Humans, for one reason or another, seem to be constantly, keenly invested in the relationships of other people – or lack thereof. There’s a certain stigma to being single and unmarried by a certain age, and this judgment only serves to fuel this potentially damaging culture of defining people by their relationship status. Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen explore the culture of curiosity built around the relationships of other people. Find out more about this culture that constantly interrogates the reasons of other people for being single.
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On Being Single
There’s something that I wanted to bring up and discuss. That was based on a series of conversations that I had with my mom, Susan, who lives in Detroit. She’s been working in the medical field. She brought to my attention that several people in her office, independently, have consistently come up to her and asked her questions like, “Is Jason married yet? Does he have someone special in his life? What’s going on with Jason and his love life?” They ask her these probing questions about like, “Why is he still single? Is he okay? Is everything all right with him?” She was expressing her annoyance at these people that she’s not even that close to, they are coworkers asking about my love life, marriage status, and relationships. Her response was, “He’s doing great. He’s happy. He is single and he’s not in a rush.”
There is like, “I think he should be married by now.” They start dropping the ‘shoulds’ on her. It was an interesting contrast because lately, I’ve been reflecting on my feelings around being single versus being in a relationship. The overall stigma of singleness in our society. Why is that a concerning topic for certain people? These women in particular at my mom’s office bringing that up. Not coincidentally, I’ve been noticing these posts on Instagram from influencers and content creators holding up these handwritten signs whether they’re on a piece of paper or on a piece of cardboard and they’re all very similar.
I’ve only seen women doing it. I haven’t seen any men holding up these signs in their posts, but it says something like, “I’m 32. Yes, I’m single. No, I’m not married. No, I don’t have kids and I’m doing great.” Some versions of those messages that they’ve handwritten on a piece of cardboard or paper and holding it up with this look on their face. All of the captions on these posts are a similar version of what my mom was experiencing with her coworkers. My family, my friends, my coworkers or somebody in my life have been questioning why I’m in this particular age. A lot of the women on Instagram, I’ve noticed have been in their late-20s to mid-30s and trying to dispel this stigma of singleness in our society. There’s this interesting mentality, “You’re this age, you’re not married or you’re completely single and not dating therefore, there must be something wrong with you.”The Bachelor is a big social commentary on the nature of relationships. Click To Tweet
The response has been so interesting to see on social media. My mom responding to those women and I’ve been meditating on it recently. I don’t know if you remember this and I’m laying a lot on you because I would love your response as I always do to these things. You took me to a breathwork and trauma release class at your yoga studio. I remember at one point during that breathwork class, it was interesting to see what was emotionally being released from me. I had a profound realization that I never had a conscious awareness before. It has stuck with me relating to this conversation. I realized that there was a part of me that didn’t believe I was lovable unless I had someone romantically in my life.
I’d never realized that it was a belief system that was running me. That the evidence of my lovability, desirability or being enough was related to, “This person loves me and they’re in my life, so they must think I’m enough and they must love me which validates that for me.” It’s been interesting to be single and not feel like I have to be as reliant on that because of the awareness and then applying it in action. It’s this overall thing of meditating on how many people are feeling pressured by these external forces to have someone in their life to, “I’m lovable, I’m worthy. I have someone.” Rather than, “I don’t have anybody in my life romantically and I’m okay. I’m not only just okay with that, but I’m not going to have someone to fill space to try and provide evidence of how great I am.”
I’m curious about your thoughts on this because I’ve been noticing a lot of people are meditating on it and posting about it. It’s a cool reflection because I’ve been thinking about I’m a man who is approaching his mid-40s and I don’t have anyone I’m dating. I don’t have a wife or a life partner. I’ve been sinking into that a lot lately of my own feelings versus what society is telling me I ought to have by this age in terms of relationship or what I ought to be doing with that.
One thing that I was reflecting on as you were talking is a show I watched on Netflix. It’s called Love is Blind. It’s one of those guilty pleasure types of shows, not that different from The Bachelor. I find both shows interesting because I started watching The Bachelor and The Bachelorette and all the other Bachelor Shows with friends and it’s like a social activity. I feel very conflicted about watching those shows for a lot of reasons because The Bachelor Series, in general, tends to be very superficial and a lot about gossip. There were always perfect looking people on these shows and created drama. It’s not fully enjoyable for me to watch.
Is it reinforcing cultural ideals of looks or status?
