Constructive Dating Advice

So I was a little worried your post would end up getting axed as off-topic or troll-like, and I thought it would be useful to have a separate thread. Suggesting dating is a “no-win scenario” in a post about how some men use sleazy tactics to pick up women is going to rub a lot of people the wrong way. The men being discusses are creeps, and so when you see a negative response to that as limiting your behaviour, it makes it seem like you are identifying with the creeps or defending them.

I don’t think that’s your intent, though. I remember thinking, “I can’t date women because I don’t know how to not be a creep.” It’s not an unreasonable thing to think, I don’t think, when men are often portrayed as creeps in media (and I don’t mean that bad feminists say bad things about men; I mean that for sensitive people it’s pretty obvious that a lot of protagonist men we are supposed to like are jerks/assholes/creeps - actual role models are creeps). Our cultural depictions of relationships are really messed up.

But I have constructive dating advice, and I want to share it. I don’t know how old you are or what kind of relationship you are seeking, so some of this may or may not apply.

I never dated anyone until I was in my late 20s. I had relationships before then, they were with people I spent time with because of school or other activities that developed. When I was out of school I found my friend circle narrowing and didn’t really know how to meet new people. I went to a wedding of some people who met online and decided to give that a try.

I think the most important thing I learned by dating was that it takes practice. Just like anything else, it’s okay to practice and it’s okay to fail. I’ve heard pick-up artists talk about picking women up as a numbers game. It all sounds very demeaning coming from them (because they trade in demeaning women) but it’s an important perspective, too. Whether you are a sleazy con artists or a well intentioned person seeking love or friends, it will work out with some people and not with others. Maybe you’ll go out with someone who you could have married and spent the rest of your life happy with if only you hadn’t said the wrong thing at the wrong moment. That’s okay, just keep getting better, you will meet more people you get along with.

If you feel very concerned about approaching women in public, I’d say just don’t do it. Honestly I don’t think I ever would. Doing that well requires a skill set that most people just aren’t ever going to have. One of the great things about dating sites if that you know people are okay with being approached on them. And then if you do go out you know that both of your are there to determine whether you want a relationship, so you don’t have to worry about awkwardly blurring friend/romantic partner boundaries - either the romance thing works out or you just move on.


I am more or less anti-dating. But as you say, it depends largely upon how one defines relationships. Much of the difficulty I see seems to result from customs of differentiating that interactions with certain people naturally have a sexual element to them, while interactions with others do not. Personally, I do not subscribe to that outlook. I think that a modern perspective handles sex and mating as completely separate, and that instinctive attitudes and behaviors about mating have no place in one’s daily sexual interactions.

People often get very worked up that they feel they should/shouldn’t be with certain individuals, but my perspective is that it doesn’t matter very much. People form personal attachments very easily, but this is rather selfish. The wonderful thing about sexuality is that it is social, that it helps people. It is not a transactional thing that one “gets away with”. Not unlike starting a clinic, hunger relief kitchen, or public shelter - one does it because it is helpful and necessary. Massage, exercise, and caring for each others’ mental, physical, and emotional being is simply what we do, because people are social organisms. If the structures of your life and society get in the way of people interacting this way, you might benefit from asking yourself why.


I’m genuinely interested in you expanding on this. The rest of your comment discusses how you feel relationship building and sexuality should be separate, but apart from that, how do you propose relationships be created without dating?


You might. But then again, you might benefit from figuring out how to work within those structures to get what you want out of them. I’m married to a person who I would say has very much internalized customs that differentiate between interactions that naturally have a sexual element and those that do not. Even if I don’t find those customs to be so natural, if I hadn’t practiced to work within them then I wouldn’t have the relationship I have now. We get along very well despite this point of incompatibility.

Since I was interested in forming a familial partnership with someone (even though I would have been open to doing so with more than one person) and since I was interested in having kids (even though I would have been open to doing so as a community rather than as a couple) it made a lot more sense to keep myself open to a very large pool of people who had similar interests than trying to restrict my interactions to people who felt naturally inclined to (or were willing to put the work in to) deconstruct the customs that felt awkward to me…


Then why are you trying to derail a topic on it? If you want to discuss your views on this, please create a new topic. Don’t hijack this one.


This. So very much this; healthy relationships are rarely depicted in media, making it very hard to see positive role models in action that can be emulated.

Hi flashback! Let’s remember that humiliating first date! OMG, that hurt when I had the realization of what I’d done wrong.


If I’m reading correctly, @popobawa4u is saying that society has divided relationships into “dating” (that is, romantic relationships), and “friendship” (platonic relationships). Again, this is just how I’m reading it, but popo seems to reject this distinction.

So, how do you create a relationship without dating? That’s easy: how are “friendships” created without dating?

Of course, the part where sex just becomes part of a normal friendship is the part that I don’t grok. I don’t see anything immoral about it, but perhaps just as a cultural thing, I don’t think it would work for me.

