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Bridget S. Smith

Radio Personality. Nonprofit Leader. College Instructor. Author.

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Dating

The Texter

Here is an email I received this morning.

“what do you think of people who, before they meet each other, start texting back and forth, like asking small talk/random questions that are generally saved for a first date but instead being asked via text, and this is after you’ve moved from the e-mail stage to giving out phone numbers, and instead of calling, dude sends a text and starts chatting, asking what you do, where you work, what you like to do for fun, etc.

Shouldn’t that be saved for the date?

As my writer is describing internet dating has its  own protocol, its own stages of advancement.  Standard protocal should be something like the following:

1. Wink or Nudge (Depending on Site)

2. On Site Emailing

3. Off Site Emailing

4. Exchange of Phone Numbers

5. Phone Conversation(s)

6. Initial Date

 

In this case it appears the the potential date is caught somewhere between steps 5 and 6.  One has to wonder why.  After all the date is where you get to know someone, right?  Well maybe not for this potential mate.

The more someone uses the internet dating sites the more efficient they should become.  More efficiency should lead to a better screening process.  This reluctance to move beyond texting is probably one of two things.  A) They are new to internet dating and therefor they lack an efficient screening process.  OR B) They have been internet dating long enough to have been burned and is therefore trying to develop a new screening process.

One of the most challenging aspects of internet dating is developing an accurate ‘face’ or profile.  You know who you are but how do you articulate this?  How do you make it so that your audience, your reader, can interpret that. How polished was his profile?  Did it read like every other one out there?  Is he projecting his ‘face’ his ‘self’ well?

The next and also very important step is learning your play yourself.  “To play yourself?”, you ask.  Yep.  In the usually high speed pace of internet dating you must learn to showcase yourself, in your entirety, in a relatively quick amount of time.  The whole concept that you go out with someone’s representative on the first 3 dates takes too long in today’s world.  Instead, many people have adopted the idea of, this is who I am, deal with it.  In fact this can actually lead to a greater success in the dating world; honesty.  Honesty in the person that you are and honesty in the person you are seeking.

Let’s face it.  With all the options that internet dating allows, no one wants to waste time on someone that they aren’t compatible with.  The problem with this potential date seems to be that he doesn’t have a screening process down pat.  The underlying reasoning may be the fact that he doesn’t know what it is that he wants, and therefore, he can’t have an efficient screening process.

In today’s world you need to be actively involved in the dating process.  Hoping that your dream mate will just come to you is the storyline of a great romantic comedy film.  In real life, you have to know what you want, refine your tastes, refine your process, and through this find it.

In the case of the serial texters, they lack the refined screening process.  The reasons can range from inexperience, a very bad experience, or not knowing what exactly they want.  At any rate the ball is now in your court.  It may be time to say, “I’m thinking grabbing an Oberon after work, want to join?”.  Or a casual quip, “Well that answer requires face-to-face conversation ;)”.

Either way, the ball is in your court.  Make the move, or move on.  Because if he doesn’t know what he wants, he’s probably not what you want.

The ‘C’ word- casual or committed?

 

I received an email over the weekend from one of my twitter followers.  (Follow us! Relationshipacd) She was asking about the commitment issue.  At what point are you committed?  Here is part of the email.

I’ve been seeing Steven for about two months.  I really love being around him.  I love what we have built.  But he refuses to ‘put a label on it’.  He says that we don’t need to be confined to a label.  But I need that.  When we are at parties he refers to me as his ‘girlfriend’.  I’ve met a handful of his friends and they seem to like me.  They call me his ‘girl’, which I think is short for girlfriend???  We have a good time when we hang out with them, and they are all very nice to me.  His parents live out of the state, so I haven’t met them yet, but I do think they know about me.  I’m going crazy trying to figure out if we are together, or if we are just casual.  I see him almost every other day, so I want to say we are an item, I just don’t know if he sees us that way.  I’m so confused!!!

-“Kentucky”

In Sociology there are a group of theorists called Symbolic Interactionists.  They look at meaning of symbols, of language.  They try to determine how meanings we attach to things shape our society.  One of the basic principles is the Thomas Theorem.  It states, “It is not important whether or not the interpretation is correct– if men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.

In other words, however we interpret the situation, defines the consequences.  If your boss says to you, “I need to see you in 5 minutes”, what are your reactions?  For most of us, we panic.  What did we do wrong?  Are we getting laid off?  Are we getting written up?  Think about your blood pressure, your body temperature, your stress level.  For most of us, they rise.  Imagine the relief when we find out that the boss wanted you to act as team lead on a new project.  Yet the consequences of your negative thoughts were still very real.  You still had elevated blood pressure and stress levels.

