Dating and Friendships: Compare and Contrast

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If you’re divorced or widowed and looking to expand your social life, you may find yourself simultaneously dating and seeking new friends. It struck me recently that there are some interesting similarities and differences between these two activities.

Let’s compare and contrast dating and friendships. Some friendship bread is in order. Note: We’re ignoring healthy during the holidays.

Compare and Contrast  

  • Finding Friends and Dates: Although friends can be found online (see http://bit.ly/1kEYQc0), it is much more common to meet friends in the wild – through other friends, Meetups, work, activities. It is harder to meet men in the wild. I have no problem talking to a female stranger at the gym, in the grocery store line, even a parking lot. But starting up a conversation with a male stranger I’m attracted to requires more balls than I usually have. And none of my women friends know any single men I could date (insert sad face). Rating: Different
  • Meeting/Connecting: Pheromones aside, connecting with a new friend and a new date can each bring a rush. It’s great to connect with someone who has compatible energies, interests, and philosophies. Rating: Similar
  • Sharing Innermost Thoughts: Hands down, getting to know a woman friend is easier and faster because she will usually share important and confidential life stories right away. A four-minute chat with a friend in a rest room can reveal more substance than what you would typically get from a man you have been dating for four months. Rating: Different
  • Presence of Conversational Narcissism (See http://bit.ly/1USqC10): Both women and men can be self absorbed in their conversations. It’s annoying whether you’re dating someone or trying out a new friend. I’ve met some wonderful listeners (both men and women) but I have also encountered a fair number of self-focused folks. Rating: More Similar than Different
  • Meeting Family and Friends: This may happen pretty quickly with a friend. It’s another story with a date. You can’t introduce a “match” to friends or family too early in the game. Meeting the family is a big deal when you’re dating someone. It’s less of a biggie to introduce a date to friends but could be awkward if you’re bringing over a new guy every few weeks. Rating: Different
  • Taking Care of You: If you need a referral to a medical specialist, a ride to the doctor, a home cooked meal that you don’t have to make, or reassurance about a personal problem, chances are you are going to get the best support from a good female friend. Not that men can’t help with all these things but women friends seem to instinctively know how to best take care of you. Just saying. Rating: Mostly different
  • Ghosting: Both women friends (new and long-standing) and men you are dating can ghost you (disappear suddenly without explanation). I think it is more commonly a dating than a friend issue since – sweeping generalization here — women like to talk things out. Rating: Primarily different
  • Texting: When you text a friend, you don’t have to worry about timing the way you do with a date. You’re just not thinking, “Will she wonder if I am too available and don’t have a life?”   Rating: Different
  • Sexting: Not an issue unless you’re bi. Rating: Irrelevant
  • Catfishing: Not an issue unless you’re lucky enough to have befriended a criminal. Rating: Mostly Irrelevant
  • Revoking (cancelling a first meeting — see http://bit.ly/1mhoG6G ). It would be rare for a new friend to cancel a first meeting but it happens in the online dating world. Rating: Different
  • Acceptance of Compliments: It’s pretty easy to accept a compliment from a man you’re dating. If he tells you, “You look hot,” you’re going to smile and bat your lashes. You’re not going to say, “I’m fatter than I should be and it took me 15 minutes to get into my Spanx.” In contrast, it’s hard for many women to accept a compliment from a woman friend. Watch Amy Schumer’s brilliant skit on this topic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzlvDV3mpZw  Rating: Different.

I’d love to hear what you think about this. Write!

Until next week, happy dating or not dating!

XXXOOO

Nadia

 

Running Off at the Mouth, Dating Style

man and woman with laptops for blog

It’s our second date and we’re sitting outside at a lobster shack on a sunny August morning. Mr. N continues to talk about his job, his family, his ex- girlfriends, his childhood friends, and his dog. I’m nodding and listening, wondering if he’ll take a breath so I can comment, let alone interject, something – anything — about my life.

Now Mr. N is chatting up the waiter, telling him about the way HE prepares lobster at home. I can tell the waiter wants to get to his other customers. But I chill for the moment because the day is beautiful and the lobster is good…so good that I take a too big chew and start to choke.

Mr. N is so wrapped up in the details of his cooking story that he doesn’t notice my dilemma. I start to have trouble breathing. I’m struggling, kicking the legs of Mr. N’s chair. It’s so noisy midst the din of the busy restaurant, and Mr. N is so intent on his conversation, that he doesn’t notice the kicking. I start to lose consciousness as I hear, “Only then do you add melted butter.”

