All Articles Tagged "dating dilemmas"

What’s In A Name? The Dating Dealbreaker I Decided To Move Past

November 14th, 2012 - By Alissa Henry
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Would you date a man who has the same name as your dad?

That was the question I had to ask myself two years ago when a guy who was interested in me asked me to go out with him again. During our first date, I didn’t even know it was a date. He’d asked me to accompany him to the State Fair and I figured he was nice and I was the only one available. I had no idea he’d been working up the courage to ask me out for weeks, maybe months. In fact, it wasn’t until I was at home from our second date, rehashing the night with friends that I started thinking, “Wait a minute…this guy really likes me.”

At first I was excited. He was a great guy who I knew from church and was so different from the sort of ubercharming yet empty-chested men who kept me at arm’s length that I normally attracted. This man was kind and patient and, as Mindy Kaling would put it, “entrenched in his own life,” meaning he had a stable job, his own house, and exhibited all of the qualities of a mature man who welcomed commitment.

But there was a huge problem. He had the same name as my dad and I wasn’t sure if I could move past that.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved my dad. He and my mom divorced when I was young, but I ended up living with him during my senior year of high school and his house was my “home” when I was away at college. He was my emergency contact, personal ATM, cheerleader, and source for advice. Ten days after my college graduation, his psycho ex-girlfriend killed him in a murder-suicide and I was utterly devastated. To this day, I think about my dad on a regular basis and I’m sad that he isn’t still here.

This is why I immediately recoiled at the thought of being in a serious relationship with someone who had my dad’s name. It was just too weird. Granted, I didn’t grow up in the sort of family where the kids call the parents’ by their first names so my father was “Dad” to me anyway. But still, I was hesitant.

When I told my mom about my dilemma, she said, “Don’t be silly.” And I was being silly, but it was the kind of silly that made sense to me. Just like I will never eat at Noodles and Company again because I threw up after eating there once. Or the fact that I don’t eat bread one day past the expiration date. Sure it doesn’t make sense to some people, but it seems perfectly logical to me.

When I told my mom I couldn’t bear the thought of dating a guy with that name, my mom asked in an incredulous tone: “Are you going to pass up a great guy because you don’t like his name?” Of course I wasn’t going to pass him up because I didn’t like his name, but because his name was the same name as my deceased father. I couldn’t believe that my mom didn’t find that the slightest bit creepy.

Deciding that another date wasn’t a marriage, I ended up accepting the third date, then a fourth but I was still weirded out. I decided I’d introduce him by his full first name because my grandma had named my father the nickname of that full name. When I tried out this tactic while introducing him to my cousins, I’m sure he found it as awkward as I felt saying it, but what was I going to do? Tell my cousins that my new boyfriend goes by the same name as my dad? No way.

As our relationship progressed, I started to let go of what I’d dubbed “the name thing” and decided it wasn’t as a big a deal as I was making it. For one, most people who know me don’t know my dad and if they do, they don’t know his name. (Of course, there were those family members who helpfully pointed out that my dad and my boyfriend shared the same name because, apparently, they’d assumed this bizarre fact was lost on me.) Other than that, no one knew and the people who did, didn’t care.

And honestly, who really cares anyway? I think it’s too easy to be so incredibly picky about the people we choose to date. In some instances, like those things that speak directly to a man’s character, it’s okay to be picky. Or if it’s something that will strongly affect your quality of life together then, by all means, nitpick away. But in some cases, it’s necessary to truly think about your reasons for not giving a man a chance and decide if it’s worth potentially passing up the love of your life.

In my case, the name thing was an initial dealbreaker, but I ultimately decided to move past it. I’m so glad I did too because now, when I meet a guy who has that name, the only thing I think is “Hey! That’s my husband’s name!”

What do you think? Have you ever refused to date a man for a seemingly insignificant reason? What if you were in my shoes, could you date a man who has the same first name as your dad or (like Kim Kardashian’s Kris Humphries) the same first name as your mom?

Follow Alissa on Twitter @AlissaInPink or check out her blog This Cannot Be My Life

 Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

First Comes Marriage Then Comes Dating, Is There Something To Tying The Knot Quickly?

October 31st, 2012 - By Alissa Henry
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I’ve heard it said that every aspect of a single man’s life is cleverly edited and overproduced and that is why you never really know a man until you marry him.

Still, most would agree that you would try to get to know your boyfriend the best you can before you commit to him for life. This is likely why more than 7.5 million couples are living together and more than half of all marriages will be preceded by cohabitation.

Some couples, however, decide to get married first then get to know each other.

I was reading a message board the other day and one woman was saying that she married her husband three days after meeting at a rave and they’ve been together for seven years. Their reasoning for getting married so fast:

“For so many people marriage comes years and years down the line once a couple has been together so long they either feel it’s the safest option or they just don’t have the energy to look for something new, so, why don’t we do it backwards–marry first, as a celebration and proof of our belief in our love?”

What she has an aversion to is what NYT researchers call “sliding, not deciding.” Moving from dating, to sleeping over, to sleeping over a lot, to cohabitation can be a gradual slope, one not marked by rings or ceremonies or sometimes even a conversation. Couples bypass talking about why they want to live together and what it will mean. Some couples continue the slide into marriage figuring they have been together for so long they “may as well” get married.

