Getting Out Of Dating Limbo Land

I adore Anne Lamott. In Bird by Bird, her guidebook to writing that also applies to everything else in life, she writes: “When I was 38, my best friend Pammy died, and we went shopping about two weeks before she died, and she was in a wig and a wheelchair. I was buying a dress for this boyfriend I was trying to impress, and I bought a tighter, shorter dress than I was used to. And I said to her, ‘do you think this makes my hips look big?’ and she said to me, so calmly, ‘Anne, you don’t have that kind of time.’”

It may be painful to hear, but hands down the biggest waste of time when flirting, dating, or having sex is trying to figure out what the other person is thinking and then acting accordingly.

The cure: Stop freaking out about figuring it out.

This amazing woman I know has a good job, a great apartment, friends, and a solid profile. She’s gorgeous, fit, and smart. She’s totally content…except she wants a boyfriend and it’s not happening. Recently she asked me for advice on her current love interest. She described their interactions (from initial spark to a couple of up and down dates and a few ambiguous texts sprinkled here and there) and all of the ways she’s interpreted every little thing that’s happened so far. When I asked her what she wanted, she thought for a minute and said, “Well, it depends on what he wants.”

This mentality is what leads to dating and relationship limbo. If you’re not paying attention, you can spend years here, wasting your energy worrying about what someone else wants instead of exploring what you want because it’s safe, comfortable, and relatively responsibility and risk-free. But if you want a relationship based on authenticity and intimacy, the only way to get there is to leave the cozy nest of limbo land.

First, ask yourself what you want with your current love interest (or, if you don’t have one, with the next guy you’re going to go out with). Listen for a simple and direct answer from within. Pay attention to the first thing that hits you. For now, don’t make a laundry list of characteristics or fantasies. (Trust me, the guy who you will fall in love with is going to be better than any box you construct for him anyway.) Once you’re clear on what you want, express your desire to him and see what happens. When I first started coaching, my trainer told me the key is to “Ask for 100% of what you want 100% of the time and be willing to stick around to negotiate the rest.” If he’s receptive, you’re on your way. If he’s not comfortable with your desires, it’s better to know that now too. This is going to be awkward, scary, and uncomfortable at first, but only after you’re willing to put your desire out on the table can you have it.

I got a late night text from California recently asking for some dating triage. Should she make out with him tonight or wait a night? Tease him or attack him? What would be the best play? My washing machine brain can spot another in a second. When she finally stopped spinning and told me what she wanted, I reminded her that she had the choice to either go for it or to spend the time doing something nice for herself. But whatever you do, I advised her, stop worrying about going for it and stop predicting how he will respond. She texted me a few days later telling me that she had gone to sleep that night, waited a few days, and had the hottest make-out ever.

Spend your energy wisely.

When you catch yourself spinning, take a deep breath, and refocus on what you want and who you are. Cheesy, but true.

What do you want with the guy who hasn’t texted you back in a week?

How do you want to spice it up with your boyfriend?

Where do you want him to touch you more when you’re making out?

Then, because you are a bold and responsible woman, ask for what you want. Do not wait for him to figure it out first (or to kill him for not being able to read your mind). Do not wait for permission. And most importantly, do not wait until you’ve calculated every possible reaction and response. You don’t have that kind of time.

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