For sure it is. I don’t like watching it. Friends of mine like to watch it and comment on everybody. The new season of The Bachelor started right at the beginning of 2020. I remember thinking, “I don’t think I want to watch it.” I felt conflicted about watching it socially because it was a group of people commenting on the girls and what they were saying, what they look like, what they were wearing and how old they were. I went and I started watching this season which is about to end. The show is a big social commentary on relationships. First of all, the women are real people but they’re playing characters in the show and they were in their 20s. They all seem so desperate to be in relationships. I started watching the show, Love is Blind, which is brand new on Netflix. I didn’t think I would enjoy it but it is very fascinating because the concept behind the show is people go on and they don’t see each other. They talk through a wall and they get to know each other. It’s part of the draw of the show because it’s so nuts.
They have X amount of girls and guys, equal amounts and it’s all heterosexual except one who’s a bisexual person. The show is designed for men and women to pair up. They don’t give the opportunity for people of the same sex to meet each other. They have people from different backgrounds, different races, but generally in the same age range. Anyways, the twist of the show is that they’re kept separate and they only meet in rooms where they’re separated by a wall and they can’t see each other. They can hear each other’s voices and they call it an experiment because they want to see if love is blind. They have to talk to each other. The big catch of the show, which is clear from the trailer, I’m not giving anything away, is that they have to meet each other and over a matter of few days, they have to decide if they want to get engaged or not. They propose to one another within a matter of days. The only way that they can meet each other in person is if they’re engaged.
Yes. There are a number of people that ended up going forward and getting engaged and then they meet for the first time. They have to decide if they’re okay with each other the way that they look, smell, move, and all that stuff. I won’t spoil it because I kept watching the show very curious like, “What are they going to think of each other? There’s a couple of reactions that were like, “This is an interesting social experience.” The thing that they don’t talk about on the show, which ties into your question, is that they’re all so young. Most of them are in their late-20s, early-30s. It’s the same with The Bachelors, it’s reinforcing this idea that you need to partner up and get engaged or married in your late-20s. On both shows, in fact, most dating shows that I’ve watched, there’s this tension of these 28-year-olds being like, “I’ve waited my whole life to meet someone.” I’m like, “You’re 28 years old. That’s not your whole life, hopefully.” It’s like a fourth of your life. Third at a minimum if nothing else gets in the way of your life. It’s strange that every season of The Bachelor, this comes up. They all act like, “How come I haven’t met someone yet?”
There are often sob stories, these people are acting as they’re getting married so late. When they have people in their mid-30s on these shows, they’re so old. There was a character on this season of The Bachelor. She was 34 and she was so annoyed with the 24-year-old. She’s like, “That girl is a baby.” I’m like, “You’re both babies in your own way.” It’s so funny because they act like 34 is an old person. It is reinforcing this cultural narrative that if you’re not settled down by your early-30s, there’s something wrong with you or you’ve waited your whole life to meet someone. Not to mention that both shows are pressuring people to get engaged in a very short amount of time. Love is Blind is encouraging people to get engaged in a matter of days and by the end of the show, they get married. The total length of the time from the day they walk on set to the very end of the show is less than 40 days.
They have to meet somebody, decide if they want to get engaged with them, meet them for the first time in person, spend a few weeks with them, meet each other’s families and then decide if they’re going to go through with the wedding. To your point, it’s all rush and same thing with The Bachelor. Every time I watched The Bachelor, I’m thinking these people spend a total of maybe a week together, all things considered, and then they have to decide if they’re going to get engaged. On Love is Blind, these people are saying they love each other within days. I watch them because they’re fascinating or because of some social elements. I enjoy the experience of watching these types of things socially, for the most part, I don’t like the judgmental side of it. Commenting on people’s appearance, relationship, and behavior, I’m not that interested in it.
It’s very gossipy.
I’m not a fan of gossip but for whatever reason, I keep deciding to watch these things socially. I do find it interesting how it does seem even in the younger generations, there’s still all of these ideas around speed. In my experience, I’m not yet married, I’ve dated a number of people. I had a number of long-term relationships and it’s like, “I’ve been in a lot of relationships where it takes a long time for the word, love, to even be used.” Usually, it’s a minimum of a few months. One of my relationships took a year for that word to be used, which was on the longer end. I remember thinking to myself throughout that year, “What’s the rush?” It’s just a word. I would rather that word have meaning behind and be used very intentionally and confidently.
