It’s not an easy job. It’s actually kind of stressful considering that a lot of the questions I’m asked have — or appear to have — fairly common sense answers. I’m also restricted when it comes to what kind of answers I can give. Of course I’ve got to watch my language (a given, considering the site has a reputation to uphold), and I can’t be mean to these women (not that I would be, but sometimes I wish I could be a little more fervent in my replies).
Saying that this job has made me a cynic is, perhaps, an overstatement. My job as a paralegal working for a divorce attorney has made me a cynic, but my job writing relationship columns has not. Has it made me reluctant? Definitely. It’s almost as if I’ve cracked the code, at least partially. Like I’m looking into Pandora’s Box, sifting through all of the things that go through a woman’s head when she’s in a relationship — at least when she’s at this volatile stage in life we call “college.”
Regardless, I’ve learned a variety of things from this gig that will hopefully help me someday down the road. To help prevent a lot of the “common sense” problems these girls come to me with, I thought I’d share the lessons I’ve learned.
1. Communication is key.
This is one of those things that would seem to fall under the category of “common sense,” yet I’ve come across too many couples these days that just don’t talk to each other. Too often questions like “What’s wrong?” are met with answers like “Nothing” or “I’m fine”, which then devolve into arguments or dirty looks. A lot of the problems that come rolling my way are solved — or at least aided — with one simple activity: Discussion. If you have a problem with something your significant other is doing, talk about it. Passive actions will get you nowhere, and more often than not, they’ll only make things worse.
Here’s the thing though: You can’t always rely on someone else to say the first word. If you sense that something is awry, then you shouldn’t have an issue with bringing it up. Otherwise you’re just letting the responsibility fall onto someone else’s shoulders, which is then going to snowball into bigger issues. Such as: Why hasn’t he/she said anything? Doesn’t he/she know something’s wrong? Doesn’t he/she care?
If you don’t talk things out, the air surrounding your relationship will remain stagnant and may eventually turn toxic. Communication means clearing the air.
2. Don’t make assumptions.
If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me if their significant other was cheating, I’d…well, I wouldn’t have enough to pay back my student loans but I’d definitely have enough money for Starbucks for at least a month.
Look, just because your boyfriend isn’t putting out doesn’t mean he no longer finds you attractive. Just because your girlfriend isn’t in the mood doesn’t mean she’s getting it somewhere else. Jumping to conclusions will do one of two things:
1) Seriously damage you and/or your partner’s trust, or
2) Ruin the relationship completely.
By making assumptions, you’re violating that rule about communication (see above), and you’re showing that you don’t trust your partner enough to address a potential issue head on. You’re showing that you don’t respect the relationship enough to potentially save it from disaster.
3. Comparisons also kill.
I see a lot of people these days compare their relationships to those of others, and that’s definitely not healthy.
You should be working on making your relationship your own, not modeling it after someone else’s. For example, I have a friend who, in high school, had a girlfriend that insisted on comparing their relationship to that of WALL-E and EVE from Pixar’s WALL-E. While this example of comparison is not necessarily harmful to a relationship, it’s still kind of disconcerting. Mostly because EVE straight up tried to kill WALL-E before they fell in love, but also because it means that she was projecting a fantasy onto something real.
Instead of aiming to be like someone else, you should be working to be your own. You should aim for originality, not attempt to recreate something.
You shouldn’t be comparing your relationship to the one your best friend is in, especially if you desire something they have that you do not. This creates competition between all parties involved and, because relationships are not issues of economic supply and demand, you’ll end up seeing a sudden spark of fake passion as opposed to real, long lasting passion.
“But Dale, what’s the difference? Isn’t any kind of passion good?” For your sex life, sure, at least for a little while. But passion that stems from competition will ultimately only lead to an empty feeling. What happens when you win? Where does that passion go? What, do you find a new couple to compare yourselves to? Do you recycle that passion forever and ever until death do you part? No. If you’re pumping passion into your relationship, it needs to stem from something real.
Bottom line: Don’t compare your relationship to another, especially if it means you’re trying to emulate that relationship.
4. Men don’t always want to make the first move.
One of the questions I’m asked most frequently is, “I’m obviously interested…why won’t he make a move?”
My answer usually follows as such: Either you’re not being obvious enough or he’s not sure how to make said move. Little known fact, folks: not every guy has the nerves to just walk up to some woman and ask her out. A lot of them — myself included — go through hours (okay, fine, minutes) of mental preparation before we can even consider asking someone out. It isn’t because we don’t want to, so don’t think that we aren’t interested in you just because we haven’t made a move. It’s because hearing “no” is a scary thought. Rejection is a hell of a drug, ladies, and it’s enough to freeze a man dead in his tracks.
So there’s this radical new idea I’ve been passing around in my columns: Ask him out first. Make the first move. There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing that, and I can almost guarantee that doing so will — if anything — impress him. By making the first move, you’re taking a huge weight off of his shoulders. And in this age of gender equality, I think it’s high time for women to remove themselves from the idea that it’s the man’s job to make the first move.
5. This is all a lot simpler than you’re making it out to be.
Dating is not hard. Relationships are not difficult. These are realms that are relatively streamlined and are not inherently problematic; problems generally only arise when issues like the ones above come into play. People make things difficult because they jump to conclusions or don’t communicate, and then it all snowballs downhill from there. One issue becomes two, two become four, and suddenly you’re arguing about concerns you had years ago that — again — should have been discussed years ago.
Use common sense, be clear, and make the effort. These three little rules will make your love life so much easier.