When Online Dating Goes Poorly

If you date long enough you are bound to have a succession of encounters that don’t go as planned. Romantic interests disappear, don’t show up, blow up over something small or just generally seem like train wrecks. Occasionally, when these occurrences stack up it can start to weigh on you. The question then becomes, what to think about these situations and how do you process what happened?

Trust me when I say that this happens to everyone. In fact, that’s what inspired this piece. I was watching my friends go through the same types of occurrences I was and it made me realize what a universal experience we were having. This was despite the fact that we were searching for vastly different types of people. Allow me to share a less than ideal week from my dating past so you can have a few examples. 

I met someone for a date that didn’t go well. Sadly, it was some of the most shallow conversations I have had on a date (I guess someone had to win that title). The one important thing we touched on was that the other people she had been out with didn’t feel as if she liked them so they quit asking her out. I also came to the conclusion that her repeated claims of independence served as a cover for her apathy and distance from others. However, since I generally give people the benefit of the doubt on first dates I decided to see her one more time. After all, maybe she was just nervous and we would have a better time the second go round. 

Despite saying she would like to go out again, she would take 24 hours to return each of my messages. This meant that every day our conversation would progress one additional text. This is far from ideal and doesn’t exactly scream “I’m interested” so I decided to make an inquiry. 

I asked if she had any interest in continuing our connection. I mentioned that the infrequent communication made me feel as if she wasn’t interested and I wanted to check in to see what she was thinking. I let her know that if she wasn’t interested in meeting up again that I would understand and there would be no hard feelings on my end. She replied quickly this time; I must be needy she said and she is no longer interested. I didn’t spend any effort trying to convince her otherwise. I thanked her for her time and wished her well. 

The second scenario involved a person who didn’t want to text except to set up a time and place of my choosing in which to meet. When I suggested we get together for a drink so we can get to know one another they ripped into me saying, “Would you approach someone you liked in public and ask to meet for a conversation?”

Since walking up to total strangers and asking for their hand in marriage has historically been fraught with problems for me, I tend to take a more cautious approach over a drink or dinner. Finding out who someone is and what they believe is important. It beats waking up one day after 20 years and saying wait, “you’re actually 30 years older than me, don’t speak any English and are running a fanzine for white supremacists?” Humph! Fool me once . . .

I tried to ascertain what this person meant as their text while full of emotion wasn’t exactly clear as to the meaning. They never messaged back. 

The final incident was with someone I enjoyed messaging. We were trading jokes and they had a sharp wit about them. Everything was going well and on day two when I went to ask them out they had removed our match and were gone. It felt unfortunate for me because I was looking forward to meeting. 

Situations such as these can be frustrating. It can be challenging to match with others and if those matches end up being the types of experiences I mentioned then it can be especially demoralizing.

So what was going on with these people and in similar situations how should you handle it? In truth, I don’t know what made them act as they did, and I don’t intend this to be dismissive, but I don’t need to know either. I also don’t think you should pay it any mind because if done properly you’re probably better off without their company. Here’s the first thing you should know. 

Be the best version of you

This is so vitally important. You should always be as kind, compassionate and understanding as you can. I’m operating under the premise that you want to be these things. If you’re one of those folks who wants to be a jerk all the time then be that, people will appreciate knowing to avoid you from the very start; just know the rest of this article is more about you than for you. So, if you aren’t rude, shallow, sexist, off putting, or exhibiting any other horrible traits then there’s a huge upside. 

You see, it’s worse to try and tailor yourself, however slight, to another person’s interests and then have things not work out. You will wonder “what if I was actually being true to who I am, would this still have happened?” If you’re honest and forthcoming and things go south there’s nothing to second guess. You were the good you and if they didn’t like that then it’s okay. After all, you want someone who will appreciate you for you. In situations like this, it was probably a simple mismatch in personality and not only is this common, but it’s nothing to worry about either. 

So once you’ve done some introspection and checked yourself then you’re good to implement these next ways of viewing your situation. 

It’s most likely not about you

I alluded to this above. Our personalities come out through any type of contact so you shouldn’t worry about a simple personality mismatch because statistically that’s going to happen most of the time. 

The other thing that happens is a lot of folks seem to get triggered nowadays and I think it’s partially because we have put dating at our fingertips. There’s nothing wrong with dating apps (in fact I think they’re great) but it does mean that more people are dating before they are ready. 