That doesn’t seem like an ideal scenario, but is getting married first and getting to know each other later any less risky? Marriage is a serious decision and dating is a crucial period when the two parties find out if they click on a personal level and can see themselves together for the long haul.

Sex and relationship columnist Dan Savage says, “three months — eight months, sixteen months — is way too soon to be discussing marriage.

Ted Huston, a leading researcher on transitions in relationships, marriage and parenthood, states in his study that happily married couples dated for approximately 25 months before getting married. He says, on average, couples decided to marry 2.8 years after they first showed romantic interest (many couples knew each other before they dated, but that isn’t counted).

Ted found that couples who were unhappily married soon after they said “I do” and quickly divorced more often married at or after three years of dating.  Couples who fell fast in love were engaged after nine months, and married after 18 months.  These couples usually made it to their seventh anniversary before divorcing sometime later.

Despite researchers recommendations, there is no set timetable that guarantees wedded bliss.  Age, maturity level, financial stability, geography and desire to get married all factor in to the decision of how long to date before tying the knot. I’d add that how well you know each other should also be factored in.

The Guardian did a story on whirlwind marriages and they profiled one couple who dated for such a short period of time, the groom didn’t even know the correct spelling of his bride’s first name! Not that celebrity relationships are anything to emulate, but Khloe and Lamar Odom married after one month of dating and Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon married after two months. Personally, I know a couple who got married on their six month dating anniversary a mere summer after our college graduation.

I’m guessing most couples that get married relatively quickly would probably not admit to the fact that they’re deciding to get married first then get to know each other later. They’d probably say they know each other pretty well after “staying awake and talking all night underneath the stars” or something equally ridiculous. It happens more often than we may think. Honestly, no matter how many deep conversations you’ve had, if you get married to someone you’ve known for less time than the milk in your fridge then you’re definitely taking a “getting married now, get to know each other later” approach.

But maybe that’s okay. Maybe getting married quickly isn’t the most negative thing that a couple can decide to do. Their argument is that if you know you’re meant to be, whether you wait for one day or ten years, then why not get married today? They figure that the basics are there and they’re okay with learning everything else as they go.

Thinking about this some more, I find it ironic that many people balk at the idea of getting married “too fast” but make other short-term decisions that lead to a lifetime of consequences — like choosing to have a child together now and get to know each other later. But to each his own (foolish) decision, I guess. In my opinion, marrying someone you don’t know is incredibly foolish but since that’s not my call to make for couple’s across the board, the only thing left to say to people insisting on doing so is  “good luck.”

What do you think? Would you choose to marry someone first and then get to know him later?

Follow Alissa on Twitter @AlissaInPink or check out her blog This Cannot Be My Life 

*Photo courtesy of Shutterstock 

He Doesn’t Get It Because He Doesn’t Live It: Discussing Race In My Interracial Relationship

October 23rd, 2012 - By Alissa Henry
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Sometimes, people ask me what it’s like to be married to someone of a different race – especially when it comes to racial issues. My experience is obviously not universal and I don’t speak for every Black woman married to a White man, but in some instances, it’s clear that race is a big thing to not have in common.

While my husband and I were dating and getting to know each other, I noticed some differences in our experiences — mainly the fact that he doesn’t have to think about his race (or his gender) ever. While my “Black Card” could probably be revoked on multiple occasions in a single day, I am a Black woman who is definitely aware of the effect my race and gender have on my daily experiences. He, on the other hand, as a heterosexual, Christian, able-bodied, relatively young, conventionally attractive, White, middle-class, male is basically the standard and therefore possesses every privilege that comes with that – including the privilege of not acknowledging said privileges even whilst benefiting.

Still, our racial difference hasn’t been as big a deal for us as some would imagine. It may sound weird but sometimes I forget that we’re in an interracial relationship. This is probably because I’m not always interpreting everything through that fact. I’m not constantly analyzing our relationship and wondering if something is normal or if it’s unique to being in an interracial marriage. However, there are definitely times when I’m reminded just how different our thinking can be as a result of our skin color.  This is especially true when race invariably comes up in our conversations.

Just the other day we were talking about Sheila Johnson’s criticisms of BET (which I think are ridiculous considering BET has never exactly been known for its quality programming) when he mentioned that he couldn’t understand why BET was even necessary. From there we launched into an entire discussion about the whether or not Hollywood all but completely ignores black actors, actresses, artists, producers, writers, and directors, and if it weren’t for BET or other all-Black-everything media outlets, would Black people even be represented in the media at all. Of course that led into a discussion about why it’s important for Black people to be properly represented in the media and whether or not the media really shapes people’s perceptions of minorities. Our take in this discussion was different and I openly chalked it up to the fact that he doesn’t understand because he doesn’t have to understand because everyone he sees on television looks just like him. He doesn’t get it because he doesn’t live it.

