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Five Steps to Finding the Love of Your Life (While Fully Clothed & Totally Sober)
By Harlan Cohen
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2012 Harlan Cohen
All rights reserved.
Why We Think Men Are Assholes, Women Are Bitches, and Couples in Love Suck
Our Informal Relationship Education
We learn to read. We learn to write. But no one teaches us how to find a date or how to find the love of our life. It's all just supposed to happen.
We flirt on Facebook, secretly stare at our crushes, and wait for IT to happen. We go to school dances, hang out, hook up, date, fall in love, and break up. When it all ends, we have no idea where, when, or how it all happened. In the meantime we are bombarded with images, status updates, and articles about love, lust, and getting lucky. Even sixteen-year-olds are getting pregnant on reality television while we're longing for love. We look for guidance, but there isn't much out there. Most parents don't know how it happened or are still struggling to find answers. Friends who find themselves in relationships don't know how it happened. And porn sites don't exactly offer a lot of practical dating advice.
BEST DATING ADVICE #620–#625
#620.Never date someone you can't see without makeup on.
— from a best friend
#621.Quit beating yourself up and being such a dumbass.
— from a father
#622.I never received dating advice. I'm gay and live in a homophobic town.
— from no one
#623.If you're willing to let his penis inside you, you should be able to talk to him.
— from a friend
#624.Don't make a boy your everything; when he's gone, you're left with nothing.
— from a sister
#625.Be genuine from the very beginning. It is a waste of your time to win over someone who isn't going to like who you really are.
— from my parents
We spend years receiving a formal education so we can go find a career that feeds our passion, but little time learning how to find passion in our relationships. Some of us move on to college to get a more formal education. It's during the college years we learn that we don't need to know anything about how to find love to hook up or fall in love. All we need is beer, a buzz (alcohol speeds up the process), and to spend a lot of time in rooms with a lot of people. Dating isn't about exploring options; rather, it's about fortunate accidents. It's a game of luck and hoping something sticks. And this is when it all gets sticky. It's a lot of trial and error, but after a few tries most of us don't have the emotional stamina to continue. That's when we hate, hide, give up looking, hope it happens when we least expect it, or settle for the least offensive option until something better comes along.
When we look back at what went wrong, there are five lessons we learn during our informal education that set the stage for drama and confusion.
My biggest fear is being hurt, used, or rejected. It has made me less likely to try dating or talking to guys I'm interested in. It makes it difficult to have the courage to approach someone and talk to them.
— Kirsten, nineteen, single
We Learn ... Sharing Our Feelings Is Stupid (or Just a Very Bad Idea)
It all starts with a first crush. That's when we first smell danger. It's also when we first learn that sharing our feelings is a VERY BAD idea or just plain stupid. From the first "like" our knee-jerk reaction is to avoid letting anyone know. We might confide in a friend or two, but the only way we are willing to openly share our feelings is if we are 100 percent certain the person we like will like us back.
We'll flirt, ask friends to ask questions, creep on Facebook, ogle, Google, and investigate, but rarely say what we feel. We get as much information as possible without letting the people we like know we like them. We want to know if someone is available and interested. We ask friends to do our dirty work for us. The reason we use friends is so we can distance ourselves far enough to deny our feelings ever existed should the person we like not reciprocate or others find out about them. Technology and friends give us a safe buffer to cast blame and run like hell should rejection or humiliation find us.
As a result, we have imaginary relationships with people who don't know they're in relationships with us (thank you, Facebook). We get jealous of people who like the people we secretly like. We have friends find out information about the people we like, which inadvertently gets the people we like interested in our friends because they are the only ones talking. Most friends won't date the people we like, but some will. It's difficult not to blame them. It's hard to meet people.
If we do share our feelings and our crush shares our interest we breathe a sigh of relief. If a crush doesn't share our feelings the results can be devastating. It only reaffirms why it was wrong and stupid for us to share our feelings in the first place. We quickly learn that sharing our feelings and not having them reciprocated is about the worst thing that can happen. We can't stand the pain of not being liked by the people we like. If other people find out it's that much more humiliating. So we learn to hide our feelings and run like hell when we smell rejection coming.
* * *
Step 1 will give you the power to say and do what you feel without the fear of being rejected and/or humiliated.
My biggest hang-up was me. I was so worried about how I was perceived by other people that I didn't get involved. It was self-preservation.
— Heidi, twenty-six, married
We Learn ... We Are All Defective
When a crush doesn't want us, we think: It's me. I'm ugly, unattractive, and not good enough. No one will want me. I'm defective. And why do we think this? It's what we're told. It's what we tell ourselves. It's what we hear other people saying about the people we watch share their feelings and get crushed. We forget the undeniable fact that not everyone we like will always like us. We just see rejection as meaning we are defective. It's all we're equipped to think at first. Some of us never change that self-destructive thinking.
