Dating Wisely 1.56: All Together Now, Part 2

Top Two

This brings us to our second-to-last post in this Dating Wisely series. Over the last couple months, we’ve discussed 13 concepts that can help you to make good choices out there in the dating jungle. However, if 13 concepts are too numerous to keep in mind, let me simplify with the two most important ones: Dating Wisely Concept #1: Personal Growth Before Personal Fulfillment and Dating Wisely Concept #6: Differentiate.

Primarily Personal Growth

Dating Wisely Concept #1: Personal Growth Before Personal Fulfillment is necessary because that’s what happens anyway. Along with all their splendor, the best relationships are simply a lot of work for both parties, so you might as well accept this fact and make it your goal to let the relationship grow you up into the emotionally mature person you were born to be. It’s just pragmatic.

If you don’t accept this reality, you’ll simply project your expectations onto each other and try to get each other to conform to your fantasy. You don’t like that, and neither does anyone else, so don’t do it. In the end, you’ll be grateful that you surrendered to all that personal growth because it can leave you with a comfortable, life-long friend and partner.

Differentiation

Dating Wisely Concept #2: Differentiate is also just practical. The brain wants to grow up and be emotionally mature. It’s wired to do that, even with all the emotional baggage that comes our way and confounds the process. It’s simply the developmental trajectory of human beings, so you might as well surrender to it. Plus, it’s a relief to be able to just be you; it’s too hard to be anyone else.

As e e cummings said, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” I’ll say! It takes a lot of time, too, but the effort’s worth it. Guaranteed. If you want a long-term, committed relationship, that’s what it’ll take. We’ve been talking about how important it is to “know thyself,” as Socrates and others have said, when it comes to getting the love you want. When you do, you can live with no regrets.

Identify what you want in life and then apply that to your relationships. Have you ever written a mission statement for your life? Or considered what you want on your tombstone? I want my tombstone to say “She loved well.” If I can get to the end of life and legitimately leave that as my legacy, I will die satisfied.

Hey, how about exchanging mission statements or epitaphs on your next date!? That should make for interested conversation!

Two Concepts, Like Two Partners

These two concepts make great bedfellows. Figure out who you are and who you want to be (differentiate), and then go into relationship with the primary goal of developing into that person in every relationship (personal growth), romantic or not. Every relationship will challenge your resolve to be that person, particularly when you bump up against the differences between you and the other.

This is simply life’s gift to you, to help you grow into the kind person you can be proud of. If you’re choices are between pseudo and solid, solid always wins in the long run.

You’ve been a trooper! Tomorrow, we’ll wrap up our discussion with a nice big bow.

Dating Wisely 1.55: All Together Now, Part 1

Knowing, Believing, Trusting

Today brings us to the first of a few concluding posts in this Dating Wisely series. Over the last couple months, we’ve considered 13 concepts to help you identify your goal and make every choice support that end…or you simply won’t make it to your desired destination.

The difficulty is 1) knowing yourself; 2) believing in yourself; and 3) trusting your strategy will get you what you want.

To figure out who you are, you might start with figuring out where you are on the tough-minded/tender-hearted continuum. When you figure that out, you’ll likely be attracted to someone on the opposite side of that continuum, at approximate the same distance from the center. That means you’ll have to accept who you are and you’ll have to accept someone who’s different than you are.

So that’s a start to figuring out who you are. There are also a plethora of values inventories out there to help you identify your emotional map. There are no right or wrong answers here, any more than there are right or wrong places on the tough-minded/tender-hearted continuum. But the values you have and the values your date has won’t be exactly the same. For example, you may place a higher value on gratitude than your partner, and s/he may place a higher value on generosity.

Wherever your values are different, you will have some tension. No worries. Take it slow, and make sure that you aren’t committing to someone whose values so completely clash with yours that you won’t be able to accept the other without trying to change him or her.

Learning My Values

Let me offer an example. I used to value control, so I used to pursue the men I was in relationship with, because I was concerned that they would leave me if I didn’t. That never worked to get me anything but passive men, which isn’t ultimately attractive to me. After many years on my healing journey, I finally made it to a place where I just let a potential love interest pursue me. Many did, and it still took almost 10 years to find one man whose intentions and capacity were compatible with mine.

