We hear people complain in the dating world all the time—why are women so confusing?! Or why are all men so hard to deal with?
Before we explore what’s wrong with the people you’re dating, it’s time to take a step back and explore yourself. What are you bringing to the table? What preconceived ideas and notions are you walking into dates with?
More importantly, are you using an honest approach to dating? It’s incredible how much honesty clears up a lot of the confusion about your dating partner.
Everyone walks into a date putting their best foot forward. After all, the idea is to seduce someone—to trick them into falling for you, right?
While this is what society tells us is the norm, successful dating and relationships are built on honesty, not on tricks and deceptions. For many people, it comes back to the fairytale romances we’ve seen played out again and again on the big screen.
We may think there’s the perfect person out there for us, right? Then when we find them, we must somehow “trick” them into falling for us. Anyone who’s watched romantic comedy movies knows how silly and outlandish these ideas get. The girl wakes up from a coma, only to realize Mr. Right was the one driving the car that caused her accident. The guy thinks he’s applying for a job, but it’s really an elaborate scheme to find the perfect man…and so on.
It’s not that these films are bad, per se (some of them certainly are terrible), but they paint a false narrative of what it’s like to fall in love with someone.
This connection requires honesty and deep engagement. It requires us to take the filter off our photos and get real with our dates. Sound scary? What are you afraid of?!
One of the reasons men and women find each other so confusing is because we’re judging each other based on our own value set. We all have our own opinions about men and women, dating, and relationships we’ve formed over the years. Moreover, we hold limiting views of the opposite sex.
So we hear over and over, “women are confusing,” or “I can’t read what men want.”
This becomes particularly interesting in dating relationships because men don’t know how to get to know a woman, and women don’t know how to get to know men. We may pick a partner based not on who they are or what we want, but with a hope that we will change or mold them into the complete and total partner we desire.
So, where do these expectations and confusing feelings originate? Well, people grow up with certain ideas based on their family situation. People may come from a background where their mother did all the emotional labor in the house. They may have been raised by a father who was aloof or distant.
These ideas stem from early childhood, and they are challenging to overcome. Even if we were raised in a very progressive environment, and even if we think we don’t subscribe to the traditional idea of gender roles, there are still ideas we’ve learned from society, our parents, and the world around us.
Many people hold certain ideas about gender based on their relationship with Mom and Dad. If Mom was overly involved, you might think women are controlling, overbearing, or intimidating. Similarly, if Dad was absent or aloof, you may think you need to work for men’s affection. You may feel like you’re always trying to win-over acceptance.
Other people come from families who don’t fit the stereotypical gender roles (which accounts for over half the population today). If you were raised with a single parent, a stay-at-home dad, or by your grandparents, you may have a completely different idea of gender role models.
These relationships are deeply embedded and tough to navigate. They’re rarely straightforward or clear-cut.
As a result, you’re left with a choice—create your own culture, your own connections, and your own models, or redo what your parents did.
Now, of course, there are generally variations in our roles. When Judith and I got together, I was the superior housekeeper. I liked everything neat and put away, and Judith was simply not driven that way. She’d lived with a live-in maid for much of her childhood. So for her, organizing wasn’t the norm. In fact, one of our earliest big fights was about how to store and organize things in the house.
But whether you come from traditional roles or completely different backgrounds, you can work together to express your needs and get honest with each other. Learn to embrace the rules of engagement, communicate your needs, and engage in conflict that leads toward a true partnership.
So, where do you begin? The first steps start with sorting out your beliefs about women and men. We often have our Year of More students participate in an exercise where they write down their beliefs and ideas about the opposite sex. These can be obvious or obscure. They can be completely accurate or blatantly false. If they think it, they write it down (even if it’s harsh).
Once these ideas are out on paper, they’re able to examine them a bit more closely. Where do these ideas come from? If you think women are manipulative, for example, where does the idea stem from? Was there a manipulative woman in your life?
The insights from this activity are often quite profound. Students realize we’re all carrying baggage into our relationships and preconceived notions. These gender-based ideas affect our relationships at work, our dating lives, and more.
After exploring them, we start to find instances where we can turn the idea on its head.
Whether you’re dating or looking to better connect with your partner, the best path is through honesty and building intimate engagement. Express your feelings. Don’t hold back!
Imagine going into a date completely honest and open about what you want. What if you told your date exactly what you were looking for? What if you were clear about what you wanted to order for dinner (not worrying about spinach in your teeth or wearing a lobster bib)? What if you decided to tell the truth about your debt, your car, your job, your nine cats?
Do you think your date might run away?
This isn’t an easy challenge. Most of us have been lying for so long that we do it without a second thought. We put a spin on our career, our personality quirks, and our flaws. This isn’t because we’re trying to hide them from the other person as much as we’re afraid to reveal certain truths to ourselves.
Even in our long-term relationships, we might hide our feelings. The confusion we experience comes from our attempts to “figure out” our relationships rather than merely being who we need to be. Instead of trying to please your partner or turn yourself into the ideal, simply be yourself.
The truth is everyone has flaws. There’s no “Mr. Perfect” out there. There’s no “Ms. Right,” either. Each person you date will have different traits and different passions. They will have yearnings. They’ll bring along their beliefs about themselves and the world around them.
So why not cut to the chase? Why not adopt an utterly forthcoming approach to your dates. Even more importantly, why not ask the great big questions?!
What does your date dream about? What do they yearn for? What are their aspirations and goals? What are their fears? When we think of getting intimate on the first date, we think of sex, but emotional intimacy is far more challenging and rewarding.
Once you get “real” with your date, you may find them far less confusing. As you explore who they are, you may start to appreciate your similarities as well as your differences!
For more ways to connect with others, visit the Wright Foundation. Join us for an upcoming More Life Training, where you’ll connect with others on their transformational journey. Don’t miss our special downloadable courses available now at a special introductory price.
The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.