If you want to listen to people say horrible things to one another, hang out in a junior high school cafeteria. Teenagers can be mean (understatement of the book). Twelve- and thirteen-year-olds are some of the most dangerous of the human species. Adjectives like "desperate," "disgusting," "stupid," "slutty," "flat," "fat," "short," "stinky," "horny," "ugly," "creepy," and all other horrible words that tear people down are part of regular conversations among friends. And I understand why it happens. It's hard to be comfortable in your own skin when you're a prepube with raging hormones and hair sprouting from random places. The goal is to make everyone feel like less so we can feel like more, only everyone ends up feeling like less. And it sets us all up to feel defective when it comes to the world of dating and relationships.
Rejection is hard enough to handle at any age, but rejection in a world where everyone already feels so uncomfortable makes it unbearable. No one wants to be reminded that he or she isn't good enough. So to avoid feeling defective, we learn it's safer, smarter, and easier to keep our feelings a secret — that is, unless we're approached by someone who wants us or we know with absolute certainty that someone we want won't reject us. Then we can consider letting down our guard and being vulnerable.
What's wild is that we can feel completely defective, hate sharing our feelings, and still find love (or just hook up). Feeling defective and being in an intimate relationship can be a dangerous combination. It's hard to demand and command respect when you're not sure anyone else will want you. It's easier to make excuses for people who treat us poorly, take back partners who treat us like crap, and hang on to flings that should have been flung. It's impossible to see that we have options when we are just so grateful that someone could love someone as defective as we might be. We learn that to be with anyone means to be rescued from the land of the single and searching.
* * *
Step 2 will help make you feel good enough and hot enough — always.
I met a guy I liked, and we watched movies at his place. We hooked up, and then I left because we both had class the next morning. The next day I wanted to see him again. He said that he wanted to talk to me about something. This is when he made it clear that he wanted to keep hooking up, but he didn't want to date me. He said there was a certain type of girl he wanted to date, girls he had "known awhile and hadn't done anything with." I asked if that meant I was exempt from the list just because of the night before, to which he said, "Well no. I wouldn't have dated you anyway."
— Ashley, nineteen, single
We Learn ... Hooking Up Is Faster and Easier Than Dating
Put yourself in a room with other people long enough and you'll hook up. Put yourself in a room with alcohol and it will happen faster (not recommended).
We soon learn that while we can be totally unable to share our feelings and not feel attractive enough, we can still hook up. This describes most high school relationships. We learn that hooking up is a lot faster and easier than dating. It's much more efficient because sharing feelings and expectations is not required. Plus, you know you aren't defective if someone is hooking up with you (post-hookup is a different story). Hooking up can happen with a random stranger or someone we've known and secretly wanted for months (or years). Instead of sharing our feelings while sober and clothed, we make excuses about why we shouldn't, telling ourselves we don't want to lose a friendship, make things weird, or make people uncomfortable. But then, if the night is right and drinks are flowing, we suddenly forget to make excuses and hook up with the people we've secretly wanted, but have been too afraid to tell. We learn that the hookup can be a perfectly "safe" way to connect — but it can also lead to drama and disaster.
Some people use hooking up for fun (a hookup can range from a kiss to all-out sex). Others use it to start relationships. Not knowing what will happen post- hookup can lead to excitement, drama, or disappointment. When the hookup ends, it can get weird fast. Clothed and confused, we have most of the same questions we had before the hookup, but now it's all heightened because everyone got naked — and that makes it harder to have an honest conversation: Should I call? Should I text? Does he like me? Will she call me? Did she like it? Was I good? Will it happen again? Am I annoying? Am I in love? Did we use a condom? How could I let this happen? I'm so stupid. ...
The confusing part of hooking up is that it can lead to happy and healthy relationships. It can also lead to drama and devastating disappointment. People who are great at hooking up can be terrible at sharing their feelings and feel completely defective. Sharing feelings and feeling good enough is not required before, during, or after the hookup. And that's why it's easier and faster than dating.
* * *
Step 3 will force you to stop making excuses and help you make dating as easy as, if not easier than, hooking up.
17 FORMS OF THE COLLEGE HOOKUP
1. The Drunk Hookup: an alcohol-induced connection
2. The Friendly Hookup: friends who go way beyond friendly
3. The Rebound Hookup: broken up and looking for some Band-Aid lovin'
4. The Cheating Hookup: no dignity here
5. The Desperation Hookup: looking for anyone — and I mean anyone
6. The Online Hookup: a high-speed connection
7. The Who's Next Hookup: the love junkie who can't get enough
8. The Ex Hookup: reliable, dependable, and oh so easy
9. The Visitor Hookup: here today, gone tomorrow (aka the hit and run)
10. The I Love You Hookup: love at first sight (until the morning light)
11. The Convenience Hookup: the closest person with a pulse gets some
12. The First Week Hookup: action exclusive to welcome week
13. The I Just Want to Have Fun Hookup: it's all good fun until someone falls in love
14. The Weekend Hookup: I love you Friday, I love you Saturday, but don't call me Sunday
15. The Sympathy Hookup: a charitable donation (it's always generous to give)
16. The Help Me Hookup: hooking up with a teaching assistant, resident assistant, or inappropriate helper
17. The Repeat Backup Hookup: a go-to guy or girl who is the backup love buddy (aka the 3:00 A.M. text message booty call)
Source: The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College
We Learn ... We Don't Know Where, When, or How It Happens (But Still, It Happens)
We quickly learn that hooking up, dating, or finding love is unpredictable. We don't need to know where, when, or how it happens, but still, it happens. There's a reason it's called getting lucky.
