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Finding Romance in a Smartphone Era

I once said I had 25+ drafts waiting to be finished; this was one of them that got lost along the way. I remember working hard on this one in particular back in February; only for me to accidentally delete about a third of it and it auto-saved. This post was not only inspired by romantic holidays, but also people feeling down about the state of dating and relationships. Nowadays it’s become common to hear people meeting through online dating platforms, from Tinder and Bumble to Match and eHarmony and all other niche versions in-between. It makes things more convenient, because you may have never met Tom at the bar Friday since you go on Saturday. Carol is always at her favorite coffee shop near midtown, while you work up on the north side district. We are introduced to people we never knew existed, and that may or may not have similar interests as us. People you think you would get along great with! Except they swiped left on you. Or you both chat, and then one disappears from the conversation. The worst is actually meeting, only to realize they are one version online and somewhat different in person. Like all dating, some are good and others bad; both in terms of experience and the person you’re out with. 

In this era of being on our phones, we’ve changed haven’t we? Many are now used to convenience, simplicity, and staying in their comfort zone. This seems to have carried over to our personal interactions. Mainly excluding clubs and bars, you don’t see many be bold and talk to a stranger; either for the sake of chatter or to inquire about a date. Now not everyone is like that, as some still take initiative, but it feels more and more people are evading such advances to remain in their own world; whether it’s from being in your group of friends or entrapped on your laptop/book. Some are very outgoing and find like-minded people, while others like to go out just to get out of the house, and then there are the ones who can spend the rest of their days hiding behind a book whilst drinking wine.

Image result for on the phone during a date

Some people joke about being “forever alone”, while others are actually living it. Orson Welles once said, “We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.” Fact is, we all need some sort of connection with somebody as long as we live on this planet. Whether friends, family, or partners, we need companionship. Family is there in some way, shape or form. Friends come and go, but are there for you. Yet when it comes to romance and partners, it can be tougher in this modern age.

I can’t speak for those around the globe but, here in the U.S., it’s like many are hesitant to take a chance; even if it’s just an initial date. Some are career-focused, others just looking for a ‘good time’, and several feeling hurt from their past and holding onto it as a reason to not try again. Can’t blame any of those reasons, but time is such an interesting thing. You don’t want to waste it, because it truly goes so fast. And though we all have our priorities, and feel like life is going the way we want it to right now, curveballs show up everywhere. Ah, yes, the curveballs are back. It’s true though, for while some curveballs can be negative, others can turn out to be positive. How many stories have you heard of people saying they weren’t looking at the time, only to find the love of their life? How many times have you heard of someone taking a chance on something, and having a rewarding experience in the end? It all starts with the willingness to be open.

As I said, some dates can be rewarding while others simply suck. You’ve been there, I’ve been there, and if you haven’t then you will. But don’t dread it, for it only helps you in knowing who you are and what you want. Remember though, no one likes having their time wasted. I’ve noticed it’s becoming more and more trendy for the first date to be some sort of ‘meet-up/hanging out’ as a way to evade getting hopes up. Seriously? Own up and call it a date, people. First dates are usually awkward, and if it goes very well. . . let them know you enjoyed it! But the whole ‘meet up’ concept is one of the ways dating and relationships have taken a hit. We aren’t as enthused or interested if we first have to “qualify” to earn a date. Yes, you want to find a compatible partner who meets what you’re looking for, but while you run through your interview questions there’s no reason either of you can’t be sweet or romantic. For the online daters, it’s understandable you don’t want to go all out for someone who you’re just meeting. Yet at the same time, don’t treat it as if you’re on an ‘entrepreneurial meeting at the business-casual coffee shop to discuss the possibilities of future investments with that person’. Tell your friends it’s a date, if it doesn’t work. . . oh well, move on and keep putting up with friends and family wondering why you’re still available.

As one friend who is older and married told me once, it’s crazy to see how confusing dating has become now. Mainly because lines are so blurred, it can be hard to define what is what anymore. Again, is this a date or are we just hanging out? Are we serious, dating for the sake of companionship, or are you just looking for fun? Things like that again conflict with our preference of not having time wasted. And that’s not bringing up those who like to be polyamorous or dating several people at the same time. Mystery can be sexy, but in moments like this it’s best if things are defined early on. As I once posted, we can’t be afraid to be vulnerable and that is especially true just getting to the first date.  If you find yourself struggling to get out there, whether dating or just casual talking, then maybe it’s time to reinvent yourself and how you approach things. I will stick primarily to dating, as that was what I was originally trying to write about and I hope the rest of this post can help you in some way.

