Making up YOUR mind

Rule #52- Getting Off The Sidelines (and Going on a Date)

Via National Maritime Museum, Magnus Manske

Just like when knowing someone is worthwhile and a good match for you, and you can just feel that tingly feeling in your bloodstream when they walk into the room, it’s also important to make the distinction who NOT to date. Or more importantly WHEN not to date.

On the one hand, there is a lot of pressure if you are single to date. Because maybe, just maybe, the next blind date you go on will turn out to be the one. Now, I’m not saying that they won’t; just that sometimes you might feel pressured into going out on dates you don’t really want to be on, with people you don’t really want to be with. Worse yet, you might convince yourself, for any number of reasons, to give people a chance – just one more date, and one more – when they aren’t really right for you.

The problem is finding a balance between not dating at all, and not getting “out of shape”.

Well, dating isn’t exactly a muscle, but it does  require exercise and growth. If you never go out on dates, or form relationships while waiting around for Mr. or Miss Right (that person who will be the right fit for YOU), how will you know what to do – hell, or what to look for when they come along? The fairy tales that nourished our mind’s as children perpetuated this myth that when the right person magically appears, everything will just fall into place. But what we tend to ignore is that fighting the dragon was a hell of a hard job.

The only way to build a relationship is with a lot of hard work. The only way to know if the relationship isn’t working for you,  or if this person isn’t working for you, or if the dynamic  between the two of you is just not right, is experience! And unfortunately for us, experience demands quite a bit of sweat, tears and heartache!

While some lessons are best learned the hard way (you hopefully won’t repeat mistakes that burned you the first time around after you refused to heed the sage advice of others), This may be of help:

1. Don’t date unless you feel like putting the effort into this person. Because if you don’t feel like investing your time in them to “see where it can go”, there really isn’t any point in starting something up. Mostly because this isn’t fair to them. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give people a chance, but if you do decide to give things a go, then do it properly.

Sometimes. it’s also important to recognize potential. If you meet someone special, or have a click with someone new, give it a chance and see where it goes. It might not work out, but you will have learned something new. Every interaction, be it good or bad, teaches us something, provided we are able to look deeply into ourselves and the relationship and reflect on it. And I promise you this (cliche warning) – when that someone does come along, you will be glad that you learned all those lessons beforehand.

2. Don’t go on a date with someone you intend to dump at the end of the evening!  Whatever your motive is, pity, pressure from your mum or even the prospect of a free dinner, just don’t.

3. Go on dates with people you feel you already have things to talk about, or in common. If you already have a good starting point, be it attraction or things in common, there is probably a greater chance it isn’t going to be a complete waste of an evening.

4. The less you get out, the more you are not going to want to go out. Because let’s face it, the thought of staying in your warm bed with a hot water bottle, and all the episodes of the shows you haven’t  caught up on, is way  more tempting than having to make small talk with a stranger. But you have to break this cycle! It’s time to stop dating your laptop (even though it may very well be better company than your prospective date) and go out!

5. Maybe it’s time to un-friend zone that really cute guy/girl that you have been constantly flirting with for months (or just admit they were never really in the friend zone to begin with)! You already know you have tons to talk about and that you will both have a good time. You probably shouldn’t come to this decision lightly (not to mention out of desperation), but it’s probably worth considering.

6. Learn to open up more to people. Not dating for ages will probably make you suspicious of new people, and make it harder to open up to them, connect on a deeper level and form a relationship. My advice is to make some new friends as an exercise, or open up more to your old ones; it’s important you learn how to trust again, even if you were hurt in the past. You need to learn to be vulnerable with people, because let’s be honest, it’s vulnerability that is the basis of a good relationship.

7. Go out with friends more! No I don’t mean necessarily to pubs and dancing, but rather to social events. House parties, concerts, singles mixers in the religious denomination of your choice. There is a much higher chance that you will run into new people with whom you have more in common if you already share a social circle, community or some interests, like God or your favorite band.

8. Reclaim your mojo!  Chances are that if you haven’t been on a date in a while you probably don’t feel all that secure about the whole thing, so do something to reconnect with yourself. Try salsa dancing or yoga or buy that new dress or those new shoes you’ve been salivating over, imagining how jaw-droppingly good you would look in them. Getting in touch with your body, or just plain pampering yourself, will make you feel much more confident in you – and by extension, with that special someone.

