On Loving: How to Meet Someone Without Swiping Right

While sometimes I feel like the times of getting “set up” and meeting people out in the real world are behind us, those days are definitely NOT behind us. If they are then how are middle schoolers still falling in love with their classmates? (Trust me, they are. I get the DMs.) Meeting someone in person is definitely more difficult than swiping through an inventory of potential loves on Tinder or Bumble or whatever new app has popped up promising you love, but that doesn’t mean we should disregard it as an old school practice.

A lot of people argue that the benefit of dating apps is that they are fast and easy, and they are. To me, this is their greatest flaw. They are extremely convenient to the point of nauseam. I was helping a friend get ready for a Tinder date last week and she was getting more and more flustered until she exploded in an anxiety-induced flood of questions.

“What if he doesn’t think I look like my photos?”

“What if he thought I was taller? Or shorter?”

“Do you think this photo makes me look fatter than in my profile pic?”

“I don’t want to wear an outfit he’s already seen, but that’s my favorite dress and I don’t know what else to wear.”

 

Meeting in person eliminates all of these questions. I have been on several Tinder dates and I’ve also had several guys ask me out in person. I promise you, being asked out in person feels better than a swipe right. And when asking someone out in person their faces say it all: it sets you apart.

While there’s nothing wrong with using dating apps and I know a few people who have met long-term loves, hookups, and every shade of relationship in between the two, dating apps are definitely not for me. Here’s why: I value the rapport of meeting in person too much.  When you meet someone you are instantly making calculations about them, learning more, and taking in how they make you feel. Do they hold eye contact? Do they respect your personal space? Are they easy to talk to? Are they slightly reserved? You get a preview of who they are in a way that a curated profile and awkward online chats cannot provide.

To me, that first meeting, eye-catch, and who speaks (actually speaks) first is everything. I don’t want the first impression someone gets of me to come from an app profile, I want them to get and want the real deal.

So where do you get this magical interaction? You get it every time you walk outside your apartment and look up. Are you reading this on your phone right now? Are you in public? Put the phone down and look around. You can’t meet someone when you are wrapped up in the world on your phone. And if you think this will be like a rom-com where he taps you on the shoulder when you have headphones in just to break the ice I can promise you that won’t happen. No one (worth your time) is going to kick things off by disturbing your boundaries. When I leave the house and don’t want to be talked to I put on my sunglasses, headphones, and a hat. I refer to it as my “subway armor”, essentially what I wear when I don’t want someone to talk to me. They literally act as a barrier. Removing those pieces of “protection” is how you open yourself.

Another way to meet someone sans-dating apps? Interject yourself into the community a little bit more. I’m not going to beat this one to death, it’s pretty simple. No, this doesn’t mean you need to join a group for singles, it means finding groups or activities that you genuinely relate to and becoming more intertwined with those communities (ex: The November Project is a great group if you’re into fitness and it has chapters in several cities).

The last, and biggest one is to initiate the “meeting”. How many times have you been out with a friend and nudge-slapped her arm when a hot guy walks by. We all do it. When I worked in a bar we’d half-drag each other into the server station just to go “My god. The guy at 12? So fucking hot.” Granted, at work you shouldn’t be hitting on patrons, but if you’re out with a friend and see a hot guy, what’s stopping you from saying hello? You are the only thing standing in front of yourself. Swallow that little brick of self-doubt and put yourself out there. What is the worse thing that happens? He says no? Shrug it off and keep walking. Two blocks later, do it again.

These probably seem like very small suggestions, but they aren’t. They are how people meet without a digital device between them. Stop using your phone as a social crutch and be open to meeting someone. Join groups that will enrich your life and give you the chance to meet someone with similar interests. Stop waiting for someone to come to you and make the first move.

Make your own luck and make your own love.

Dear Molly, How Do I Tell My Friend She’s Changing For Her Boyfriend?