I also learned that rejection wasn’t so bad when I simply accepted myself. I didn’t need someone else to affirm me then. I learned to accept that rejection simply meant the relationship wouldn’t have worked in the end anyway. I no longer needed to pursue dead-end relationships, and I came to trust the process, whether that meant I’d end up with an intimate partner or not.

After I learned about intimate connection, I couldn’t settle for anything less. Most of the singles I met (men and women) said they wanted the same thing, but after being around them for a while, I learned that most didn’t know how to achieve that, so they bumbled around making all kinds of choices that didn’t serve the ends they said they wanted.

Living My Values

By the time I met Brad, I was clear about who I am and the kind of relationship I wanted. I knew, for example, that I don’t do casual sex, and I don’t do sex with someone with whom the relationship isn’t exclusive. I made this clear to Brad on our first date, and that was appealing to him, even though he would have slept with me much sooner than I was ready. If I had believed that sex was necessary to secure his interest, I would have made a choice that didn’t serve my long-term goal to be solid in relationship. He tells me that because I was different from any other woman he’d ever met, he was willing to wait as long as needed. In order to “separate me from the herd,” he says, he suggested that we commit to an exclusive relationship after four dates. I agreed.

Once it was clear that I wasn’t just another girl on Brad’s dance card, our relationship was able to progress to a deeper level. Prior to that, I kept my pre-commitment boundaries clear, while still offering my emotional warmth. Plus, I had to allow enough time for me to pop the STD question without too much awkwardness. When you sleep with someone, you sleep with everyone they’ve ever slept with, and I had to be sure I wasn’t going to get a gift that kept on giving. (Incidentally, the two men I dated before Brad lied to me about their STDs. Both had one.)

Knowing who I am, communicating it clearly to my dates, and being confident that my strategy of making every choice match my desired goal increased my market value for the kind of man I wanted to be with. We teach people how to treat us by creating the conditions for that to happen, and by not settling for anything less.

Dogs Don’t Meow

Brad tells me that I’m the only woman he’s ever known who didn’t project my issues and expectations onto him. I’m sure I haven’t been perfect in that, but it certainly has been my goal to simply accept who he is without trying to change him. If who he is isn’t right for me, the only option for me is to not be in the relationship. I don’t have the right to try to change him. Plus, I don’t want waste my energy trying to make a dog meow. I learned in my marriage what a futile effort that is, and I promised myself never to do that again. If that meant losing a lot of potential relationships along the way, so be it.

Tomorrow we’re going to continue wrapping all this up so that you can get out there and try it out.

 

 

Dating Wisely 1.54: Study the Emotional Process in Society, Part 9

Justice and Mercy

Yesterday we took a look at an energy continuum on which the energy of the universe runs: the tender-hearted/tough-minded continuum. We imagined a world with only one or the other. All justice and no mercy? Autocratic, unjust. All mercy and no justice? Dangerous, unmerciful. No thanks. We need these forces operating in tandem, simultaneously, creatively in a complex world.

With all the gains men and women of the Feminist movement have made—mostly in trying to inject more tender-heartedness in a tough-minded social system—there are some important losses that we need to solve for. For example, we need to get men back to a place of knowing their importance in the social fabric of society.

The Economics of Sex

The Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture says it this way in their video, “The Economics of Sex”:

“By nearly every measure, young men are failing to adapt to contemporary life. When attractive women will still go to bed with you, life for young men, even those who are floundering, just ain’t so bad. In reality, men tend to behave as well or as poorly as the women in their lives permit. Economists say that collusion, women working together, would be the most rational way to elevate the market value of sex. But there is little evidence of this happening among women today. At least, not yet. If women were squarely in charge of how their relationships transpired and demanded a higher market price for the exchange of sex, so to speak, we’d be seeing, on average, more impressive wooing efforts, greater male investment, longer relationships, fewer premarital partners, shorter cohabitations, and more marrying going on. For a women to know what she wants in relationship and to signal it clearly, especially if it’s different than what most men want, this is her power in the economy. But none of these things seem to be occurring. Not now, at least. Today, the economics of contemporary sexual relationships clearly favor men and what they want, even while what they are offering in the exchange has diminished.”

