Stop Treating All Women Like Potential Girlfriends

Now that I’m in my twenties, and in Utah nonetheless (infamous for its young marriage culture), I’ve felt the pressure that it is time to find a significant other. Since leaving the LDS Church, some of the urgency has subsided, but being single has often left me feeling like there was something wrong with me. Lucky for me, this year I came across many girls, and many people I could potentially date. As the year went on, none of those girls turned into my girlfriend, and except for one, none of them stayed friends with me, either. It was official…there was something wrong with me. Or at least that’s what I thought, until a very frank but respectful rejection clued me into the problem. The problem wasn’t with me, the problem was with how I viewed women. Women are not potential partners.

I’d always identified as a feminist. I always knew and firmly believed that women are much more than just wives or mothers. Women are their own individuals with lives just as complex, valuable and important as a man’s. Maybe my identifying as non-binary made it possible for me to avoid this issue I cared deeply about, but nevertheless here I stood. My belief of equality for women was abstract and detached from reality. The worst part was my feminism was detached from the women I’d encountered, while trying to find someone to date.

After a lot of reflection, I noticed a pattern when it came to talking to a new girl. It was almost like I had implemented an interview process. No, I didn’t have a list of questions that I would read off, but I had ways to see if we were compatible. I would tell her all about me, and send her memes, music, articles and movie/television suggestions. Suddenly of my ideas and feelings about girls came from how I saw her in relation to me. What did she think of me, and my interests,  my dreams, and my tastes and so on?  I always listened to, read and watched the things girls sent to me, but only because it helped me in my test of compatibility. I realize I’d only found value in girls, if we could potentially date, and if they fell within the restrictive mold I’d created.

Honestly, this realization, while really eye-opening, was also incredibly difficult for me. I was forced to confront my own toxicity and hypocrisy. I had devalued and dismissed so many girls because they hadn’t wanted to date me. I had never explicitly stopped talking to a girl or gotten angry with her for not wanting to date me, but situations are not always so black and white. When there was no longer the prospect of dating, our relationship would shift in terms of effort, excitement and dynamic. The shift admittedly was a little intentional, as I felt rejected but quite frankly, I didn’t realize what I was actually doing. After becoming more aware I asked myself, would a relationship have been successful if I didn’t value her enough to keep her in my life as friend? Then I realized it’s hard to value someone you don’t really know. Since I’d spent the majority of my time with these girls looking through the lens of who I wanted them to be, I’d missed out on actually getting to know them.

This semester I decided to try something new: I told myself, “Women are not just potential partners.” Now, this is not to say I couldn’t potentially date women I meet. This simply means that if you should view new women in your life as more than just people to date. Obviously, it can be different on an app like Tinder, a site specifically designed to find potential partners. When encountering rejection remember women exist for more than just dating you, so be respectful. Make an effort to have a healthy reciprocal friendships with the people you encounter, and you're bound to amazing memories. Getting to know girls as whole individuals, and not just through my own narcissistic lens has even lead to one of the few great friendships since college began. So, with that, I'd really like to say thank you to the girl who told me the truth. She definitely changed me for the better.