Confidence (and My Previously Unrealized Streak of Arrogance)

I went on a coffee date earlier this month to meet a man I had been chatting with online. It was our first meeting, the one you set up so that you can have that ‘see if you are who you say you are’ moment. I don’t even drink coffee, it’s just a part of the process. I had tea.

The meeting was ok, there was nothing glaringly awful about him. He was a little dull and it felt like a bit of work on my part to keep the conversation going but that’s nothing new to me, I’m usually the talker. Physically he was thinner than I had thought and not quite as tall as I had hoped, but again, nothing awful. He had a nice smile, laughed at my jokes, and didn’t commit any huge first date mistakes like talking about exes or snorting cocaine. At the end of the date we parted ways with a hug and a ‘nice to meet you, text you later’.

I considered things on the way home and decided that he wasn’t for me. He just wasn’t interesting enough. He was perfectly acceptable in every way, but there was nothing there that made me want to know more, or that sparked that tingling feeling down under. I mentally prepared myself to let him know that the next time he asked me out, and went on with my day.

A few days went by before I realized that I hadn’t heard from him, and it stopped me in my tracks. At first I thought maybe he just got busy and hadn’t had time to message.  Then I checked his activity and could clearly see that no, he had been online. Quite a bit actually. I thought maybe he felt that I was too good for him and he was intimidated. I worked my way through the entire list of excuses we come up with for why people don’t message us (family emergency, hit by a bus, dying pet, etc.), and then it hit me. I had been so sure in this situation that I was the better catch and that I would be the one letting him down that it hadn’t even occurred to me that he might not be interested in me.

My issues with self-confidence go so far back I can’t remember what life was like before them. At a very young age my family decided I was ‘getting fat’ and put me in ballet. Awful choice for someone who is already taller and rounder than the average girl. For a decade I was sent to the back row in every class and performance because I was ‘too big’, regardless of skill or how thin I got. All of my body issues stem from this.  I later found many sports more suited to my build, and was very successful at some of them, but my self-image never fully recovered. I compensated by developing a quick mind and great social skills, so that I could feel good enough to be accepted by others.

When I was a teenager an incident occurred that destroyed all of that. Since I didn’t feel like I could build my self-worth around my physical qualities I had built it up based on my intelligence, on my likeability, and on my strength in putting myself out there trying new things. The incident took all three of those qualities and turned them against me, effectively knocking out all of the tent poles I had built my sense of self on. I felt like I should have been smart enough not to get into that situation, that I should have been liked and thus protected enough that it would never happen to me, and I found out that my so called strength was actually a reckless disregard for personal safety. I came out of that situation with nothing left, nothing about myself that I could value. I felt completely worthless, at a time in my life when feeling worthy was everything.

I spent a decade of my life trying to hide that feeling, hoping no one would notice, and then another decade quietly wallowing in it, once there was nobody left to notice. I became depressed, introverted, and really never spent time with anyone outside of work or my family.

About 5 years ago I got sick of what my life had become, of not having those pieces that had been such an important part of me, and finally decided to deal with it. It was a long process, a post of its own one day maybe, but at some point in the last two years I realized I felt like myself again. I can’t pinpoint when exactly but it’s there, or to be more accurate, I am there. I’m back. I still have a lot of hang ups with my physical self-image, I doubt those will ever go away and will likely continue to be an issue in some relationships going forward, but I have rebuilt the pillars in my mind that represent who I am. I once again feel confidence stemming from my intelligence, my likeability, and my strength. It has been hard fought but I have won back the things I thought had been taken from me, but that in reality I had unconsciously given up.  

The first few paragraphs of this post are easily the most arrogant thing I have ever written. They are all about me, how I felt, my judgement of him, and my plan going forward. I don’t mention his feelings or consider his thoughts at all, and I don’t think about where he is at in his life, how I would or would not fit in it, etc. Four years ago when I started online dating not hearing from a man within 24 hours of meeting him would have sent me into a tailspin of ‘what did I do wrong’, ‘what doesn’t he like about me’ and ‘what if I never meet someone as good as him again’.  I didn’t consider any of that this time. I didn’t even notice I hadn’t heard from him.

