The Problem of Opposite Sex Friends

One of my best friends right now is a guy.  And what I get from that friendship is something that I couldn’t get from a friendship with a woman.

I think anyone who has had close non-sexual relationships with members of the opposite sex can understand what I’m talking about.  There’s just a difference in perspective and approach that my guy friends have that I find very valuable.

I almost always have at least one close guy friend.  Have since I was probably fifteen.

Not someone I was dating, but someone I trusted implicitly and could talk to about almost anything.  Those friendships eventually end.  The last three because the guy in question found a wife and we slowly drifted apart as he devoted himself to his marriage.  (As a man should.)

And that right there highlights the issue with these kinds of friendships.  They take up a lot of emotional space and demand a certain amount of time and energy.  Time and energy that should be spent of finding someone more permanent or on your current relationship.

Its convenient and safe to let this type of deep friendship fill in for a romantic relationship or fill the holes in a less-than-adequate relationship.  It meets those emotional needs that a romantic relationship should meet.  It’s not actually a substitute for a full-blown romantic relationship, but it can consume enough time and energy that you fail to pursue a real relationship or fail to extract yourself from a failed relationship.

And that’s where the problem lies.  When that friendship prevents you from finding the right relationship for you.

I whole-heartedly believe in being friends with members of the opposite sex.  I’d lose half my friends if I weren’t friends with men.  But when a friendship moves into that deep, sharing place, alarm bells should be ringing in my head.

The other problem with a friendship like that is that it makes dating that much harder.  You have this mental bar set based upon that close friend of yours and you hold every potential match up to that standard.  Problem is, that standard is based upon someone you know really, really well and no one can meet that standard in a first impression.

(Or maybe they can.  But you end up eliminating a lot more potential matches right away when you set that kind of bar for new people.)

So, I’m not saying walk away from a friendship that provides you a vital source of support.  I’m just suggesting you try to be aware of how that relationship is affecting the rest of your life and where it might in fact be holding you back.

 

The Art of Conversation

I touched on this a bit in Don’t Be A Douchebag, but it seems (after dinner with a recently-single guy friend the other night) that this is something the ladies might need to work on as well.

Conversation has a flow to it.  There has to be a give and take for it to work.

Like volleying in tennis.  I hit the ball to you, you hit the ball back.  I am trying to get you the ball and you are trying  to get it back to me.  It’s a cooperative effort.

With online dating, where a lot of men fall down is in the return volley, so to speak.

We’re exchanging e-mails, I ask what he likes to do, he gives me two paragraphs about his hobbies, and that’s it.

When that happens it puts all the burden of continuing the conversation on me.  And, if he’s not all that interesting, I generally choose not to bother.

What should a guy (or a gal) do?

Ask a follow-up question.

“I like to do macrame.  What about you?  What do you like to do?”  Or  “I like to do macrame.  Have you ever done it?”  Or “I like to do macrame.  That’s kind of an odd hobby, isn’t it?”

Say something that requires the other person to respond.

This even works if you’re not a big talker.

They ask what your hobbies are, you answer, and then you let them babble for a while.

“What are your hobbies?”

“Reading, mostly.  You?”

“Well, on Mondays I like to go to the gym, and on Tuesdays…”

Off they go and you’re having a conversation.

Otherwise?

It looks like this:

“What are your hobbies?”

“Reading, mostly.”

“Oh.”

Both stare awkwardly into their coffee cups.

“So, uh, what do you read?”

“Thrillers.”

“Oh.  Cool.”

Both once again stare awkwardly into their coffee cups.

The other nice thing about asking a question is that it triggers most people’s instinct towards politeness.

So, a girl who might not respond to your message if there’s no reason to do so, will respond if you ask her a direct question.  (Even if she’s not all that interested.)  Because it’s rude not to respond to a question.  Right?

And every response you get means one more chance to impress her and one more chance to succeed at this whole dating thing.

So, whether via e-mail or in person, you need to do your part to create that back and forth with someone.

If they don’t hold up their end?  Well, screw ’em.  There are plenty of fish in the sea.  (Because that give and take thing?  There are other areas where that matters A LOT.)

Missed Opportunities

It must be something to do with the holiday season.  Seems it’s time to think about the one that got away.

I had dinner with a buddy this week who is newly-single and he was talking about his post-college girlfriend who broke up with him because he wasn’t moving forward with things.  Now, a decade later, she’s happily married to some other guy and he’s looking back at his younger self and thinking what an idiot he was.

I also received an e-mail from a guy friend about a moment we’d once had where either one of us could’ve acted and made something happen, but we hadn’t.  And now that chance has passed.

It’s easy to look backward and think “what might have been.”  The past is rosy and full of possibility.  All the reasons you didn’t act at the time have been forgotten and you can imagine an alternate future where things turned out perfectly.

It’s much harder to look forward into the gray uncertainty of the future and make something of it.  The way forward is full of setbacks and challenges.  If you try to create something new you will likely fail before you succeed.  You will get hurt or hurt someone.

But moving forward is the only real choice.  Because the past, as seductive as it may seem, isn’t real.

So, this holiday season, rather than think about what might have been, think about what may be and make it happen.

 

It Really Was Better Then

I remember growing up and having parents or grandparents talk about the good old days.  Like the present time was somehow flawed in comparison.  And, yet, despite that, I always figured that things would just continually improve.

Better technology, better life, right?

Well, today I finally hit that point where I think that things were better when I was a kid than they are now.

Why?  Because there was yet another school shooting today.  As part of it, kids were locked down in their classrooms while the police looked for bombs.

And everyone honestly believed that there could very well be bombs at that school.  Because that’s how things are these days.

