Over the past year I’ve gotten much better at taking initiative. If I don’t understand something, I don’t wait around, hoping for an answer to appear. Instead, I ask questions until I find an answer, or I just start trying to solve problems on my own. This taking-control-of-the-situation approach works more often than not. In fact, by taking a chance and trusting that things will work out, I’ve gained a lot of confidence. (I’ve also learned that doing a job the ‘right’ way vs. the ‘wrong’ way is usually open to interpretation.)
While it has become easier to approach work and writing with this newfound confidence, I’m still working on taking initiative in my love life. There are days when I feel like I could walk up to any smart, funny, attractive guy and start a riveting, non-stumbling conversation on even the most boring of topics. There are moments when I feel like I’m this super-interesting lady who could casually ask a guy out without seeming too awkward about the whole thing. But usually I feel like a girl who is pretty sure of herself but is still too scared to take a chance on anything that has to do with love or even the feelings circling around it. And so I do nothing.
Why do I do this? Probably for the same reason a lot of people do: It’s safer to live with not knowing what will happen if we take that chance rather than actually taking it. That’s because it’s much easier to imagine what could go wrong instead of considering what could go right. Imagining worst-case scenarios is scary and intimidating, and who wants to risk feeling scared or intimidated? Reserving emotion is less dangerous—or, perhaps more importantly, it’s less embarrassing.
Now that you are divorced or otherwise single, what are you looking for?
You’ve probably been asked that question, or a variation of it, many times, and it’s not always easy to pin down an answer. Most of us can readily identify what we don’t want, but putting a finger on exactly what we’re looking for in a partner and/or a relationship is often a difficult task.
As a relationship expert, I’ve found that many of our wants come from things that we’ve experienced in past relationships, or from things we’ve not experienced but would like to. We hold on to pieces of past relationships that we perceive as “good,” and we tend to drag that baggage into new relationships.
But this type of behavior raises a very important question: Is this fair?
The answer is: not really. It is very important to enter into each new relationship with no preconceived ideas. Try to leave behind your past, and look at the new man in your life with fresh eyes and an open heart. But, that does not mean that you should walk in with heart in your hands, ready to commit.
Below are three questions that you should ask yourself as you’re preparing to start dating again.
In almost every writing workshop I’ve ever been in, a decent amount of time is spent dissecting the last paragraph of every essay. The ending shouldn’t be too tidy, or “wrapped in a bow” as one writer I know would say. This means there should be room for growth and questions at the end of an essay. The story might be done on paper, but your life continues on beyond that. An appropriately open final paragraph is a way to acknowledge that fact.
Fairytales have a different agenda. They don’t follow the rules of the essay. Fairytales are lovely stories with colorful characters and a bit of adventure, and they all drive home the same point at the end: the prince and the princess live happily ever after. That’s it. We don’t hear from them again and are left to assume that those two crazy kids are living a life of bliss. We’re meant to accept it and move on.
In real life, the ending of any good love story should be to live happily ever after with whomever it is you hope to spend “ever after” with. Fairytales insist this lifestyle is possible, and I’m sure it is—but I also think it’s more complicated than a single sentence could ever possibly convey.
One Saturday morning, a beautiful girl stood on the Spark & Hustle stage. She was the only speaker of the 3-day conference to wear tennis shoes and jeans. Her stylish t-shirt proclaimed “Save the Ta-tas.”
Julia Fikse’s presentation, which was to challenge the 100+ female business entrepreneurs to consider how their companies could contribute to non-profit causes, began with words of vulnerability. She applauded the attendees for their courage in coming to a conference, admitting how hard it can be show up in a room full of strangers. To illustrate that point, she shared an experience from the evening prior that happened to her in the hotel restaurant.
It’s a story I regret to share.
“Online I was chatty, engaging, mysterious, coy, flirty… In person I am awkward and shy with bouts of mania. I am self-conscious and quiet and come across as aloof and apathetic… In person I loved him instantly but in person I lost my courage and made him feel undesirable.
Why was it so much easier to be great with a screen between our faces?”
