So it’s apparent that they’re not interested, now what?

It’s a common theme in contemporary dating, you’ve been talking, you’ve been on a date, and… they haven’t messaged you back. Have they just forgotten? Are they feeling anxious? Are they just not into you? I’ve written about this here.

But what’s the next step? You figure they’re not into you, what do you do now, to improve things best for you.

Here’s a few simple tips:

  • Unfriend them on Facebook, unfollow them on Twitter, Instagram, etc.
  • Turn off chat on Facebook.
  • Delete the conversation thread on Facebook.
  • Delete their number.
  • Delete the conversation thread on SMS.
  • Delete any emails you’ve exchanged.

turn off            delete

Sounds drastic?

Not really.

The most important thing to do now – is what’s best for you. Seeing them on your newsfeed, or seeing that they’re active online, is just going to trigger a twinge of rejection.

By deleting their social media presence, they’re out of sight out of mind, and you begin to forget.

I’ve been rejected many times in the past. One particularly poignant heart break, I wrote about here.

The thing with all of these heartbreaks, is at the time it feels intense. These days, unless I’m actively trying to remember times I’ve been rejected, I don’t even think about them.

That’s the state you’re going for, not thinking of them, and to do that, delete the messages and unfollow them on social media.

 

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Quitting is underrated.

I think there’s an often unhelpful cultural attitude that stigmatises quitting.

Quitting is seen as indicative of a bad work ethic, or laziness, or a lack of grit. Quitting is seen as worse than failure – at least someone who fails has the follow through to see the thing through to the end.

The attitude that is encouraged for facing a difficult situation is to grit up, to grin and bear it, or to be creative in finding a solution to the problem. There’s the promise that going through the hardship will more rewarding in terms of practical experience and character building, than quitting would.

There’s a fear that if one quits now, they’ll develop a habit of quitting, and quit whenever things become more difficult, or they’re put beyond their comfort zone.

I agree that there’s something to be said for persevering in the face of challenge, but only if the project as a whole is worthwhile.

When the main reason for carrying on, is the value of perseverance or avoiding being a quitter, then it’s time to quit.

The risk of continuing with something that you’re not getting value out of, is that the stress of carrying on can spill over into the rest of your life. For example, if you’re in a job that you hate, they you may be preoccupied with the job when you’re at home too. Or on the other hand, if you’re in a bad relationship, that may affect your performance at work.

I think people are most motivated when there’s a big picture goal, that they value, and they can see how what they’re doing is helping achieve that goal.

When it’s apparent that what they’re doing doesn’t achieve that big picture goal, or that the value of what they’re doing is several layers abstracted from that goal, one’s whole life can start feeling meaningless.

The danger is when there appears to be no end in sight, and the thought is ‘Even if I do my best work now, my situation is going to be the same in six months, one year’s time’.

Doing good work involves grit and discipline. It require concerted effort. If that effort is, at least in the person’s mind, not going to have any real reward, it’s reasonable to see how one might instead opt for shortcuts or immediate gratification.

I would propose a model of stress tolerances, whereby each individual has a certain ability to tolerate stress – whether that’s dealing with difficult people, learning new technologies, getting their head around logical problems, being bored, and so on.

It makes sense that people should prioritise their ability to deal with stress, to those activities that provide the most value to them. Activities that are not providing much value, should be abandoned, in an act of simplifying their life.

I’ve recently simplified my life in a few ways:

  • I broke the lease on the apartment I was renting, so I’m no longer responsible for chasing flatmates up for rent, finding new flatmates, and paying bills.
  • I found a new job, and quit my current job which I felt no sense of recognition in.
  • I quit drinking alcohol.

As a result, I feel like I’m floating. I feel much much better, and I can see the value in the things that I am doing.

I still have activities that provide stress, or warrant the application of grit.  Writing this blog for example, requires a concerted effort to sit down and write the words. Exercising requires grit to get out and start doing it. But these are both activities that I can clearly see the value of, especially in a context of a job where my career with be progressing, and living situation where I can relax.

In conclusion, my advice for people is to look at their life, and question what things are in it that are providing unnecessary stress. Remove them. After that, you can do the mindfulness and meditation tricks and deal with the things that you really value.

Book Review: The Ethical Slut

I’d heard of this book in sex positive circles, and what convinced me to read it was a male friend of mine had bought it and announced he was reading it.

