Part of stepping outside your comfort zone is realizing that you don’t know everything. In particular, love is such a dynamic and complicated science that we really can’t predict it. There are so many factors that affect the interaction of two people – factors such as childhood issues, daddy issues, distance, trust, personality, communication, availability, priorities, attractiveness, self-esteem, and faithfulness, to name a few. That doesn’t even take into account where you live and who is available to you, the activities you engage in, and the myriad of factors that influences who we meet and when. So, it’s nice to hear some experts, if anyone can be an expert in love.
I attended a Tedx talk called “Swipe Left: Love, Dating, & Situationships,” presented by Accelerate Delaware. The speakers spoke on the reality we are living in and shared their perspectives on love and dating. While the information was geared towards singles, there are nuggets of wisdom for everyone that I thought I would share.
Dr. Debra Laino, Clinical Sex Therapist, broke down the science of dating or whatever you want to call this thing that people do nowadays. She talked about how we are bombarded with so much information, it’s actually hurting us, genetically. Think about it: if you are an online dater there are several apps to choose from like Tinder, OkCupid, Hinge, SoulSwipe, Bumble, PlentyofFish, you name it. So you sign up for at least one of these and you immediately are faced with a picture. You can swipe left if you are not interested or you swipe right if you find them somewhat attractive or interesting-looking. The left swipes are easy – they are out your life. You probably won’t see them again (unless you live in a small town [yup, it happens]). They are gone. Now, with the right swipe, there are added complications. Who initiates the conversation? A traditionalist female might assume the man is going to start the conversation. A modern day man may assume that the lady will come and talk to him. So here you have two people who find each other attractive, yet still don’t connect, because both refuse to make the first move. Or they have other profile pictures they prefer more, so they give those people their attention. We have created a society with FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). If I find this one guy to be a 9, and this other guy is an 8, I don’t want to ignore the 9 because he might be more awesome. Or if all I have are 7’s in my match list, I may keep swiping left until I see a 9 or 10. Yes, this is shallow, but this is what happens. Are we really any better off than generations before us who choose a mate from work, church, or school? With so much choice, we almost have less choice, because everyone assumes there will always be something better, and so they ignore the unpolished diamonds they see, because they are not EXACTLY what they are looking for. Laino also talked about Ghosting (when a person completely disappears after talking to someone) and how it has changed our ability to have difficult conversations. It is much easier to remove yourself and not ever talk to someone, than deal with the potential of them crying or acting out. So, this skill of giving bad news or discussing unfavorable information is slowly dying. Those people have kids; they don’t teach their kids how to disagree amicably. The avoidance of uncomfortableness eventually changes our genetic makeup to people that do not know how to “deal.” Imagine being a boss or a doctor and having to give bad news. If you don’t “like” doing it and don’t see the need, you might send a letter or have your associate do it instead. And that cold-hearted response eventually becomes the norm. The connection between science and dating is very real, and it’s interesting to hear how something small can amount to something larger down the road.
We watched a Ted Talk video of Mandy Len Catron, writer of How to Fall in Love with Anyone, discuss how you can really get to know someone by asking them 36 questions. Everyone at my table was really intrigued by what these questions were. Of course I later looked it up. (You can read the NY Times article here). The thing with the questions is that they challenge us to ask something uncomfortable that we may not ordinarily ask. When you first start dating someone they might text you throughout the day, call you every night, bring you flowers once a week, cook you dinner, rub your feet, etc. Slowly the honeymoon phase wears away and the flowers wither, the footrubs become invisible, and the texts turn into one sentence conversations to ask you what you want for dinner. It’s perfectly normal. We were showing off in the beginning. Love happens when you stop showing off. Who is this person when they are at their worse and is that someone I can still love? “Can you love me unconditionally?” we must ask. With all the hype of dating we get caught up in attractiveness and all the things that truly don’t matter. When my car breaks down at 3am and you have an important meeting at 9am and it’s dark and cold and I’m crying, are you going to come get me, or are you going to suggest I call an Uber? It’s in the moments we couldn’t plan that we really learn the character of our mate and what we will or will not tolerate. The questions don’t guarantee love, they are just another tool to get us beyond the superficial, polite, niceties that we think dating should be. Watch the video, it’s not about Mandy or what happened to her relationship; it’s about what you take away from what she’s sharing and if you continue to do what you are doing, or if you are willing to try something new to get new results.
Kevin Carr, author, speaker, TV Host/Personality (from Philadelphia!), challenges us that these dating apps do not define us. Dating is dead, but we decide whether we are going to stay in with this glaring blue screen, or get offline, and enjoy life. Most people reading this are probably a Millennial or a Generation Xer. We grew up knowing about dial-up modem and years later owning tiny smart phones. We played outside, and now we see little kids playing inside. Only. On their Ipads. We may know what it was like making a mix tape for someone back in the day. That took some time. You had to leave the tape recorder on Record, with the pause button down, call the radio station and request the song, and keep the radio on ALLLLLLLL day so that you could record that song. And if you were really cool, you tried to fade the volume in and out at the beginning and end like the pros. (I see your judgement.) So we are still grounded, but we are in a world of technology trying to coexist in a system that is becoming more impersonal. What I took away from Carr, was that, we are still in control of how we date. Yes, we may have more tools at our disposal, but we certainly don’t need to use them all. Stay true to who you are, and date (or don’t date), how you like.