If sexual economics favor men, it’s only a short-term gain. In the long-term, both sexes pay—with unstable relationships. If we want long-term gains, we’ll need to solve for the problem of unrestrained sexuality too, so that sexual responsibility tempers sexual freedom.

Know What You Want

That brings us squarely back to your next date, where the battle of this emotional process in society silently rages throughout your conversation. I suggested the other day that it’s important for people to know what they want in a relationship and to put it out there clearly when they’re dating. That way, folks who want a long-term, committed relationship won’t be hooking up with people who don’t.

Keep in mind that when you say yes to one thing, you say no to another, and vice versa. Identify what’s required (of you, first) to get what you need, and say yes only to those things that will help you achieve that. That may require you to say no to a lot of things, too, and it may take some time to figure it all out.

Know Who You Are

Fortunately, you’re now armed with a wealth of information that you can use to decide how you want to be on your next date…and for the rest of your life…which starts now. Who do you want to be? Can you believe in and hold onto your desire for intimate connection long enough to learn whether or not the person you’re with is interested or even capable of the kind of connection you want? How can you get to know the other as a human being, without requiring him or her to be what you wish s/he would be?

I hope these posts can help you do that. I encourage you to go back and read them over and over, like daily meditations, until they form themselves into a practical picture in your mind about yourself and how you need to be in relationship to get the kind of connection you want.

That’s what we’ll talk about tomorrow: how you can figure out who you are and how you can confidently present yourself to the world.

Dating Wisely 1.53: Study the Emotional Process in Society, Part 8

A Paradigm Shift

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that we may owe credit to the emotional process in society that we now call Feminism for a paradigm shift that may take us to an emergent reality in intimate relationships. Let’s keep in mind, however, that evolutionary movements happen at an alarmingly slow, practically imperceptible, rate—which means I won’t live to see what I believe can happen. But I can still do my part to spread the hope!

To that end, let me expand on a statement I made yesterday: “We have the opportunity to make peace with each other by appreciating and seeking out the differences in the intangible energy we bring to relationship.” This intangible energy continuum can be named in a variety of ways. Some call it masculine/feminine; some refer to it as left brain/right brain. In 1907, Philosopher William James referred to it as tough-minded/tender-minded.

Tough-Minded and Tender-Hearted

James identified the two ends of this binary to be a fundamental and irresolvable clash between two ways of thinking. True that. It’s a pretty good characterization of the battle of the sexes, with most men falling on the tough-minded side of the continuum, and most women falling on the tender-hearted side. While that’s a gross generalization, I realize, it does characterize most couples—heterosexual or not. Opposites attract, for better or worse.

If we’re going to emerge into a new, better reality, we’re going to have to make peace with those on the other side of the binary, the folks that we find ____________________. Fill in that blank and you have the reason why the battle of the sexes continues so hotly. Both sides fill in that blank in the same way, and both then try to shame the other out of thinking the way they do.

Imagine a world where there are only tough-minded folks. If you think patriarchalism is a bad deal, imagine it without any moderating influence of the tender-hearted. Now imagine a world where there are only tender-hearted folks, matriarchalism, with no moderating influence of the tough-minded. That picture isn’t any better, if you ask me.

Reconciling Opposites

Imagine what would happen instead, though, if both sides put down the sword for a minute, and simply accepted that the other way of thinking is just that: a different way of thinking. It’s not morally inferior, or unintelligent, or wrong. It’s just the way the universe is arranged. We need to reconcile opposites by accepting that they just are, and then trying to understand the other. If we were to do that, we could emerge into a whole different emotional process in society…a truly progressive one in which the two ways of thinking value what the other brings to the table.

