Do you find dating difficult? I do.
I see a lot of my friends (at any age) struggle with something that I’m sure you’ll also recognise: the need to be seen as cool and laid back about things, while still getting your needs met.
What do I mean by that? Let me give you an example of a close friend of mine who has recently started seeing a guy. (By the way, I am still confused about when you are “seeing someone,” when you are “dating,” and when you become “girlfriend and boyfriend” – the etiquettes of the dating jargon are mind-boggling and truly unnecessary!)
This friend (let’s call her Jasmin) started seeing a guy casually in January, and they quickly started spending a lot of time together. It was going really well, but there came a point where Jasmin felt that the guy wasn’t responsive enough and didn’t really initiate the conversation when they were apart. Previously, the guy had confessed that he wasn’t a great communicator.
Jasmin went full-on anxious-thinking, second-guessing herself and overthinking every time she messaged him and every time he didn’t message back straight away.
She asked for her friends’ advice, and they all said something along the lines of, “You need to tell him that you need more regular contact and more attention.” She wasn’t (and she still isn’t) prepared to do that. In her own words, she doesn’t want to be seen as needy—she wants to be the “cool girl.” She is not doing anything to change her situation or setting boundaries. Instead, she keeps on suffering silently, and not having her—very basic human—needs met.
We all play the part of Jasmin at one point in our lives. Why do we do this? We are afraid that if we tell someone what we need, they might think it’s “too much” and reject us. We are so afraid of rejection that we’d rather endure a false sense of hope than find out the potentially hard truth.
But how does not saying what you need actually affect you and your relationship? How authentic is a relationship that is based on an act in order to please your partner? How well can you even get to know each other if you are both playing a part from the beginning? How long can you hold that image and façade up?
Believe me, there will be a point when you turn around and start asking for what you actually want for yourself and that can come as a surprise to the other person. Or if you keep denying your needs, you will end up resentful.
Not standing up for yourself just because you are afraid of being rejected is complete self-abandonment. Boundaries start with figuring out what your needs are and knowing how to ask for them and accepting the consequences that follow, even if it is rejection. All of the above together is a sign of emotional maturity.
Regarding Jasmin, she is aware of what she is doing, she understands that she is just prolonging her suffering. But on many occasions, self-awareness is not enough, we need to feel safe enough to make necessary changes in our behaviour.
What are the essential skills of emotional maturity?
- Expressing our needs and emotions
- Knowing how to regulate our emotions and feel safe
- Setting boundaries
If you’re eager to develop your own emotional maturity skills, Centrd Life has your back. We’ve just released Own Your No to help you understand why you might struggle with saying ‘no’, to support you in setting healthy boundaries and empower you to uphold the boundaries you have set. In ‘Own Your No’, we look at our internal boundaries, as well as how to communicate our wants and accept other people’s boundaries, without feeling rejected.