It’s hard to have perspective when you’re deep into dating. Lately, the Universe has provided me with plenty of perspective by taking me out of it all. My forays into online dating could be described as disastrous, or just deeply abhorrent. My in-person interactions have been almost non-existent, and I don’t think we’ll count unsolicited direct messages as being quality dating interactions.
But I like to use my time wisely, and I’ve given a lot of thought to my own dating patterns, as well as trends I’m seeing in the dating world. With all of this time on my hands and all of this handy perspective, I thought I would share a few quick communication tips with those who are so deep into the cycle that they may not be able to pick up on these fun facts.
I’m going to break down some basic dating communication. It can be easy to misread signals because we’re more inclined to believe what we want to believe or because we have starry eyes over the person we’re dating. Since my sight is clear, I’ll just let you in on a few dating secrets.
Saying that he/she is the exception to the rule is really saying that you see the red flag but are going to ignore your better judgment and overlook it, consequences be damned.
No one is really an exception to the rule. Most of the time, we make rules around dating because we’ve learned something from past experiences. When we make exceptions and let someone slide into our lives who is clearly raising a red flag, we’re repeating patterns. In short, we’re not learning. We’re choosing to repeat cycles because this or that person is pretty or interesting or just really good in bed—when what we really need to do is run.
Sure, there may be exceptions. Perhaps we’ve never dated cat owners, but this gal is a peach. But does it matter if you’re deathly allergic to cats? We need to figure out the difference between deal breakers and personal preferences, which sometimes overlap. If it’s a deal breaker, then there is never an exception to this rule that is good enough to let it pass. You’re just going to get hurt.
I don’t want a relationship just means I don’t want a relationship with you.
No one who is truly interested in you is going to say these words to you. It doesn’t even matter if they say they aren’t interested in a relationship right now. If you were the right person, it wouldn’t be bad timing. If they were interested, they would want a relationship of some kind. This may mean that they are fine with casually dating you without commitment or just having sex, but they are really telling you that they don’t want a relationship with you. If you want a relationship with them, you need to realize this now and adjust accordingly.
I’m not dating means I’m not going to be dating you.
When people say they aren’t dating, they might actually mean it. They might be focusing on something else in their lives like healing, personal growth, or even big life changes. But most of the time, this means that they aren’t interested in dating you. If they were, they would clarify that they aren’t interested in dating you right now, for a good reason, but hope that they can reconnect with you when that thing changes.
I once said this to a guy because I was healing from a breakup. I had already rejected his advances more than once. Finally, I admitted I’m not dating anyone, hoping he would finally leave me alone since repeatedly telling him I’m not interested in him wasn’t working. So he counters with offering me a sex-only relationship. I don’t know how to be more clear that if I don’t want to even date someone, I sure as hell don’t want to have a sexual relationship with them. I was flabbergasted that it went in that direction, so I’m here sharing my wealth of experience by saying that if someone says that they aren’t dating, don’t try to tell them you’ll be happy to be their booty call. If they want that, they will most certainly ask.
“It’s not you; it’s me,” means that it’s definitely you.
Again, if you were the right person, it wouldn’t be the wrong time. If they were interested, they wouldn’t be checking out of the relationship. Try not to take this too personally. What it really means is that you’re not compatible in some way, you may have shown a red flag or deal breaker that is significant to that particular person, or you may just not have enough chemistry. It could just be that you’re not what that person is looking for. It doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with you, necessarily, but it does mean that they don’t want to be with you. Try to handle that with as much good grace as you can muster and start to move on.
Persistence is not charming or admirable; it’s just creepy.
Hey, I like to see a man with initiative, but when we aren’t responding to your advances, your persistence is shouting that you don’t understand boundaries, consent, or what’s appropriate. If someone says no, respect that no. It’s not wrong to ask someone out or let them know you’re interested, but if you’re doing this over and over again, it’s a problem. The one time you ask should be the last time if they’ve given you a no. If they change their minds, I’m sure they’ll give you a heads up. Otherwise, back off immediately.
I love to cuddle just means I want to have sex.
These are the same guys working that old, tired line about just wanting to hold someone all night and not have sex. Lies! It’s all lies! They’re only looking for a hookup, and they think this sounds sweeter. The truth is that they may not even be the cuddling type.
I dated one guy who proclaimed himself an avid cuddler, but he really didn’t like to be touched at all after brief and disappointing sex. His idea of sleeping together at night was to sleep as far apart as possible without ever touching. As an enthusiastic cuddler somewhat akin to an octopus who even sleep-cuddles, this was clearly not a good match for me. Who knew I like to cuddle just means I want to bang you and then for you to go home? Now we all do.
Asking if you have any more pictures means please send nudes.
I’ve given online dating a fair chance, and it’s largely been disappointing. But I always try to make sure to at least present an accurate view of how I look. I use unfiltered, recent (last month or two) pictures and try to give a variety of hairstyles (because the color and style changes with regularity). There’s curly me, straight-hair me, the red hair, the blonde hair I do have on occasion, etc. You get the picture.
It’s always a little surprising when I get asked for even more pictures when I have a whole gallery on my profile and then links to my public social media pages with even more. What they really want is nudes, and I’m not playing. I think we’ve seen enough scenarios play out where photos were leaked for me not to send them, but more than that, I just don’t want to have virtual sex with people. It’s weird. I know some people enjoy sexting, but I guess I just prefer to have intimate relationships with people I’ve actually met in real life.
Men who encourage women to smile and be more confident are looking for their Stepford wife.
I honestly believe this. I mentioned that I had braces in a dating profile because I was just being upfront. I kept getting pep talks from this guy about how beautiful I am and how I need to be more confident and smile more. First, my reaction was that I don’t need a pep talk. My self-love game is strong. I like how I look. Second, it occurred to me that he was looking for a more traditional woman.