This Thomas Theorem is true in all aspects of social life.  How we define the situation leads to real consequences.  Imagine our embarrassment in high school or college when we went out with someone, thinking it was a date, only to hear the other party say, ‘We are just friends’.

Relationships are a mine field of the Theorem.  Have you ever asked yourself what the color of the roses mean?  Have you ever asked yourself what is meant by a specific gift?

When it comes to commitment, it is both more important and less important than we make it.  In matters of the heart we want rules and guidelines.  It is our way of trying to protect ourselves.  We want to make sure we have taken every precaution not to get hurt.  We want to make sure there are a clear set of guidelines and expectations.  After all, this is how most of our lives function at work.  We have a clear set of expectations we are to meet, guidelines to follow, and failure to do so can lead to a termination in employment.  We spend 40+ hours a week living by these guidelines, we are in some ways comforted by them.

The problem with any sort of relationship (friendship or romantic), is that they are messy.  We are often disappointed when people don’t live up to these standards that we have put upon them.  There are so many unwritten rules of friendship that we are bound to miss some now and again.  The key is communication.  Being open and honest with each other is hard.  We’ve all lied to friends to ‘spare their feelings’.  We’ve ‘accidentally’ forgotten to invite people out with us or to an event.  We all exist in many different social worlds.  Sometimes when they collide, it is a good thing.  Sometimes, it is very bad.  Sometimes we spend more time trying to ‘save face’ then we do enjoying everyone’s company.

So for my twitter follower, “Kentucky”, it seems that you have one very positive thing going for you.  If you can exist in two of his social worlds, romantic and with his buddies, then you have one giant thing out of the way.

Now onto the ‘label’ issue.  It sounds like you’ve already made up your mind that you are in a relationship.  What seems to be the central issue here is whether or not he is in that same position you are.  Here’s the painful truth.  It doesn’t matter.  Your heart is invested enough to experience the emotions of a committed relationship.

Remember, if you define the situation as real, so are its consequences.

Whether or not he sees you as an item, you do.  His actions will have consequences with your emotions.  If you are happy, you have to let go, and enjoy the ride.  Obsessing over a label he doesn’t want to give won’t get you anywhere.  If anything it will just leave you frustrated.

As Americans we love the absolutes.  We like knowing right from wrong.  We want to know if we are all in or not.  In life there are so many shades of gray, that we simply cannot describe all of them.  The problem is a label is just that, a label.  Your emotions are based on your definition of the situation, not his.  Does it provide comfort knowing that he uses the same label?  Absolutely.  But if he isn’t ready for the label, challenging as it is, you just have to go with it.  If you are to move forward, it will come eventually.

If you enjoy his company and spending time together, its consequences are real.  You seem to be emotionally invested in this man.  With our without a label, his actions will affect you.  As hard as it is you have to give up living in the black and white for a while.  Your world, for the time being, is one of a million shades of gray.  Instead of looking for a label, look at what you do have, instead of what you don’t.

Go Speedracer, go!

Well it sounds like everyone enjoyed their weekends!  I received a few emails here is the first one:

How fast, is too fast for a relationship to progress? Say if both people are adults and have had many serious relationships in their pasts, and go into their new relationship at a faster than norm speed (whatever norm is). Also, how should you address the nay sayers. Even if they are well meaning family and friends that are just trying to look out for both parties? Shouldn’t the daters have the support (even if they are making their own mistakes by rushing?)

Sincerely, TR

Well TR you bring up an interesting point.  For a fast-paced society, we are very slow when it comes to relationships.  When our friends get married after 6 months, we often whisper, and wonder how long it will last.  (Side note- That is EXACTLY how long my parents dated and they’ve been married over 30 years!)

That being said sometimes it is a good idea to err on the side of caution.  Sometimes it is not.  Remember that concept of ‘the Pure Relationship’ that we talked about before?  Well it’s very important in understanding the contemporary dating mine field.   Relationships today are about mutual satisfaction insofar as both parties are feeling satisfied by the relationship.  At which point one of the parties it is not, this will signal end of the relationship.

In deciding what is ‘too fast’, you must ask yourself a few questions.

1- Is their still fresh baggage from these previous relationships?  Or has there been time for dust to settle on that baggage?  This isn’t an absolute, but fresh baggage can lead to a myriad of misunderstood signals and emotions.  It can lead to false hopes and false conclusions.  However, let’s be honest, we all have baggage.  If the dust has settled, and we can articulate exactly what this baggage is, then it is time to move on to question #2.