I have never been proposed to and I’m grateful for that. I hope that if and when I’m proposed to, it’s the only time it happens to me and it’s done with so much intention. Hopefully, the first time that person has proposed, I want to mean. I want meaning behind words and experiences when it comes to relationships. I want depth. It’s not about speed. That’s part of your point here that there’s this strange speed. Even my mother puts it on me too. Your mother is the opposite of mine where my mom was the one asking about so-and-so with all of that stuff. Since my sister and I are not married, we’ve taught my mother some acceptance because she pressured us a lot. Now she’s like, “I don’t have any control over this. They’re either going to get married or not. They either are going to have kids or not.”
I didn’t know she had shifted.
I don’t know for sure but verbally, it doesn’t sound that she was in that much of a hurry. She’s worried in a place of acceptance with it, at least in terms of how she presents it to me. I would say this to my mom and I do whenever she brings it up, I’m like, “What’s your rush? Do you want me to rush into getting married and having kids? What if it’s the wrong person?”
What does she say when you say that to her as a response?
I’m not sure that we’ve had a deep conversation enough for me to know what she thinks of that. This is the same thing with your mom’s friends or the people at the office that are saying this to her is it’s a cultural conditioning thing or it’s a generational thing too. A lot of people are interested in each other’s romance. That’s why shows like The Bachelor and Love is Blind exist because we’re interested in romance. Sometimes, it’s an escapism thing and it can be a comparison thing too. As human beings, we operate a lot under comparison. We operate on social norms. There’s also maybe this idea of like, “I’m married, this person should be married too. This person isn’t married. Am I missing out on something?” We’re all trying to figure out ourselves through the lens of other people’s lives.
To me, I have compassion. The people in the office have some program in their head that makes them think that you should be married, Jason. It’s completely up to you, isn’t it? Their perspectives on you say nothing about you. They say everything about them in other words. It’s easier said than done because when people come at us with these ‘shoulds’ and the judgments, we can often fall under this idea of like, “Should I be married? Is there something wrong with me?” I read the book. Marry Him: The Case For Settling For Mr. Good Enough is the official title. She’s one of my dream guests. I’d love to have her on this show. She is fascinating to me. When I read that book, a lot of things came up for me. This idea of, “I don’t want to settle,” and I think this comes up for you, Jason.
It does. We covered this in our episode with Jason in terms of our attachment styles. I remember we covered chunks of this conversation there.
That’s what I wonder from the outside as your friend and also a previous partner of yours. I know that there have been people that you have thought that you might marry like your partner. Can I say any name?
I’d rather not because out of consideration for them, let’s not do that.
I would think the person I was about to refer to wouldn’t mind but true. I haven’t brought this up in a while but I bet you remember this. When you and I started dating, one of our mutual friends was like, “I thought Jason was going to marry her.”A lot of people are interested in each other's romance. Click To Tweet
I remember that.
That was when we were a new couple and I was taking it back like, “I’m surprised that he’s dating you. I thought he was going to marry the woman before you.”
It was a little insensitive and blunt, in retrospect.
Time has passed. It doesn’t bother me at all. It’s funny because you also thought you might marry that person.
I did. It was in 2011. It’s interesting because if I reflect on that in particular, to be quite honest, there are layers to it. The layers are this. I’ve only felt that with a handful of people I’ve dated. Not a full hand, but maybe three people. It was because there was a depth of intimacy and connection that I felt where it was like, “There is a possibility that I could have this person as my life partner.” This is very specific. It’s just a feeling. It’s hard to describe. It’s a depth or a vulnerability but beyond that, if I’m honest about it, there was an element of it that was trying to fulfill the happiness formula. The analogy is like a puzzle piece. I’m looking at my life, I’ve got my career, a roof over my head, my car, my friends and my health but there’s a missing piece. What’s that missing piece? A partnership, a wife, a life partner. I can’t have an incomplete puzzle, I’ve got to fill that piece. It’s not coming from a desperate rushed feeling as we’re discussing that society has this rush mentality, especially with the Millennial gen. It’s like, “You’ve got to do this.”
There was an element of you can’t have an incomplete puzzle. That’s not okay. You have to fill that gaping hole in your life puzzle with someone because if you don’t, there’s something wrong with you. It wasn’t a conscious thought if I need to complete the puzzle but there was an element of me check it off the list and fill in the puzzle piece. Whatever analogy we want to use, it was the same mentality of your life and your happiness won’t be complete unless you fill this thing. I referenced this on a previous episode of the scene in Jerry Maguire where he’s in the elevator with Renee Zellweger. He’s like, “You complete me.”
