone, “I mean… JUST because I’m engaged, doesn’t mean I HAVE to marry him!”
I posted this on Facebook and got quite the response from men and women – which inspired this post.
It occurs to me that this attitude of committing to something without really committing to it – is becoming a dating/relationship epidemic. People are saying yes to anything from a second date to marriage proposals – out of fear that maybe there won’t be anything better… so they hedge their bets by holding on to something that isn’t perfect for them.
It’s like when you’re shopping at Ross and you buy up any dress you think MIGHT actually look nice on you in the flattering light of your own home… knowing full-well you’ll likely return some or all of them in the coming week. So, why buy them at all? You buy them so that you can have the OPTION of owning them, and so that no other woman can scoop them up.
And I do this too – you try it on and you don’t LOVE it, but you think you might GROW to love it, with the right level of Spanx scaffolding and distracting accessories…you could make it work?… so, you don’t want to give up the possibility of ownership… even though your gut tells you it’s way too hoochie-mama, or see-through, or tight or unflattering in some way. You hold on to less-than-perfect
Are we doing this in the dating world? Holding onto a girlfriend or boyfriend longer than we ought to… just because they’re the ‘best so far?’ Do we keep our claim on someone so that no one else can have him/her even if we know deep down that s/he’s not the one? Or do we think if we put the right proverbial spanx on our guy/girl that they might turn INTO the one we really want? We’ll just keep accessorizing around the problem – that we’re NOT a good fit?
This is terrible!
And it’s also why I’m a fan of the quick elimination system.
I contend – and stick with me for a minute – that dating should be greedy… in order to NOT be greedy. Hold on, before you check out… check this out:
I was having lunch with someone the other day who was hesitant to get back into dating because she doesn’t have time to go on multiple dates with people who she doesn’t like…. WHAT? I asked her WHY she would go on any more than one short date with someone if he wasn’t showing potential for being ‘the one?’ She responded with this popular sentiment that there’s some sort of expectation to go on several dates with people because it’s …good manners? Pbshhh…. Nuh uh! I call poppycock.
I say you only spend your time hanging out with someone who you WANT to be spending your time with. Be greedy. Don’t accept second dates out of obligation or some kind of weird cultural expectation. In this way, it’s OK to be selfish. When being picky is being greedy – I say being greedy is ok.
It’s OK to want the whole package. (Not perfection… there’s a big difference between realistic expectations and fantasies…that’s probably enough fuel for a whole other post, but for now – know that when I say the “whole package” – I mean someone that meets the parameters you’ve set in your mind/heart for who is a great match for YOU).
It’s OK to be picky and wait for it.
Be greedy on the front end, so that you don’t end up greedily holding onto something that isn’t meant to be yours. Be greedy, to not be greedy. See what I mean?
And in the meantime, it’s OK to let the men or women around you grab up the dresses that made you look fat while you wait for the one that fits you like a glove.
I can only hope that my perfect dress (I imagine it’s ruched for maximizing my curves, while having a big, passionate heart) is out there on some rack, waiting for me to try it on… and not being held hostage in some other woman’s closet while she holds onto something that isn’t right for her, out of fear that there won’t be something better.
What is your body telling people that you’re not?
Did you realize that only a SMALL percentage of communication actually occurs with our words? The rest is communicated with para-linguistic (non-verbal) cues, like facial expressions, posture, eye movements, etc. It is postulated that as much as 93% of communication happens non-verbally.
WHAT??? 93%??? That’s almost the WHOLE enchilada, peeps!
So – it seems that we should be paying attention to how we’re using our bodies/faces to ‘talk’ to others –
and no time is more important than when conflict is on the line.
SO – for today’s continuation of our series on conflict – we’re talking about bodies. Mmm…. 🙂
I could fill hundreds of posts talking about all the facets of non-verbal language, but for today’s purposes, I’m just going to highlight some tips to consider when in a conflictual situation. Without talking at all, you can use your body to soften the other person.
This is so simple. If you use your body to send the message that you’re NOT on the defensive, or NOT angry, but are open to resolution, the other person will pick up on it and hopefully mirror that attitude. This includes:
– NOT crossing your arms. I know that sometimes this is just a comfortable position. But, it sends a message of being guarded. The crossed arms are a natural “wall.” Take it down. Force yourself to put your arms by your side. NOT on your hips – that’s confrontational. By your side or on a table or something. Or you can clasp your hands in front of you, but loosely. Tight fingers, tightly clasped hands and (obviously) fists send another message!
– Turning TOWARD the other person. We’ll talk later about emotional ways to ‘turn toward,’ but for now I mean LITERALLY – turn toward them. If you turn you’re back, you’re telling them that either you’re not interested in resolving things, or that you’re afraid, or that you don’t think they have ANY validity – all of which get in the way of restoration.
– Consciously relaxing the muscles in your face/shoulders. Especially for men. That clenched jaw sends a thousand-word message to the other person – and it’s not a nice message. Force yourself to think about your jaw, your neck, your shoulders and relax them. Seems small, but it can make all the difference.
– That whole deep breath thing? Yeah… it’s legit. By taking a deep breath or two and breathing them out slowly, you’re actually bringing down your blood pressure, lowering your heart rate and relaxing muscles – all of which SHOW.
– Eyebrows up! A furrowed brow speaks of anger. I realize that often, we furrow our brows out of frustration or even innocent concentration – especially those analytical thinkers out there – you know who you are. But, if you’ll make yourself relax those muscles and raise your eyebrows slightly – it communicates openness and kindness.
– Eye contact. Alright – personal disclosure time – I have a really hard time with this and I have to force myself to do it. If I can do it, though… you can too.
Make eye contact often. It makes a connection. Now, I realize that in the heat of anger, you don’t really WANT to make a connection with someone who doesn’t feel ‘safe,’ but remember the end-game… the goal is to be happy again and to be restored with that person. And connecting with their eyes is a way to tell them that you are in this, and on their side.
– Sex. Have lots of sex. What? Ok…I was just seeing if anyone was still reading. I’m just kidding………we save that for later. Ok – back to the list.
– Use your body to show you’re really listening – a simple head nod can make someone feel so validated in a time of frustration.
