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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss

Redux

In the lead up to the holidays I found myself a little short for time so I have decided that it might be fun to repost the very first blog entry I ever wrote. It was entitled Everything We Know About Dating, We Learned in Junior High.


Well maybe not everything, but there is more truth than not to that statement.  So much of our social knowledge is cast during those critical year as we enter adolescence that it tends to shape our reactions and behaviors as adults.

 

Remember Junior High?  My most vivid recollection was the first dance I attended.  It was in a school auditorium; the girls were lined up on one side of the room, the boys on the other while a few parental chaperones stalked the edges, watchful for anything unseemly.   That looming gulf between the boys and girls in my memory is about a football field’s length—a lonely walk alone.  It might as well have been the Red Sea from my perspective. A few couples could be seen dancing—slow dancing, which in Junior High is somewhere between a bear hug and a grope—or fast dancing, which was animated to the point of frenetic and largely a performance by soloists, ceratainly not a duet.

 

It took me forever to get my courage up to walk across that room—and in fact, the first time out the fear of rejection was so strong I don’t think I ever did make it.  By the second dance I was so embarrassed that I vowed to cross the room, and I did. I asked a cute girl who was standing by herself if she would like to dance. and much to my surprise she said yes.  I barely made it through the dance and as soon as it was over, I walked—more like ran to the safety of my side of the room.

 

That was it. It felt neither good nor bad, I was just relieved to get through this rite of passage. That experience was the first lesson in a life-long course on relationships.  It was only later, as an adult, that I reflected on that teenage experience and realized that the journey across the floor, the fear of being rejected or not being chosen, was as palpable for the girls as it was for the boys. While I was worrying about being rejected, she was worrying whether or not she would be chosen, and that same dance gets played out every day in adult relationships.

 

Operating out of fear of rejection is just one of many behaviors we learned in those formative years when our hormones were seething and our brains not yet fully formed. In the futrure we’ll talk about a few more such learned behaviors but today I want to explore how this one in particular affects us as adults and how we go about creating relationships.

 

If you’ve read the book (Life, Love and Internet Dating)—or even if you haven’t, you’ll probably recognize that I sometimes talk in metaphors.  You might call them parables, but that’s just a fancy way to say life stories from which we can draw examples. So, let’s unpack this one; it’s about fear.  Fear, and its close relative, hurt, are seed emotions.  Once planted they grow into some ugly weeds that tend to suck life and energy from us and get in the way of the beauty in our lives. It really doesn’t matter where they originally came from—they get in our way, make it hard to build trust, hard to bridge gaps between people, and even harder to have a relationship with our higher selves.

 

When we operate out of fear, a few things happen.  First, we set ourselves up for a bad experience.  We have forejudged the outcome and are expecting rejection, pain, hurt—all the bad stuff we experience as humans.  And don’t you know, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.  We expect nothing good and that is just what we get—nothing good.

 

Even if we are able to suspend our immediate flight or fright instincts, we lie in wait for a bad thing to happen and we are ready at the slightest sign of trouble to bolt back to our side of the room and seek consolation from our friends.  Still think we’ve grown up?  Nope—we learned that behavior from life, from watching our parents and from the lessons we learned in Junior High. 

 

Guess what, not everyone you meet will like you, much less want to be in a relationship with you.  So, we stand on our side of the room and wait—for love—for friendship for companionship for the one—our special someone-- because we are scared to cross the floor. We may even engage in self-destructive behavior in our effort to inoculate ourselves against hurt.  We are so willing to believe that we are unworthy of love that we reject it even before it is offered. And often when it is—in spite of everything we have done, we don’t recognize it for what it is.  Instead, we only see what it isn’t.  It isn’t real, it isn’t lasting, it isn’t perfect.  We are so ready to judge that when the tender first shoots of a budding relationship appear we are ready to run back for cover—to the safety of our side of the room. And then, we are left alone, wondering what happened, and why love just failed.

 

What to do?  Well there are few things we can do—to unlearn this lesson.  Operate out of faith.  Believe in a positive outcome and amazingly, that is what you’ll experience. Put the fear and the hurt on hold—boldly walk across the floor and no matter what happens, go with it.  The chances are pretty good that the person you are walking towards is just like you—a little fearful, probably been hurt, and all they are hoping is that you’ll choose them.  Really, it is just that simple.  Try it—you won’t be disappointed, I promise. 

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