To be clear, this conversation — as well as others similar in nature — are conversations and not arguments. When race is the topic of discussion, we sometimes disagree but he speaks his thoughts and I speak mine without one of us condescending or disregarding the other. When I’m talking about how race plays into something in my life or even someone else’s (like the Trayvon Martin story for example), we disagree but he’s never once accused me of being oversensitive or ridiculous. Though he can’t empathize, I don’t hesitate to express my thoughts and he at least makes an effort to see where I’m coming from. For instance, recently, I’ve become convinced that a news director in a town near ours refuses to hire me for an on-air position only because I’m Black. After explaining why I believed it to be so, my husband agreed with me. Of course, that wasn’t his first thought, because he doesn’t have to think about things that way, but he saw where I was coming from and didn’t wave me off like I was being silly.  Some interracial couples may choose to never talk about race so as not to start a conflict, but I wouldn’t be married to someone I can’t talk to, so I’m not shy about talking about my experience or my theories about particular situations.

Fortunately, my husband and I aren’t having all of these deep conversations about race all of the time. In fact, if even a significant portion of our conversations were about race, I’d be exhausted. We have way more conversations about the things of God or even last week’s episode of The Mindy Kaling project than we have about the experience of Black people versus the experience of White people.

Is being married to a White man different than being married to a Black man? Probably. I’m sure some conversations would never even happen in regards to race because those things would be understood. However, I am also not under any delusions that life is better or worse solely depending on the race of the man you marry. There are a whole host of important things you can have in common or not have in common with someone no matter what their skin color.

Ultimately, what’s important to me and the things that I heavily considered before agreeing to marry my husband were that facts that I can trust him, that he loves me, that he respects me, that he is kind to me and to others, that we’re both Christians, that he puts God first and me a solid second with the rest of his life a distant third. It’s important to me that we get along and have fun together and that he’s just as supportive of my career goals that I am of his.

Does our race (and 12-year age difference) create a gap in understanding? Sometimes. Once, I gushed about seeing Andre 3000 when I was in New York to which he replied, “Is that a movie?” Clearly, our race and age difference (as well as my obsession with celebrities and his extreme nonchalance toward celebs) sometimes combine to put us on two different planets, but I don’t mind the conversations necessary to put us back on the same page.

What do you think? How do you handle race discussions in your interracial relationships?

Follow Alissa on Twitter @AlissaInPink or check out her blog This Cannot Be My Life

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Thanks, But No Thanks: What To Expect When You Don’t Want Him To Put A Ring On It

October 19th, 2012 - By Alissa Henry
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You’re best friends. You’ve been dating for years. You live together. You know each other very well….in fact, you know him well enough to know that you don’t want to marry him. Not now and maybe not ever. The problem is, he wants to marry you and he may be proposing any time now. There’s no virtue in marrying someone who you don’t want to marry. And just because someone asks for your hand doesn’t mean you have to extend it.

So what should you expect if you turn a ring down? Can a relationship survive a rejected (or rescinded) proposal?

It depends.

Jessica Bennett who wrote the New York Times article “Missing the Boat: The Case For Marriage” talks about her experience after turning down her boyfriend’s proposal because she didn’t want to get married:

I loved him desperately. I knew, as much as I would ever know, that he was the one I wanted to be with. We balanced each other. I wanted to frame his dimples.

And yet the moment I saw that ring, I was terrified. I saw dirty dishes and suburbia, not lace-covered wedding gowns. Rather than thinking about the family we’d someday have, I saw the career I had hardly started as suddenly out of reach. The independence I had barely gained felt stifled. I couldn’t breathe.

I begged him to forgive me. I cried and pleaded. I promised I’d never leave him, and I meant it.

He was devastated, but he loved me too much to let go. So we came back to New York, to our tiny apartment, and tried to move on. We held each other — that night, and every night after. I cried and stroked his hair. I said I was sorry. I told him I loved him. We slowly moved forward.

There were plenty of times over the next six years that I wished I had said yes. We could have had a long engagement, I told myself. In a few years, I would have been ready.

But as time went on, as our couple friends broke up, as those who were the first to marry became the first to get divorced, I was glad we hadn’t done it.

THEN one day, in the most tired of clichés, I, too, started daydreaming about a wedding….I brought the issue up tepidly, to feel him out. Lying in bed one night, I asked: “Do you still want to do it? Do you really not believe in it?”

“I’d marry you at City Hall,” he replied, then dropped it.

Another time, he threw my argument back at me: “Why do we need marriage? It’s only a piece of paper.”

And then I brought it up again as we were planning a summer vacation with his family…“Why don’t we get married there, on the love boat?” I asked.

He laughed. “We’d have to talk about it seriously.”

We never did.

A month later the couple broke up. He told her he had never forgiven her for turning him down six years ago.

If you’re interested in staying together after refusing a proposal, you definitely want to try to preserve the relationship from the moment he proposes. If he does it in private, then it’s best to respectfully decline right away. If he is in front of friends and family then you may want to say yes in the moment to save him from the public humiliation of rejection and then have the talk as soon as you’re in private. From there, reiterate that you want to stay in the relationship and that declining the proposal doesn’t mean you want to break up, but be prepared for the reality that he might.

The man is in an extremely vulnerable position at this point and his ego will undoubtedly be bruised. No one wants to hear “no” if they’re genuinely expecting “a thousand times yes!” Be clear about whether your no is a “not now,”a “not you,” or a “not ever”. If you think you need more time to be ready, then that’s different than never wanting to get married to anyone. Ever. In that case, it may be hard to salvage the relationship if he is looking for a commitment and you’d rather not do the whole marriage license and wedding vows, thing.  If you don’t see yourself ever being a Mrs. and he wants nothing more than to call you his wife then breaking up might be the best thing for you both since you clearly want two different things.