– Read the other person and use proximity or even touch to show your intentions of resolve. Now, this only works if the other person isn’t afraid. Only you can be the judge of that. But, if they’re merely hurt or angry/frustrated… a slow and gentle approach into their space and then a kind touch to the arm or hand (or in the cases of intimate relationships, even the face or hair) can be EVERYTHING. I’m telling you… sometimes you can solve an entire argument by making eye contact, softening the eyebrows and touching the face in just the right way to let the other person know, “regardless of where we stand on this issue, I love you.” That can MELT a person. Use it carefully, obviously… if someone’s in a scared/vulnerable place, they’ll need more space.
Again…there is SO much more to say on this topic. We didn’t even get into tone, rhythm/speed of conversation, types of touch, strategies for using paradox to break the conflict cycle (like taking the fight to the bathtub or switching languages…).
But for now, perhaps this gets the ball rolling in your mind so that the next time there’s friction with someone you care about, you can take a minute to relax, breathe and use an open posture to move things along toward restoration – which is really what everyone wants.
One of the first steps in the art of negotiation is to “separate the people from the problem.” Put aside the relational issues and focus on the substance/content.
Easy, right? Ha!
How in the WORLD do you tease out the issue at hand from the person delivering it/engaging in it with you? This sounds like one of those infuriating moments when someone patronizingly tells you “don’t take it personally.” I can’t STAND that phrase. Because… most of the time it gets used, the situation is actually QUITE personal, and all they’re doing in using that phrase is exerting some kind of self-defined superiority over you.
Someone does something or neglects to do something or says something that causes stress/pain/hurt. Whether their intentions are harmful or not, they have caused offense to YOU. It’s personal. To YOU.
So, how are we supposed to separate out the people from the problem when the people ARE the problem? Well………
One of the first steps in becoming a better fighter is increasing self-awareness.
Wow… this really rings of a wax-on-wax-off kinda talk, doesn’t it, grasshopper?
Imagine any scenario where you’ve had friction with someone… inevitably the human instinct is to defend ourselves by either assigning blame to the other person or at the very least, avoiding the blame yourself.
But, a surefire way to fan the flame of disagreement is to jump right to what the other person did/said wrong and working out your rebuttle or defense to their incorrect conclusions. (more…)
How can you avoid becoming someone’s rebound?
Well, let’s define our terms first. Because when most people use the term “rebound,” they don’t just mean the person someone dates right after coming out of a long-term relationship. There’s a connotation that the rebound relationship is NOT going to work out to be long-term or meaningful… that it’s just a stop along the way of the wounded person’s healing process.
And, everybody should want to avoid THAT.
But I DO believe there are people who are healthy enough to do the required work after a breakup, so that their next relationship CAN be healthy and long-term. So – while you may technically be their “rebound,” it might have potential to be great. I dare say there are a fair share of marriages out there that began as “rebounders.”
And it wouldn’t be fair to discount someone as a potential partner JUST because this would be their first relationship after a failed one!
So, I think a better question would be
“How do I assess someone’s true ‘readiness’ for a relationship?”
Obviously, there’s no foolproof method for this, or else multitudes of broken hearts around the world wouldn’t happen at the hands of ill-prepared men and women entering relationships they’re not ready for. I have fallen victim to this myself, getting involved with someone who, by his own admission a year and a half later, wasn’t ready. Sigh…
But… I do think there are some tools we can use to better the odds.
1. Does she have a happy life, aside from being single?
I’ve talked about this before – that you can know there’s something missing in your life – even long for it, while still creating a life you enjoy around you.
When you meet someone, he should seem satisfied with his life, not like he’s moping until he finds you. If you come into an unhappy life, he or she will be expecting YOU to be their EVERYthing and that’s a lot of (too much) pressure. That’s a recipe for co-dependence.
Rather – look for someone who has friends, hobbies, who seems pretty content with things.
This also includes looking for moodiness. Now, everyone has a bad day. Everyone has natural ups and downs, but I’m talking about something more dramatic. Someone who’s consistently moody (high highs and low lows… and you don’t know what you’re going to encounter when you call/text/meet up) may be either still hung up on a past relationship (meaning that they’re still in the healing phase), or may even have a mental disorder that needs to be addressed.
True happiness/contentment should look like this – she’s generally in a good mood, has people and activities in her life that make her happy, seems content with the way things are… and YOU would be the icing on the cake that would take her from good to GREAT. You don’t want to have to be someone’s savior.
2. Does there seem to be an overemphasis on the physical?
When people aren’t healthy enough to do what’s required for a relationship, you can often tell because they’ll be very into the physical stuff (touching, snuggling, kissing, etc.) and neglect the emotional/intellectual connection required to really know each other.
After a breakup, one of the things we all crave and miss – is that physical connection and attention we used to get all the time, that’s been suddenly taken away. It leaves a lonely hole that we yearn to fill. And it’s so easy to go after it in someone else before really mourning the first relationship’s end and coming back to a good personal place. I’ve heard several people lately talk about how much they miss just having someone in the bed with them – not even sex, necessarily – just another person next to them while they sleep. I get that – I DO! But, don’t go into a relationship JUST to get that. Or don’t be the one in a relationship that’s giving JUST that.
Do not confuse physical intimacy for a complete picture of closeness. When two people fall in the love the RIGHT way, the level of intimacy always matches the level of connectedness. It doesn’t precede it. As you know each other better, affection naturally increases. If the two are out of balance… it’s a red flag.
So, if you find yourself with someone who always wants a little less talk and a lot more action, you might ask yourself if s/he’s only in it for the temporary ego-boost/healing balm that mugging down can give you when you’re not really ready for the whole enchilada.
3. Did he come right out and TELL you he wasn’t ready?
Sadly, I’ve fallen into this trap a few times. Someone’s literally told me – point blank – that he wasn’t ready for a relationship… he just wanted to get out there and have some fun. But, I was so attracted to him that I tricked myself into thinking that if he got to really know me, he wouldn’t be able to help falling madly in love. Ha!
If he SAYS he isn’t ready – believe ‘im. Because, hey – what’s the alternative? That he’s wrong – which makes him either REALLY not self-aware, or a liar… neither of which do you want to date.
