Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Open and honest communication seems to be a very popular topic in any discussion regarding successful relationships. What I find very ironic is that open and honest communication is almost completely absent in dating, or at least I have not seen witnessed it regularly in my experience. I have observed that this absence of, or resistance to communicating openly in the early phases of courtship is due to the notion that having to do so somehow diminishes the romanticism and spontaneity of dating. It’s almost as if it is expected that the relationship will happen spontaneously and romantically without either party having to openly communicate what they are thinking or feeling; and if communication is required too early on then the relationship must not be "meant to be.". I feel this is largely due to the impact that Hollywood movies have had on our perception of what romance and courtship is supposed to look and feel like. Movies often times (and I recognize I am over-generalizing here) portray the notion that romance, dating and courtship all happen spontaneously. A man and woman find each other in a series of spontaneous, happenstance experiences and before they even have time to discuss their relationship, they are kissing under the star-light in a Gondola ride while an Italian crooner sings “That’s amore.” Rarely do I see in romance movies two couples who openly and honestly communicate their feelings and intentions during the courtship process.

So, what is “open and honest communication,” in the context of dating? I’ll give an example from my life. A little while ago I was dating a girl, and it was going well. We were starting to see each other fairly regularly and it was clear that we had an interest in each other. A few weeks into our courtship and after seeing each other a few times that week I called and asked her out for Friday night. She let me know that she had to work until 9pm and had to get up early Saturday morning, but that she would like to see me still. I suggested an activity that would not keep her up too late but would allow us an opportunity to spend some time together, and she accepted the proposal gladly. However, the day before our date she called me and told me that she was cancelling our date because she was going to be getting off work late and had to work early in the morning. This excuse for cancelling the date surprised me, because we had already discussed those concerns when I asked her out. I was very much surprised that she would call and cancel citing concerns that we had already addressed as the reason for doing so. I could tell that something was off, even though she may have been telling me the “truth” about why she was cancelling the date, I did not feel she was being completely honest. Us human beings are masters at telling the truth, dishonestly. Her lack of being forthright and honest with me, caused a minor rift in our courtship, which in its infancy could have been disastrous.

Luckily, with this particular young lady, our courtship continued after this date cancellation, and as our relationship became a little more comfortable and sincere she confessed to me that the “real” reason she cancelled the date that night was that she felt we were spending too much time together. Even though we had a date planned for Friday night, we had ended up seeing each other on Thursday as well and she did not want to see me two nights in a row unless we were exclusively dating. She felt it important to make sure that she was still allowing herself other social opportunities until she was ready and certain that she wanted an exclusive romantic relationship with me. Now, had she expressed that to me when she cancelled the date I would have been completely understanding and supportive of her cancelling the date on me. However, when she cancelled the date on me she did not mention any of that, but used another excuse, which all though true, was not open and honest.

Feeling comfortable with communicating our feelings, thoughts and intentions is such a crucial component of all successful relationships, and it seems that lack of effective communication can almost always be discovered in failing relationships. If this is such a key component to successful, healthy and happy relationships, why not institute this key principle immediately in the dating process? I understand it may not be as romantic, and we would all like everyone who we have a romantic interest in to be able to read our minds and our subtle cues, but the reality is humans are not mind-readers and require at least some, if not quite a bit, straight forward communication before we truly understand how another person thinks or feels. Ironically enough the spontaneous relationships so glamorized in Hollywood movies are in reality by far the most scripted, planned, produced, rehearsed and down-right NON-spontaneous relationships on the planet! Screen writers meticulously write out every word the characters will say, and create the scenes where the characters will meet, and create the characters who are meant for each other, and the actors rehearse their lines and timing again and again to make sure the romantic relationship is portrayed as though it was a 100% spontaneous!