I feel like my best friend is constantly changing for the guy she’s dating. Like if he’s super into football, she starts a fantasy league, if he likes Italian food she’s making homemade pasta. She throws herself into so many new hobbies and things for each guy within the first few weeks of dating and I feel like she isn’t being true to herself at all. How can I talk to her about this without it turning into a fight? I don’t want to hurt her feelings, but it really needs to stop. I think it’s part of the reason that so many of her relationships end after about a month.

 

It takes a lot of love to be honest and open about the hard things with someone. Conversations like this are immensely difficult as it can feel like a personal attack and turn into a fight. That being said, just because a conversation is difficult doesn’t mean that it should be held. Your friend is only doing a disservice to herself by chameleon-ing herself. Start with what you just told me: You don’t want to hurt her feelings, you care about her. And then let her lead the conversation.

It’s important that you listen as much as or more than you talk when it comes to things like this. You aren’t her parent, you aren’t her conscience, and you don’t get to dictate how she behaves. A good friend is a mirror, they ask probing questions to help you find the answers yourself. Something like “I noticed you started getting really into football when you were dating X, but haven’t heard you talk about it in a while. Would you want to go to a game sometime?” Maybe she will! Maybe it is a new passion of her’s that you just see less now that she isn’t dating someone who shares it. Or maybe she won’t because it was because of the guy. In that case, it’s a matter of following up and asking her the questions she should be asking herself. Keep them open-ended. There’s no wrong answer, you are just there to help. You are there to be a friend.

A final thought for your friend: We are happiest when we are presenting our authentic selves to the world, single or in a relationship.

 

xx

Simple Loving: What Being in the Wrong Relationship Taught Me

 

We’ve all witnessed our friends in bad relationships and thought the same thing: that will never be me. I was exactly that person. I thought I was someone who would walk away the second a relationship went south and if you would have told me that I would be in the wrong relationship for years I would never have believed you.

That’s the funny thing about a bad relationship is you don’t realize it’s happening until it’s over. If you had asked me, in the thick of my worst relationship, how things were going I probably would have said some clichéd line about a “rough patch”, but that we were working on it and things were definitely “looking up”.

Some couples do dig themselves out of those rough patches, but more often than not those rough patches are caused by being mismatched in a relationship. It’s not you, it’s not them, it’s the two of you together. You are simply wrong for each other. Being one half of a wrong relationship taught me a lot about myself, my limits, and what I need to be happy in a relationship.

 

Here are seven things that being in the wrong relationship taught me.

  1. You should not feel like a martyr in your relationship, constantly sacrificing your happiness for your partners.
  2. If you’re constantly making excuses for them and defending them to your friends, it’s not the right relationship for you. Your friends are looking out for you, trust them enough to listen to what they have to say instead of listing excuses.
  3. If you cannot trust each other, it’s not the right relationship for you.
  4. You should never feel like you are “unloveable”, “too much”, or “difficult” for asking for what you need in a romantic relationship.
  5. If you’re terrified of losing them, it’s not the right relationship for you. Of course, you hope your partner will stay, but if you are fearful of being on your own and them leaving it’s not a healthy dependency.
  6. If you’ll fight with them about anything just to “spend time together”, it’s not the right relationship for you.
  7. If you contemplate breaking up more than fixing things, then it’s probably time you did.

 

Breaking up is never easy, and always seems harder in the moment, but it was the right move for me us. If you’re in this situation I would urge you to find the confidence, and courage, to end it. Find a relationship with yourself that makes you happy and a relationship with another that makes you proud. The right relationship for you is out there, so don’t stay in the wrong one.

 

Dear Molly, Why Is He Treating Me Like This?

I feel like I’m in an episode of Sex and the City, so I figured I’d ask Carrie Bradshaw 😂 I’ve been seeing this guy for a little over two months and things are going pretty good. The first two and half weeks were great, no red flags, no weird behavior, and then nothing. Like he dropped off the face of the Earth for about five days. No calls, no return texts, nothing and then he pops up again as if nothing happened. A couple weeks later it happened again. There, then gone, then back. What gives? Because it sucks and I don’t know why he would do that and treat me like this.