4. Is she selfish?
I know this sounds obvious – ‘don’t date someone who’s self-absorbed.’ Duh. But, it’s not always so simple. Selfishness can often be disguised beneath false kindness/sacrifice. You know that girl who bakes you cookies and leaves you sweet notes? That’s all well and good… but doesn’t necessarily mean that she’s still not thinking only of herself. Listen to the language… is the “me monster” showing up in every conversation? (shout out to Brian Regan there…) Do you know all about her preferences/hobbies/ideas, but she hasn’t asked about yours or engaged with you about your life? Sweet notes with her lip prints doesn’t count toward truly knowing each other and being partners on a team.
This is a dangerous one because – at the beginning of a relationship, it can feel like the other person is meeting all your needs, when in reality it’s just fulfulling something in her and isn’t about loving/serving you at all.
5. Does he talk about his ex too much?
Another one that seems obvious… but it can be masked in the tantalizing sweetness of comparison. How nice is it to have a guy say, “You are so much more [fill-in-the-blank good quality] than my ex was.” The natural competitor in all of us wants to “win” by being the BEST boyfriend or girlfriend someone’s ever had. Heck, I find myself falling into this trap even with friends! If I find out I do something better than another friend, I get a swollen sense of pride.
But, here’s the deal – you don’t really want to aim for “better than the ex.” You want to aim for “great. all on your own.”
Being a notch or two above the one who ended up getting ditched isn’t exactly a lofty goal. We should all be targeting an amazing connection that moves beyond the bounds of exes and is incredible all on its own – free from the ghosts of our past relationships.
If you keep hearing stories of the ex, comparisons to the ex, or complaining (that’s the worst) about the ex… it may be a sign that he’s not really over her.
Talking about a past love with pain in his voice is a sure-fire clue that if she were to come back into the picture, he’d turn away from you and into her arms in a heartbeat. And that’s not the man you want. You want a man who has a whole heart’s worth of room for you.
There are other signs, of course. But these are some that you can be on the lookout for, to avoid being the bad kind of rebound lover. But, remember, sometimes – the relationship that comes right after an unhealthy one has ended… can be good – as long as the dumpee has done the work needed to be ready.
Listen to your gut. Watch for red flags and pay attention to them. We are built with an intrinsic sense of right/wrong and being able to sniff out falseness. If you can hone that ability by paying attention to the things that aren’t being said – you can probably avoid a fair share of heartache.
But, in the end… love is still a risk. And even the best of the best get duped, swept up, fooled or disappointed. Welcome to the grandest gamble of all. When you lose, it hurts like a mother-dumper. But when you win… it’s the most exhilarating feeling in the world.
Let’s talk about fighting!
One of the dumbest things people say (and I hear this ALL the time), is: “I just really HATE conflict.”
DUH! I can’t stand when I hear people say this because it’s usually a way of avoiding problem-solving. What they MEAN is that they actively avoid conflict.
Is there anyone (except sociopaths and narcissists, perhaps) who LIKES conflict?
It’s conflictual for a reason …the friction between two people when things aren’t right – is never fun or enjoyable or comfortable. No one LIKES conflict.
BUT… some people HANDLE it better than others.
Over the next few weeks, on Wednesdays, I’m going to be posting a series about conflict – issues that prevent peace-making, different styles of conflict resolution, fears that get in the way, opposing personalities throwing down, etc. Should be FUN! Er… interesting…?
One thing that I have learned from being self-aware, analytical and devoting myself to my friendships/relationships, is I put a high value on the quality of being able to fight fairly.
Being a GOOD fighter is something I pride myself on and desire in a partner.
So, let me use today’s introduction post to say this…
FIGHT for your relationships!
You know that idea of “fight vs. flight?” (Also known as the Acute Stress Response)…It’s that choice, when presented with a perceived personal danger – to attack or to flee. And I’m here to tell you – Always choose fight. I don’t mean be a jerk or use a heavy hand to win… I mean tackling the problem as soon as is possible for you. If it’s not your natural response, let’s dig in and find out why so that going forward, you can tackle problems quickly and efficiently so that the least amount of damage occurs. That’s what we’re going for here – minimal loss of love/trust/security.
This applies to friendships, family and definitely romantic relationships. So, no matter where you are in your love life, or with your career, or how close you are to your family, you are in SOME form of relationship with SOMEone and conflict is a natural part of that. So, WHEN (not ‘if’) it arises, let’s be ready to fight.
And to fight well.
After all,…anything worth having is worth fighting for.
“What does it MEAN to feel “safe?”
A lot of women use that phrase, but I’m never quite sure what they mean?”
Fantastic question! Talking about this kind of stuff is my jam – I love it.
I’d love to teach mini-classes on this kind of thing…with games, object lessons, etc… but I digress.
First, a quick caveat – Emotional safety has very little to do with physical safety. Although – especially as it concerns sexual intimacy, there DOES need to be a baseline of love and CARE so that anything rough or agressive is viewed through that lens and is only received as passionate, not angry or sadistic.
But, if we ASSUME that both people in a relationship TRUST the other one with their physical safety and care – that the other person has no desire to harm or shame them… then we can move on from the physical piece and move to the greater element of emotional safety.
This – the idea of emotional “Safety” – has (unfortunately) become a trendy term in therapeutic circles and so it’s overused… like – way overused.
Sort of like the word “co-dependent” that people throw around – half the time, incorrectly. Ugh…
But the core idea of emotional/relational safety is so good and so beautiful, that despite the overuse of the phrase, it’s essential to dig into and understand if you’re going to be a great partner.
To be “safe” involves three things:
1. safety is being loved,
2. safety is being known (vulnerable) and accepted, and
3. safety is believing that your partner perceives you as his/her only ‘object of affection’ – aka ‘belonging’
I’ll work my way backwards through the pieces of safety, from my way of thinking (and that’s all this is…Sarah’s thoughts…).
Beliefs / Belonging:
A woman wants to feel like she is the ONLY person being shown affection/attention by her lover. If a man DOES only love/desire one woman – that’s half the battle…, the secondary piece is her actually BELIEVING that. Sometimes a man can do everything in his power to convince a woman that she’s the only one, but because of her own insecurities and doubts (ultimately based in fear), she can’t let herself believe she’s worthy of that love.
But, if a woman is relationally healthy and believes a man wants only her – that belief gives her the freedom to rest in her worthiness of love and affection – and enjoy it.
This is huge. Not everyone wants this, when you get right down to it. But, those of us who search for GREAT love – we don’t just want to be accepted – we want the double-edged-amazing sword of knowing/loving.
