A couple of weeks ago I came across the highly publicized Vanity Fair article, where the author highlights a so-called “dating apocalypse” due to apps like Tinder and the widespread hook-up culture. As a lot of people probably reacted, I was dismayed, even frustrated when I read it. Not because any of the scenarios presented were utterly shocking, but that few seemed to truly enjoy the whole concept, yet resigned to the fact that we're stuck and just have to suck it up and smile. I could tell that the glaring problem wasn’t what the author was frequently indicating, but something much more indirect:
Hardly anyone likes it, but it is what it is, and you either make the best of it or risk being alone.
I’m not defending Tinder, nor am I dismissing it. I know several people who’ve found relationships through it and things seem to be going well. Yet out of the number of times I downloaded and used it, I typically deleted it within the span of a couple of months. It did become addicting, and eventually I became tired of waking up to sexually grotesque messages, and feeling pulled into conversations that didn’t reflect my personal character. There’s no doubt that dating is harder than it used to be, but it shouldn’t be to where you’re feeling degraded and cheap every time you try to have a simple conversation.
But it’s not the app that matters, or even rapidly changing technology. What bothers me is how people act like they no longer have free will because different avenues have become available and casual sex has become more prevalent. It seems like reality, but is actually just a mindset for refusing to take ownership of how you allow yourself to be treated.
It would be wonderful if more people were completely honest about what they want, who say what they mean and mean what they say. But even that wouldn’t solve everything, and it is kind of silly to put your emotional well-being into the hands of someone else.
My question is, where does one person’s responsibility end and another’s begins?
I can’t control others’ actions or line of thinking, I can decide what I stand for and what I don’t. I want to be with a man who looks at me as God-created human being, an equal and a partner. If that’s not case, than sometimes the best way to stick up for myself is to walk away completely.
It’s not enough to just eliminate something and then blindly hope that the pieces will fall together. You have to set standards for yourself, as well as limits and boundaries. More so, it involves discipline, accountability, and commitment.
Taking a Step Back
There’s definitely a sense of magic when it comes to meeting someone new, and it is nice to feel hopeful about the possibilities. But at the end of the day, the most important relationships in my life are that with God and with myself, because they are the ones that I’m always guaranteed to have. It’s so easy to get swept up in the emotion and excitement of getting to know someone, and maybe even falling in love. At the same time, what once felt promising can turn into a vacuum of stress, where I nearly end up questioning everything and blame myself in the process. Recently, I’ve noticed that I become incredibly anxious when I feel like I don’t have some amount of control in certain situations, specifically when it comes to sticking up for myself or having the last word. When I can’t practice emotional, physical, or even spiritual self-care, that’s when I know to stop and reflect on what I’m doing. It might mean being more selective in who I go out with, or it might mean taking a break from dating all together.
It’s perfectly OK to just be single, and in a way where you’re not involved with anyone in any capacity. It’s imperative to make time to breathe, to get to know yourself or to re-discover who you are and what you want for your life. Real love is only healthy if it comes from within, and is poured out slowly and for the right reasons. And as selfish as this sounds, you can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself in the process.
I’ve been blessed with strong instincts, but admittedly have not always followed them. I usually know within a couple of conversations (in person or otherwise) if I can envision something deeper or romantic. It’s hard to explain why exactly, but I suppose it relates to knowing myself really well, and being aware of what kind of personalities I mesh with versus what I don’t. More importantly, I know what I want and what I can give, so that’s definitely a tool in spotting red flags, or even just yellow ones.
The challenge is not getting stuck in something that’s unhealthy, and more so because I’m trying to give a guy the benefit of the doubt. I understand that no one is perfect and that everyone messes up; that being said, there is a difference between not being perfect and not making an effort. Doing something once is making a mistake, but repeated actions involve making a choice. And if he gets defensive because I called him out, that’s when I know it isn’t going to work. And sadly, once I realize that things are not going to get better, they usually don’t; it just ends up becoming this ridiculous cycle that results in emotional exhaustion and blocking somebody’s number.
Please, pay attention; pay attention to whether or not you’re being pursued, respected, heard, encouraged, protected, and whether or not your interest is allowing you to do the same for him/her. Even if it’s not serious or romantic, you’re still human and should have an open line of communication. If something feels off, it’s likely that it probably is, and you should get away as soon as possible.
From personal experience, I can say that one of my biggest regrets is not trusting my closest friends enough, telling them what I truly thought and felt. The first couple of weeks of my freshman year of college, I met a guy from a nearby dorm and developed a crush on him very quickly. I never told anyone that I liked him because I didn’t want the attention, and I thought it would be easier for me to deal with it alone if things went downhill. Needless to say that did happen, and I nearly became an emotional wreck because I held everything in, at least until I couldn’t anymore. I knew that he wasn’t good for me, and I didn’t want to hear it from anyone else.
The truth is hard to swallow, but necessary nonetheless. From friends both near and far, to family members and mentors, I’m beyond grateful to those who are willing to be a sounding board and to listen without judgement. I might need advice on how to handle a situation, or sometimes it’s nice to be affirmed that I’m not overly sensitive and that I do have a right to my feelings.
The right support system is one that will tell you the truth, but will still love and be there for you nonetheless. They give advice when you need it, or affirm that you’re doing the right thing when faced with a difficult decision. They know how to celebrate while being level-headed, and they know how to comfort without complaining about how all men are jerks. They have a healthy attitude toward themselves and others, and recognize when to fight for something and when to move on.
I’m fascinated by how we all relate to one another, how our stories connect, and how we all have the ability to make an impact. We’ve gotten so caught up in the idea of love that we’ve forgotten what it means to be human: to be vulnerable, to show emotion, and to have a passion for something. The struggle is recognizing that no one can complete you, nor can they make all your pain go away.
Life is too precious and fragile to not be surrounded by what truly matters. The beauty of getting older is that I’ve realized that I don’t have the time or energy for "meeting up," late at night, or being referred to as something other than my name. I don’t need the stress, the silence, or the wondering. I need someone who motivates me to be better, who pushes me toward God, and is willing to let me love him the way he loves me.
Has dating changed? Sure it has, and it will continue to do so as time goes on. But it's up to each one of us to determine what it will look like for our own lives, and I know which direction I'm going in.