There’s a very common issue I see among guys who’re looking for a girlfriend: they’re just not ready for one yet. Many guys go full-tilt boogie into finding themselves a girlfriend as soon as possible without having laid the emotional groundwork. As a result, they don’t find themselves a relationship so much as a girlfriend-shaped disaster of Hindenburg proportions.
It’s very easy to get caught up in the quest to get a relationship – whether something semi-casual or completely serious – without recognizing that you might not be ready for it yet. Having developed the skills to attract a girlfriend without the emotional maturity or steadfastness to maintain a relationship is a recipe for misery. So, before you sabotage your own progress, I want you to ask yourself a series of questions, and answer as honestly as you can.
What Do You Expect To Get From A Girlfriend (That You Can’t Get From Anyone Else?)
One of the first things I ask people who are desperate for a relationship is simple: why?
It’s a more important question than you’d think. One of the biggest mistakes that a lot of guys make – especially guys who are socially inexperienced – is that they expect their future girlfriend to be all things to them. They want companionship, emotional intimacy, a helpmate, someone who’ll make them feel special. They want someone who’ll make them want to get up in the morning and that they’ll look forward to seeing at the end of the day. Oh, and blowjobs on the regular.
Which is great and all… but the thing that many guys fail to ask is why they’re not getting these already from their other relationships.
OK. Maybe not the blowjobs.
(Or maybe those too. I’m not judging.)
One of the things that tends to kill relationships is the tendency for men to put all their emotional eggs into one particular basket. Thanks to the way that we’re socialized, straight men are taught to try to get all their emotional needs met by their romantic partners. As a result, our wives, girlfriends and partners play multiple roles in the relationship – from companionship to emotional intimacy, to being Mother Confessor and often provider of comfort as needed. Being the intimate caretaker as well as the romantic partner is exhausting. It puts astounding amounts of pressure on women to manage their partner’s lives on top of their own and can lead to the end of a relationship long before its natural conclusion.
The problem is that many guys see a girlfriend as the solution to their loneliness and emotional outlet. And while it’s true that having a partner can make your life feel more fulfilled, you should aim for having a panoply of relationships that help you meet your needs. Having a broader social base of platonic friends – especially other men – makes you happier and healthier overall. It gives you a life outside of your relationship, which directly contributes to the longevity and satisfaction of your relationship.
And just as importantly: it’s a sign of emotional intelligence and stability – things that any potential partner will be looking for.
Romantic relationships are special, don’t get me wrong, but so are platonic ones. Before you start looking to a girlfriend to solve your loneliness, start by looking closer to home. Having a strong social network puts you in a better position to find a partner who’s right for you, instead of a loneliness heatsink.
But while we’re on the subject…
Do You Understand That A Girlfriend Won’t Change You?
Another common issue that comes up with a lot of guys is the idea that a girlfriend is a magical being who will change your life for the better. They make you smarter, stronger, a better dresser and someone who’ll inspire you to be your best self.
Or at least: that’s what movies and TV have taught them, anyway. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a movie about how the right relationship transforms men for the better. It doesn’t even have to be an obvious Manic Pixie Dream Girl; even brodeos like 500 Days of Summer, Don Jon and Knocked Up sell the message that it takes the right woman to teach a guy how to adult better.
A lot of guys tend to describe their ideal girlfriend as someone who is their exact opposite. From the buttoned up, emotionally closed man wanting the outgoing wild child to the lazy slob who looks at the hyper-competent, organized and driven woman as his image of perfection, guys often look for partners who represent something they wish they were.
The problem with this outlook is that, frankly, it’s a bad basis for a relationship. To start with, it’s often a matter of simple compatibility. The club-going party girl isn’t going to have that much in common with the homebody who enjoys staying home watching The Great British Bake-Off. The driven executive is going to get exhausted dealing with the over-developed man-child. The difference in personalities is going to mean that your differences will overwhelm the things you have in common.
Just as importantly, however, is that women have enough shit going on in their lives before finding out that they’ve signed onto being somebody’s life coach. Trying to run your own life is difficult enough; trying to manage somebody else’s on top of your own can be a goddamn nightmare. But even if you find that rare combination of teacher/nurturer who lives for expanding your mind while shrinking your anxieties, there’s the fact that you won’t want to change.
