At the start of my blogging adventure, I embraced what few other women would dare admit: intelligent women suck at dating. I had no problem owning my inadequacies in courtship then and I have no problem doing so now. In acknowledging my shortcomings, I’ve become a better partner and dater. Mostly, I’ve discovered what traits and behaviors made me a dart board for landing Mr. Wrongs. Sometimes, I found a lack of knowledge and awareness about what Mr. Right looked like as my culprit. Other times, things just weren’t that hazy. Certain men gave me clear red flags and I stuck around. But why? The answer might surprise you.
Dictionary.com defines emotion as “an affective state of consciousness in which joy, sorrow, fear, hate, or the like, is experienced, as distinguished from cognitive and volitional states of consciousness.” What sticks out the most is that the definition felt the need to clearly differentiate emotions from will or cognition. This implies a certain amount of autonomy in a person’s emotional realm. This means your feelings will do what they want to do regardless of your will or your higher order reasoning. My dating life definitely proves this theory.
After finding out my ex-boyfriend, Mr. Lies-About-Everything-But-His-Name, indeed lied about everything but his name, I stuck around. I clung to the idea for another whole year after finding him out that he might not have been as much of a liar as his parents thought. I’d also severely compromised the part of me that said lying was an issue I wasn’t willing to deal with from a man. These were in no way smart decisions and eventually led to a lot more heartbreak then I should’ve had to endure. I let my emotions–how I felt about him and us–overrule what I knew as true and compromise my beliefs. As a result, I began lying to myself in small ways just to rectify the discordance between my emotion, my thoughts, and my morality. So it should come as no surprise that our inevitable break-up left me virtually debilitated. Somewhere on the road with this guy, I’d lost myself. That fact hurt me more than anything else. And I couldn’t imagine going through that experience again. Between dating him and trying to get over him, I’d also lost nearly 3 years of valuable dating time and energy. If a break-up after 2 years could affect me so, how would I be after 4 years? 5? 7? For the amount of things I would like to do in life, getting my heartbroken every 3 years on a quest for Love seemed unreasonable and well–quite inconvenient.
The way I saw it, I had a couple of options. Option 1, a life with cats. Option 2, date smarter. Since cats do not make the optimal life companions, I decided to take a slightly more emotionally intelligent approach to Love. According to Helpguide.org, a website dedicated to emotional and mental wellness, emotional intelligence is “the ability to identify, use, understand, and manage your emotions in positive and constructive ways.” They go on to say the 4 main aspects of this intelligence area are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management (Read more on emotional intelligence here). Someone with high EQ has habits that make him or her skilled in these 4 things. My experiences and research have also taught me that the good daters have a lot of proficiency in these same areas.
Definition: Helpguide.org says self-awareness is “the ability to recognize your own emotions and how they affect your thoughts and behavior [and to] know your strengths and weaknesses…”
Importance to Dating: Anyone who’s ever had someone knows that once the first couple months of OMG-he’s-so-perfect check-out, the real problems check-in. But communication serves as the key to handling those problems. And good communication involves the ability to express thoughts, expectations, and emotions effectively. How can you do that if you don’t even know what you’re thinking, expecting, and feeling? As one half of a pair, it’s your main job to both know yourself and be true to yourself. In a relationship–unless of course you’re in divorce court–you’re always your own representative. Good daters know that when it’s time to talk something out, it’s better being that person that actually knows his shit. In this case, your shit is your feelings and the role feelings play in influencing thoughts and expectations. Avoid coming across as an emotionless robot or a stage 5 clinger if you can help it.
Definition: Helpguide.org says self-management is “the ability to control impulsive feelings and behaviors, manage your emotions in healthy ways, take initiative, follow through on commitments, and adapt to changing circumstances.”
Importance to Dating: Don’t take this the wrong way. You definitely cannot stop yourself from feeling angry if he tells you that his ex-girlfriend still texts him. By all means, get upset. But a healthy relationship has both trust and mutual respect. And earning your partner’s trust and respect have everything to do with how you choose to handle emotionally stressful situations. Don’t expect her to appreciate picking you up from jail for punching her ex-lover in the nose. And don’t expect him to understand why you keyed his car when he didn’t answer his phone. Emotionally intelligent daters know that yelling and screaming hardly ever solve anything. They develop more sound ways to handle their stress levels because they know actions taken without proper thought and consideration often lead to negative consequences.
3) Social Awareness
Definition: Helpguide.org sites social awareness as “the ability to understand the emotions, needs, and concerns of other people, pick up on emotional cues, feel comfortable socially, and recognize the power dynamics in a group or organization.”
Importance to Dating: Social Awareness skills work well for relationships in several ways. First, it completes the cycle of communication. Good communication works like a 2 lane highway. Not only must you express your thoughts, expectations, and emotions but you must also receive the thoughts, expectations, and emotions of your partner readily. It’s worth your time to recognize when there’s a problem on the other end of the line–even if your partner never says it. Second, a keen sense of social awareness helps daters maintain the power dynamic–which is equal in any good relationship. And healthy relationships establish roles for each partner to keep up that equilibrium. Does this mean that the woman has to iron and the man has to take out the garbage? No, not necessarily. Do what works best for your strengths and weaknesses. But to know your strengths and weaknesses, you must first practice self-awareness. Finally, think of social awareness as an inner GPS. It helps you better navigate your partner’s social network. Successful meetings with parents, friends, and cousins give you more insight into your partner’s holistic character. And if you win them all over, your partner is more likely to trust his or her own judgement about you.
4) Relationship Management
Definition: Helpguide.org deems relationship management “the ability to develop and maintain good relationships, communicate clearly, inspire and influence others, work well in a team, and manage conflict.”
Importance to Dating: In short, if you’re not a team player in other areas of life don’t expect to be a great dater. Relationships are often the ultimate team effort. And if you are a piss poor friend or daughter, you’ll probably fair the same way as a girlfriend. A good dater strives for balance in ALL of his or her relationships, whether it’s with a boss or the hotdog street vendor. I’m not saying you have to like everyone or even pretend to. A person with emotional intelligence has no problem cutting unhealthy ties. I’m also not saying use this as an excuse to act crude and impolite. But just realize that if you have an inclination towards very clingy, needy friends you’ll probably attract a clingy, needy mate. People with emotional intelligence know that their closest relationships reflect their competence as individuals. So they take the time to nurture good ones.