2- While getting caught up in the roller-coaster ride of this new relationship, are you losing yourself?  Is one becoming part of the two, but forgetting about the one?  It is very important, both early on, and decades into a relationship, to maintain your sense of self.  Relationships today are a partnership.  If one person gives too much of their ‘self’ to the relationship, both parties will suffer.  If you are still maintaining a sense of independence, of yourself as an individual, then proceed to question #3.

3- Are BOTH parties partaking in the speedy nature of this relationship?  This is a very important piece.  Sometimes when we find someone we really like, we unintentionally speed up this process.  We want to see them all the time, we get excited when they call or text, we even find ourselves thinking of them far too often.  The most important question; is it mutual?  Do you find them calling or texting as much as you?  Have they remarked “Wow this is awesome”?  Have they admitted their enjoyment in all of this?  If not, it may be time to tap the brakes.

On the other hand, if this is mutual, then it is time to go with it.  However structured your approach to dating and relationships is, sometimes you have to let go of control and go with it.  After all, the beginning of the relationship, is something you will only feel once, enjoy it.  Let yourself go for the ride and see where it takes you.  Constantly questioning the speed, will slow it down, and you may miss out.

Just understand the risks. With any relationship, you run the risk of heartbreak.  With any relationship, you run the risk of burn out.  That is why it is a crucial step to understand where the other party is at.  (Which, is often times puzzeling.)  That is why you have to be a clue detective.  Sometimes the other person will come right out and say, “this is crazy, and I love it”.  Sometimes you have to go deeper than that.  Beyond the frequency of calls and texts, watch the body language.  Do you catch them staring at you?  Do they always want to be near you?  Do you find them making up excuses to see you?  If the answers are yes, then it’s time to ease off those brakes for a bit.  Even with all the changes in contemporary society, most dating and relationships still have the eventual goal of living together, and still, quite often marriage.  If you get burnt out too quickly, this is a good sign that this was not the partnership for you.  One must be able to be around the person a great deal, and not pull their hair out.  There will be days (and sometimes weeks) of illness, of bad moods, and of blatant annoyance.  The key is making it through those bad days and back onto the good.

As long as you are feeling emotionally ready, you still feel yourself as an individual in part of a partnership, and you think the feelings are mutual, let yourself go.  Just be ready to tap the brakes when you aren’t feeling each one of these.

As for explaining it?  Friends and family always want what they feel is in the best interest of you.  The problem is, they aren’t you.  They don’t completely understand how you feel.  They aren’t there on those dates or for those phone conversations.  This is one case where you have to make the best decision for you.  And perhaps the most simple way to explain this to them is, “I’m just enjoying the ride”.  If they question further, another simple answer of, “I’m having fun.  I know the risks, but I’m having fun” is about as much as you need to give them.

With all the baggage we carry each and every day, sometimes, it’s nice to let go and stop trying to control every detail.  As much as The Relationship Academic advocates smart dating, sometimes you have to let go.  It is still possible, even this day in age, for people to be swept of their feet.  We can’t always control the outcome, but denying ourselves the experience at all, is counting ourselves out, before we ever make it in.

 

Bargain Dating

Here is my instant message conversation this morning:

Chicagofriend: how are you doin

RelationshipAcademic: I’m ok… grading papers, woo hoo. Yourself?

Chicagofriend: working away

Chicagofriend: staying busy since its end of the month

RelationshipAcademic: nice 🙂

Chicagofriend: something like that

RelationshipAcademic: lol how’s life treating you?

Chicagofriend: things are good

Chicagofriend: just trying to get back on my feet etc

RelationshipAcademic: dating or financially?

Chicagofriend: financially

Chicagofriend: so I can date

RelationshipAcademic: lol I gotcha… I’m there with you on the financial part… being on a budget is hard!

Chicagofriend: so yea, just been laying low

Chicagofriend: trying to do low key things when I can etc

 

As I continued to grade papers and share the usual day drums of desk work with my friend in Chicago, his comment resonated with me. He is on a budget, so he can date? Not that I doubt the validity of his statement, but it saddened me.

After the beginning of ‘The Great Recession’, being frugal became sheik. Web companies like ‘Groupon’, ‘Living Social’, and ‘Restaurant.com’ have found their businesses booming. Yet here we are 2 years into this mess, and my friend has to save money so he can date. There seems to me, that something is wrong with this situation.

