Let’s talk about our feelings.
Welcome to yet another blog article I wrote about dating while being eternally single.
Let’s get this out of the way first: I have messed up a lot. I make mistakes so you don’t have to. I’ve had three sizeable relationships in my young adulthood, all of which were incredibly different from the last. So I have learned a lot and grown up here and there. One of the things I remember my friends telling me about was this list of 36 Questions That Lead to Love from the New York Times. It’s a great list. It helps each person learn about the other in an intimate way. But my friends never gave me a list of questions to ask about myself.
So here we are. I have a list of questions to ask yourself if you’re thinking about entangling your life with another human in the near future. These are in no particular order, nor are they meant to be an objective list of the questions you should ask yourself before dating someone. They’re kind of just a fun thought exercise of things that I learned.
1. Am I over my ex?
This is a crucial question. If you have to bite your tongue when you want to talk about your ex, or harbor harsh feelings about them, you’re not over them. I personally think that two things contribute to getting over your ex: time and forgiveness. Time will help you make sense of the past, and forgiveness acknowledges that, although the actions in the relationship that led to its demise were not justified, they nevertheless happened, and that’s okay.
Are you still making or listening to playlists that you made with or about your ex? If the answer is yes, you are not over them. Take some time to heal a little bit more.
2. Is this attraction or affection?
I have done my fair share of reasoning, again and again, and fully have devoted myself to the fact that attraction and affection are not interchangeable words or sentiments. Feeling affectionately for someone is a lot different than just being attracted to them. Affection says: Oh, hey this person is neat. I want to know more about them. Attraction can pretty much be boiled down to: Nice face bro. Discerning as to whether or not you are affectionate towards the person you’re pursuing or who may be pursuing you is a pretty good thing to do.
3. Am I an attention whore?
If you’re on Tinder for the confidence boost, chances are, you’re an attention whore. If you feel like you’ll die if less than 150 people “like” your Instagram post, you’re an attention whore. These aren’t actual measures of attention whore-levels, but really look introspectively at yourself and evaluate your need for attention. Where does it stem from?
4. Are they actually a nice person, or are they just charming?
This is one of the worst disguises in history. I’ve fallen for it SO many times. A nice person goes out of their way for other people, volunteers, seeks to understand different viewpoints. A charming person claims to be open-minded and then constantly tells you that your differing viewpoint is objectively wrong because it contradicts their own.
5. Do I love this person, or am I in love with them?
This is kind of personal, but I was in a relationship for a while there with a great guy. He was charming, kind, sensitive, and was really attractive. I had been waiting to fall in love with him, I felt like. The darker parts of me really wanted the attention, affection, and care that a significant other gives you. The other half of me envied so many of my peers who were seemingly in loving relationships, and I really wanted that, too. I know from experience that I had loved that ex, even though I never fell in love with him. I broke it off when I realized that truth. Some people told me “Katherine, that’s not really a good reason to break up with someone.” I just responded with “It’s not a very good reason to stay in a relationship with someone, either.” I didn’t want to do a disservice to him in his pursuit of finding someone who was in love with him.
6. What in my childhood makes me perceive love the way that I do?
The way that your parents treated you growing up has an exponential impact on the rest of your life. When it comes to relationships, take a moment to think about all the ways that you understand love based upon what you’ve been taught. And then get into therapy.
7. What is my conflict-management style?
Better yet, how do I communicate in relationships?
Please, please, please, I implore you… find this out before you get into a relationship. Knowing how you respond to conflict is a great thing to have in your back pocket, especially because fighting is a natural part of a healthy relationship. Don’t fear to fight. Fighting means that you and your significant other are communicating about your differing viewpoints in a healthy way. I drew you this cute graphic of what I remember from my intercultural communication class in college. Shout out to Dr. LaKresha Graham for this one.
When it comes to addressing and managing conflict, I personally know that I fall into quadrant IV. indirect & unemotional. I know, I know. It’s kind of a bad place to be, especially because it mandates that my emotions and feelings about a problem tend to fester and explode. The ideal place to be is quadrant III. unemotional & direct, because it allows you to tackle problems head-on without getting your feelings involved. However, this graph is pretty fluid. Humans aren’t bound to one thing or the other based on how they’ve handled situations before. Everyone has situations that require them to direct conflict in any of the four quadrants.
Sorry for the math. I know, it sucks.
The Four Horsemen of The Apocalypse
Finally, you should probably learn about Gottman’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (again, I learned this in college in my interpersonal communication class, taught by Dr. Laura Janusik. Thanks, Dr. J. You were great.)
They are as follows:
These were originally created to be predictors of divorce, but they can shed a lot of light into the negative ways that couples can fight or communicate. Knowing each of these ways that you might be responding to a conflict can help you get better about it. The antidotes to each of these can be found in this cute infographic that The Gottman Institute made:
Knowing and understanding the ways that you can curb your initial reactions to a conflict can really help you and your significant other, and really just about anyone, later down the road.
8. Am I toxic?
Before you ask yourself if you are toxic, ask yourself if the relationship is toxic. For a full questionnaire as to whether or not you are in a toxic relationship, click here. If you are in a toxic relationship, get out of it immediately. It can be a really tough thing to recover from, so seek support from family, friends, and professionals.
One of the things that really permeates relationships is a sense of victimization or learned helplessness. However, it is statistically impossible that you are always the victim. There are a lot of situations where you can be toxic, even if you intentionally or unintentionally mean to do so. A lack of self-awareness can prove to be a bad thing, especially because you are not able to see your objective self from the perspective of another. Admitting your faults and resolving to fix your problems is a pretty good indicator that you are not toxic.
Toxic tendencies in relationships can take a lot of forms: cheating, deception, blatant lies, emotional and/or physical abuse, unfulfilled promises, guilting, and etc.
Do you hinder the person’s emotional and social development because you are demanding of their time and energy?
Are you constantly comparing yourself, or your significant to other people to bring about change in their personality or in their relationship?
Are you anxiety-ridden when your significant other does not reply to a text message or let you know of their whereabouts?
If you are toxic, seek therapy. Everyone can benefit from therapy.
A final note
Remember, relationships require two people who are emotionally committed, organized, and good at communication, to work the best. These questions might work best as an exercise for both individuals in a relationship, not just one of them. Getting better together and growing emotionally is a catalyst to a great relationship. Although I don’t know everything, these are the questions that I have learned to ask because of how many times I’ve failed. Admitting failure and resolving to do better is the first step to growth. I know that I’m trying to get better, and I hope that you may seek areas of improvement and get help accordingly.