March 19, 2016

Don't Try to Force Your Relationship Style Onto Someone Else!

A casual relationship is as much of a personal choice as a committed one.

Don't confuse being "open minded" with straight up stepping all over other people's boundaries.

So, back in the day, relationships were a lot more clear. More defined. Courtship, for example, was so standardized that both parties going in knew exactly what to expect, and more importantly, what was expected. "So what are your intentions?" was a normal question on the first date. None of this twelve dates in and still not knowing if it's "okay" to bring that "stuff" up yet.

As relationships become more varied, as lines become blurred, it becomes more difficult early on to figure out just what the other person's intentions are. The other thing that gets difficult is making sure that both parties have consented to what they're participating in.

For example, if you ask a woman out in a date, consent seems very clear. You asked her on a date. She said yes. Boom. Done.

Except...since dating has changed so much, it isn't really clear anymore what being asked out on a date means, and if you choose to assume you know what it means you may end up anywhere from annoyed, frustrated, to shattered if your definition differs from that of the person asking you out.

As far as I'm concerned, date is a date. Hey do you wanna meet up for coffee sometime is like, I'm not sure if I'm interested, but maybe. Let me get to know you a little better. Hey a bunch of us are going to bla bla bla bar later, you wanna join us? is, I want to spend time with you with all my other friends. Could be leading to a date. Could be that he just sees you as a friend. Could be that he's hoping you'll take too many shots and then he'll get one. Hard to know before proceeding. Hey wanna come over and watch a movie? could be, Hey I wanna spend time with you but I'm not in a place financially that I can take you out the way I might want, so I'm gonna host instead. It could be, I don't really feel like doing the whole "dinner" thing. It's just a lot of work, you know? Can't you just come over and chill inside? If you really liked me it wouldn't matter whether we went out or not. Or it could be, Read the subtext. This is a booty call. Again, hard to tell until you get there.

But a date. A date?! Is a date! A date is, I am asking you to dinner because I am interested in getting to know you romantically, and I am serious about my interest, and to show you that I'm serious and to facilitate the direction I'm hoping things with us will move in, I'm formally asking you for a DATE!

That's what date means to me. Unfortunately not everyone out there agrees with the definitions above.  There are a lot of people out there who date casually, who date multiple people at once, who date inside open relationships and marriages, who date looking for a polyamorous situation, or who "date" but what they're calling dating is just multiple booty calls with multiple people on repeat. To be clear - I don't think it's unfortunate that these less conventional forms of dating exist. What is unfortunate, to me, is that some people don't realize that to approach all of these situations the same way doesn't make any sense, and is actually very unfair to whomever you might be approaching. 

Because no one asks you out and says, "Hey you wanna go on a few dates, probably explore each other sexually at some point, but not develop any feelings or attachment?" Or, "Listen my girlfriend and I are in an open thing. So if you wanna date casually for a few months, that's fine. She's my priority though." Or..."Hey, you seem really nice and sweet. Here's my husband. Would you want to join us? Indefinitely?"

Or, one that I'd heard of but never thought would happen to me until it did, "Hey look I'm going on a vacation in two weeks but I'd really love to see you again before I leave. I've never met anyone like you and I really want to make you a priority. Can I take you to dinner before I leave? Oh, by the way, my vacation is two months long, or at least that's what I'll tell you upfront because really I can stay gone indefinitely, I'm probably gonna drag it out for four months or so. Oh, and by the way, when I get back it'll only be to tie up some loose ends and then I'm planning to move to the place I'm vacationing. Oh, and the place I'm...ahem...moving? It's on the other side of the world. So you excited about dinner?"

Yeah. Watch out for that ladies. It's no fun being catfished into a long distance relationship.

But I digress...

On your end, on the lady end, or the person-being-asked-out end, this means you cannot be afraid to ask questions. Ask questions! You have every right to ask what a person's intentions are when they ask you out. You have every right to ask what they want with you, or where they see it going. You aren't needy for this, or wrong for this. When you don't do this, you're basically telling them, "Hey, you're perfectly entitled to have me in whatever way you like, so entitled that I'm not even gonna ask what that way is." Uh uh. ASK QUESTIONS!!! Ask a lot of them, and as long as the other person is straight with you, then fine. You two (or three, or seven) will work it out, whether in the same town or on a 12 hr time difference. Whatever is agreed.