Arrogance isn’t something to strive for, it’s rarely helpful in life or an attractive quality, and it’s not something that I want as part of my personality. I crossed the line from feeling like a good person to feeling like a better person than someone else. Now that I know I have the potential to do that I will be watching for it, trying to make sure it doesn’t happen again. At the same time though, I can’t help but feel a little proud of the progress that I have made. I have gone from the lost in doubt woman I was to having enough confidence that I can brush off a new person not wanting me like I would brush spilled sugar off a table. Annoying maybe, but an expected part of life.  I’ve learned to accept that just because I’m not everyone’s cup of tea doesn’t mean I’m not a wonderful one.

The Social Stigma of Online Dating

“Willing to lie about how we met.” – random POF user

Online dating sites have been around for well over a decade, and it seems like new ones are showing up every day. There are sites for all different types of interests, from sexual orientation to religious beliefs to hobbies, and they all have apps to make them as accessible as possible. Meeting people is easier than ever, and yet there are still a large number of people who look at meeting someone online as something that should be lied about. Here are some common misconceptions about online dating, and some reasons why we should all try to move past them and accept this new world of dating for what it is.

“People who use dating sites are desperate.” This is probably the most common misconception about online dating. Yes, of course there are people using these sites who are desperate, but you will find that any place there are single people who don’t want to be single. It’s as common at a bar, a party, or a wedding as it is online. That doesn’t mean all the people who online date are desperate, or even most of them. Most of the people who gravitate towards online dating are just trying to meet someone outside of their current social circles. They aren’t there because regular dating has left them feeling hopeless or in despair; they are just casting a wider net.

“Everyone is lying.” Of course some people are lying, but again, this is hardly exclusive to online dating. Once upon a time men bought expensive watches to look richer, and women compressed their innards in vise-like corsets, all to attract a better mate. Lying has been a part of dating since Adam told Eve she didn’t look fat in that fig leaf. It is also important to remember that not all lying is deliberate. The human brain has an incredible capacity for self delusion. It is entirely possible that that guy still thinks he looks like that 10 year old picture from Mexico, or that that woman really thinks her skin is as perfect as that snapchat filter makes it look.

“Your dad and I didn’t need an app to meet, why do you?” The judgement passed down from older generations is one of the most difficult hurdles we face when it comes to online dating. The world was different when our parents and grandparents met. For example, when you needed money you went to the bank, stood in line, and talked to other people in line while you waited. You got dressed, got out of the house, and met new people. We don’t have to do that anymore. If we want to sit on the floor of our apartments and do our banking while eating popcorn troughlike out of the hood of our worn backwards hoodies, we can. No one talks in person anymore, and even if we do somehow wind up standing in the same lineups, we are all on our phones. We may as well be using those phones to meet each other.

“Only weirdos go online.” Let’s face it, we live in an unusual time. To my knowledge there has never been a time in human history where we have been so completely accepting of everything. If you want to go by the name Sweet Kiss Boo-Boo and wear a pink tutu to the grocery store no one will stop you, how you self-identify is up to you. If being around people makes you nervous and you never want to leave your home again that’s allowed, you have a social anxiety disorder and will be accomodated. If you just can’t stop getting off to anything and everything, from a firm behind to an underripe banana, thast’s ok, you have a sex addiction and qualify for disability leave. We are told we have to accept everyone, but that doesn’t mean we have to agree with everything, and when we encounter people we have to accept but don’t agree with we call them weird. The  woman who wears a fully purple outfit every day of the week because she believes it makes her one of the royals, the guy talking to himself on the bus because he has a multiple personality disorder and needs to keep all the voices happy, and the kid who can’t stop sucking on his vaporizer because he has a nicotine addiction. They are all there, we see them in person and gloss over it every day, but where they really thrive is on the internet. It is anonymous, provides a community for anything you desire, and is readily available everywhere. So yes, of course it draws them to it. But you know what? It draws all the rest of us to. We are all weirdos to someone, and we are all online trying to find our matching weirdness.