If you just need more time, that should be okay, especially considering that marriage is for life so whether you get married tomorrow or next year, you’ll still be married for the decades to come. Theoretically, a man who loves you and truly wants to be your husband would probably be understanding and willing to wait – at least a little while. But you shouldn’t expect him to wait 10 years, just as if the tables were turned no one would tell a woman to wait 10 years for her boyfriend to be “ready”.

There are some men who say if a woman turns them down, they will never propose again. It doesn’t mean they don’t still want to marry her, but not many men (or women) would set themselves up for rejection twice. In that case, the girlfriend might need to propose to the boyfriend if/when she changes her mind about marriage.

The best thing to do is just to make sure your lines of communication are open to prevent the whole get-down-on-one-knee thing from happening in the first place. Communication is important to any relationship and when you notice him dropping hints, make like a sniper and shoot the idea down while it’s still forming. Either that, or encourage him to keep his receipts.

What do you think? Have you ever turned down a marriage proposal?

Follow Alissa on Twitter @AlissaInPink or check out her blog This Cannot Be My Life

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You Know When It’s Real: It’s Okay To Say Your Boyfriend Is Going To Marry You

October 17th, 2012 - By Alissa Henry
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When my husband proposed to me, I was blown away. We hadn’t been dating for two years yet and I’d always thought that I’d date a guy for at least that long before we got engaged. We hadn’t looked at rings and I was surprised that he was able to keep his plans a secret from everyone we knew. The proposal was a treasure hunt and I was unnerved that he’d hidden a huge pink & green gift bag holding the first “clue” inside in my apartment (in my bedroom!) without my knowledge for more than a week.

You know what wasn’t surprising about his proposal? The fact that he wanted to marry me. I knew that already.

I thought about that while listening to Brandy’s most recent Breakfast Club interview. The singer has not been shy at all about her desire to marry her boyfriend A&R producer, Ryan Press. In fact, in May of this year she told Ebony magazine, “I wish we were engaged.  He’s taking a little long on the ring side of things, but I’m patient.”  A few months ago she asked Sister2Sister magazine readers to “keep your fingers crossed for sometime soon I will be engaged.” And when the Breakfast Club asked her about a possible engagement, she said “a ring is coming”.

Brandy’s openness about wanting to be engaged has definitely drawn criticism and most are painting her as thirsty, desperate, clingy and co-dependent. But why? Because she knows she wants to marry her boyfriend and is giddy about a possible proposal?

This isn’t to defend Brandy per say. Maybe she is desperate. She obviously doesn’t realize that one interview on the subject is enough because the advent of the internet means five hundred blogs will repost one source. Interviewers keep baiting her by asking about her love life and she remains candid and continues to talk about it.

But I think her brazen honesty about what she wants is something other women should try in their own going-nowhere relationships. Brandy and Ryan have reportedly been dating for more than two years. They’re both self-sufficient adults. If they’re not dating with the intention to get married — and they both intend to be married to someone some day — then what are they doing? I can only assume that the two have discussed getting married and now she is just (publicly) anticipating the proposal. In that case, it’s different, but not desperate.

In fact, if Brandy were a guy telling the Breakfast Club that “it’s a great thing when you’re in love with someone and you’re connected. You want to share your life with them” then panties would be all over the blogosphere. But because she’s a woman who is open about her desire to marry her man then she is labeled a “thirst-bucket”. Why is that?

It’s okay for a woman to be confident that she is marriage material and that her boyfriend loves her and wants to marry her even if she isn’t engaged yet. In fact, I would hope that a woman does know that before she gets engaged. Why should the fact that a man wants to marry you be a surprise? This isn’t some ridiculous chick flick. In real life, it makes sense for marriage minded adults to date intentionally. I once heard a guy say, “[seriously] dating someone without the intention to marry her is like going to the grocery store without any money.” I agree with that.  If you’re in a serious relationship with a man, it’s not wrong to have the conversations that result in the expectation that he wants to marry you, just like he should be able to go out and secretly get a ring because he expects you want to marry him too.

The problem is so many women allow men to get serious with them without being serious about them. A woman is admonished not to “pressure” him or “rush” him lest she “scare him away” as though what she wants in the relationship doesn’t matter. Why aren’t men made to feel like dragging their feet indefinitely might scare women away? If it’s okay for a man not to want to get married then it’s okay for a woman to want to get married. Why are women always the ones who are supposed to relax and “wait it out”? Why aren’t men encouraged to man up and commit?

It’s hilarious that women will eat up articles describing “365 Ways To Know Your Boyfriend Wants To Marry You” but if another woman already knows her ring is on the way then she’s the object of scorn and ridicule. Maybe some women aren’t interested in just dating a guy forever, living with him for years, and popping out his babies. Maybe some women desire to move beyond “wifey” to “wife”. Maybe some women would much rather scare the wimp away and be alone for a few minutes than be dragged on for years by the same guy without ever getting married.

Maybe some women are justifiably confident that he’s going to pop the question eventually….and if you asked their boyfriends, they’d tell you the first clue in her Treasure Hunt proposal is already hidden in her bedroom.

Follow Alissa on Twitter @AlissaInPink or check out her blog This Cannot Be My Life.

