Datin’ Without Hatin’ — Return of SM’s Dating Advice Column! Inspired by the Godawful Relationship Writing on “The Flash”!

Well, hi there! I know, it’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog, let alone this column. But I am not gone! I am still here!

 

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And I’m still capable of advising you on how best to live your life, because I’m definitely not an internet hermit to whom it makes no difference that I’m snowed in on a Sunday because it wasn’t like I was planning to go outside anyway. Nope, that’s definitely not me right now.

Anyhow, I was inspired to write a post lambasting some of the horrendous relationship choices made by the writers on The Flash this season, specifically one particular section of dialogue from the most recent episode.

If you’ve never seen The Flash, don’t worry, I shall explain:

Barry Allen is the Flash. He can run super duper fast. He thus became a superhero and fights all sorts of supernatural threats that regular cops can’t deal with.

This season, he met a lady cop named Patty. Patty is awesome and they start dating, but Barry never tells her anything whatsoever about being the Flash or about the supernatural threats that are endangering her, even though Patty is on the special police task force specifically established to deal with supernatural threats. 

He constantly flakes on her, backs out of plans without explanation, lies to her about everything from his whereabouts to his emotional needs, etc, all because he refuses to tell her anything she needs to know, even though this is constantly putting her in danger because she lacks the critical information necessary to protect herself.

Girls, boys, and others — this is SUPER unhealthy. But my even bigger issue came this past episode, when Patty finally confronts him about his behavior. How does she do it?

“Look, I have been a really cool girlfriend, okay? Most girls wouldn’t have the self-esteem to deal with [begins to list numerous ways in which Barry is a lousy boyfriend].”

This line…this line…I don’t even have the words to explain how much I despise this line.

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You want to know why many girls put up with lousy boyfriends? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not because of self-esteem.

Usually, it is literally the opposite.

We put up with lousy partners, negligent partners, abusive partners — and why? Because we don’t think we deserve better. We think that our emotional needs aren’t worthy of attention. Because we think that making our needs and desires known will make us “uncool” or “clingy” or “demanding” or “shrewish” or, god forbid, “nagging.” This goes for all genders, fyi, but I do think that there are extra complications for women because there is SO MUCH societal pressure on women and girls to be nice and polite and sweet and accommodating and “cool” in a low maintenance way.

Note that “shrewish” and “nag” are used almost exclusively to describe undesirable behavior in women. Note that Patty equated her silence with being “a cool girlfriend.” Note that on other occasions, she prefaces perfectly reasonable requests with, “You know I don’t want to nag, that’s not who I am.” The fear of being considered a nag can be so intense that we frequently shut up about what we want or need in an effort to just be “cool.”

I speak from experience, as someone who dated a lousy boyfriend, years ago, and put up with all the flakiness, the cancelled plans, the broken promises, the constant “compromises” that weren’t compromises because they just amounted to me giving in to what he wanted.

I thought those things made me a good girlfriend. I thought that I was being nice, that I was being strong and not giving in to insecurity, that I was being generous and understanding. Because I did understand that, say, he was tired and didn’t want to hang out, or that he canceled on my birthday because he was feeling really anxious about a lot of things so we skyped instead, or that it made more sense for me to travel an hour and a half to see him on certain days because he had class until noon and if he had to travel to me after class ended, we’d have less time to hang out.

All of these things individually were understandable, but they piled up, skewing the reciprocity, so that I was giving, giving, giving, and he was taking, taking, taking. And when I did try to say that it felt unfair or that I needed something from him in return, he would call me “clingy” or “demanding,” and I would be appalled at myself and shut down my needs, and concentrate on just giving more and being better.

It was not because of self-esteem.

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I haven’t forgotten that this is a dating advice column. So here’s my advice:

To girls, because we’re socialized to be pushovers (but this can of course be applicable to other genders as well): Speak up about what you need. Don’t be ashamed of it, don’t repress it, don’t be afraid that it makes you naggy and clingy and undesirable. If it’s something that you honestly think you would willingly do for your partner, it’s not too much to ask. And if your partner is repeatedly unwilling or unable to meet or respect your needs, walk away. You will be better off.

To boys, because it’s not your fault but you’re probably not aware of just how much girls are socialized to accommodate others: If you feel like you screwed up, but the girl says, “it’s okay” or “don’t worry about it” — don’t always take it at face value. Sometimes it is okay, for sure, don’t get me wrong. Like when I walk into a guy’s place and he’s all, “sorry about the mess” and I’m all, “pffft, whatever, don’t worry about it,” I genuinely mean that, because messes genuinely do not bother me. And if it’s a once-in-a-blue-moon canceled plan. But if it’s a fairly big no-no, like canceling on her birthday, or if it’s a pattern, be mindful of that. There is so much pressure on us girls to just be okay with everything that sometimes we stay silent when we should speak up. So just in case, try to make it up to her sometimes. Nothing flashy, just “I know you said x was okay, but I felt weird about it, so I did y, or I got you z, or I made q plans” — just something.