9. Sometimes it really isn’t a good time to start a new relationship (stress from work/family issue and so forth). It’s perfectly fin to put your foot down and tell your pestering  aunts (yes, even the ones that only exist in your head), that now is not the time to start something new, because you just don’t have the emotional and mental capacity for it. That said, “I’m focusing on myself/my career at the moment” is sometimes not just an excuse we give to someone we’re trying to blow off, but a line we may be constantly repeating to ourselves in order to avoid putting ourselves out there.

You just have to accept that part of dating is risking getting hurt, but that isn’t an excuse not to try! 

Rule #49- Phone a Friend

via c. kennedy garrett, carelessly growing away from you

Ages ago I wrote a post  on why you shouldn’t overshare every little personal detail about your relationship with your friends. But it hadn’t occurred to me then that the reverse is also true: undersharing can be just as big a problem as oversharing.

Because there are those of us out there who are too shy/embarrassed, or for whatever other reason don’t talk about things that probably should be talked about.

In these cases, it’s usually postmortem that things start coming out.

Suddenly, after a break-up, you decide it’s alright to start talking about those problems you were incapable of voicing while you two were still and item. You start telling your friends about all the crap you went through during the relationship, and all the red flags you were too blind to see.

So, why SHOULD you talk to people about your relationship issues?

1. They are your friends, and have a vested interest in your well-being! (One would hope).

They care about what you’re going through and usually want to help. Even if they can’t offer you any productive advice, sometimes it’s great to just have someone take the time to listen.

Moreover, sometimes, just saying things out loud makes us see them differently and think about them in a new light.

2. They too have relationship experience! You don’t have to take their advice, but sometimes people can bring up points that are worth mulling over. New angles that hadn’t even occurred to us.

Maybe they went through exactly the same thing a few years ago and have some great input. Maybe they were too embarrassed to tell you about something similar that happened to them earlier because they thought YOU wouldn’t understand.

3. You know that feeling you get when you’re in love with someone, that you’re the only two people in the world?! (The bad kind, where you think no one else has ever gone though this, and no-one can possibly ever understand you?!). Well you ain’t! And it helps to know someone else has been exactly where you are, and got through it.

4. Your love-goggles might be on so firmly that you can’t  see the situation for what it is!

That’s why it’s important to introduce the person you are dating to your friends and family, they might be able to point out things you are too giddy with love (and hormones) to notice.

Sometimes, the people around us are just a little bit more objective, and can offer you an outsider’s opinion. Trust me, they aren’t trying to sabotage your relationship, they just care (unless of course they are, and then you might be better off with a therapist’s opinion).

5. If you’re scared to tell your friends about what’s going on in your relationship, you either have to find new friends that you trust not to judge you, or ask yourself why you’re afraid to tell them what’s going on.

If you’re too scared to hear the truth from someone else, then maybe you should be asking yourself if this person you are dating is good for you.

If you’ve found yourself at the point that you feel you need to hide what goes on behind closed doors from those people in your life that care about you most, maybe the relationship is what needs reconsidering. 

That said. Don’t forget that they are just that, not a part of the relationship, and you should take their advice with a pinch of good sense.

6. That said, take other people’s advice! If you’ve asked for it, and everyone has told you to dump your cabbage head girlfriend/boyfriend, they probably didn’t all have a secret meeting behind your back to gang up on you, they probably just see something that you can’t. Don’t ignore them! 

At the end of the day we all need support, and sometimes support from the person you’re dating (even if they are the most wonderful, loving and caring person in the world) isn’t always what you need. Your friends and family have been there for you consistently through every good and bad thing in life. If you shut them out of your relationship you’re basically snubbing your emotional safety-net, and come on, everybody needs to know they have an emotional safety-net, just in case things don’t work out. 

Rule #48- Milestones

Stones

Every relationship is composed of hundreds of different little milestones.

The first time you kiss, your first fight, the first time you realize that you’re in love with this whole other person.

The first time they discoverer you spend most of your free time writing a dating blog. You know, those run-of-the-mill milestones that mark every relationship.

But what WE perceive as important events, might be slightly different to what the person we are dating sees as important. After all, you both come with a lot of relationship baggage, and one can’t assume all expectations align off the bat. 

