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One of the perks of being a single hetero woman writing about dating and sex is you get into the minds of men for, er, research to edify readers.
Here’s an earnest question from one of my male friends that I found interesting, and hopefully you will, too. What follows in the Q-and-A form is a dating dilemma from a “man about town” and my earnest answer.
Question: Let’s say you like someone, but there’s a certain amount of work – addressing each other’s insecurities. How do I know when there’s too much work and when it’s no longer worth it?
My first instinct is to address what my male friend means by “too much work,” which in this case he’s defined as “addressing each other’s insecurities.”
Since he’s left this part rather vague, I’m going to make some assumptions, starting with the most general.
Some people are better at masking insecurities than others. Some people (men and women alike) wear their insecurities on their sleeves.
For a reason this columnist finds incredibly grating, our culture adores self-deprecation and finds the cute flaunting of insecurities endearing.
For example, a woman who takes on the insecure persona might come off as charmingly neurotic, but a man who wears the insecure hat comes off as boyishly vulnerable. Beware.
Men, admit that you know most women will be attracted to your vulnerability because they think they can heal you, which in their minds will cause you to fall incredibly in love with them.
In my experience, this is rarely the case. Men can be resentful toward women who have helped them through tough times. Just a guess here, but this is most likely tied to social expectations of what it means to be a man.
Secondly, in the beginning of a relationship, you should be excited and giddy about the other person, so much so that relating anecdotes about this new potential romantic partner will drive all your friends insane (or at least incite way too many eye rolls: i.e. “Here he goes again about so-and-so.”)
These anecdotes (and I hate using directives like should, but I am wearing my advice columnist hat so…) should be positive, hilarious (at least to you) and sweet, not full of complaints.
Think about it: If you get a mealy apple, are you going to eat through to the core in the hopes of it getting sweeter? No. You’re going to get another piece of fruit. That is, unless you enjoy sour apples.
“Working on yourself will attract a person who
has a working relationship with insecurities.”
Some people, usually those who fear intimacy, settling down, monogamy and the stability of a partner, intentionally seek out rotten apples. Then when the worm comes along, he can point to it and say, “See! I was right all along. Intimacy is for chumps.”
Never underestimate the power of proving yourself right and reinforcing comfortable behavior patterns.
As as far as “addressing each other’s insecurities,” I wonder how my friend plans on doing this, which will essentially determine if the relationship is budding or “no longer worth it.”
I guess it depends on how transparent he is going to be about addressing this dilemma.
If my friend means having open discussions with his partner about anxieties and self-perception, this could be a wonderful way to establish communication and newfound trust. That’s the best-case scenario, and good for you guys for being committed enough to yourselves to be honest with another person.
Unfortunately, not all people behave this way toward each other, especially around the prickly subject of insecurities and especially while in the nascent stages of dating. That’s because insecurities in relationships either have to do with one’s own bag of psychosocial hang-ups or stone-cold facts.
If your insecurities stem from your own issues (past relationship mishaps, heartbreak, self-image, an unsupportive family dynamic), you are most likely looking for validation, what you perceive as the antidote to your insecurities.
Honestly, (and you probably know this) only you (and a good therapist) can help you feel validated and enjoy your sense of worth. It’s been my experience that people who enter relationships with a healthy sense of themselves have a better shot at making the relationship work.
Your partner’s single function is not to validate your life. It’s to be supportive and believe in you. She should champion you and all your pipe dreams because those pipe dreams are part of what makes you YOU, right?
A partner worth holding on to should also shut down your insecurities by making you feel safe, but in no way should validation be a determinant of a romantic relationship.
Get your shit together before pursing partnership.
If you are insecure about a person because she has led you to feel insecure, has she been erratic in her pursuit of you?
Does this person constantly bring up past relationships? Have you already caught the person in a lie? Do you hang out only in particular circumstances, especially ones that do not lead to really getting to know one another? Then get out immediately!
If this is “a certain amount of work,” think of the drudgery to come.
Incidentally, you become a stronger, more self-serving person when you acknowledge your insecurity and listen to it. Trust in your intuition and act upon it. This is the only cure-all I’ve found for adult insecurities.
You have to do something different. Break behavior patterns that help insecurities fester.
I also want to discuss how our culture – and dating culture in particular – preys upon our insecurities.
Whether it’s the touting of a new sexual position that looks like a move out of an advanced Bikram yoga class, numeric breakdowns of how much a match you are with someone, products that enhance sexual vitality, the pressure to emulate how celebrities have babies or our reliance on highly curated, filtered and superficially validating social media to get to know a person, it’s not easy to be totally secure in yourself when you’re on the singles market.
Multibillion-dollar industries make a mint off products designed to question how appealing we are and then offer solutions to make us better.
I’m not saying women shouldn’t invest in lacy lingerie or men should ignore the allure of woodsy aftershave, but I am urging you to be cognizant of the corporate machine that’s manufacturing today’s Love Potion #9.
No magic sex position, perfect online dating profile or appearance/performance enhancement is going to make you more appealing to another.
Working on yourself, to be the most transparent and honest person you can be, will attract the type of person who has a similar working relationship with her insecurities.
You have to do schoolwork, housework and self-work if you want to be smart, domestically comfortable and able to live in your own skin with a degree of satisfaction.
I guess the real question becomes: What tune are you going to whistle while you work?