 

No He Didn’t! That Time My Friend Got Dumped Over Something Extra Stupid

September 21st, 2012 - By Alissa Henry
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Sometimes you don’t know exactly why a guy dumped you….and sometimes you do. The verdict is still out on which is worse. I’m inclined to say I’d like to know why, but as my friend Alivia* recently found out, sometimes the reason doesn’t make sense anyway.

She’d been dating this guy for several months and they were having a great time together. He’d even recently begun introducing her as his girlfriend – and that’s kind of big deal in this age of undefined relationships. One weekend, they went out of town to a party and, the next day, he wanted to barbecue at his relative’s house. Alivia is no Gina Neely and admittedly doesn’t know a thing about barbecuing, but she figured that was okay.

While he was busy getting the food ready, she made small talk with his uncle in a different room. Her boyfriend peeked his head in and asked her to prepare the baked beans. She jokingly declined pointing out that she was a guest in the house and, besides, had never made baked beans and didn’t want to mess them up.

This reasonable explanation did not sit well with him, so after huffing around with an attitude for a few minutes, he finally told her to “get the eff out.” (Of course, he didn’t say “eff”.) As she was gathering her things and trying to talk to him calmly, he refused to talk back and just pushed her out of the door, slamming it shut behind her.

Four hours away from home and thanking God she drove her own car, she drives back home shocked and bewildered over what just happened. While she is driving, he texts her a bunch of silly smiley emojis along with a screenshot of a text his mom sent him saying: “Put her out, she needs to work for food”.

When she told me the story, I found it hard to believe he dumped her over some baked beans, but Twitter tells all. And sure enough, not too long after the incident, he Tweeted:

“I was gone take this one chick outta the country for labor day til she ain’t cook them baked beans. Haha. Damn I’m petty.”

I think “petty” is putting it nicely.

I get that men like a woman who can cook, but the time to test that probably isn’t when she is completely out of her element. Besides, anyone can pop open a can of baked beans and heat them up on the stove or even in the microwave. It is truly not that serious. Judging from the fact that he not only texted his mom, but also sent Alivia the screenshot, it’s clear his maturity level isn’t the highest. He’s probably one of those guys on Twitter screaming about wanting a Michelle, despite not being anything close to a Barack. That kind of unrepentant disrespect is alarming to say the least.

His mother is only contributing to the problem and likely fully aware that she didn’t raise a gentleman. Men like him have been coddled by their mothers and taught that taking a college course and having a job bagging groceries at Walmart makes them the crème of the crop. Thus these men treat women like commodities now only to end up the old men in the club trying to relive the glory days while sporting throwback jerseys, gold chains, and beer bellies. These men fall off their barstools trying to buy drinks for 19-year-olds who happily accept, but make “eww gross!” faces behind their backs.

Of course Alivia isn’t the only person to ever have been unceremoniously dumped by a loathsome human being over something utterly ridiculous.

I know a girl whose boyfriend of six months dumped her because her family, who he met once because they lived three states away, was too loud. She wasn’t loud, her family was loud. A guy friend dumped his girlfriend because he found out she was wearing weave. “If she’s lying about that,” he told me, “then how can I trust anything else?” Never mind the fact that even Stevie Wonder could see she was wearing weave from day one. The fact that she put it past him for two months just proves he isn’t very observant. Women are not exempt from dumping guys for silly reasons. A friend told me she called it quits after spotting an US Weekly magazine among the mail on her boyfriend’s counter: “I don’t read that stuff, so either he’s cheating or he’s gay and, either way, I’m done.”

In Alivia’s case, it’s hard to feel bad for someone who was dumped to her face. As technology gives us more ways to connect, it also gives us more ways to dump or be dumped – and it also takes the excuses away from the guys who don’t even bother to officially end things. I would’ve taken a “we’re done” Tweet any day considering most guys I’ve dealt with in the past had me thinking I was Houdini and should take my “ability to make men disappear” act on the road.  I briefly considered pitching my own primetime TV mystery special called “Vanished” where me and three friends would track down cold cases of love and finally discover what the heck happened to those guys.

Breaking up is hard to do and it’s not fun to be the dumped or the dumpee. You’d think though that people would be more willing to overlook the small things in favor of a potentially great relationship. If not, well I guess women like Alivia should be glad they’re not in a relationship with someone so shamelessly petty.

What do you think? Have you ever been dumped (or dumped someone) over something silly?  Would you rather know why he wants to end things or come to your own conclusion?

Follow Alissa on Twitter @AlissaInPink or check out her blog This Cannot Be My Life

*name has been changed

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Nobody Likes A Negative Nancy: Are You Optimistic About Dating?

September 20th, 2012 - By Alissa Henry
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Am I negative?

I wondered this a while ago when a friend observed that I had a penchant for interpreting situations adversely. He pointed out that when I would talk about my current dating relationships I would automatically conclude that the guy just wasn’t into me.

“That’s because he isn’t.” I said wryly.

“Maybe,” he replied, “but maybe it’s not that simple and you should stop looking at things as negative towards you all the time.”

I waved him off, but later I began to think about what he said. Was I looking at things from a negative point of view? Me who earned the nickname “Sunshine” for always having a smile on my face was I really a not-so-closeted Negative Nancy? Yes.