Let’s take this into a practical arena—dating—and let use my relationship with Brad as an example. Like many couples, Brad and I tend to fall on stereotypical sides of this continuum. He’s tough-minded and I’m tender-hearted. It just is. We identified this as an unresolvable issue when we made a list of our perpetual problems one day, and we did this so that we would simply stop arguing about things on this continuum. He can’t change my nature, and I can’t change his, so we don’t try anymore. In our more emotionally mature moments, we even seek one another out for a view from the other side of the continuum.

Brad likes to say that solving the tough-minded/tender-hearted dilemma is a matter of choosing which to use and when. I like to say that in every situation, we have to be thoughtful about what balance of each to use. See? We can’t even agree on that, even though we pretty much mean the same thing. His is a more black-and-white way of framing the solution, and mine’s more gray. And we still love each other.

Human (R)Evolution

I may not gain popularity points with Fourth Wave Feminists by saying so, but I’m afraid we need to look beyond the Feminist Revolution to a time when men and women work together, not against each other, for the stability of human society. We need to look at long-term solutions, not just stop-gap measures, and envision a new way of being in which the sexes no longer battle or vie for power over one another. We need to value the various kinds of solidity each brings to the team effort of social progression. We need the next human (r)evolutionary emergence.

Tomorrow, we’ll bring this philosophical conversation back to earth again, right down to the table with your next date.

Dating Wisely 1.52: Study the Emotional Process in Society, Part 7

A Phenomenal Paradigm Shift

Today’s post is dedicated to all people everywhere who want to be in an intimate, committed relationship…which still happens to be most people. Despite some of the worst long-armed by-products (porn, sexual confusion, gender upheaval) of the emotional process in society called Feminism that began with the French Revolution 250 years ago, human beings are still social creatures who desire intimate connection. This, in fact, may be one of the best long-armed by-products of Feminism. Let me explain.

When (in 1792) Mary Wollstonecraft began calling for equal education for women so that they could be companions, not just wives, to their husbands, she was suggesting a phenomenal paradigm shift in how men and women relate. Instead of operating in entrenched sex roles, Wollstonecraft believed that men and women could relate on an equal intellectual playing field.

Education and Financial Security in Relationship

Women are now experiencing the advantages of an educational system that began to open to them, and eventually began to tailor its delivery to more typically feminine ways of learning. I mentioned in a previous post that women now out-graduate men from college at a rate of three to two, and women are participating at an unprecedented rate in professional life on the highest levels of leadership. Consequently, they’re more financially secure on their own than ever before.

So what do they need men for if they don’t need them for financial security and fixing things around the house? And what do men need women for if they don’t need them to be dependent on them for groceries and handyman tasks? Men and women who consciously grapple with these questions inevitably reach important conclusions for themselves and their relationships.

Same Same

It turns out that, despite all the social upheaval around opportunity and equality, intimate relationships between men and women aren’t hugely different than they ever were. The energy that flows between couples is still powerfully attractive: masculine energy compels feminine energy and vice versa. Certainly, when this intangible energy is the glue to a relationship, rather than his tangible ability to provide a paycheck and her tangible ability to produce children, there are some important implications.

Now that the days of dividing labor along gender lines are all but extinct, we’re going to have to learn to understand the strange differences that characterize these two very difference creatures who say they want the same things. That’s part of the problem, though. When men and women use the same words, they don’t always mean the same things. In fact, they rarely have the same motives for wanting and doing the same things. Complicated creatures we are, to be sure.

An Evolutionary Opportunity to Emerge

We simply have to get better at relationship, and that means we have to actually get to know one another, instead of assuming anything about the other. I could tell you clinical story after clinical story about the difficulties that couples have simply because we have contact with each other in ways that didn’t used to happen in agrarian society. Now that we’re all shacked up with each other all the time, we actually have to learn to get along with someone who thinks very differently than we do.

But that’s the joy of this strange relationship evolution we’re in. The Feminist movement, emergent evolutionary process that it was, may have sparked the emergence of another social structure, a paradigm shift that will make us stronger than anything we knew before, when gender roles were the accepted order of relationships. If society is going to succeed, we have to get to truly know the other in all his or her strangeness, and we have to accept the other without trying to change him or her. (That doesn’t imply we have to remain in bad relationships. It simply means we may need to acknowledge and accept when a relationship is bad for us and let it go.)

