Anyone else feel like they are the best version of themselves—until they get into a relationship?
(Raises two hands.)
I love my single self. I’m independent, I’ve traveled solo, moved overseas without knowing anyone, I write in the late hours of the night, I work out, yoga, read—you know, all the things that make you a whole, interesting person.
And then, enter relationship: and suddenly, it becomes all-consuming, all I can think about.
This can be especially detrimental when dating someone who is, say, avoidant-attachment, or who has a tendency to love-bomb; in the beginning, they are equally as excited and into it, and then, they begin to lose interest, and you find yourself clinging onto something that you’re not even sure was right to begin with.
A friend told me a story the other day about a guy friend who would make a vague plan with a girl, but then the day-of, decide he’d rather go hang with the guys, and forget to tell the girl until near their date time.
When she told him that the girl was probably all dressed up, waiting around all day, excited for the date, his reply was: that’s not my problem.
I’m not sure I totally agree—we should all be better at communicating in the dating world. But when I relayed this story to my therapist, she said: well, it’s actually not his problem.
She explained that people don’t owe us anything. All we can control is our own actions and how we want to spend our own precious time. She wasn’t excusing bad behaviour, but she was focusing on how I can have healthier habits in relationships by looking at what factors I can control.
I can’t make someone see why not texting back and ghosting is awful and shouldn’t happen. But I can choose to not have that person in my life, and not let it impact my self-worth.
Here’s some more dating advice from my therapist for anyone in the dating world:
1. Keep things “light and breezy.”
In the beginning, we should keep things “light and breezy.” It’s about letting things roll off you, not expecting the absolute worst of people, and realizing that sometimes, playing it cool actually has more of the desired effect.
If a plan isn’t concrete, you’ve already tried to confirm, and still not heard back, you are allowed to go ahead and make other plans. And when/if we receive a text that says they’re bailing, it’s no problem! We’ve already got something else going on. Sure, you likely won’t want to make plans with that person again—but that’s their loss. Not yours. Or maybe they’ll see that you’re not someone who waits around, so they’ll know that next time, they need to confirm earlier.
Now, when I receive a text that’s “triggering,” I say to myself…light and breezy, and I’m able to respond much more calmly and make a choice for myself whether this is someone I want to continue with.
2. Don’t give them your prime time.
When things are just starting (anywhere from a first date to the first two to three months), don’t meet them, say, on a Saturday evening. Your prime time should be kept for your close friends and for people who have earned your trust.
We should also not give our entire day up for someone, and we should have a clear end time for a date. If you do stay over on the Saturday, don’t secretly hope in the back of your mind that you’ll then spend the whole next day together (unless you’ve both communicated this).
Instead, set a time for yourself for when you’ll go home and have something fun planned after. It then takes away any miscommunication about what your next-day plans are if they haven’t been made official. And it helps keep you busy with your own life and interests.
3. Have clear boundaries and don’t take sh*t.
“Light and breezy” doesn’t mean being a pushover. It means being selective about what we’re going to let bother us, and not wasting our energy on things that are not important. If I got angry and worked up every time someone stood me up, bailed on plans, didn’t text back, holy mother of! I’d be out of steam by Tuesdays. (Not that my dating life is currently that exciting.)
When we have firm and clear boundaries, we don’t let that negative energy into our space, and we don’t stand for being treated badly. We are clear about expectations up-front, and we communicate when someone has crossed the line.
In previous relationships, I’ve been less light and breezy and more like a slightly frustrated little rainfall. And my boundaries were really poor; I allowed people to take advantage of my time and then resented them for it.
At the end of the day, dating is supposed to be fun. It can also be super stressful and scary, and I totally get that. But if we have our own full lives that we don’t give up just because we’re inviting some romance into it, then we can actually enjoy the process even more.
I also don’t consider these hard and fast rules. But as someone who has a tendency to dive in headfirst into romance, I need to learn to take the beginning stages more slowly, and this advice can help me do that.
I wrote about Brené Brown’s Anatomy of Trust in another article here, and I think it is so important that we reserve emotional intimacy for those who have earned it. Who have proven that they are reliable, respectful, and someone who you feel safe letting into our weird, little world.