I want to be KNOWN – understood, “gotten”… and this is more than just knowing my story or my information (Sarah was “Student of the Year” in 3rd grade and has had 6 pets…blah blah blah…) – that stuff is important as you get to know someone, but truly knowing me means understanding the way I work – my strengths, my way of processing things, my areas of woudedness, the totality of me. And when someone KNOWS me….and STILL decides that I’m worthy of full acceptance? Well, that’s everything. That’s what sets the great love stories apart from the sea of mediocrity.
Stripped down and shown for who you are – metaphorical stretch marks and all.
But, I open myself up to a LOT of judgment, and…the pain of when people DON’T like what they see.
Still……it’s worth it for when people see the TRUE SARAH…and decide I’m worthy of their love.
True love is a DECISION for SACRIFICE. If someone chooses to sacrifice his own pride or comfort to love you… that’s the real deal.
If there’s emotional safety, she has the space to say, “ouch! I know you didn’t mean it, but that hit a nerve babe.”
If there’s NOT emotional safety, she assumes his intentions were to wound her, and it doubley hurt – one by the comment and moreso (two) that he would de-value her enough to WANT to hurt her at some level. (And honestly, if there’s not a foundation of safety, she might be right!)
the idea of emotional safety is, by its very nature – relationally based. It’s DEpendent on someone else.
YOUR safety DEPENDS on the other person’s willingness to offer it to you.
That’s where that vulnerability/risk come in. If I open myself up – I lay myself bare for someone that I think I could love…and who I hope could love me… he may. And he may not. And if he accepts me, flaws and all – then I get to live in the great freedom and joy of that safety. But, he might not…he might say – “I don’t like you naked”…and that’s the worst pain. This is why rejection hurts the most when someone knows you the most…because they’re virtually saying, “I see the real you. And I refuse to accept/love that.”
So – emotional safety is dependent on another person. And post-modern Americans don’t like that. We want to make things happen ourselves. But, the nature of this is that we offer it to one another. I can give YOU a place of emotional safety. YOU can give ME the same. And so on.
3. How do you let someone KNOW that you know them and accept them and love them? Well…..that’s the stuff of another post. For now, suffice it to say that you have to tell/show them… but that can be fun. 🙂
So – for my part – I try my hardest to live in a way that is SO real that others around me feel welcome to be THEIR real selves… and be known and accepted. This is really hard. It’s hard because being vulnerable hurts. It’s like exposing your naked body to the elements.
But, when it works……….oh, the unspeakable joy.
So… grab a banana nut muffin*, and think about letting people in – even more – to the real you… and in doing so, opening yourself up to great things.
Men are like waffles.
Or, wait…they’re from Mars and I’m from Venus, right?
Or is it that finding one is like picking out shoes?
Well, today – I contend that picking the right man or woman is a lot like waiting on the perfect (or not so perfect) piece of luggage.
We’ve all been there – standing impatiently at the baggage claim carousel, hoping against hope that the next piece of luggage to plop out onto the belt will be ours. OURS!
After all – WE are in a hurry.
Isn’t dating just like this? I’ve had a lot of conversations lately with singles at varying stages of hopefullness/hopelessness and it occurs to me that picking out a man (or woman) is a precisely like waiting at the carousel.
You stand around in a crowd of people, some of whom have had the same luggage for years… they grab it up, smile endearingly, and walk away content with their wife of 40 years… er… Samsonite.
Others are SO eager to just GET a bag, that any will do. They’ll grab up the first flashly expandable/collapsible rolling case with a built-in mp3 player in sporty orange and go… not realizing that it’s empty inside… or worse…full of its own nasty baggage. (And hey – is there anything worse than baggage inside of baggage?)
Then, you’ve got the folks who SAY they’re ‘picky’ or ‘doing things different this time,’ but darn if they don’t KEEP picking up the same suitcase every bleedin’ time it comes around. Hey! You know why it keeps coming around and no one else is scooping it up? Because it’s bad luggage!
If you keep grabbing the same one, realizing it doesn’t suit you, putting it back and then grabbing it up again when it comes around the next time, …isn’t that the definition of insanity?
That person never leaves the airport… and then complains that life at the airport stinks.
But I, for one, am waiting for the “perfect bag.” Don’t get me wrong. I’m not looking for a new or fancy one. In fact, a suitcase that’s got a few scratches and dings from traveling the world actually sounds nice. It’s weathered a few storms, but is better for it. It’s not without flaws, but it’s perfect FOR ME.
Problem is… I have to wait.
I watch the conveyer belt mockingly glide along with the same ski case, car seat, beat-up cardboard box and 14 black mid-sized suitcases that are all about the same… and they go round and round and round. Every once in a while, something that LOOKS like my bag will appear in the rotation and I’ll pull it off, look at the tag, try it on for size, and then… quite quickly determine that it’s not right… and return it to the carousel for someone else to enjoy. There’s no point in holding onto a piece of luggage any longer than you need to once you realize it’s not the one you want.
Now, I’ve come under quite a bit of criticism this last year for being “too picky.” And, you know what? Criticism is hard. Really hard. It makes you start to question yourself…
Maybe there’s NOT a bag for me?
Maybe I SHOULD just take one of those boring mid-sized cases and just deal with it not being a great fit.
Maybe I should bristle and defend myself to my naysaying and unsolicitedly vocal audience – “Hey! A girl can wait, dangit!!”
But, in the end, honestly – I’m happy to wait. I’ve got a great spot with a nice line of vision. The airport is climate-controlled and full of snacks. I get to meet a ton of fun people who pass through picking out their own luggage, and I wait. I can rejoice with others who find their suitcase, and I can comfort those who thought they did, but realized it wasn’t theirs and had to return it.
In the end… the point is this – there is hope. And I wait.
Think about it… when you wait for your piece of luggage to come through at the airport, and you start to realize it’s not happening – you get that sick, annoyed feeling in your gut because you know the airline lost it or sent it on the wrong flight and now some gate-checker in Boise is sifting through your unmentionables and back-issues of Bon Appetit. BUT – you know it’s SOMEwhere. And, even though you may have to drag your exhausted hiney to that poorly lit baggage office and have them hand you the consolation “travel kit” – [you know the one… It offers you the luxury and extravagance of a toothbrush, shower cap, off-brand deoderant and a $5 gift card to Starbucks (’cause THAT’s all a girl needs to feel pretty)]… ultimately, you know they’re going to find your suitcase. It may be delayed. Heck, if it’s an international snafoo, it may mean a LONG wait. But, it’s coming. Your bag is coming.