The random nature of it all adds to the excitement at first, and later, to the anxiety. We can hang out, hook up, date, get married, have kids, share intimate moments, and still never know how we got there. And this is where it gets confusing.
Not knowing where, when, or how it happens means not knowing if it will happen again. And not knowing if it will happen again means being more inclined to hang on to whatever we have — even if it's not that good. When we find something better, we question what we already have. We either ignore our feelings, talk about them, or cheat and talk about them later — after everything blows up.
Because we learn that dating and hooking up is random and unpredictable, we have a hard time seeing that we have other options. As a result, too many people stay in bad relationships too long, make excuses for inexcusable behavior, and stick with partners who they should run from.
* * *
Step 4 will give you the power to make it happen again and again and know how the hell it all happens.
I met my husband on spring break. I wasn't even looking for a husband. I had one serious relationship prior so I think I knew what love felt like. We both knew early on that we were in love. We got married a year and a half after meeting and honestly we are both very lucky that we fell in love with someone who was a good match. We've been married for thirteen years and have gone through a lot, but feel we have a great marriage — again we are just really lucky. He makes me laugh every day.
— Jen, thirty-seven, married
We Learn ... Men Are Assholes, Women Are Bitches, and Couples in Love Suck
We eventually learn that most of our crushes, hookups, and relationships won't end in marriage — just hurt feelings.
When we get hurt we think, He's an asshole, She's a bitch, and Couples in love suck. Or we just hate ourselves. Our survival instincts kick in. Rejection hurts. It's our worst fears confirmed. Someone we like (or love) doesn't want us. It reaffirms what we already knew — sharing our feelings is stupid or we're too defective to be loved. If we've been cheated on or betrayed, we can't help but wonder what we did wrong.
The knee-jerk reaction when someone hurts us is to become a hater or a hider. We hate because anyone who hurts us is the enemy. We want to make them hurt as much as they've hurt us. We hide because seeing that person is too painful. It can be like looking in a mirror and facing our insecurities. We don't want to look. It's just too sad and humiliating.
If we're the ones doing the rejecting, we become the assholes and bitches. No one wants to be the bad guy (or girl) and see the pain we've caused. So, instead of being honest, we text our feelings, ignore people who like us until they go away, or just cheat and wait until it all blows up. When it finally ends we're even bigger assholes and bitches than had we shared the truth earlier.
Having tasted love and not being able to find it again can make us bitter. Never finding it in the first place can fill us with resentment. And then, we see couples in love, couples that are far less attractive, a lot less interesting, and not nearly as successful. We see friends getting engaged, getting married, and starting a life together when we're still looking to find a decent date. While the people we look at with envy might not be any happier than us, we can't help feeling more alone and discouraged than ever.
* * *
STEP 5 will give you the power to never settle and to handle whatever comes your way.
GETTING NAKED TIP #431
Want to avoid being treated like shit? When someone treats you like shit the first time tell that person, "You can't treat me like shit." Then explain what bothers you. The second time it happens simply say, "I told you, I don't like being treated like shit. Good-bye."
A total loss of contact is the most hurtful thing a woman has done to me. Giving a reason I can understand, but leaving unanswered questions can really suck. The human mind can be a real jerk in these situations because one is likely to think of all the times that they might have done something wrong. I know that is what I do, and I also know I am not alone.
— Grant, twenty-one, single
Despite What We "Learn"
Despite what we learn during our informal relationship education we can still hook up, find a date, have sex, get married, and have a family. All it takes is hanging out in rooms, a few drinks, and a ring. We can be horrible at sharing our feelings and never feel good enough, yet we can still find someone to love and someone to love us. We can have no idea how it happens, but can still experience deep intimacy. We can hate being single, dread time alone, and still fall in love. Sometimes a relationship will work. Other times it won't. When it doesn't work, what went wrong can be traced back to either our informal relationship education or our partner's informal relationship education.
The five steps in this book are what we should have learned. It's a way to look at dating, relationships, and hooking up that could have cleared up the confusion and saved a lot of time and tears. Finding love doesn't have to be so difficult. It doesn't have to be so emotionally grueling. It's just how we've been taught to make it.
And now, that's all about to change....
Excerpted from Getting Naked by Harlan Cohen. Copyright © 2012 Harlan Cohen. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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