Think about the difference between dating now and 20 years ago. Back then, you had to tend to your appearance, go outside of your home, and work up the nerve to approach someone in person. This took a lot more resolve than it does now. Today you can put yourself online while laying in bed wearing your favorite crossdressing outfit (Ah come on, I know it isn’t just me). So it makes perfect sense that once folks begin messaging on dating sites/apps that they might decide they aren’t quite ready to be out there just yet. That’s perfectly understandable. 

The other thing is that it’s hard to know what’s going on in someone’s life. Everyone has their own demons and triggers and it’s not your responsibility to be accountable for them. I know that sounds harsh so allow me to expand upon that idea. Just like before, I’m not saying you can be a jerk but if you unknowingly hit on something that is upsetting someone then you aren’t to blame. 

You may text someone about a dog laying at your feet and make them realize they are too heartbroken over recently losing their pet and they aren’t in a position to be open to someone else yet. They may never respond to you again after this realization and that is their choice but it’s not your responsibility that a regular conversation triggered them. 

That was a fairy innocuous example (one which actually happened to me) but the point is, maybe they have had a horrible day, have commitment issues, an abusive relationship in their past, or any number of things. There is certainly a reason but you’ll likely never know what it is. It would be great if everyone who was triggered could have a discussion when it happens. That’s not how being triggered usually works; people tend to retreat, not open up. 

Just operate in good faith and don’t let it get under your skin. 

Assume the best and keep on rolling

I can hear you saying, “why do I assume the best?” It’s a good question and the answer is simple. You have two ways of thinking about this. You can internalize it and make it about you. This is a mindset that will eventually bring you down wondering if you’re good enough. This way of thinking can eventually become a form of self harm. Or you can say, “they must have had something going on in their life for them to act like that, I hope they find what they want.” This approach is a forgiving way to view someone who may be having a difficult time and it leaves you relatively unencumbered to venture on to someone else. 

Also keep in mind that if you date long enough then you will eventually become someone else’s mystery. Think of a time when you messed up by being triggered, didn’t text or call someone, or otherwise just dropped the ball. It’s alright. It happens, but you probably wanted the benefit of doubt in those situations so extend a few good vibes their way as well.

Ultimately, it is on them

Whether you know it or not, folks who respond poorly, negatively, or not at all, on a consistent basis are creating problems for themselves more than they are for you in that moment. 

For instance, remember the infrequent communicator I mentioned earlier? She said her past dates didn’t think she liked them. Given my experience, I’m pretty sure I know why. I could tell by her tone that this was causing her pain. It was much more painful for her than her seeming lack of interest was to me. 

It always sucks to have these types of things happen, but don’t let it keep you down for too long. Remember, you’re rolling on to other experiences and to find someone else. Some of these folks are likely to repeat their patterns again and again. You don’t need to be a part of that. 

Really. Count your blessings 

First off, the people I mentioned above don’t really seem like those you would want to date do they? A person who ghosts someone without a word, someone who thinks so little of another they can’t be bothered to respond for 24 hours at a time, and another person who feels it necessary to chide someone during their first interaction for following their instructions. 

If you were dating folks who react like this then things probably don’t look up from there. They are giving you their best foot forward and it badly needs some fungicide and a pedicure (because everyone looks better in nail polish). I know in my life letting these folks go has felt like stepping off the tracks in front of a screaming locomotive that is bound to derail. It’s one of those situations where I scratch my head as it passes and ask out loud, “what the heck was that all about?”

So take solace in what is probably a fact, and is certainly the main takeaway from this writing, they weren’t in the same mental space as you anyway. That’s okay. Thank your lucky talisman that you found out in the very beginning. Now you can free up that time and space for someone who can thrive with you. 

It’s okay to be upset

I don’t want you to think for a minute that you can’t grieve or be upset about some of the lost opportunities you’ll have while dating. Some folks you are going to become attached to quickly and your thoughts will drift to the what-if’s. When those connections sour it can make you feel as if you missed out and that can be even harder. Very few people would fault you for feeling that way. 

So by all means take some time to recover if you need. Cry if you feel it necessary as it is wonderfully restorative. Taking time to heal is what will keep you centered in the long run. 

All of this fades in time

There will be a moment when you won’t even remember most of these folks anymore. I know I wouldn’t have remembered the people I spoke of if I hadn’t started this article soon after meeting them. Don’t let the experience stick with you when the faces aren’t likely to. This is one blip in your life that you aren’t likely to remember any more than who sat behind you in second grade. So keep in mind that what bothers you today isn’t likely to do so tomorrow. 

