Part 2 of the safe, sane and consensual relationships series.
There are a lot of common misconceptions about flirting, dating, and relationships that mess with having excellent, intimate, secure, and hot relationships. These misconceptions compound the misconceptions of what is the right way to be or what a “good” person might do, but are very specific to initiating mating rituals. Let’s talk about some of them:
Misconception 1: Everybody knows the right way.
With the divorce rate at over 50% and many many people dissatisfied with their situations, taking advice from people is often a horrible idea. People love to have an opinion. Many are not likely to offer you a winning strategy, simply because they do not have one. Also, don’t get too discouraged by negative relationship statistics. Odds are way better if you use your brain and continually try to improve.
Misconception 2: If you ask, you may get rejected.
Well yes, but do you want to be with someone who is only letting you touch them because they can not figure out how to politely get out? If you said yes, go read Dr. Nerdlove until that changes. Note: With many people, if you give them a chance to say no and if they like you, they might come back later and be happy to say yes, or make a counteroffer that works for them.
Misconception 3: Talking about sex or asking permission ruins the mood.
No. It makes it hot, and takes the guess work out. Imagine being with someone who feels respected, knowing their input and opinion matters to you; while not wondering if you are doing it right, because you asked and they told you what they also like. It opens up doors to verbal positive feedback and hot sex with erotic conversation. Sound good? Note: laughter and tears are part of emotions and fully experiencing life; ‘serious sex’ is no fun. If someone laughs, laugh with them. If they cry, hold them. There is nothing wrong with either, even when being romantic or sexy. If everyone feels safe and is used to being together, adjust the verbal as it works for you.
Misconception 4: Can’t date your friends, it might ruin the friendship.
Friendship is a necessary, non-optional precursor to a good relationship. Sometimes people get it right, but do it backwards by hooking up and later becoming close. The only thing it means when someone says they are afraid to ruin the friendship, is that they are not into that person romantically. That is fine, and a good signal to help the other person move on, but not a good reason for you not to become closer to someone you already really like. Also, if someone is friendly and not exuding “chemistry”, it could be that they are being polite. If you ask them out, and make it clear that the invitation is on a date, the sexy is likely to turn on. People can choose to flirt and put off sexual energy, or to reign it in and keep another person at arm’s length. On the other hand, assuming that somebody who is “just” friendly is secretly attracted to you is a good way to drive yourself nuts and get yourself in trouble, while missing out on people who are actually into you. (Hint: this is one of the places to ask directly—and give them time to think about it).
Misconception 5: But I might hurt someone by rejecting them.
Or you can hurt and confuse each other by not saying no fast enough (you can always change your mind and say yes later). You are not hurting them, you are participating in communication, which needs to be genuine above all else to be useful. It is much easier to reroute earlier than later, and no one needs to be pity-dated; that just feels awful for everyone. Someone who makes you feel crummy about rejecting their advance by threatening suicide or constantly emphasizing how much you hurt them, is committing an unprovoked act of emotional violence against you. (Hint: at this point it is a good idea to make it clear that you won’t interact with them on any level if they don’t knock it off. Follow through if necessary.)
Misconception 6: Already said yes, so now it has to happen.
This one is really important. If you have mixed fillings or just change your mind, you need to say no or take more time. It is not like breaking a promise. Consent is not an unbreakable vow; it’s a communication of your current feelings and desires, and it can change just as quickly and easily as those desires. You don’t owe anyone anything. It does not matter where you are, what you are wearing, what you were doing. If you feel uncomfortable: stop, communicate a no, ask for a minute, and figure out what you want to do next. This stays the same also when you are dating, and there is no requirement for consistency from day to day. Just be verbally clear about what kind of a day it is if you can.
Misconception 7: Can’t control feeling/actions when turned on.
Feeling so in love that you can’t keep your hands off of them, or so turned on? Are they claiming blue balls? No such thing. Or, eternal love? Possible, but this is unlikely to be that. Do you feel high? Or out of control? This is NORMAL. This is how your brain is chemically wired by evolution, the sole purpose of which is to have small humans and propagate the species. Hot new attraction feels awesome, and you are still an intelligent human being, just not a totally “good at making decisions” one when that type of attraction is in play. All genders can control it if they choose. While the fantasy of out-of-control passion is fun, there is ALWAYS a choice. It is much easier if you decide ahead of time what works for both of you, discuss it, and make sure the venue works reasonably for it. More on that later.
Misconception 8: I am in love and will hurt too much without them.
It will. Then it will get better and you can have other good things without the bad. The awesome part is that as long as you stay active and do not keep poking at it, it will get better faster than you think.
Misconception 9: Since this is what I have (or, I am bad), it must be what I deserve.
No. Everyone deserves to be treated well. Including you. Not because I know you, but because it is a basic human right. I behave like a rabid ball of crazy in abusive situations. While I still have some rough edges, I am remarkably different when people treat me with respect. I recommend it.
Misconception 10: This is better than being alone, I can leave tomorrow.
Huge problems here with both missed opportunities and what it does to self concept. There are always environments and relationships that are awesome if you can find them. The best way to have the time and energy to search is to walk away from those that are not working for you.
Please help create a consent culture by sharing, commenting, and talking about this with others.