But the responsibility is not soley on the person being asked out, and this is where I see problems. For some people who practice, let us call them alternative forms of dating, they don't see them as completely different ways of doing something. They kind of see it kind of like a totem pole, where dating multiple people at once would be entry level, and then dating really casually with no expectation of...well...anything would be first tier, and then a committed relationship would be second tier, etc. Either that, or they assume that because they are okay with their dating preference, that everyone is okay with it, or should be, so they don't bother to ask questions or disclose information early on because they assume that whoever they are asking out not only can but should be okay with whatever it is that they have in mind. Or worse yet, they believe that their style of dating is "evolved" and have no qualms delivering condescending lectures to those who haven't been "enlightened" yet

You know you're dealing with someone like this when you have the "defining the relationship" conversation. Except it isn't a conversation. It's them telling you - informing you, practically - what kind of relationship you have, typically after it's already been underway long enough for expectations to form.

If two people are points A and B with a line between them, most healthy relationships involve each person moving away from their respective points and meeting in the middle. You know when you're dealing with someone who wants an entire relationship on their terms when they dig their heels in and do everything they can do drag you the whole way across the line. It doesn't feel good to be dragged somewhere you really don't want to go, and when it happens it usually looks like manipulation, ultimatums, condescending tones, a lot of "defining the relationship" talks that contradict each other and seem to kind of "reset" the situation to a different status, and usually the person being dragged not being happy with the situation most of the time but hanging on because of promises of what they do want or a fear that they've already invested too much to leave. 

Here's the thing:

You don't get to decide what someone else should be okay with. You don't get to determine that friends with benefits should be enough for someone, or dating you and being physically intimate with you while you're being physically intimate with everybody else should be fine with them. It's true for dating, and it's true for sex - it isn't healthy if it's only happening on one person's terms.

Deciding to date someone is like deciding to get in a car. There are some people I feel super safe in the car with and I won't freak out if they drive a little faster than me. There are other people I can't be in the car with because they drive so recklessly I have to clutch my seat the entire time to feel safe. There are others who drive so slow I have to focus on something else to avoid tucking and rolling my way out of the car and just walking instead. For me though, no matter who I'm in the car with, I wear a seatbelt. Every time. (Except in cabs because...come on...this is NYC. It's not like...dangerous.)

So for me, no matter who I'm dating, no matter how we're dating - though I tend to be more traditional - I wear a seatbelt. And for me, dating one person at a time is that seatbelt. Not having sex with someone outside of a commitment unless I'm pretty damn sure we're headed there soon. That's my seatbelt. That's the seatbelt that protects me from emotional injury and STDs. it STIs now?


You. You, pushy person, that tries to get people to compromise their values and have a relationship on your terms. You, pushy person who doesn't respect boundaries and tries to tell the person who made it clear they were looking for a relationship that they should loosen up and "have some fun" - because obviously wanting a relationship means they're uptight, and obviously sex with you is going to be fun for them.

If you are that person, you are basically someone who drives without a seatbelt, and not only that, but who tries to make people who get in the car with you to take their seatbelts off too! Do you really buckle up every time? Really? You never get tired of being so boring? Man, I thought you were a person know...enjoyed living life and taking chances. I can't really picture myself with someone so conventional. If you trusted me as a driver you'd take the seatbelt off. Are you really that afraid of crashing? Do you have an anxiety disorder? Maybe you should see someone about that. I've never had anyone have such a problem taking off their seatbelt before. All my ex-passengers were fine with it. 

Yeah. Guess what? You can date in whatever way suits you, and I'm not placing a value judgement on all the different ways. But you don't have the right to ask someone to assume a risk just because you are okay with it. You don't get to establish someone else's boundaries.

You get to respect them.

x's and many o's,
(inside safe relationships on shared terms!)

- Belle

More posts like this on Belle Rosada's sex blog O School 
For quick tips and bedroom tricks check out Orgasm Control


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