Dating isn’t always easy and there are folks out there who seem to make it their duty to be difficult. Remember though, that things don’t always go according to plan and that’s to be expected. Know that it isn’t about you and that sooner or later you will be back to meet someone else. You’ll keep doing that until one day you’ve found someone special with whom to spend your time. Be kind, be self-aware, and keep your head up; the trains here run around the clock. 

Lessons Learned From Pulling My Head Out Of My Ass: State Of The Relationship Address

I’ve been spending my time since my last State of Relationship Address recovering from a horrible relationship and reaping the benefits of a new one with an intelligent, compassionate, beautiful human. However, there is a problem. Somewhere along the line, I lost my way; I forgot two of the tenants that I live my life by and I am paying the price from a lack of trust and security that now exists on both sides of the relationship.

I’ve always valued communication in a relationship. It’s sometimes hard, sometimes gritty, sometimes beautiful, but it’s always worth the effort. In the past, I moved on from a relationship because communication wasn’t there so I know it’s important to me. Another relationship I left because I was punished for communication. It’s that last one that matters more.

It smells like shit in here

In that last relationship, there was no reward for sharing my feelings. Sharing meant that it would trigger the other person and because of their insecurity, they would try to manipulate and control me. So I stopped. That didn’t work either but since the relationship was abusive it didn’t really matter, nothing was going to work. Little did I know, this survival habit had remained in place waiting for someone to come along who didn’t deserve to have it used on them.

Tenant 1: Communication is key, no matter what

I have been dating the beautiful person I mentioned in the opening paragraph. She is the brightest light I have ever had in my life and one of the strongest people I have ever met. She has been by my side even when I wouldn’t allow myself to be by hers. I kept her at arm’s length because I was afraid of talking about things that bothered me in our relationship. These things I would later learn were small and insignificant. However, when you don’t talk about your fears, you start to believe them.

That led me to end the relationship in a panic but I couldn’t stay away. I ended it a second time but kept getting drawn back. I realize now that I was returning for a good reason; I truly adore her. Instinctively, I knew I should be with her but my fear kept pulling me away.

Essentially, hiding my fear was a way of trying to protect her from what I thought would be hurtful information (and maybe it was), but the real damage is that I hurt her in an entirely different way which cost us more.

Tenant 2: Let the best version of me get rejected

Historically, I don’t hold back with people whom I am romantically interested in. If I get rejected, I want the best version of me possible to get rejected. The best version of me, not coincidentally, is also the truest version. I don’t want to meet someone and try to fit their mold just to get spurned anyway. I would always wonder how things could have gone differently if I would have just been me. I have never regretted being rejected as myself.

As I mentioned, I was a flight risk. Because I didn’t know when I was going to get overwhelmed and feel like checking out, I kept her at arm’s length to protect her (which is quite possibly the stupidest thing ever written).

Now, I love affection. I don’t mean sex, though wonderful, it’s not really what builds intimacy. I’m talking about walking hand in hand with a partner, pulling them close for a loving squeeze, coming behind her and sliding my hands around her waist while putting my lips on her neck as we prepare dinner, locking eyes with hers and staring deeply, and not so innocently brushing her butt with my hand as I glide past. These, and thoughtful compassionate words, are little touches that let someone know you are thinking about them, that they excite you, and that you love them.

Because I didn’t want her to get too close I kept myself from doing these things, the very things that would help her feel like I wanted to be around her. From her perspective, I was pulling away. My actions were ridiculous and predictably it had the effect that you would imagine. This made her feel as if another breakup was imminent.

Man it’s bright out here

The security rubberband finally snapped. We separated again, this time it might be for good. Now that we have nothing to lose, or perhaps because we have everything to lose, we are finally talking like we should have been from the start. It turns out she was holding things back as well because she was afraid it would push me away. I’m not sure that it would have but back then I don’t know if I was in a place to respond appropriately. We bared our souls to each other and I suspect we have more to go.

I learned a couple of things from this experience. The first is rather obvious, I need to live up to the standards that I set for myself. I let my fear and past trauma pull me from the correct path.

I should have been myself. I put the best version of me forward in the beginning and we won each other’s hearts. Then I became scared and let myself diminish. This allowed our relationship to wither. Now the person that she has come to know isn’t really me. I stopped being that loving, appreciative, fearlessly open person she fell in love with, and if we are split for good I have to live with the fact that I could have been more but was afraid. If I had remained true to who I was, we might be giggling in each other’s arms right now.

