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Dating Advice for Those Who Swim Upstream

by Emily Dickerson about a month ago in dating
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Some unsolicited and far from professional or popular advice on dating by ED 5/17/22

Dating Advice for Those Who Swim Upstream
Photo by NATHAN MULLET on Unsplash

Dating is rough all around. Everyone’s experiences are so wildly different and yet every love story I’ve ever heard is relatable in one aspect or another. I want to detail some of my personal experiences that I hope can enlighten others about the modern romance scene, what they should be looking for, and what should make them run screaming for the hills.

Dating was never a multiplayer game.

From the time I had my first crush in elementary school, I knew that the easiest way to handle boys and dating would be to take every situation one at a time. I might be described as a monogamist extremist, taking the concept of “one and only” too far, but the moment I started even talking to a potential partner, every other option was thrown into a chest, locked up, and buried. Out of sight and out of mind. Part of this comes from my personality, not being a great multitasker, and being very detail-oriented. How could I devote all my attention to the duty of understanding each and every tiny facet of a potential boyfriend if I had to keep straight seven different dudes? No thanks, that sounded stressful, overwhelming, and exhausting. This hypothesis became a cemented reality when I grew up and dabbled in online dating.

Online dating has potential perks and many misgivings.

When I downloaded apps like Tinder and Bumble in high school and college, I liked the convenience of having a potential date just a few clicks away. It was fun at first to be the god of my little dating world as I swiped left and right and up and down. Judging potential boyfriends by their looks alone was much quicker than the rigorous probing and mind-reading I was used to.

However, even setting up my profile was a task I was not suited to, as I quickly began to overthink every aspect of the photos I uploaded, the order I placed them in, the biographies, and every single text message I sent. The variety also overwhelmed me as I looked for a “perfect” boyfriend, believing the options to be endless. Having to expand the radius by miles and miles, cities, and states made me feel desperate and hopeless, realizing that no one was meeting my (ridiculously high) standards.

Another side to online dating that never sat right with me was the hookup culture. The cascades of pictures of guys at parties drinking with their arms slung around girls in mini-skirts and swimsuit tops let me know right off the bat that no one was going to be down for studying in the park or going to Christian concerts. Especially on Bumble, where the bio included tags of what the other person is “looking for,” I saw so many disappointing admissions of only seeking unfulfilling flings or totally non-committal potential friendships that might evolve into something more. All that really amounts to is seeking the next best thing and hoping it doesn’t come with genital warts. Something else I knew from before my teen years was that I was always seeking a deeply intimate, loyal, promise of commitment for now and forevermore. Marriage is an understatement. I’m now engaged (thank the Lord), but the race is not over yet.

Pay attention to demonic demonstrations and Heavenly blessings in relationships.

Red flags aren’t a strong enough indicator anymore of when people should jump ship in relationships. Demonic demonstrations might be more precise terminology of problematic behaviors that can manifest in boyfriend or girlfriend. Maya Angelou comes to mind when I think of this aspect of meeting new people: “When someone tells you who they are, believe them.” If someone wants to show you that they are plagued by evil spirits and they allow those entities to influence, guide, and shape their behavior, let that be a deal breaker and get out of that relationship flying like a bat outta Hell! Some of the biggest problems and deal breakers in my past relationships are as follows:

Disrespecting boundaries: One young man (who was five years older than me) completely discarded my religious identity and culture as he took advantage of me for his own pleasure. He wouldn’t even commit to taking on the official title of my “boyfriend.” I now know that he had no intentions of respecting the limits of what I was comfortable doing physically when, after I told him I was saving myself for marriage, he still had the audacity to say “show me to the bedroom” as he kissed my neck and groped me. When I confronted him later about what he said, he dismissed it, claiming, “it was just a joke” and didn’t take responsibility for his actions. That relationship didn’t last long because his body belonged to the streets and his mind belonged to the world. The best mentality about dating and sex is that yes, everyone should wait for marriage, and no, there should be no exceptions to that rule. Ever. Can I get an "amen?"

Non-commitment: Another young man I dated for one day (yes, one day) spent seven hours with me doing a variety of activities: having lunch with me, meeting my family, playing video games with my siblings, going out for dinner with my family, and finally revealing to me on the drive back to my house that he “isn’t looking for a relationship at the moment” because he wants to “focus on his career.” Well, good luck with that, buddy, because, even though I mentioned I don’t multitask well, thankfully I can do more than focus on being a cashier in community college. Not only did I struggle to even comprehend how he could say “you deserve that every person you date should treat you as well as I treated you today,” but why did he lead me on for so long Snapchatting me like he was the Romeo to my Juliet? He messaged me after the breakup to say he really liked me, but could only see us being friends, smoking a bowl together every once in a while and maybe our friendship would turn into something more. No thanks, poser. I know what I want in my life, and the possibility of a relationship ain’t it.

Motherhood: Dating is normally a time to scope out boyfriends with the potential to become great dads, partners in life, and a rock to cling to in hard times. The last thing I thought I was signing up for when I went on a Bumble date in my neighborhood was a babysitting gig. I was 21 at the time and he was 19. Age has always been a number to me, so I didn’t let my parents’ sideways glances and grumblings phase me. They were disappointed I couldn’t go get a drink with this guy, and I was disappointed that he was more interested in the family dog than in my hopes and dreams for the future. Don’t get me wrong, he was sweet and romantic, but his inexperience in dating, social awkwardness, and obsession with becoming a K-9 Police Officer reminded me of kindergarten when teachers ask what we want to be when we grow up. He made it very clear that he was going to include a German Shepherd in his life, no matter what it would take. Living with a particularly rambunctious dog in my parents’ home at that time made me wonder if locking this guy down as my future husband would lock me up in a dog cage in my marriage. I love pets, but I just can’t deal with cleaning up after a baby-husband, babies, and a dog. Who was I supposed to have intelligent conversations with if my husband was on the floor giving belly rubs and cooing “Who’s a good boy?”