So, while there are moments of discouragement and questioning as I wait for my piece of luggage (oh…and by the way … mine is amazing. You should SEE all the compartments and depth that is belied by its handsome exterior… Mmm…) – and those moments are no fun – my hope doesn’t diminish. Because the bag is out there.
Sure – it may be in a frenetic baggage claim in Charles de Gaulle airport (hey…a girl can dream, right? I like to think my bag has enjoyed some french artisinal cheeses along its path to me), and it may be (for now), in the hands of a misguided traveler who THINKS it’s hers, but hasn’t realized it’s not the right one yet. It may have been damaged in flight and is being repaired before entering back into circulation. But it’s out there. And one day, it’ll pop out of that mysterious tunnel and into my life.
And I will be SO glad I waited.
Ok, I admit it – I’m about to recycle and old post on you guys. But a have a really good reason…
I’m out of ideas.
HA ha!! As if!
I have more ideas than I’ll probably EVER get the chance to write about…because they flood into my mind faster than I can capture them, write them up and post them. Not to mention, you all have been GREAT about submitting questions to the “Ask Sarah” page…and I plan to answer them all. (Keep ’em coming!)
No, I’m reposting this because I’ve been having a lot of conversations with people lately about boring or poorly thought-out online profiles, and it reminded me of one of my early blogs… so I thought I’d reshare. If you’ve already read it, well – read it again in a cool accent.
Ubiquity is Everywhere.
Look. You are no different from anyone else when it comes to the basics of what you want in a partner. Obviously everyone is unique and has certain idiosyncrasies that set them apart in what makes them choose one over another. But, the basics…the standard fare – is always the same. I mean, c’mon – no one says “I’m looking for a lazy, ugly, cheating, raging, cheap man who will give me no attention or affection.” (But if you know this girl, give her a “bless your heart” hug as soon as possible.)
So, since we’ve established that we all want the normal baseline of decent human character, can we stop TALKING about it? I am so sick of reading profile after profile that say the same stinkin’ thing. They all want a woman who is sweet, but also speaks her mind; who is pretty with or without makeup; who enjoys her work, but isn’t consumed by it; on and on…. something, something…blah blah…I’m alseep.
Can we start an uprising? A revolutionary new way of approaching this? How’s about this: don’t say dumb stuff that’s obvious. Say something that sets you apart. I’m telling you – the profiles that grab my attention and make me want to send the guy a message, are those that have a flash of wit or an interesting musing or even just a silly story. In an effort to jump start this grassroots campaign for uniqueness, I’m offering up my services – that is, I’m going to tell you how to not screw it up.
First off…guys, why do so many of your profiles say that you want an HONEST woman? Well, duh. Do we have to SAY that? All you’re doing is letting everyone know that you were cheated on. Which is sad, but it’s not particularly relevant for searching for a woman online… I mean, let’s just think this through to the end – if I’m NOT an honest woman, then obviously I’m not going to tell you I’m dishonest…that would be honest…which I’m not. So, I can CLEARLY not choose the wine in front of you! (If you don’t get that reference, you should have your funny gland checked… no, seriously…I’m a little concerned…)
Next, a helpful list for quick reference when writing the “about me” section:
Things EVERYone loves, so you don’t need to verbalize it:
– Long walks on the beach. The beach is beautiful, day or night. Walking hand in hand with someone you love is delightful. Who wouldn’t like to put these two things together?
– Have fun. ….OOOOooh. Ok. Gotcha.
– Staying in and watching a movie, cuddling on the couch. Men always list this right after they’ve used that whole line about wanting a woman who can put on her heels and go out on the town, AND be able to just throw her hair up in a ponytail and relax at home. I think they must think that we need to hear them admit to being homebodies? Everyone likes vegging out on the sofa. Everyone likes having someone around to snuggle with. Again…put these together and you have a universally acceptable partner activity.
– Laugh. Really? You have to say this? You have to specify that you enjoy that thing your body naturally does…when you’re experiencing enjoyment? Is there such a thing as a person that doesn’t like to laugh? I mean, barring all those people with cripplingly painful laughter muscle diseases… obvi. But, are there women out there who hate it when they laugh? Try picturing someone laughing and hating it at the same time…kinda funny, right? Kinda makes you want to laugh, right? I hate that.
– Love. So, wait… you love love? AND you’re on an online dating site? That is so. weird.
– To enjoy life to the fullest. This one really chaps my hide. Why do they have to be so extreme? I mean… I like to enjoy life as much as the next guy, but…. ‘to the fullest?’ I don’t know that I’m ready for that kind of commitment…
– Simple Pleasures. While I prefer to have to toil tirelessly for a small amount of happiness, I suppose I can get on board with some pleasure that comes easy… it’s asking a lot, but I’ll try to power through.
And, let me just admit that I’m guilty of this too. I guess I feel like if I DON’T list the globally understood basic decencies I want in a person, that I’ll be that lucky girl who ends up with some soul-less sociopath, rocking in a corner somewhere, muttering to myself, “I should’ve specified that I wanted a nice, honest guy….what have I done?”
But, perhaps ….just perhaps… one day, I’ll be bold enough to take my quasi-generic checklist down and put something like this up in its stead:
“Sassy, sometimes controlling, but always fun grammar nazi seeks a man who:
– prefers real Christmas trees over fakes ones. I mean…eww.
– will kill spiders and all manner of bug or icky-like creatures that come into my path.
– will play the radio game with me, and never stoop to letting me win.
– won’t tease me about my spray butter problem, unless it’s that adorable flirty teasing thing.
– won’t judge me for watching trash TV…and maybe will even watch a few shows with me.
– is handsome enough that I can’t resist him, but not SO perfect that I feel insecure around him. I don’t need abs of steel… abs of a good firm back-sleeper-pillow will do just fine.
– won’t roll his eyes at my habit of turning every phrase into a song.
– will let me convince him to abandon white flour. It’s the wave of the food future, dude. Just surrender now.
– will let me have 5/6ths of the bed and keep the ceiling fan off.
