Last week I went into detail on what I believe is the real problem with relationships. For a super hip young city, we take our relationships a bit too seriously. Sometimes we forget to have fun, let loose and build amazing connections with each other. We focus on whether or not a relationship is possible and claw at our potential partner for attention – or run for the hills with the first hint at commitment.
You see, there has been a huge breakdown in communication and we have become increasingly reactionary. We have built our relationships on assumptions, over-communication, reactions to assumptions and counterbalancing reactions to miscommunications. The constant push and pull caused by this cycle has made relationships heavy and unnecessarily serious. I see couples jump into relationships too early, stay in bad relationships far too long, or never get into the best ones out of fear of commitment.
The madness needs to stop.
We need to tease apart our need for connection and our desire or aversion for commitment. We need to stop making assumptions about what our potential partners want, especially if they involve mass generalizations about gender. Let’s start asking better questions and giving more honest answers.
We have muddled connection and commitment. And when we start seeing the two as mutually exclusive – and release the pressure – we might actually enjoy dating in this town.
Here are a few of the things that I believe we can do to separate connection and commitment and put them each back into their respective boxes, where they serve important, but very separate purposes.
Enjoy the connection
It’s what all humans crave: the ability to talk to someone about absolutely anything. That chemical pull that makes you laugh at even the dumbest jokes and makes you feel all tingly and romantic. The comfort of being able to sit with someone in silence and be completely content. That is connection. You can’t fake connection, even when you force a label on a relationship. And you don’t need to be in a relationship to feel this. It is the most amazing gift you can give someone – to be completely open and share a connection with them without expectations.
Don’t worry about the commitment (yet)
People who live with a scarcity mentality feel the constant pressure that there aren’t enough eligible partners in Portland. Before the connection has a chance to catch and build into a genuine mutual respect/passion relationship, they try to force a label on it. They think “I found a good one, I need to lock this down before someone else does!” and begin playing games of manipulation and sleazy seduction to rush the process of commitment. It rarely works in their favor. So slow down and pause on the commitment until the foundation of connection is built.
There is one emotion that is powerful enough to make any incredible connection go limp. Desperation. I smell it the moment I walk into most bars. I can see men and women who have had too many beers and not enough attention scanning the room for someone to flirt with and eventually take home. This desperation is palatable and unfortunately the only remedy for it is true self-compassion and respect. There is a sad irony in the whole situation. Having that compulsive look of needing a companion, is often the thing that drives away a partner who could have been the love of your life.
Stop assuming and start asking questions
Some people (often men) who are allergic to relationships, or are simply not ready to settle down yet, have an acutely honed radar for women who are serious about commitment. But this radar is flawed. They often misinterpret a woman who is open, honest and connective as needing a relationship. Most of the time they are wrong. Before you pull away from a person because you think things are feeling too intimate or connected, ask the person what they are looking for. Make no assumptions. Many of the most amazing women in Portland have big hearts and enormous sexual energies and aren’t looking for a forever partner – they are looking for a great time with a person they feel connected to. I’ve seen men push them away because they’ve made assumptions that aren’t true. Don’t miss out on an incredible sexual relationship because you didn’t ask the right questions.
Connection is not a currency
You can’t have too many connections or too much connection. I see people playing the insane game of “if…then…” with relationships and driving themselves in desperation and aloneness. “I feel more connected to J, but he isn’t as interested in me as B. So if J doesn’t invite me to his party for NYE then I’ll go with B, or maybe M.” Just allow yourself to be connected to people, regardless of where the relationship is going. Be open and honest with all of your partners (without over-communicating) and make sure you are super tuned in to your own intuition. Relationships will ebb and flow naturally when you trust yourself to make good decisions. If you need help rebuilding that trust – you might need a relationship coach. I’d love to hear your story.
Stop the sequence of reactions
This sounds easier than it is. But if you feel your relationship with a new potential partner start to spiral into reactions and assumptions, stop everything. Give yourself room to breathe and don’t let yourself add more to the mayhem. Stop texting and pick up the phone. Most misunderstandings and assumptions happen in the gap between iPhone ellipses. Then take a few days of no communication and come back together only if you feel that connective pull. Get very clear on what you REALLY want from a relationship. Do you want a connection? Do you really need a commitment? Be honest with yourself and find a partner who wants the same thing.