Image result for colette werden quotes

Building Your Foundation

With the colder weather approaching, so too comes the holidays which is a time to connect both with the people we know and people we wish to know. It’s a time where people either feel close with someone or lonely on their own. Relationships are often begun around this time, whether by chance or intentionally. Not long ago, I learned about “cuffing season” (shout out to beautybeyondbones) and how some are actively seeking to be tied down in a relationship. I’m not a big fan of it, but a part of me understands why and sees some of my friends in similar situations. Rather than waiting for an excuse (in this case the holiday season) to become date-able, try to allow yourself to be approachable more often in general.

We are molded by our environment, from people to events happening around us. So if one grows up not seeing or receiving affection, then it wouldn’t be surprising if they grow up not so affectionate or have a misguided idea of affection. The same can be applied to one being approachable, and whether or not they grew up in a warm, welcoming family or if it was “everyone for themselves” sort of thing. Personally speaking, I did not have an affectionate childhood growing up from family or friends. I had no idea how to even give a good hug! But rather than dwell on that and let it shape me as I entered adulthood/college, that chubby, nerdy, shy version of myself was a learner. He was also a late-bloomer, but a quick learner. And it was during this time, that I worked alongside some amazing, positively-influential women who helped show me the qualities that not only flourish in relationships, but also what makes a great man and what to find in a great woman.

Because whether it is dating, or years in a relationship, you always want to work on yourselves and have a strong foundation. You can’t be with others if you struggle to be with yourself. When I was younger, I always sat in the back and didn’t really talk to many others unless forced to; I always hated the first day of class where we’re supposed to “introduce” ourselves. I just wasn’t approachable, not because I hated people, rather I was hesitant towards them. At times, this habit can be useful to ward off the wrong types of people, but at the same time you miss out on positive people because you give off this “go away” vibe. Imagine that in a dating sense now, as we don’t often see someone just strike conversation that leads to a date. It can be for a variety of reasons, whether it’s fear of public rejection or getting hurt, the perception as “desperate or trying-too-hard”, or for other reasons. Yet with confidence, it shouldn’t matter what people will think. You having the courage to speak to someone, or engaging back with them, is what makes you different from others. In general, sometimes it’s not easy being a go-getter. But when you do step out of your realm to try new things, like talk to that interesting stranger, it might pay off while others watch from the sidelines wondering “if only I had done that first”. That upbeat attitude is attractive to many. As I learned growing up, when you give off a warm, welcoming presence, it will draw people to you.

Confidence, compassion and kindness all help build the strong foundation in you. Is it easy? Depends entirely on you, but with practice it’s not too hard. Kindness is helping others in need; even if you may not want to at that moment. Because when you are kind, people see that, just as you notice kindness from others. Think about how often you see someone hold open a door for someone else. For some it’s a bit common, while for others it’s hardly seen; try and stick with the former. Meanwhile, compassion is the ability to feel for someone or have the same feeling as someone else does. You are able to be in tune with another, initially on a platonic level, but can certainly develop it further. Both help in developing an attachment of some kind, and build that trust and care that all relationships should have. Finally confidence, where you are certain in your own abilities such as getting to know a complete stranger.

Put all three together, and it can go a long way. When you are able to sense what someone else is feeling (compassion), then you can better understand what could be said in that moment (kindness), and be assure of yourself in how you approach this (confidence). As mentioned, when you have a base built upon the warmth of compassion and kindness, it allows you to go one step further from platonic to intimate. But again, before jumping into dating and relationship world, try and handle your personal matters as best as you can before. Understandably, when with someone, it’s a team and your matters are a part of theirs and vice versa. But try to avoid throwing your baggage, which we all have to some degree, at the other person; especially at the very beginning. Whether it’s debt, loneliness, etc. relationships are not a quick solution! Now then, let’s go on a date. . .

Let Your Heart Pulse, Grinch

So you have a good foundation below you, and feel ready to talk to others and put yourself out there! That “go away” sign is off your forehead, and you give appropriate indicators that you’d like to talk or be talked to. And whether you play it safe and say “meet-up for coffee”, or just flat out call it a date, it’s time to apply your amazing self out into the real world which means letting go and being available again.

When you’re compassionate and kind to others, that can carry over into other aspects of your life.  For when (not if) romance may start to fade, whether dating or in relationships, you will also have that foundation to catch you; hopefully before it’s too late. I once wrote a post about how romance, dating and relationships are not like the fairy tale movies or all-bliss & no-mess, but that doesn’t take away how fun and amazing it can be. Whether it’s the second date where you can be more casual after the nervousness of the first date, or celebrating two years together, this is a moment of adventure and getting to really know someone. But as I mentioned earlier, it should not have to be treated like a job interview. Obviously you want to know the person and their values and goals, but sprinkle in the romance and flirtation that we know is in you.