– will watch chick-flicks with me without rolling his eyes and saying words like “formulaic”
– doesn’t consider a matinee and dinner at Chili’s a “romantic evening”
– will offer to rub my shoulders without me having to ask, from time to time
– can cook. Or at least will join me in a culinary adventure where I cook and he’s my hunky sous chef. Oh my….
– drinks wine.
– owns clothes other than graphic tees
– will throw a party with me… bonus points for hosting or going to a costume party where he actually dresses up.
– loves Jesus…and actually GETS that we need him.” (whoa…heavy…)
So – there you have it. Men of Houston, form a line and let’s do this thing. I’m accepting 7’s and higher tonight.
This is the last of our ongoing discussion on faith and dating. And I thought I’d conclude with the practical application of it all –
HOW to date someone who shares your beliefs
…or, if you don’t care about that – how to avoid those of us who do.
The question, especially with online dating, is HOW/WHEN to open this subject up. There’s a level of privacy in talking about faith…and yet…it matters so much for compatibility that, at least for me, it needs to be brought up pretty so0n. I haven’t always been the best at this… perhaps there was a subconscious measure of “don’t ask so you won’t be disappointed” mentality at work, but I’m buckling down now.
So, for my part,
I’ve resolved in 2013 to be even more circumspect in this category – so much so that I’m not going to meet a guy unless I’ve somehow at least confirmed that he is a Christian and that it’s a real part of his life. Yikes! This is going to be tricky. Why, you ask? Because asking these questions can often send the wrong message. It can make it sound like the faith issue is ALL I think about. It can sound like I’m a big fat prude. It can sound like I’m super picky (which I am,….but they don’t need to know that JUST yet). No matter how you slice it, letting someone know from the get-go that it’s a deal-maker/breaker CAN come off sounding like I’m not particularly fun.
But, guess what? Oh WELL!
I know I’m fun, and if they’re the one for me, they’ll investigate long enough to see that too.
I’m done going out with “he MAY be a Christian…hard to say” guy. It’s not because they’re not great… heck, half of my guy friends ARE that guy.
It’s that I open myself up to falling in love…or at least in lust…. with someone who I know isn’t who I really want. Sigh…
So – my plan?
Ask the guy, before we meet. Either on the site’s messaging system or by text or on the phone.
And sometimes the answer is IN the profile.
- If, under “religion/faith,” he has NOTHING, I’m not interested. I used to give these guys the benefit of the doubt that perhaps they were Christians who just didn’t want to be pigeon-holed into the stereotypically unfortunate characteristics our society has assigned (or that many Christians have assigned ourselves). But, so far, 10 outta 10 of these are simply not spiritually-minded at all. Moving on.
- If they list “Christian,” but under “My match,” they choose “no preference” or they click all the religions, then we’re not going to see eye-to-eye either.
(side note: at the risk of losing readers here… this is not the way I select friends. I have some of the most amazing people in my life who range all over the spiritual spectrum from Atheist to Buddhist to Agnostic to generically spiritual-but-not-religious to die-hard conservative Christians to licensed Witch Doctors (ok, well that guy is self-titled, but still…). I love engaging with and befriending people of all faiths. I just want to MARRY someone who believes fundamentally what I do.)
- If they list “Christian,” but then say hateful or close-minded or overly-crass things in their profile, then I’m not interested. That just screams ‘hypocrite.’
But, if they list “Christian,” and there’s not indication that that’s NOT the case, then I have to ask.
Now, I’m not going to just sidle up and say, “Hi! Are you a Christian for REELZ?” But, I can ask questions like:
1. “So, where do you worship?” (by the way, NO – I do not think that going to church makes you a Christian, but most people who are serious about their faith DO believe that corporate worship is a part of that. But, then, there are also believers who are hurt or angry at the church/organized religion or for some other reason don’t attend worship…..whew…it’s confusing.
I feel like a venn diagram is in order here.
*scurries over to whip one up and insert here:
2. “Your profile says ‘Christian, Other’… what exactly does that mean to you?”
Again… this might stun someone. But, honestly, the kind of guy I’m really looking for (really looking for means, not the guy you’d settle for at 9:00 on a Friday night when all your friends are unavailable and you’re feeling lonely and maybe you’ll go on a second date with that guy who smelled funny…) – no, the kind of guy I REALLY want – won’t be scared by this question. He’ll be intrigued – maybe even GLAD. Because HE will be looking for someone who could answer that question too.
I’m sure there are multiple other ways to ask the question, but these are a start. I’ll let you know how it goes…
So – I’m sure there’s much more to be said about faith and dating, but for now, we’ll close this chapter on the blog.
In the next couple of weeks, here are some teasers for what you have to look forward to:
– “Ask Sarah” – how to reject someone…. even if it’s just because he’s a bad kisser…
– A discussion about the good guys… great profiles, fantastic dates… proof that they’re still out there.
– Speed Dating, a la Match.com…
In this ongoing discussion of faith and dating, I polled several people across the spectrum of beliefs and got some interesting responses.
I thought I’d use today’s post to show you one of those replies. (read: stall for time while I collect enough damning evidence…er…unfortunate dating profile photos to use for a winner’s circle posting tomorrow. Hey…I have no shame in letting someone else do the writing/work every once in a while).
Enjoy. Or disagree… Either way – read on!
This is an area that should be important to people of no faith as well as the “super-religious.”
Let me share one assumption first (which is based on way too many years of marriage counseling). Dating is never casual.
We may want it to be, but it is, by nature, an environment that invites the development of romance.
That being said, I think that even early dating decisions should ask the question, “Is there anything about this person that would make a 50 year marriage uncomfortable or unbearable?”
Let’s take an example that is less volatile than traditional religious belief (or absence thereof). If I were single, I might enjoy an evening with a lady who enjoys a good séance now and again even though I think that’s a lot of rubbish. I don’t object to her chatting with her deceased uncle, but I wouldn’t want to spend my life with someone who thinks that Ghost Hunters International represents a spiritual exercise. I wouldn’t want our children to be raised with what seem to me to be odd beliefs, nor would I want to live with all that table tapping (knock once for “yes”, twice for “no”).
Most of us try not to be judgmental about the beliefs of others. Even so, a lifetime with someone whose core beliefs and values originate from a radically different source than our own is a prescription for relational failure.
