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  • Writer's pictureAnderson

Love (Sex) & Literature #1

Welcome to the newest addition to Hot Literati: Love, Sex, & Literature! Here you’ll find semi-regular answers to your deepest and darkest questions, all synthesized from the mind of an actual couples therapist, Real Lover, Real Yearner, Yours Truly, AKA Barry Bradshaw, Gemini Guru, Gossip Guy. Your situationship might lie to you, but I won’t. Let’s get into it.

“I also got out of a 4-year relationship last year. I’m not ready to be in a new one, so how do I date without the other person expecting a relationship out of me? I’m not interested in hookups but I also don’t want any exclusivity or a relationship. How do I find that balance and make my intentions clear?”

Serious question, what do you want? You don’t want to hook up, you don’t want to be exclusive, and you don’t want a relationship. What’s left? You just want to go on dates with people without any strings attached? It sounds like you want friends!

I can tell you immediately that the only way to avoid having a relationship is to avoid meeting or talking to people. Any people at all. Because relationships are more than just boyfriend-girlfriend. Friendships are relationships. Acquaintances, coworkers, friends with benefits, neighbors… they’re all different facets of the same human need to connect. That need doesn’t go away just because you had a bad breakup.

In fact, I’d say you’re in more need of relationships now than ever, if you’re reeling from a 4 year schtick! You need to tell your friends what happened and ameliorate in dismay at what you endured. You need to have fun with people to get your mind off things. You need to be around positivity in order to repair your confidence and self-image. And yes, eventually, you need to date, to ensure you still feel worthy of love, to keep your power as an attractive being strong.

Onto the topic of dating. “Not ready for a relationship” is different from “I don’t want to hook up on the first date”. Often when people say the former, they mean they want all the benefits of a relationship without any of the commitment. If that’s the case with you, I say own it. Some people are going to be into that and some won’t, oh well, it’s not fair to anyone to be opaque with your intentions and desires. But if you’re saying what I think you’re saying – which is, “I want to connect but I’m scared of going too far too soon and being hurt” – well, I don’t think you’re ready to get back out there on the marketplace of bodies just yet. Because to love is to be changed and there is no connection possible without the risk of pain, disappointment, or betrayal. Trust is a choice we make every day. There is always a risk in being vulnerable. If you’re not ready to accept this, you’re not yet ready to date.

But I’ll take your question at face value. First, how do you find your balance? I’d say you are in need of some self-exploration. Sit with what you actually are looking for in dating. It doesn’t seem like you’re interested in a physical rebound – or are you, and shame or trauma are holding you back? If you really don’t want to be touched physically, then I’m assuming you want to connect with someone emotionally. Do you want a talking stage or a therapist? Are you prepared to sit with anyone else’s problems if your own are still overwhelming?

Next, you ask, how do you make your intentions clear to someone else you’re dating. To be honest, this also makes me wonder if you’re ready to get back in the dating pool. Communicating your boundaries and expectations is paramount to any sort of romantic or physical tryst. It’s step one. If you can’t express your needs and excise/encourage connections accordingly, you’ll struggle to find anything that feels right and appropriate. There’s no way to keep others from having expectations of you. But if their expectations don’t align with your goals or your current capabilities, it’s not a match. Simple. On to the next. They don’t like it? That’s their problem. Not yours.

I don’t know you at all, but just hearing that you were in a relationship for 4 years, I do know some things about you. Namely: you are capable of deep, earnest, consistent, long-lasting love. You are likely still pining over this person you are no longer together with. You are probably grieving both your past and your future with this person. You are probably lonely. You probably put up with some things for longer than you should have. You feel ready to move on, so much so that you’re probably not giving yourself enough time to actually heal from what’s happened before. You are afraid.

My advice: journal. Write down what you miss about them and all the things you had planned for your future with them. Tell your therapist, or your mother, or your pillow; no one else. When you’ve got it all out, look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself: That era has passed. I am not who I was. I have loved and I have been changed. I forgive myself for what came before. I allow myself to love and be loved again.

