Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Talking it out

Dating and relationships have been a perplexing and difficult thing for me in the past few years.  I have been in a few relationships, I have had my heart broken a couple of times, and I have broken a few hearts myself. I've concluded that dating will never be easy and free of pain. However, there are ways to ease the pain of the dating process. It's as simple as being honest and open. This is especially true if you are prone to be a worrier and become anxious like me. The following dating experiences have helped me to come to this conclusion and it has been a long and slow process.

For some reason many young adults still suffer from what I call the Jr. High syndrome. Jr. high is the time when most youth have finally come to terms they like the opposite sex but yet they are still embarrased by it.  Some kids move past the embarrased stage real quick and soon teen pregnancies ensue but for most youth like me, the embarrased stage doesn't quite go that quickly.

In Jr. High and High School I liked my fair share of girls and wanted to date them but yet I never did.  Why? Because I was too scared to openly tell them I was interested and take the necessary steps in order to develop a relationship. Simply put, I was scared and I let that fear prevent me from action.  My senior year was the most poignant example of this. At the beginning of the year I started liking a beautiful girl. We had many classes together and I got to know her pretty well. I eventually was honest to myself and admitted I liked her and eventually I told some of my friends. Then I got word from one of her friends that she liked me too. That is a marvelous day in the life of a teenager. Yet it's the scariest day ever. What am I supposed to do now? Yeah I know it's as simple as asking her out and letting my interest be known to her but I was terrified.

As I remember I just played it cool for a while. I did make some effort and I called her home (back before everyone had cell-phones) and I was going to invite her to some party my friends and I were having. She was not home when I called and what was already a nerve-racking experience became kind of dissappointing. So I just kept playing it cool and I made no more attempts at directly going to her.  Eventually she started liking other people but yet I didn't. I grew frustrated that nothing was happening.  I analyzed every moment I spent with her at school. I resolved a hundred times to man up and be more direct with her.  Yet I never did. I did manage to work up the nerve to ask her to Prom and it was terrifying. I made my friend drop off the "invite" at her doorstep because I was hiding in the back of his car like a coward. Nothing ever happened between us but yet I spent months of countless hours agonizing over the whole ordeal. I was relieved when we graduated and I no longer had to see her on a daily basis.  Even at the time I knew it was pathetic and looking back on it I realize even more how pathetic it was. Those months of frustration could have been solved a lot earlier on if I had just talked to her.

Years passed and I started to like another girl.  We went on a few very casual dates and got to know each other.  We had many similar interests, mainly politics and I enjoyed talking to her. My interest was peaked really quickly. However, throughout the course of a few months I went through a lot of uncertainty and anxiety. There would be moments when I felt things were going well and then I wouldn't hear from her for a few days or weeks. It came to a point where I remember sitting in my room one Sunday morning thinking about life and my situation with her. I was frustrated and sad. I broke down crying. I had put so much emotional stock and hope into the potential of a relationship with this girl and when things weren't going well, it crushed me. Another month of analyization and frustration went and suddenly one night things went extremely well, better than I could have even hoped.  I was on cloud 9. One week later we had a talk and she explained her feelings and we went back to being friends. It hurt and I was heartbroken. I went home and cried but yet I moved on. As much as it hurt, it was a lot less painful than the months of uncertainty and frustration. I am so grateful she addressed me directly and in a timely manner. We are still good friends to this day.

This leads me to my next experience. I started dating another girl already after a lot of drama and miscommunication. We started under the pretense that it would end after a couple of months. Huge mistake already and of course my feelings grew as we dated. I moved away for a while and we maintained communication but eventually the long distance took its toll. I was more into the relationship than she probably ever was and she needed to move on.  She became distant and stopped talking to me. I was left in the dark. For about 6 months, I was frustrated and mad at her. I was slipping in and out of a mild depression. I felt blown off and mistreated. I struggled to not let the frustration get the best of me. I wanted to respect her space but I still wanted to talk and I tried to reach out a couple of times.  Each time was met with either a lackluster response or sheer rejection. Eventually I moved back and we talked briefly, which helped.  However, we never became friends again. Those 6 months were some of the worst of my life and they could have been a lot better. I have no ill-feelings towards her anymore but it took a while to overcome those.

