You’ve been away from dating for a bit, huh? Whether the answer is yes or no, it’s totally cool. Here’s the thing: the person you were when you dated last time is not the same person you are right this moment. You know more now. You are clearer about who are you, what you want, and what you’re willing to do to have it.
This doesn’t mean that sometimes you don’t waffle about it because it feels hard, unattainable, or like too much work. Hang in there with me, we’ll get to that right now.
Now, about that ambivalence.
Feeling like you change your mind about something, or feeling clear one day and not the next probably happens to you a lot about relationship. Vacillation between relationship or not is a classic symptom of not thinking you can have what you want.
It’s like thinking you want a Thai takeout on a Saturday night, and then realizing you’ll have to change out of your sweatpants to go into your favorite restaurant to get it. All of a sudden, delivery pizza sounds way better.
It’s like deciding you want to do a mini-triathlon, and then realizing you’ll have to cancel happy hour every week for the next three months if you have any chance of training to complete it. Nah, maybe you don’t really want to do that.
It’s like thinking you want a relationship, and then not having a clue whether the guy you want exists, and then declaring that you enjoy being single and you endorse wine with the girls as a way better option.
We can make second choices sound really good when first choice feels challenging or uncertain.
(I’m not saying that any of these alternatives are bad, just that paying attention to what you *really* want is important…and if you’re abandoning the idea just because it feels easier to leave it alone, your mind and body will continue to go back to the thing you want, even if you let yourself off the hook from pursuing it. Sounds a bit like torture, no?)
When I’m not sure, I do this.
When I go back and forth between two things, or I find myself saying, “Yes, I totally want that! Actually, on second thought, I don’t really,” it’s usually an indication of some fear or some resistance on my part. On the rare occasion, it’s an honest-to-goodness changing my mind.
How do I know the difference? Well, if something like this comes up (more than once), I’ll set up an experiment to see. You know, I’ll make a hypothesis, like any good scientist might. (Make no mistake, I’m a shitty scientist, I just play one on the internet of relationships.)
“I want to be in a relationship.”
What are the things that make me feel like I don’t want that? Perhaps I don’t think I have the time. Maybe I don’t think I want someone so entangled in my life. Maybe I don’t want to fall into the pattern of becoming an adult man’s caretaker by cooking for him and cleaning up after him.
Great, now I’ve got some of the variables. I’ll use these (usually one or two per experiment) to create my experiment.
Then I’ll create the parameters of the experiment to test the hypothesis. They might look like this:
- I’m going to try out what it’s like to involve someone in all aspects of my life, and see what level feels comfortable to me.
- I’ll find someone to be in a relationship with for 30 days (or whatever period of time).
- For the purposes of this kind of experiment, it works to do things like this with people that we aren’t necessarily sexually involved with. You could do it with a family member, a friend, someone else you trust and who has something they want to test as well.
I would then list out the practical things I would do to test this out. In this sample experiment, I might:
- Text this person every day.
- Tell them they can come by my house unannounced whenever they want.
- Make an agreement to spend X number of days a week together.
- Invite them to spend time with me and my friends.
- Anything else that felt like a relationship might get in the way of.
(This list is a lot of stuff! You can – and probably should – absolutely do fewer baby steps than this!)
Adjust along the way.
As you embark on your experiment, you adjust as you need to. Maybe you decide that you really like having alone time with your friends outside of your relationship. Note that, and add it to your list of things that are important to you as you feel out new relationships.
The whole point is not to achieve success, but to learn about yourself so you can ask for and set expectations for exactly what you need.
At the end of the experiment, you may want to do another experiment, or you may have enough information to know where you stand. Either way, you know more.
Your first experiment.
Here, I want you to try a little something for me, would you?
One of the most common concerns of women who come to me is “Does the guy I want even exist? Where am I going to find him?”
I guess we won’t know until we try. This experiment is intended to examine whether you find what you are looking for.
Have you ever purchased a new car, and then everywhere you look, you see the exact car? Yes, what you focus on, you see.
I want you to pick one statement from the list below to focus on for a week. Say it to yourself every morning, throughout the day, and any other time it occurs to you. And then see what you notice.
- I am always meeting men that I’d like to date.
- There are lots of great men looking for the kind of relationship I want.
- I know at least one man I’m interested in getting to know better.
Start there, and let me know how it goes! Which statement are you going to try out? What did you see? Post in the comments and let me know!