Your relationship is probably doomed.
I'm sorry, but it's true. I'm just playing the percentages.
Half of all marriages will fall apart. It's highly discouraging but it has been true for so long that unless a critical mass of people in the future take to heart some of the ideas here, there's every reason to assume it will continue.
Additionally, what percentage of pre-marriage/unmarried relationships won't work out? Maybe 80 or 90 percent? Who knows? A damn lot.
So. Doomed. I know it's a huge bummer.
Maybe I'm Not Doing It Wrong After All
I used to think I was horrible at dating (post-divorce, specifically), and even felt a little bit ashamed of it. But that's because I was comparing the QUANTITY of my dates to what I perceived to be others' experiences, and now I've come to believe it's actually the low-boundary, unfiltered attitude toward dating many people display that causes most of the problems in the first place.
I now think I was accidentally awesome, and today I'm a competent dater in a very deliberate way.
There are two reasons people date:
1. Because they desire companionship and/or sex, casually or otherwise.
2. Because they're looking for a suitable partner for a long-term relationship and/or marriage.
If casual relationships are the goal, then relaxed attitudes about dating are appropriate.
But if you're genuinely looking for a compatible long-term partner with the intention of spending forever with them, then I think getting hardcore with your intentions, boundaries and stated expectations is critically important to your success and emotional well-being.
An intentionally casual dater can date another intentionally casual dater and have a positive experience.
An intentionally casual dater dating someone looking for love can lead to many bad things if neither are honest with one another.
Those looking for love and long-term commitment can date someone else looking for love and long-term commitment, and it can go a million different ways.
A lot of people believe if they end up married, that the meeting and dating exercise was somehow successful. But that's not true. It's only a success if they actually make it to forever.
This is where most of us get it wrong.
Because I write things and some people pay attention, people in my personal life sometimes irrationally believe that makes me a go-to person for relationship questions. Ignoring how flawed that thinking is, I try to listen and provide honest feedback.
One of my friends liked a guy. He was the first guy she liked seriously in a few years. They met on an online dating site. They started seeing each other regularly, but to her displeasure, he was non-committal. He remained engaged in online-dating activities and saw other people.
She wanted my advice. I don't believe the solution to be complicated.
"What should I do?" she asked.
"Only you can decide what you're willing to tolerate," I said. "The first thing I would do is decide exactly what you want and what your intentions are. Do you want him to be your committed boyfriend, or don't you? Are you okay with him logging onto online dating sites and dating other people, or aren't you? Once you know what you want, those are your boundaries. Then you clearly and honestly communicate those boundaries to him. Then -- the hardest part -- you ENFORCE those boundaries. You need to be willing to walk away if he doesn't respect them."
"Isn't it too soon for that?" she said. She didn't want to seem "crazy" or "possessive," she said.
She was afraid that being honest would cause him to reject her.
"I don't want to seem insensitive about this, but if your relationship is going to fail, you WANT it to fail fast. Be honest about what you want. If he's unwilling to give you what you want and won't honor your feelings, or he runs away, isn't that all you really need to know about him in terms of your long-term compatibility?" I said.
"The entire scene felt insane to me. THIS is a major reason so many people end up divorced, I thought."
Maybe she thought really wanting him to be a certain kind of guy would magically transform him into that person. Like The Secret.
The entire scene felt insane to me. THIS is a major reason so many people end up divorced, I thought.
After the third or fourth instance of him cancelling plans with her at the last minute, she stopped talking to him. This is true for me as well: People mostly need to figure things out for themselves.
Why Does Dating Suck?
Because people don't establish strong enough boundaries for who they date.
Because people aren't willing to be vulnerable and choose honesty when expressing who they really are on the inside, and what they really want.
And then sooner or later, it crashes and burns because two people with different values, expectations and goals tried to force it using rainbow wishes and unicorn dreams. Then they like to blame culture, circumstances and everything but the person in the mirror for willingly participating in the madness.
Being a victim of con-artistry is the only honest excuse for crushing heartache in the dating game.
Sure! Rejection hurts when one honest person doesn't reciprocate the same emotional investment as another honest person. But, A.) Don't you want to be with someone who wants you back?, and B.) How is that not an infinitely better result than investing years and/or marriage with someone who ultimately rejects you because you never really knew each other in the first place?
