Analysis of a Serial Dater

My generation doesn’t know how to date, at least most of us don’t. There’s a prevailing thought that relationships are based on ‘hookups’. Gone are the days of courting, as my parents called it. The new precursor is a few dates and then a tipsy and often awkward ‘hookup’. That’s followed by a few text messages in which both parties try to play catch up and learn about each other so that it doesn’t feel so cheap. Emotionally, we’re a lost generation and only a few of us grow out of it, perhaps secretly desiring the types of stable relationships our parents had. But for far too many of us, the reality is serial dating.

Serial Dating is exactly what it sounds like, a string of relationships. Some may last a few months to a year, and others may sustain a few weeks. These types of relationships are usually never defined, which means they never reach a critical point where each party is forced to make the grownup decision of being ‘labeled’ as boyfriend and girlfriend. In most cases, at least one person in the party will say something to the effect of, “I just don’t do well with labels,” or “Why does it have to be a ‘thing’?” This is a red flag and a pretty asinine idea. When faced with these statements, a person should reevaluate the relationship they are in. If they are looking for something stable, they won’t find it in the serial dater.  

The inherent tragedy of the serial dater is that they waste their time and the other party’s too. Sure, in your 20s, you may find yourself dating here and there in college. You’re young and still learning about what you desire. However, once you hit 30, if you are unable to sustain a meaningful and stable relationship, then there’s something amiss. It’s even more dangerous if you’re a woman because you’re devouring your child bearing years with people you could never envision procreating with. The question is why do we do this? Is it that we simply are afraid of commitment? Or are we wounded from past relationships where we really gave it our all and were cheated on? Or are we just selfish?

Sometimes we serial date on purpose—we usually choose people that we could never see marrying. It’s a way to not get attached. This usually blows up in our faces, as we forge an emotional bond whether we like it or not. I’m not saying everyone should settle into a relationship and get married. There are some people who really would be terrible spouses and terrible parents. But for those who are just too afraid to commit to something meaningful because they don’t want to get hurt, I say stop living in fear. Every relationship comes with risk. It’s a dream to believe that there aren’t going to be risks involved—none of us are living in a romantic comedy. In the real-world people get hurt, but we learn from it because we must. Sometimes we get over that hurt and sometimes we carry it for a while. However, it doesn’t break us, we just learn what to look for in a partner—things that signal longevity. It’s hard, yes, but anything worth the salt is going to be.

The only solution to this, is not to compromise. If you know what you want, what you’re worth, then go out and get it. Don’t allow the need for companionship to cloud your judgement. Sometimes a night of loneliness is far better than a morning of awkwardness. Have faith that in time, you will find what you’re looking for. But if you give into the serial dating cycle, that person you really should be with might just pass you by while you’re wasting daylight.

Into the Abyss

We’ve all seen it, mostly in romantic comedies. The guy loses the girl, usually by his own ineptitude and sinks deep into boozing, poor hygiene and an affinity for wandering his apartment in a bath robe. You guessed it; it’s the aftermath of a breakup and it has become cliché—like some kind of 12 step program, and at the end they either move on or fight to get the girl back. The truth is there’s no easy way to recover after a breakup. For a long while, it’s going to be dark; it’s going to be the abyss.

However, breakups are healthy no matter how grim things may seem at the time. There are always going to be situations that aren’t healthy for us and we have to have the fortitude to get out of them. We have to learn to recognize those situations and move on because there’s a reason—there may be something better waiting. Recently I was talking to a co-worker, an ex NFL player who saw much success in his life. He owned companies, traveled the world and owned some amazing homes. And one day he lost it all—bankruptcy. His wife left him and he found himself back at square one. Then one day he gets a phone call from a woman he had met five years ago. Apparently she was cleaning out a closet and her phone book fell to the floor. It was open to a page with my co-worker’s phone number jotted down. She picked up the phone and called him that instant. They were married a few years later.

I hear stories like that and can’t help but wonder if we’re all preordained to be with someone; if all the dating and breakups are just part of the process. Though they hurt like hell at the time, they really are necessary. The trick is to not stay in the abyss; it’s to keep it moving. We owe ourselves happiness—we all deserve it. And out there is the right person who shares in your world view, your faith, and sees the same beauties of life that you do. They won’t try and change you but instead celebrate you. Love is supposed to exalt us; it’s supposed to dignify us and if it doesn’t do that, then it isn’t love.

In this Dreamland, it’s easy to get seduced by the newness of something—a new car, a new job, a new relationship. We all love the feeling, the rush of new. Yet sooner or later that novelty goes away and we’re forced to see the relationship for what it is. And deep down we know if it’s preordained and if it’s supposed to exist. The trick is to know when it’s forced and in that moment, you have to walk away. If there are doubts, there’s a reason. It’s best to cut your losses early. But for those dreamlanders like me, who are hopeful romantics and refuse to quit, it’s hard to say goodbye. So we learn the hard way and maybe, even if we lose it all, the one we’re supposed to be with will pick up the phone and say: “You’re not going to believe this but I really just needed to call you.”

 

Good luck Dreamlanders!