And please, for the love of god, do not call her “clingy” or “naggy” or “demanding” or any of that stuff. They are all ways of saying, “your needs are not important,” and if she believes you, and starts believing that, the psychological damage is enormous. Believe me.

If her needs or desires genuinely do overwhelm you and you can’t meet them, either because what she wants is truly outlandish or because you personally are not equipped to handle it, that relationship is probably not the best fit for either of you, and you should probably end it.

 

I know all of this is general and oversimplified and each individual relationship comes with its own calculations, but overall, I think these are important to keep in mind, along with the most vital piece of advice I can give you: Don’t listen to the Flash writers about dating. Just don’t.

 

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Datin’ Without Hatin’ — Edition #2: Full Frontal Nerdity!

Well, last week’s debut of this new column was pretty well-received, so I suppose onward an upward is the way to go from here!

An anonymous person posed a question to me the other day, and in the ensuing back and forth we came to address a more general issue in addition to the specific question asked. Intrigued? Okay, enough with the intro.

At what point do you reveal to a date that you are a raging nerd? (Specifically, if you are female and he is male and as far as you know, not geeky or nerdy in any way.)

I don’t think there is any specific time or way. I mean, as it comes up?

Yeah, but what if it comes up early, like, first-date early? And I am a RAGING nerd, not just a Star Trek fan. An “I hate JJ Abrams” level Star Trek fan, a “let me show you my thesis on the reboot” level Star Trek fan.

I’d say talk about what’s relevant to the conversation – let the guy know what he’s in for. I mean, I’m not saying give him your kindle and be like “LOOK AT THIS METRIC BOATLOAD OF FANFIC I’M READING” but “oh, in case you can’t tell, I’m a huge nerd” seems like a perfectly legit thing to say.

Like if the conversation is about Star Trek, and you start rambling about all your opinions, it’d probably be kind of charmingly self aware to say, “Um, I kinda have VERY STRONG FEELINGS about this.” As a rule, a little self- deprecating humor makes plenty of quirks go down easily.

Which is NOT the same as apologizing – there’s no need to apologize for being a nerd; it’s part of who you are and how you see the world, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. If a person is automatically scared off by your niche of interests or passions, chances are they are a pretty boring person.

Boring is not a dealbreaker!

But boring in this case would indicate a certain narrow-mindedness, and THAT is probably a dealbreaker.

True.

But some people seem boring at first and take a while to warm up to people but then they turn out to be amaaaaazing —

And here’s where the conversation morphed into that aforementioned general issue: When dating, how much time do you give a person to establish themselves before you write them off and turn them down?

And the answer is…exactly as long as you are okay with. Yes, that is the same as saying “there is no right answer.” Sorry. But it’s also the same as saying, “there is no wrong answer.” Sure, there are people I’ve thought were boring initially but after a while, a connection was built and we’ve become close friends. But there are also people I’ve thought were awesome who, upon getting to know them better, turned out to be not so awesome.  And boring people who stayed boring. So yeah, it’s always theoretically possible that that ugly duckling fledgling relationship will become a beautiful swan, but it is by no means guaranteed.

You have to make a judgment call, is what it comes down to. There are different things people weigh in order to make that call. Some people prefer to feel an immediate interest in the person from the very first date. For some people, if the person doesn’t interest them, but there is nothing about him/her/xem that actively disinterests them, they’ll give ’em another chance. If there is immediate interest but also factors of disinterest, it’s more complicated and probably worth allowing it to play out a little longer to see if the positives come to definitively outweigh the negatives.

But if there’s a lot of uncertainty about whether or not you are interested in the person you’re dating, at any stage, you are under no obligation to hang in there and wait and wait and wait to see if something blossoms. You can if you want! It may work! But you don’t have to. If you’re sticking it out, make sure you’re doing it for reasons that you are okay with. For instance: If you feel like you owe it to yourself to find out if it can work, or you feel like you will deeply regret ending things with this person at this point, or you feel like your emotions are on a trajectory and are progressing but just aren’t yet where you want them to be — those are probably good reasons to give it a little more time.