So, in order to avoid monumental misunderstandings try: 

1. Not everybody has the same idea of what constitutes a milestone.

Some people like to celebrate every little thing, and others are less sentimental. If your girlfriend wants to have a romantic dinner to celebrate every month you two have been together (you started dating four years ago) LET HER. What’s the harm?

If you think it’s too much, talk about it and find a compromise that suits you both. Maybe suggest an evening at home with a bottle of wine. Usually the gesture is what counts.

2. Accept that the person you are dating might see certain things as a bigger deal than you. Meaning, that just because you don’t think the anniversary of the first time you kissed is important, but they do, humor them! That’s what relationships are all about, accepting someone else’s little quirks.

Moreover, they want to mark these things because the relationship is important to them! Not because they want to bankrupt you.

YOU are important to them! That’s just how some people like to show it.

Making fun of someone just because they wanted to do something nice to mark the anniversary of the first time they sent you a message on FaceBook is highly counter-productive to the relationship, they will just resent you for it. They only bought you the flowers because FOR THEM it was something worth remembering, and as their partner you should get on-bored.

Yes, no matter how silly it seems to you. Sometimes you’ve just got to bite the bullet because it’s important to someone who is important to you.

3. Talk about things ahead of time in order to avoid situations in which you were expected to have planed something and forgot/ didn’t know you were supposed to.

Didn’t think he was going to be devastated you didn’t book a spa day for your six month anniversary?! You should have talked about whether or not you were planning to celebrate it and how.

In no way is it an awkward conversation, it doesn’t take more than a few minutes, Just talk discuss it.

That said, that doesn’t mean you can’t surprise them with something nice. Just because they said they didn’t want to do anything doesn’t mean you can’t do something for them. Just don’t go OVER THE TOP. 

4. If a certain date/life event/anniversary of something is coming up, don’t just drop passive-aggressive hints! 

Be upfront and clear that you would like to do something special to mark it.

On the downside you might not be surprised by the giant muffin basket and card on your front doorstep. But on the upside, you won’t get disappointed either (and end up fighting).

5. Celebrating things is fun! If anniversaries are too mainstream for you, find some other important occasion in your joint life that is worth commemorating.

It’s basically just an excuse to take a couple of hours out of your day-to-day routine to remember why you kinda of like each other in the first place.

Rule #44- Syncing Up

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First of all I would like to apologize for my somewhat long absence. I decided to take an impromptu holiday in Switzerland, Germany & France. I know, it’s a rough life I lead.

In between giant pretzels covered in cheese, cheap beer, and hot chocolate, my mind started wandering back to the lovely man I had left at home. We still aren’t at that stage of taking whirlwind holidays in Europe together.

But I still had to make sure to set aside some time to send him reassuring emails that I hadn’t allowed the temptation of French pastries to go to my head and cause me to forget about him.

The trip was amazing, but I don’t get much time off, and I used up all of it getting slightly buzzed on cheese. Which was a bit of a shame, because it meant that we didn’t get to spend almost any of it together when I got back.

I rationalized that although this was a shame, it wasn’t really my fault because I had bought the ticket before we had started dating.

That said, we are now at that stage where we have to start taking into account the other’s schedule when planning our week, which can get a little sticky, because we are both horrifically busy ALL the time.

So, here are some (hopefully) useful tips in schedule syncing:

1. Set aside some time over the weekend and discuss your upcoming week! 

Naturally, there are always things that will change midweek, but taking the time to go over your schedules is a good way to show you care about what’s going on in each other’s lives.

It also has the added benefit of insuring that you find the time to see each other over the week.

2. Which leads me to; make sure to MAKE TIME to see each other. 

If per chance you are dating someone who refuses to do this. Who only wants to ‘play things by ear’ (even if it means not seeing you at all “because things didn’t work out”), it’s about time you decide if this is someone who really has room in their life for you (or more importantly, if you have room in your life for someone who is selfish with their time). 

3. Even if you have a crazy busy insane week try and find a way to stay involved.

Even if you don’t have the time to go out, show up for a sleep over. Sometimes having a nice cuddle before falling asleep helps alleviate a little of the day’s stress. Also, try and ad some conversation into your night-time routine.

Whether it’s just to stay updated because you are genuinely interested in this other human being you are dating. Or whether it’s because knowing there is someone to listen to what a horrible day you had is why you even bother with dating in the first place.