The primary reason why guys don’t do all those things they fantasize their 90s-era Winona Ryder teaching them to do is that, frankly, they don’t really want to do them in the first place. If they did, they’d already be taking steps to get there. Instead, they’ve chosen not to, finding many very good reasons why they couldn’t possibly do it. The idea that the motivating power of boobs might get them to finally chase those dreams makes for great inspiration porn, but in real life, it requires massive upheavals and changes in your personal status quo and those guys have already decided that they’d rather do whatever it is they’re doing now.
Your girlfriend’s encouragement to, say, go camping or join her at the party where you won’t know anybody, isn’t going to be the kick in the ass you’ve been waiting for, it’s going to be the annoying thing she keeps asking you to do when you’d rather work on your Warhammer army.
If you legitimately want to make lifestyle changes, then you have to be your own motivating force. If you’re going to do things differently, then you need to do it whether you’re single or not. A girlfriend isn’t Dumbo’s magic feather; she’s a person, same as you are. Asking her to take responsibility for your self-improvement regimen is an unfair imposition on her.
Now, having just said all that:
Having A Girlfriend Means You’re Going To Have To Change
Yeah, I know: if having a girlfriend won’t change you, then the fuck is this horse shit? Well, while a relationship isn’t your magic “make better life changes” button, it will require change. At the risk of sounding like I’m describing owning a pet, relationships come with responsibilities. Relationships, even casual ones, require maintenance and care. In many ways, your relationship is a separate entity from you and your partner, and it will make demands of you. Like a sexy vintage car, if you want your relationship to work past the initial honeymoon phase, you have to put in the work. And to be sure: a lot of that effort is unglamorous, even tedious.
One of the issues that comes up that a lot of guys don’t think about is what having a relationship is going to mean to their lifestyle. The fantasy of the relationship is that your new girlfriend is going to slot into your life with no disruptions. She’ll fit in perfectly with your schedule with minimal time demands of her own. She’ll mesh perfectly with your friends like she’s always been there. And, critically, she won’t have any complaints about the things you love to do.
Unfortunately, the reality is very different. As with taking on any change in your life, you’re going to have to make sacrifices. There are only so many hours in the day, and time spent with your new snugglebunny means time not spent elsewhere. And while this can seem easy to manage at first – especially when you’re in the “banging on every flat surface” stage – those sacrifices get harder to agree to over time. You’re going to have to give up things you love for things you’d rather not do in the name of being a good partner.
Is your guild planning a massive strike-team mission when Destiny 2 comes out? Well, too bad, you’d promised your girlfriend you’d help her move to her new apartment. Want to plan a guy’s night out? Cool, double check to make sure you don’t already have plans first. You may want to see that action-fest at the Alamo Drafthouse, but that’s on the only weekend you both have free and you did promise your girlfriend to go check out that new exhibit at the museum.
And of course, things like gaming can take the backseat to spending time with your sweetie. You’re gonna have to do some explaining why you’re playing paladin with your buddies instead of spending time with her.
Now this isn’t to make it sound like your girlfriend is going to be Captain Killjoy.
Your sweetie isn’t there to ruin all your fun and keep you from the things you love (unless you’re in a truly toxic relationship). It’s that being in a relationship means that you’re going to have to take another person into consideration. The plans you want to make don’t just impact you, they affect your girlfriend, too. Just as importantly, you’re going to have to make sacrifices of your own interests in the name of making your relationship work. Part of relationship maintenance means doing things you don’t like (without complaint!) because your girlfriend does like them and you want to make her happy.
Yes, some of those are things you can do separately, and having separate lives is just as important as togetherness. But imagine sharing the things you love with your girlfriend; is it not often better than just doing it with your bros? This goes both ways – she wants to share the experience of things she enjoys with someone she loves.
Some guys – geeks especially – try to get around this conundrum by trying to date someone as similar to themselves as possible. This has its own issues, but at the end of the day it comes down to the same mistaken idea: that you can have a relationship exclusively on your terms and without sacrifice. That’s not going to happen. Even if she loves all the things you do, it doesn’t mean that she isn’t going to have her own interests, her own practical needs or her own group of friends. If you want an actual relationship (instead of a fantasy) then you’re going to have to make changes.
