Tag Archives: friends

Taking My Own Advice- A Timeline

Over the last few years I’ve accrued a certain experience with consoling friends who newly got out of relationships. I don’t think of myself as a particularly emotionally tuned in or apt at dealing with other people’s crises, but most of the time being online late at night and not being a complete dickhead is sufficient to be approached by friends and acquaintances in distress.

Either way, I’ve talked to a lot of people who’d just been broken up with. And in a way, each one of these people had a unique story. A story about long-term partners, recent dates or fuckbuddies. A story about cheating, fighting or slowly fizzling out. A long, drawn out, painful epic, or a quick text on a Thursday night.  The uniting element is that someone, in some way told them “What relationship we have will end here”.  And however unique the circumstances are, however unique the pain feels, there is something fundamentally universal to being broken up with. This means that the limited helpful advice that can be given will be almost insultingly similar to every victim of a breakup. I’ve dealt out this stuff verbatim for years.

The two rules that stick out are:

1)  Stay away from your ex.

and

2) It will take time, but you will be ok

2011 was the first time I had to put this advice into practice myself.

The first rule  is very straightforward and practical, a clear guideline for behaviour and questions. Should I call him? Should I go to his best friend’s BBQ? Should I let her know that I downloaded that program she likes? Should I set my facebook status to “thinking of you…”? Please refer to rule 1.  No, you shouldn’t.

Don’t call, don’t visit, don’t hang out where your ex hangs out. Don’t provoke “chance” meetings, or organise awkward run-ins at third-party friends’ karaoke parties.

In my case this was relatively easily achieved by not living on the same continent as my ex. Changing some settings in my favourite chat protocols was all that was needed for successfully avoiding my ex and not talking to him for the next 6 weeks.

Rule 2) is a bit trickier, as it doesn’t present any clear-cut advice, but some rather vague reassurance that at some point in the future, life will suck less than it does right now. There’s no deadline, no definite answer. There’s also no consequence to your own behaviour, no guideline apart from “hang in there, dude”. It’s undoubtedly true in almost all cases (after all, due to natural fluctuations in happiness, at some time things will be better, and you’ll overcome the local minimum you’re experiencing right now). However, it’s not immediately helpful to hear, especially when no-one can tell when this magical ok-ness will happen.

Ever the social scientist, I’ve volunteered for my own little case study and took detailed notes.

This is highly subjective, I’m not aiming to replicate the results anytime soon, and of course your timeline might be vastly different from mine. But if you’re at a local minimum, and asking all your friends “WHEN THE FUCK WILL IT BE BETTER ALREADY?” maybe you’ll take a little consolation from this tale.

Perceived Happiness over Time from Day 0 (Break-Up)

Interpreting the graph should be easy. X-axis represents time in days, Y-axis represents level of personal well-being and contentment. For future reference: it took me about a two weeks to a month to be fully functional in daily life again, two months until things were normal 90% of the time, and three months until I could genuinely look back on the relationship without pain.

And yes, sticking to my own advice was the right strategy for me. Following the first rule and not being around my ex let me appreciate that my life without him is as colourful and complete. Instead of dwelling on what was missing I filled the empty space with old and new friends. The second rule became a mantra that brought me hope. In future, I will update it to “It’ll take time (approx. three months) but you’ll be ok”. It might be universal advice after all.

Although all my friends were helpful and supportive throughout this experience, this post is dedicated to K.

You’re wonderful, and everyone can only wish for a friend as caring as you are. Thank you.

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FWB- a Three Letter Word

The topics for most of my blog entries usually come to me in the guise of dates I go on myself, occasionally through a story a friend tells me. Today’s post is inspired by not one, but two friends, who told me virtually identical, and in any case similarly frustrating stories.

Casual relationships, fuckbuddies or friends with benefits are a common occurrence in the realm of modern dating. This form of relationship offers people who don’t want a romantic relationship, or who haven’t met a suitable candidate, the opportunity of stability, familiarity and regularity while dispensing with the need for intense emotional involvement and romantic commitment. At its very best, a casual relationship can tick all the boxes. The prerequisite is that this level of involvement is what both parties want – a  casual relationships makes a rubbish consolation prize when you’re madly in love with someone.