“Online relationships are doomed to fail.” In my opinion this is probably the most ridiculous misconception out there. According to the latest Statistics Canada research the divorces rate in Canada is 38%, and 42% of those divorces occurred between 10 and 24 years of marriage. The most common age for divorce is in the mid 40’s. Based on the length of these marriages and the ages of the people involved very few of them could have met each other online; online dating has only been easily accessible for most users for a dozen or so years. I’m not saying that people that meet online are or aren’t more likely to stay together; there have been countless studies done proving both sides of that argument. What I’m saying is most relationships are doomed to fail. We live in a time where everything and everyone is considered disposable. Don’t like your sandwich? Throw it out and get a new one. Tired of your car? Trade it in for a younger model. Sick of your spouse? I’m sure you can see where this is going. Instead of doing the work to make something better, improve it’s features, or remind ourselves of the things that made us first fall in love with it, we are getting rid of it and getting something better. Until that better thing bores us too.

Keep in mind during your dating journey that online dating is still pretty rare. 12 or so years isn’t really all that long in the grand scheme of things, and most people have never actually tried it for themselves. They have heard the horror stories, seen it in movies, and have maybe even looked at a profile or two, but have never actually done it. The conclusions they are drawing are based on word of mouth and media, not actual experience. Try to keep that in mind, and that the next time you share some horrible online dating story with a friend also remember to include a few good ones too. Improving the reputation of online dating will help us all out the next time we have to tell mom we met someone through the world wide web.

Something a Little Different

About two months ago I met a man through POF. His profile caught my eye because of the honesty in his write up, because of his height (yes, I can be shallow too), and because of the style and quality of his profile pictures. Not what I could tell about his looks from the pictures mind you, but the emotion that he managed to convey in them. It appealed to the amateur photographer in me, and left me interested enough to want to know more.

We messaged a bit and then set up a meeting. My favorite type of first meeting actually, a walk through a local park. I think he even suggested it. The meeting went well; the conversation flowed naturally, there was enough light teasing and laughter to suggest the presence of chemistry, and we never seemed to run out of topics to touch on. He was comfortable with my polyamory, and seemed like he might be on the edge of looking for something similar, although for different reasons. It was definitely one of my more successful first dates. He was going to be working out of town for a bit, so we set up an early dinner date for the next day, just before he left. The second date went as well as the first, cementing the fact that there was a connection worth pursuing, whatever that connection might be.

Between him working out of town and my schedule it was about a week before we saw each other again. He was pursuing other relationships and so was I, but we continued to grow the one we were building as well. Our third date was something I wouldn’t normally do that quickly; we planned to hang out at his place, just to spend time together and see what would happen. I was so comfortable with him so quickly that I wasn’t even judging myself, I was just letting things happen as they would. They did, and it was great. No pressure, no expectations, just two adults enjoying each other’s company and planning to continue to do so. He went out of town again for the week, and when he got back we had a great night out followed by a great time in. Things were going really well. Then we hit a hiccup.

I have a habit of adapting to the needs of my partner, and I was getting the sense that he wanted or felt like he needed a relationship. Not an exclusive one, and maybe not even one with me, but something with feelings and future potential. I was happy with what things were, but felt strongly enough about him that if he wanted to try then I was willing. So I let him know that. It turns out I was wrong, and my assumption and ensuing declaration resulted in some anxiety on his part and some hurt feelings on mine. I think if we had less of a connection then things would have ended there, and we each would have gone our separate ways.

Instead of running away we wound up having a series of conversations, and out of those we were able to figure out what we wanted from each other. Not a romantic relationship, that wasn’t something either of us felt would work out long term. We each had our own reasons for that, some of which we discussed and others that we did not. What it really came down to was the fact that that particular spark wasn’t there, for either of us. Sometimes it just happens that way; everything else can be a perfect fit, but if one piece isn’t there the whole thing doesn’t work.

