“You’ll know it’s the real deal when there’s no bullshit.”
- Wife of Say Whaat’s high school math teacher
We got to talking about a drama-filled situation in the comments yesterday. The beginnings of relationships are often full of angst, hand-wringing, and double checking to make sure you didn’t accidentally set your phone to silent. It’s not surprising in this era where physical intimacy usually precedes emotional intimacy. Even if it’s just a makeout session, you’re often swapping spit with a virtual stranger and while the kissing kindles desire, it does not generally communicate anything of emotional import.
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To get from there to dating is a tricky process. It reminds me of a dance contest – once you’re tapped on the shoulder, you’re out of the running and you have to watch from the sidelines until the winner is selected. Most young people will feel many taps before they are chosen. When it feels right, though, you usually will know it from the start. Perhaps the ideal progression would look like this:
All good, but also rather predictable. None of that frisson of uncertainty that makes us desperate to make someone ours. Part of the fun is not feeling confident, having to work to win someone’s affection and commitment. Butterflies and hoping to see someone again build desire, anticipation, and get us revved up for connection. A promising start to a rewarding relationship will probably look something like this:
Note the blips, but also the general upward trajectory. You’re not wondering whether he likes you. You’re not looking for ways to excuse periods where he ignores you or makes no effort. Sure, the two of you may argue. There may be a mini crisis when an ex makes an appearance. But the relationship feels like the real deal – or at least like it could be the real deal – from the start.
When a relationship doesn’t feel good, when the level of uncertainty is always present and preoccupies you, you should bail rather than waste your time. Far too many relationships follow this pattern:
I suspect most readers will nod in recognition. Most young women I know have been involved in -what? Things? – that have followed this pattern. Note how the commitment increases only slightly over time (if at all), interspersed with a drama-filled series of highs and lows. There are some people that actually seek out this relationship dynamic.
If someone likes you they will want to make sure you know it. They may not show their hand early (nor should they), and there may be uncertainty as you get to know each other and test your compatibility. That’s normal and healthy. If a guy does like you, believes the two of you are compatible, and is available for a long-term relationship, he will not risk your becoming discouraged and getting with someone else.
What you’re looking for is an absence of bullshit.