Up until that point, I’d always thought of myself as a realist. Quick to be carried away, I kept myself grounded by thinking of the worst-case scenario. I despised disappointment and I thought the best way to avoid being disappointed was by getting rid of expectations.

Particularly when it came to dating, I refused to expect the best if there was even the slightest chance of the worst coming to past. If a guy didn’t text me back in a timely fashion, I was convinced he was ignoring me. If his phone rang twice then went to voicemail, I knew my call was declined. If he wanted to try a new theater in a different part of the city, I’d wonder if he’s hiding me. If he said he was going out of town, I’d think that he was just blowing me off. If he said he didn’t want a girlfriend, I’d imagine running into him in two weeks practically engaged to some random girl he just met. It’s not that I wanted all of these things to be true, but I felt that believing them to be so, mentally shielded me from becoming emotionally invested.

When I ended up being right about a guy (or at least assuming I was right about him), I felt justified in my thoughts and behavior.

Of course this was no way to live. Thinking that no guys are ever serious about me also led me to think that none would ever be serious about me and that led me to believe I’d be alone for the rest of my life. As someone who wanted to eventually get married, I realized that I could probably stand to think more positively regarding matters of the heart.

I also realized that there was a certain amount of selfishness in my negativity that I didn’t even recognize. To make an assumption about a man’s feelings, I first had to presume that everything was all about me 100 percent of the time. For instance, if a guy abruptly ended our telephone conversation, I assumed I was talking too much and he hated being on the phone with me. Never mind the fact that he could have a million different reasons for needing to hang up the phone that have nothing at all to do with me. I would get down in the dumps, reciting our conversation over and over in my head trying to decide where I went wrong when the fact was I never went wrong anywhere. Sometimes people need to hang up the phone and sometimes that reason has nothing to do with whomever they’re talking to. I’m not the center of the universe; therefore, things happen that don’t concern me.

After thinking about my tendencies, I decided that if I was going to assume something – because an over-thinker like me is always assuming something – then I needed to assume the best. That didn’t mean I was going to be caught up in wishful thinking about a guy, completely convinced I could change his mind about me. I’d been there before and it did not end well. Still, I wondered if I could be an optimistic realist when it came to relationships. I wasn’t going to convince myself that a guy liked me just because he poked me on Facebook but I also wasn’t going to assume he wasn’t interested because he responded to my two-sentence text with “Lol”.

There’s a lot of talk about the power of positive thinking and I am a firm believer that, as John Milton said, “the mind can make a heaven out of hell or a hell out of heaven.” I’m not saying you can “positively think” a good man into your life or “positively think” someone into falling in love with you. I think being realistic is important, but I don’t think realism can only exist apart from optimism. I think they can work together to help facilitate an ideal situation.

Automatically assuming that a guy doesn’t like me wasn’t really keeping me from disappointment anyway. If it was, I wouldn’t have been talking about it incessantly thus bringing my friend to the conclusion that I needed to stop being so negative. In addition, a little disappointment isn’t fatal. The only way one heartbreak could ruin the rest of my life was if I allowed it to by refusing to put my heart out there again.

When I began to maintain a positive attitude about my chances of meeting a guy and being realistic about the guys I did meet (while erring on the side of positive), I noticed that I started experiencing more positive outcomes. I believe that my realistic optimism was rewarded — not just with a great relationship, but with a great state of mind.

What do you think? Have you ever noticed yourself being caught up in negative thinking? Has being positive about a situation ever resulted in a positive outcome?

Follow Alissa on Twitter @AlissaInPink or check out her blog This Cannot Be My Life 

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The Unofficial Ex-Boyfriend: Is It Still Considered A Breakup When You’re Not Technically Dating?

September 11th, 2012 - By Alissa Henry
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I was single — or “between boyfriends” — for about three years before getting into another serious relationship.

In those years, I went through the hardest breakup of my life. I call it breakup even though he and I were not officially dating. No, I was not his girlfriend on Facebook and he never once called me that in real life.

I knew he wasn’t looking for a relationship when we first started hanging out; but at that time I still thought life was one extended romantic comedy and therefore every emotionally unavailable man was just waiting for a woman like me to come along and change his views on love forever.

I liked him so much and we seemed to have a great time together, so the fact that he was not officially my boyfriend barely fazed me. I wanted to be his girlfriend, but I reasoned that adults never called each other boyfriend and girlfriend anyway. Plus I figured the sky is blue whether you admit it or not and, similarly, the lack of a title did not diminish what we had.

In my mind, we had the potential to have a great relationship and so I believed it was only a matter of time before he revised his unfortunate views on monogamy and we’d live happily ever after. Of course, he’d have to stop being the occasional heartless jerk who kept his phone on silent and disappeared on me at random intervals, but men change.

Except when they don’t.

After a while I got fed up with the rollercoaster of emotions and the undefined place I had in his life. I realized the only constant with him was his refusal to be constant with me. I had assumed we were “talking” (whatever that means) but ironically the conversation never changed to him wanting to be my boyfriend. You see he wasn’t one of those guys who balked at the title, but still treated me like his girlfriend. For him, the lack of a title was license to beatbox on my heart.