So if not a romantic relationship, then what? Friends, obviously. But friend is such a broad term and encompasses so many different levels of relationships that it seems too general. In the short time we have known each other we have shared things, supported each other, and connected in ways that I haven’t with people I’ve known for decades. Friends with benefits is too harsh, it sounds cheap and like we were using each other. When our other relationships allowed for it and when we chose to enjoy each other’s company physically it was as an add on to what we had; never an expectation or a pillar of the relationship. If it never happened again it wouldn’t change anything.

We were out for a walk the other night, chatting about our lives, other relationships, and various thoughts or experiences we had over the last few days. Just enjoying each other’s company. He turned to me at one point and said “I do love you, you know” and I replied with “I know, and I love you too”. Because I did, and I do. It wasn’t a big declaration, there weren’t any tears or giant smiles or passionate embraces or promises made. It was just a quiet verbal acknowledgement of something we both felt, something that had grown without effort or intent.

When I started online dating I expected to make friends, I even hoped for it. I also expected misunderstandings, and that some would go well and others would not. It happens. What I could never expect was that a mistaken assumption on my part would lead to a series of conversations that has allowed me to find one of the best friends I have ever had in my life. Would we have gotten here without that hiccup? I honestly don’t know. And really, it doesn’t matter. We are here. I may not have a word for exactly what we are to one another, it’s something a little different, but I do know that it’s special and that I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Online Dating Terms

If you are going to be out there in the dating world there are some terms you should familiarize yourself with. This is not a comprehensive list, so if I missed any please feel free to add them in the comments!

Bae: A term of endearment, a shortened version of babe or baby. Because apparently those words aren’t already short enough. It is also a Danish word for poop, and the acronym for “before anyone else”, “best at everything” and “bacon and eggs”. Use at your own risk.

Bread crumbing: Sending occasional flirty texts or giving just enough attention to keep someone’s hope of a relationship alive. Also known as “Hansel and Gretelling” for those of you who remember fairy tales that don’t involve vampires that sparkle in the sun.

Bot: A fictitious account on a dating app, designed to get you to hit a link or give up an email address and eventually pay money to see more.

Catfishing: So common that Merriam-Webster has actually added the term to the dictionary, it is used to refer to internet predators that fabricate identities in order to trick people into emotional relationships. Bottom feeders, much like an actual catfish.

Cuffing Season: That period during the fall and winter months when people who would normally rather be single or promiscuous find themselves desiring to be tied down by a relationship. Essentially the hibernation of the dating world, it is about as far from the kinky thing it sounds like as possible.

Curving: Like ghosting, but instead of just leaving you hanging their replies will get further and further apart, and will contain lots of “I’m sorry, I got caught up with <insert predictable excuse here>.”

Cushioning (or benching): A technique where you have a main partner or potential partner, but you are chatting and flirting with other people that you are keeping on the bench to cushion the potential fall if your better option doesn’t work out.

DTF: If you don’t know this one, congratulations, you have led the perfect life. Or a really boring one. Either way, if you see a profile with “DTF” on it, or someone asks you if you are “DTF”, make sure all of your personal maintenance is in order and that you are freshly showered.

DTR: The natural follow up to “we need to talk”, this one stands for Define the Relationship.

Firedooring: Just like that safety door at work, this is when access is entirely one sided. Any attempt to make initiating contact, meeting needs, or confirming plans go both ways is met with a flat, hard, impenetrable surface.

Ghosting: When a person cuts off all communication with a partner or potential partner and completely disappears, with no notice or explanation given.

Haunting: Occurring after ghosting, this is when the ghoster continues indirect contact by liking your social media content, but is still not responding to any direct communication attempts.

Kittenfishing: The most commonly used tactic when online dating, kittenfishing is making yourself seem way different online than you are in person. This means using really old pictures, fibbing about things like height, weight, or size, or exaggerating your interest, skills, or talents. Basically wasting everyone’s time.

Meet-cute: A scenario in which two people are brought together in some crazy, unlikely, destined to be together forever kind of way. See any romantic comedy for an example. If anyone has seen it happen in real life let me know, I certainly haven’t.  