Having said that, the question still arises as to when to broach so sensitive a topic? Should an atheist wear a T-shirt that says “I don’t need God to be good,” when snapping that all-important profile pic? Should a Pentecostal gal tell her date that she has a “check in her spirit” before he picks up the check on the table?
I understand the reluctance to announce one’s religious beliefs before getting the other person’s last name, but it should certainly be a natural part of the basic “getting’ to know you” chat. “Hi, I’m Sarah and I’m a religious fanatic. What are your hobbies?” When to approach the topic may vary with the individual. For some, putting some basic faith statement on a profile could be a positive tool to filter out those who are uncomfortable around people of faith. If the profile statement seems like an invitation to stereotyping, the information can be shared on the first date. Unless your date is a mega-dud (not to be confused with “mega-dude”) you will be asked probing questions about your likes and dislikes, dreams, aspirations, and such. If you feel awkward saying “Well, I’m a Christian and active in my church,” maybe you need to deal with your own attitude toward your faith. I’m not sure how an atheist works that into the conversation, but since both people are sharing, I tend to put the onus on the faith adherent.
Dating is a process through which singles invite people to discover their character and their lifestyle. If your faith or dislike of faith is a key part of who you are, you need to disclose it early on. Who wants to fall in love with someone who will later reject so critical a component of one’s life?
Oh, and for the record, falling in love with the intention of converting someone to or away from a particular faith perspective will almost always guarantee ongoing mutual misery.
R. Garment, Pastor & Counselor
There you have one man’s response.
What about you guys? Weigh in, readers!
What do you believe?
We’ve talked a lot about how hard it is to find someone on the same page as you spiritually, but we haven’t really defined those pages.
In fact, one of the biggest issues my non-Christian friends have with me, is that they think my standards/parameters are way too “picky” in this department.
So – I want to clarify what it is that I believe, exactly, so that you all can help me find a man. Ha! No… (not that I’d complain, but that’s not the point).. I’m including this as part of our discussion on faith and dating… to demonstrate just how hard it is to find someone on the same page…or at least CLOSE!
What do I believe?
I believe I can fly. I believe I can touch the sky.
I believe the children are the future… teach them well and let them lead the way.
Show them all the beauty they possess insii-ii-i-iiiiide…
Fine. Seriously. What do I believe.
…as well as WHY my line is, as one friend calls it, a “hard double yellow” line (one that can’t be crossed).
It’s not that my line is SO rigid. It’s that, unlike my atheist/agnostic friends who can respect any religion, I want to find someone who SHARES my beliefs.
Look…anyone can fall in love. I’m really good at that.
But, it’s not enough anymore for me to just fall in love… only to realize that there is a serious gap in compatibility…
It’s not enough to find someone who will go with me to church and nod along.
It’s not enough to find someone who “accepts” me for what I believe, but thinks that, for him, it would be a crazy pill to swallow.
I don’t just want to be tolerated – I want to be looking at the world through the same lens.
This isn’t like sushi and BBQ – two foods I hate. (I know, I know… insert a zillion lectures about how I “just haven’t had the right kind…” I know I’m a disgrace to the foodie name I claim…blah blah blah…). I also hate coffee. Yup – me and 14 other people on the planet. (I think I just literally HEARD my readership numbers dropping…)
But, I could gladly live my life with a man who ate sushi and BBQ all the time and who filled our home with the smell and stains of dark roasts.
But, faith is different from preferences.
Do this – even if you don’t AGREE with me – for one moment, for the sake of argument – assume that God really is real. Assume (for now) that he REALLY did send Jesus to the earth to rescue us. Assume that there really is life after death. IF you believed that (and I know it’s a huge “if”) – then, how could you be ok just being ‘appreciated?’ Wouldn’t you want someone else who was in that world, who would follow you even after death, in a life characterized by following the person you believe created the world?
OK – you can take off your “imagine with me” glasses.
Many of my non-Christian friends don’t understand what the difference is – or why this all matters – as long as the end result is the same: Do good, be kind, love people.
I agree that those are all wonderful things to do and I have been so blessed to know some of the most generous, thoughtful atheists/agnostics. But, my worldview is different from just a general moralism.
My friend Christyn put it like this,
A Christian perspective on life is actually radically different from “trying to be a good person.” People of all faiths – or no faith – believe in being a good person. But to be Christian is to acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ and to live in radical obedience to him. That means you pray to him, ask for his guidance in life, listen to His Spirit within you, and generally seek to make earth more like his heavenly kingdom. That’s TOTALLY different from being a “good person” although almost always the fruit of a Christian faith looks like doing good in the world.
Interestingly, I don’t not date non-Christians because I think God will stop loving me or punish me. It’s never about that. It’s simply about priorities. With God as my number one priority, marrying someone who shares that priority only makes sense. -CS
I honestly don’t expect a lot of people to get this or agree.
I wish they did, but I’ve realized that unless you’re in my boat… it DOESN’T make sense why it should be such a big deal.
A sweet atheist friend of mine likened the issue of what you believe to political beliefs.
You know we have laws in this country that protect our privacy for who we voted for. If someone were to ask you where your vote went, and you said you’d like to keep that private, people won’t press the issue. If I were on a date and someone asked me who I voted for, I would keep that private at first. If the person were REALLY political they might feel the need to know, but that would make me realize another difference between us.
But if someone asks you your religious preference, it’s boastfully uttered! Its the societal norm it seems. But as an atheist I cannot wear that badge with pride. People in this country are overwhelmingly anti-atheist! So I never bring it up in the dating realm until it’s asked about. And in some cases the other person doesn’t care, in others it stops everything from moving on. –JP
I’d honestly never thought of it like this before, but he’s right… and his point, whether it bugs him or not, goes right to the idea that your spiritual beliefs MATTER on a different plane than all else.
For me, they do.
But – back to that being-on-the-same-page thing….
I think one of the biggest problems in wanting to find someone who believes similarly to me, is that there are MANY different understanding/iterations of every religion. It’s not enough to call myself a Christian. Because there are plenty of men out there who would call themselves Christians and believe wildly differently than I do.