Oftentimes, when my friends or acquaintances discuss their dating/relationship outings, I usually focus on what they do when they go out. A few really do fun things like travel, or go on outdoor adventures, and other things that encourage exploration. But others don’t do much besides maybe “dinner” once a week, or bowling once a month. Understandably, some may have financials as a concern, so using money for dates and outings may not be in the cards always. But assuming you have a full-time job (or decent paying part-time one). the thing people need to see is that dating is not as expensive as one might believe (Note: this is assuming you are not dating someone that is high-maintenance and wants the luxurious things). You don’t have to plan extravagant outings to have fun with someone who makes you laugh and smile. But at the same time, always taking them to McDonald’s and then a movie is not the best version of yourself that you’re capable of doing when it comes to planning a fun night out. Just because someone is “with you” doesn’t mean it’s time to become complacent and not try anymore, because break-ups and divorces exist; and someone else can come along.

So what are some things you can do? I could honestly write a lot on date ideas and where to go, and what to do, but that would take too long here. Depending on the reception this post gets, maybe I’ll write more in this category down the road. As mentioned above, sometimes people get too focused on the platonic of getting to know someone, which is great in of itself, but you also want to let that person know you are interested in them. And I’m not even talking about seducing them like there is no tomorrow, I’m just talking about genuine interest and care about someone. From little things like complimenting their personality/smile/humor to their new hairstyle or outfit. Subtle physical signs like touching their arm or moving their hair behind their ear. Or that look we’ve all seen before where someone is really engaged in what you are saying, instead of those who kinda give half their attention; or are on their phone of course. You want to appreciate the person you are with, because there are lots of people out there who would be “okay” for you yet not many who are “great” for you.

Anyway, in terms of ideas completely depends on who you are and who you are with. Who’s the introvert and extrovert? Are you/they a renaissance man or woman who is interested in many things? Or do you/they prefer select few things and stubborn to try new experiences? It all plays part in what you both can do, but having a willingness to try is so very important. Whether it’s your first real relationship with someone, or your coming back into the dating world after much time has passed, you have to be willing to let your heart pulse. If you enjoy the company of that other person, now is not the time to clamp up and become distant or run away. Whether it’s fear of getting hurt/commitment/etc., some may try to keep it “professional” before allowing romantics occur. Try and resist resisting. Enjoy sweeping/being swept off your feet, whether it’s something as simple as flowers, or walking down the boardwalk as the sun sets. Going to that concert or play you/they always wanted to go to, or biking out in the hill country. Attending a food festival because you’re both foodies, or comic con to nerd out together.

There are many things you can do together, all the while talking and getting to know one another. Your brain will help you determine if this is someone right for you, and matches your values, while your heart is supposed to tell you if you care/love that person. Otherwise, relationships turn into a business arrangement and, for those who know someone who is committed in such a deal, they know (in the long-term) it’s not so satisfying. If you’re at this point and still feeling hesitant, it may hurt your chance at something here. Maybe it’s due to technology doing our interactions for us, giving us the excuse of having something to hide behind, so that we can tend to other things. But when the time comes to dating and relationships, personally communicating is much stronger than emojis. Yes, if it doesn’t work out it sucks to share fun memories that led nowhere; at least that’s how we initially think. But like friends and acquaintances, we see some come and go; all the while sharing moments and growing. The same happens here in that if it doesn’t work out with someone, you don’t necessarily have to toss away those memories. Life is a long, and short, journey that we hope to share with others. Holding back, afraid of getting hurt, will not let you flourish. What you got to do is let loose and enjoy what life brings your way; or I should say who.

Finally, Open Up & Just Have Fun

No, I’m not saying go out and look for casual fun! But if that’s what you want to do, then good on you, but sex/passion/exploration is part of the last three I’ll mention. We’ve already discussed so much and that leaves the final area that some might not have thought about. For some, it’s important to wait till marriage while others it happens at the end of the first date. Whatever end of the spectrum you fall on, talking about it is important. This is someone you hope to be with for the foreseeable future, and so knowing what they enjoy and feel comfortable with is also key to sustaining a long-lasting relationship. As well as you being comfortable talking about it, because if you aren’t comfortable talking about it with that person (or even your best friends) then it might reflect when you actually do it. And as much as we may care about that person, we are also humans who have other needs. For some it may not be a high priority, but a priority nonetheless; otherwise we wouldn’t have all those drama shows that deal with needs not being met!

