Learning to be Honest in Dating

23 04 2015
Photo: stopkiruvnow.blogspot.com

Photo: stopkiruvnow.blogspot.com

Honesty is something a lot of us talk about. We say we want folks to be honest with us. We claim we’re honest individuals. We even say cliché statements like “honesty is the best policy,” but I would argue that many of us tell little white lies all the time when we’re dating.

Lies about our actual interest level in the other person. Lies about how much baggage we’re bringing into the situation. Even lies about what we’re hoping or not hoping will come of the connection. We all do it or have done it.

And it’s something I’ve been actively working to stop doing in my life.

But anyone who has lived will tell you that putting something into practice is a lot harder than just working on it in your head.

And so a few weeks ago a situation came up where I’d given my number to a gentleman, but I’d realized I was no longer interested in him. Before me, I had a few choices — I could ignore him when he contacted me as many folks like to do these days, hoping it would get the point across without ever having to tell him the real deal (but I think that’s kinda petty, and I hope I’m more mature than that); I could go into disconnected and cold mode, hoping that he would become disinterested and stop calling me (but interestingly enough, whenever I’ve done that, the guy has always stayed around longer); or I could just be honest and say “hey listen, you seem alright but I’m just not interested in seeing where this can go anymore.”

I chose the last one.

I know that probably seems like a small step for some of y’all, but it was a huge deal for me. I’m so used to trying not to be the bad person that I’ve definitely allowed relationships to last much longer than their natural expiration date, and this was my small way of saying no more. I could clearly tell me and dude weren’t going to work out, so why waste his time or mine.

I’m hoping to continue to put my honesty in dating into practice,  but I know I’ll have stronger tests still. It’s one thing to tell a guy you’ve known a couple weeks you’re not interested;  it’s a different story entirely to have the courage to say things to a person you’ve known for years.

But I’m getting there. I’m learning that what I’ve always believed really does hold true — you can say just about anything as long as it comes from a respectful and genuine place, and honesty (like forgiveness) is sometimes less about the person you’re being honest to and more about saving you.

What do you all think? Do you find that you sometimes tell little white lies in relationships? And what’s the hardest things you’ve ever told a partner? Pretty sure mine was when I told an ex boyfriend who wanted to marry me that I didn’t see a future with us. But right after that, I dated 2 guys back to back for months when it should have been over in weeks.

So clearly your girl has work to do lol

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The Biggest Relationship Cop Out and Why It’s Hurting You

2 04 2015

Change.

Such a simple word with quite a complex meaning. Webster defines it as “to give a different position, course, or direction to; to make a shift from one to another; to undergo a modification; to undergo transformation.”

But I say one of the biggest characteristics of change is its scariness. Oh you’re one of those people who don’t think change is scary? Hmmm, well I would argue that not only do a majority of us fear change, a majority of us act like we want it and will do it when we really don’t and won’t. In fact, I believe change is something a lot of us talk about in theory, but many of us rarely practice.

And it’s also where I think many of us go wrong in our dating lives.

Stop me if you’ve ever heard or said the following statement: “I can only be me, so if a man/woman doesn’t like me, then that’s his/her problem.” Or “I can’t be someone else to get a guy/girl to approach me. The person I’m supposed to be with is going to want me for me.”

Okay, now, I get the sentiment behind the statements. Yes, you have to be true to yourself, and no, no guy or girl should be looking to change you into what he/she wants you to be… but don’t most of us pride ourselves on not being who we were ten years ago? I can’t count how many times I’ve told someone “I’m not the same girl I was at 23” or 25, or 27, or hell even at 30. I also can’t count how many times folks have amen-ed and agreed with me. And yet, the same people who will swear they’ve changed for the better will turn around and say that they don’t need to make any further changes when it comes to their relationships. That this is who they are. Period.

That just can’t be!

If we are all seeking to improve ourselves at all times, why do we get caught up in the idea that it’s somehow negative or not empowering to improve ourselves to be better mates?

My theory? It’s because we’re a generation of people (mostly, not everyone) who were taught that bettering ourselves should only really be about us. We go to school to improve ourselves. We get good careers to better our lives. We travel to make ourselves more cultured.¹ And all of that is great, because it taught us independence and self – sufficiency, but what it didn’t do was teach us how to translate that bettering of ourselves into partnering with someone.

