written by Jess Mally.
Following on from our last piece about friendships, we wanted to spend this week’s #WellnessWednesday looking at how to a make those meaningful connections. Connections of which some will hopefully become those friendships and relationships we all long for.
To give this context, I’ll have to give you a little context:
At the start of this year I decided to put myself out there again when it comes to dating.
I hadn’t proactively dated for, well, let’s just say a long time, and except for the odd encounter where a guy in my world actually had the guts to approach me (I now know that I wasn’t necessarily, I guess, radiating openness) I was pretty much off the market for all the wrong reasons.
When I decided to dive back in, I didn’t really know where to start, so I followed the advice pretty much anyone seems to follow these days:
I signed up to a dating app.
Armed with my non-negotiables and clear boundaries, I went on the adventure that is called online dating.
It’s been an interesting journey, which so far has provided me with many a funny dinner table story and to be honest I am still smack bang in the middle of it. I have however, already learnt so much – about me, about others and about how we connect in this day and age.
So far, I have learnt, that making meaningful connections (in this case with the hope of a romantic relationship) doesn’t happen as easily as it used to – I know I’m sounding old right now, but bare with me for a moment.
Any of you out there living that Tinder, Bumble, Hinge or what not life, will have experienced what I mean. A swipe right doesn’t guarantee a conversation, a conversation doesn’t guarantee a date and in most cases one person ends up ghosting the other – and if you’re lucky that happens before you made the effort to actually go out and meet them. Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve quickly realised that that’s not good enough for me.
Whilst I am still on the app of my choice (a lot less actively so these days), I have decided to do things a little bit differently. Don’t get me wrong, many times the approach most people seem to take is easier, but since attempting to stick to some of the points below, I have actually met some great people. None of them have (yet) led to a relationship, but I can honestly say that I have had meaningful and honest encounters and have learnt something in each of them.
I couldn’t help but ask myself, if maybe we could all revisit the way we meet and connect with people. Maybe we’d be more fulfilled and healthier humans, if the way we treated each other in the dating landscape and beyond, would reflect our deepest selves a little bit more.
So this week we thought we’d take those observances of mine and share them with you all! We hope they’ll help us all in the pursuit of making more meaningful connections.
‘Cause remember, we are hardwired for social connection and our well-being depends on it.
1. Have a ‘What can I learn and what can I bring’ vs a ‘What’s in this for me’ attitude
I have caught myself do this so many times – whether it’s on a first date or in any encounter really, it’s so easy to walk in with my walls up and my expectations high. What can I get from this person? Do they have what I am looking for and can I see it straight away?
Any time I walk into an encounter with that attitude, I am guaranteed to come out drained and disappointed. The person on the other side can’t possible fulfil all the unspoken expectations I bring to the table (neither can I by the way) and the hour or two we spend together ends up tiring. And even if it does lead to a second date or whatever, the trajectory of the whole thing is off because it already started with me and mine at the forefront.
After a couple of failed dates, I decided to try something different. What if I walked into it not primarily thinking about what’s in it for me, but open handedly believing that every person has something unique to bring – something I can learn from, can appreciate and acknowledge. And so do I – I can bring myself to the table and believe that in the same way I can learn from them – even if I never see them again – I have something to contribute that might add to their lives. Whether or not it leads to anything beyond that first encounter, I have found anything I’ve approached like this, has left me leaving filled and a little bit better as a person.
Sounds simple but makes a big difference. It’s a small mindset shift that can really help add value to any encounter we have day in and day out.
2. Everyone Has a Story
Most of us know what I’m talking about. You went on that first date and now you’re waiting to hear from them. Or you’re waiting to message them – whatever the rules are these days. And then you finally text and they don’t text back for a whole day or two and during that time you create a whole narrative in your mind. Everything from they don’t care anyway, to ‘I know he was a…’ well whatever it is our past hurts have caused us to project onto the other person.
I have found that I can so easily forget that the person I’m dealing with on the other side has their own story – a story I am not yet privy to but is most certainly there. In the same way I have gone through a lot, they most likely have too. They may be going through something right now, but naturally – because I am yet a stranger, don’t share that with me yet.
That’s where I’ve had to challenge myself to stop being an ass and make assumptions. And it’s worked wonders! I have loosened the grip if you will, and have started to extend the same patience to others I’d like them to extend to me; and in turn I have found that conversations become more relaxed and therefore the dates do too. And when it doesn’t work out, there is less tension and less reproach.
3. Be Kind
The thing my friends and I talk about the most when we compare online dating notes is the craziness of ghosting. I mean, where does that even come from?? I get it, there is so much ‘choice’ out there and it’s hard to keep up with all the messages. And sure, it’s much easier to just let something fizzle out rather than actually have the guts to say, ‘sorry I’m not feeling this’.
The problem, I fear, is that this is causing us to dehumanise each other. I am no longer thinking of you as a human being that is innately worthy of being treated with dignity and respect, but see you as an icon or an avatar on a screen – who cares how I talk to you or if I don’t reply right?
I know this sounds full on, but don’t you wonder whether some of the challenges we face in our relationships and communities have to do with the way we see and treat each other?
Imagine we all treated the person on the other side of the swipe with the same courtesy that we’d hope to receive ourselves? Imagine we have the backbone and character to actually tell someone if we’re not feeling it and wishing them all the best for the future? I KNOW this is awkward and I haven’t loved doing it, but I also know that it’s outside of my comfort zone and that that’s where I grow and become more of the person I truly want to be.
So in short, I’ve taken this as a call to us all being better at being kind.
4. Screw the Rules
My last lesson is simple: Screw the rules. I have been told so many different things by so many different people. Say this but don’t say that. Wait this long to reply, don’t seem to desperate, don’t seem to cool… the list goes on. I tried for a minute, but quickly got so exhausted, I was either going to give up on the whole thing or flip the script and be myself.
Self-acceptance and love play a big role in this for sure, and it took me a while to get there (we might do a little piece on that soon) but now that I know who I am and am okay with that, I won’t pretend to be anything other than myself.
If I feel like letting you know that I’d like to see you again I will and if I feel like texting you first, I will do that too. That’s who I am and what’s the point in pretending it’s not?
I think a lot of our relationships these days are messed up, because we pretend to be someone we’re not for such a long time and eventually, when we get tired of pretending, the other person is left to realize they’ve never really known the real us.
Being yourself (and of course within reason guys, you get what we’re trying to say) is ultimately the only currency we have anyway. And if they don’t like what they get, that’s their problem not yours – they were never for you in the first place.
Like we said, they’re not rocket science, but we can’t help but wonder what our society could look like if we all applied some of these – whether it’s in dating or in our friendships.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on all this! Comment below and like and share if you found this helpful at all!
We’ll be back with more #WellnessWednesday fun next week!
want to read more from Jess? Check out her personal blog: https://jesswrites.org/