Anyone who has experienced modern dating - i.e. dating since the advent of online dating - has likely experienced some dreaded form of ghosting, icing, or simmering. In other words, without explanation, someone you've gone on a couple dates with (and whom you may have been physically intimate) suddenly disappears (ghosting), or becomes "so busy" they can't make time on their calendar (icing), or simply starts to see you less and less frequently, without explanation (simmering).
It feels horrible.
You're left with too many questions. What happened? Was it something you said or did? You start rewinding the tape and playing it back, searching for a misstep.
In the case of ghosting, there's the shortest period of time when hope still hangs by a thread, before it plunges to its untimely death. In the cases of simmering and icing, the window of hope stretches a bit longer, as you attempt to justify their cooled behavior. Perhaps they really are busy with work/their friends in town/that big project. But then the spinning begins. The questions whip around your brain, the frustration and resentment bubble up and you're a mess of disappointment, confusion and anger. In any case, it's over. And you're forced to not only deal with the loss of that potential romance but also with the way it ended.
What baffles me most is not that every single solitary person I speak to about this tells me that they don't want to experience any of this array of terrible ending options, it's that so many of them engage in this behavior themselves.
It goes without saying that modern dating creates the perfect space for this disrespect -- anonymity and seemingly endless options are a breeding ground for it. When someone's social circle doesn't intersect with yours and when you'll likely never bump into them on the street, the risk of any negative repercussions of bad behavior are limited at best.
But what happened to do unto others as you would have them do unto you?
The problem I see with a lot of my coaching clients is that once they have been treated to one of these unhappy endings, they feel more entitled to do it themselves.
"It's just the way things are," one tells me. "No I don't like it but it's how dating works these days."
But, you see, it’s not. It's certainly not the way anyone wants it to be. And it takes one person at a time to fix the collective apathy we have for each other's delicate feelings and tender hearts.
Some friends tell me that my expectations in this arena are too high. "If you just go on one or two dates," a friend tries to sway me, "then you don't owe anyone anything."
But again, I disagree. This logic suggests that we only owe respect and consideration to people who cross a certain threshold -- whether it be physical intimacy or a prescribed number of dates.
Where do you draw the line then?
I believe you get what you give. You want respect? You show respect. You want to be treated kindly? Be kind. You want clarity, an explanation, an ending tied in a bow? Then be clear, explain yourself, and wrap it up respectfully without leaving unnecessary confusion and hurt.
We’re all out there putting our hearts on the line. We’re all afraid of rejection and uncomfortable with uncertainty. We all want people to respect us, consider our feelings, and treat us kindly. We want to love and be loved. And we want the process of finding a partner to be as painless and ease-filled as possible.
So be the person you want to date. It's just that simple.
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