Then do it again, and again, until you mean it, and you don’t have to look at this post to find the words.

Good luck and happy dating. Don’t compromise.

“what do i do if my longing for a romantic partner makes evenings alone in my dorm room unendurable”

This has already been answered in Ask Hot Literati #3, but I wanted so badly to address it that we’re bringing it back in the first edition of LS&L. It’s a strong question that I think a lot of people are struggling with. To paraphrase: what do I do with all my love and nowhere to put it?

My answer, put simply: Do something with it. Anything. Stop holding onto it! Look around! Most of us are looking so desperately for love! Your friends are lonely. Your parents want to hear from you more. Your classmates go silently to and from class. Your neighbors avoid eye contact while they throw the trash out. Loneliness is everywhere. But it’s illogical. If everyone is lonely, shouldn’t we all be reaching out to connect with each other? We’re not. We’re afraid. We’re paralyzed by worries. And nothing changes if we don’t make a change.

So be the change you want to see. Tell someone on your close friends list how much you appreciate their interest in your life. Hug your friends and tell them you love them before you guys slam shots at the pregame. Ask how people are feeling. Tell people how you are feeling. (Stop lying when someone says “How are you?”) Sit next to someone you don’t know well and ask them questions. Invite someone to dinner and talk to them about whatever. Randomly message a mutual and ask about their school or work. Heart react to every message your crush has ever sent you. Email your group project partners and ask to work on the assignment in person. Go to office hours and make small talk with someone on the way out. Compliment someone’s outfit and ask where they get their inspiration from. Ask a friend to go to the gym with you. Ask a cute person on the street to take a picture of you. Call your cousin you never talk to. Send a letter to your childhood best friend. Watch your best friend’s favorite movie with them and invite them to your dorm to watch yours next week. Talk to people!

What do you want from a romantic partner, anyway? Sex? (Do you masturbate? Do you appreciate your own body?) Companionship? (See previous paragraph.) Someone to talk to? (See previous paragraph.) Physical touch? (See previous paragraph. Get a weighted blanket.) Someone to shower you with romantic gestures? (Buy yourself things!)

I might sound like a broken record, but if you break it down, so much of what we get from romantic relationships are attainable and arguably healthier to get from our platonic relationships. Love comes in many forms. And it’s much harder for a friend to cheat on you.

You know what’s even harder? For you to cheat on yourself! Look at it this way: the only person who will never leave your side in all of life is yourself. To the day you die, you will not spend more time with anyone else. You have so much potential to give yourself all the love you deserve, and more. No one knows you or your desires better than you do.

It isn’t lost on me that you say you spend evenings alone in your dorm in emotional agony. I get that and it really does suck. So do you have to be alone? What’s stopping you from going out into a common space or a library and just hanging out with people? Scrolling on your phone around others? Talking to random people or gathering with your friends more? People still have sleepovers with friends. That’s certainly safer than having random one-night stands with dating app candidates. Really, what’s stopping you? What are you afraid of? What’s the worst that can happen? How much can someone else’s opinion of you impact your life, really? Do you fear a hypothetical bad scenario more than you fear the painful reality you already live in?

I don’t mean to be harsh – my intention here is to be empowering. Fear and loneliness have a way of making us feel smaller than we actually are. But I can guarantee there are so many people around you who would be interested in you if they just got the chance to know you a bit better. And I can promise that you won’t attract your dream partner by staying holed up in your room.

Bottom line is, if you want love, you have to go get it. You don’t have to make the first move, but you have to put yourself out there and be available to be seen and desired. You have to be presentable and you have to have love for yourself. Like moths to flames, people are attracted to others that radiate peace, confidence, positivity, power.

Right now your yearning has power over you. You can use that energy and channel it into motivation to connect with others and improve yourself. I promise you can. And if you mess up, I promise you can try again and you will do better with more practice. Everything is practice. Just try to do one new thing a day and see how quickly things turn around for you. Be brave. The love of your life is just as eager to finally meet you as you are them.


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