So I get it. I really do. I get the hesitation toward saying “I will figure out what my part is in the things that have gone wrong in my dating life, and I will actively focus on changing that.” It goes against everything we know. We’re supposed to change just for us. But the problem is if you’re doing the same wrong shit over and over again, and you don’t want to change it because you don’t believe you should have to, chances are you won’t have to change a thing because you won’t ever need to. And the problem with that thinking is that every happily married couple I know talks about what they had to change in their lives to get to that point.

This is why I call it a cop out. Not changing is the easy thing to do. It doesn’t take any skin. It doesn’t break you out of your comfort zone. Saying someone has to accept me “flaws and all” without any attempt at working on those flaws is the easy thing to do. It gives us a reason for those relationships not working. It puts the blame on the mystical “other.”

The harder thing to do is to take an honest assessment of yourself and say, “some of those folks just weren’t right, but sometimes, I was complicit as well.” And then to look and see what you can do differently.

I had to do that. I had to look back over my relationships for the past 8 years or so and ask myself what was my part in their undoing. And you know what I realized? I have a problem sticking around. I leave or don’t get invested in the first place so that when something even slightly uncomfortable comes up, I can leave before he does. It’s why I haven’t had someone break up with me in years. It’s also why the longest relationship I had during that time period we didn’t even actually call a relationship until it was over. And outside of that, none of them have lasted over 6 months.

That’s not good for someone who wants to eventually get married and have a family. So you know what that means? I have to change. I’ve got to do the work to make the changes that will help me a better partner for my future guy. Yes, that’s about bettering me, but it’s also about knowing that if I want to achieve that goal of eventually being happily married and having kids, I can’t be worried about how that process may not look very feminist-y or how it’s not just focused on me. I can’t afford to take the easy cop out and keep doing the same thing while expecting different results.

And if you’re feeling stuck or don’t like what you see in your dating life or relationships, you can’t either. It’s only hurting you going forward.

1 And yes, I know many of us volunteer and seek to impact change in others’ lives, but even that sometimes can be about what’s gives us “fulfillment.”





Holiday Gift Ideas for New Relationships

16 12 2014
Photo: blog.navut.com

Photo: blog.navut.com

The other week, one of my favorite readers left the following comment: “You should talk about holiday gift ideas for men. That’s usually hard to do when it’s the first year you’re together and on a budget!”

Well, A) she’s absolutely right! It’s super hard to figure out what to get your new boo for the holidays. But also B) I was sadly mistaken that I’d already done a post about this. Nope. The horror!! And you all know how much I love a holiday blog post, so that’s kind of crazy. Alas, I’ve already talked about whether you should get a gift and things to do with your relatively new boo during the holidays and what I’d want (lol), but never suggestions on gifts for someone else.

Me: What’s a really nice watch you would suggest someone get a man for less than $600?

Friend: Oooh, let’s see: Movado (bold line), Boss, Burberry… wait, who are you buying a $600 watch for?

Me: Ummm have we met?! Not anyone anytime soon lol. This is a question from my sister.

Friend: Oh okay, just checking.

Me: Yea, she’s been in a relationship for 3 years now. So she’s bout that life. I…. have not and am not.

Friend: lol good… but back to these watches…

You see how quickly that conversation went left for a bit? It’s because my friend knows that there’s level to this ish. Y’all, please don’t think you should be out buying a $600 watch for someone you’ve been dating for 3 months. That’s not how this works. (That’s not how any of this works.)

However, if you want to get that special someone a gift and/or you checked out the diagram I featured before on the site, and it says you should, then here are some suggestions I have for you (and just your luck, I’ve had my fair share of new relationships around the holidays):

Keep it small and cute, but show you’ve been listening

One of my first adult relationships during the holidays involved a fella who loved cookies. So what did I do? I baked some for real, from scratch homemade cookies using two ingredients I knew he liked (because he talked about them a lot): chocolate and pecans. They were a hit! They weren’t that expensive to make, but once I wrapped them up nicely, tied the plastic with a pretty a bow, and placed it in a cute cookie tin, he was absolutely gaga for them. In fact, he talked about them for years afterward. Total cost? Less than $15. Look on his face: priceless. Your idea doesn’t have to be homemade cookies, but it can be something that doesn’t cost a lot, but that he talks about often. Maybe he likes a particular cologne or a Wii game or has a favorite football team — listen out for clues and then go for that!