The book is touted as an introduction and guideline for approaching non-monogamous relationships – polyamory, open relationships, sex communities, swinging couples, casual sex, etc– or being ‘sluts’ as the authors enthusiastically write.

My overall impression of this book is negative. It’s simply not a well written book.

It’s over written – it uses too many words to express its ideas. When reading I found myself not being able to focus on it and starting to skim read. I started thinking ‘Is this just me? Do I have a bad attention span?’ But when I started reading Everything I needed to know about economics, I learned from online dating (my review herethis proves to be not the case. Everything I needed to know is a book in the same broad genre (dating and relationships), and I found it exciting, engaging and a pleasure to read – I found myself looking forward to reading it. Everything I needed to know is a much shorter book, and seems to pack in more ideas into a more concise read.

The tone of The Ethical Slut is more celebratory than an objective assessment of non-monogamous relationships. It seems to take a starting point of already having been successful in non-monogamous relationships. For example the book never seems to deal (or if it did, the idea didn’t stick with me) with that most people find the idea of non-monogamous relationships socially unacceptable, or at least don’t express opinions to the contrary. If I were writing a book on non-monogamous relationships – that’s where I’d start – outlining the history of monogamy, theories about why and how it came about,  the popularity of non-monogamy in other cultures, in other times, and its prevalence in current western culture.

All this leads me to think that this book is more targeted to people who are already on board with the idea of non-monogamy. This isn’t to say that a book shouldn’t be targeted as such, just like a standard dating advice book might be targeted at single professional men, or single professional women, but it helps frame your argument narrative if you provide an objective basis to build from, rather than taking it as assumed. If your book is at a more advanced level, and not to be taken as an introduction to the subject, then the assumptions and starting points should be explicitly stated in the introduction.

I couldn’t get past the authors’ use of the word ‘slut’. The authors use the word as reclaimed word to describe, essentially, what I’d call sex positive people – people who enjoy sex and see it as a positive expression of life activity.

In their words:

‘To us, a slut is a person of any gender who celebrates sexuality according to the radical proposition that sex is nice and pleasure is good for you. Sluts may choose to have solo sex, or get cozy with the Fifth Fleet.’

I found the term distracting, and meaningless. Whatever your thoughts are about reclaimed words, I feel like they don’t belong in literature that is intended to be subject to debate and theorising. For example if I was reading a book about negotiating life as a black American man, I might accept the author’s proposition that black men may call themselves ‘niggers’ (or ‘niggas’) as a means to reclaim a term that had been previously used a tool of oppression. However I wouldn’t think it would suit for the author to use the word ‘nigger’ every time they were referring to black men and women!

The book did have its nuggets good wisdom. The best chapter in the book would be the chapter about dealing with jealousy. Jealousy, like other emotions like anger, and sadness, is one of those emotions that in our culture is seen as negative, and reflection of bad character. The narrative around this is changing, and people are increasingly encouraged to accept these emotions, and manage them. My review on the movie Inside Out addresses this.

The authors deal with this topic head on – they acknowledge that jealousy is likely to be a prominent experience in non-monogamous relationships, and encourage the readers to own their emotions and provide several suggesting for managing it. One poignant point they made was where one of the authors’ partners would express his insecurity (‘Just tell me I don’t have anything to worry about’) when she was about to go out with a lover, and that this was a good thing. It was a good thing that he trusted her enough to express his feeling of insecurity. Insecurity is another of those emotions that the typical narrative says is unattractive. I felt it was a great relief to read this paragraph and it was not something I’d considered before.

Another entertaining aspect of the book were some of the anecdotes provided. I felt these gave much better context for understanding the more difficult dynamics, and they were interesting to read.

The book was glaringly lacking in some subjects. For example the experience of rejection, or the experience where one partner feels left out. Again, the book seems to assume that the readers are already successful at dating finding romantic or sexual mates. Given that there are entire industries dedicated to opining on the topic, it would suggest that this is an unreasonable assumption to make.

Overall, I felt like I didn’t learn much from this book, and I didn’t particularly enjoy reading it. I’m not critical of the subject material, but it wasn’t presented in a particularly readable manner. Perhaps if I was in a non-monogamous relationship I’d be more incentivised to read it, but I would suggest that someone else could do a better job of writing the same book.

On being not an official couple, but being sexually exclusive.

Note: I asked the girl in this story’s permission before publishing this story. 