Pied Pipers or Pie Hunters: People who deliberately seek out singles who have a disastrous dating history, so they can hook up with them when they are at their most vulnerable.

Sapiosexual: Originally defined as a person who is attracted to someone’s mind before their body, many online daters are now using it as a statement against the current hookup culture, to let others know they want more than just sex.

Stashing: When you are in a relationship with someone but you refuse to introduce them to your friends or family. Likely because you view them as temporary, replaceable, or lacking in some way. A nice word for being an asshole.

Sup: If you hear this from someone, move on. Anyone too lazy to say or write all 7 letters of what’s up is also going to be too lazy to satisfy you in any other way.

Thirsty: When you are so eager for attention, sexual or otherwise, that you basically look like a dehydrated fool wandering in the desert, willing to lap up anything thrown your way.  

Why I’m Trying Open Relationships

Like many of you, I grew up in a nuclear family. Two parents and their dependent children, regarded as a basic social unit by society. This has been the ideal model, in western culture at least, for as long as most people can remember.

As far as I know this model worked for my parents. They have been married for over 40 years, have not lived apart at any time during that period, and to my knowledge have not had romantic relationships with any other people since they got together. They are the ideal that our society tells us to strive for.  

So many things in life have told me that I should want this, my parents and their example being the first. It was reinforced through my youth, seeing other young kids playing house, listening to high school friends dream about their wedding day, and watching fellow college students frantically try to find ‘the one’.  As an adult it’s been hammered into me, watching one by one as people I knew paired off, getting those dreaded ‘when will you find someone’ questions at family events, and seeing the pitying looks from people any time I went to an event without a partner. It is expected that we will all pair off, and that we will do everything in our power to get to that as early as possible.

I was never the girl that planned her wedding. It just didn’t matter to me. Over the years I’ve tried several time to have successful monogamous relationships, sometimes to the point of completely repressing who I am just to make it work. It’s what I was told I should want, and I tried my hardest to have it. Then when I couldn’t make it work I stopped trying altogether, stopped trying to find anyone. I didn’t meet people, didn’t date, and eventually didn’t even have sex for over a decade. I thought I was broken, damaged, or in some way incomplete because I couldn’t find this thing that every other person seemed to be able to. I thought there was something wrong with me, that I was the problem.

There isn’t anything wrong with me.

It has taken me a long time to say that. Probably too long. I am a good person. I am happy, social, attractive, and I care deeply about the people I come to know. I like going out, staying in, or any combination thereof. I am compassionate, supportive, giving, playful, entertaining and independent. I am easy to be around, and easy to love.

I just don’t fit the standard formula.

In all of my relationships I’ve felt restricted, or like something is missing, in one way or another. I’ve had to give up meeting new people, lost time with people I cared about, and changed plans countless time to fit another person’s life. Hobbies I enjoy have fallen by the wayside, and things I’ve wanted to try have never happened. I’ve given up freedom, experiences, friendships, and time, all in the pursuit of that one goal – becoming a couple.

In every relationship I’ve had that feeling of restriction has turned me into someone I don’t want to be, and someone my partner ultimately hasn’t wanted to be around. In some I’ve become exhausted, constantly worn down by not having my own needs fulfilled while I meet someone else’s, making me angry and petulant. In others I’ve become rebellious, lashing out and finding ways to hurt my partner in an attempt to express how unhappy I am. I’ve tried telling my partner exactly what isn’t working for me, what is missing, only to be met with confusion or abandonment. It’s not their fault. It’s not even mine. But it doesn’t work.

Recently I’ve been introduced to the concept of open relationships. Open means different things to different people, and many names and labels are used to define it and it’s varying levels of feeling and commitment. Regardless of the term used the definition I hear most is ‘committed intimate caring relationships with more than one partner, with the consent of all partners’. The rules are set by the people involved, and as long as everyone is honest and follows them these relationships work beautifully.