4. Never EVER make big plans (like weekends away, holiday plans and so on) without talking about them. Not cool. 

Also, if possible, try phrasing things this way: “hey darl’n, so the guys all really want to go away on a spa retreat this weekend, I’m thinking of joining them.” As apposed to just announcing that you’re going.

You aren’t asking for permission, you are showing that you are taking their plans into consideration as well as yours (and not only because you need a ride to the airport).

5. If you have to cancel plans last minute (this really boils my blood when people do it), first of all, don’t. 

But if you really have to: A. make sure that you have a good reason. B. Make sure this isn’t something you do often (or expect a relationship termination letter heading your way). C. apologize profusely for it! 

When you cancel remember that you are also screwing up someone else’s plans! There are two of you in this relationship.

I’m the last person that will tell you that being in a relationship means you have to do EVERYTHING together. In fact, I’m quite for having your own lives and interests. But you should take the time to be interested in the person you’re dating. That means talking to them before booking a long weekend away with the girls. And making a conscious effort to set aside time during the week to see them.

Rule #42- The Complexity of a Definition

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Relationships used to be really easy to define (like two hundred years ago), you were either married or having sex out of wedlock. The number of relationship grey areas were rather minimal.

Today, we are spoiled for choice about pretty much everything. It’s the age of possibility, and with that we have many more decisions to make. The flip-side of this, being that we have more freedom to make the wrong choices as well. So to counter the possibility of god forbid making a mistake, we like to ‘keep our options open.’

This leads to even more hours, month, and even years of deliberations, mulling things over, being confused, deciding, then changing our minds, and still not being sure that we found the right person to spend the rest of our lives with.

Relationships just aren’t black and white anymore, they can be monogamous  polygamous, open, or closed. We have fun buddies, snuggle buddies, and every once in a while when we’ve had too many drinks buddies. Not to mention those friends we call just for sex, or the ones we call but don’t want to have sex with.

The possibilities are endless!

Which in some ways is wonderful, but sometimes it can be rather exhausting,  and we can never quite be certain when we should push for “defining the relationship!?”

1. For starters, never be too pushy! You might feel that you can marry this person, but that doesn’t mean they feel the same way (they may not be ‘there’ yet). Give them the space and time to catch up. Just because it takes them a little longer to feel the way you do, doesn’t make their investment in the relationship any less valid. 

If you get all passive aggressive about it, and keep bringing it up at every opportunity (thus freaking them out), you are more likely to get a ‘I’m not ready for this kind of commitment’ talk, rather than the assurance you really needed.

I once dated someone who kept calling me his girlfriend after we had been going out for like a week. Needless to say we didn’t make it past the second.

That said, if you’ve been dating for months, and you don’t feel you’re on the same page, it might be time to talk about whether or not you both want the same things.

2. I’m just gonna go ahead and say this (if you have been following my blog for long enough, this is probably going to make your eyes bleed from the repetition). Just talk about it! It doesn’t have to be a big deal, you don’t have to make a whole thing of it. Just casually bring it up, slip it into the conversation; tell him/her about ‘your mutual friend Clara from work’ who keeps asking if you two are dating, and you’re now sure how to answer.

Anyway you choose to go about it, just ask! An uncomfortable conversation is way better than hours/days of obsessing about it in your head.

But, do yourself a huge favor, have this conversation with a pinch of common sense (okey, maybe more like a handful of it). If you’ve gone on two dates you’re probably not a couple quite yet. Don’t push him/her into a corner and stress them out about defining things too quickly, because you may just end up loosing them altogether. 

Rule #41- The ‘I’m Not Sure If This Is A Date’ Date

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via Joxemai

Let me set the scene for you (because we’ve all been in it, at the very least once or twice in our adult lives).

You’ve arranged to ‘hang out’ with someone; It’s most likely evening, there is alcohol on the table, and the sexual tension is buzzing around almost tangibly (at least you think it is… isn’t it?!). You really like them, but because of the nature of the encounter, you’re not sure if the feeling is mutual.

I think this has only happened to me twice, and both times it was confusing and rather agitating. Especially, when it comes to working out if someone is into us ‘that way’ or not.

So what can you do about it?