However, all too often you’ll find that after a few dates you have two people with different levels of emotion and expectations. Person A is happy to keep dating casually, is open to a sexual relationship, but doesn’t want to become more involved romantically. Person B however is falling in love, would prefer to make the relationship more committed and exclusive, and wants to bind person A to them.

This outset can lead to the following scenario.

B: I really like you – I think we should consider a serious relationship!

A: Hm, this is fun, but I don’t want a serious relationship (right now/with you, etc.). If you’re interested in more, we should probably stop seeing each other,  otherwise you’ll get hurt!

B: Oh, don’t worry, I promise I won’t get hurt. Let’s just continue to see each other casually.

A: Sounds good to me!

We have two people, two different demands, two different emotional perspectives. Yet almost invariably, B will step down and through some sort of jedi mindtrick absolve A from the guilt of hurting them, while continuing the relationship to A’s specifications. In both of my friends’ stories, this was the case.

Let me make this really clear: I’m all for friends with benefits. Being FWB can be absolutely wonderful, giving two people exactly what they need. But in this scenario, only A  gets what they need, whereas B ends up making unreasonable concessions, out of fear of losing what little affection A is prepared to give them. Surely that can’t be right?

But how can you avoid this situation? What if you’ve fallen for your friend with benefits?

Oh, honey. Yes, it’s tempting to think that things between you and A are going to be complicated either way, and that being fuckbuddies is a good way of keeping them in your life. However, if what you really want is a proper monogamous doves-balloons-and-heartshaped-lollipops relationship, you’re setting yourself up for heartache. If A is willing to risk that just so they can still sleep with you, they’re not really worth your love, and they certainly don’t make a good friend.

Step away, please.

And what if you’re on the other side? What to do when you find yourself in A’s shoes?

What is the appropriate response when you realise your friends with benefits  is way more into you?

The usual answer from A to this is: Surely it’s not just my responsibility to deal with this.  B is a grown-up who is responsible for their own emotional well-being, and I should be able to trust them when they ensure me that they won’t get hurt.

That sounds nice, but somehow the resulting scenario feels all wrong. I’d therefore  like to offer the following caveat: As the less involved party you have a certain responsibility to protect the more vulnerable B. If you’re indeed friends, this might be the moment to look out for your friend. As previously mentioned on this blog, it’s unreasonable to expect someone in a state of mental delusion to make a responsible choice. Tell B that you don’t think its a good idea for you two to hang out anymore and then stick to it!

If you’re not friends, just fuck them over and enjoy your ride. But please don’t complain to your other friends afterwards about how you didn’t see it coming, and really wish B would get over things and you could still be friends.


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Two Stories

I often get asked whether my stories are out of real life and “true”. In sight of this, I’ve added this disclaimer to my “about” page:

Yes, this blog is based on my real life, on real dates and real stories. However as my main purpose is to entertain and muse about dating in general all the examples and stories (although drawn from reality) might be dramatised.

Sometimes I think this is still worth elaborating on. Not to get overly philosophical, but I do not believe in “truth” per se. Whatever event happens out there in reality (and for this blog we’ll just assume that reality exists) becomes our personal story through our own perspective, our biases, our native perception, our history, and as we retell our experience, our story is edited, some details omitted, some highlighted. The necessary blanks in any story are filled by the listener’s imagination. Therefore I find it rather amazing that our personal experience and story overlaps at all with others’ stories.

To illustrate my theoretical musings, I’ve decided to write two short stories about last night. Both are true, in that they depict what happened and I haven’t added anything.

A Side: “A Perfect Night”

Last night, I was invited to my friend’s V.’s house for home-cooked dinner. Initially, he had invited several people, but only me and my good friend B. turned up at 7.30 on the dot. We girls both brought wine, and opened the first bottle immediately. The conversation was lively and we finished our drinks quickly while waiting for another friend to start with dinner. Maybe an unwise choice, as said friend never materialised and by 10 o’clock we were ravenously hungry and quite tipsy. When V. came back from the kitchen with his specialty dish it seemed the most delicious thing either of us had eaten in weeks and was devoured within minutes.

