(This blog post may-or-may-not have been inspired by a "Dear Abby" I read in the Teen Vogue I may-or-may-not subscribe to...)
I used to do the whole "keep-your-real-feelings-for-the-guy-a-secret" thing.
In the early stages of dating, I'd walking on egg shells about my desire to see him three times a week and talk to him every day in between. If things got a little more serious, I'd keep the "girlfriend" behavior in check. I wouldn't leave things at his place. I wouldn't assume I could stay over without asking. I wouldn't assume I was invited to events he'd mention. When things progressed beyond "a month or two in," I'd be sure to keep the future-talk to a minimum - no "my friend is getting married in six months" or "what are your plans for Thanksgiving?"
I think all of this was done in an attempt to avoid getting hurt. I think I thought that If I didn't like him more than he liked me, I would avoid heartbreak slash embarrassment. I think my goal was to prove that I wasn't some crazy, desperate, serious girl looking to lock this guy down. We were keeping it casual. I was fine with him, fine without. I was the guy who was incredibly easy to date.
Man was that a waste of time.
I think it's because I'm older. Maybe it's also because being in a relationship made me a bit wiser? Maybe it's because I've seen way too many people get burned by the very antics I ascribed to in my years being "cool?"
Whatever the reasons, I'd kill to go back and smack some sense into that oh-so-casual self. Post-smacking, here is what I would tell her:
- If you want to be in a real relationship, own it. It doesn't matter if you're 22, 24, 28 or 30. Admit you're looking for a stable, loving, committed relationship and accept nothing less.
- The sooner you give him an indication of where you'd like this dating arrangement to go, the sooner he'll give you one back. If they match, great, congrats! If they don't, END IT. Dating someone who doesn't want it to go anywhere real with you is a really strange set-up.
- The ability to be openly loving to someone and have that affection returned is among the biggest benefits of dating. If you're not doing it for any number of reasons relating to a fear of scaring a guy off, reconsider. If affection scares him, have a talk. If affection still scares him after that talk, have a break-up talk and then a giant cocktail.
- There is "being a clingy/needy/demanding" new girlfriend and there is developing fair expectations around a growing relationship. Decide what you're looking for, and if the dude can't/won't/doesn't meet you around/about there, move on. If I could tell my 22-year-old self one thing it would be that being alone is less lonely than being in a relationship with someone who doesn't do "relationship" like you need it done.