Now, I understand that there is such a thing as over-communication, and I understand that there is such a thing as two people being able to get on the same page without having to discuss every nuance of the relationship, but I do not feel over-communication destroys nearly as many possible relationships or existing relationships as non-communication, lack of communication, or dishonest communication. So if communication is so vital to successful relationships, and dating is the pattern and preparation for those relationships, why not start off day one of a new possible and hopeful relationship by committing to be honest, and open with your feelings and thoughts. Commit yourself to saying what is not just true, but what is also honest and forthright. I am convinced that doing so will not only alleviate a tremendous amount of frustration, guess-work, heartbreak and confusion in our dating and relationship experiences, but will also allow for more opportunities to attract a person into our life who is also a like communicator. Leave the scripted relationships to Hollywood and communicate honestly and openly with all whom you date, and interact.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Part II: One for all
This blog is actually inspired by recent events which helped solidify a concept that I was not previously able to formulate into words. It seems that bad relationship/dating experiences have a cumulative emotional effect with a strong tendency to trend downwards. These bad experiences can create in the mind a negative expectation towards the opposite gender where we will generalize the entire human population of women or men based on those experiences. For example if a girl stands me up for a date, or cancels rudely last minute, I might create a negative expectation and generalization in my mind of, “Girls are flakey.” If a man leads a certain girl to believe that he is genuinely interested in her only to find out that he is dating several other women as well she might make the generalization, “all guys are jerks!” The reality is the individuals who created those negative expectations and experiences in our mind may actually possess those negative attributes, however the great downfall I have experienced in my dating is career is then assuming that because one woman (or man) is that way, ALL of them must be that way!
This tendency to over-generalize I feel has been a great hindrance to my dating experience. I feel it created within me a tremendous amount of emotional baggage that I constantly added to with each negative experience. This created two fundamental problems in my dating pursuits.
1. I fell victim to the great human fallacy of confirmation bias. Because I had created a negative expectation and generalized opinion of all women I had to prove myself right. We can do this so often throughout our life, and it can be tremendously destructive to our capacity to grow, love, experience life, succeed, risk, challenge, forgive, and be loved. The moment I would meet any woman I had already predetermined that she was flakey, or not interested in dating nice guys, or that she was going to find me unattractive, or that she was going to friend zone me, or that she was going to stand me up for my date, or that she was going to date a jerk instead of me, or whatever other negative expectation that I had created and attached to all women. I would therefore, either consciously or sub-consciously sabotage or manipulate the situation to prove myself right! And as soon as I recognized even a faint possibility that a woman might behave in a manner that was consonant with my preconceived notion I would then write her off, and toss the negative experience on top the pile of my emotional baggage
2.  Now that I was towing around this huge pile of emotional dirty laundry, it made it almost impossible for any woman to enter into a healthy relationship with me, even if she was successful at subverting my preconceived notions. Instead of approaching each possible romantic interest with a clean slate I was rather almost saying, “Hi, nice to meet you, would you please do my emotional laundry for me?” We all know how much women hate it when their men don’t clean up their clothes! Now, I’m not even in a relationship with a girl and I’m asking her to do all the dirty laundry that I had allowed to pile up because of my negative experiences with women, when that particular woman had NOTHING TO DO WITH THE LAUNDRY! I was in essence requiring that woman to prove that she is not one of “those” girls that I had bad experiences with by her demonstrating a willingness to do all of THEIR chores. Expecting that a new romantic interest will somehow undo all of the mistakes of other people, mistakes she herself did not make, is unfair, unhealthy and in my experience destructive to the possibility of a relationship with that person.
Condemning all women (or men) because of the behavior of one woman (or man) or treating one woman (or man)because of the behavior of all the previous can never yield positive results. As hard as it is, and trust me this is one of the most difficult hurdles for me to clear and I am still working on it, is allowing each new interest a clean slate, a fair shot and a chance to get to know me without having to sift through my emotional garbage. I’ve had to recognize that just because one girl, or two girls, or ten girls exhibited a certain behavior towards me in the past that I found offensive and hurtful does not mean that all 3.5 billion women in the world would all do the same.  I have also had to confess to myself that if I have seen a certain pattern of negative behavior in how women have treated me that it is probably more likely in response to something I AM doing sub-consciously to confirm my own bias, and not necessarily a reflection of who that individual person is. My challenge is to pick up my own emotional garbage bags and throw them away and then take my own dirty emotional laundry to the Laundromat. Then when I meet a new girl she is not immediately confronted with the task of acting as my emotional maid before she even knows if she wants anything to do with my laundry in the first place…

