Dear Miss Informed,
“I went on a date with a guy I really like. What are some things I should look for in determining to continue seeing him? What are some traits that make someone relationship material?”
Dear Soul Sister,
That’s fantastic! It’s a great feeling to find someone who matches your energy and enjoy spending time with them.
If you want to continue seeing them, there’s a few things to consider. A lot will depend on what you’re looking for at the moment. Are you just having fun? Do you want to date exclusively, or get to know different people? Is it time for some commitment?
First of all, whoever you’re spending time with needs to respect your wishes and boundaries. If you ever feel pressed at all to move faster than you’re willing to move, that’s a sign the person might not be right for you. Any level of danger or pressure needs to be carefully examined.
You also need to feel open enough with them that you can clearly communicate your boundaries and wishes, and to say “no” if a no is needed. If they get angry when you tell them no for the first time or change your mind about your comfort level, you should be concerned.
That’s the minimum, by the way. Respect should be an expectation, not a privilege. This also means respect for your interests and stage of life. They should not be dismissive of things you say or make you feel ashamed of yourself at all. When you think about someone romantically, you need to feel accepted, valued and safe.
A big additional thing to watch out for is if they trash their exes. If they dated a lot of people before you and talk nastily about all of them openly, chances are they are the issue.
When the baseline of safety and respect is established, we can lighten the tone a little bit. What about this person attracts you? Is it just physical, or do they make you laugh? Do they challenge you? Are they really sweet? Do you have a lot of interests in common? Do you just click well as people?
Whatever it is, you should be comfortable enough to just be yourself and so should they. Keep in mind that even if it’s someone who attracts you, you shouldn’t ever have to change the fundamentals of who you are to get them to like you.
Maybe you really, really want it to work, but one hard fact is if you have to be someone else to maintain their interest, it isn’t going to work in the long run. You need to be with someone who likes you for you, not just who you think they want you to be.
Say all of those boxes are checked. You feel safe, respected and comfortable. Being around them is natural and pleasant, and you don’t pretend to be someone else. All of that is good. Now, if you want to take it to a deeper level, you need to revisit your non-negotiables.
You likely already had your non-negotiables in your head before dating this person in the first place, but when attraction deepens, it’s time to take another look and make sure that you’re not brushing aside any glaring red flags.
Do they share a worldview with you, and if not, are they flexible enough to consider your point of view? How do they treat other people? What is their response to things on the news? Some of these you can disagree on, but kindness towards others is a must, and you both have to be able to talk things out and at least know where both of you stand. If there are issues too far to cross, it ultimately might not be a good fit.
Do they seem like they’d be there for you when you need them? Is there a lot of baggage they’re working through that you’re tempted to help them with? Is there a lot of baggage you’re working through? Is now a good or healthy time for both of you?
The biggest thing to consider at the end of the day is a balance of head and heart. If someone is very attractive to you, good, but if they aren’t willing to work with you to build a relationship at the same rate with equal contribution, not great. At the same time, if someone checks all the boxes and respects you but you just don’t feel that spark anymore, that needs attention too.
Take care of yourself and be confident in who you are. Trusting in the foundation of your identity is what will bring the people who share that core with you.
Go get ‘em.
Dear Miss Informed,
“How do I deal with conflict in a relationship?”
Dear Bald Boy,
Respectful and open communication is the way to go.
If you and your partner value each other, problems need to be resolved. It’s not good to let things simmer. It can be good to know when to give discussion a rest, but if there’s an elephant in the room, somebody needs to point it out.
It’s important to remember that relationships need to involve equal effort. Both parties need to be able to bring up issues that are bothering them.
As an example, let’s say your partner has been talking to their ex recently and it’s making you uncomfortable. You have a few choices: maybe it’s harmless in context, and you know your partner is committed to you and open about the situation. You should be able to mention it to them and check on what was happening, and then decide how you feel beyond that.
Maybe it feels deeper than you’re comfortable with, and you want to talk to them about it. This means you need to create a safe space in which to have a discussion. Let them know that you’re uncomfortable and set aside some time to talk in which you know both of you are likely to have energy to be patient with each other. Not addressing problems is bad, but blowing up at someone the minute they come home is also bad.
When that space and dialogue are opened, respect is key — both for them and yourself. You need to consider their point of view on a subject, while not dismissing your own.
Two traps here: you refuse to acknowledge the validity of feelings that conflict with your own, leading to a dismissal of your partner’s wellbeing. The other end of that is you put your own feelings aside in favor of theirs, giving them power over your feelings.
This is a good time to break out the “I feel… because…” statements. There’s a reason we learned them in kindergarten. Make sure both partners have room to make those statements, and make sure to consider the other’s viewpoint.
An example might be: “I feel uncomfortable when you stay after work to talk to your ex, because it makes me feel like you still have some level of connection with them that I’m excluded from.” Give them a chance to respond. As much as you can, try to stay calm and considerate.
Remember throughout the discussions that you care about them, which is why you’re having the conversation in the first place. On the other end, they should care enough about you to hear what you have to say and consider it too.
If one or both of you is in the wrong, APOLOGIZE. Everyone makes mistakes, but they must be addressed for the sake of the relationship. Discussions like these involve give-and-take, so put pride aside and give them what they need.
After a heavy discussion, do your best to make sure the consensus sticks. If it’s a chores dispute, work something out where you share the load and stick to your end of the bargain. If it’s disagreement over talking to an ex, don’t talk to the ex. Be consistent — words are great, but they need actions behind them.
Then go do something fun. Relationships are hard work, but they are worth it for the love you share. Leave the heavy space and go watch a movie or go for a hike to get some fresh air. Remind each other why the hard work is worth it.
Graphic by Lexi Petri