So the last time he disappeared on me, I finally let him vanish. A larger part of me than I care to admit hoped he would reappear, begging for forgiveness, and confessing that he realized I was the love of his life. (Do I even need to say that never happened?) While wishing the phone would ring or that he’d show up at my front door, I forced myself to refrain from reaching out to him. As time went on, I was proud that I’d let my head rule my heart for once, but I was also utterly devastated that it was over. He’d never even given me a chance to be his girlfriend and I resented him for that.

I was disappointed that there was no real ending. There was no blowout breakup fight. No closure. There was no sending him to voicemail or ignoring his texts. His family wasn’t vouching for me and telling him to make things right (because I’d never met them). His friends weren’t asking where I was or encouraging him to not let me go. I didn’t even have the satisfaction of changing my Facebook relationship status back to “Single” and being flooded with “you’re better off” comments. Everyone can sympathize with the girl going through a split with her boyfriend, but what about the girl who simply finally got a clue? My heart was breaking over a relationship that — as far as the rest of the world was concerned — never even happened.

During that time, I used to repeat the words of Ashleigh Brilliant: “I feel much better now that I’ve given up hope.” But I didn’t feel better. I felt terrible. I felt worse than I’d ever felt when he’d hurt my feelings during our “relationship”. He’d taken me on the most nauseating ride of my life and, though I knew I needed to be done, that abrupt ending was brutal.

Then I felt silly for being so sad. How do you weep over someone you were never with? How can you miss someone who was never really there? How you can be heartsick over a breakup with someone you were never actually dating?

Looking back, I know exactly how. It was the almost of it all that was so hard to accept. The dream deferred. The being so close. I realized that for our entire pseudo-relationship, I was trapped in a weird limbo between the fantasy that kept me going and the reality that made me crazy.

In actuality, I was probably grieving the loss of what could have been and not necessarily what was. When I consider what actually went down, I should have been happy to see him go. But, I’d created this whole idea in my mind of what could be and was reluctant to let that go.

I wasn’t firmly rooted in reality at any point and that’s how I allowed him to mean so much more to me than his actions deserved. When I was finally able to make peace with the fact that my fantasy with him was never going to come true whether he was in my life or not, I vowed I would never be caught in that limbo with another man again. No more pretending I was cool with an undefined relationship. No more creating scenarios in my mind to bridge gaps in reality. No more mentally creating a future with someone who is barely invested in our present. Breakups are hard whether you’re official or not. But when I was finally done with the guy I wasn’t dating, I opened my life up for a real relationship with a man I could date — officially.

Have you ever been in a serious-to-you but unofficial dating relationship? Have you ever gone through a hard breakup with a guy you weren’t even dating?

Follow Alissa on Twitter @AlissaInPink or check out her blog This Cannot Be My Life 

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Unnecessary Adjustment: That Time I Compromised My Standards For A Relationship

August 31st, 2012 - By Alissa Henry
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I was 22 when I had my first alcoholic beverage. I can’t tell you what was in that cup, but I can tell you I was wearing a black slinky tank top, snug dark washed jeans, stiletto heels and a chain belt. I remember because when you’ve frantically tried on six different outfits in an attempt to achieve the I’ve-been-wearing-this-all-day-and-therefore-not-trying-too-hard look, then you remember what you finally decided on.

It was one of those “let’s hang out at my apartment” dates that I have come to loathe over the years; but at that time, I would have happily met him at a landfill to eat day old Waffle House grits if it meant being around him. Going to his house was perfectly fine with me because I had his undivided attention there and it was nice to see him in his element. You can tell a lot about a guy from the way he lives and, besides the framed picture of an ex-girlfriend I spied in his home office (laying picture side down for my benefit at least), I liked what I saw. This particular apartment hangout session was different though and marks the beginning of the span of regrettable months that I willfully ignored red flags.

I was perched on the stool at his kitchen counter while we talked about everything and nothing like we always did when somehow the topic of drinking came up. I was in college at this point and more than a year past the 21st birthday party at which I’d horrified my friends by informing them I was still not interested in drinking any alcohol. Who doesn’t drink at the number one party school in the country where the bars in that college town outnumber classroom buildings? Me.

I’d seen people drunk and had no desire to be that idiot (granted, I realize that drinking doesn’t mean you have to get drunk or be an idiot, but I suspected I’d certainly be both if given the chance). I’d also seen otherwise healthy female classmates gain an extraordinary amount of weight as a result of consuming copious amounts of alcohol and I spent too much time in the gym to undermine my efforts with a 500-calorie glass of Long Island Iced Tea. My main objection though was that drinking caused people to stop being in complete control of themselves and I didn’t want to lose control – not even a little bit. I could still let loose and have fun with friends at a party, but I could also drive everybody home at the end of the night.

My well-rehearsed objections were easily silenced in the presence of this man though. Initially, I laughed at how incredulous he was about my having never tasted alcohol as though it were a kindergarten rite of passage. He joked about my being the last sober girl on Earth and I laughed about him stocking beer in his fridge like normal people stock Pepsi. We were talking and laughing about it and I’ve blocked out exactly how that turned into him pouring me a cup of “grape juice” and essentially pouring my strong personality into a puddle on the floor. But that’s what happened. That night, I had my first drink.