Imagine it. Not having to find just one perfect person to meet all of your needs, and not needing to be the one perfect person that meets all of someone else’s needs. Not having to restrict yourself to one person’s likes or dislikes, hobbies or passions, and not having to badger that person into participate in all of yours. Being able to find different people that fit the different parts of your life, that allow you to do things you love with people you care about who also love doing them, and knowing that you aren’t leaving someone out while you do that because they also have someone to do the things they love with. Sharing experiences and emotions, good and bad, with multiple partners, instead of requiring one to carry all the weight of it on their own. Being free to meet new people you might care about, without needing to give up anyone else first. Being allowed to care for as many or as few people as you want, for as long as you want and in whatever way you want, at any time.

I can’t imagine anything more fulfilling than that, and I’m looking forward to experiencing it for myself.

Trust

What makes you trust someone?

Meeting people is easy, but truly letting them in is more difficult. We all have parts of ourselves that we hold back, things we don’t share easily with others. Sometimes they are things we are ashamed of, but most of the time they are things that we are protecting. Things that are fragile, things that are precious, and often things that have been hurt before.

Trust is a huge hurdle in any new relationship, whether it is romantic or not, and there are so many different pieces to it. There’s your basic trust, things like “do I get in a vehicle with them?”, “Should I watch my drink around them?” or “Do I want them to know where I live?”. Then there’s the more complicated questions like “Are they really who they say they are?”, “Do they make good decisions?”, and perhaps most importantly “Are they going to hurt me?”.

Trust is a social construct, defined as a belief in the reliability, truth, ability or strength of someone. It’s something most of us learn as children, then spend our lives relearning and redefining as we add up our positive and negative experiences. It is a constantly changing creature, and can be swayed by more internal and external factors than we can possibly imagine.

So should you trust someone? Some people trust freely and completely, believing people deserve it until they show they don’t. For others trust must be earned in levels, through a series of conscious or unconscious tests. And for some it is something they aren’t capable of ever completely giving.

There are no right answers to these questions, there is just what is right for you in the moment, based on your experiences, your openness, and your ability to handle being hurt. Trust is risky no matter who you are dealing with, every single person on the planet has the ability to hurt someone else. Some might choose to and others will do it unconsciously. It’s unavoidable.

For me trust has always been a gut feeling. It comes quickly with many people, slowly with others, and in some cases it never happens. Sometimes there are obvious reasons I trust or don’t trust someone and sometimes there aren’t. Sometimes I trust fully, other times I hold back and the trust comes in levels.  And sometimes my gut is wrong, and I get hurt.

It is tempting when we get hurt to make sweeping decisions like, “I will never trust again” or “I make bad choices, I should just stop making choices at all”. I did that, for a long time. I eventually learned that it’s important to remember in that moment that this was just one bad decision. Maybe it was a big one, maybe it really hurt, maybe it even hurt someone else, but it was still just one bad call. One mistake. Don’t let it stop you from trying again. Add it to your pool of experience, learn from it, maybe be slightly more cautious next time, but don’t give up. There are more people out there who are worthy of your trust than there are who will abuse it, and the only way to find them is to keep trying.

The Other Benefits of Online Dating

When we are online dating it becomes very easy to develop a negative perspective on the process. We tend to focus on all of the things that we aren’t finding, whether that is love, the perfect fling, or something else, and not the things we are. We go into it with our lists and our expectations and often come out of it feeling even more alone or unfulfilled than we were when we started. On top of that not all dating experiences are good ones, so sometimes we develop new social scars to go along with the ones we already have. These feelings can make it very difficult to see the other benefits of the experience, beyond meeting the person or persons you think you are looking for.

The first unexpected benefit I found when I started online dating was the realization that I was not alone in being alone. At the time most of my friends were in long term relationships and I had been single for over a decade. The need I felt to partner up, either by lowering my expectations or increase my desirability, was intense. My inability to do it bothered me to the point that it became a source of shame, something else that made me feel alienated, unworthy, and unwanted. The constant commentary from family and friends that I should find someone, and their expectation that it should be easy for me, only added to this. I know they all meant well, but the pressure I felt from being unable to meet the social expectation that we should all couple up ultimately made me very depressed.  

