Figuring It Out: Stop Taking Dating Advice

It was spring. The air was balmy, the birds back from their winter vacation, and froyo season was upon us. Fresh off a semi-rough break up, I was not looking for a relationship. This is the part where you know exactly what comes next: I met someone. Granted, it had been about 5 months since my last relationship ended, but I really never saw it coming. An old flame asked to take me to dinner, and I was surprised when it started to turn into something. Especially because he lived states away in Colorado.

But sure enough, ‘turn into something’ it did, and Nick and I found ourselves in a long-distance relationship, slowly-but-surely getting to know each other over long weekends, road trips, and phone calls that lasted late into the night. I grew up in a very conservative, Christian family (and school and, consequently, social circle). And partly what comes along with that culture is a very specific notion of how dating should look. Essentially the message being: you date to marry. The resources about religious-based dating/relationships/marriage are enough to make you run for the nunnery and fast. One book I recall reading in high school had a chart (yes, a chart) on how long you date before ‘being official,’ when to meet the parents, when to think about engagement, etc.

Perhaps it’s that background that has propelled most of my adult relationships down a certain trajectory, no questions asked. But with Nick, it was different. We wanted to take our time. We weren’t concerned about titles and we were open to all of the possibilities that this relationship could lead to. Once upon a time, perhaps, I never would’ve gone for this this timeline. And maybe with a different guy, I would have felt differently. But at that time, I was happy–almost deliriously so–with the pace. With having life in Chicago to myself, and with ever-so-cautiously dipping my toe in the relationship pool. It was the most authentic thing I had done, relationship-wise, in years. It’s what I didn’t even know that I needed. And it’s what worked for us. So I never even questioned it. That is, until others did.

As it tends to happen, people in your life have opinions. Friends, strangers, family, you name it; they are going to inevitably insert their own advice on your life, even if it’s in the subtle form of a question. You can be totally content with your choices and then someone asks you one of these:

So, when are you guys gonna get married?
Have you defined your relationship?
Is he your boyfriend?
Has he met your family?
Are you guys seeing other people?
Where do you guys stand?

And then suddenly, your expectations or desires get all jumbled up with others’ and sorting through them becomes comparable to getting the knots out of your necklaces after you’ve thrown them in your makeup bag for a weekend trip. So with Nick, when I was asked those questions, I found myself either stretching to make my truth meet their expectations, or being thrown into fuzzy fits of, “Wait, am I doing something wrong here?” totally second-guessing myself (and him for that matter.)

In the dating world, when considering religious values or not, we are inundated with the way things should be or the way to do things, and the ‘he’s just not that into you’s’ are floating around like ancient ghosts causing us to rush things or slow them down or stop them altogether based off of one eyebrow raise; one horror story.

But what really needs to happen? That crazy thing called trusting yourself. Your timing gets to be your timing. Because guess what, buttercup? You’re the one who has to be in the relationship, only you know the ins and outs, intricacies, goals, and plans. You know what works more than you think you do.

The truth is, people break up, or makeup, or decide, or discuss when they are ready. Their foot only goes down when they are so compelled. And we’re not 19 anymore. We need to trust ourselves and the person we are choosing and our experiences and gut (or our heart or our God) to guide us, not someone else’s cockamamie idea of how it should look.

What’s the famous candy slogan? There’s no wrong way to eat a Reeses? Well, I think there’s no wrong way to be in a relationship. That’s my new slogan. And now I’m hungry.

So what do you think, ladies? Have you ever been swayed in a relationship by outside influences? Is dating advice just a bunch of hub bub? Do you trust your gut?

No Such Thing as a Blind Date
The F Word
Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number… Right?
I’ve Changed My Mind About Marriage