The point is this subconscious mind that I noticed within myself. Going back to that realization I had in yoga class with you and we were doing the breathwork of there’s an incompleteness to you unless you have this person of a certain status of life partner or wife in your life. You must not be lovable. You must not be a whole person. There’s something wrong with you if you don’t have this. I had to look at that for myself deeply. I had dating experience, we’re no longer dating but we had this discussion of she’s like, “I came back to LA because I want to have a husband and kids now.” I was like, “I’m not focused on that at this moment. Is that coming from you because that’s a genuine desire that you have or you’re at a specific age and society is telling you, you ought to have a husband and children and a house by this age? Where is it coming from?” Her response was, “I don’t know.” It’s important, as individuals, for us to ask ourselves, “Are our desires and motivations genuinely our own or are they being fueled by our mothers, our coworkers, society or the media?” When we say we want something, do we want it or is it a program that’s been installed and we’ve chosen to believe?
There’s the other element of forcing something versus letting it happen or following, is this meant to be? Are you manifesting it? It’s manifesting the same as forcing and controlling. Are you letting your life play out?
These are fine lines.
That was part of the reason I enjoyed reading Lori’s book, Marry Him. She was observing that women in their 30s weren’t married because they are being too picky and they kept waiting for the perfect person and then how the dating pool was starting to shrink down a lot. That’s part of what happens on shows like The Bachelor. They’re all feeling the pressure of the dating pool. The good people are no longer available. We talked about that in an episode about attachment styles. A lot of the secure attachment style people get married very young and then the people that are anxious or avoidant tend to take longer to get into relationships. They struggled a lot. They don’t end up with somebody secure unless that person becomes divorced or something and all this other stuff.
I like to take a step back and try to stay very present and not judge myself for my life as much as I possibly can. It is what it is. I have more of a belief system. Maybe a little bit of the co-creating, curating or creating, either word could work here. There are forces at play that I don’t have any control of, we don’t have nearly as much control as we think that we do. As human beings, we’re constantly evolving and learning lessons so we can’t be upset with ourselves because we didn’t choose someone. Do you know this idea of regretting that you broke up with someone or you didn’t marry the one that got away? That’s so ridiculous too because you clearly ended the relationship for whatever reason you had at that time.
How can we regret things? We’re different people by the time that we have regret. Regrets are silly. One of the greater advantages that I have dating now at this age and still not being married, I’m just not in a rush for it. First of all, I’m a very liberal person. If I decide to have children, I don’t need to be married to have children. I don’t fall into that belief system and maybe I’ll never get married and I’m okay with that too. My life does not need to be defined by somebody else’s viewpoints on what you should or shouldn’t do. I think you’re the same, Jason, especially since you’re a rebellious personality type. Sometimes, our consciousness is different from what’s deeper below the surface, all of our desires to fit in, get approval, be validated, and we’re terrified of people thinking there’s something wrong with us or whatever.
The other advantage to me is that if I do decide to have children, I’m in a much better place mentally to have children now than I ever have been before. That’ll be true as I grow older, as I continue to work on myself and reflect on my life. I’ve done a lot of selfish things before having children. I’ve “gotten” that stuff out of my system. I’ve traveled the world, I’ve run businesses and I’ve also had a chance to date a number of people and figure out what I want. That gave me perspective on what I wanted in a partner. The partner that I’m choosing now is very different than a partner I would have chosen even a couple of years ago or attracted.
If you have this belief system that you attract people based on what you need or you’re struggling with, all these different reasons we choose partners. My partner choices are constantly evolving. That’s a benefit because a lot of people do want this. Some people care more than others but most people would say they only want to get married once. Some people say that they get married and they end up getting divorced even though they didn’t want to. I don’t have a judgment on divorce. It’s just not something that I would like. It sounds complicated, messy, hurtful, and it sounds a challenge that I would not personally want to go into. A lot of people have no control over that. You think that you choose a partner and you get married and you’ll be there with them forever.
Many things can go wrong. You could get into a marriage and that person could pass away suddenly. There are so many factors beyond our control whether or not we get married. My point being is you could get married at twenty years old and get a divorce at 30 and be in the same place. Get married at 30 years old and get a divorce at 40. It’s interesting to me because of all of these ideas, there’s no guarantee. I’m coming back to your point, Jason, of checking off the box and filling the puzzle. There’s no permanent relationship with anybody, with friends, family members, romantic partners, and life partners. This idea of a life partner is also not fully true.
