Discover more from Unsolicited Advice from Erin Lowry
Do I need to date?
A reader asks for dating advice, even though she's not entirely sure she wants to date.
This week’s newsletter features my first Solicited Advice column. Submit your (un)solicited advice request here.
Will take any advice on dating in NYC. I’m in my thirties and feel pressure to follow the socially acceptable path (marriage/ kids). Would rather spend time with friends or doing hobbies. Always found your musings about Peach refreshing. Thanks!
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I’m wholly unqualified to give you any dating advice – in NYC or otherwise. My last first date happened before I owned a smartphone, before Tinder even existed, and when it was still somewhat taboo to have married someone you meet online. Peach and I started dating during my senior year of college and navigated a long distance relationship for four years before he moved to New York City. We dated for eight years and have been married for almost five.
With all those disclaimers out of the way…
Do you want kids or to get married?
Are either one of those a core value?
Those are the only two questions that matter.
If neither of those are of the utmost importance to your long-term happiness, then take the pressure off and focus on the hobbies and the friendships. Nurture what makes you happy. Date only if it’s pleasurable and additive to your life. Bask in the warm glow of knowing that you’re making the choices that align with who you are and that you didn’t capitulate to society’s pressures — even though it is hard sometimes to do something outside the norm.
If you’re nodding that yes marriage and kids are core values, then date because you know you ultimately want to get married. Take it seriously. Treat it like a new hobby that you’re going to pursue with focus and intensity for at least six months. New hobbies help you learn a new skill and get you outside of your comfort zone, so do that with dating. Put in the time and effort. Set a minimum number of dates to go on per month (I suggest four). Go for walks in the park or find a fun free activity around NYC — dates needn’t cost you a ton of money. Use a variety of methods to find dates. Try apps, use dating sites, ask friends to set you up, heck, try a matchmaker or speed dating!
It wouldn’t hurt to journal through this experience either to identify what you liked in certain dates/people and what were turn-offs in others. Use this time to collect data about yourself and your relationship to the entire experience of dating.
But you mentioned the pressure of social norms, which makes me believe you’re likely in the first camp and not the latter.
The trouble with societal norms
The trouble with societal norms is that they make you feel as if you’re doing something wrong if you want a different path. There is absolutely nothing wrong with choosing a path that diverges from what was right for other folks in your life. You need to honor what you actually desire and what makes sense for you.
Here’s a few of mine: I didn’t change my last name after marriage, Wore a blue dress to my wedding, got a prenup, didn’t wear an engagement ring (and have a simple gold band as a wedding ring), am a married-mid-thirties woman with no children, would continue to live in NYC if we have children, earn more than my husband, and my marriage is generally not reflective of traditional gender norms — people love to pass judgements and make comments on all these things!
It is exhausting to make choices outside of societal norms because it feels like you constantly need to justify your why. It’s not as frequent for folks who stay within the norms to have to justify their choices. I’d advise some blunt responses to the next Nosey Nelly who asks “Why aren’t you dating” or “Don’t you want kids?”
Be honest about your feelings. “I’m not dating because I don’t feel the need/don’t want to/don’t find it enjoyable. I have a rich, full life and don’t need a partner to validate myself or my life choices.” Or just say, “Frankly, that’s not your business.”
Brutal honesty often makes folks uncomfortable and forces them to think twice before asking nosy questions.
But you came here for dating advice. Let me still give you some…
Give me your scenarios, your quandaries, your questions, or just send me an AITA to get my hot take. Topics don’t need to be money related – but I’m always happy to talk about money.
Submit your (un)solicited advice request here.
Throw out your list.
Okay, that’s an oversimplification. You are entitled to want some base-level commonalities or there may be really specific dealbreakers for you. I could never be with someone who is allergic to dogs or doesn’t want dogs.
However, we sometimes get too fixated on the belief that we need to be with a certain type of person. On paper, Peach and I are quite different and would probably never get set up by any type of algorithm or matchmaker. A lot of what works for us is how we balance each other out. It’s as if we were tailor-made to smooth out each other’s rough patches and weak links. Being open to dating someone that didn’t check off all the boxes I had in my twenties is part of what landed me my life partner.
Plus, you’ll change. Your partner will change. The key is learning to grow together and not apart.
What to look for in a partner.
A woman once asked me how I knew Peach was “the one.” I don’t believe in “the one,” but how did I know Peach was the right person to partner with for an exceedingly long period of time?
I know it because we fight well.
Look for someone with whom you can have it out and still be treated with respect and kindness.
We, like all couples, get into tiffs, spats, arguments, and full-blown fights. It is one of the only guarantees in a relationship. You will fight. How someone fights with you should be a huge indicator of not only their character, but whether or not the two of you bring out the best in each other. You shouldn’t want to go for your partner's jugular, even in the most tense of disputes, because no matter how mad they’re making you, you still love them and don’t want to hurt them.
Make note of how someone you date handles conflict – not just with you.
Other important indicators:
How do they treat and talk about their family?
Do they trust you and vice versa?
How do they engage with your family (or chosen family or friends)?
Are they consistent and reliable?
Does your pet like them?
How do they treat people in service jobs?
Do they “yuck your yum” aka do they belittle the things you enjoy, no matter how silly?
Are they open to new experiences and ideas?
Do you feel safe enough to be vulnerable with them? (That might be as simple as wearing no makeup or your grungiest around the house outfit.)
That’s enough from the married lady. I’d love comments from those actively dating who may have some helpful insights about navigating dating life, especially in a city.
You might also enjoy watching Swiping America.
Best of luck,
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