Go for something DIY that he would like, not you…

Okay, this is for my DIY girls like me — Pinterest can be your best friend during this time. But don’t get too fancy with it and forget who the gift is really for here. My best DIY suggestion? A coupon booklet of cheap/free activities he can ask you to do later on. A) it shows you want there to be a later on, B) it shows your creativity, and C) the items should all be things he’d want to actually do, so he’ll be excited. Possible examples include a home cooked meal, a massage, a free zirbert (yes, I put that on there lol), you rooting for his favorite team at least once (especially if you don’t normally like them), etc…

Try an activity you can both attend

Do you both like go-cart racing? Or a specific band or artist? Maybe you’ve both mentioned seeing a particular Broadway play? Why not get two tickets to whatever that activity is so that it’s a gift for him, but it’s still something you can do together. This gift is also versatile, so it can be tickets to something worth $10 each or up to like $100, depending on just how “new” the relationship is.

And if all else fails, and you’ve already introduced sex into your relationship…

Tape a big bow on you, and enjoy a different kind of present with each other.

That one is pretty self-explanatory lol.

Any other suggestions?? I hope these helped for all my newbies out there! Happy holiday shopping!





Can you tell compatibility by music tastes?

2 12 2014

If it’s one thing Twitter is good for, it’s to read some of the dating fodder people come up with. And one that’s always interested me is when people make comments about who they wouldn’t date based on the type of music they like.

You know how those look. It’s something like —

If she can’t recite all the words to every WU song ever, she can’t be #bae.

Or even…

The best way to turn me off is to tell me you like Drake music. #wecanneverevergettogether

(Incidentally, I totally wouldn’t meet the criteria for this fake tweeter.)

But he/she brings up an interesting point. When thinking about deal breakers in dating or relationships, should we consider music tastes? And what does someone’s music tastes tell you about him or her specifically to let you know compatibility would be a concern?

Let’s take me for example. I love all kinds of music, but that’s also because I hail from a musical town. So on any given day, you could find me rocking out to anything from rap to gospel to country to pop to zydeco to jazz to heavy metal and several things in between. Y’all remember when I gushed over the Grammy museum?  My love for music is real.

But… if you asked me to tell you what my favorite form of music is, what I listen to probably 85% of the time, what gives me the goosies or makes me break out crying or inspires me to write blog posts and maybe even mark a song down as a possible for a very distinct future playlist? It’s going to be R&B.

My first cassette tapes and CDs that I purchased as a kid were R&B. I listen to it while writing. I listen to it while on the subway. I listen to it while I’m working it out on the elliptical or treadmill. And you have to know it’s my go to genre if I need to come home and pull out my fake microphone and have a good dance session all alone.

But does that mean I shouldn’t date someone who would prefer to listen to KRS One and Rakim over Luther and Patti? Does that mean I’d need to throw out my Young Money CD collection (Drake and Wayne have made a LOT of music) if I want to date a guy who’s not into mainstream music? IDK. There’s something about that logic that seems a bit off.

I get where it comes from though. It’s great when you can enjoy something you love with your partner, and a lot of us love our music. We get invested in it, and the artists we like (hello Aaliyah movie backlash). I’m not exempt from this either. I’m in heaven when a dude likes the kind of music I like as much as I do. But I don’t know if I’m ex-ing him out the game immediately just because he’s not trying to go see the Tupac hologram in concert with me.

And while I’m not super big on the whole opposites attract thing, I also think there may be something to be said about dating someone who can expand your horizons. Or at least someone who can say, “boo I know you don’t normally like pop music, but watch what I can do to this Rihanna song and trust me, you’ll see there’s some merit to the art.”

What do you all think? Can compatibility be determined through music likes and dislikes?