That same friend who I just quoted, added,
“…if someone tells me they are a Christian, I have no idea what their stance is on homosexuality. Christians do not agree on this topic! Nor do they agree on abortion, the trinity, the pope, etc. Another example might be someone telling me they believe in karma. This is told to me very often! Even though karma originates from hinduism and buddhist religions, they are neither of those. I’ve even met people who believe Jesus Christ was the son of God, yet they are not Christian 0.o You start to wonder if people even understand their belief system properly.”
No, JP… many people do NOT understand their belief system properly. So – that muddies the waters even MORE!
I’d LOVE a dating site where there was a required spot for you to write out a few sentences saying what it is you believe. How cool would THAT be?
For my part, it would probably be something like this:
I believe there’s a God. I believe he created the world and everything in it. I believe that the world now is NOT the way it’s supposed to be and there is pain and brokenness all around us. I believe God sent his son, Jesus Christ, to show us how to live and love and to restore our broken relationship with God, and ultimately to redeem this world and make it right again. I try to follow him in my life. I mess up a lot. But, God is gracious and forgiving and as I struggle through this life, I enjoy his good gifts, and find comfort in him when there’s suffering. I also value the community of believers and worship.
It would be something like that. I believe a lot more than that, mind you… I have thought a LOT about what I believe, including some of the nitty-gritty less central pieces of Christianity…I dig that stuff. But, all of that stuff doesn’t have to line up 1-to-1 with a man for the relationship to be successful. I don’t need to find another theology nerd. But, I DO want to find someone who will not only enter into discussion about these things, but who is trying to honor God with HIS life and his relationships.
My brother-in-law and friend, Mike said this:
“…God has orchestrated the sacred union of marriage and the Biblical picture of that is two believers in union together with a mutual goal of glorifying God in their lives and in their relationship.”
I’ve thought several times about making the first sentence of my profile:
“I want a man who will throw me around the dance floor and kiss me passionately Saturday night, and then hold my hand in church Sunday morning.”
Is that too much to ask for?
If you’re just joining me, I’m using a few posts to talk about the difficulty of wading through the tricky waters of faith/religion in the dating world. Even if you wouldn’t call yourself “religious” (a word I actually hate), you have SOME set of beliefs that you ascribe to…And what do you do about syncing those with another?
(The intro to this discussion can be found here.)
I figure the best way to dive into this is to simply talk about it from my viewpoint and experience.
This is, by far, THE biggest stumbling block
to finding “the one” (for me… the one for me).
I’m going to a speed-dating event later this month, hosted by Match .com, (which will hopefully be better than my last attempt at speed dating…), and I told a friend of mine – if I knew that all 15 of the men there would be Christians, I’d happily pay four times the amount for the event. A room full of single Christian men? YES to that.
In related news, I’ve just thought of an idea for my birthday, for anyone who needs one…
But I digress.
The point is – finding a man who shares my beliefs is practically impossible. (But, since I am an optimist and have not gotten so cynical that I’ve stopped believing in love – I can still say “practically”…)
Online dating SHOULD be the perfect solution to this problem, right?
I mean – there are BOXES to check, people…it’s simple! RIGHT?
Every site has options for selecting which faith (or non-faith) you are, and which you’re looking for.
All you have to do is be honest. Check the box that TRULY represents you, and this should solve the issue…right?
The problem is (well, ONE of the problems…) – the “choose the box” method doesn’t really work. Well, not on its OWN.
Why? Because people are dumb when it comes to matters of faith/spirituality.
Fine – maybe not DUMB, but largely NOT THOUGHTFUL.
After having been out there for a while now, I’ve realized there really (at least for ME) almost has to be some mention of faith in the essay portion of the profile. Because, I’ve learned that there are plenty of people out there who check the box “Christian,” and have absolutely no idea what that even means. It’s actually embarrassing to me AS one.
The majority of the guys online whose profile lists them as “Christian” are actually just
- Loosely spiritual (they acknowledge that there may be a spiritual dimension to this life)
- Agnostic (acknowledging that there must be some supreme being, but unable to claim any one religion because we don’t have the power to KNOW for sure what’s true
- Christian by name only (they grew up in a household where they went to church or VBS or Christian summer camps)
- Christian in philosophy, but not in their lives (they actually believe that Jesus was the son of God, but never go to church, don’t think that any kind of organized religion is good and have no desire to deepen their understanding of their beliefs)
I went out with a guy who marked “Baptist” on his profile, but then on the date – when it came up, said that he doesn’t really follow John the Baptist anymore. Um…. as far as I know, no religion holds John the Baptist as the person to “follow.” It was a whole strange discussion where I realized that he’d never spent ANY time thinking about or processing what it is he really believes.
In fact, as I think about this topic, it occurs to me that my atheist and agnostic friends have given more honest reflection/thought to what they believe (or don’t believe) than many “Christians” I run across. Seriously. I’m thinking of three friends in particular – two atheists and one agnostic – who have devoted serious time and attention to arrive at the place they’re in, faith-wise. It’s quite impressive, actually!
Sadly, for MANY people, that’s not the case.
So – it’s not enough to check the box.
Here’s just one example of that:
This guy was, at least, decent and sweet about the fact that he’d checked a box that didn’t represent him. We’ll call him “Luke.”
I met Luke on Match.com and we began messaging each other.
We quickly moved to texting and were planning to meet up for drinks or lunch. I used an opportunity in our texting to playfully assess how serious he was about his faith. Here’s how it went:
This is disappointing, but in the end, it saves me the heartache of starting to fall for someone who I can’t really be with…
But at least this guy was honest about where he was. I SO appreciated that.
I go out on dates all the time with guys who claim to be Christian and either full-on lied on their profile, or (more often the case), simply were raised in the church and claim that without really owning it for themselves. It would be the same as me saying I’m a republican simply because my parents are. We would all agree that doesn’t make much sense to call yourself one thing, if you don’t have any honest connection or true identification with it for yourself… and yet – people do it in online dating all the time.
So, I press on.
I include what it is I’m looking for in my profile, I TRY to assess where a guy is in his own journey of faith before meeting up, but certainly within the first couple of dates, and when I DO find men who share my beliefs, I still have to find one who knows how to us an apostrophe, is funny and attractive, etc., etc. Seems NEARLY impossible.
In the next portion of this series, I’m going to get pretty controversial and talk about WHAT exactly it is that I believe. And WHY it’s NOT ok for me to date someone who’s not in the same camp. Buckle up…it may involve snake-handling.
Ok, fine, it doesn’t…….