1. Most of these errors happen because we aren’t sure if the other person is interested in us (sometimes I wish humans could read each other’s minds, and then I remember what a god awful idea that would be). Therefore, we need to investigate things a little further.

Not that I’m against treading lightly. Call me old-fashioned, but I believe that’s what a FIRST DATE is for. When you define the activity as a date, the boundaries are clear, you both know where things stand. You’ve both agreed to get a drink and see if there is ‘something there’. 

Just don’t let yourself end up in ambiguous situations! If someone says “let’s hang out next Friday!”,  Just go out on a limb and ask “like on a date?!” .

Things might not work out romantically, but at least you are both on the same page. 

2. Fear not, if you do find yourself in this unfortunate situation, there are a few ways to get out of it.

For starters, you can always be blunt and ask them (the worst that can happen is that you will end up realizing it was an awkward misunderstanding, that you can either laugh off, or end the evening prematurely with the most uncomfortable hug ever). Or you can go for plan B (this is what I usually do): show you are interested! I’ve fondly named plan B. flirt your bum off.”

3. They may not be into you at all. People flirt for so many different reasons; to make themselves feel good, they genuinely think they are just being nice (and really didn’t mean to flirt at all), they want something from you (not necessarily sexually); the possibilities are endless! 

My rule is, if I’m not sure, I either reciprocate to show I’m interested and, see where it goes – or let it go and move on.

4. If you aren’t interested in the other person, and you think you may be on a date, make it CLEAR that it isn’t a date. You don’t have to phrase it that way, you can tactfully slip it into the conversation, but make sure that they know you’re not interested. 

(Try and do this ahead of time on the phone. Make it clear up front that it’s a hang out as ‘just friends’, and try not to wind up in the most ‘couply’ spot in town).

The best relationships often grow out of friendships. Just don’t allow yourself to get stuck in the ‘does he/she like me?’ limbo! Because it’s frustrating as all hell.

Rule #28- Cracking ‘The Code’

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In Jane Austen’s novels we have alluring glances from across the room and suggestive smiles. These days we have coded texts and muddling emails. Modern dating lingo is chock full of innuendo, vagueness, and  ways of saying things that mean other things. In short, things have gotten pretty damn confusing. 

In theory, to avoid awkward conversations, it’s great to have these codes. ‘Awake?’ instead of ‘Fancy a shag? ‘It’s not YOU it’s ME’, instead of: ‘It’s not me, it’s YOU’. And so on…

The only problem is, that no one has ever printed out a manual and handed it out on street corners. How awesome would that be?! 

If we ALL had the same phrasebook, we could be as illusive as we liked, with no consequence. But alas, there is no such magical pamphlet in circulation.

 I absolutely despise not knowing where things stand. I think we ALL do. 

There is nothing more annoying than being messed around with.

So, let’s wade through this mucky subject together and try to make sense of things.

Rules for Cracking The Code:

1.  There are certain things that EVERYONE takes to mean sex.  If, and only IF, you can be certain that the other person is going to understand, use a euphemism. Otherwise, avoid confusing each other; it really is counterproductive.

2. If you feel uncomfortable using certain words, or saying things that are either downright or borderline dirty; sit down the two of you and decide on your own code (that you both understand).

(Yes, I do realize that this can be kind of silly. But, it can also be fun and bonding, so give it a go).

3. Codes are fun, games are fun; but at some point they will just wind up causing trouble. Instead of spending hours playing guessing games with yourself (and your girlfriends), just ask him what he meant. Boy, do I know how hard that is (for months I thought ‘LOL’ meant lots of love. Needless to say, that lead to a few exceedingly uncomfortable moments, and ‘LOL’ isn’t even cryptic).

Most cryptic language we use is for: asking someone out, dumping, sex, or any other slightly uncomfortable topic. It helps minimizing rejection on the one hand, but on the other it’s a pain in the tush. So please, please, think twice about the words you use, and don’t be afraid to tell other people to be more clear with you! Coyness is only beneficial to a point.

Rule #27- The Flirting Loop

via Haras national suisse HNS

It’s past midnight, and you have been texting for over and hour. You are at work and laughing hysterically at an email you just received, even though it wasn’t really that funny (much to your co-workers’ chagrin). You’ve braved dinner,  ‘just as friends’, but really just wanted to skip dessert and rip each other’s clothes off.

