You know that scene in Shrek where he’s like ogres are like onions? My dad use to say the same thing about boys.
“Boys are like onions, Rachel. You have to peel back the layers and keep peeling them back to really get to know someone”.
I’d come to him all bright eyed and bushy tailed about someone new I was dating, and it wasn’t that he wanted to rain on my new butterflies-in-your-stomach romance, he just wanted me to realize that this exterior that I was seeing wasn’t all this person was. There would be more and more to learn with each conversation, date, and text.
“Yeah, yeah, I know, dad”. Brushing him off was easy because my excitement to be head over heels was just too much to contain and I had my newest pair of love blinders on—unable to see clear enough to ‘peel back the layers’.
It was no surprise to my dad when a few weeks later I’d come crying back to my dad “I just had no idea he/she was like this.”
He didn’t need to say what I knew to be true— I should have spent more time peeling back those layers. Learning about this person before I leapt head first into the abyss.
If you keep diving in too deep too soon and find yourself not cultivating the kind of romantic relationships, or even friendships you’re after, here are five things to know as you begin your courtship:
- Take your time: Despite the idea you locked in your head at age 11 that you would be married and have 2.5 kids by the time you’re 24— you don’t have to rush this process. The more you rush into a new relationship, the more you miss on so much goodness of getting to experience someone new, and truly learning about them. If you’re constantly seeking the label of a relationship, I would pause and ask yourself why you need it so much? Is it because of what you grew up believing about being married at a certain age? If so, begin to reframe that narrative. Just because it was something you once believed doesn't mean you need to continue along with it.
- A label doesn’t mean you’re ‘safe’. People label hunt as a form of safety. ‘Once I’m married everything will be fine’. Noooooo. A label doesn’t fix shitty communication, unkindness, or any other relationship issues.
- Take time to understand your partner passed the basic things. Okay cool so you both love Step Brothers, and really enjoy the newest season of GOT—but have you tried to understand how each other communicates? How you give + receive love? My best relationships have come from continuously learning more about my partner to understand how they show up in the world and with me. This kind of work breeds more ease, openness, and love in a relationship. You might realize in this process that you and a partner, despite your common interests, don’t communicate well. This could be a deal breaker for you, or it could be something you’re both open to learning more and working on.
- Get clear on what you want. A lot of my clients find themselves in romantic partnerships too fast, feeling unhappy because they weren’t clear on what they wanted outside of common interests. It’s like car shopping. Would you just walk into the lot and say yes to the first shiny one? No of course not. That shiny one may not have the navigation system you need, or allow you to drive in the snow well (I don’t know shit about cars, so bare with me). Sit down and write down what you’re looking for in a partner. Don’t shy away because you feel like being too specific will shut out certain opportunities. This is a scarcity mindset speaking—there are plenty of potential humans for you to date. Write down what you want to experience with this person, what you want to feel, what do they look like? What are their values? What makes them happy? This will allow you to gain more clarity so as you begin to peel back the layers of each person, you have a solid yes or no.
- Stop creating stories around a life you’re going to build with this person when you’re only on the first date. I know you bb. I know you’re all like “omg, we can go camping together and he can come to aunt sally’s wedding with me and it will be perfect.” Meanwhile he hasn’t even parked the car at the restaurant yet. When you create stories about your future imaginary life with this person you just met, you are not only creating expectations for them they know nothing about, but you’re also stopping yourself from being present and experiencing the dynamic as it’s unfolding. You’re grasping so hard to these future things, that you’re not allowing yourself to be happy with what is.
Dating can be so wild and emotion filled, but there are things you can do to navigate it with a bit more ease.
If you're feeling hurt after your last attempt at love know this:
You're not alone, not all men/women are the same, and you can find your person.
It may just take a little bit more than both of you liking football.