I can't emphasize this belief enough: Every failure-to-launch relationship is a great thing which eliminates wasted time, provides critical life experience, and ultimately opens the door for us to find legitimately awesome and compatible romantic partners.
I know everyone's in a big hurry. But as mom always said: Life is what happens when we're busy making other plans.
How Dating is Like Business
My job as an internet marketing professional, in a very generic sense, is to generate web traffic as to online places containing products or services I hope to sell to as many visitors as possible.
Let's pretend I own a company that sells exclusively men's t-shirts which read: "Donald Trump Has Very Specific and Credible Plans for America, Excellent Hair, and Should Be President of the World." And now my job is to sell as many of these as I can.
Let's pretend I'm going to try to sell these shirts using targeted demographics and I must decide how to wisely spend my marketing and advertising budget.
"I know everyone's in a big hurry. But as mom always said: Life is what happens when we're busy making other plans."
And finally, let's pretend I decide to target the following groups of people for my men's Trump shirt sales initiative: Registered Democrats who voted for President Obama in the 2012 election, Women who live in Poland, and everyone who likes Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders on Facebook.
I wouldn't sell many Trump shirts to those groups.
There is something in business called a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL). A shirtless man carrying a 12-pack of Natural Light at a Trump rally might be an MQL for one of these Trump shirts. A Hispanic Los Angeles resident with a Bernie Sanders yard sign would not be.
Many daters look for love and marriage using the I'm Trying to Sell Trump Shirts to Sanders Supporters strategy.
Online Dating Can Actually Help With This
Online dating sites allow you to establish parameters to weed out incompatible or undesirable traits. This is helpful for women who receive more attention on dating sites than they can handle, and for men with strong boundaries, selective tastes and specific preferences.
It's probably bad for all of the low-boundary people who care more about feeling liked and accepted than they do about having healthy and successful relationships.
Maybe people are afraid they'll be alone forever. I remember feeling that way.
Maybe people are worried about what friends and coworkers think about them. Maybe they want to "keep up" with their ex who has already moved on with someone new. Maybe people are trying to have sex more often than never. Maybe they're trying to find a financial partner, or someone to binge-watch Netflix with.
I don't know.
I just know that a frightening amount of people voluntarily enter relationships with people who don't share their values, subjecting themselves to all kinds of abuse or dysfunction afterward, and it appears as if it's because they're more afraid of being alone than they are of being mistreated or suffering bad break-ups.
People Who Have or Want Kids Must Use Stringent Filters to Find MQLs
The importance of robust dating filtration grows a trillion percent if you're a parent or plan to be one.
People are not discriminating enough, and I think that's why dating is so frustrating for people, and why so many relationships fail. Vigilant discernment while dating is so important for single or divorced parents, and any young people who plan to have children.
People who look different can have great relationships.
People with divergent interests can have great relationships.
People with diverse life experiences can have great relationships.
People from different places can have great relationships.
People with varying personality types can have great relationships.
But, people with DIFFERENT VALUES? I have yet to see evidence that two people with conflicting core values can succeed, particularly when they share children, or are raising them together.
Dating often sucks because people aren't honest with themselves, and then they make it worse by not being honest with those they date.
If you don't know who you are and what your values are, YOU HAVE NO CHANCE.
"If you don't know who you are and what your values are, YOU HAVE NO CHANCE."
If you haven't identified your personal boundaries, or aren't willing to vigilantly enforce them, you're going to experience a heavy dose of frustration and heartache.
If you do it my way, you won't have as many dates and may feel frustrated by what seems like a scary lack of options. The temptation can be great to date people simply because they're attractive and they like you.
But, please. Be deliberate with your intentions and courageous enough to share your honest expectations, values and feelings with the people you meet.
Divorce and hard break-ups are A LOT scarier than a relative stranger deciding to not date us anymore.
It bears repeating: If we're evaluating whether that person across from us is an appropriate choice for a long-term or lifetime commitment, should we really be afraid of how they might react to something honest and true about us?
Can we achieve forever with someone who doesn't want the real us?
It's not fun or easy. It won't always feel good. It's the furthest thing from sexy.
But it's the first real step on the path to reducing divorce. Or more appropriately, the first real step on the path to forever.