I’m in my early twenties, so dating and relationships are things that my girlfriends and I spend a fair amount of time talking about. Even in just a casual “how are you” text the well-being of someone’s relationship inevitably comes up because like it or not dating is a big part of who we are right now. Nearly everyone I know is trying to settle down in some way and sharing that experience with friends is as routine as asking about their job; it’s part of the news of their day.
Lately though I seem to hear more about anecdotes than I do about feelings. My friends will tell stories about their dates in a way that almost sounds like they’re building it up to be something that it wasn’t. And when I ask them how they felt about the guy (or girl), their response tends to come with a silent, “but.”
“But he said something weird that I didn’t agree with….”
“But he hadn’t followed through on that plan he was so insistent about….”
“But I don’t know that he really wants the same things….”
I’m a pretty logical person. I tend to mentally categorize things as much as possible and when I can’t, I take time to evaluate my feelings in the context of any current circumstances. I make it a point to figure out what’s going on, what I want, etc. So the moment I hear something like this from one of my friends, I have to wonder: “Why are we even having this conversation?”
One of my favorite blogs, Must Be This Tall To Ride, is written by a mid-thirties divorced male. He’s spent the last few years accepting his own responsibility for the relationship’s failure, evaluating what went wrong in his marriage, and sharing what he’s learned from the experience both before and after.
Recently he posted an article called, “Bad News: You Two Probably Shouldn’t Be Dating” and much of what he wrote really resonated with me. In it he said:
“Once you know what you want, those are your boundaries. Then you clearly and honestly communicate those boundaries to him. Then – the hardest part – you enforce those boundaries. You need to be willing to walk away if he doesn’t respect them.”
Most of my friends know what they want. They want to have good careers, settle down with someone, and start a family probably by the time they’re in their late twenties or early thirties. Those are their boundaries; the things they’re not willing to give up on.
So why aren’t they enforcing those boundaries?
“…a frightening amount of people voluntarily enter relationships with people who don’t share their values, and subject themselves to all kinds of abuse or dysfunction afterward, and it often seems as if it’s because they’re more afraid of being alone then they are of being mistreated or suffering a horrible break-up.”
For whatever personal reasons they may have, my friends are more afraid of being alone now than they are of dealing with any consequences later. Maybe they’re seeking external validation for something. Maybe they’re trying to keep up with an ex. Maybe they mistakenly believe that being single now means they’ll always be single in the future, though there’s no evidence to suggest that such an outcome is a given.
And as a friend, I find this really frustrating because ultimately I want them to be happy. And if they’re questioning things in the short term or trying to talk someone up when the connection isn’t really there, then they’re only doing themselves a disservice in the long run.
Let me know in the comments down below if you’ve experienced something similar. I can’t be the only one stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to giving friends dating advice.