Today our Love and Relationships contributing writer Pooks is back with another installment on all things, well, love and relationships. Hope you enjoy and be sure to show her some love in the comments. XoCandace
First of all, just a quick follow up from my last post before we dive right into this month’s…. dude, trusting your gut WORKS.
I was chatting with a couple of guys from the Bumbz who seemed talkative and nice initially, so I set up dates with each of them. Somewhere during the course of our continued conversations, I started to get the… ya know… feeling. I cancelled both dates - one of them responded by undermining and gaslighting me, and the other called me a bitch. So, in other words….
TRUST YOUR GUT. That shit WORKS.
TRIGGER WARNING: Mention of eating disorder
HEYOOOOOO it’s that time of the month again! No, not THAT time… okay well MAYBE that time for some of us, but I’m more referring to that time of the month where I blather on at length about dating and relationships when really…. I don’t even have the answers! In fact, this post LITERALLY does not have ANY answers. Instead, it has the opposite of answers, so prepare to be disappointed because this post is FULL. OF. QUESTIONS. Like legit, I searched this thing and there are 33 question marks in here. Hope you guys like interviewing yourselves, because ish is about to get REAL.
Let’s talk about what it means to be ready to date. When is the right time to date? I’m sure we’ve all asked this question of ourselves in one way or another, especially in the context of things like:
- Is it too soon after my last break up? Am I just rebounding?
- Do I have time to date with my busy schedule?
- Do I have the (emotional and physical) energy to date?
- Can I afford to date? (SAD BUT TRUE, PEOPLE)
My proposal is that we ask ourselves one, just ONE more very important question before we decide to plunge head first into the shit swamp:
WHY DO SO MANY MEN PUT PICTURES OF
DEAD FISH ON THEIR DATING PROFILES?
HAAAAAAAA GOTCHA BETCHES! Just kidding, although I’m really curious as to why they think that’s sexy - one of life’s great mysteries, I suppose. ANYWAYS, here’s the actual question I propose you ask yourself before you start dating:
How am I feeling?
Yup, I know. It sounds so…. Lame? So vague? But I NEED you to ask it of yourself, and here’s why:
We all go through a series of ups and downs in life, week by week, day by day, and even one hour to the next. I have a body of data which suggests that how you’re feeling about yourself and your life directly impacts your decision-making abilities when choosing a partner. Here’s some supporting evidence, if you’re not convinced:
I’m 19, and it’s the summer after my freshman year in college. I have just broken up with my high school boyfriend, who, for the sake of brevity, was a generally lackluster partner. I have an eating disorder. Somehow, I *THINK* I am feeling pretty dope, but for anyone that has not had an eating disorder before, even if you THINK you’re feeling good, your ED is concrete evidence that you are not, in fact, feeling good. Truthfully, I was feeling like shit. Absolute shit. Shame about the doofus I had been dating. Frustration with the fact that I couldn’t bring myself to eat enough to simply give my body nourishment. Worry and concern about how thin I was getting even though I “liked” what I saw in the mirror. It suffices to say that my self esteem was… not great.
Summer ends, I go back to college with my eating disorder in full swing, and start talking to the man that would eventually become my (ex) husband. For those of you that haven’t read my first post, let me tell you a little bit about him. He was, um…. difficult. Among other things, nothing and no one was safe from his evaluation and potential criticism. Oh, you left a cabinet open? CAN YOU SERIOUSLY NOT EVEN REMEMBER TO CLOSE A CABINET DOOR? Oh, you got some tomato sauce on the counter while you’re cooking? WHY ARE YOU SO SLOPPY? Oh, you gained a few pounds recovering from your eating disorder? PUT YOUR GUT AWAY.
This is all awful of course. But here’s what I want you to tease out of this story - I felt like shit about myself, and I chose a shit partner.