In the last section, I talked about letting your heart pulse; allow yourself to feel for someone. Now it’s time to go from compassion to passion; partner to lover. It’s one thing to plan an outing, converse, and be sweet/caring to another, yet it’s another to be intimate. Again, romance fades but never disappears when it’s with a good person. But when you’re with the same person, whether it’s just a year for some or 30 years for others, you become familiar with them. The “usual” happens and it starts to feel like you’ve done just about everything with that person. You haven’t though. There’s a whole world out there, and everyday is actually different. The first step is to actually acknowledge it.

When you’re dating, the romancing is more frequent, and it’s hard to even think about the day it starts to decrease as co-op life takes shape. With technology more present in our lives, we’re used to things arriving to us quickly. Gone are the days of going out for food, for we have UberEats! No longer do we have to be there in person to give someone a gift, since Amazon has that covered for us. See where I’m going with this? The convenience of things has also played a part in the love life of many. Conversations revolving around the latest viral video, taking a new Insta pic, Snapchatting what your significant other did as opposed to truly enjoying it for yourself. Of course, not everyone is like that, but many people nowadays are somewhere in this category and it’s affecting romance. It can sometimes feel like you’re not just on a date with the other person, but also their phone and tech life they live. Move over “married to my job”, there’s now “glued to my phone” and “can’t leave my video games” as well.

So how can we revitalize the passion within you? Well, after acknowledging comes confidence in yourself doing it. Whether privately, or out in public, being able to be romantic should feel good for you. Understandably, some may feel uncomfortable with public displays of affection; whether seeing it or doing it. But no ones asking you to make out in front of the world. Rather, just be close to them. Holding hands is nice, but try putting your arm around them or hold their arm in yours. Besides kissing, there’s also putting your heads together as y’all just share the closeness of each other. Stepping away from p.d.a’s, being passionate can also be in the activities you do. Whether it’s doing something like being at the beach or going to a concert, there’s opportunities abound in being able to be a little romantic. You just have to be creative and use that brain of yours! It’s all about exploring ways to either become romantic/passionate or to remain so if you find yourself fading.

Image result for couple dancing sunset

If you want to do the candlelit dinner or bedroom/rose petals on the ground thing, by all means do it without worrying about who’s cleaning that up. If something sounds too tacky for you, mix things up and give it your own flair. Remember, open up and have fun! If you’re at the beach, walking together alone, break into a slow-intimate dance even if you’re a terrible dancer. It’s the thought and confidence that counts. Or while you’re biking along a trail, stop at a place with an amazing view and hold that person. Again, there are numerous things you can do if you use your noggin, be creative, be confident, and put thought into it. The previous section may represent letting yourself be emotionally close to someone, whereas this one combines that with being physically close. There is a passionate side to you whether you know it already or not. You just got to explore how to ignite it or keep it going, whether out on dates/outings or in the bedroom. Above all, communicate and don’t solely rely on technology to carry you through dating and relationships. You got this.

In the End. . .

I hope that in some way, this helped encourage you to not give up. I wanted to write this during Valentine’s Day, but here I am posting during winter season as Christmas fast approaches. I guess in a way it ties better with the theme, as it’s a time where many want the warmth of another during the cold. But it shouldn’t matter the when, rather the who the relationship happens with. Before deciding maybe you are ready to be with another, first focus on yourself and make sure you are actually ready, moved on from the past, and working on yourself to be a better person and partner. Put down the phone and social media, as you dive into hobbies and things that are exciting and/or new to you. Go out, explore, and develop that drive for adventure whether on your own or with your friends and family. Because it’s these little things that make you attractive. Whether it’s being family-oriented, dance fanatic, gamer nerd, camping enthusiast, etc. what you like to do or are open to doing will not only impact you but who you are with. Most important, go out and talk to people!

The whole point of this post is that we need to stop relying on technology to do all the work or provide us comfort. It may have drawn people, who are far, closer to us but it also made us far from those who are actually close to us. How rather than talking with your friends, you all sit around on your phones. Or instead of spending time with your child or niece/nephew, you plop them down in front of the TV or tablet to keep them company. And of course, when you’re dating someone, there are those who rely on it to provide conversation or a way out. It’s affected us in so many aspects, including dating, but we don’t have to let it take over completely. Sure, it can be nerve-wrecking for some to date or be a couple, because we don’t want to mess up or get our hearts broken. But if we live in fear and push away possibilities, we end up down a road that is not as fulfilling. Knowing who you are and finding a way to converse is important, just as it is being comfortable to be you and express your feelings appropriately. And if you feel hesitant or nervous at any point mentioned above, that’s perfectly fine! We all go at our own pace in life, and the same is true for romance, dating and relationships. It’s not a race and, usually, we end up where we’re supposed to be if we put a little effort into it. But along the way, try to put the phone down a little more often because there could be a special person right behind your screen. . . Best of luck to you all, and enjoy your winter holidays.

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