If you’re not familiar with the evolutionary concept of emergence, it refers to the greater, transcendent realities that emerge out of the interactions between many smaller ones. I believe we’re on the verge of an evolutionary emergence in the battle of the sexes! We have the opportunity to make peace with each other by appreciating and seeking out the differences in the intangible energy we bring to relationship.

Now we’re onto something, and that something will need to become the next societal emotional process if we want to stop regressing and start progressing toward relational and societal maturity.

More on that tomorrow.

Dating Wisely 1.51: Study the Emotional Process in Society, Part 6

Gender Construction

We’ve been discussing the balance between freedom and responsibility in the societal emotional process, particularly regarding issues of dating and sexuality in the 21st Century. These issues have some particular implications for young adults that don’t apply as much to mid-lifers.

With her book The Second Sex, published in 1949, Feminist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir introduced the idea that sex isn’t biological, it’s a construction of culture and conditioning. “One is not born, but rather becomes, woman,” she said. At this time, the word gender came into parlance in place of sex when it referred to male and female. Fast forward 50+ years and young people today hardly question that gender is a mere construction. Whatever your feelings about it, it’s today’s reality.

Teaching About Sex

Many parents don’t even realize that the concept of gender construction is “a thing” because it’s so far outside of their own comprehension to think that the gender of their child is mere conditioning. Furthermore, most parents feel awkward talking to their children about sex, so conversations about these issues don’t easily cross generational lines. This leaves young people to find out about sex in other ways…and find out about it they will!

For example, although the words fornication and adultery were used with utmost disdain in the extreme fundamentalist religious system of my childhood, the word sex wasn’t mentioned in the home, which left me vulnerable to learning about it through my big brother who offered me to his friends as a sex toy. What I learned about then was sexual abuse, not sex or intimacy, and it took me my entire young adult life to come to understand the difference, a process that cost me much time, energy and money spent in psychotherapy. The impact of my confusion about sexuality eventually cost me my marriage, as well.

Pornography as Teacher

Add to this picture the mass proliferation and accessibility of pornography, another by-product of the emotional process in society since the 1960s called the Sexual Revolution. Pornography, to the tune of $4 billion per year, is the main way that children learn about sex these days, and in case you’re not aware, the porn of today isn’t the same as the porn of the 20th Century.

A therapist with special certification to work with sexual issues, I could curl your hair (or straighten it) with the stories I hear about the pornography available today and its impact. Hentai porn, for example, depersonalizes particularly perverse and bizarre sexual acts through anime. Just the other day, I learned of a 25-year-old female who’s unable to be aroused by anything other than Hentai porn. Real human sex is no longer appealing to her, and she’s seeking help.

A young man told me the other day that he used his unusually large penis to become a porn model. The money was good, he said, but he had to continually masturbate to remain erect for many hours on the job. Now he can’t stop compulsively masturbating (several times a day), and he can’t engage in the kind of relationship he wants because of the impact of his porn acting on his sexual psyche.

I recently learned of young lady who was proud of herself for not letting a boy kiss her because she wasn’t interested in him, so instead she gave him a blow job. No lie.

Sexual Intimacy

These are some of the by-products of sexual freedom without sexual responsibility, and they’re the unique dating and mating issues that face our young adults in the 21st Century. If you’re a young adult in the dating world, I encourage you to seek information about intimacy, not just sex. Intimate connection is still a beautiful human possibility—different from all other species that engage in sex by primal instinct alone.

If you’re not a young adult, perhaps you wish you could be again, because of the easy access to porn and crazy, fun, free, primal hook-up sex without regard for responsibility or the future. But let’s not forget the costs of such freedom. The young adults I know would give an arm and a leg to have truly intimate connections; they just don’t have a clue about how to make them happen.