Fast forward - I’m 29, feeling quite proud to have survived the divorce process largely in one piece, and I’ve done some substantial work on understanding myself. I am legitimately feeling good, as well as better equipped to make healthy dating choices based on what I’ve learned. I meet my (now ex) boyfriend - who despite things not working out, was a really good human that treated me with respect and kindness. He supported me and encouraged me and was my teammate for 2 years. And again, here’s what I want you to take away from this story - I felt good about myself, and I chose a good partner.
Losing said ex boyfriend was pretty rough, as some of you know. I still have some hard days, even 9 months later, but I got back on the horse this spring and stuck a toe in the shit swamp… but guess what - I was lonely. I was anxious to connect with and attach to someone. AND WHO I DID I CHOOSE?
SPOILER ALERT! It was #notblonde guy, which for you newbies here is someone that not only wasn’t really compatible with me in the first place, but really put the cherry on top when he cheated on me. Sooooo, that’s cool. Moral of the story? Again, I felt like shit, and I chose a shit partner.
Hopefully these anecdotes are enough to convince you that, even if it’s just correlative as opposed to causative, how you’re feeling about yourself truly CAN influence your ability to make healthy dating decisions. Ya feel me, dawg?
I think many people, myself included, have assumed that all the work that goes into having a healthy relationship occurs while you’re dating. Let’s be clear, I think it’s likely that a large part of it does, but I’m here to convince you that we need to start the work beforehand, because quite frankly - PREPARATION IS DOMINATION. The goal of asking ourselves this question about how we feel is to ensure we are in a position to make good, healthy decisions for ourselves, romantically speaking - BEFORE we start to date.
To some, “how am I feeling?” might seem a little nebulous, so let’s get more granular about what falls under the umbrella of this question. Breaking it down into more digestible pieces will hopefully help maintain focus on the idea that how you’re feeling about yourself and your life directly impacts your dating decision-making abilities. If “how am I feeling?” seems too broad for you, try asking yourself some of these more specific questions:
- Am I lonely?
- Am I sad?
- Am I stressed?
- Am I feeling critical of my body?
And before we get ahead of ourselves…. Listen, I get it. At any moment the answer to these questions may be “yes” for any one of us, and that’s perfectly normal. But I encourage you to use your own internal barometer with these matters, because all things are relative. For example, some people always have baseline stress about their job, so the answer to the “am I stressed question?” might always be “yes”. However, I think the key is to be able to distinguish when you’re significantly MORE stressed than is standard for you, and slow down the dating train.
So what does this all mean for the crazy and oftentimes unpleasant process known as dating? To be completely honest, I think that it’s hard to put into practice something like this - to check in with yourself in a brutally honest way. What I think will be even more difficult, however, is to listen to your answer and pump the breaks on dating if in fact you’ve determined you’re not in the best place. So how can we make it easier to put dating on hold for a bit while we wait for things to even out? I suggest you “indulge” in some self care (A.K.A NOT INDULGE AT ALL BECAUSE IT’S IMPORTANT AND YOU NEED IT, DUH). You heard me, people! Get outside, cuddle with your lizard, eat 47 donuts, talk to your grandma on the phone, get your sweat on, binge watch the Crown, paint your nails, go to bed at 8 - YOU NAME IT! It’s my hope that by doing these things, in time you’ll feel some of the weight in your life dissipate, and next time you ask yourself these questions you’ll be more likely to find that you’re all systems go! Waiting until you’re in a more positive place has many benefits. It can give you better radar sensitivity for red flags (#TRUSTYOURGUT), a lower threshold for bullshit, and even a decreased sense of urgency that could lead to you committing to someone before you really know them, and truly choose them.
So to come full circle, consider the question, “how am I feeling?” not to be some hocus pocus touchy feely crap, but instead as an important addition to what I’m hoping will become a collective arsenal of dating tools. And by the way, it’s my hope that this arsenal is literally the BOMB.
So, what gives? Where are y’all at with this? Do you ask questions like this of yourself, or have any others worth adding to the list? Let me know in the comments below, or drop me a direct line.
Until next time, YBCers!