If all of this sounds familiar to you, you, too are a victim of the Flirting Loop!

The Flirting Loop; that dreaded situation you end up in where  you both like each other, but can’t quite get past the flirting stage. I’m not going to lie to you, it’s not easy to get out of, but it is possible (with a little determination and some charm).

You may have already tried every flirting trick in the book, to no avail, and it may be a case of shyness. Either way, it is time to brake that vicious circle!  

Rules for Moving Forward:

1. You will never be able to bring the whole situation to closure unless you can make up your mind about whether you like this person or not. I think that a lot of these ‘hot and cold’ games are a direct result of the fact that you are just not sure if you like each other ‘that way’. 

Sending (and feeling) mixed signals is what landed you in this mess in the first place. So, the first step out of it is deciding what you want.

2. Flirt responsibly! Flirting has a purpose , it’s a tool to let someone know you like them (and to get free shots when you’re sitting at the bar, but let’s leave that aside). If you flirt with everyone all the time you will confuse the people you are actually trying to impress. 

3. The easiest way out, is to just directly ask the other person if they are interested. But because we are not all that blunt/brave/not afraid of rejection, the chances we will just put ourselves out there like that are slim.

So, instead, we are left with the more tricky option of being conniving about the whole thing. This option is not fail proof, and leads to a lot of misunderstandings and frustration. Therefore, one of you should just take a shot of liquid courage and make the first move.

By make the first move, I don’t necessarily mean you have to lean in and kiss the other person (and by NO means ask them if you can kiss them; huge mood killer).  Just make it very obvious that you are available and interested IN THEM!

This is the tricky part… But I have come up with some creative solutions:

# Find a way to spend more time alone together (so you can get to know each other. Maybe this will help you finally realise if you are interested or not).

# Don’t send mixed signals! I said this before, and I don’t know how much I can stress how important this point is.

# Find a mutual friend who knows if he is dating anyone and snoop around a little (just to make sure he is single).

(You don’t need to go into full on stalker mode, just do a little recon).

And you know what, ladies? If all else fails, just turn up the charm. Tap into your irresistibly funny/sexy/confident side! But every once in a while we should take matters into our own hands and confront the situation. After all, aren’t five minutes of rejection better than four months of endless pining?

The ‘Worst Date EVER’ Competition

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via Callee MacAulay

In honour of All Hallow’s Eve, it’s time to break out some horror stories. Honestly, there is NOTHING more frightening and horrifying than a bad date.

How does the competition work?

You tell us (in colourful detail) about the worst date you have ever been on. I mean come on, we’ve all been on at least one horrific date in our life. The kind of date that wants to make you permanently give up on the opposite sex and join a nunnery/monastery. 

What do you win?

A lot of sympathy from our dedicated readers (which, let’s face it, is a lot better than a real prize).

So get writing and post your tales of horror and woe in the comment box at the bottom!

 What traumatic tales do you have to share with us?!

Rule #10- Crossed Wires

Electric WiresWe all do it! Say one thing but mean another; send someone mixed signals. Half the time we don’t even realize what we are up to; but nonetheless, we are sending off confusing messages to the other person.

One minute you are REALLY into him

And the next, you’re not so sure

You can’t make up your mind, so instead, you confuse the hell out of the poor bugger…

Not being sure is part of dating, but there is a big difference between not being sure and driving the other person to the brink of insanity.

So, here are some helpful tips to help with your crossed wires problem.

Rules Of Being Clear:

1. Either keep it to yourself or break up with him! If you are not certain that he is what you are looking for, take a few days to mull it over or end it! Leaving him hanging is unfair to him, and in the long run will damage your relationship (uncertainty gnaws away at the two of you like flesh-eating bacteria).

2. Speak your mind about the things that bother you, but phrase it in a way that’s productive; meaning:

Don’t start the conversation off with: I’m not sure about you… Or, I’m having doubts about us…

Talk about the real problems you’re having and try to work through them.

3. Men can’t read our minds (shocking, I know, but turns out they really can’t) and they don’t always know what’s going on up there; so your mixed signals just come across as you playing games with them.

Men do NOT find the following things fun: Mind games, guessing games and hot and cold games.

(However, if your secret pleasure in life is playing games, try strip poker; it has a much more fun payoff in the end)