Ask Lucy – Too Much Relationship Work, Being Authentic & Dating Someone Who’s Been Single For a Long Time
Our resident dating expert Lucy Jones is tackling some of Toyboy Warehouse’s top relationship questions. Enlighten your dating experiences with Lucy’s unique take on everything from love, lust to romance.
When Is Work In A Relationship TOO Much Work?
Get to Neutral Space
It’s important that when you’re considering whether your relationship is asking too much from you, that you do so by taking in the bigger picture.
Unfortunately, we’re the worst person to answer that question. We’re unbelievably biased, we of course want this relationship to continue, that’s why we’re working for it. So given that we’re biased, the only way to judge if this relationship is asking too much from us is to try and distance ourselves from the emotion of it all.
There’s no point asking ourselves that question when things are going well, when you’re enjoying the reward. It’s easy for us to think that things are good now, so why rock the boat.
There’s also no point asking ourselves that question when you’re putting in the work, this is the most difficult part of the relationship, but that doesn’t mean the reward isn’t worth it.
Find a neutral time, maybe get some space away from your other half. This will help keep those battling emotions at bay and help you think more clearly. It’ll allow you to weigh up both the work and the reward, so you can make as best of an informed decision as you can.
The Rest of You Falls By The Wayside
While our relationships change us they do not exclusively define us. Healthy relationships need a degree of independence, an understanding of ourselves outside of the relationship.
One of the largest parts of our lives that are sacrificed when working on a relationship is those things that make us happy outside of it. When working on a relationship the time commitment makes friends and family connections more strained. The emotional cost and its impact on our stress and wellbeing can damage careers, making excelling at work more difficult. The requirement to change behaviours can make us start to lose those parts of ourselves that we considered who we really are.
This isn’t a black and white issue, every relationship has to sacrifice those things to some degree to work – the issue comes when we sacrifice too much. It can be difficult to spot when we cross that point, it’s the point when the amount of work we put in is more work than we are rewarded.
However, it’s possible to see if we’ve crossed that line when we struggle to comprehend who we are outside the relationship.
Think about yourself as a person without your partner, is that someone you can imagine?
Do you still have the friends and familial connections, the career aspirations, those things that make you who you are?
If you struggle to see yourself outside of your relationship, it may be because you’ve sacrificed too much whilst inside it. You may need to shift the work from your relationship to redefining yourself and who you are.
The feelings of delight and happiness you have when you’re in their company may suggest you have romantic feelings for that person. But, it also may be feelings of lust or a cherished friendship growing. In some instances, the lines between these may blur, especially for genders you’re attracted to.
It’s the emotions you have when you’re apart that gives you a unique insight into your genuine feelings.
For an authentic romantic connection, these moments apart are decidedly different than when you’re together. Whereas the time spent together is one of elation, the time apart is frustrating. You may find yourself more stressed or irritable without exactly knowing why. A longing for someone can be simultaneously strong and hidden.
Try and catch yourself during those moments of irritability and ask yourself, why am I feeling like this? Ask yourself if something has happened during your day to make you feel like this or if there’s no clear reason? Think about that person, do those feelings of frustration wane or stay the same? Try organising some time to spend with that person, has the anticipation of seeing that person made your day better?
Missing someone is an important feeling. It’s noticeably different than feelings of lust over someone or a desire to be with a friend. This feeling of missing someone is equal parts horrible and wonderful. Horrible in that it almost hurts to be apart from them, but wonderful in the anticipation of joy you’ll feel when you’re together. Ask yourself if you’re feeling this way, it may be obvious, it may be deep-seated. Either way, if you catch yourself having those emotions, chances are you like that person romantically. Go get ‘em, tiger!
How To Be Your Authentic Self On A First Date
It’s a two way street
Being your authentic self on a first date doesn’t just mean focussing on yourself. In order to foster a comfortable environment that allows you to be authentic, you need to allow your date to be authentic too.
Try not to be combative or dismissive of your date’s opinions even if they differ from your own. Unless it’s a dealbreaker opinion for you, focus on being receptive. If they express a passion in something that you have no interest in, don’t dismiss them.