 

What did you do when he came back? You say you’ve “been seeing” him which makes me think you’re still seeing him? I’d change up your mindset and look at this from a different direction. Focus less on why he’s treating you the way he is and investigate is why you are accepting this type of treatment. The possibilities for why he went MIA are endless. Maybe he got caught up with work, maybe he needed space, who knows. At the end of the day it all comes back to the same point, he didn’t communicate effectively with you.

The beginning of a relationship can feel like a mad rush. And we want that right? That fiery intensity is half the fun of a new romance, but the heat can be too much for some people. That may have been the case with your guy’s first absence, but the fact that he’s done this to you twice now isn’t okay and shouldn’t be ignored. If he doesn’t respect you enough to communicate how he’s feeling, or that he needs time, or whatever is happening then he isn’t worth your time or energy. It’s not your job to teach him how to articulate his emotions like an adult. You are not his mother, don’t raise him.

When he goes AWOL, comes back, and your relationship picks up where it left off you are saying something about the behavior you’ll accept and something about the temperature of the relationship. It says that you view this as casually as he does and that you have an open-door policy on the relationship. I’d like to be hopeful and say that maybe after a conversation he would settle into a relationship with you (if that’s what you want) or at least be more predictable, but I’m doubtful that will happen after two months.

The world is too big and too full of people who will treat you properly to stay with someone who will jerk you around with emotional whiplash. I suggest cutting him loose. If he wants to be with you he’ll come back.

 

xx

 

Dear Molly, I Agreed to a Date I Don’t Want to Go On.

I don’t know why I said yes, but I did and now I have a date scheduled for next week and I don’t want to go on it. How do I let him down easy?

 

Things like this happen in the dating world. They happen a lot. Saying “no” in the moment isn’t a skill we all have (but it is one we should all develop) and that can lead to regret later on. I promise that this redaction will only be as big and bad as you make it.

 

How to do it…

Most people would say that in person is best, over the phone is better. But if the two of you met for a second and have only exchanged a few texts you can definitely do this over text. This isn’t a relationship you are ending, this is just a plan you are canceling.

 

What to say…

Keep it short and sweet and honest. If it isn’t a hurtful reason you can say exactly why you changed your mind. If it’s a situation where you felt pressured to give out your number or something like that and changed your mind you can say that too! Just keep it honest and easy.

You don’t own him an essay on all the reasons you’ve changed your mind. But you do own him the respect of canceling at least a day in advance (if possible). Keep it as simple as “Hi, I’ve been thinking about it and I’m going to need to cancel our date on Friday. I hope you have a great weekend.” If you want you can also include a line with the reason, like “I just feel that you’re a little too young for me” or whatever that reason may be, but you do not have to.

 

And then move on and start practicing how to say “no” in the moment.

 

xx

 

Dear Molly, Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater?

My boyfriend cheated on me and I don’t know what to do. That’s really all I have. I don’t even really have a question, I just don’t know what to do. Do you think once a cheater always a cheater? I don’t know if I can trust him anymore.

 

Most people think that someone who cheats is immediately untrustworthy and should be cut out of your life, I disagree. To me, assuming “once a cheater, always a cheater” is a very narrow view of someone’s sexuality, capacity for a healthy relationship, personality, and their ability for growth. A person who cheats is always able to have a healthy relationship in the future, whether that be with the person they cheated on or a new person.

I think people are fallible, we make mistakes. I think people are defined not by the mistakes they make, but by how they rise. How they move forward. It comes down to this: Did you find out on your own or did he come to you?

If he came to you there’s a good chance he feels guilty about it. If you want to continue the relationship you need to understand that there is trust to be rebuilt, that it will take time, that it will take patience and sacrifice from you. If he came you to and genuinely feels bad and wants to move forward then, to me, the question isn’t only about your capacity for forgiveness.

