Hi Captain and Awkwardeers! I have a problem that may or may not be an actual problem and is probably easy to solve, but asking friends for answers gave me nothing but contradictory answers, so I thought maybe you could help.
I’m young (in college) and just started dating one of my friends. It’s great. I’ve known him for a long time, we share interests, we’re comfortable together, butterflies are in full effect, et cetera. The only problem is, I have no idea what I’m doing! I’ve never dated anyone before (I’m twenty-one) I don’t really have any girlfriends I could ask/am not comfortable asking my mom, so I’m essentially fumbling my way through the dark without a flashlight or roadmap. When do you move in for a kiss? What are the milestones? What does and doesn’t constitute PDA? What about gift-giving, is there ettiquette for that? Will our shared group of friends be uncomfortable about our dating? How do I get over feeling shy about asking him this stuff? How SHOULD I feel about this guy, anyway? I have experience with crushes, but not with what a mutual adult relationship actually feels like. The cumulative effect of all this is that whi le I really enjoy spending time with him, I spend the time we’re NOT together panicking about what I might be doing right or wrong. Is there any kind of Relationships for Dummies guide for people like me?
Confused in Canada
Hi there, Confused in Canada!
Commander Logic here, and congratulations on new love! New love is fantastic, and I’m so happy for you!
What you’re dealing with here is an acute case of overthinking, with an associated infection of The Shoulds. Which you seem to be aware of, and that’s awesome!
I’m going to get to your overarching question in a sec, but first some short, pithy-ish answers to all the mini-questions you put up in there:
When do you move in for a kiss? – Whenever it feels like you want to kiss him. If it feels like an extra-bad time for it, say “Can I kiss you?” and then act accordingly.
What does and doesn’t constitute PDA? – Public Displays of Affection are just that: showing in public that you like this person. Holding hands, kisses, hugs, etc. What constitutes excessive PDA is up to you and your person to decide, though the law encourages you to keep it PG-13 at most.
What about gift giving? – That’s between you and your person, though as a rule of thumb, keep it low-key, affordable to your budget, and expect NOTHING IN RETURN. Give happily because you know it’s something the other person would enjoy. Receive happily because the other person thought about making you happy.
Will our shared group of friends be made uncomfortable by our dating? – Heck if I know, and heck if you should care. You aren’t dating AT your friends, and they really don’t have a say in who you date one way or another. I know it sometimes doesn’t feel that way, but I promise, your friends’ comfort does not trump your personal choices.
How do I get over feeling shy about asking him this stuff? – Same way you get to Carnegie Hall… a taxi. (RIMSHOT) No, I mean practice. Just say the stuff that’s on your mind and ask what’s on his mind. Your mantra for this is “Neither of us are mindreaders, and I was wondering/thinking this.”
Finally, the biggie:
How SHOULD I feel about this guy? – I don’t know him or you, so I’m going to say you should feel exactly how you feel at a given moment. Love him down to the toe jam? Great! Find him suddenly annoying? Fine! Right back to toe jam loving the next second? Normal! Even if I DID know you both, I’d say the same thing, because you are the boss of you, and no one else is.
This ties into the question that underlies all of this: HOW DO I RELATIONSHIP THE RIGHT WAY?
The answer is annoyingly zen: you just do until you don’t.
Consider the Golden Retriever. (That’s in reference to a break-up, but it’s relevant to ongoing awesome relationships as well.) It doesn’t question WHY it loves you. It doesn’t question the best way to show its love. It doesn’t know WHY chasing and bringing back the stick is SO SO SO MUCH FUN. It doesn’t give a damn. It just loves the moment, and does what feels right in the moment, from jumping on your lap even though it’s way too big for that now, to laying in a sunbeam hoping you’ll dispense belly rubs.
Where you have it up on the Golden Retriever is that you have the ability to use words to optimize your relationship experience. Whereas the Golden Retriever will jump on laps for all eternity, you and your partner can have the conversation of “Hey! I know that [metaphorical equivalent of lap jumping] is how you like to feel close to me and loved, but it is really uncomfortable for me. Would [metaphorical equivalent of chin resting in lap] be okay with you in the future?”
Which brings me to your question about Milestones. In a good relationship, I’ve found that there really aren’t any required milestones, and that can drive goal-oriented people up a damn wall. I mean, there are culturally significant milestones (thank you very much rom-com and “get a wo/man” industries), but they do not – DO. NOT. – have to be adhered to on a particular schedule, or at all. The Relationship Milestone Police are not a thing, even if your Auntie Bessie or Toxic Friend Hepzibah are all over you for not hitting arbitrary milestones in some specific order or particular way. First date, first kiss, first fuck, first overnight stay, first party with friends, first meeting the family, first “I Love You”, etc. etc. to death. Maybe you’ll hit all of these over the course of months, or years, or on the very first date, or “out of order,” or the “wrong” person initiates them. All of those schedules are fine. Maybe you’ll NEVER meet their family because their family is full of abusive meat-buckets. Maybe you’ll never have a “proper” first date, whatever that means, or you will and then forget about it. You can also develop milestones of your own! Outside of what is culturally dictated! Your first movie marathon could be important to you as a couple. Your first photo session. Jointly resetting your facebook statuses, or whatever. What matters is that you are happy with the relationship in the moment.
To recap: How to Relationship
1 – Are you happy to see each other? Then you are doing it right.
2 – Is something in the relationship making you unhappy? Then talk about it.
3 – Are you agonizing over what to do? For best results, agonize out loud to the other person in the relationship.
4 – “No one is a mind reader.”
5 – “I feel how I feel because I’m the boss of me.”
6 – Do and say what feels right and good, at that moment. Even if it’s awkward.
You’re already doing great, and I promise, if you’re happy then you’re doing Relationship correctly. Good job! Commander Logic OUT.