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Dating Difficulties Part I

It’s quite interesting to look back at the evolution of view-point and perspective in your life and recognize that how you view the world today differs quite drastically from even just a few years ago. This has been the case with me as I recognize that my thoughts and opinions on dating, relationships, courtship and friendship have been gradually adjusted each day as to only faintly resemble what they were when I first entered into the "singles scene." I feel as though I want to express some of these view-points and hope to do so in a manner that will not excite offense or ill-feelings toward any person nor do I mean to embarrass, judge or condemn anyone. I understand that each person goes through life and gains experience and with that experience comes their personalized view-point and perspective. Perhaps my introspection and desire to express my thoughts is aroused by a milestone that will occur in my life in the next few weeks. I will be turning 31 and as such will no longer be eligible to attend a singles ward congregation for my church. Confronting the reality that after 10 years of attending a congregation consisting only of other single adults of my faith, I am still single and will shortly be joining a congregation made up primarily of married couples, babies, children and young adults under the age of 18, has not been an easy task for me. Furthermore, as I review even my most recent dating experiences as well as those long past I must confess that I have made just about every blunder a man can make in regards to dating, so much so that my perspective and view-point on dating in many instances is exactly contrary to much of  my dating behavior. I therefore can only claim that by my insistent and consistent failure have I obtained this understanding. It is coupled with an exhaustive study of books, lectures, conversations with friends and family, personal observation and of course my ever growing experience. I make no claim of authenticity of my opinions nor do I claim myself to be a master of that which I have learned. I recognize that I am nothing more than a student of life who constantly turns in essays with typos, grammatical errors and insufficient research. I only offer to those who read this that I will be completely honest and open, I will not sugar coat or will I patronize, but I will be genuine and sincere in my intent to share. My intent is simply the hope that I can spare someone, anyone, any of the difficulty and frustration I have experienced through a long arduous journey of dating. If what I have to say resonates with no more than one individual who is able to use my experiences and insight to help them recognize when the stove is hot and not to touch, then I will consider it a success...

Dating Difficulties Part 1: Expectation

It has finally occurred to me that perhaps one of the greatest frustrations in dating, and perhaps life, is unfulfilled expectations. I know in the LDS culture marriage is so highly taught, encouraged and expected that is places a tremendous amount of intensity and expectation on dating and courtship. When I think of so many of my dating experiences I realize that before I would even knew a girl’s name I was sizing her up for marriage from across the room. If I found her attractive "enough" I would then try to meet her, hope she seemed interested, try to get her number, ask her out on a date, etc. etc. Little did I realize that for me this "intent" of mine was actually a tremendous stumbling block to my capacity to create meaningful dating experiences. I was so focused on the objective of marriage that I was ignoring what, and even more importantly WHO I was interacting with. Instead of a beautiful individual human being with experiences, passions, disappointments, history, talents, weaknesses, and virtues I was only interested in whether or not they would be my wife. Notice the expectation, and what an expectation!!!! Yet I was generating that expectation from the first moments a woman was introduced within my atmosphere. No wonder I was constantly disappointed and frustrated. 

There is another great fallacy to this ideology and that is I was looking for a woman who would fulfill some sort of preconceived notion of what I wanted from a partner. I was approaching dating as though every woman was a possible Santa's sleigh, full of toys and joys that would make me happy forever and if it turned out there wasn’t a pair of roller blades and an ex-box in the sleigh I would stomp my feet and pout! What a foolish expectation to project on someone who I scarcely knew, and because of that expectation I would most likely never really know

After years and years of generating unrealistic and unfair expectations on women to whom I had scarcely taken the time to know I have now finally tried to allow myself the opportunity of generating healthy and meaningful relationships with women without immediately expecting that the relationship will lead to a marriage partnership, but rather approach it as an opportunity to have my life enhanced by an individual who has unique experiences, a unique past, unique characteristics and unique attributes. Should our interactions become more romantic then they become romantic, if they tend to lean toward friendship then they lean to friendship, if the interactions fade all together then they fade all together. Training myself to resist the tendency to immediately size up every woman as the future Mrs. Green has consequently diminished a tremendous deal of my frustration and discouragement toward dating and women in general, and has led to many enhancing and meaningful friendships, interactions and dates that may not have occurred had I forfeited the probable interaction the moment I deemed marriage unlikely. 

As it has now become apparent that my social interactions will shortly be limited due to the circumstances of which I have become subject I am tremendously grateful for those women in my life who are there even though we are not husband and wife. I am so grateful for friendship and relationship even without romance. I can only speculate as to what fulfillment and friends I would have had I recognized my folly earlier in life, but as we all know such speculations warrant no entertainment. 

So to conclude part I of this endeavor I have espoused (there was an intended pun in that word usage) we will only be married to one person, as so, every other person in the world will not be married to us. What a tremendous opportunity to create meaningful relationships with all those individuals who we meet on the way who can enhance our life if we allow them to; And what a missed opportunity should we immediately place expectations on those who we feel could be more and what a disappointment to discard them when they fail to meet our lofty expectation.