Can you move forward? Can you feel secure in the future? What do you need to achieve those pieces? Don’t get bogged down in details of was it one time or on-going, those things don’t matter if you want to move forward. If you can’t separate that type of detail than I suggest you leave, because the odds of you being able to have a solid relationship in the future are slim. We’re taught to “forgive and forget”, but with cheating, it’s not so simple. Maybe you can forgive, but you’ll never forget. The potential future of a relationship rests on your desire to move forward and rebuild trust.

If you found out on your own then, in my opinion, the gloves are off. Especially if it was romantic. You don’t need to stage your own Carrie Underwood Before He Cheats music video. You don’t need to weigh yourself down with acts of revenge. But you do need to leave. Pretending you don’t know isn’t an option. Pretending it’s not a big deal isn’t an option. You’re worth more.

 

So why do people cheat? Everyone’s reason is different. People cheat for the thrill, for an escape, because it really was a mistake, the list goes on. Cheating is not the thing that ruins a relationship, it’s a fork in the road. It’s a symptom of something that is already wrong. It doesn’t need to be immediate, but if you move forward with this guy, you may need to have a conversation about the “why?” which can be incredibly tough.

 

I can’t tell you what to do. I’ve been cheated on and left immediately, I’ve been cheated on and stayed. It’s subjective to each relationship and situation. What I can tell you is that staying in a relationship and moving forward is going to be difficult. It’s going to require work and blind trust in someone who just shattered the trust you had for them. It’s going to take strength and vulnerability. It’s going to be the process of establishing a new normal, a new foundation for your relationship. It’s going to be hard.

 

xx

 

On Why: The Third Date Rule is Outdated

We’ve all heard it. I’m sure you’ve heard it. You may have even said it. “Don’t sleep with him on the first date.” Or maybe you have a third, fourth, or fifth date rule yourself. I’ve never understood this. It never aligned with any of my other beliefs about dating, sex, and feminism.

If you want to sleep with someone, and they want to sleep with you, then you should. Period. I don’t know when we decided that sex needed to be more complicated than two ready, willing, and consenting adults. We’ve cultivated the idea that sex is currency within a relationship, something that you can exchange to get your husband to do chores around the house. Something you give out for good behavior and withhold for bad behavior. Dating and relationships are not a game to be won and your partner is not a pet to be trained.

Within dating, we have this idea that if you sleep with someone on the first date that they will never call you again. (“Date” in this case means an actual date, not meeting someone in a bar and going home together. That’s a different conversation altogether…) While there are some people who will take you to dinner all with the hope of sleeping together, in my experience, in talking with friends, in talking with you all, I haven’t found that to be true of most people.

Sex on the first date can turn into a marriage (like in the case of my friend Hannah), or a five and a half year relationship (like me), or nothing. To say that someone who you sleep with on the first date will never call you again is a conclusion based on the premise that all that person wanted was to sleep with you. People who only want sex troll bars, they don’t take you out for a $100 dinner. People who take you out want to get to know you. If someone doesn’t call you again after a first date where you slept together it’s much more likely that they just weren’t into you. You weren’t being used, you just didn’t mentally matchup.

I’m not encouraging you to sleep with everyone on a first date, I’m saying that if you want to – do it and if you don’t – don’t. Withholding sex on the first date (when you want to) to get more dates with someone isn’t a healthy way to look at sex within dating. Physical contact and intimacy are the foundation of relationships, don’t turn them into a competition.

The biggest thing I want you to take away is this: Have sex. Have lots of sex. Or have no sex. Have phone sex before regular sex. Have sex before you’re dating. Have sex on the first date. Have it when you want, how you want. Don’t let the social norm of a third date rule prevent you from going for it.

 

And as a special treat for those of you who read this far down: I asked you all on IG if you have a third date rule for sex and here are the results that were VERY split along gender lines…

34% of people DO have a third date rule when it comes to sex, of that group 11% were women

66% of people DON’T have a third date rule when it comes to sex, of that group 92% were women

make believe: a clean break {Four Things to Help You Find Post-Breakup Closure}

 

Even if you’ll later say that you saw it coming, nearly all breakups catch us off-guard. When that heart-wrenching moment happens to you it’s time to start looking forward, put the past in the past, and process through the pain. Personally, I thrive off of taking a step back and looking at the relationship and breakup from a place of logic, instead of emotion.

