If you had someone who was very interested in you and you dated off and on for a year and a half and you found out he/she had been talking secretly to your close sister/brother or friend to get information about you…Information like if you like him, if you’re seeing others and what you’re doing with those other people… who the other people are etc…what would you do? Would that bother you or would you recognize he’s only doing it because he/she likes you so much? Deal breaker?
Thank you for your question. This is an interesting question to address as it has many components. What it boils down to is, “what is considered appropriate dating behavior?” What is appropriate varies greatly in each situation based on such things as the length and depth of the relationship, dating expectations, and whether these expectations were clearly communicated. I am going to discuss three major aspects of dating which seems to be a cause of much frustration and hopefully you’ll be able to apply these aspects to your current situation. The first is what I call the Hollywood effect, second, the push for persistence, and finally, communication and expectations.
1. The Hollywood Effect
Whether we like it or not, we have all been influenced by Hollywood romances. Most Hollywood movies portray romance as something that happens with complete serendipity. Men and women meet in unsuspecting circumstances, they just happen to have quirky things in common, and things fall into place by the end of the movie by fate and happenstance. I recognize I’m overgeneralizing, but I have found that these Hollywood plots create a false ideal that relationships in the real world are to happen in a likewise manner. Therefore, I have witnessed men and women go to great lengths to try and fabricate this sense of romantic serendipity by trying to investigate as much about their romantic interest as they can when seeking to date someone.
For example, before taking a girl out on a date, let’s say I want to make the date seem as romantic as possible. In order for the date to be romantic, I want to make sure I understand what some of the girls likes and dislikes are and see if I can come up with a date that will appeal to certain aspects of her personality. Now, I could just ask her but that seems to lack the romantic spontaneity of Hollywood movies, so instead I check out her Facebook and learn that she plays guitar and loves folk music. So, I decide to take her to a concert. I have now created a situation where I am taking her on a date that will seem as though we have so much in common, increasing the romantic potential. If I wanted to know more about the girl I could also start contacting her family and close friends to get more information. Whether or not this behavior is appropriate, as mentioned before, really depends on a number of different variables.
2. Push for Persistence
How many times have we heard a married woman tell a story that goes something like this, “When I first met my husband I wasn’t interested at all! He asked me out several times and I turned him down. Well, he kept asking me out and finally I said yes. After two years of dating on and off I finally knew I couldn’t live without him and we’ve been happily married for 30 years!” Throughout my life I have been encouraged countless times to be persistent when it comes to dating. Don’t give up! Keep trying! She’ll realize you’re the right man for her if you just keep pursuing!
Even as recent as last General Conference, Elder Ballard told the story of how he met his wife at a dance and said, “ I got her telephone number and called her to ask her out, but she was busy with school and social commitments. Thankfully, my mission taught me to be persistent even in the face of discouragement, and I was eventually able to make a date. Now, 64 years later, there are seven children and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren who stand as evidence of the significant truth that no matter how good your message is, you may not get a chance to deliver it without consistent, persistent follow-up.”
It’s important to understand men have been given this message many times throughout their lives and that they may not always respond to rejection by being rejected. Although stories and experiences like Elder Ballard’s definitely exist, I would suspect that there are far more stories of men who were persistent and never ended up with the girl they were pursuing, in spite of all evidence that the girl was not interested in the first place and never would be. But those stories don’t usually end up in the Ensign. I mention the push for persistence just to provide some context to why a gentleman may still be pursuing long after you’ve made your lack of interest clear. Which brings me to my last and final point.
3. Communication and Expectations
I have heard time and time again that one of the biggest struggles with relationships is effective communication and expectations. Yet it seems that in dating there is little discussion regarding these two principles. I would postulate that this is due largely to the Hollywood effect, and individuals suspecting that during courtship everything should just happen naturally without having to communicate.
In contrast to such unrealistic expectations, why not set a pattern of healthy courtship by learning to communicate expectations clearly? This can be done without becoming overbearing and in a manner that will still allow for all the fun and excitement of dating. Take something as simple as a girl letting a possible suitor know that, “On a first date it is important to me to get to know someone in a public setting before I am ready to spend time with them one on one.” The gentleman now knows the expectations of the girl and can be sure to plan a date that is sensitive to her expectations.
Regarding your situation with the gentleman who is still pursuing and asking your family for more information, it is your right to communicate to him your expectations for your relationship. If his behavior is not appropriate to you and makes you uncomfortable, then you have the right to communicate that with him clearly. Try sending him a message that goes something like, “Hello, my sister informed me that you’ve been asking her questions about me. I wanted to communicate with you that this behavior makes me uncomfortable and I feel it is a violation of my privacy. I appreciate you taking an interest in my life, but please know that I do not have an interest in dating you and would ask that you please be respectful of my boundaries. I think you are a great guy so I wanted to respect your feelings by being completely clear with you. Thank you for understanding.”
I wish I could promise that such clear communication will be appreciated, but I have learned from many women that not every man is respectful in these situations, however, most guys will appreciate your efforts. If a man does become upset and writes back something harsh or attacking, again be respectful and clearly communicate your expectations. For example, something like, “I am sorry that my being honest with you was offensive, I know it’s never fun to be turned down by someone. I ask that you please be respectful of my boundaries and that you do not speak to me in such harsh language. If you cannot be respectful, I will block any future messages or communication If you can be respectful and understanding of my feelings and boundaries, it’s possible we could maintain a platonic friendship. Thank you.”
Once you have clearly communicated your expectations, you will be able to quickly determine if a gentleman pursuing you really respects you. If you communicate expectations and a guy trying to date you seems to disregard your communication and does not show concern for your feelings, take that as a huge red flag that you are being dated by a jerk. Jerks only care about themselves and will not be considerate of your feelings or boundaries.
I do not know the man who is pursuing you, so I cannot say if he is a jerk with no respect of your boundaries, or if he is just a hopeless romantic seeking to create that Hollywood, serendipitous relationship. Regardless, you have a right to your privacy and to communicate your boundaries and expectations.
Dating can be a tremendous challenge for everyone. However, we can all do our part by trying to be as respectful as we can while also being willing to communicate openly our boundaries, expectations and feelings. I hope you will find success as you seek out a relationship that will bring joy and happiness into your life.
Paul Green, is a real estate broker and professional improvisational comedian, actor and trainer. He has trained thousands of professionals and teenagers on principles of leadership, communication, team building and creative thinking and has provided heart-filled advice and encouragement to all who he has had an opportunity to interact. His greatest passion is helping individuals find creative and uplifting solutions to the many challenges of life by applying the principles and doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He looks forward to hearing and understanding the challenges of his readers and helping them to overcome these challenges. For his full bio, click here.
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