I don’t see this particularly as a derail, as it’s not too different from “Try to make a new friend, and if it becomes a romantic relationship from there, great,” which would be the advice I would give.


So, in your analogy, with sexuality removed, all relationships are, being platonic, identical and should be acquired the same way?

I’m sorry, but I can’t agree. My partner and I have a vastly different relationship, sexuality aside, then I do with any of my friends. Most of the deeply personal conversations we’ve had were discussed a lot more privately than my movie excursions or group events with my friends. If I were single, I’m not sure that most of my friends would be on board with the idea that every time the introduced a new person to our group that I was interested in, it would be an invitation to try and form a relationship, either.

IMHO a relationship, for most, represents a level of intimacy (again, physical intimacy aside) that goes beyond the intimacy of friends. I strongly believe that the key to a strong, successful relationship is, in fact, the opposite of what you suggest - you are likely going to spend very different moments and a very different amount of time with a relationship partner than you are with the rest of your friends, and relegating “dating” to the sorts of endeavours you share with your friends is, in a lot of ways, no better than the late victorian idea that partners should not be able to be alone until they are a couple, which was a terrible way to find out who a person really was.


I don’t love this as advice for a person who is specifically afraid to approach women because they are worried about seeming like a creep. In order to do this well, I think you need a certain skill set, which includes knowing whether/when/how to introduce the idea that a friendship could be something more. Having dismally and embarrassingly failed in that area in my life, I thought separating out situations where I was definitely seeking a romantic relationship not a friendship was very helpful.

Also, you’d need to know how to make new friends, which may itself be a problem.


So, how do you create a relationship without dating? That’s easy: how are “friendships” created without dating?

The friendships I make are at work and I work mostly with men. Even if that wasn’t the case I don’t think having a relationship with a work partner is necessarily a good idea.


Eh, I’m married so I don’t date that much anymore…


I think “knowing how to make new friends” is one of my problems. I haven’t looked especially hard but in general I don’t meet many women my age (29 btw) who are into the same things I am. For some reason the only women I really become friends with are middle aged and up. (Why oh why aren’t nice millennial girls into antiques and NPR?)
Maybe you’re right and I should give online dating a chance.


I don’t know if this has changed in the last 10 years (I’m almost 39) - and this is obviously also geography dependent - but I found late 20’s to be the right time to start trying online dating. I did it a bit before then but nothing ever came of it, as I was approaching 30 (and looking for women who were near my age) suddenly the whole dynamic changed. I know quite a number of people who are married to and raising children with people they met online in the late 20s or early 30s.


Yes, that is what I was more or less saying.

It seems to me that in these contexts, “relationship” has some rather loaded connotations. Everyone and everything exists in some relationship to each other. People seem to express revulsion at the idea, but I think that the mistake is in framing relationships between people as being mainly interpersonal in character. Having romantic or friendly sentiments about people is basically a lot of neuroendocrine trickery which many get stuck in. And that this matters very little compared to framing relationships as social, structured group phenomena. Interpersonal relationships can never be completely untangled from selfish personal motivations, because of how humans are wired. Much of it seems to tie into the basic mechanisms of establishing social ingroups/outgroups which causes and reenforces destructive tribalism. MY friend, MY lover, MY family, MY ideology, etc. It is one possible framework for social activity, but always contains a seed of the antisocial as well.

I think that friendship is simply another, somewhat less neurotic form of attachment. It certainly seems healthier to me than the ideal of romantic love! I would say that friendships are created partly by exposure and proximity, by encountering people and doing things with them. Then people often feel more invested in their interactions with some people over others. That’s basically friendship.

I think it is definitely a cultural thing. It’s a great example of why I think young people need to be critical of unspoken societal norms and not unthinkingly internalize them. Because they are often destructive and seldom examined or improved upon.

For example, cooking for people I think is just as intimate as friendship, love, or sex. One is literally trusting the work of another for the very building-blocks of their person. After all, you are what you eat. Yet, culturally, people in the US at least do not feel a need for sentimental attachment with those who care for them in this way. Wanting people to eat good healthy food just upon general principle is not considered weird. And people don’t usually get embarrassed about eating with others in public, because it is simply a necessary thing that people do, and enjoy. The only good reason to introduce a lot of neurotic attachments is because one still conflates sex acts with mating, which is arguably not relevant in most instances. Also, it can demonstrate a hidden cultural bias towards certain kinds of family structure and child-rearing which is not by any means universal.


Because they are boring to watch.


Depends on how they’re presented. My premier example is Peter and Elizabeth Burke from White Collar; they have a very healthy relationship, and it’s one of the bases of the series.




Who knew online dating was a thing during the Great Depression?


I met my wife on a boat. Online didn’t exist yet at that point. Boats where the internet of the mid 90s.


It’s good to know that some things like online dating are truly timeless.