When I started online dating I found out just how many people out there were single, and I was amazed. Some of them were like I was, desperately looking for a partner. Others fell into the category of people who were single for a reason, either by their own choice or due to something they needed to work through. Several were in that brief period between relationships that most serial monogamists experience. Ultimately it didn’t matter to me why people were single, the fact that there were so many of us made me feel like less of a failure. I wasn’t an outsider anymore, I was part of a community, one that I had previously known nothing about. Through the shared experience of dating I became closer to the few friends I had that were also single, and realized there wasn’t anything wrong with any of us. Eventually the imposed feelings of expectation and loneliness left me, and I was able to realize the complete person that I already was.

I credit online dating with improving my social skills. When I was younger I had no problem talking to anyone, but during my long period of being single I had forgotten how to meet new people, how to interact in a crowd, and even how to talk to people I already knew. I became very introverted, uncertain of myself in every situation, and that added to my isolation. I wouldn’t say or do anything because I was so afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing.

Online dating gives you a unique opportunity that I don’t think you get anywhere else – the chance to edit yourself. Most communication is done through messaging, which means you can compose and make changes to your words before you send them.  It is a social crutch, but one that I found very helpful when learning how to put myself out there again. The chance that I would blurt something awful out, or laugh at the wrong time, or miss part of what a person was trying to tell me was gone. I could read, reread, write, and rewrite to my heart’s content. Over time I found myself doing this less and less, as I re-learned the skills I used to have, and as my natural confidence began to come out again. I was shedding layers of self-doubt and fear with every message, and it felt wonderful. By the time I felt ready to have a real relationship most of my unnatural shyness was gone, and I was able to show the person I wanted who I really was from the beginning.

My favorite benefit has been the improvement to my social life. I am very glad that I never fell into the habit of ignoring a connection because it didn’t include the romantic element I was looking for.  Online dating gave me access to people I would never have met in my everyday life, and some of those people have quickly become my closest friends. Because of them I have been exposed to new experiences, different points of view, and have developed a better support system than I have ever had before. Without them my current hopeful, happy, and excited personality would not exist, and I would have missed out on far too many wonderful aspects of life because of that.

Closure

For most of us this is something we never get. When a relationship ends one partner is usually left wondering what changed, when it happened, where things went wrong, why now, and how they could have missed it. On top of all the emotions that come with losing someone, there is the not knowing. It eats at us, bringing out feelings of self doubt and mistrust, and often causes problems in our future relationships.

So given the opportunity for closure, would you take it? The easy answer is yes, of course, because if you know everything that went wrong then you can prevent it from happening again. Right?

Wrong. In most cases the things we call ‘closure’ wind up being more hurtful than helpful. Or they aren’t really closure at all, just excuses, or blame. They often lead to more hurt feelings, and further destruction of the relationship. And they can still affect your future relationships in negative ways, by adding to any lingering anger or lack of trust.

If you are given the opportunity to get closure from someone it is important to ask yourself some hard questions. First, is this person really capable of giving you closure? If they couldn’t tell you this information when things ended,why are they capable of telling you now? What has changed for them? Have they really been reviewing what happened and coming up with more thorough answers, or are you just going to get a regurgitated version of things you’ve already heard?

Second, are you capable of hearing what they have to say? If your former partner really does come to you with new or expanded reasons about why things ended, are you going to be able to really hear what they are telling you? This won’t be easy for them either. If you are going to ask for closure, and they are ready to truly provide it, you had best be ready to hear it. Otherwise it’s not fair to anyone.

Finally, is this closure really going to change anything? If you do get all the answers to every question you ever wanted to ask, what will that mean? It won’t bring back the relationship, and it probably won’t leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy about you or your former partner. What is you end game in asking for closure? Why is it important to you? If it’s so you can assign blame to someone else, don’t. That’s just a waste of time, it’s already over. If it’s so you know what you did wrong, be careful. Just because it was ‘wrong’ for your last partner doesn’t mean it will be wrong for your next one, or that it’s wrong for you. Changing yourself based on what someone else wanted is a slippery slope that can end up with you losing who you are. I’m not saying you shouldn’t listen to what the other person has to say, but remember to take it with several large grains of salt. Hold on to who you are and what you learned about yourself or each other while you were together, and let the blame and hurt fade away.