You Scare Me To Death (Working through “Gone Girl”) (Spoiler Alert)

I recently saw David Fincher’s “Gone Girl” which resonated on a few levels. It’s a slick film based on the novel by Gillian Flynn, with an underlying metaphor about the futility of marriage. The female protagonist is Amy, a scorned woman who is also a psychopath. She constructs a revenge scenario of biblical proportions and sets out to make her husband suffer in unimaginable ways.

The film treats marriage as some type of shared psychosis. It’s emotional but also very mental. What exactly happens to a person’s brain when they get married, or better yet, fall deeply in love? Things change upstairs–chemicals and neurons, an altered psychosis.

Amy’s mission is to make her husband feel as bad as she did–worse. She recognizes that at some point, early on, she did love her husband but that love turns to hate upon discovering his infidelity. I understand that Amy is a murderous psychopath, but how she sees marriage may not be that far-fetched. Her philosophy is that when we meet someone and begin to build a relationship, we enter into a social contract. Who you say you are or pretend to be, is who we accept as the truth. It’s like both parties are agreeing to this lie or revision of who they both are–sure, things will come out later but they shouldn’t be earth-shaking shockers.

Where the overall theme becomes apparent, is within the last 15 minutes that leads to the climax and resolution. Amy attempts to restore the contract she had with her husband and in the process she kills. She reclaims her marriage and renegotiates the terms of their agreement. This time with a trump card–pregnancy. The fear of Amy having a child and raising it is what propels her husband to stay. And their marriage becomes an even bigger production. Most marriages are just that–a production. There’s the public version, the private version, and then the version that exists in silence. It’s what isn’t said in the moments at the dinner table. There are people who have been married for years and quietly resent each other, but they don’t divorce. It’s that shared psychosis–a mental illness. Yes, Amy is insane but marriage isn’t for the sane. And they aren’t always about happiness for some. There are those who take comfort in knowing the devil they sleep with. Once you understand the nature of a thing, you know what it’s capable of. It can be much more frightening starting something new and having to get to know the ends and outs of that person. What if they’re worse than the person you left? What if they hurt you again and you can’t recover? These are frightening thoughts for most. 

In marriages people hurt each other–some hurt big, some small. Some go out of their way to hurt, and some just make horrible mistakes. Meeting someone sets unknown events into motion. It’s the unknown that we crave and that’s healthy. However, when venturing into the unknown, always be sure you can see a light at the end of the tunnel or at least a good exit route.  

The Rewind

Looking back on a past relationship is never pretty. It requires having to filter through moments you thought mattered but didn’t. Those moments that resonated on an emotional level, but for the other person were simply a series of seconds that made up the minutes of some mundane event. It’s harsh but real. When entering a relationship, you must face the possibility that the person you are with isn’t with you because they love you. They can be with you because they fear being alone. Or you may be that experiment–that person they think will save them. 

The following are rules when rewinding through the past:

1. It’s going to hurt–it’s going to hurt bad. Even if you weren’t in love with the person, humans have an insatiable need to never give up. There’s always going to be that feeling of–“What if I tried harder?” or “Communicated more?”. The fact is, there is nothing you could have done. In the words of James Caan, “Sometimes we just don’t mix.”

2. Was it really romantic? Romance is a major part of sustaining a relationship. For some, they believe sex over romance will keep something going, but that always fails. Sex changes things. What begins as one thing, is something completely different in the end. You don’t include love, respect, romance, faithfulness–it’s doomed. It’s imperative that you ask yourself, was it ever romantic. Did you get those butterflies in your stomach when that person came around. I’ve felt it a few times in my life and it’s unmistakable. The most recent was with a girl, almost a year ago. She’s gone to Louisiana now, but I’ve been chasing that feeling ever since. I remember standing at her door and waiting for her to open it. I always had a lump in my throat and my stomach was doing flips.

3. Were you inspired? This is major because I’m a firm believer that the person you’re with should inspire you in some way. You should wake up and want to be better for that person because you care what they think of you. If you don’t feel inspired by the moments shared, then they weren’t anything special.

4. Now this is difficult but were they always present in the moment? Was there a time you caught the person drifting off or looking at someone else in front of you? Were they always intently focused on you, like you were the only one in the room? It’s painful to confront but it must be done. If you ever felt like they weren’t fully engaged–eye contact, body language, listening, etc. Then you experienced that so-called “connection” alone. They were simply occupying the chair next you.

5. This may be the hardest, but were they honest with you? Honesty is key, always. Was there ever a time when you just knew they were holding back information (omission), maybe even flat-out lying? I’m one for the truth, no matter how terrible it is. However, there are those who con and through deceit, gain your trust and access to your heart. But with any lie, it falls apart sooner or later. That little lie was a sign of things to come. It meant that you didn’t truly matter, not enough for the person to be straight with you. And it can easily snowball into cheating or more terrible forms of deceit. 

In the end, we do the best we can. Dating and relationships of any kind come with risk, but with great risk is the potential for great reward. In the city of dreams, it’s easy to get lost. But Drake put it best, “Know yourself, know your worth.” Don’t ever compromise. Good luck out there Dreamlanders!