Happy New Year, everyone!
We're now three days into 2011, and I've got to ask - how are those New Year's resolutions coming along so far? Have you lost weight yet? Stopped smoking? Earned that raise? Stayed in better touch with your parents? Taught yourself guitar? Run a marathon?
All in due time, my friends. All in due time.
Here's hoping that 2011 is the year that all of your wildest dreams come true - in life, in leisure, and in LOVE.
Go ahead, throw in a few last-minute New Year's resolutions that will impact your love life! Maybe you can't aim to "Find a boyfriend" or "Get married" or "Have more sex," since achieving those goals will never be entirely up to you. But there are shifts that you can make in your perspective and your day-to-day behaviors that will lead to a happier, healthier love life in this crazy, chaotic post-dating world that we now live in.
Here are my top 5 suggestions for New Year's resolutions in the post-dating world:
Stop saying that your love life is non-existent!
I've spent over a year talking to young women and men all around the country for my book about modern romance. And when I first ask them to describe their love lives, what's the most popular answer I hear?
"My love life? It's non-existent!"
No one thinks they have a love life anymore!
The reason is clear: "love lives" used to be made up of dates and rules and titles and nice dinners and explicitly romantic signals. We all know what our love lives are supposed to look like - we've seen it on The Bachelorette, right? - and ours don't look like that. Sure, we're busy as hell, with calendars full of group dinners and work events and soccer matches and spontaneous party nights, and interactions fueled by texts and Facebook wall posts and Gchat exchanges. But not dates. So, we tell ourselves that our love lives are non-existent.
Well, guess what? That mindset is 1) untrue and 2) unhelpful. Change it!
You do have a love life! I've spoken to couples all over the U.S., and the evidence is there: most of them didn't meet and get together in traditional ways. They met at the office, or through friends, or by pursuing a hobby, or at the dog park while they were meant to be stressing over their eHarmony inbox. Going on dates is only one way to build relationships these days. And in the meantime, people are connecting all over the place. Everything and nothing is a date. And all those everythings and nothings are what comprise your modern-day love life.
Do you ever find yourself on non-dates, i.e., ambiguous interactions, sometimes face-to-face and sometimes involving technology, that are not explicitly romantic but do not feel entirely platonic either? Can you name at least two men in your gaggle, i.e., the select group of guys in your life - many of whom you are not explicitly romantically involved with - who play different roles, fulfill different needs, and help you to figure out who you are, what you want and what kind of relationship you ultimately desire?
Voila. You have a love life! Embrace it. Get excited about it.
And here's a trick: your new positive, empowered outlook will only attract more people into that welcoming sphere of yours in the coming year. Feeling good about yourself, and about your romantic future, can only help when it comes to attracting people and harnessing your appeal to potential partners.
Now, stop worrying about reenacting your parents' courtship and start enjoying your very own love life. Who wants to wake up in 2012 and realize that all the fun passed you by while you were waiting for that formal 'dinner and a movie' date to be confirmed?
Don't let your Mom (or grandmother or sister or long-married friend) psych you out.
You have a love life! Congratulations! You know who will be excited about your newfound perspective? Your friends, most of whom are experiencing the same ambiguity and confusion in their own love lives. And you know who might not have any idea what you're talking about? Your female mentors and role models of other generations, who followed a completely different path in their quest to find love.
Try to explain that cute text to your mother or that flirty tweet to your grandmother, and you might get a blank stare that causes you to doubt your instincts and the meaningfulness of your technological interactions. But just remember - our generation communicates via technology the same way that we think and talk. It's natural for us, and an obvious, legitimate way to connect and deepen our relationships when we can't be face to face. Techno-romance, i.e. the rampant use of technologies to cultivate and explore romantic, sexual and flirtatious interactions, and even relationships, is simply a fact of life these days. It counts as a key aspect of the modern courtship process. We just can't expect everyone to understand that yet.
Mom and Co. will come around someday. And in the meantime, don't let their raised eyebrows stress you out. You know that email meant something! So trust your gut, hold fast to your instincts and turn the conversation topic to Skating with the Stars instead.
Bring your techno-romance into the real world.
All that said...don't rely on only technology to keep your love life moving in exciting directions!
I'm usually the first to argue that smartphones, AIM, BlackBerry Messenger and the rest of their ilk can enhance a burgeoning relationship. The getting-to-know-you process has never been so easy or multifaceted. But at the end of the day, talking online will never be a replacement for real, in-your-face chemistry.
I know, doing things in person is scary. Opening yourself up in person is scary. Facing rejection in person is scary. However, the pay-off when it does work out is so much greater. Looking into someone's eyes over Skype is just never going to beat the real thing.
So don't take the safe road. Face the romantic possibilities head-on. Put down the phone, put yourself out there - in person - and watch as the sparks of your love life become bigger, better and bolder in 2011.
Focus on signs that guys are into you - instead of on signs that they aren't.
Again, I've been roaming the country and hearing some of the same messages from young men and women over and over. Another oft-repeated sentiment? Guys love women. Guys are attracted to women. Guys get a thrill from hanging out and talking to pretty women. And most guys - even though they ultimately know better, oh well - don't spend a whole lot of time engaging with women who they don't find romantically or sexually appealing.
What's the takeaway message? If a guy is talking (or e-talking ) to you, then the odds that he's attracted to you are seriously in your favor. Done. Easy. Phew.
That hot girl standing two feet away? She doesn't matter, because he's talking to you. That other guy from a few weeks ago who never texted you back? Forget him, because this new guy is talking to you. Wondering why he hasn't asked you out on a "date" yet? You're paying attention to the wrong signals. If he's talking to you, then he's almost definitely attracted to you. It's really not much more complicated than that.
So stop worrying and letting your insecurities take over! Insecurities are unattractive anyway. Him talking = you being cute. Great.
And what does that mean in the long run? Does he want to date you? Marry you? Love you for all of eternity? Who knows. You've got plenty of time to figure that out, and to see how you feel about him as well. But for now, in the moment, throw away your doubts, smile, and have a little fun with a guy who - make no mistake about it - is actively and consciously choosing to invest his time and energy in you.
Let no connection go unexplored.
I promise. I know. Love hurts. Blow-offs suck. Mixed signals can drive the sanest person crazy. It's hard to put yourself out there, again and again, when romance rarely seems to work out.
But you know what? Too bad. 2011 is the year to do it anyway!
When you're 167 years old, looking back at your life, let this be remembered as the year that you took some chances. Not the year that you played it safe, and avoided pain and heartbreak, and kept yourself guarded, and anxiously waited for the other shoe to drop. But the year that you truly lived, and explored each and every romantic connection that you came across.
In between all of life's work and responsibility and sickness and struggle, this love stuff is supposed to be fun! The clichés may be be clichéd, but they're true. Life is short. Connection is rare. Regrets are the worst. Love is an adventure worth having. So live as if you believe all this.
Make it a resolution to never get stuck reminiscing about "what if..." or "if only I'd..." or "who knows what might've happened, had I..." Don't be ruled by fear or nerves or caution. Instead, get out there and throw yourself into the human experience, full throttle, with all its highs and lows and excitements and hurts. Create the love life that you want, whatever it takes.
And remember - what better year to start all that than 2011?
For more on the post-dating world, check out www.WTFIsUpWithMyLoveLife.com.
Follow Jessica Massa on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jessmassa