Tough Choice: Which List First?

September 12, 2008

I started out with a single list…or the idea of a single list.  A list of pros and cons about Dave.  Well, not just about Dave, but about our relationship thus far.  Not everything neatly fits into the pro or con categories.  There are positives and negatives, likes and dislikes, and another independent category of specific complaints/observations.  Last but not least, there are the “negotiables” and the “non-negotiables.”

This list idea turned out to be more difficult than I thought.  I wonder if CremelloQuarterPony is having better luck with her list.  Probably not.  It sounds like she’s too busy having sex to make any lists.  The only list she has going right now is a mental list of all of the new “yoga” moves she’s tried.

Then shdwst (I think this is Shad), also in response to the same post, said he likes lists and is looking forward to hearing about what not to do.  I wasn’t exactly thinking about a list from that angle, but since he asked, I’ll cover that list first.  For some reason, that’s the easiest list. 

Okay, Shad, this list is for you and your compadres (since I don’t really know you, I mean men in general). 

Be confident in your intelligence.  Intelligence takes on many forms.  Think Howard Gardner.  Contrary to popular belief, intelligence and level of education are two distinctly different things.  Dumb people have graduated from Yale (well, at least one, anyway) and smart people don’t always go to college.  Be confident in your varied strengths and don’t beat yourself up over your weaknesses.  We all have them, just different combinations of them.

Be flexible.  Be ready to take charge…or not.  You might think this is a trap, but it’s not.  The key here is flexibility.  When you first start going out with a woman, go ahead and take the initiative to plan things out, like what to do and where.  Share your ideas and see what she thinks.  If she has a different idea, or was the first to suggest a specific idea, let her take the lead. 

Finally, keep in mind the theory of mindTheory of mind (ToM) is the ability to attribute mental states—beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc.—to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires and intentions that are different from ones own.  In plain English, ToM is about empathy – the ability to see something from another persons’ perspective…not as you would see it if you were in their shoes, but how they actually see it.  This relates to the issue of flexibility above. 

Bear with me for a moment, as what I am about to say has implications for “normal folk.”

My critique of ToM involves Simon Baron-Cohen‘s application of it to individuals on the Autistic Spectrum, which he tends to oversimplify as an extreme manifestation of ‘maleness.’  I think he’s missing a critical point: ToM is not always a “developmental milestone” people do or don’t reach.  There is a middle ground, where otherwise ordinary people cannot switch back and forth (from their perspective to the perspectives of others) as quickly and easily as other people.  This relates to why far more males than females are diagnosed with autism-related issues.  Women, perhaps because of hormonal and chemical differences, are more likely “evolve past” the ToM stage, but effectively get stuck in “empathizing mode,” while men are more likely to get stuck in “narcissism” mode.

Here is the meat of it:dating and relationships require an advanced ability to empathize that leaves most people in the dust.  This is a particular kind of intelligence that not all people, including (and especially) those with high “IQs” possess.   In fact, people with highly developed intelligence in subjects like math and science are probably the most inept in this area of functioning.

Are you more of an “empathizer” or a “narcissist”?  Let me guess, Shad – you are more of an empathizer.  If this is true, you get so wrapped up in the other person’s perspective that you lose track of your own perspective.  That’s how I am.  Dave is, self-admittedly, more of a narcissist.  He can be incredibly empathetic at times, but is usually self-absorbed.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with that.  The point is to be aware of your own tendencies and try to correct for them.  If Dave proves to be a keeper, he will become more aware of his inclination to get stuck in his own perspective.  He will (hopefully) learn to listen to (and remember!) what I say instead of guessing what I want, which is really easy to assume is the same thing that he wants.

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Dating for Dummies

September 4, 2008

Last weekend, I went book shopping for my son.  I would have said I went shopping with him, but he was not very helpful.  He just started middle school and needs to read three books on three different subjects.  After picking the last book, Web 2.0 Heroes, I glanced over and noticed a book on a different shelf called Relationships for Dummies.  My son was occupied with a book on inventions, so I thumbed through it for a few minutes.  I was tempted to buy it, but I hadn’t come to buy any books for myself.  Well, maybe the Web 2.0 book was for me…although it’s my job to train him to become a geek like me.  I put the Dummy Book the back on the shelf.

Later, I told Dave, half-kiddingly, how I had seen a dummy book about relationships.  Without pause, he said he thought it would be helpful for me.  I suppose I could have taken offense to his remark, but I didn’t.  That’s what I like about him.  He is very kind in his intentions and gentle in his delivery, so he can be brutally honest without hurting my feelings.

A few days later, I was getting caught up on the latest Adventures With Dating and saw a reference to the Dating for Dummies book.  I assumed it was the same book I had looked at, but it was not.  As it turns out there are a number of books…Dating for Dummies, Internet Dating for Dummies, Relationships for Dummies, Romance for Dummies, Sex for Dummies, etc.  Apparently there are enough people like me to keep this publisher in the relationship/dating business.


Is the Honeymoon Already Over?!!