A Sorry State of Affairs

I feel I should apologize to young adults who haven’t had intimate relationship modeled for them or taught to them. Porn is simply sexual acting, and its exploitation of real people is damaging. Sure, porn helps a few, but for every individual or couple it helps, there are millions whose relationships it destroys.

Gender construction and pornography have certainly changed the dating and mating landscape for young adults, and their parents are somewhere between horrified and befuddled by the rapid social and sexual changes. Mid-lifer conflicts over sex roles are vanilla in comparison…and so last century.

Fortunately, into this upheaval, we can inject some wisdom. Tomorrow we’ll look at what solid romantic relationship can look like for young adults and for mid-lifers. It turns out that solid human relationship looks pretty much the same for people of all ages.

Dating Wisely 1.50: Study the Emotional Process in Society, Part 5

Freedom and Responsibility

We’ve been exploring the unanticipated by-products of the Feminist movement, an emotional process in society that began with the French Revolution 250 years ago. Incredible freedoms have come to the common people as a result of that movement, including greater sexual freedom for women. Greater responsibility must balance this greater freedom in order to preserve the integrity of the social fabric.

What might greater sexual freedom and greater sexual responsibility look like in the dating world? This brings us back to Dating Wisely Concept #6: Differentiate – Know who you are and what you want, and communicate it clearly. Take responsibility for your contribution to the dating world.

Make Every Choice Serve Your Ultimate Goal

If you go into the dating market responsibly, differentiated, you can tailor your way of being in the market to serve the outcome you want. If you want to just hook up, say so. If you want a long-term relationship, communicate that. Then make every choice you make serve your desired outcome–especially when it means turning down a date that doesn’t serve your ultimate goal.

For example, when Jack asked me on Date #2 what I wanted out of a relationship, I told him that I wanted to be with someone who, along with me, would be interested in using the relationship primarily for personal growth and only secondarily for personal fulfillment. Not long after, Jack told me, “I’m just not feeling it like I was.”

I was grateful that Jack was so honest and direct. We could each move on; no harm, no foul.

Don’t Waste Your Resources

Rob, however, never accepted my clear communication about not being interested in a romantic relationship. Most men, when I was clear about my disinterest in either romance or casual sex (which I was quick to determine and always careful to communicate), would hang around for about six months, trying to get me to change my mind, and then they’d move on.

Rob tried to get me to change my mind for five years, despite my carefulness to not lead him on. One way I tried to keep it clear that we were just friends was to pay my way for everything when we hung out together. When Rob even tried to pay for tires for my car (he was in the industry), I insisted on paying for them myself. Tires may be a gift from a father, not from a friend. I even refused to ride on Rob’s motorcycle with him because I knew it would send him an encouraging message…the wrong one…and that would only cause frustration for both of us.

Only when I had been dating Brad for a while did Rob accept that I meant what I said. For those of you who may be dating someone who just doesn’t seem as into you as you are into him/her, don’t waste your resources (time, energy, money). It would have been easy to have dates and gifts and attention for those eight years in the dating market before I met Brad, but I knew that operating like that would come at great emotional cost—sometimes for me, and certainly for the other.

Give and Require Respect

If we want sexual freedom without consequences, this is the kind of respect for the emotional world of the other that men and women need to have for each other. It’s simply sexually responsible. We can’t really complain that the dating market is full of players (male and female) if we’re participating in the games, can we?

If you’re going to be in the dating market, though, you have to realize that many folks are doing just that. They aren’t signaling their intentions clearly for a variety of reasons: 1) they want to hide their intentions (playing, rebounding, hooking up, marriage, financial security, friends with benefits, etc.); 2) they haven’t consciously identified their own intentions; 3) they don’t want to be rejected for their intentions; 4) they don’t want to have to deal with any disparities between their intentions and those of their dates; 5) they don’t realize or acknowledge that others may have different intentions than they do; 6) and so on….

How about you? Do you know your intentions, communicate them clearly and make every dating choice serve them? And do you ask about the intentions of your date? Gotta keep your head about you in this market. It’s a jungle out there!

Tomorrow we’ll look at some more impacts of the Sexual Revolution on your dating life, particularly regarding some unique issues of young adult dating.