As a millennial myself, I receive TONS of dating advice from my peers and the media every day. Whether I’m at a get-together, a club meeting, volunteering, or just channel surfing, my peers and entertainers seem to have solutions for love. These solutions often mirror behavior I recognize from…sitcoms. Yeah, sitcoms. That is pretty much the level of expertise we are collectively at so far. I would really love to de-bunk some of the most common things I hear and observe us doing…when we are completely off.
- “Wandering Eyes” IS a Big Deal
Recently, I’ve been hearing claims that normalize aspects of infidelity. I have heard among my peers that it is fine to admire others bodies while you are in a relationship. It’s been said that it’s normal to “check out” others because it is harmless. This isn’t true at all. As it has been said, “Watch your thoughts for they become words. Watch your words for they become actions. Watch your actions for they become habits. Watch your habits for they become your character.” What may start as a glance at someone’s body that has no emotional meaning can eventually manifest into words and actions. Anyone can claim that this won’t be the case for them. However, I’m willing to bet most people don’t begin cheating on their partner because they decided to one day. Besides having enough respect for others to not view them as sexual objects, you should respect yourself, your “other,” and your relationship enough to keep your eyes off every behind you see.
- Porn IS a Big Deal
I have been hearing peers and media suggest that porn is something “everyone just does.” Much like “wandering eyes,” viewing porn is admiring another’s body. Some may say it isn’t as significant because the person being viewed is not actually there and is someone never to be met in “real life.” The danger here is very similar to any other type of cheating. Besides the objectification you tolerate by viewing porn, you also objectify your relationship. Relationships do not exist for you to supplement, replace, and return based on unrealistic expectations and sexual fulfillment. The moment you open the door to porn, you open your heart and mind to a vast world of insecurity and faithlessness. You don’t just hurt your other—you hurt yourself.
- Dating Doesn’t Mean Your Own Life Ends
Having no identity outside of your relationship is a sign of immaturity. We typically see this or experienced it in middle school or high school. In the adult world, it is sad to still see. If you find yourself continuously avoiding friends and breaking promises in order to spend more and more time with your other, you might not have your own life. If you know where your other is at all times, you might not have your own life. If you freak out at the thought of not receiving a text/call or sending a text/call to your other every hour, you might not have your own life. For yourself and the sake of your relationship, have your own marvelous, interesting, independent life! Join groups and have friends that don’t all include each other! Don’t measure your success by the success of your boyfriend or girlfriend! Have your own agenda and identity.
- You Won’t Find Love In Numbers
Much to my surprise, “number scales” for rating guys and girls are not myths from middle school and sitcoms, but are actually practiced in real life among real adults. Here’s news: you will never start any significant relationship with a point system. Being “rated” is insulting because: One, it turns another person into an object that literally does or doesn’t “measure up.” Two, it is condescending; making you the “god” of someone else’s worth. It’ll also never allow you to truly come to know someone you could love. Every person has inherent worth whether you recognize it or not, and you are bypassing that by giving someone a “low score.” If your motive is to score based on what’s best for your desires or values, I doubt a scale at first meeting will get you anywhere. As my roommate once said, “If they meet all your scales, I doubt you’ll meet theirs.” Meaning, if he/she blows you out of the water with all criteria, he or she is probably above being “won” after a scoring. What will really make a great start is having an organic conversation that will either lead you together or apart.
- Time With Your Own Friends Is Important
We have all seen or experienced this one before. Just as it’s important to have your own identity, it’s important to get in some social time that doesn’t include a boyfriend or girlfriend. When you start dating, your friends and his or her friends don’t become “our” friends automatically. You’ll have some overlap and you’ll have some different friends. Having your own life means having fun doing different things and having different conversations that have nothing to do with you being in a relationship. Sure, when you like or love someone and they are in your life…you’ll want to talk about them and be with them. Try to remember that you are two separate people and not a unit—especially while you’re still unmarried. Enjoy life and cope with stress with your friends!
- Your Faith IS a Major Factor
No matter what faith you have or if you have no religious beliefs at all, know that it matters when it comes to dating. You might not notice it at first while you’re still in the warm and fuzzy place, but in the long-run, it will matter. Once you establish what you want in life and what core values you want to implement in your life, it will come up. Some people do continue a relationship and even a marriage with a different faith or one of faith and one without. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. But for the one with faith, it will never be fully practiced in your relationship. For both individuals with differing faiths or no faith, it will eventually become a huge sore spot of tension for your relationship.