Do You Have Your Life Together?
One of the most appealing aspects in a man – and often one of the most neglected – is a man who has his shit together. In a moment that seems ripe with irony, the time when a man is most attractive to women is when he “needs” her the least.
Stick with me for a second.
See, men who are looking for a relationship to “complete” them are making a critical mistake: they’re broadcasting neediness. Just as guys who want a girlfriend who will change them are abdicating responsibility for their own emotional growth, guys who “need” a girlfriend to be complete are sending the message that they have little going for themselves. They’re inherently dissatisfied with their lives and are casting about for something, anything, that they think will fix it for them. The problem is that instead of looking within, they’re looking for external solutions.
Like the dissatisfied youth from Fight Club, they feel an emptiness and lack but have no idea how to go about filling it. But instead of finding something that brings them fulfillment and satisfaction, they see the answer in another person. These are the guys who are about to dump the responsibilities for their future happiness on an unsuspecting woman. Needing someone desperately is only romantic in movies and trashy novels. In reality, it’s an emotional singularity, sucking away self-esteem and desirability into an eternal howling of the empty void.
However, a guy who has his shit together is immensely desirable. They aren’t looking for someone who’s going to complete them, they’re looking for someone who will complement them. They are the ones who live a rich and fulfilling life, who look around and say “my life is so awesome, the only thing that would make it better is being able to share it with someone.” It’s not that they’re rich or successful. It’s not that they’re popular or doing the most amazing shit imaginable. It’s simply that they are emotionally self-sufficient. They have their needs met. They have their lives in good working order. As a result: they’re more confident. They’re more mature. They’re emotionally intelligent and ready to love someone as an equal, not someone who’ll make them cool or more desirable by transference.
This is important because guys who have their shit together are ready to handle the things that define whether a relationship will succeed or fail.
Do You Want Her? Or “A Girlfriend”?
A surprisingly common issue, especially when it comes to first-time relationships is the “any girl will do” outlook. Many guys are so in love with the idea of Girlfriend that they end up with people they’re completely unsuited for. Because they want A Girlfriend so badly, they often round up basic interest to epic love story. As a result, they end up glossing over critical issues ranging from basic compatibility to “holy shit do NOT date this person”.
When being in A Relationship becomes your main goal, it’s very easy to start losing focus on what you actually want in a partner and going for “first person to say yes”. One of the things that a lot of people forget is that, when you’re unused to dating, the fact that someone likes you at all can feel intoxicating. There are times when people can get caught up in the excitement of someone else’s interest, even if you’re not necessarily into them. This gets multiplied when sex becomes part of the equation; a horny mind doesn’t like to ask too many questions. Getting fuck-drunk has left many people in relationships they might have avoided otherwise.
A related issue is the person who’s in love with being in love. Many people get caught up in the excitement of limerence, that heart-pounding, mind-boggling sensation of an oxytocin flood. They get addicted to the rush of “love” and bounce from woman to woman, declaring that this one is The One for sure. Ironically enough, those Ones are as interchangeable and disposable as Kleenex. He doesn’t love her so much as what she represents. This often leaves men in a position of using shitty judgement and ending up with a parade of bad relationships.
Yeah, the thrill of a new relationship is amazing. However, what makes a relationship work – and ensures that you have the right partner – is how you manage the bad times. There’s a reason why I like referring to your partner in relationships; you need someone who you work together with as a team. A Girlfriend is a pleasing fantasy. A girlfriend, on the other hand is someone who has your back in the bad times – just as you have hers.
Yeah, shit is going to be hard at times. You’re going to have to make sacrifices that you thought you’d never need to consider. You’ll have to put up with things that you never realized you could endure. There will be days when the only thing you can do is grit your teeth and swallow the things you really wish you could say. Just as she will.
But when you’re ready for a real relationship, you’ll be ready for the hardships too. You’ll look at each other, nod, and get ready to get down to the scutwork of the relationship.
And when you’re with the right person: your partner not just Your Girlfriend… you’ll realize that it’s all worth it.