You know those times when you hear something that is all too funny and all too real at the same time? Well that happened today as I was working up a sweat at the gym and listening to the “Date Em or Dump Em” segment on the radio this morning (shoutout to JP & Lauren with Husker Nick at KX 96.9 for the hilarity that ensued today—check out the podcast uploaded online on 01/18/18 for Hannah and Scott). Now I’ve been a counselor for about five years and the story Hannah and Scott shared has become all too common. Granted, my ears have heard stories that are more innocent, but this relationship stuff happens ALL. THE. TIME.
Scott met on an online dating website, they had a mini sleepover on the first date where Hannah “tested the limits" sexually, and Scott straight-up ghosted her thereafter. For those of you out of the dating game for a while, ghosting is when a person of interest says they’ll call but instead they go radio silent and disappear. That brings us to this morning when Hannah called into the radio for a little help in contacting Scott.
Let’s start with Hannah. There are a few things that our mothers were right about: 1) All the best things in life (even relationships!) come with time and 2) Patience is a virtue. If you have been single long enough to say, “Hey, I think I’ll give online dating a shot!,” then I think being single for another 3-4 dates wouldn’t kill anyone. Getting past this "I want what I want, and I need to have it now!" mentality means that we have to look for love and acceptance in less physical ways in the early stages of relationships.
Also, that time we take to talk and show who we really are allows us to build trust. In the counseling field we call that rapport, the crux of every relationship, and it allows other people to accept our quirks/flaws/freakiness (in Hannah’s case) because the other person knows we have other endearing qualities that make up for them. For instance, say I was the world’s worst driver and cars are really important to my husband—neither of those are true, but let’s just say. Likelihood is that while I was dating my husband, he would have been able to overlook my dented up car because he saw that I am compassionate, caring, playful, love little puppies, etc. In Hannah’s case, it's important to show him her good qualities before she brings a razor and shackles to the bedroom. LET HIM SEE YOU PET SOME DANG KITTIES! Simple first impression rules here.
The excuse I heard in this segment is that Hannah wanted to “see if there was a connection.” If there is an emotional connection on the first date, there might be an emotional connection on the third or fifth date. Stronger connection = better sex (or more understanding and desire to work out the kinks). The idea of patience may also save us from going too far with someone whose emotional connection fades with time. This wasn't mentioned on the radio, but I’ve also heard clients say they want to ensure “the equipment is working.” Let me reassure you that it is probably working fine, and all machinery works at its highest capacity when operated effectively and the instruction manual is followed. Get my drift? Good. Let’s move on!
Now Scott. He sounds like a nice guy, right? Super-innocent in all this, huh? Well he plays a part, too. I truly believe Scott had every intention of being a good guy by following Hannah’s lead. However, he was unable to handle some high-intensity emotions (i.e. Hannah’s search for connection) and couldn’t assert himself during or after the date. Asserting yourself doesn’t mean you have to be rude or disrespectful—it’s gotten a bad rap for that. Instead, it means that you can speak up for the best interests of yourself to avoid negative consequences (in this case, being bound, blindfolded, and fearing for your life as your date is now holding a razor to you). For a people pleaser like Scott, it could start with practicing saying "No" and becoming comfortable with the fact that the other person might not respond the way you hope. You can learn to assert yourself in a healthy way: “Hannah, it’s really tempting to [insert verb] with you, but I’d like to keep things PG tonight.” or “Hey, I’m a little uncomfortable right now. I’d really like to see what’s going on and enjoy the moment with you.” Easy-peasy.
Overall, what I see the most in the troubling relationships brought to me by clients is one person’s desire for acceptance, love, affection, nurturance, etc. and their partner’s inability to effectively respond. The eternal cat-and-mouse game. The most important lesson I leave you with is that self-understanding and communication are key in any relationship, all the way in the beginning. Working to love and nurture ourselves is the best way to ensure we find a partner who will do the same. As I always say in session, “healthy people attract healthy people!”
**NOTE: This therapist has no affiliation with KX 96.9 or the DJs mentioned in this article, aside from laughing at their comments like a geek while I was about 13 minutes and 40 seconds into my treadmill run today. Thanks for the tunes during the remaining 16 minutes and 20 seconds of my run this morning! :)