I work for a publishing company, and a couple of months ago I had the rare opportunity to literally write the book on relationships. I edited it, anyway. I was also a contributor. That’s right. I’m not only the owner of Chase the Cat, I’m also a client.
In case you’re interested in reading the whole book, it’s available here. Now that we’ve got the shameless self promotion out of the way, let’s talk about what I learned while working on the book. Here are ten ways you are screwing up your relationships.
- People aren’t as creepy as you think they are.
The project designer gave us one rule when researching Chase the Cat: date everyone. This meant we couldn’t turn anyone down, no matter where or how they asked us out. We had to swipe right on everyone, answer every message, and say yes to every request for a date. Seeing this as research allowed me to branch out and meet people I would never even think of talking to normally. What struck me the hardest was the level of paranoia. Some guys thought there was something wrong with me because I agreed to meet them too soon. Others thought there was something wrong with me because I didn’t meet them soon enough. A single theme began to emerge amongst these nice, employed men who couldn’t figure out why they weren’t getting called back: none of them trusted me.
As human beings, we hate being accused. That’s why we work so hard not to accuse people of things. I remember being in my early twenties and seeing my landlord riding off on a bike. My bike had been stolen. The bike she was on looked exactly like mine. But I was afraid to accuse her. If it wasn’t true, I would feel like a real ass.
But we don’t feel like real asses when we accuse people of lying in a dating situation. We think anyone we date must be some kind of dirty liar, possibly a serial killer out to murder us in our sleep. Worry no more! Less than 1% of murders worldwide are committed by serial killers. Less than 0.0001% of people happen to be serial killers. Most of those people aren’t going to text you, call you, skype with you, and pick you up in a car wearing a license plate that will lead the police directly to them.
In the course of my research, I went out with more than fifty people. And here I still am.
2. You have diddly-squat in common
I couldn’t help wondering why some of these guys went out with me. My profile clearly stated that I love hiking, biking, and attending cons (obviously). I even said that I prefer something a little more fun than the average dinner date. But sure as the sun rises, most of the men who wanted to date me had no interested in doing the things I enjoyed.
They expected me to be healthy and enjoy life, while they sat on the couch playing video games. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with sitting on the couch playing video games, and I do enjoy it as an occasional thing, but if you have three level 200 WOW characters and haven’t showered in a week because they just released a new expansion pack, I am not the girl for you.
I don’t mean this as a first date thing though. I’m talking about relationships that go on this way, the ones where you sit at home eating potato chips and drinking beer while expecting your girlfriend or wife to stay in perfect shape. The ones where you tell your husband he really needs to go to the gym more often when all you do is watch television. The ones where you make a thousand cosplays for your boyfriend and wonder why he’s not overjoyed to wear them, why he looks less than impressed in all of your couples photos.
You don’t have to have everything in common with the person you’re with, and it’s good to spend some time apart. But if you’re standing there making a face, waiting for this date to finally end so that you can go and do something fun, there’s probably not much future in it.
3. You’re superficial.
Bla bla bla, looks matter attraction matters we’ve all heard it. Interestingly, science doesn’t really hold up our contrived ideals: at the end of the day, people tend to choose mates who remind them of themselves, at least visually. Your perception of what is attractive probably has a lot to do with what you personally look like.
Why does this matter? Because the word “attractive” means different things to different people. That’s the reality. The artificial reality is that a certain type of man/woman will somehow make YOU look better. The way you might buy a Mercedez Benz so people will stare at it and you can feel special, at least for a while.
The problem arises when you decide that any damned Benz is the perfect car for you. I can’t count the number of friends who have ended up dating completely inappropriate people…because they were pretty.
Get too many people doing this and you create a culture of human beings who think they are better than others, just because they showed up. The proverbial “something about Mary” girl with hundreds of guys stalking her, who thinks she is worthy of love just because she’s standing there.
Nobody wants this, I don’t think. I can’t imagine all of those guys wanting to spend the rest of their lives alone and following this one girl around with money and flowers and cameras and light stands (in the case of the cosplay community) hoping she will one day fall hopelessly in love with them. Why would she. SHE GETS MORE STUFF BY IGNORING YOU.
I can’t imagine all of those girls wanting never to have a boyfriend, to spend all of their time making rhinestone signs and pink t-shirts that say “I love the Jonas Brothers” rather than finding themselves a genuine relationship with a sweet guy they have a lot in common with.
And I know from experience that it is very difficult to live in a world like that. As a 17 year old model I had men begging me to date them on a daily basis, and SWEARING AND CALLING ME NAMES when I said no. Now, I have to watch friends and relatives go through it, being harassed by the same hoarde of men my age who completely ignore me.
These men are working against themselves, and in a superficial world, being pretty works against people as well. As long as hundreds of people are ignoring their own interests and looks, trying to get with exactly the same person as their friends, that one person controls all of their resources. Not just money, but love, friendship, and time.
Those are the resources you need a lot of, in order to find someone to spend your life with. Don’t give them away so easily.
