I know I belong at Harvard Business School, because I am obsessed with analyzing problems. The caveat is that Harvard encourages us to apply analytical rigor to leadership challenges and business decisions, and I am most enthusiastic about analyzing love and relationship issues. However, I am slowly learning that some things that happen in my dating life are simply not worth analyzing. For example, nothing burns me up more than a guy not calling when he says he will. When this happens, I do not simply think that he forgot or got too busy. I put on my “Ms. Smart Girl” hat and think:
· He’s testing the boundaries of the relationship to see how often he can not follow through on what he says he will do.
· He feels himself getting too close to me. He’s trying to pull away and establish his independence.
And then I finally get around to:
· He’s just not that into me.
Now, I firmly believe in the truth of the book (and now movie) He’s Just Not That Into You. However, I often am not satisfied with simply telling myself the awful truth. Rather, I want to do a deep analysis of exactly what went wrong, when things began to unravel, and what I can do differently next time. While completing a multi-level analysis of why a guy and I don’t seem to be “meshing” might make me feel accomplished and in control, it does not make me any happier than I was before I launched into my intellectual exercise.
You conjecturing about why someone is not acting the way you want them to does not make them change their behavior. It just wastes your time, imagination, and saps your happiness and peace of mind.
Therefore, when you are dating a guy and he does something you do not like, appreciate, or understand, keep it moving.
By “keep it moving,” I mean go about your life, doing whatever you were doing before you met Mr. Flaky and don’t worry about why he is acting up. He could have forgotten, he could be busy, he might be testing your boundaries, asserting his independence, or he could just not be into you. The key for you to understand is that the best thing you can do for yourself—and for the relationship—is to keep it moving. Do not bog yourself down with worrying about it or even with “setting him straight”. As Sherry Argov, author of Why Men Love Bitches, says, “Men do not respond to words. They respond to no contact.”
Keeping it moving is not about playing games or being passive aggressive. It’s about taking a step back, relaxing, and focusing on doing what makes you happy—rather than focusing on understanding the cause and origin of something that is making you unhappy. If you really want Mr. Maybe Right to stop making last minute plans with you, don’t go out with him when he tries to make these last minute plans with you. If you want him to call you when he says he will, do not text him with subtle reminders like, “Hope you’re having a great day!” (Guys see right through that by the way). Just keep it moving, have your own great day, and if he calls, great. If not, you haven’t wasted time and energy on worrying about it. It’s all about encouraging goal-congruent dating behavior.
An important part of keeping it moving is to expect nothing. As an optimistic person with high expectations for myself and others, this has been a hard pill to swallow. But I have finally swallowed it, and I hope the time-release capsule works well enough to constantly remind me to expect nothing from guys I am casually dating. This is not me giving you permission to let people treat you badly.
It is about not putting expectations on people who do not have the title associated with such expectations.
For example, if a guy is not your boyfriend, do not expect him to do boyfriend things like buy you gifts, move you out of your apartment, or go shopping with you. If he does these things, this is a wonderful thing. He is doing these things because he wants to be your boyfriend someday, and is showing you how great of a boyfriend he would be. However, expecting someone you are casually dating to do these things will likely lead to disappointment and frustration on your part and confusion and distancing on his part. Now, the “expect nothing” mantra actually extends to some pretty everyday things like:
· When he says, “let’s get together some time,” do not expect him to take you out. It might happen; it might not.
· When he says, “I’ll call you later,” this does not mean “I am now setting an alarm for exactly six hours from now after which I will dutifully call you and talk about your day with you.” It means, “I might call. I might not—depending on how I feel.”
When men and women have these misunderstandings, it is not because either party is doing something wrong. As John Gray says in Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, Men and women speak different languages even when we are using the same words.
By expecting nothing, you are better able to keep yourself from a) putting unrealistic expectations on guys who are not your boyfriend, b) getting upset when people don’t meet these expectations, and c) keep it moving. If you didn’t expect him to actually call later, you won’t be stressed out when the call does not come.
Now, “keep it moving” and “expect nothing” have to go together. If you simply keep it moving but continue to have boyfriend expectations for men you are casually dating, you will end up bouncing from one not-your-boyfriend guy to the next, continually feeling let down. If you expect nothing but you don’t keep it moving, you will end up accepting crumbs from guys you are dating. You’ll stick around with guys that you expect nothing from—and you will get just that—nothing.
Keep It Moving and Expect Nothing must go together. When casually dating, you do not have high expectations for the guys. Let them show you how much they care rather than you decide how much they should care. And if they do things you don’t like, understand, or appreciate, keep it moving. I don’t mean break up with them, refuse to see them, or lecture them about what they did wrong. Just do your homework, go out to dinner with your friends, go to the gym, use those acrylic paints you bought, or go on a date with someone else. Do not spend time being upset or worried about what is going on.
I’m still learning how to expect nothing and keep it moving, but I get better at it every day. So far, it’s been better for everyone involved in my dating life. The guys don’t have me lecturing them about how “I’m a catch, and I deserve to be treated with respect,” my friends don’t have to listen to “Why doesn’t he just do what he says he’s going to do?!” and I have more time and energy to study for my finals, hang out with my friends, and of course, date the guys who are most interested in me.