I had dinner with a friend last night, and we talked about a guy she’s been seeing. A guy who, ‘it’s complicated with’, and they’re not ‘officially’ boyfriend and girlfriend.

The logistics of the relationship (as we discussed it last night) are this:

  • She likes him and wants to be boyfriend/girlfriend with him.
  • He is unsure about being committed into a relationship and wants more time to decide. It seems he’s afraid of getting hurt if he commits to a relationship.
  • This isn’t his fear of exclusivity. He wants both her and him to be exclusive in the meantime.
  • She is waiting for him to decide that they really are boyfriend/girlfriend.

Of course (and she and I discussed this) the idea that you can be exclusive, but also ‘not quite boyfriend and girlfriend’ is odd. What’s the difference between being sexually exclusive, and being boyfriend and girlfriend?

My opinion is that for some people being boyfriend girlfriend is a promise, and expectation of, emotional availability, and the intention to stay with the person for the foreseeable future.

Somebody who subscribes to this model of relationships, and also values sexual exclusivity will have a dating pattern like this:

Boy meets girl. They decide they are interested enough consider a formal relationship.

In order to facilitate emotional bonding, to determine whether they are compatible for a romantic relationship, both boy and girl agree to be sexually exclusive. The sexual exclusivity is essential because interactions with other people are otherwise going to complicate things emotionally – and it’s to build an initial trust period.

Once both parties are satisfied that:

  • The other person is trustworthy.
  • The other person sufficiently fulfills whatever emotional and other relationship needs they have.

The relationship can then move into the ‘formal relationship’ territory. The difference now is that the each party is expected to emotionally available for the the other person. That is, in entering the the formal relationship, each person has made a promise to the other for their future behavior. 

Presumably, in the period before the formal relationship, one can break it off , realistically not without hard feelings, but without having broken any promise because they were never ‘official’.

The break-up clause for the formal relationship is unknown.

Let’s take a step forward for a moment, and discuss marriage. For many people – marriage is an intention to stay together for life. People are probably realistic in understanding that there might be some deal breakers in the future, if one of the partners cheats, or developers a drug habit they might be resigned to quitting the marriage. But typically the intention is work as team, to avoid that situation.

Marriage then – is a promise of intention to stay together for life, and to actively work at that relationship to avoid any of the dealbreakers.

Back to this formal relationship – if we agree that there is a promise of emotional availability – what is the difference between a formal relationship and a marriage? A marriage of course has an element of the public declaration as well as the expensive party that goes with it. (An alternative modern interpretation is that a marriage is about having kids and buying a house together. A kid of course being a for life commitment that can’t be undone.)

But in terms of the promise of emotional availability, how does this model of a formal relationship allow for exiting the relationship, without ‘breaking the contract’?

I don’t think there is way.

I think either, you enter in the relationship with the expectation that they’ll alwasy be emotionally available and risking that you’re going to have your heartbroken sometime down the road. (Or perhaps your feelings for each other with dissolve naturally with no hurt feelings).

Or you accept going in to the relationship that the other person can’t promise to always be emotionally available, and accept that as possibility Maybe you’ll decide to get married one day, but also maybe it just might not work out, and you agree to go your separate ways.

Personally I would subscribe to the second approach. I’ll go into a relationship knowing that it might not last, but be happy to have it now and have the experience which you’ll always remember.

I think a lot of us would probably argue that this model of relationships is simply untenable or unreasonable to suggest, and that many people simply wouldn’t agree to this kind of relationship. We’re either sexually exclusive and we call each other boyfriend and girlfriend, or we’re free to pursue romance and dates with other people.

More cynically, we might label this relationship ‘Stringing them along’ – that is holding up the carrot of a relationship in order to entice the partner into staying available, while you personally evaluate your options and decide how you want to proceed, whether with this relationship, or with someone else/no-one else.

This isn’t to disparage the person that’s proposed the relationship model. The model is reflective of a real person’s emotional state and set of romantic experiences and their corresponding constructed response to it.

Constructing models and thinking in this manner helps us analyse everyday relationships, and thinking about what the explicit and implicit expectations of parties in the relationship are. I think as non-traditional relationships (eg friends with benefits, open relationships, swingers/wife swapping etc)  become more popular, it will become more necessary to be explicit about what the relationship expectations are.

In fact, existing relationship advice already suggests communication, communication, communication, so having upfront conversations about what your expectations are a good idea, even without the increasing popularity of non-traditional relationships necessitating it.