After dinner the three of us retreated back to the sofa with our wine and a movie, which was an old favourite of both B. and mine. We are also both European and share a certain touchy-feeliness. In the course of the following hours, we became more and more entangled on the sofa with V. happily sitting in the middle, and legs were draped over cushions, heads buried in laps, hands lazily stroking backs, arms and necks. And that’s all I remember of the next two hours. In this situation, we all completely ignored both the movie and time and only realised when the last tube had long gone.

We didn’t have a choice but staying over and made our way to V.s bedroom, where we woke up this morning with crumpled sheets and big grins on our faces.

 

All in all… the perfect night. V. certainly seemed very happy in the morning.

 

 

B Side: “Sleeping Beauties”

After an exhausting week behind me, and with a busy weekend ahead, V.’s casual dinner invitation seemed perfect to take my mind off things for an evening. I arrived completely frazzled and tired from a hectic day and tried to unwind with a choice of M&S house wine. B. and I were joking with each other and raided his DVD collection while we were waiting for dinner. We discovered “Never Been kissed” and mocked V. for owning such a highschool Rom-Com classic. He told us the DVD was his roommate’s and he’d never even seen the movie.

By the time we had dinner, the tiredness and hunger had mixed with the wine to a state of sheer exhilaration. Every remark seemed funnier than the last, the food was manna from heaven and “Never Been Kissed” had been stylised into the best movie of all times. Closing V.’s gap in popular culture knowledge, we put it on after dinner – that this seemed like a fantastic idea should show what state we were in.

Anyway, we retreated to the sofa, huddling in the middle so we could all see the tiny laptop screen. Shortly, we were all leaning on each other, trying to make ourselves as comfortable as a two-seater sofa will three people ever allow to be. And that’s all I remember of the next two hours. The familiar movie in the background, the warm apartment, ample wine and a full belly achieved what I’d been yearning for all through my exhausting week: a nap on a sofa. Yeah, it wasn’t my sofa, and there were two other people on it, but that seemed a pretty minor dent in my state of bliss. I previously told you that B. and I have lots in common – apparently our propensity to doze off on the sofa after dinner is one of them. Yes, within 20 minutes we were both asleep, draped over poor V. who didn’t dare to move and was thus forced to watch “Never Been Kissed” with two sleeping ladies in his lap.

I woke up to the rolling credits of the movie around 1am, long after the last tube had gone. B. was still sleeping soundly. I coaxed her to come with me to V.’s bedroom, where we shared his bed (which came with pre-crumpled sheets) for the rest of the night. V. himself slept on the couch.

 

All in all, the perfect night? Anyway, it was just what B. and I needed.

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The Dating Simulator

The reasons why I have not been dating much lately are partly  professional and partly because my private life was taken up by looking for a new flat. Dashing around London,  visiting perfect strangers in their homes and going through their cupboards has been my major evening pastime in the past weeks, taking up most available dating time. However, I’ve come to realise that dating and flathunting aren’t  that different altogether. You could probably see flathunting as a good practise for dating. You don’t see how? Let me elaborate.

1)   You put up an ad or react to ads online.

The most proliferous and reliable source of flats/dates comes from the internet. Yes, in a perfect world we would just run into Mr. Right on the street and find the keys to a free, airy, hardwood-floored studio apartment around the next corner. However, when looking for a flat on a deadline or a date for Saturday night, tempting fate isn’t the most reliable option.

And so I find myself screening ad after ad for the “lovely spacious double room” or “tall & handsome with good sense of humour” of my dreams.

2) People speak gibberish in ads.

The amount of jargon in both the world of online dating, and real estate are astonishing, and terribly confusing for the layman. Because webspace isn’t paid for per word or line, the earlier usage of crazy abbreviation “2bdr, k/b and GSOH” is now subsiding, but euphemisms and embellishments still abound. Funnily enough, lots of the words used are the same for both personal ads and room offers – however, the underlying meanings are very different. This goes together with point 3).

