Thought Catalog
June 6, 2017

Fellow Ladies: Guys Don’t Define You

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What is the issue?
Brooke Cagle

I sometimes think that it’d be easier to explain quantum theory than the world of Millennial dating…and I’m no bueno at physics. Speaking as a single, female twenty-something, it’s so easy for us to get caught up in wanting to find our “person” that the search to find the ‘perfect guy’ becomes our main focus. And unfortunately, what we don’t realize is that when we do this, we often lose touch with ourselves – our passions, dreams, goals and aspirations – who we are.

In conversations, we tend to overthink every little detail – why didn’t he text me back? Why did it take so long for him to text me back? How many minutes should I wait before I text him back? Or should I wait days? Should I add an Emoji, or does that make me look desperate? Myself included, we allow these thoughts to whirl around our minds, leading us to become both emotionally and physically exhausted (and frustrated as hell). Sometimes it’s even difficult to find the mental capacity or energy to focus on other things like our relationships with family and friends, career, or even something as seemingly simple as finishing that book we started over six months ago (#guilty.)

And when we take a step back and think about all the questions we ask ourselves when it comes to dating (or ‘talking to’ a guy; a confusing concept in itself which I’ll revisit later) we realize an interesting thing. Instead of just being our amazing selves, we try to fit some made-up mold of a ‘perfect woman’ – the ‘perfect woman’ that we think guys want.

Let’s think about that for a minute. When did it become such a ‘win’ for us to get a guy? And why are we so obsessed with “getting one” ASAP as twenty-somethings? I think there are a bunch of factors in play here.

For example, let’s take a look at our parents. We’ve all read countless articles about how we, millennials, have different sensibilities and priorities than our parents. My mom and dad were in their mid-twenties when they got married, and by the time they were in their late twenties, they had two kids. It’s possible that we subconsciously base our timelines on those of our parents when it comes to getting married and having babies. But we’re really comparing apples to oranges in terms of generational tendencies. Actual thoughts I’ve had: “What if I don’t meet someone in the next year? Then it’ll take me at least a year before I’m engaged. Then I’m almost 30. I should start having kids before 30, right? Holy s%it, I’m so behind.” Wowza.

Another culprit: social media. How many times in the past week alone have you signed into Facebook, Instagram, etc. and found a feed filled with engagements and birth announcements? We joke about these things on a daily basis – think ‘all my friends are getting married and I’m counting down the minutes to happy hour’ memes. But look at the effect it’s having on us, females especially.

We’re constantly comparing ourselves to others, wondering if our lives are behind schedule because John Smith and Sally Sue are popping out another kid, and I don’t even have one yet. We can’t believe what we see on social media, anyway, but that’s a topic for a different post.

So back to this whole concept of the ‘perfect woman.’ We too often act in ways that we think are acceptable to a guy – in ways that won’t “scare him off.” And we’re so wrapped up in not making one “wrong” move that we’ll even lower ourselves (and our standards) to be what we think guys want. Again, I’m guilty of this, too. Playing it cool when you really want to express how you feel. Sleeping with a guy before you’re “officially dating,” only to have him cut ties days after. We give so much of ourselves before we truly know someone. We even make excuses for guys – he was busy with work, his phone must be broken, he’s not a big texter (newsflash: we’re ALL big texters)… etc.

And what has this done for females everywhere? Nothing good. It has given guys (I’ll take this opportunity to caveat that not all guys are like this) the right to act in any way they choose – cue the dick pics, ghosting and ‘are you up?’ texts that only come through after midnight after weeks of silence. Or the dreaded ‘we’re kind of talking’ trap – a subtle way for a dude to let you know that you’re never going to be an exclusive couple, and there’s most likely two to three others in your same situation. Can we even be mad if we allow this crap to happen?

And that’s just it. A major issue here is that guys (again, not all guys) CAN act this way because we make it OK for them to do so. We’re so dead-set on finding our ‘person’ (which, let’s be honest, is most likely not the dude requesting nudies hours after you’re introduced) that we’ll actually respond to these things. We’ve set a precedent that these behaviors and actions (or non-actions) are acceptable because, hey, a cool girl wouldn’t call bulls%hit, right?

So, what does all of this mean? First, let’s address that not all guys are just about sexting and booty calls. There are some awesome guys out there. But the key to discovering that quality person – someone who may truly become your life partner – is patience.

Ladies, your person is out there. Maybe you’ll meet him when you’re 28, maybe you’ll meet him when you’re 35. Maybe you’ve already met him and you don’t even realize it yet. But when the situation is right, and when HE’S right, he’ll love you for you and treat you with the respect that you deserve.

The point is that there’s just no rush, and there’s definitely no reason to lower your standards to “get a guy” faster because you think it’s what’s supposed to happen at this point in your life…whatever that point may be.

For both our generation and future generations of our fellow fierce females, we need to shift the current dating paradigm; untangle this effed up web in which we’ve gotten ourselves stuck. How do we do that? First, stop searching so hard for that person.

In fact, stop searching altogether. Searching often leads to settling. Instead, take a step back. Find YOU. Find out what makes you happy. Figure out your real priorities. Maybe it’s traveling, trying out a new hobby, getting involved in a local charity. Love yourself before you allow yourself to love another person and be loved by that person. Don’t be so quick to jump on (both figuratively and literally) the next dude who happens to show some interest. Take things slow. If he turns out to be your soul mate, then freaking fabulous. And if not, that’s OK, too. Because your worth is not defined by a guy. Your worth is defined by you. TC mark