To be fair, he didn’t pressure me into drinking alcohol. I’d love to blame him, but if I’m being honest then I have to admit that I wanted to. I wanted to because I was dangerously infatuated with him and thus more than willing to share in his bad habits. We weren’t even officially “together” at that point (or any point actually), but in the bizarre logic that guided my every foolish move with that guy I figured compromising in that area would somehow increase his desire for me. Delusional, I know but I’d already taken an Olympian high-dive off the balcony of common sense weeks prior.

When I was able to look back at that relationship objectively after it ended, I realized that throughout our time together he ultimately brought out the worst in me. Drinking alcohol certainly didn’t make me a bad person by any means, but that was only one example of my changing who I was for want of his unconquerable heart. If I felt I’d changed for the better by the end of whatever that relationship was then I could deal with that, but the girl I barely recognized in the mirror was a girl I didn’t like at all.

People change in relationships and adapt to each other’s personalities, but after that I’ve always been careful to observe if I like the person I’m changing into and the compromises I’ve made. It’s easy to be completely caught up in a guy and abandon all sorts of reason, standards and intelligence while picking up his bad habits or faulty personality traits and keeping them as your own. After we ended, I had to do a thorough inventory of my life and figure out what was me for real and what was something I’d picked up from or laid aside for him.

I don’t believe we can go back to the person we used to be, because time only moves forward. However, I do think we can become a better version of ourselves and choose to only be with people who bring out our best and not people who bring out our worst.

Have you ever compromised your standards for a relationship? Have you noticed a relationship change you for the worst?

Follow Alissa on Twitter @AlissaInPink or check out her blog This Cannot Be My Life

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The Marriage Proposal: Is It What He Says Or How He Says It?

August 27th, 2012 - By Alissa Henry
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The Proposal. No, not that awful Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds movie, but the actual request for marriage. How important is it?

Over the weekend, one of my friends was telling me how she would like her (future) boyfriend to propose. To be fair we were looking at RingOnTheFinger.com which is a website featuring videos of marriage proposals caught on film. My friend was telling me that she was hoping he would propose to her in a very public way and that someone would record it on video. Though some people think the ultrapublic, jumbotron proposal is cheesy (and a way to make headlines after being brutally rejected), she is wanting something of that caliber. The kind of epic marriage proposal that gets 23 million views on Youtube and lands couples on Good Morning America the next day. When she said she wanted a “memorable proposal” I wondered what types of proposals are not “memorable” considering it’s not every day a man asks you to marry him. That moment is unforgettable! Maybe by “memorable” she meant “likeable”?”

According to a recent study, one in four brides hated the way their future husband proposed.

Twenty-six per cent of brides-to-be said that they wished the moment had been more romantic, original or personal.

Others would have preferred it to be more private or complained that it was too over-the-top, and a third said that the biggest faux pas was proposing without a ring.

I’m with them on the ring thing. Nobody has to be sporting a blood diamond the size of her head, but I think it’s pretty strange to be engaged without a ring. Did he pop the question via text message?

Still, I wonder if this high dissatisfaction comes from the fact that we see so many proposals nowadays through social media. I almost feel bad for guys. Proposing ten years ago was probably way easier than proposing today. Now, in our current culture of reality shows, overshare and grandstanding, men and women witness more proposals than ever thus creating expectations no matter how unrealistic. With every event chronicled on Instagram and YouTube, it’s almost as if it’s no longer enough to find the person you want to marry, but guys better bring it with the marriage proposal. Some men are up to the challenge, but others are scared away by the perceived pressure.

At least three men have recently expressed to me their nervousness about proposing. Not because they don’t want to marry their girlfriends, or think she doesn’t want to marry them, or can’t afford an engagement ring, but because these guys feel the intense pressure to pull off the #GreatestProposalEver.

Who doesn’t love a great proposal? But does it make it great because there are tons of people  and a video camera around to capture it or because it’s great to find that person you want to marry who also wants to marry you?  What makes a proposal terrible? The fact that he did it when you were in sweats or the fact that he asked you and you didn’t want to marry him? In my opinion, the worst proposal is the kind that results in a blink-and-you-missed-it marriage.

I know someone who had a fantastic proposal by social media standards, but no one will be more surprised than me if they make it to their third wedding anniversary. Some people take the proposal more seriously than the wedding vows and that’s just sad. When days are doing couples part, who cares if he spells out “Will You Marry Me?” in rose petals? If it’s only going to last a few weeks then you may as well just pick out a ring while he plays Call of Duty.

That’s not to say that marriage proposals aren’t essential. They are. An (accepted) marriage proposal signifies the start of a new chapter in a relationship. Plus they can serve as a great jumping off point for the sometimes grueling process of planning a wedding. Personally, I think creative proposals are the best. The kind when the guy (or ballsy girl) proposes in a way that is meaningful and unique to the couple whether in front of a crowd or alone. Then again, I wonder if I’m only saying that because I’ve been watching too many YouTube proposals lately.

Does it really matter how a guy proposes? Are there women who would turn down marriage or be genuinely upset if he didn’t propose the “right” way? Are there women who would say yes to a boyfriend she didn’t necessarily want to marry simply because he asked in a stunning fashion?

After listening to a friend tell me how she hoped her guy popped the question, I wonder if more women have in mind their “dream proposal” and what happens if the reality is nothing like the dream?

Follow Alissa on Twitter @AlissaInPink or check out her blog This Cannot Be My Life

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