Five More Great Fall Date Ideas

11 11 2014
Photo credit: Darby Baham

Photo credit: Darby Baham

Autumn is in the air. And despite the fact that it was 40 degrees this weekend in the District and snowing last week in Chicago, I’m determined to try to enjoy the fall season before it officially turns into winter.

It’s such a pretty season, really. The leaves start turning to these beautiful amber and golden colors, and they litter the ground everywhere, making folks (me) want to skip everywhere they go so they can kick up fallen crispy leaves along the way. The weather, when not being all wonky, is the 2nd perfect blend of seasons (spring is the 1st lol)… sunny but not hot, brisk but not cold. You might need a jacket but it can be one of those cute nonfunctional ones instead of the big bulky utility ones that you have to wear when the temp drops to 30 and below.

And you know what else autumn brings? Really cool opportunities for dates.

Such as?

Such as watching the sunset from a really cool outside setting. The great thing about the fall is that since the sun sets so early, you can make plans to watch it set about 5:30 on a Saturday and not have to worry about it getting to be too late. Bonus points if you can find a historical or beautifully landscaped spot to do so. Monuments in DC maybe? The Empire State building in NY? The observatory in LA? All really great options.

Attend a music festival – most people tend to think of these happening in the summer, but really your best bet is to find one in the spring or fall so the weather’s not too hot because you’ll be there all day. Voodoo Fest in New Orleans is a great suggestion – and if you get your tickets early enough, not that expensive to get down there.

Basketball game — Last time I talked about attending a football game, but how did I forget to mention the basketball options? Well there are plenty of pluses here. A: it’s indoors, which is great if it’s 40 degrees in your locale. B: you don’t necessarily have to break the bank to go. Now you probably won’t be courtside, but basketball games do have fairly reasonable options when it comes to pricing! And there’s nothing like adding a little competition into a date if you end up going to a game where your teams are playing each other.

Be a tourist in your city, but not just in any random way. You can do fun stuff like a city wide scavenger hunt or one of those double decker tours if you live in a big tourist city. But go all out! Maybe come up with accents and different names and play around like you have no idea of anything in the city. You’re bound to meet some interesting folks, maybe learn some things you didn’t know before, and get some good laughs in as well.

Go for hot cocoa and s’mores. Everyone always thinks of ice cream dates for the summer, but what’s the equivalent when the cooler temps start settling in. Hot cocoa! Google some of the best places in your city for hot cocoa, get a cup each, and just walk around getting to know each other. The hot cocoa will help keep you warm on your walk and maybe inspire some canoodling between the two of you as well.

Any other ideas you all have?

And what’s your favorite date you’ve gone on in the fall? What made it so nice?





Argue with Me… #SoIKnowItsReal???

28 10 2014

There’s a scene in one of my favorite shows, Grey’s Anatomy, where Meredith and Derek get into a really heated argument. Because Meredith isn’t used to being in a relationship, she assumes that the argument is an indicator that she and Derek have broken up. So when Derek shows up at her door like normal, she’s super confused. She’s all like, “didn’t we have a heated argument today?” He says yes. She says (and I’m paraphrasing the rest because I don’t remember it verbatim), “I thought that meant we broke up.” He says, “No, it just means I didn’t like you at that moment. But we’re in a relationship. We’re going to disagree. Couples argue, Meredith. We’re a couple.”

Oop. He got her straight!

But actually, full disclosure, he got me straight too.

You see, I found myself in a similar situation earlier this year. I got into a heated “discussion” with a guy I’m dating, and before I realized what I was doing, I’d assumed that meant we were done. I was sending angry memes to my friends (because I don’t put them on social media lol) like the one that says “I tripped and fell into some feelings. I’m okay now. I brushed that shit off.”

I was all “if this is too complicated for you, just say it. Just say it!”

I mean, I was really done y’all.

And then we talked again, and I realized — wait, this dude still thinks we’re dating. I mean, I was really sitting there like, “but didn’t we just have this horrible row, how could he still think we’re dating?” And that’s when it hit me — I’d fallen into that same trap Meredith had fallen into. The one that would have you believe if you disagree, that automatically means you’re over.