3) People lie.

You’ll find enough offers that seem too fabulous to be true. All the advertised flats are “roomy and light” with “great flatmates, who like to chat over a glass of wine”. Similarly, every single guy with an ad online “doesn’t take himself too seriously and has a good sense of humour”.

However, once you see the flat or meet the guy you’ll discover what the code stands for, and it turns out the “roomy and light” flat has no radiators, while the guy who “doesn’t take himself too seriously”, also doesn’t take drug laws too seriously, and thinks dope should totally be legalised, man.

To spare other people the same mistakes, I’ve compiled a quick list based on my experiences:

Term Used in Ad What it Means in Real Estate What it Means in Dating
lovely small room boring
charming chipped paint job, mismatched furniture lies to get you into bed
cosy shoe box that smells of mould overweight, and not willing to do anything about it
sociable and lively noisy flatmates gets drunk at least three times a week
lots of character no straight walls, carpet smells funky contradicts you a lot and wears obscure band t-shirts
decent-sized average average

I hope this helps with deciphering the code and finding the right room or date.

In my case, after being quite disillusioned by my online finds, I returned to the more oldfashioned way of being newly introduced to someone I already knew. Turns out you don’t need to look online, when you might already have met the perfect opportunity.

I’m not talking about a date – but I’m moving in with a friend tomorrow.

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…My Favourite Things

Several of my friends have commented on how in this blog I seem to focus on the negative aspects of dating and on things that went wrong, even though I obviously enjoy it enough to keep going out with people. I can partly explain this bias by the fact that this is not meant as an exhaustive log of my love life, but rather as a creative outlet with the theme of dating. As rule violations give more food for thought than when everything is going smoothly, I find myself sticking to those. Also it is much easier to make entertaining stories out of bad dates, than out of good ones. I also want to avoid sounding too cheesy or starry-eyed.

Anyway, there’s always trying, so I’m going to give it a go and analyse “my favourite things”. These are like the counterpart to dealbreakers,  all the little features that turn a date from so-so to interesting (or from total disaster to ok).

I went out with a guy I had met online. We had exchanged the obligatory friendly messages vetting each other for obvious flaws, and upon not finding any agreed to meet in a pub. We had a few drinks, talked about current affairs, the golden era of Russian literature and particle physics, or whatever else came to the mind. Ok, I have no idea what we talked about. It wasn’t a horrible date, but not really much to write home or blog posts about either.

We left the pub, and on exiting I saw that he was wearing his sweater backwards. I had previously thought it was a crewneck, but there was a definite V-neckline in the back, showing that he was wearing it back-to-front. I pointed this out to him, and after checking the front of his sweater (and finding a tag) he replied, completely deadpan, “No, I’m not wearing it backwards.”. I didn’t want to insist, and he repeated firmly but with a slight grin “I think this is how it’s supposed to be worn.”. Then we just broke out in laughter.

It is really hard to explain, but somehow this random moment felt much more intimate than the three hours of conversation beforehand. He seemed to have picked up on it, because the short message I received afterwards referred to only two things: our fight about spearmint vs. peppermint gum (urm, I mean Dostoyevsky vs. Tolstoy) and the fact that backward sweaters were almost certainly becoming a hype for autumn/winter 2010.

I can’t really draw a rule from this or even sum it up clearly, but showing a little vulnerability or imperfection and glossing over it with charm and humour certainly is a good thing in my books.

So there it goes, a positive dating story. However, I still didn’t go on a second date with him. Although the message was cute, the date in itself was just too uninspiring.

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Jealous?

Jealousy is difficult enough to deal with when you are in a committed relationship. It is even more complicated and unpleasant when you have just started dating a person, yet they already feel possessive and insecure  about you.

I’m thinking of my friend S. who went on a blind date with a very promising sounding young man. They went to a Brazilian themed bar, where they had dinner followed by some Salsa dancing. He had proposed this, and she figured it would be sort of a laugh. It turned out to be great fun, and the evening got off to a very good start.

