Working Out the Kinks / The Shifting Symbols of Status
Dear Dr. Hurd,
I’m a single man in my late ‘20s, reasonably attractive with a rather active dating life. And I’m definitely looking forward to meeting “the one.” But a number of people I have met through various and sundry outlets (several of them online, of course) seem to find it necessary to bring up their fetishes on the first date! It’s like they’re interviewing me for sex and nothing else! Sometimes (depending on the fetish du jour), it can get a little graphic and scary.
I don’t think that the first date is any place to air your assorted proclivities. Yes, there might come a time, but over the dinner table at The Back Porch Café? I think not. Am I being a fuddy duddy?
Dr. Hurd replies,
No. Being a fuddy duddy isn’t the issue. The problem here is one of matching interests. The people talking about their sexual fetishes from the get-go are communicating that these are a high priority for them. Either they’re looking for an exclusively physical connection involving these preferences, or they’re seeking a more serious relationship with someone who shares or at least accepts them. That’s OK. I’m certainly not judging them for this, but if you don’t share these same priorities, you might have to move on.
We all have a hierarchy of priorities, whether it’s in sex, romance or anything else. This hierarchy is rarely conscious. Most of it is subconscious, and those priorities are conveyed through our emotions. That’s why forthright communication is often a good thing; in fact, the guys communicating the things that you find off-putting have actually done you a favor. They’ve told you what their priorities are, and if you don’t share them, you know you need to move on.
The instantaneous accessibility of twenty-first century communication is a beautiful thing. But like all things, it must be managed. It’s a lot easier to encounter people than ever before. This is both good news and bad news. With increased accessibility comes the necessity to weed out what you don’t want. The people expressing their top-priority sexual preferences to you are doing the same thing in a way they feel is suited to their personal needs and wants. It’s OK to have different priorities, but if you’re not a match, you’re not a match. Don’t stress about it and don’t worry over it. And don’t label yourself a fuddy duddy.
By the way, if someone works their personal sexual inclinations into a first date, don’t automatically assume they’ll rule you out if you don’t share their preferences. If their interests so upset you that you’ve ruled them out, then fine. But if you’re unsure, then consider just asking them. “Not my thing. Is that a dealbreaker?” Whether they answer honestly or not, you’ll know their true answer when—or if—there’s a second date.
Dear Dr. Hurd,
I’m getting a little tired of Facebook. And I’m getting especially tired of people whose relationship status changes like the wind and the tides. Every time I log on, their status is different! Is this a desperate cry for attention, or are these people dating 3-4 times a day?
Dr. Hurd replies,
First, a little perspective. Don’t blame Facebook for the choices people make. If you don’t like their choices, then blame them for those choices. Facebook is merely the latest indicator of human frailties, contradictions, and oddities that have always been, and will no doubt always be, part of the human experience.
It’s impossible to know all the facts about a person’s actions or feelings from this limited amount of information. So, what could be happening here? First (and most obviously), there’s uncertainty and vacillation. Uncertainty doesn’t automatically suggest instability or anything bad. The best way to evaluate uncertainty in a person is to treat it as a yellow traffic light: Proceed with caution.
Secondly, these people must harbor a great amount of concern over what others think. If you don’t care what others think or how it makes you look to be single/married/coupled, then you would not be constantly updating your relationship status on Facebook. Yes, it might seem manipulative or even dishonest, but while some people mean harm, most do not. Many (I suspect most) people suffer from a significant preoccupation with how others view them. In the process, they (1) flatter themselves, and (2) assume that other people have a lot less insecurity than they actually do.
My advice is to be wary of pursuing anything with someone this indecisive and insecure, while at the same time, keeping in mind that it can take time to really get to know a person. But my experience has shown that the best relationships happen with people who are comfortable with themselves. If you love someone for who he is, it will matter little if he doesn’t feel the same way about himself. But if you and he agree on the fact that the both of you are pretty terrific people, then the relationship holds a lot of promise. And that’s the ultimate goal, right?
Michael J. Hurd, Ph.D., LCSW is a psychotherapist and author. His office can be reached at 302-227-2829. Email questions or comments to Dr. Hurd.