Find yourself relating to any part of that quote? Then you should read Kaitlyn Wylde’s essay “A 2013 Love Story” over at Medium.
I don’t know about you guys, but I’ll listen to any advice Amy Poehler offers. So when she says we should celebrate being in love and allow ourselves to be vulnerable–even if love seems a little intimidating at first–well, I’m at least going to take her suggestions into consideration.
Finding the courage to chat with an attractive stranger isn’t always easy, particularly for the wallflowers among us. Luckily, a few people have figured out a way to make these conversations less nerve-wracking. Check out this article at HuffPost Women to learn how to approach anybody with total confidence.
“I wanted someone to love me but I certainly didn’t need it. I didn’t want to be alone, but as long as I was, I had no choice but to wear my solitude as though it were haute couture. The worst sin imaginable was not cruelty or bitchiness or even professional failure but vulnerability.” –Meghan Daum, “On the Fringes of the Physical World”
This quote is from Daum’s 2001 essay collection My Misspent Youth (which I highly recommend, but that’s neither here nor there). In the essay, Daum discusses the initial all-consuming elation of beginning her first online relationship followed by the surprising disappointment she experiences after meeting the object of her email-fueled affections in person.
Although the essay was published twelve years ago, it feels as though she could’ve written it last week. Many of the sentiments expressed by Daum remain relevant as we Millennials navigate the evolving rules of dating and falling in love in 2013.
“I wanted someone to love me but I certainly didn’t need it.” Many people want to fall in love, but I guess we don’t really need it. Or we can at least convince ourselves that we don’t need it. We’re well-trained in thinking we’re too busy for that kind of thing. We think our relationships with friends and family can provide all of the love we need. Romantic love is often regarded as an afterthought, probably because we’re so unsure of how to find and/or let this kind of relationship into our lives. But even if we’re all busy, unsure or insecure, there’s still no denying that want.
You have a crush before he even knows your name. Where did you first see him, again? Could’ve been anywhere. Doesn’t matter. You thought he was cute. At that point, you knew the crush was purely superficial. You weren’t that invested. Your life could carry on as usual.
Then, days—maybe weeks?—later, you see him again, see that your paths are literally going to cross, and think, “Well, why the hell not?” and fueled by your sudden surge of confidence, you introduce yourself (or joke about the weather, or compliment his shirt—who knows, but you say something). And he shakes your hand. You realize you’ve never been this close to him before. You prepare to part ways—
And then he smiles.
And you are a goner.
I tell anybody who asks that I don’t have a love life, at all.
And while it’s true I haven’t dated in a while, I also haven’t rejected the idea of ever dating again, so it’s misleading for me to completely deny this facet of my life. But denial is waaaay easier to deal with. It’s certainly easier than talking about feelings and feeling feelings and potentially having feelings hurt.
In my recent single years, I haven’t thought (too much) about what might be preventing me from connecting with people in anything more substantial than a platonic way. This denial thing, though, is a bit of a concern, and as a young adult attempting to get back on the dating scene, it’s probably worth examining some of my hang-ups.
I recently watched a TED talk entitled “The Power of Vulnerability.” In the video, self-described researcher-storyteller Brené Brown discussed the work she has done in defining shame. Her years of research revealed that most often, shame can be summarized as this: I’m afraid someone will see what’s “wrong” with me and deem me to be unworthy of connection.
Who needs a boyfriend or emotional intimacy when I am my very own Ron Swanson, right…?
I don’t mean to brag, but I’m analytical and always over-prepared.
Not in an annoying way—well okay, sometimes in an annoying way. Except, while my analysis skills come in handy when discussing the success/failure rates of celebrity couples (though, I’ll admit: I did not anticipate the Poehler-Arnett break-up), they can also cause some serious over-thinking.
If I’m bored, I’ll sometimes strategize Ocean’s Eleven-style escape routes from whatever building I’m in. And if I had to give an impromptu speech, I’d probably still find time to make a PowerPoint presentation. Once, a friend gave me a book entitled The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Life, so I think other people have noticed my special tendencies.
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