4. You said something dumb and hurtful.
This should really be number one. Sometimes we say stuff that we don’t expect to hurt someone. It can be something superficial: “I would never date a fat chick” or something insensitive: “I could never be with a guy who has a disability”.
Have you ever made a post on social media about one person, and had a ton of your friends get in contact thinking you’re talking about them? That’s what happens when you’re dating someone and you start to make fun of a person or group of people. Most people will take it personally and, just a hint for the guys, even a girl who is not “a fat chick” probably has one in her life, who she doesn’t want you bullying.
Here’s some things that were said to us more than once. Don’t say this stuff. Seriously, just don’t:
“I want to sleep with you, but I wouldn’t date you.”
“You’re really sexy but my parents would flip if I brought a (describe my race, religion, or physical attribute) home.”
“Usually pretty girls are bitches. I’m surprised that you’re so nice.”
“You look like my (relative). It’s so weird.”
“For one of ‘those’ guys, you’re pretty hot.”
“For a skinny guy, you’re kind of cute.”
“I never thought I would meet someone pathetic enough to date me.”
“I don’t want to cheat on my partner, but I find you so attractive”
The list goes on….feel free to add your own.
5. You assumed looks were the reason.
In the age of Facebook and Instagram, it’s easy to believe that people can become famous for nothing, just because of the way they look. There are any number of girls saying we can’t become famous cosplayers because we’re not short/skinny/whatever enough, or we’re too fat/tall/whatever else. There are any number of guys saying no girl will talk to them on any dating site because they don’t look like models.
I went on a lot of dates with a lot of guys. Some of them were conventionally attractive, others were unconventionally attractive. Some would make my friends wonder (though not out loud) if I had stopped renewing my prescription or gone completely blind. On every single one of those dates, I noticed that it was personality, not looks, that drove the way I felt about the person.
To some extent. I did find that I was less likely to “let things go” when I didn’t find someone attractive. It wasn’t fair, and I tried to fight it, but I was definitely more likely to think a guy was a big irritating jerk if I wasn’t attracted to him physically.
Does that mean that a supermodel-looking guy could do anything he wanted to me and get away with it? No. Several of my dates were with men who would be considered extremely conventionally attractive, but who acted as if they could do whatever they wanted. One of them literally said, “Come on. If a guy like me wants you, you should be flattered.”
Screw that guy, right?
No. No I did not.
6. You believed the hype.
There are a lot of “dating experts” out there. For men, they are usually your typical Ryan Reynolds-looking guy, jocular and loud-mouthed, clutching the bro code in one hand and a beer in the other. For women, they are usually young(ish) and kinda beautiful, but like, not too beautiful, and dressed like they already landed the president of the company.
These people are playing to your fantasies. The men are there to convince guys that you can be a total slob and still get whatever girl you want by following their helpful tips. By this time next weekend, you’re sure to be sitting on your couch alone, watching TV with a beer in your hand, but there will be a girl in your bed. Hooray, you!
The women are trying to convince girls that you can get your hair and nails done on somebody else’s dime, go to Starbucks every morning with the girls, flirt with any guy you want (the dating expert is flirting with the host of this late show right now) and get your perfect pinterest wedding. Woot!
It might even work. Chances are, dudes, if you go to a college bar at 11pm and say basically anything to one of the drunk girls wearing mini dresses, as long as it isn’t completely stupid (see number four) you’re taking her home. For one night. But what if you don’t want a one-night relationship, or several? What if you don’t enjoy herpes. What if, like Ryan Reynolds’ character in basically every movie, you think this dude is really cool and fun to hang out with, and then you realize that his lifestyle is unsustainable if you plan to survive your twenties?
Chances are, ladies, if you follow those few easy steps you can find a guy who wants to marry you. You can even become one half of one of those weird couples where you wonder how much money he put in her g-string to be allowed to take her home for five years. But the wedding isn’t the end of the relationship. It isn’t even close.
The point is, these are businesses that know exactly what you want to hear, and they’re more than happy to sell it to you. If you don’t believe me, check out a “how to get a guy/girl” video that is made for the opposite sex. The ones telling guys “how to get a girl” really made me laugh. They should have been titled “how to never get a girl ever.”
Most of those videos and articles ask you to apply manipulative, ingenuine tactics that also end up hurting the person you do “take down”…even when they work, they forget that there is an actual human being behind that attractive body.
There are plenty of women who want one night stands, plenty of men who want marriage, but no square pegs that want to be shoved into round holes. At least not for long.
7. You forgot to keep your friends close.
We all have that friend who gets into a relationship and then forgets we exist. They can be your best friend for ten years, fifteen years, your entire damned life, and then the minute someone asks them out, you become chopped liver. You’re forced to watch them from afar, through their 800 facebook posts about how in love they are each day.
They’re super shocked by the terrible breakup, and can’t wait to call you and talk about it. Never mind that it’s been three years and you have a new group of friends now.
When you immediately dump your friends or give up your interests over a relationship, your relationship is doomed to end. The person you are with probably has their own interests, and spending 24/7 with you is going to make them sick of you pretty quickly.