September 2, 2008

I’ve lost track of how many dates I’ve had with Dave over the past few weeks.  They aren’t really “dates” anymore.  We’ve started doing mundane things together since things like running errands are more fun with company.  At the same time, I’m not used to doing mundane things with other people.  I am kind of “old” and “set in my ways” when it comes to certain things.  These are really just OCD tendencies. 

I don’t have the greatest social skills, especially when it comes to relationships.  I’ve been single for most of my adult life.  This is partly because I historically have terrible taste in men.  It’s also partly because I don’t know how to “do” relationships.  I had your typical dysfunctional family upbringing.  I’m still trying to figure out how healthy and normal people do things.  I’ve figured out a lot of it, but the whole relationship domain is new territory for me.

In the past, I haven’t done it (relationships) much and I certainly haven’t done it well.  In the past, conflicts were either buried or turned into arguments.  Conflicts either smoldered over time or ended in break-ups…or some combination of the two.  Now what I am struggling with is how to handle conflict in my current relationship.  I use the term relationship loosely because we haven’t defined it in the formal sense.  I use the term because we have a human relationship that the word friendship doesn’t accurately describe.

There are moments when I feel uncomfortable emotions welling up inside me and I feel panicked.  I know I can’t ignore them, because they will come to the surface no matter what.  It’s best to consciously and carefully bring them to the surface verbally, or they will come out in my behavior.  As I bring up different concerns with Dave, I feel a tremendous amount of anxiety, like whatever silly (or serious) thing is on my mind is going to trigger the end of our relationship.

I partly have my last “boyfriend” to thank for that acute association.  This was a few years ago.  He was literally, the sociopath next door.  He was such an @$$hole that every time I brought up a concern about our relationship, he would respond with something like “well, then let’s break up.”  He refused to participate in any kind of conversation that was the slightest bit uncomfortable.  He only wanted to be in a relationship with me if things were fun and light.  Otherwise, he was more than happy to give (or threaten) a cold shoulder.

In addition to my experiences with the sociopath, I didn’t exactly grow up with any appropriate modelling for how to deal with conflict.  It was just avoided at all costs.  I internalized all of that conflict over the years until it came pouring out of me in the form of depression in my teen and young adult years.  I was the youngest in the family, and all the $hit got passed down to me.

So, now here I am, at the age of 36, trying to figure out how to deal with the smallest amount of (potential) conflict in a romantic relationship.  Fortunately, Dave is very kind and stable and is more than ready to talk about any concern I may have.


Social Skills and Gender Roles

August 19, 2008

As I mentioned in my previous post, Social Skills, or Lack Thereof, I’m clueless when it comes to men.  Whatever social skills I’ve developed for other areas of my life don’t always carry over when I deal with men.  I think it’s because I’m not sure what my role is.  Thanks to feminism and the women’s studies classes I took in college, I am painfully aware of how limiting and oppressive gender roles can be – for both men and women. 

 

I am a woman, so when it comes to men, what is my role?  I rarely cook or clean.  I’m not crazy about kids in general.  When I see babies, I think, “Thank God I’ll never go through that again.”  I’m a brainiac and I would have definitely killed myself had I been born a few decades earlier.  As a matter of fact, my maternal grandmother committed suicide.  Prior to that, she coped with alcohol and cigarettes.  And my paternal grandmother wasn’t really into children, although she had 6 of them.  She coped with food.  She was obese, long before it was the norm.

 

Anyway, traditional gender roles are out for me.  I just don’t fit into that framework.  I don’t want to be anyone’s wife, in the traditional sense.  So does that mean I want a wife – a Mr. Mom?  I’ve thought about it.  It’s a definite possibility.  Or do I want to be with a financially stable man?  We could afford to hire a wife, so to speak.  We could contract out the cooking, shopping, and cleaning for the household.  That way, neither one of us would have to do it.  I’m leaning towards going in this direction.


Social Skills, or Lack Thereof

August 19, 2008

Did I mention I’m socially clueless, especially when it comes to men?  Contrary to popular belief, social skills don’t always come naturally.  At least for some people, they are a set of skills that are learned.  I’ve always had a hard time with social skills.  Although my friends don’t believe me, I swear I really am a shy person. 

 

I don’t feel comfortable around new people, especially if I don’t know anything about them, like how they see the world.  I need to understand your social and political ideology before I can have a conversation with you.  I’m serious.  Unless you’re a freaky liberal and/or really smart, I can’t have a conversation with you.  I don’t know how to talk to ‘normal people.’

 

Normal people talk about the weather, sports, what they did last weekend, and what they are doing next weekend.  They share stories about the times they got pulled over by the police and the times they came oh so close to missing their plane.  Oh, the drama!  I’d rather stab myself with a fork than listen to small talk for more than 30 seconds.

 

My social skills are better when I am fulfilling a role of some sort.  For example, in the workplace, I need to work with Jack and Jill to carry the water down the hill.  Or I need to go to a conference and staff the tacky conference booth.  Last time I did that, I got a job offer from the person at the next booth, quit my job, and moved to a different state.  I can be smooth at times.