There is no doubt that we are stratified as a society. Sociologists use three classifications to determine this; income, education, and occupational prestige. My dear friend makes a very solid income for a 20-something. He obtained a Bachelors Degree from my Alma Matter. And while a desk job in downtown Chicago might not be the most prestigious, I can sure think of a lot of other occupations less prestigious. By all sociological and standard accounts, my Chicago Friend is middle class. He has a nice apartment in a great city. Now, I know Chicago isn’t the cheapest place to live, but he’s doing very well for himself. But yet, here he is, saving money to date.

If the ‘Great Recession’ taught us anything, it is that the frivolous spending of the 1980’s through the 2000’s was not necessary. Many of us shredded credit cards. Most of us evaluated our interest rates. Some of us started clipping coupons. (Although, I still can’t seem to make this one work for me!) And in this car culture that is Michigan, many friends are opting for used cars, instead of the new-every-4-years culture we were raised in. Some people have even started commuting by bicycle. Facebook status updates often gloat about deals and savings accomplishments. Frugal is hot right now.

Then why is it that he is saving money to date? Is it still a bad thing to use a coupon on a date? I belong to a young professionals group, THE hot topic of conversation and email forwards, is the latest deals on dining out and activities. I can’t imagine one of my cohorts being upset by this. But then again, we live in Michigan. Our economy is still one of the worst.

But something tells me that this is a larger issue within the dating world itself. Must we spend a lot of money to impress our new dating partners? Is this a requirement? What is more romantic, a dozen roses, or the one unexpected one waiting for you after a long day at the office?

When I met Mr. Right, we were both living a very good lifestyle and in our chosen careers. But when the calendar year moved to 2009, everything changed. I lost my position in January and he lost his in June. While this was an incredibly stressful time for both of us, we made the best of it. One of my all-time favorite dates cost nothing, not a dime. I was doing research for my Thesis and he was preparing for a certification exam. So we grabbed a blanket, walked to the park, and picked a spot by the pond. That was it. It was 2 hours of watching the ducks and admiring the spring flowers piercing out of the ground while reading. But there was something so purely simple about it, that I remember so well.

Looking back to the dates I went on as part of my field research, it’s not the expensive dates that stand out to me. The Texan grabbed some grocery store Deli favorites and a bottle of wine, and we watched the sunset on the beach. The cage-fighting lawyer and I strolled through small-town Americana and enjoyed a cup of coffee. To be honest, I cannot tell you much about the dates I went on to the fancy dinners, to the expensive shows, or even the nights out on the town. The dates I remember the most were high on thought, and low on cost.

Historically women did depend on men for their financial stability. It wasn’t until World War II that women began working in record numbers. That was only 50 years ago, not a long time in human history. But that is not the modern woman. The women that men desire are; independent, confident, and fun. Those women don’t depend on men, for anything. After all female independence goes beyond attitude it includes outside interests and finances.

The modern ‘Pure Relationship’ as introduced by Anthony Giddens is described as, “a situation where a social relationship is entered into for its own sake, for what can be derived by each person from a sustained association with another, and which is continued only in so far as it is thought by both parties to deliver enough satisfaction for each individual to stay within it.”

In other words, modern relationships are based on mutual admiration, enjoyment of the individual, and mutual satisfaction in the relationship. Modern relationships do not rely on money, but instead rely on personality and commonalities of time. How is it then, that money still becomes an issue?

I have several female friends who pick up the check most of the time because of financial concerns on their significant others part. In fact, most dating etiquette articles in popular women’s magazines say that this day in age, women should offer to pay. It is very common for most couples to alternate who picks up the tab. Who picks up the tab today, according to etiquette experts, is whomever is best able to pay.

I’m starting to think that some women haven’t caught up to their feminist ideals that we’ve been striving for the last 100 years. You want to be independent, but yet you still expect a man to pick up the tab? Is this a situation of stubbornness or greed? Or is this still clinging to 18th century ideals while living in a 21st century world?

As we all strive for that small piece of the American Pie we always want the best that we can get. There is no need to settle in today’s society. But when it comes to settling, we must look at what really matters, the ‘Pure Relationship’. You cannot build a lasting relationship based on money. (Hello, Hollywood, are you reading this?) Instead the lasting relationships of today are based on what Giddens describes; mutual admiration, enjoyment of the individual, and mutual satisfaction in the relationship. (And if your satisfaction is based on money, start playing the lottery.)

When it comes to meeting and mating we need to revise our standards. We must look at the non-material things like personality, respect, and fun. So ladies of Chicago, please, for everyone’s sake, open up your wallets too. And as for me, I’m off to buy a discount coupon for tonight’s date with Mr. Right. 🙂

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