Here are a few things you may not expect, that can be extremely helpful as you work through a breakup:

 

He’s not interested anymore.

Why waste your time and energy on someone who doesn’t want you? The number one quality to look for in a partner in their love of you and their appreciation for all the wonderful things you are. They don’t see it? Don’t waste your time.

He didn’t know you.

Maybe he knew your favorite color or cocktail of choice, but he didn’t deeply, truly know and understand you. If he had the capacity to know and truly know you, he wouldn’t leave. A person that can understand all the nooks and crannies of who you are will want to stay.

If he’s “too busy” or has “too much going on” right now for a relationship.

He can’t meet your needs. If he doesn’t have “time” for you what he means is he doesn’t want to have time for your needs. If he’s listing off a ton of reasons why the two of you can’t be together all he’s doing is crafting his cop-out argument. If you’re “too much” or moving “too fast” it means he’s someone who can’t keep up.

He set you free.

It’s simple. He released you from a relationship with someone who couldn’t give you everything that you deserve and desire. You have so much freedom in being a “me” instead of a “we”. Embrace it.

Dear Molly, The guy I’m dating is pulling away. How do I keep him without being needy?

I started dating this guy a few weeks ago and at first everything was going super well. There wasn’t any weird “who is texting first” thing. There wasn’t any force conversation. It all felt so natural like we’d been friends for a long time. We went on around 10 dates, all good – I think – but since the last date (about 2 weeks ago) I’ve barely heard from him. A little here and there, but not like we used to. I feel like he’s pulling away and I’m not sure how to keep him without being needy. I’m frustrated and feeling forgotten. Help!

 

*A little housekeeping*

I’m going to start with the question most people reading this will immediately ask: Have you slept together and when? And answer it pretty quick: It doesn’t matter.

We get taught all these dating “norms” as women to wait until the third date or fifth date, or whenever, to sleep with someone because as soon as you do he’ll stop calling, stop texting, and slowly fade from your life. It’s just not true. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. There are no rules to how you can or can’t start dating someone.

 

Let get into it…

When you feel someone you care about pulling away it’s hard to not want to reach out all the time. New relationships are like sand, the tighter you white-knuckle them the more they seep through your fingers. With social media, we can see that this person is alive, and has the time to post and see their other friends. It raises the question: Why aren’t they choosing us? Why aren’t they writing us? Tempting as it may be to reach out, I highly suggest you refrain, take a beat, and regroup.

Maybe you just aren’t high enough on his totem pole of what matters in his day to day yet. Maybe he is pulling away. Maybe he’s simply busy. For most people this is the busiest time of their year, in the professional world we’re starting the biggest quarter of the year, it’s the end of Summer, universities’ Fall semesters just started up a few weeks ago. Instead of devoting your time to figuring out his motives, investigate why you are asking yourself these things at all.

All that we can say is definitely happening is that he is living in his freedom, living outside of the “you and him” and that is making you feel insecure. We have a habit of assuming that because someone doesn’t need us, that they don’t want us. His living free is not the same as him pulling away from you. When you start to ask yourself why he wouldn’t write you when he seems to have time you need to take a step back and ask why you care. Switch your focus from “Why isn’t he writing me?” to “Why do I need him to write me to feel wanted?”

Of course, we look at actions from people we care about as a reflection of how they care about us. Personally, I’m a big show me, don’t tell me person. But someone texting me “Good morning” every day isn’t “showing” me. Showing me would be wanting and working for that 11th date. It’s important to find your own foundation and stability outside of the relationship (whether that relationship is romantic, a friendship, or a family bond). Be solid in you. Flourish in your independence. Don’t rely on daily, breadcrumb interactions to validate how he feels about you. If he cares, it’ll be obvious once you step back.