In addition to that, you can end up in a situation where your partner thinks you don’t have any friends, or that they were not important enough to deserve an introduction. No matter what it turns into over time, feeling like you don’t matter to the person is one of the main reasons relationships bite the sky doughnut.
8. You didn’t appreciate the person.
You cheated, you lied, you were constantly downloading pictures of famous cosplay models in 2” fun fur bikinis. You were so focused on this person not being extra special to everyone that you forgot how special the person is to you.
Because they said yes.
Over time, you should appreciate the person you are with more, not less. That person knows everything about you, and still wants to be with you. It’s easy for anyone to fall into that trap of thinking “we just had an argument, and I’m still hot, I should go get someone else” but really think about that for a second. Why did you have an argument?
Because the person you are with CARES enough to argue. Someone who doesn’t care about you won’t argue with you at all. That person is going to walk away, possibly run away, the second there is the slightest conflict, because you just don’t matter enough to be worth the aggravation.
Maybe they care enough about you to start an argument. Someone who doesn’t know you very well might not be willing to say you’re acting like a jerk. Someone who is comfortable with you will tell you exactly when you’re acting like a jerk.
Don’t be the person who breaks up with someone who really cares, and ends up feeling like eight kinds of jerk…alone.
9. You ignored them too much.
On the flip side of not ignoring someone enough is ignoring them too much. You’re always out with your friends or attending family events, driving someone around, helping someone move, working, and you never have time for your partner.
This might be fine at first, but once it gets to the three month point (if it gets that far) it’s usually wearing pretty thin. You’re probably tired of working out excuses why your partner isn’t allowed to come to the movies with you and your friends, and she’s probably tired of trying to figure out if you’re actually spending time with friends and family, or cheating your dumb face off, or chasing the tail of one of those people who are always surrounded by admirers.
Nobody wants to be anybody’s second choice, and ignoring behavior is usually coupled with being irritated by your partner seeing anyone else.
Most of the guys I dated who acted this way also became oddly pissed off whenever I went out with my friends, whining and complaining that I was the one who had no time for them. After a while I caught on that maybe they didn’t actually want a relationships.
10. Personal hygiene and manners.
Do you shower, brush your teeth, brush your hair? If you are a guy, do you get your hair cut at a salon? If you’re a girl, do you wear nice (not pancake) makeup?
I thought that all of this was a completely normal baseline of behavior but after going out with a bunch of people I realized that people actually exist who don’t put in so much as the minimal effort before they walk out the door. It’s time to start thinking of the person you’re with the way you would think about meeting someone famous. Isn’t your partner more important to you than some random person you’ve never met? It’s not like Chris Evans held your hair and rubbed your back that time you couldn’t stop throwing up. I know Rin Tohsaka didn’t bring you chicken soup when your grandmother was in the hospital.
The person you’re dating is worth putting on your best face over. And to that end, learn a few basic manners before you leave the house. In my experience, a lot of people focus on their own looks and other people’s attitudes. They think they are not superficial, and only care about how other people act. But when other people don’t like us, it’s always about the way we look.
I remember a guy thinking I didn’t like him because he wasn’t attractive enough. He wanted me to admit that was why I didn’t like him. Our date felt more like an interrogation where he accused me of lying about everything I said. He ordered seven people worth of food and ate literally like a pig, snorting and shoving food in his mouth…all of his food and half of mine. I was so embarrassed that I went home early.
It’s also worth thinking about what the opposite sex finds attractive, and doing it. I feel really really stupid in high heels and short skirts. A whole lot of stupid, but when I go out with a guy that’s what I wear because they seem to enjoy it.
Going back to what I said about treating people better when I find them attractive, looking your best gives you a good chance of staying in a relationship because some days, during a really bad argument, all you can cling to is “hey, at least my partner’s still hot, right?”
There’s nothing wrong with acting or looking sexy when you want to be with someone. Often we ladies fall into the trap of looking too much like little girls or like “somebody’s mom”…men want to see you as someone they could have sex with. If what you’re wearing is less sexy and more “I’m going to go paint my bathroom and then pass out on the couch with a cat and a cigarette”….guys will probably notice someone else.
Likewise, dudes, if your outfit is less Ricky Martin and more post-apocalyptic hobo, don’t expect a second phonecall (unless that post-apocalyptic hobo is a really sweet cosplay)
As for the hard questions, I don’t have even half an answer. It’s hard meeting people these days, especially at cosplay events. Sure, it’s tough in the real world, but I think we have specific issues that bear mentioning. If you have an answer for them, let me know!
- When you meet someone wearing the opposite gender, how do you know what gender they are interested in?
- If you’re someone who travels to numerous cons, how do you keep a partner?
- When someone says you’re attractive, do they mean you, or the character you’re cosplaying?
- How do you know if someone is using you for a ride, or if you’re using them to reduce the price of your hotel room.
- Is that eight foot tall no-face a girl…or……
- This person was a guy yesterday and a girl today…am I gay now? Am I straight now? Have I completely lost my mind?