The Friend Zone

Yes, it happens to all of us. Regardless of your gender, sexual orientation, or physical attractiveness, at some point in life you have or will be friend zoned. Probably more than once.

Maybe you’ve been chatting online with someone, or you’ve met them in person. Maybe you’ve even been friends or colleagues for some time. However it began you’ve had that feeling, felt that spark, gotten excited, and have hit that moment where you want to be something more. You gather your strength, build up your self esteem, and work up the courage to make your move. You invite them on a date, suggest a weekend away, or maybe even just go in for the kiss. Then BAM! it happens. They tell you they would rather just be or stay friends. Ouch.

That’s right, ouch. It’s ok to say it. Let it sting. However noble their intentions or how gently they do it, it is a rejection. It’s ok to feel that way. You put yourself out there, offered yourself, and it wasn’t what they wanted. Let yourself feel it, even if it’s just for a moment. Don’t wallow in it or get angry about it, but do acknowledge it. What’s important is what you do next.

What comes after ‘let’s be friends’ is entirely up to you, and it’s an important decision. Don’t blow by it. In order to be fair to yourself and to the other person you need to ask yourself a couple of serious questions.

First, do you feel like you can just be friends with this person? Can you set aside the romantic feelings, for good? It isn’t fair to you or to them if you are agreeing to a friendship only out of hope that it will be more one day. That will lead to a lot of resentment on your part, and will poison the relationship down the road.

Second, is there value in the friendship? We become romantically interested in people for a lot of reasons, and not all of those reasons will translate to a good friendship. You will need to ask yourself where you see this friendship going, what this person will add to your life, and what you will add to theirs.

If the answer to either of those questions is no, that’s ok. It doesn’t make you a bad person, just an honest one. And it will save you both time and possible hurt feelings in the long run. You don’t have to be friends with every person you meet. Agree to be friendly acquaintances and move on.

Slow. Down.

I have this thing I do when I find something new and exciting – I jump in too deep too fast. It happens with new hobbies, new friendships, and most of all, new relationships. I get excited to learn and do more, passionate about what things could be like, and without even realizing it I find myself almost fully immersed in something or someone I know very little about. Sometimes I get lucky and it works out, and other times I wind up brokenhearted, missing out on great friendships, or paying off bills for bags of crafting materials I’m never going to use.

My last long term relationship really brought this to light for me because we both had this problem. Within 3 weeks of our first kiss we were saying I love you. He canceled his plans to move to another city, and I started involving him in extended family dinners barely a month after we started dating. We spent every weekend together, went to every event together, and couldn’t wait to merge our lives as much as possible.

I’m not saying any of this is wrong, or that the love wasn’t there. It was. I’m just saying that we went too fast, and because we shared this problem neither of us could see it. We were so excited to get to the next level of commitment, for different reasons, that we didn’t stop to fully enjoy and analyze each new level as it came, and we missed out on a lot of warning signs for things that came later because of that.

I learned a lot from that relationship, but probably the biggest thing was that I need to slow down. Way down. To an almost glacial pace, at least compared to what I was doing. There is nothing wrong with being excited, feeling things deeply, or wanting everything at once, but there is something dangerous in trying to actually do that. Loving someone and building a life together, if that is the type of relationship you want, should be something that develops slowly. No matter what the feelings are, time is the only tool out there that allows you to have experiences that will test you, make you see certain things, and develop those important questions that need to be asked and answered.

Don’t think that because I learned this lesson once I have followed it to the letter. I haven’t. It is a constant struggle reminding myself not to dive in just because something feels good or seems amazing. Sometimes I slip up, and I have to learn the lesson all over again. Sometimes a partner or friend reminds me that I am trying to move too fast. And sometimes there just isn’t enough room on my credit card to buy that really cool new thing that is totally going to change my life.