Some men just like partners who aren’t as secure or empowered. They want to feel like the big man/hero in the situation. They’re going to be looking for more dependent partners with lower self-esteem because they are unlikely to be able to handle a fully empowered partner. I didn’t need his pep talk. Confidence isn’t a problem. It’s not even that I don’t like how I look when I smile; I just don’t take a lot of fake smiley pictures when I’m taking a selfie. But now I know that anyone who assumes I must be insecure and has to give me a pep talk is looking for a different kind of partner.
People who joke about their own looks are broadcasting low self-esteem.
This one is probably a no-brainer, but it is a huge red flag. Fat shaming yourself isn’t cute. Talking about how unattractive you are in hopes that someone will contradict you is needy. It’s not anyone else’s job to give you healthy self-esteem. Work on this or risk scaring off every single person who might want to truly get to know you.
Someone who asks you about your weight outright isn’t going to be a good life partner.
Maybe this person has been catfished. I get that it’s tough out there. I had a guy send me a picture from about 10 years earlier and 100 pounds lighter. I didn’t judge the weight gain; I judged the outright deception and the low self-esteem it projected. When people specifically ask for your measurements, they’re letting you know that they are superficial, are more likely to fat shame, or are holding people they date to a specific beauty standard.
I’m very fitness-focused, but I’m also in my mid-30s. I was in a long-term relationship with someone I met when I was very thin, as I’d always been. When I got a little older and put on a little weight, he definitely made references to it, although we’re talking maybe 10 pounds. When I had children and my body changed entirely, there were definite moments of body shaming me for having changed so significantly even though my weight gain had been normal for each pregnancy.
Our bodies will change. We will get wrinkles, put on weight, go gray, and show our age. We won’t always be young. We need partners who are going to love us through all of those stages, not just when we meet some ideal.
If we want healthy, fit partners, fine. But if we’re unable to accept anything less than perfection, we may have some bigger issues to deal with in regards to understanding that health isn’t always correlated to weight alone. I’ve known a lot of skinny people with horrible diets and virtually no exercise. Which is all to say that asking for specific measurements is a red flag. Be warned.
If they ask if your profile picture is recent, theirs isn’t.
Every man who’s ever asked me this turned out to have a much older picture on their profile. Every single one. They were suspicious because they assume everyone else is doing the same thing.
I just want to be friends means I’m not interested in dating you.
This isn’t a secret, but it’s still hard for people to understand. This isn’t about being friend-zoned, a sexist concept if ever there was one. This is about the person trying to be kind by letting you down gently. They may even really like you—as a friend only. They may not like you but don’t want to come out and say that they aren’t attracted, interested, or in any way available to date you. Maybe they think you’re generally attractive but just not their type or there’s no chemistry. The reasoning doesn’t matter. This is a no, and circle back to persistence is creepy if you don’t get it.
If they say they are very direct, they mean they are lying about everything in their profile.
I’ve yet to meet one man who said they were direct in online dating who was actually direct. Every single person who has ever said this to me in dating has had a profile filled with lies. They also play a lot of games and try to tell me whatever it is they think I want to hear to get what they want.
It’s interesting because when I say I’m direct, it’s because I am. Then I prove it by not bullshitting people. I don’t know why this is a hard concept to understand. So, in short, if you’re a person who claims to be upfront with people, be that person. Don’t play games. Say what you’re thinking and feeling. Don’t expect people to be mind-readers.
If they only contact you around very specific hours—where some hours are off-limits—they are married or in a relationship.
I’ve heard a lot of people say that they have talked to people they were dating who only seemed available when they were at work or really late at night. If the schedule seems off, it’s because there’s something they’re hiding. If you suspect they are cheating, call them out and find out rather than playing along.
Trying to change your mind with a drink means they don’t understand consent.
I had a friend who seemed “woke.” He hit on me a few times, and I honestly told him that I’d never seen him in that way. One night, we went out with a group of friends, and he kept trying to ply me with alcohol and separate me from my friends while persistently hitting on me. Even he didn’t understand that what he was trying to do was violate my consent.
First off, I’m no lightweight. I’m not a person who blacks out when drinking, and I remember everything. I also don’t make a lot of decisions I wouldn’t make sober. So if someone says they aren’t interested, giving them drinks to make them more willing is just rapey. It shows that you don’t understand or value consent if you are trying to find another means of changing that decision.
This is the same as when you tell someone you don’t have sex without protection, and they try to convince you to do so anyway. Consent issues are everywhere because we still have a dating culture that doesn’t understand that consent should always be between adults, enthusiastic, and uncompromising.
Almost everything means they’re just looking for a hook-up.
They want to know your Snapchat or kik ID right off the bat. They schedule a date but then don’t want to talk to you until that day. They only want dates that could end in sex, going as far as trying to confirm if sex will be on the menu as well as drinks or dinner. They say they want a relationship but launch immediately into sexting.
I don’t have time to list everything that should be included here, but if they say they want a relationship but act like they only want a hookup, believe what they’re doing and not what they’re saying.
Dating is kind of a dumpster fire, so I’m feeling a little relieved to be sitting over here watching it from a safe distance with a glass of wine in my hand. After all, as much as I like connection, I don’t like to be toyed with and have little patience for the kind of games that involve my heart. Okay, I have no patience. None. But that’s just me being direct.
But if you’re out there in the fray, try to remember that you can’t control what everyone else is doing, but you can sure as hell make sure that you’re not participating in shady behavior yourself. You can do your best to make dating a little easier for potential partners by just being honest. It would make a nice change if everyone would do the same, but since we all know that’s not going to happen, I hope you’ll keep these things in mind when you wade back in and try to find love again.
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