Jealousy: A man who can’t let me leave the house without approving the length of my skirt, the opacity of my shirts, and the amount of makeup I am wearing is not someone I want to spend my life with. Jealousy might seem romantic, protective, or innocuous at first, but when it persists, it can morph into envy, manipulation, control, and gaslighting, making a partner feel guilty for the actions or intentions of strangers. I appreciate someone recommending I grab a jacket before heading out if it’s unusually chilly, but banning the wearing of shorts or spaghetti straps outside the house altogether? That’s pretty unreasonable, and only really points to the insecurity of the jealous person rather than the “promiscuity” of the partner. This behavior can extend into monitoring or controlling who a partner spends time with, what content someone views on the internet, and always assuming the worst of a partner’s intentions when someone of the opposite sex is involved. I experienced this frequently with a boyfriend who once gave me the silent treatment for having the audacity to speak to my friend and her boyfriend, together, on FaceTime. The fact that he considered this disrespectful was a clear indication that he had some trauma surrounding betrayal in a past relationship, which he later admitted to me. This was a relief to discover and let me know he wouldn’t go full psycho on me and lock me in a dungeon to keep me away from the rest of the world, which leads me into the blessings I have encountered in dating experience.

Some of the best qualities I have found in my past relationships have applied to more than one area of my life. I can judge good character from a mile away because I have extremely high standards and a strong moral compass. Here are some things I recommend everybody look for in their future husband or wife.

Godliness: A religious identity is a great blessing in a potential partner because a quick Google search will help outline the core beliefs and values of that person. Most religious people are clear about their code of conduct, purpose in life, and stance on relationships. Someone who is swayed by the whims of their body or the whistling of the wind will not make a loyal, steadfast partner in life. People who aim to be like God, not in the narcissistic sense, will hopefully focus on humility, service, and love of one’s neighbor which will almost guarantee that he or she will be kind and put others first. That makes for great parenting and life building.

Patience: Someone who is willing to wait for you, whether you’re tying your shoe or battling through the last year of school, is someone who can be counted upon for reliability, consistency, and stability. Patience is also a sign of maturity, someone who has progressed past the expectation of immediate gratification. I know that in my case, when my date said he couldn’t be in a relationship due to his circumstances, I had to let him go and slam the door behind him, lest I give him the authority to string me along and waste my time. Patient people are also less selfish and less narcissistic because they know that the world does not revolve around them and that their time is no more important than anyone else’s.

Humor: As people fight to be PC in a rapidly changing culture, it seems that everyone has lost the ability to laugh. Not only do people not laugh at comics, because their content is deemed offensive and “violent,” people have also stopped finding joy in everyday life. The constant comparisons made to social media stars, the tragic news pumped out by the news, and the common belief that there is nothing to live for except the present, which looks abysmal, has left the world seeking a reason to roll out of bed every day, much less smile. I would not have survived the worst difficulties of my life if I hadn’t been able to watch silly cat videos, laugh at myself tripping over my shoes, or listening to my ingenious fiance’s sarcastic comments about the dumbest characters in horror movies. Laughter is the best medicine, and the world is desperately in need of a prescription.

Communication: Remember a couple of paragraphs ago when I shared the story about my boyfriend giving me the silent treatment? Remember how I used words to communicate what happened and how that made me feel? Yeah, me too. Communication is key in relationships, and I know I’m not breaking any new ground, but it is too important to ignore. I know it is a common stereotype that men should be “strong and silent,” but silence didn’t let me know that my boyfriend was upset with me about the FaceTime call. It was only after he chose to talk about it that we could apologize and move forward. A different stereotype portrays women as “sociopaths” who play mind games with their boyfriends and husbands, expecting that he will read their passive aggressive body language and magically divine what “they did wrong.” There are no mind readers living today, as far as I am aware, and men are not going to understand that it is polite to put the toilet seat down if the women in their lives do not calmly and clearly express that sentiment with love. Grow up, use words to communicate, and thank me later when the petty fighting drops to a minimum.

Family-oriented: Look for someone who loves their immediate family. Seek out people who understand boundaries and are independent, but also are grateful for the people who raised them and those who treat their families with respect and love. Selfish people do not speak kindly of their families, and they won’t do a one-eighty and magically become a superb partner if they don’t respect their parents or siblings. I know not everyone is thrilled with the idea of becoming a parent the moment they graduate college, but an openness to family is natural and reveals many qualities of a potential partner. Self-love versus sacrificial love is one of the most important things I have sought out in my boyfriends over the years. Someone who is often willing to give up personal time, hobbies, clothing, food, and personal space is someone who will not only treat me well, but treat our future children well, too.

As difficult as dating is, with God nothing is impossible, not even finding someone worth spending your whole life with.

Let me know what speaks to you and what makes you rethink your love life in the comments below, and if you have read this far, thank you for taking the time today to listen and reflect with me.


About the author

Emily Dickerson

Hopeful and young, full of love. From my heart high praises are sung. For this reason I am here: to love and serve and bring all souls near. <3

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