More recently I became mildly interested in a girl and I pursued it a bit.  I soon realized she was interested and I was very much on the fence. I continued to pursue it because I felt I at least owed it a chance. Eventually it hit me that I wasn't interested in pursuing the relationship any farther. I wasn't sure what to do. We weren't officially dating but yet it had progressed enough to set up some expectations and develop emotions. I rationalized that I didn't need to talk to her about it since we never even officially dated. So I kind of avoided her and became less and less responsive. She eventually got the hint and after a couple of weeks I talked to her briefly about it saying I wasn't interested in a relationship. That conversation came way too late and I can only imagine the grief I caused when I left her in the dark. I have apoligized since and thankfully we are still friends.

Most recently I was interested in a girl and things started progressing just like the last told experience.  I had a hard time correctly reading her though. I would get information from my roommate who would talk to her friends. Most of this information was good news. So I played along accordingly. Eventually I became frustrated because things weren't necessarily going as planned. I was in a really really bad mood and it got worse because I was mad that I was in a bad mood for such a ridiculous thing.  I realized that it was time that I needed to talk to her. I arranged to talk to her and I went over with the intention of figuring out where she stood. However, when I went over I felt like I had been overreacting and I didn't want to scare her off and so we just talked about life in general. I left feeling things were going great. However, she had realized by this time a decision on her part needed to be made and it wasn't in my favor.  Throughout the week she became less responsive and more distant. I became really worried and my friends information from her wasn't matching her actions. So I did something I have never quite done and I just flat out told her I liked her and wanted to know where she stood.  We arranged for a time to talk about it and I felt so much better. That time came and I didn't hear from her.  Again I was frustrated and mad and cursed dating. We did eventually talk soon after and even though we resolved to be just friends, talking about it was rewarding. Yes it hurt a bit but it hurt more being in the dark wondering what was going wrong. Again with the last situation, a relationship was never technically formed but one party made a decision and it wasn't communicated very quickly.

This last experience has fortified my evolving belief in the virtue of being open and honest in our communication with those we like and don't like. We are so afraid of admitting our own interest because we are afraid. We are afraid of rejection, of what others will think, being labeled a "creep", or losing our friendship.  So we remain secretive and hide our true feelings. We spend many nights analyzing the situation and we have countless conversations with others about it. We end up trying to pick out information from the other party by using misdirecting tactics and having others interrogate them discretely. We play a cloak and daggers game. All the while we are filled with anxiety, fear, and unresolved feelings. We do talk about it but rarely with the person it actually deals with. Roommates and friends can offer many words of comfort and advice but they will never actually resolve the problem.

I have experienced times when girls have been very direct with me and leave me no room for questioning if they like me or not. It's super refreshing and very flattering. It usually only serves to increase my interest in them even if I had no interest at all. Even if it doesn't work out, my friendships with these people doesn't deteriorate but actually improves. I have seen others directly express their feelings to those they like. I have never seen it come away negative. Not all the time does it work out in a relationship but both parties come away edified and better off. That is if you are dealing with courteous people.

We are also scared to talk to someone we know obviously likes us because we don't want to hurt their feelings.  We are afraid of expressing our own feelings and approaching those situations.  Yes I know it's going to be an awkward conversation and it seems so much easier to just avoid it. We feel that if we avoid it they will eventually get the hint and that all will be alright. We feel that telling them directly is maybe unnecessary or simply just rude. Experience has taught me though that even though the person left in the dark will be alright (in the long run) and you yourself are spared from some uncomfortability, more pain is actually caused. That person left in the dark is not given any respect and is left hurt and suffers a slow heart break. It's like the difference between ripping off a bandaid slowly and quickly. There is less pain and the person actually heals faster and more completely. If this does happen to you, be kind and courteous.

So are you tired of sleepless nights, frustrating journal entries, depressing evenings by yourself spent in speculation and wonder about someone else, and just simply playing the dating game? Well just stop it and overcome your fears and get out of Jr. High. We're adults and we don't need to feel any shame or fear. Just be direct, open, honest, and nice. You'll spare yourself and others a lot of heartache and frustration. At the same time, be careful to not talk too much.  No one likes have a DTR(determine the relationship) talk every couple of days. Finding the balance is key but still don't be afriad to talk it out!

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