By: Val –

Finding a relationship is a lot like getting into college. And wearing pants. Let me explain:

Most people who apply to college don’t apply to just one. The advice I was given: apply to a few “reach” schools, a few schools aligned with your grades and SAT scores, and apply to a few “safety” schools. Of course we all want to attend the reach schools, the places we know we aren’t quite good enough for but given good luck and timing we might just be accepted. And of course, we all need safety schools. We all need at least one place we know will take us when all else fails.  We aren’t super psyched about the safety schools, but they are better than the alternative (which is no college at all).

I think we tend to do this with emerging relationships too.  We meet people. We meet them in bars, through friends, online. We meet them in school, at work, on airplanes. And then what do we do? We size them up. I’m going to be real cliché here, so go with it for a second, okay?

Say I meet a handsome, successful, athletic (swoon) bachelor at the grocery store. Our carts bump into each other in the produce section, we laugh, apologize, and fumble awkwardly grabbing bags of organic kale and arugula. From what we can gather about each other in 20 seconds (which of course is but the tip of the iceberg lettuce), we immediately determine if the other is a fit, a reach, a safety, or something we’d rather not get involved with all together. Is this person worth pursuing and to what level?

Of course, we all come with biases about who we are and who they are so this is not a science—however, say he asks me out. I accept and give him my number. It’s likely one of us is more excited than the other. These levels change constantly throughout relationships based on what each can offer at any given point in time. I could very well be planning our wedding on Pinterest the next day whereas he looked at me as an back up option to some event or another if the girl he’s actually excited about flakes (again).

The point of the cheesy story above is to say that as human beings we don’t like rejection. We like options. And we often prefer mediocre backups to no options at all (be it college or love).

I’ve gone on two or three dates with guys who I’ve gotten really excited about and never heard from again, only to find them “in a relationship” one month later on Facebook. I spent the month not hearing from them trying to reconcile what I did wrong when the truth is I didn’t do anything. I was a safety option from the start.

A mentor of mine gave me some great advice a few weeks back when I wasn’t sure what to do about a guy who continually asked me out on nice dates but didn’t pique my interest:

Make him your pocket boyfriend.

What she meant by this: don’t burn bridges and don’t make definitive decisions about people. Don’t have one or two safeties; put every potential date you come across in your because when it comes to love you never know (until you know).

Continue Reading at: The Three Day Rule

Sharon Sanders
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