The second thing is something that I didn’t expect. Being honest with each other and talking through things has taken me from wanting to leave to wanting to begin again. More than that, I love the conversations we are having now. It’s not all easy to hear, for either of us, but I feel so much closer to her now. Talking about my fears removed their power over me.

I want to do the things with her so badly now that I never took the time for previously. I want to give her everything, show her she is loved, cherish and protect her heart the proper way, help fulfill her dreams as if they were my own, and provide the stability and belonging she so desperately wants. The difference this time is that I can do it. Our openness has actually given me that new relationship energy back because, let’s be honest, this is truly new.

What happens now

However, while we still have a relationship as friends, we are not a couple anymore. I am slowly coming to terms with the possibility that we may never be a couple again. I still have hope but I realize that sometimes the damage is too much and the risk for her may be too great; which leaves me with a painful conclusion. It’s possible I ruined the best thing I ever had. I may have woken up too late.

I’m trying to look on the bright side of either outcome. If I get a third chance, we are learning how to talk to each other better than either of us ever have with anyone. That coupled with eliminating my fear will let me show her what she means to me. Hopefully, I can be the person she fell in love with and support her like she deserves.

If we can’t continue, then my path there is clear as well. I will work to recover like I have before and take my lessons and move forward. Thankful for what I had and secure in the knowledge that someone wonderful can love me. Hopefully, eventually, someone else will come along again.

Either way, I want to be the person I’ve worked so hard to be.

This is Your Brain on Drugs

In his TED Talk entitled, “Relationships Are Hard, But Why?” Stan Tatkin takes an approach you may not have considered previously. Relationship difficulties are largely because of how our brains function. That and because we’re wrong pretty much all of the time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xKXLPuju8U

So learn how to help cope with that crazy shit you think by starting with his speech. It’s helped me immensely.

A Sunny Day Gone Wrong

I love this and her entire article –

“…suggesting that, for men, any sexual overture is welcome. I asked how he’d feel if a fellow weighing three-forty cornered him somewhere isolated and manhandled him. Suddenly this struck him as way more sinister.”

http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-crotchgrabber/amp

State of the Relationship Address: 4 pointers for dating and beyond

queer_house

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted one of these State of the Relationship articles. This is mainly because things have been going good for me as of late and sometimes it’s harder to know what to write in exceptional times as opposed to those of turmoil.

For the last six months I’ve been dating one person and I’ve learned so much from the experience. I’d like to talk about a few of those things here because I think that people don’t do this enough and it may be as helpful to you as it was me.

1. Push Your Boundaries

It helps to keep an open mind when you are dating or in any relationship. If I had stuck to my old habits and deal breakers I would have never met the person I am with now and trust me when I say that I would be poorer for it.

Obviously, there are boundaries you don’t want to cross. Dating someone with a recent history (or maybe any history, though I think people can change – see note 3) of perpetrating abuse on another is one that immediately comes to mind. I’m not asking you to step over that boundary. That’s a healthy one to have.

Take a look though at which of your deal breakers and boundaries are built upon biases and assumptions. Challenge them head on. I went against what I thought was my better judgement at the time to date the person I’m with now. I’m so glad I did because not only did I stumble (I can be inept despite my best efforts) my way into a relationship with an amazing person, but in exploring her personality traits that I thought were deal breakers I discovered that things weren’t at all what I had imagined them to be. Learning about my partner helped me understand her better. It helped me discover things about myself even and created some wonderful bonding moments for us. I don’t think these things could have happened had we not both pushed our boundaries and taken the time to understand one another.

2. Being Open Doesn’t Mean Being Completely Open

So I’m pretty much an open book. I have no real secrets and in a normal day to day conversation (I’m not sure I really have these, I tend to gravitate to deeper topics) I might tell someone any number of things about me that some people are guarded about. I’ll talk about my sexual proclivities, the fact that I cross dress and how it makes me feel and pretty much anything and everything else.

This helps people see who I am and it generally allows them to feel as if they can open up to me. Most eventually do and I love sharing that experience with them.

However, I’ve learned that there is a limit to this. I’ve always said that being open and honest is not an excuse to be cruel. Now I have another caveat to add to this, which is that it also doesn’t mean that I can share the details of other people’s lives without consideration. I thought that being open and true to myself meant that I had to be completely open about everything. I’ve since realized, with some help, that this should only extend to myself.

