The MLRA Therapy Blog

Insights and ideas from the therapist team at Meghan L. Reitz and Associates.

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

What a more fitting topic to discuss while we enter February, the month of "love." Valentine's Day. Many people cringe at the very mention of this holiday. Mainly it is a "Hallmark" sort of holiday. Giving another reason to give gifts and cards. However, it can also inspire some really meaningful interactions among friends, families, and couples. It's all how you look at it.

It's now 2011. In this day and age, we communicate mainly by text, email, social networking sites...rarely a phone call or even an in-person visit. What happened to the days of written (hand-written to clarify) correspondence? What happened to having an actual phone conversation over texting back and forth cryptic messages with text jargon? What happened to not being attached to a cell phone at all times? It was not long ago that people took phone calls when they were home. When they were out and about- driving, spending time with others- they just were not reachable. It seems like if you happen to miss a phone call or don't respond quickly enough to a text, the sender starts to wonder, is this person mad at me? Tone in conversation is lost in the electronic communications of today. One statement could be interpreted in so many different ways. And people continue to add friends to their social networking sites...some people they may have never even met...or individuals they probably would never speak to otherwise.

Now before you feel there is a hugely negative spin on all these advances in technology and communication, I would like to state for the record that there are quite a few positives in it all. We connect to people we wouldn't have otherwise- broadening our social relationships farther than could be imagined. In some ways this can be healthy in order to keep people connected in a faster and faster paced world. Thank goodness for cell phones especially in emergencies. Could you imagine getting into a car accident 15 years ago? More than likely you wouldn't have had a cell phone and definitely no On-Star or GPS. So there are advantages to this ever-evolving world of technology and communication.

How does this impact peoples' romantic lives? I think it's fair to say it opens a whole new world of complications to the already difficult world of dating. Why hasn't she text me back? What did he mean by that email? Is there some hidden agenda? These questions might be swirling in your mind right now. It's ok. You're not the only one. With all these ways to immediately communicate, there seems to be an increasing expectation to be readily available for a back and forth conversation of some sort. Who also hasn't misinterpreted what someone has posted on say a Facebook page for example? It can all be very confusing.

So what does this mean for the average person? My suggestion is to take a step back. Try to put yourself into someone else's shoes. People have jobs, lives, commitments, things that they need to be doing. So if you haven't gotten a text or email back right away, calm down. There is usually a logical reason behind it all. Try also to avoid too many text conversations. Have a phone conversation instead. It will most likely be more meaningful. If you feel that your relationship with someone is centering on text, you may want to evaluate if this is how you truly want your communication to go. Talk to your significant other about trying to switch it up a bit. This also means you should try to balance relationship with your own personal and professional life. Make sure you are connecting with others to offset the time you aren't with a significant other.

What about for those who are just plain struggling with their dating lives? My first recommendation is to make sure that you feel secure and healthy in your own self-esteem and self-image. Being strong in who you are makes you a more attractive person to most and gives you the ability to see that happiness will not come from having a significant other. It can be a great thing- but they are not there to generate the happiness in your life. Additionally, be creative in how you try to meet people. Try reputable dating online sites, do social activities outside of drinking establishments, connect with people who have similar interests, join community groups, check out what's going on at church, look into park district or community college classes, etc. The list really is endless when you take a look at the wonderful world of social networking- both in person and online.

Maintaining a relationship is a whole other ballgame. It takes a balancing act of sorts. Make sure that you connect in different ways outside of the world of technology. Plan activities that you can do together that require you to be in-person. Try game nights, lunch dates, sporting events, festivals, take a cooking class together, etc. There are a lot of ideas on what you can do within a budget to keep things going in a romantic relationship. You can use the world of the internet to your advantage! Just remember, be positive. Love yourself. Maintain realistic expectations for yourself and others. The rest will come in time.

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