You can playfully challenge them, joke about how you think the complete opposite, but you don’t want to chastise them for being honest. Doing that will only create an environment where being authentic means being very vulnerable, something that’ll come back on you.
Focus on showing off your strengths instead of hiding your flaws.
The cause of inauthenticity in a relationship starts with a person’s initial thinking. We’re wired to want to be liked, when we’re being judged we fixate on all the reasons why we won’t be. On a first date, focus on your strengths rather than your flaws. Not strengths that you think the other person would like, but strengths that you like.
If you’re proud of your unique sense of humour, show it off. If you’re passionate about something specific, try and share that passion. A first date doesn’t need you to hide anything, it’s an opportunity to show off your authentic self.
Why we find it difficult to be authentic
Find all and replace
First dates are a pretty weird thing, their essentially a job interview for a relationship. The fact you’re there to be, essentially, judged by another person can make us start doubting our appeal. This person is here to form an opinion of us; “what if they don’t like me?” might pop into our head.
That form of negative thinking leads us to think up all the reasons why they might not like us, forcing us to fixate on them and try our hardest to hide them. How do we hide the parts of us we don’t like? We don’t just pretend they’re not there, we replace them with what we think would be more acceptable.
A first date isn’t an opportunity to show every part of ourselves. Keeping certain things about us unknown until you have a closer relationship is normal. However when we replace those parts of ourselves with behaviours that are not our own we lose our authentic self and instead project how we would like to be seen.
Things That Happen When You Start Dating Someone Who’s Been Single For A Long Time
Walk, Not Run
While many people who haven’t dated for a while may struggle to fully embrace a new relationship, others may have the opposite problem. You may find that person to be overly committed, keen to rush the relationship and unaware of your need to slow things down.
This is because that person may have spent much of their single time wanting a committed relationship. They’ve missed out on the intimacy and have felt jealous of other close couples. With such a long time being single, they’re set on getting that close relationship – while ignoring the need to keep things at a pace you’re both comfortable with.
You can help them by making it clear that you’re not comfortable with the speed at which things are going. If things work out, you too want that committed close relationship, but hurtling into it is only going to hurt you both. There’s no need to rush, you can enjoy the journey getting there.
Barriers and Walls
Relationships require a level a vulnerability, you’re agreeing to be close to someone well aware that this other person can at any moment walk away and hurt you.
While being single for a long time, we forget about this vulnerability. We don’t really enter into many relationships that have such a high risk of emotionally hurting us.
So, when we do find someone, we quickly move to a long period of guarded walls to one of dangerous vulnerability. That can be difficult. It may mean this person seems distant at certain times, they’re less inclined to some emotion or commit to the relationship for fear of being hurt.
It’s not very easy to just get over this, the only thing you can do is understand and support them. This is a dramatic change, especially if this person has been emotionally hurt in the past. To help them explain that you understand the reasons for their behaviour, that you want them to be more committed like you are and are willing to wait and work on getting to that place.
Drive to End Relationships
Not everything that will come about from being single for a long time will be bad. Periods of long singledom may be necessary or help in the search to understand what someone really wants.
It can be difficult to understand what we want out of a relationship when we’re in one. We’re emotionally biased during this time, we have a degree of feelings for that other person. What we ultimately want from a relationship is skewed by that.
For people coming out of a long period of singledom, expect that they may be quicker to reject things they don’t like. Understand that they may have come of it more aware of what they’re looking for. If their new partner doesn’t satisfy that, they may have more drive to challenge or even end the relationship.
This person is looking for a relationship that they feel happy and comfortable in. This long period of singledom has made them more aware of this and given them strength to move on if needed.
If you feel this idea of what someone really wants is too restrictive, built on flawed thinking and is stopping them from building relationships that will actually make them happy, then you can challenge them. However ultimately this is something that has to be accepted. This person has likely done a lot of thinking whilst single and their wished, however flawed you think they may be, need to be respected.