As her date excused himself for a moment after dinner, S. was approached by another man and asked whether she wanted to dance. At first she apologized and refused, but the guy offered to simply show her some steps.  As he brought her back to their table a few minutes later, her date candidly asked S. whether she had had fun. He then proceeded to mention this dance every so often throughout the conversation, even when this required a complete change of topic. He was obviously jealous, which considering this was their first (blind) date, appeared extremely strange to S..

The final straw was probably when another man came to their table and asked whether he could grab a chair. S. smiled at him, and told him to go ahead. Her date just hissed:

“Oh, I guess you’d quite like to dance with him, wouldn’t you?”

Needless to say, she left early, and never went out with him again.

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Who’s Paying?

Another post that stems from an incident in real life. This time the opinions in my circle of friends are divided and I’m not so sure myself either.

When going out on a date, the most popular locations in my experience are bars, coffeeshops and restaurants. They fill the brief of being public, yet offering a private space to have a conversation and thus get to know each other.

The only real downside is that they aren’t exactly free, which means that most of these dates will end with a bill, and two options. You can either split the bill or one of you can just dive in and invite the other. This choice is difficult enough with friends, as everyone already seems to have a different take on it depending on personal funds, family history and cultural values (in the words of a Lebanese friend: “If my dad knew I had you paying for my drink he’d smack me”). This  isn’t simplified by the fact that in British culture it is taboo to talk about money. This means that both of you will hold strong believes over how it should be done, but general convention forbids you to speak about it.

So let’s make it even more complicated and add gender issues into this mix of variables!

Say, we have a girl and a boy* having dinner with each other at a previously arranged location. They eat, they drink, they get the bill.

Then comes the little dance where parties both pull out their wallet, rummage around for money and grab for the bill.

All of this has to be done with really exaggerated gestus, panto-style. In no way is it acceptable to just ask “Hey, would you pay for my dinner?” or “Let’s face it, I earn more than you and picked the restaurant, so I should pay”. Even the simple “So how should we do this?” is culturally discouraged.  Instead, fully grown adults artfully slap hands that reach for the bill, clutch wallets and nod at waiters or even put more money on the table and push notes back in the direction of the other person with such pathos as if they were early colonialists haggling with the native tribes.

In most cases however it either results with the male part paying for everything, or more rarely with both chipping in. I have personally never paid for the other party on the first three dates, and a quick poll around my female friends reveals similar numbers (including the surprisingly popular “I’ve never paid for anything on a first date.”). Once a relationship is more settled, it happens more often that the female part pays, but in this early stage of courtship the classic image of the “male provider” persists.

Whether people are cool with this convention depends at least partially on their degree of feminist idealism. Some minority of my female friends are outraged at the thought of accepting dinner – and candidly ask what this dinner pays for. This thought is backed by the odd creepy guy that thinks that together with the dinner he bought himself company for the night. However, most guys seem to be more relaxed about the expectations they have from a dinner-date, and cite mostly “wanting to impress her” and “it’s the done thing” as reasons to pay for their date. This in turn leaves them vulnerable to girls who just want the free meal.

I’ve found myself in several situations recently where I was invited out, and although I liked the guy, I wasn’t interested in him romantically. I wasn’t too sure whether to accept the invitation, because yes, I did fancy free dinner and fun conversation, but no, I already knew it wasn’t going to lead to anything else. I also refer back to the lower left quadrant of my “accidental date” chart.

By far the best advice I have heard in this context was summed up into a single statement:

No-one pays for dinner if they just want to be friends.

This is exceptionally sound advice because it shows you how important it is to consider the other person’s intentions. And no, I shouldn’t accept an invitation from someone who’s more involved than I am. If I want to go out with them as friends, then we should behave like friends, and probably split the bill.

The verdict is still out for dates that I’m actually interested in. Should I just wait for that fourth date to “get even”, or accept from the start that there will be a financial imbalance?

*in my personal scenario. I’m fully aware and fine with the fact that right now, lots of boy-boy and girl-girl couples are getting a bill for their date. Not sure how they solve the problem, or what the convention is in this case. I’m sure however that in Britain it will involve a lot of miming.

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