Today though, dating isn’t so simple and many times people complicate it unnecessarily. Rather than following their hearts, they are influenced by societal expectations and their friends’ opinions. All too often people compare themselves to others who are married or partnered and set timelines for themselves. For example, I hear so often from my clients: “My friends are all getting married.” Or, “I have to meet the man of my dreams this year, be engaged within a year, married within two and have kids within three.” This urgency reeks of desperation and is about as appealing to potential partners as ordering cold cuts at the deli. That said, people should forget the fact that their friends are either married or engaged. They aren’t part of their relationship. Nor is there a life script that says you need to adhere to societal norms or rush to get married just because others have done so. Remember, it’s far better to be happily single than unhappily married.
Here’s what to do:
If you’re in love with someone and talking next steps, then move away from the idea of a fairy-tale wedding and focus on marriage and a life together.
Think about the pros and cons of marriage.
If you’re struggling to convince yourself or your partner that you’re doing the right thing, then marriage probably isn’t happening.
Address issues beyond love: things that are major parts of life such as goals, to have kids or not, geographic preference for settling, religion, careers and finances. These are the things that bring couples to see me for counseling much more than a lack of love. All too often, I hear from couples, “I love him but we’re just not on the same page when it comes to… ”
Other things to keep in mind: If there’s volatility while dating, that likely will continue in the marriage. Peoples’ personalities and temperaments usually don’t change just because there’s a marriage certificate.
Finally, if you feel you can’t live without your significant other and you can live with him or her, you have your answer. If you truly feel that you’re each other’s best friend, then you’re in great shape. This stands the tests of time — gray hair and wrinkles not withstanding.
For more tips on love, dating, relationships and other life lessons learned from Mom and Dad, check out my new book BE FEARLESS: Change Your Life in 28 Days.
For more by Jonathan Alpert, click here.
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My girlfriend Sara told me about a situation like this that she went through with her older sister not long ago. They had been at a mutual friend’s house for dinner. The friend freely admits to not being much of a cook, but this evening she really went out of her way to fix a delicious meal. Sara complimented her friend on the super job she’d done, knowing what an accomplishment it was for her. As they chatted about it, Sara’s sister suddenly blurted out, “Well Sara, what about me?” Stunned, Sara and her friend immediately stopped talking. Sara’s thoughts were spinning in her head, “Why is she saying that? She had nothing to do with cooking this dinner. What does she mean?” Neither Sara nor her friend knew how to respond to such a crazy question. And so they simply said nothing.
When I heard my friend’s story, I couldn’t stop laughing. Moments like that are certainly not funny at the time, but when you share them with a friend later (or even just remember them in your head), they do illustrate the craziness of life. We all know people like Sara’s sister who can catch us so off guard at times that we simply don’t know how to respond. And so like Sara and her friend, we typically don’t respond, or we don’t respond well. But the situation still rattles us. We wish we had a clever snappy comeback, or at least something to say to reflect the insanity of what we just heard. Anything is better than doing or saying nothing, right?
I had something similar happen to me with someone who was a new friend. I really didn’t know her well so she really caught me off guard. She had called me on the phone. We had not chatted for quite some time, and so we had a lot of catching up to do. When she asked me what was going on in my life, I naturally started to tell her. I’d only been talking for a few minutes, when all of a sudden she interrupted me and said, “Can we stop talking about you now so I can tell you what’s going on in my love life?” It was a good thing we were on the phone, because my mouth dropped wide open! And my stunned silence naturally gave her the opportunity she was looking for to jump right in and start telling me all about this new guy she was dating. I never got another word in!
These scenarios may happen with people we love, or with people we wish we could love, if it wasn’t for the fact that they just make it so hard to love them. If you have a friend — or worse, a family member — who can stop you in your tracks like this, here are a few tips to help you gracefully deal with the next bizarre situation that comes up.
1. Don’t take it personally. This is the most important piece of advice to remember because whatever goofy things these people say, the truth is that they probably don’t mean to upset you or offend you. They probably act the exact same awkward way with everyone. So their actions really speak more about them than they do about you. That doesn’t change the fact that they’ve created a real sense of discomfort — let alone that what they say can sometimes even be downright hurtful. When you’re in the company of people like this, you can pretty much predict that your friend or family member will say or do something outrageous. So just learn to expect it. It helps take the sting out of the comment.
2. Prepare how you’ll respond in advance. Before you are even around this person the next time, because you are already expecting that this sort of thing will probably come up again, be thinking of what you could say. Come up with a kind of generic response that would be appropriate in just about any context so you’re not left standing there, hemming and hawing. You could say something as simple as, “Really?” Or maybe even, “Did you just say ______?” (repeating back to the person what he or she just said, so the person can hear how ridiculous it sounded). That generally does the trick!
3. When all else fails, just laugh. Seriously! Go ahead, laugh out loud! I’m not suggesting you laugh in a mean way, of course, but in a way that speaks to the craziness of what you just experienced — with that oh-you-are-so-funny kind of tone. Laughter sends a message that no words can ever quite match. And as long as it isn’t done as a put-down, sharing a laugh is always a positive, feel-good way to communicate without words!
4. Relax. Just relax into the satisfaction that if nothing else, you now have a great story to tell your friends!
So make sure you plan ahead for that next situation you have with your friend, family member, or maybe like me, with someone you don’t know that well. And again, if all else fails — it’ll be a fabulous story to share!
For more by Deanna Brann, Ph.D., click here.
For more on emotional wellness, click here.