At first, this felt like a betrayal of everything that it meant to be me. How could I be open if I had to keep some things in reserve? Then I came to realize that having people open up to me was a measure of trust and that with this came responsibility. Now I realize the importance of privacy and to be truthful, I like the balance so much more. Some people need greater levels of privacy than others and navigating the differences in respect to the needs of my friends seems much more responsible

3. People Can Really Change

We’ve all heard the mantras about how humans don’t change who they are. Whether it’s “once a cheater always a cheater” or whatever other label you want to put in that cliche. The truth is though, some people change certain behaviors and some don’t. There is no rule that spans across humanity in general. The key is finding those people who want to change while trusting and helping them to do so.

Reading through the second item on this list should have been a really good example of how someone can change. Being open is a defining characteristic of who I am and changing that in any way was painful to me. However, through some talk with others and introspection I came to see that there was a better way of doing things and that it didn’t mitigate my need for openness or change who I was in any negative way.

The human experience deals us a mixed bag. Most of us have those personality traits that we can recognize as beneficial and valued by others. All of us have insecurities (or anxiety, ADHD, depression, etc.) and sometimes those insecurities or states of being lead to behavior that isn’t generally approved of by others. Knowing this about yourself is a good thing because the extension of this is that it is also happening to everyone else around you.

If someone is trying to tackle their obstacles head on then that’s pretty fucking huge. Give them some slack. Better yet, talk with them if possible to understand their situation and see if there’s any way you can help. Don’t expect to be their savior, you can’t be, just be there for them and do your damndest to understand what it is they’re telling you. These are the people that are capable of change and they deserve a chance to show you how awesome they really are.

4. Understand Before You are Understood

I had forgotten this little gem of wisdom, passed down to me by my grandmother, but her words came back with importance as of late and I’m glad they did.

So often I’m so concerned with making sure that someone knows where I’m coming from that I forget to really listen to what they are saying. I just want to make sure they aren’t hurt by something I said, but my inattentiveness can hurt even more. However, when I calm my mind and listen to their feelings I get a better understanding of them. That’s pretty valuable for obvious reasons. I really do care about them and taking the time to listen and understand them first is a way to demonstrate that. When I do this, the usual outcome is that I end up addressing some need that I hadn’t thought about before. This is an emotion that would have gone completely unattended had I not taken the time to understand my partner. I also learn how to better express my feelings to ensure that we are both talking about the same thing. This is relationship gold folks and you have my grandmother to thank.

The End: Be Prepared to Stop

So there you have it. Some things I learned about myself that I hope you can apply to your life. What are some positive things you have learned in your relationships to others? Please share those or your thoughts about this article in the comments section below. I would love to hear from you either way.

Getting Dumped, Kind Of: A story of honesty

For those of you who don’t know I’m currently choosing to date non- monogamously. For some of you this probably sounds great because I can have multiple partners. This is technically true, but it hasn’t really worked out that way for more than a week or two at a time. This brings me to the other part of being non-monogamous, that you may not have considered, which is that I end up getting dumped more often.

This just happened to me ten minutes ago (at least at the time of this writing). Here’s the skinny: I met someone online and reading her profile was like reading my own in many ways so I reached out to her and we clicked. On our date it was awesome. We met with a long hug. We laughed and shared intimate moments of our existence with one another such as how she doesn’t share her phone number with people until she can trust them. When I moved closer to her just for the sake of it she closed the gap, kissed me and then told me how great it was. Later upon kissing her neck she moaned. The night was over in a flash, but we had talked for 6 hours. When I walked her to her car we held hands and kissed goodbye.

I sent her a message later that night with my phone number. I told her that she didn’t have to use it until she was ready and that we could use the dating app until that moment arrived. She replied with a text telling me that I had beat her to it.

I was in, or so I thought. The day before our next date she sent me a text to say that our distance was an issue (20 miles) and that a relationship she had with a guy in the same town as me hadn’t worked for that reason. I called bullshit (in my head) on both fronts and decided to remove that excuse. I knew she wanted out and that I wasn’t going to change her mind; so be it, but I wanted to know the truth. I told her if that was all there is to it I could be the one to come see her each time. Of course, such a one-sided solution is not a tenable situation for any relationship, but I was just gambling and cutting through her fake answer.

It worked. “To be honest,” she said, (for the second time) “I was trying to make it easier by saying that. I’m just not feeling it.”

I told her I accepted that and thanked her for being honest. Just knowing the real reason helped me to put most of the situation behind me immediately. I don’t know what to make of everything else that happened, but now that I have the truth, somehow I don’t have to.