Jack A Daniels, host of A&E’s BlackLove, told us to stop telling ourselves lies. What? Yes, he did. He reminds us that an ‘excuse is just a sophisticated lie we secretly tell ourselves or others.’ Let’s be real. If someone is too busy to text you. Or email you. Or call you. Or video chat. Or mail you a postcard. Or like ANY of your facebook/instagram/snapchat/KIK updates, they are not the one for you. Instead of trying to be who we want to attract, we should figure out our own love story and embrace it, and meet someone who shares the story that we do. Recognize the Red Flags, Recast the Stones, and Rewrite the Story. Daniels breaks it down to 7 Love Stories: Fantasy, Business, Shopper, Fixer, War, Sex, and Detective. We can’t change other people’s priorities. If someone loves to argue and you don’t, they are probably going to drive you crazy. And they will get annoyed having to always pull out of you “well, what do you think?” However, if you find that person that matches and compliments you, you are going to be much better off. He challenged us to figure out what our Love Story was, and what we would like it to be. As with any Drama, you can change the cast at any time. Sometimes we feel “suffocated” but more often than not, it’s a choice. Choosing to be alone is a choice. Running from relationship to relationship is a choice. Realizing that there are things you are not working on because you keep jumping into relationships is a discovery that you can work on. “You’ll never unlock your destiny if you stay stuck in your history. (Daniels)” There might have been a small silence and a couple gasps as everyone let that soak in for a minute. Outward love starts with inward love. Be the writer of your own Love Story. You determine what that looks like.
The last nugget of information came from Yvonne Orji, Actress (“Molly” in the HBO series “Insecure”), Comedienne, and Writer. Everyone knows Yvonne is Nigerian. And African parents don’t play with their comments. (Neither do Caribbean parents!). When you are young they want you to study and keep your mind off dating so that you can be a doctor or a lawyer. Yup, 2 choices. Later on though, the story changes and they want to give you the side eye when you aren’t married. Then you get the comments about how you are no spring chicken and they will never see their grandkids , et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Don’t think that being accomplished means you get any free passes on any of the criticism. Orji discusses her experience as a teenager withe normal desires to see what sex was all about and how the fantasy of her wants and desires in her magical experience were dismissed by people telling her those things were unrealistic and to take what she gets. But she made plans anyway, for the minute she turned 18 she was going to do the deed. And it was going to be awesome. And we have all heard that if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. Her life was changed, through an experience at her friend’s Bible Study and she turned her life over to Christ. She no longer saw sex as something she had to do because she was of age, but it became the most precious gift she could give her future husband. (**Tiny sidebar: Christian faith promotes waiting to have sex until marriage. For more info please google Christianity, Getting Saved). She tells us why The Wait is Sexy. We live in a society where you can get sex on demand. If one person doesn’t give it to you, you can go elsewhere. So then, one could argue, it’s not as special. Waiting is hardly discussed. Not in mainstream media, tv, movies. We treat sex as though it’s a handshake, so it’s refreshing to hear an attractive female in their 30s say The Wait is Powerful, shows Discipline, and requires Focus. Waiting isn’t for everyone, but if getting physical too soon is clouding your judgment, consider NOT doing that. It’s hard to understand how people can lay down together and then start stuttering when you ask about commitment. It goes back to what we accept as the norm. Orji encourages everyone to have their own standards. Your standards are your own. If someone is not going to meet them, then they are not the one for you. You don’t have to “lower your standards” to get a guy/woman. This all ties in with what everyone at the talk has said. If you accept certain behaviors, that is how you will be treated. If someone disappears for “18 days” then tries to hit you up like nothing happened, you have a choice. You can move on, or you can allow someone to put you on the back burner when it’s not convenient. It’s important to know what your potential mate’s values are and if they are aligned with yours. And that is what dating is supposed to be: mutual discovery. If their values align for the first 30 days and then they start asking you to compromise, maybe they were just pretending to get what they wanted. Waiting, is about knowing your worth and making sure only those that you feel are worthy gain 100 % access to you. The mail carrier comes to your door nearly every day, for years even, and probably has never step foot in your house. It’s nothing personal, just a boundary you have created. Therefore every Tom, Dick, and Harry (or Becky) should not know you as intimately. If 9 out of 10 right swipes have seen your bedroom ceiling, how will you really become vulnerable with the one person that is actually deserving of you?
I hope you enjoyed my thoughts and take aways from this event!
Great talks, great event. Feel free to comment below!