Gasping for breath, I suddenly sit up – in bed – and realize I just had a nightmare. The cause: an endless stream of dates with conversational narcissists. The cure: To Be Determined.

I can’t claim ownership of this apt term. Sociologist Charles Derber described the condition in which a self-oriented person repeatedly seeks to turn attention to himself in The Pursuit of Attention: Power and Ego in Everyday Life. I just downloaded the kindle version of Derber’s book and a quick scan already produced some relevant research.

Derber’s studies of dinner conversations found that “drawing others out is a special skill associated with nurturance and mothering.” He writes, “It is also part of a feminine style which holds and attracts men. Most conversational studies suggest that listening is an essentially female skill.”

Speaking of dinner conversation, I’m reminded we haven’t had lunch. Let’s have an October treat: pumpkin risotto.

I think many women would agree that members of their own sex are better than men at both listening and drawing others out. I’d like to know if there are more recent studies that address this. (Derber’s book was first published in 1983 with a second edition in 2000.)

What has been your experience in conversations with the opposite sex? Have you been subjected to conversational narcissistic behavior in your dating life?

Of course, conversational narcissists are everywhere, not just in romantic encounters. They’re in the workplace, in your posse of girlfriends, in your latest Meetup group. They’re the people – men AND women — who don’t breathe between sentences. There’s no break between thoughts/words…just a constant stream of…. not consciousness but perhaps obliviousness – to other people’s needs. And they don’t seem to want to get to know you. Or why wouldn’t they ask some questions and give you an opportunity to talk?

As I review my dating history, it is clear that I have gone out with more than my fair share of members of this charming group. Most recently, I went out with Mr. B, a tall IT guy. During our pre-meeting phone chat, Mr. B told me about his family history, career trajectory, food allergies, and some medical issues.

During our first meeting, Mr. B revisited many of these topics. A menu review led to an in-depth discussion of his food allergies. On the second and last date, he provided excruciating detail about his former girlfriend’s mental instability. When he eventually diverged into a recap of his career and noted an interest in technical writing, I attempted to talk about my own writing. At that moment, Mr. B chose to check his phone. When his gaze returned to me, his eyes were glazed over. That was all I needed to confirm my first impression. Check please.

Perhaps the most egregious example of conversational narcissism that I encountered was with Mr. J, a budding or perhaps full-fledged alcoholic. I did not realize this was his problem at first. I thought he was just thirsty. For water. The afternoon of the day after binge drinking.

After a promising although lopsided phone conversation (75% about him), we met for a Sunday afternoon date. The venue: a cute indoor shopping complex (not a mall) in a historic Maryland town. Chemistry assessment: 100%. We strolled through the antique and tchotchke shops with Mr. J stealing kisses throughout the afternoon. When we sat down for an afternoon snack (and he gulped down tons of water – see above), we talked about our lives, but again the conversation was lopsided: 75% about him. Still, there was that chemistry/connection to counter it and the date lasted a good 5 hours.

A bizarre ‘monologue’ conversation late the next night turned ugly. It was clear Mr. J had been drinking. I spoke up about my concerns regarding the skewed conversation and he took immediate offense, went on a harangue, and ended up hanging up on me.

Over the next two days, there was a bizarre exchange of emails with Mr. J angrily demonstrating arrogance, meanness, and a whopping dose of narcissism. I noticed a correlation between his long-winded conversations and long-winded emails. All this after 1 date!

Since that extreme, unpleasant, and unusual episode almost a year ago, I have briefly dated a number of conversational narcissists. I haven’t said, “Look I can’t date you because you talk too much about yourself” but I am tempted. I’m searching for the right language to tell these guys about their problem. I wonder if they would be shocked. Would they believe my assessment? Would they change?

My brother told me one hopeful story of a woman who said to her date, “I like you but I don’t want to date someone who doesn’t seem to be interested in me.” He replied, “ I don’t want to be that guy,” and took her words to heart. They’re married now.

Maybe the answer is, if you really like a man and what he stands for, and you have good chemistry, speak up about his conversational narcissism. Unless he has a drinking problem, there’s a chance your words might be heard.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating!

XXXOOO

Nadia