I personally would not advise staying in it for reasons such as:

a) fear of having to start over with someone new (because life is not like TV; you don’t have to keep circling back to the same person; there are new ones out there that you can forge something with)

b) Everyone else (friends, family, parents) thinks you guys are great together (because they are outsiders and only you know what you feel)

c) For the sake of the other person and not wanting to hurt their feelings (because believe me, if your heart isn’t in it, sooner or later the other person will notice and they’ll be hurt all the same).

To be clear, all relationships have an element of uncertainty and there’s nothing you can do about that, and it’s not inherently a bad thing, just a fact of life. But you can still be on the lookout for basic red flags that your internal relationship meter is sending you. Like if the uncertainty is causing you excessive stress. Or if you used to feel happy if someone said “oh, I heard you’re dating so-and-so!” and you don’t feel positively about it anymore. Or if the thought of people knowing and associating you with so-and-so has never made you happy. Sometimes your gut knows these things before your head can catch up. Try to be attuned to that.

Well, golly gee, look at the time! I think I’ve blathered long enough. Ciao!

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Agree? Disagree? Like my thinky thoughts? You can commission more of them via my GoFundMe campaign — http://www.gofundme.com/sm-automotive — or subscribe on the sidebar, and thanks for reading! You can also buy me tools from this Wishlist but really I just like money.

Datin’ Without Hatin’ — Dating Advice Column, Debut Edition!

A number of people have asked me to write up some posts about dating advice. Well actually, some have asked me to write a book on it, but would settle for some posts in the meantime.

 

 

Since my own love life is nothing but grand epic tragedy of Shakespearean proportions, I find this notion amusing. But people come to me with questions a lot, and find that I’m generally a good resource for advice, because I do have to admit, what I do have going for me other than tragedy is that a) I’ve had a number of very strong, meaningful relationships with genuine connection and exceptional communication, and b) no one I’ve dated has, to my knowledge, come out of the experience hating my guts; they all wanted to be friends afterward. So my area of limited expertise is probably something like, “How to date without making anyone hate you.” Hence the catchy title of this column.

 

Note that most of the questions I’m asked and most of the experience I have is in regard to dating for the sake of a long-term monogamous relationship. I’m not a casual dater, and neither are most of the people in my social circles, so this column will likely reflect that. But I have on occasion been a sounding board for other sorts of dating, so if your questions go along those lines, I will certainly endeavor to answer them to the best of my ability.

 

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I decided to kick things off with a simple Q & A post, sent in by an anonymous woman in need of some advice recently. Behold the following exchange of ideas:

 

I have a second date next week. I have a sneaking suspicion that this will not work out between us.
How do I tell him that?
When?

 

Well, in my experience, there’s no way that it won’t be at least a little awkward, but not too bad if you stick with something like, “Look, I think you’re a really nice guy, but I don’t really see this going anywhere. I’d be glad to keep an eye out for girls who I think would be a better fit?” Bonus points if you have someone in mind and offer to check if she’s available.

Also, maybe at least let the date play out in case he pleasantly surprises you the second time. Unless you have really hardcore reasons why the first date was enough (in which case, it may be better in the future if you don’t accept a second date).

I definitely do recommend breaking things off in person, if it comes to that, mostly because I’ve been the listening ear to a lot of guys who’ve had things ended over text or in other impersonal ways and they’ve been pretty hurt by it.

I’m definitely letting the second date play out. That’s what the second date is for (at least this time). Good to know to do it in person though. I guess I’ll have to decide then if I should do it right after the date or do it another time (if at all).

When I was on a date with a guy I knew I didn’t want to see again, at the very end he accidentally gave me an opening just before he dropped me off, by saying, “So I’ll call you?” And then I got to be all, “Look, you’re a nice guy, but etc, etc.” So if you’re sure by the end of the date, it’s fair to say something at the tail end just to close the book.

If you’re not sure at that point, but become sure after the date has ended, well, then if he contacts you afterward, it might be better to tell him over the phone that you don’t want a third date so that he doesn’t go through the trouble of planning one, with misplaced expectations.

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And there you have it: how to politely reject someone straightforwardly but hopefully with a minimum of hard feelings. In the words of Wil Wheaton, don’t be a dick.

Got questions of your own that you’d like me to take a stab at? Stick ’em in the comments, tweet at me @FloatingSpirals, or if you’d prefer more privacy/anonymity, email them to me at smautomotive00@gmail.com!

 

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Agree? Disagree? Like my thinky thoughts? You can commission more of them via my GoFundMe campaign — http://www.gofundme.com/sm-automotive — or subscribe on the sidebar, and thanks for reading! You can also buy me tools from this Wishlist but really I just like money.