Relationship Advice to My Young Self

January 18, 2013

1971Much of the best advice at HUS comes in the form of comments from people who have acquired the wisdom of age and experience. This week Tasmin made the following observation when discussing how frequently the sexes find themselves at cross purposes re expectations around dating:

It is our responsibility to establish communication patterns that support our beliefs and goals, select venues and choose to enter into situations that are conducive to upholding those goals, and to hold our bar up, even if that means “losing” an opportunity to get some approximation of our goal (attention, dinner) or minimizing our perceived options in order to invest in ways that are representative of those things we seek.

I couldn’t agree more, but I immediately realized I probably would have been clueless and tuned out to this truth when I was in my early 20s. If I could go back and talk to that girl, here is what I would tell her about dating and relationships. I hope you find it helpful as you figure out life the hard way – through experience.

1. Make a big effort.

Take chances. Find ways to let guys know you think they’re attractive. Flirt and tease them. Some of the guys you liked the most never had a clue until years later. 

Don’t be complacent. Don’t wait for things to happen to you. You can’t date people if you don’t meet them and you can’t meet them if you don’t go out and mix it up with people. Host some gatherings. Let people know you’re available. There’s no shame in going after what you want.

Don’t give up. Don’t view an evening out as a waste if you didn’t meet someone new. Don’t swear off guys because someone you really liked disappeared on you. Stay on the market. If you hide away, everyone will forget about you.

Don’t keep saying how hard it is. Life is hard. Almost everything worth doing is hard. Embrace and conquer the difficulty.

2. Watch the eyes.

You can learn a lot about a man by looking at his eyes. Are they alive or flat? Cold or warm? Do they convey expression? Amusement? Are there crow’s feet at the edges that are the mark of a man who smiles and laughs? What do his eyes say about his intent?

Looking back, every guy you ever went out with told you everything you needed to know with his eyes, without saying a word. You knew it too, you just chose to ignore it. 

3. Avoid lazy men. 

Don’t go out with idle, slow, tardy, sluggish, lazy men. They slept late, called late, arrived late and preferred just hanging around to doing stuff. Like working. Or preparing a meal. Or even stopping to put gas in the car. They were good at looking good, that’s about it. None of those guys had any future potential whatsoever.

Your brief relationship with that late night DJ was especially ill advised. He was so lazy he barely spoke, even on the radio. When you dumped him, he barely had enough energy to shrug.

4. Don’t crush on unavailable men.

Maybe you couldn’t help being attracted to the guy at work who said he was in a terrible relationship that would be ending soon. “Soon, I promise.” Maybe it was inevitable that you would have a thing for your friend’s brother, who was home from school only occasionally and appeared unaware of your existence. Maybe you had no control over that dream about your married boss. Your mistake was in indulging those fantasies and pouring psychic energy into them. 

If the odds of getting with a guy are objectively so slim that you can say “It will never happen,” then stop it. Put him in the same category as heroin addicts and ex-cons. Not right for you.

5. Avoid men who like to “go with the flow.” 

No man who ever said that wound up anywhere good, so why did you want to hitch a ride? The guys who knew what they wanted were much better bets, especially when that was you.

6. If you have to ask yourself (or heaven forbid, your girlfriends) whether he likes you, he doesn’t.

The man who likes you and wants you will try to get what he wants. His interest should be present, sincere and have momentum. Every single guy you ever analyzed over drinks or brunch turned out to be a dud. Every single one. All the excuses you made, the justifications you concocted, the rationalizations you invented to explain how his behavior and liking you could coexist were the dating equivalent of a Triple Axel jump.

7. Any guy who gives you attitude about having sex should be kicked to the curb immediately.

Sure, guys try for sex. We expect it, we even like it. We also expect them to take no for an answer. Remember that guy Tom who got all pissed off because you wouldn’t have sex on the second date and threatened not to drive you home? He later apologized and you wound up dating him all summer, but you never did have sex with him. He ruined it. 

And the guys who acted like you owed them sex? How about the ones who acted like you’d be a very lucky girl to get a piece of that?

Never date a guy who won’t respect  you in the morning if you don’t have sex.

8. Never, ever expect casual sex to be good sex. 

There are all kinds of reasons people have casual sex. If they’re bored, it can be a distraction. If they’re on the rebound, it can fulfill a revenge fantasy. It can make you feel hot for a little while if the guy has very high status.  

But remember you thought you would actually have good sex with someone you didn’t know? And then he had no idea that you loved being kissed that certain way on your neck, that being touched on your lower back makes you shiver, that his tongue should move that certain way, not quite the same on the left as on the right? 

Remember the first time you saw an uncut penis and had no idea what to do with that? Remember the guy who screamed? You were afraid the people in the next apartment might call the police. And how creepy it was to see the O face of someone you didn’t even know? 

Remember how later, when you were in love, your feelings played a huge role and the sex was mind-blowing? Remember how much easier it was to let go and be crazy because you knew and trusted one another?

Casual sex orgasms were more like blips, weren’t they? Remember that.

9. Never stay with a guy out of pity, guilt or obligation.

The minute you don’t like the sound of his breathing, it’s over. Once the lust subsides a bit, you begin to really see what a person is made of. You notice a lot more because reality is replacing your idealization of that person. Once in a very great while – perhaps just once in life – the lust leads to falling in love and great, lasting attachment. More often than not, you realize you got some things wrong in your initial analysis. Whether it’s you, or him, the truth is you are not compatible. When this begins to dawn on you, you notice trivial things as faults. 

Remember that time you couldn’t stand the sound of Jack’s breathing? You sat there in the car, knowing that he could not stop breathing, that there was nothing wrong with his breathing, but that you didn’t like his deep sighs, and that that meant you were absolutely, most assuredly not going to fall in love with him? 

When that happens, you need to bail. You wanted to be a good and loyal person, and to reward Jack for being a good and loyal person. The trouble is, that doesn’t work. Your increasing revulsion and resentment led to Jack’s feeling baffled and rejected. Don’t ever prolong a relationship once you know it’s over. 

10. You’ll never get closure. 

How often did you ask the reason why? Usually, he didn’t know the reason why, and if he did the chances of his telling you the truth, e.g. “I don’t like the sound of your breathing,” were slim. 

Bad stuff happens, and we don’t know why. It’s true in relationships. If he says he’s going back to his ex, we ask why. When he says it’s because she’s hotter, we ask why. Because I like blonde hair. Why? Because my first crush had blonde hair. Why? And so it goes, on and on forever. 

No one really knows why. Embrace the finality and accept the uncertainty. We were never promised any answers. Love is a mystery.

11. Don’t fret.

You’ll be amazed at how well everything will work out. Wait till you see your family! Make good choices, do your best, keep it honest. 

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.”