Really, when you think about it, it’s kind of easy to think that. At least I can see how it happened for me. You see, for the past several years, I’ve been involved in relationships or dating situations that never lasted past the 6 month mark. Why that is the case is for another post, but what I realized about those relationships is that there was no sense of investment there. So of course if we got into a really bad argument, it was easy to just end it.

And that’s exactly what happened.

Maybe it didn’t end in that specific fight, but if it didn’t, it was pretty soon thereafter.

Which brings me back to the fight earlier this year. Because of all those other experiences, I believed the same thing was happening then too. And like Meredith, I had to reconfigure my mindset to allow for disagreements that don’t mean the end. Because Derek was right, couples do argue.

It’s like this saying I used to hear growing up – you know you’re in a real relationship when you have your first fight and you make it through it. Now I understand. Of course, you shouldn’t fight all the time. And it shouldn’t be with the intent to hurt the other person, but disagreements are bound to happen between two individuals who have their own beliefs and their own experiences.

It’s just a matter of how you react to the fight that tells you whether or not you think the relationship is worth continuing.





I’m Not a Player, I Just Date a Lot

17 07 2014
Real question -- Is ol' girl a "player" or just keeping her options open? Photo: joshtaoofbadassreview.com

Real question — Is ol’ girl a “player” or just keeping her options open if these are different men? Photo: joshtaoofbadassreview.com

The other day, I found myself in a conversation with a young man that went a little something like this:

Young Man (YM) — Will you be with your other boyfriend?

Me — My OTHER boyfriend? I have no boyfriends. I am very single.

YM — You are player of the year. I saw your trophy in a museum recently lol

Me — Nope. Just a single girl, trying to live a happy life. That’s all.

Now what caused this young man to characterize me as a player? Just the fact that I’d been honest with him when he asked me if I was dating other people weeks before. I guess it didn’t help that I also told him I hadn’t planned on changing that anytime soon. I mean, I also said that I was open to seeing where life took me with any guy I was dating, too. But maybe that was still too honest? I don’t know.

I found it funny that the player title came up eventually (albeit kind of jokingly), because it has come up in the past when I’ve actively chosen to date multiple guys at a time. But also because it reinforced my theory that men are typically okay with the concept of dating multiple people at a time until they are the one who ends up on someone’s “team.”

Either way, my response to him was more important than his statement, I believe. When I looked at it later, I was shocked at how accurately it described me right now, especially considering it was really just a knee-jerk response to him.

To break it down a bit, here’s what I was in essence saying about myself:

I am a single girl — and therefore have all the rights and privileges that come with this designation (so don’t question me on who I am spending time with, ahem).

(implied) And happy with that (for now) — A lot of people either fall into the miserably single or “I can be single all my life! Damn it!” categories. I’m not either. I’m good with where I am now, but I am open to allowing  for changes in the future (maybe near… maybe not lol).

Trying to live a happy life — which right now, for me, includes working on my career, volunteering, working on my book, spending time with family and friends, and dating (maybe one, two, or three guys at a time). One thing I love is that I am clear on what makes me happy these days, and I am constantly working on leaning into those things.

That’s all — nothing more; nothing less. It’s actually pretty simple when you think about it.

What none of those things says about me, however, is that I’m a player. Because as I later informed the young man, player, to me, implies that there’s dishonesty occurring. That I’m making any one person feel as if he is my man.

Clearly, I am not.

But I think when women make the choice to give themselves options in the dating field, they get stuck with titles like player or worse.

When really, it’s just that we’ve decided to take advantage of the buffet of guys to date before us. Of course with that, there’s going to be times we don’t like what’s offered or we think something will be good, and it turns out to be too sour or too sweet. But that’s the beauty of dating (and eating at a buffet)!

Bottom line though, what I was saying to him was that I’m not complicated, and he should stop trying to figure me out — I’m simply a girl who is dating (and taking advantage of her options) and making sure to have as much fun as humanly possible at all times. Nothing more; nothing less.

I’m glad I was able to say it so succinctly. That tells me I really do know myself now — something that 25 year old Darby probably couldn’t have honestly said.

But what about you? Do you agree with his implied definition of player? Also, if you had to describe yourself in 20 words or less, could you do it and what would you say?