I remember when I was in school we had some stupid idiot call in a few bomb threats.  I think he called in three in a week if I recall correctly.

The fire trucks responded each time and we were evacuated while they went through the school with bomb-sniffing dogs.

But we didn’t actually believe there was a bomb.  We all stood around chatting and shivering in the cold, completely unconcerned.  Because I grew up during a time when no one bombed schools.  And no one shot up schools.

Nowadays?  In the U.S.?  It’s just a question of which school will have a shooter this year.  And that is very, very sad.

The Window of Opportunity

For some people they grow into liking someone.  They talk about not being initially attracted and then slowly seeing the potential in that person.

For me?  It’s the exact opposite.

I meet a guy, I’m attracted to him, and some invisible clock starts ticking down.

Depending on the guy, he generally has from two hours to three months to actually make a move before his window of opportunity closes.

I remember going to a friend’s wedding and meeting one of his good friends.  For whatever reason, that wedding weekend (and maybe it was the whole “I’m at a wedding thing”) I found that guy incredibly interesting and potentially attractive.

(I like smart men.  If I meet a man who’s smart in a non-douchebaggy way–i.e. he doesn’t try to hit me over the head with facts and figures and correct everything I say–I will find him attractive initially even if physically he isn’t all that.)

So, that guy had a window of opportunity with me.  But he didn’t act and by the next time I saw him, six months or so later, the window was closed.  Can’t tell you why.  We met for lunch and the spark was gone.

There was another guy I met in college who I found absolutely beautiful the day I met him.  To the point of awkwardness.  For whatever reason I was just mesmerized by him that day.  I ran into him a month or so later at the pub and didn’t even realize it was the same guy.  The window was closed.

If I interact with a guy on a regular basis the window can stay open longer.  Even if he’s not asking me out, if I feel like I’m getting positive responses back from him, I’ll stay interested for a bit.

But I can’t sustain that interest forever.  Eventually the window closes.

Why?  Let’s see…

– I see past whatever initially drew me in (like his intelligence) and the rest is just eh

– I realize that what initially drew me in isn’t really valid

– I get annoyed that he’s flirting with me but won’t act on it and decide he’s just an ass

– I convince myself that continuing to be attracted to him is just a waste of time (even if he isn’t an ass)

– I reach a point where if he did act I’d be so annoyed at him for not acting sooner that I know it just won’t be pretty even if we do hit it off because I’ll hold it against him for not acting sooner

For each guy, I can’t tell you how long the window will last.  And it’s a bit like a light switch.  I’m interested and then I’m not.  No, gray area.  It just dies.

So, my advice to the guys out there?  Act.

If you like a woman, act on it.  Sooner rather than later.

Failure to act is how you end up in the friend zone.

(Oh, and those first two points.  If you act before that happens then maybe you give the woman a new reason to like you that keeps her hanging on.  And then you give her another reason to like you.  And another.  And another.  Baby steps.  But you have to take the first one to get it started.)

Online Dating Does Work

Not for everyone, but it does work.

I was thinking about this today because a friend of mine who met her husband online just had a baby.  And she and her husband really are a good match.  They wouldn’t have met if it weren’t for online dating.

Another friend of mine met his wife online as well.  And four, five years later (?) they’re still going strong.

I think what both of my friends had in common was a very positive attitude towards the whole thing.

My friend who just had the baby went on a large number of dates from the site she was on.  She wasn’t trying to be overly selective up front.  She was just trying to get out there and meet people and see what happened.

Me?  I’m a paranoid freak who thinks there are some seriously crazy people out there, so I am always pretty aggressive in weeding guys out before I meet them.  Which, since I’m still single and she’s not, kind of shows that her method is more successful.

Then again, she’s also a relationship person and I’m not.  I think between her first boyfriend and her husband she spent maybe six months of her life single.

I’m a firm believer that if you just keep trying you’ll eventually find someone.

All you have to do is look around at the people who do end up with someone and you’ll generally see a pattern of people who keep getting into relationships until they find one that sticks.

Of course, a lot of those people also have some pretty miserable experiences along the way.  My friend had at least one dating experience that would’ve completely freaked me out and probably driven me into hiding for a good six months.

The key I think is to be open, approach it with a positive attitude, and keep trying.

(And if that fails you can do what I did and write a book explaining all the things that just made you want to throw your hands up in despair…)

Don’t Jinx It

I am a paranoid person.  I knock on wood.  I believe that bad luck comes in threes.  And I think that you just don’t say certain things because it just might jinx it.

Today I had a friend post about having had her “last first date ever”.  (The date was a few years ago.  Thankfully she’s not an irrational nut that goes on one date and thinks it’s happily ever after.)

I saw that post and was happy for her that she’s found someone.  BUT…

I also winced.

Because in this day and age, you just never know.

One of my very good friends just got divorced.  She’s not the first friend of mine that has gotten divorced and I’m sure she’s not the last.

And then there’s death and illness and who knows what else?

If life goes well, she has another fifty years ahead of her.  Minimum.

And I just don’t think she can say something like that safely.

It’s romantic.  But it’s not realistic.

And, I guess it makes me old-fashioned, but I just don’t trust a situation where a guy hasn’t put a ring on it.

(Hell, I don’t trust some situations where a guy has put a ring on it.)

(I once had a co-worker tell me that once you’re married you realize that nothing’s set in stone until the kids arrive.  Up until then, a guy is still potentially available.  Whoa!  At least the guy telling me that had kids…)

So, anyway.  Just my thought for the day.  I’m seriously hoping that the next relationship update I see by my friend is a positive one, but with words like that…she’s just tempting fate.