- Boundaries Make All Relationships Go ‘Round
If there’s one thing I stress when giving relationship advice to friends, it’s boundaries! I often hear that the best way to do things is just “see what happens” and “let it flow” until “what happens, happens.” Of course, spontaneity can be a great thing, but not in all areas of life. Some areas of our relationships will burn us if we haven’t set boundaries. Healthy boundaries are great for yourself, for friends, and for dating relationships! There should always be clear discussions about what both of you are comfortable with physically and emotionally. Physically, you need to be on the same page about what your limits are. You should never be embarrassed or persuaded to lower or loosen any of the limits you have for your own body.
Emotionally, your boundaries should be both practical and loving. Some boundaries have already been mentioned in having one’s own identity and having separate lives and friends. Others might include a limit on sharing money , space, family time, etc. Don’t be afraid to discuss these boundaries as they come and address them at different stages in your relationship.
- Your Confidence Will Not Come From A Significant Other
Despite what movies, songs, and t.v have taught us, you will not be “complete” when you meet “the one.” “The one,” in fact, is a false notion of its own. (That’s for another blog another time) You have to love and respect yourself before you can really receive the love and respect of another. If you are waiting to meet that special person who will finally make you live your life the way you’ve always truly wanted to live, you’re going to be waiting quite. some. time. You will find yourself either bouncing from relationship to relationship looking for this or you will end up in a long, dysfunctional, and unhealthy relationship that ends up becoming a security blanket. Folks, this isn’t How I Met Your Mother and it’s certainly not Twilight. When you love you, someone else will be able to love you, too.
- Enjoy The Stage You’re In
This one can be tough for long relationships. We can get wrapped up in “ I can’t wait until..”this” or “that” in the future. Maybe it’s when you can afford to go on a great vacation, maybe it’s when you can have a married life, or maybe it’s when you can take your relationship to the next level. Whatever it is, it can be easy to enjoy looking ahead so much that you miss the present. We do this in every area of our lives, and it’s almost always destructive. This can lead you to sending a message you didn’t intend to send. By saying something like, “I can’t wait until we live together” or “I can’t wait until we can afford to go on a cruise,” you might be sending the message to your partner that you don’t fully enjoy what you have now. Of all the things I’ve listed, this is probably the hardest for me. I love staying focused on the future and all I will be able to accomplish once I can do this, live here, be at this level and then I’ll have it. My boyfriend has taught me the love lesson on enjoying our dating lives right where they are. This is important because one day, they will just be memories…and we want memories of ourselves enjoying our present.
- The “Love and Respect” Concept IS true
Everyone is always looking for “what women want” and “what men really want” in life, sex, or a relationship. Perhaps you’ve heard of the book and love series “Love and Respect.” While I can say I haven’t read the study designed for married couples, I have learned the concept it teaches. Women, at the root of relationship, desire love. We feel the most fulfilling relationships when we feel the love with words and actions. Men, at the root of relationship, desire respect. Respect makes men feel loved and appreciated. In fact, whether you are interacting with the opposite sex in friendship or relationship, it is safe to evaluate what you are saying or doing with, “will this show her love?” or “will this show him respect?” A break in either of these will lead to relationship issues. So while we may also want other things, fundamentally we want love and respect in our lives.
- Your Young Years Are NOT For Non-committal “Shopping”
I get this all the time. “Don’t be serious with someone while you’re young” “Your brain isn’t done developing until you’re 25” “You’re supposed to date around a lot while you’re young” “You’re supposed to be free while you’re young.” All these presuppose that while you are in a relationship, you stop living the life you want to live. If you are careful to set boundaries and have your own life, it won’t put a damper on your young life to have a serious relationship. It won’t hinder your life, and can even enhance it as long as it’s healthy. This idea that “it’s all over” once you commit is opposite of the idea that you need a relationship to be happy but is just as unhealthy and just as common. Movies and t.v often poke fun at the ideas that fun and party life all end the moment you get serious with someone. That, of course, only holds if you have no idea what a healthy relationship looks like. When we view dating this way, we view marriage in an even worse light. We either paint a perfect wedding-that-will-fulfill-our-lives picture or a doomsday capstone-of-our-lives one. When we view commitment this way, we can never fully enjoy it.
- The Moment You Realize You Could Not End Up With That Person, It Should End
I hear friends say all the time that they are just dating someone “for now” because they can’t tolerate x,y, and z forever. I have news: when you realize that long-term commitment with that person is not going to happen, you need to end it as quickly and kindly as possible. Everyone you end up dating will not be ideal for your life. You won’t be able to agree on boundaries or be able to meet each other’s’ love languages sometimes. A failure of a relationship is not a failure of you as a person. It’s a hard choice to make, but it’s one that has to happen. Of course, with your own identity and friends, ending a relationship will be possible.