You also need to remember that people love and express their care in different ways. Open up to the idea that he may be expressing his consideration for you in a way that you aren’t reading. Ten dates is quite a few for someone to just up and ghost you. I’d guess that he does care for you and that the two of you are speaking slightly different languages. What specifically makes you feel like he’s pulling away? That you aren’t talking all the time? Maybe he just feels like he doesn’t need to be in constant contact with you to show that he cares.

 

Moving forward

So what can you do right now? Don’t text him about the “space”. Don’t post your life on social media and expect him to come running. Don’t live for him. Don’t live for his attention.

Move forward in person. Try to schedule that 11th date. A little ruse never killed anyone. Shoot him a “My friend wants to hang out Friday, but I’d rather see you. You around?” or whatever feels like a you thing to say. If he’s interested he’ll make it happen. If he’s busy he’ll find an alternative time to see you. If he’s not interested, he won’t. You’ll get an “Ahh I wish I could”. Either way, you’ll have your answer.

Here’s the bottom line, you need to be secure in yourself and your partner’s freedom and you deserve a partner who never makes you question if they want you. Some people are naturally more independent, some people are naturally more co-dependent. I’m a very independent person and I really enjoy time to myself, but I know that my boyfriend doesn’t thrive in the same way. When I pull deeply into my own space and independence I have to be conscious of how it affects the relationship. In the same way that he stretches his stability to accept my independence, I stretch my independence to include him and keep a closeness.

If this person isn’t treating you the way you need, then move on. Earlier I said that there are no rules to dating and it’s true. Date whoever and however you want. What there are rules about is the behavior that you allow someone who knows you personally, romantically, or intimately to inflict on you. Do not tolerate what doesn’t serve you.

 

xx

 

Dear Molly, I’m In Love with My Best Friend and He’s Dating Someone Else.

Okay. So here is it: I really like my best friend and he’s dating someone. We are best friends, talk all the time, we met about a year ago and lately, it just feels different. I definitely didn’t intend on this but I’m pretty sure I want to be with him and I think he wants to be with me too. But he has a girlfriend so every time we end up talking about it it’s always one big joke like “major in another life” and nothing serious. Do I go for it? I am super conflicted because I was trying to put him back in the friend category and then last week he kissed me. Like what? Should I put myself out there to see what happens? HELP ME!

 

First, your friend is not treating you like a friend. Sure, he is in a tough spot, but that doesn’t mean he gets to lead you on and then laugh it off and go home to the security of a girlfriend. Life is happening right now, there’s no “another lifetime” mentality. What he’s doing, frankly, is cowardly. It’s the definition of having your cake and eating it too. He gets a girlfriend, a best friend, and a fantasy, and what do you get? Led on, hurt, and left wanting. You’re worth a lot more than that. You are worth more than his manipulation.

What you need are boundaries. You need to tell him, next time this comes up, to knock it off. Is he going to date you? Is he going to leave his girlfriend for you? No? Then you are in no way obligated (and should not) commiserate with him. As I said before, life is happening now. There’s no “missed opportunity” when the opportunity is right in front of you and actively available. If he wanted to date you, truly and deeply, he would. You would make it work because that’s what you do when you love someone. You two seem to have a very solid “friend” foundation and it’s not like he would be leaping for someone he just met, this is someone that he knows as a friend and clearly, the two of you connect. I’ve talked about this sort of things before in this post and think it applies here.

Falling for a friend and having that turn into something wonderful absolutely can and does happen, but remember that he’s not just your friend, you are his as well. Meaning that while you two are viewing your friendship through different lenses you are both experiencing the same interactions. If he thought there was something there he’s able to pursue it. The idea that you have to put yourself out there first so that he feels safe enough to tell you how he feels is ridiculous. You are both adults and if he wants you he shouldn’t need a safety net to go for it. Is that how you’d want him to be motivated? Do you want someone who plays it safe, or someone who would go for it?

Get some space from him and ask yourself if he’s someone who could actually give you what you need. To me, it seems like he’s not meeting you halfway in the friendship and wouldn’t meet you halfway in a romantic relationship either.

 

xx