Dating has always been hard. How could it not be with all of the “what-ifs” running through daters’ minds? What if we run out of things to talk about? What if he doesn’t text me back? And so on. Those questions, coupled with the nuances of online dating, where the act of swiping right or left is all it takes for getting someone’s number or missing out completely, makes dating seem nearly impossible. Ultimately, the real reason why you’re swiping becomes foggy.
Ironically, it’s that lack of clarity that’s behind most dating faux pas— not realizing the boy you’ve been texting really only wants a casual fling until you’re too invested, or seeking out what you think is your ideal relationship when that couldn’t be farther from what you really want. According to human behavior and relationship expert Dr. Patrick Wanis, it’s that not-knowing that affects daters the most. “You can be easily influenced down the wrong path when you don’t know which is the right path for you,” says Dr. Wanis.
Think about it. We’ve all been there, in one context or another, where we’re left wondering what went wrong in a new relationship or even an old one. For some, the answer is to stop dating all together, or to avoid serious, long-term relationships in favor of those with less commitments. For others, the answer never comes and they’re left muddling over who did what and why. One result that’s almost universally common, is the act of vowing to protect your feelings so they aren’t hurt again.
To help you avoid making those common dating mistakes, and figure out what it is you’re really looking for in a relationship, we talked to two relationship experts, Dr. Wanis and the founder of Sexy Confidence, Adam LoDolce, to figure out why you might be subconsciously lying to yourself about the type of relationship status you want and need and how you can avoid doing it in the future.
For starters, it’s actually pretty common among men and women to hide or lie about your true feelings.
Dr. Wanis has found that both men and women hide their true feelings regarding whether or not they want to be in a serious relationship. “I don’t believe it’s specifically gender-based,” says Dr. Wanis. He’s not alone in this thought either, LoDolce also notes that both men and women are equally likely to hide the reasons why they’re dating. “I think as time has gone by, men and women are a little bit less willing to open up, especially younger people where there’s less of a social contract,” says LoDolce. Sound familiar? On college campuses that relaxed, unspoken open contract regarding dating and relationships can be the reason for dating nightmares.
This is especially true in an age where hookup culture is prevalent on almost every college campus, making hard to really put yourself out there. So, next time you embark on a new relationship, especially in college, take a minute and think about if this is really what you’re interested in. Digging a little bit deeper, and asking yourself what worked and what didn’t in previous relationships may also point you in the right direction. If nothing else, you might realize subconscious feelings you’ve been harboring from previous relationships that are hurting you in current ones.
There’s more than one reason for why you may be hiding your feelings.
According to Dr. Wanis, those reasons vary depending on situation. For example, some women may enter into a relationship they don’t want to be in, but hide their true feelings because they are seeking approval from peers. Other women do so to avoid conflict or criticism, isolation or the feeling of being overtly different. One way this might present itself in modern dating is, after starting a new relationship, lying to your partner about the type of relationship you’re seeking. For example, lying to prevent scaring the other person away as a result of wanting a more serious relationship. “Remember, there is a difference between the conscious and subconscious mind,” says Dr. Wanis. “Consciously one might say, I don’t want to be in this relationship because I like my freedom, when really what she means subconsciously is that she doesn’t want to be in this relationship because she fears rejection; she just isn’t consciously aware of that,” says Dr. Wanis. A lot of the time, people aren’t intentionally lying about what they want out of a relationship, so it’s important to take a step back and peel back those emotional layers to make sure you’re not subconsciously protecting yourself or hindering yourself from forming future relationships. Intentional or not, the outcome of a miscommunication in a break-up often has the same effects.
The outcome of lying about what you’re really looking for in a relationship negatively affects you too, not just the other person.
“I teach every one of my clients to be honest with yourself and to be truthful to yourself and then be honest and truthful with others,” says Dr. Wanis. This reminder, when you really break it down is reminiscent of the lesson that we all learned early on in life, but often overlooked: to treat others how we want to be treated. But, hurting feelings isn’t the only reason you should be honest with yourself. Aside from the emotional ramifications of accidentally, or intentionally stringing someone along in an effort to conceal what you’re really looking for in a relationship, Dr. Wanis also points out how detrimental lying about what you want can be to your personal health. “If you are hiding yourself from yourself, then you are robbing yourself from life’s enjoyment or the enjoyment of life,” says Dr. Wanis. Simply put, you aren’t just derailing someone else’s chance at happiness, you’re also affecting your own shot at happiness.
How to avoid lying or misunderstanding what you want out of a relationship in the future:
“A lot of people do a lot of assuming when it comes to relationships,” said LoDolce. “And the worst thing that can happen, is that all of these assumptions are made, and it’s two or three months of seeing each other, only to discover the other person never wanted a relationship in the first place,” says LoDolce. On college campuses, that plays out more often then not. It’s hard to turn to a guy you met out a few weeks ago ask him where he sees this going. For starters, you don’t want to be turned down or open the door to something more serious than what you were looking for. To avoid these miscommunications, here are three questions Dr. Wanis encourages you to ask yourself, and then ask your partner.
- Ask yourself what you want.
- Figure out what your values are.
- Define your motivators.
“The point is to get clear about what you really want in life,” says Dr. Wanis. One example according to Dr. Wanis is, “If your current top value is freedom and independence, then you’re not going to get into a serious relationship,” meaning that you’re able to date, as long as you let your partner know that you want that independence and ability to hangout with your friends, so he or she is clear that he’s not your top priority.
Dating is hard, but not being honest with yourself about your expectations and wants only makes it harder.