It’s not true because there are no guarantees in life as you were alluding to. It makes me think of the work of Alan Watts, how much I love his book, The Wisdom of Insecurity, which is saying that there’s no predictability of anything in life. There’s no guarantee for anything. We spend so much life force and energy trying to make life predictable, make it known, make it familiar and make it comfortable so that we keep ourselves safe and secure. His point is, none of that ever works because life itself is chaotic and unpredictable. There’s an order to life but it’s not something that we’re always conscious of. To your point, whether or not we have a life partner or have anything, there are zero guarantees and we can’t predict what’s going to happen, as much as we to try.
It’s the illusion of security of life but his point is that the nature of existence, whether humans want to align with it or not, we most often don’t is it’s insecure. It’s ever-changing. It’s inconsistent. Life is always evolving. We’re always evolving. Before I want to do a quick call back, you said the partner you have now is not necessarily the same person you would have had two years ago or years before that, which speaks to your evolution. It also goes to show you have no idea maybe necessarily who or what you’re going to want three years from now or five years from now. You just don’t know.
That’s the interesting thing about marriage. There’s an element of it that’s beautiful and sacred that I’m committing to this person. There’s this idea of some people that feel very boxed in when they’re married. They’re not allowed to change their minds or they always have to ask permission when they’re in a relationship. What if they fall out of love with somebody and they want different things, but they feel like they have to stay together. It depends on your definition of marriage and your choices within a marriage. It’s also interesting too because a lot of people if don’t stay very conscious of it, entering relationships either as you’ve been saying due to societal pressure, cultural norms or they’re going into relationships to get their needs met. This came up for you, Jason, in one of your recent romantic experiences where you felt that the person wanted anyone to marry and anyone to have children with, which to me is a very ego-based selfish thing. It wasn’t about you and your connection. It was like, you’ll do.
I felt like it was a puzzle piece like, “You’re a good shape for that puzzle piece.”
There was this anger and resentment for you not fitting into the box that this person wanted to place you in and wanted the place that this person wanted you to fill. The older I get, the more I reflect on all of these different misconceptions that we have. What romance is, what love is, what relationships are, what marriage is, what it would mean to be a parent. We’re experiencing all of these different things. There’s no right or wrong. It’s very neutral. It’s just that people put different labels on it. There are some people who would feel so much inadequacy for not being in a relationship that they get into a relationship to stop feeling inadequate. It’s like, “Am I good enough now that I have a partner? Am I good enough now that I have a child?” That’s not fair to your partner or your children if they’re there to check a box.
I feel that it’s symptomatic of the larger mentality of when I get X, then I’ll be happy, fulfilled and feel complete. To your point whether it’s a partner, children, a house in a specific zip code, a certain style of car, or annual salary, we can superimpose this mentality on a lot of different things in life, which is if I follow this formula that I’ve been told, then that will lead to happiness and fulfillment. The disillusionment comes right is if someone is not necessarily working on their trauma or their perceived inadequacies or the pain that they have inside of themselves, they’ll get all those things and they’ll check all the boxes. We’ve talked about it in some previous episodes with celebrity suicides and things, then look you up. I have checked off every single box you told me to check off. Why am I not still happy?
People engage in all kinds of addictions at that point. The disillusionment can be so huge at that point that I followed the formula perfectly, what society, my parents, my religion, whatever it is told me to do and I did it. Why am I not happy now? That can be shattering for a lot of people mentally or if they choose to do it, it can be liberating and they can see that all of those external things that everyone told them would make them happy and fulfilled. It’s an inside game. All of that meditation, mindfulness, and those things that I’ve been hearing about, maybe it’s time to try that. It can either be a humongous breakdown for someone or it can be a breakthrough. That sounds cliché to say it, but I believe that especially when someone gets everything they’ve wanted and they’re not happy, that’s a huge transformational opportunity.We're different people by the time we regret certain decisions. Click To Tweet
That was part of the point of the social media posts that you were pointing out before, and maybe part of your original point is it’s for whatever reason, those women at your mother’s office have this story in their heads about if he’s not this, then he must be that. If he’s not married that he must not be happy. If he’s not married then there must be something wrong with him. There’s this whole calculation that they’re doing in their heads and that comes down to their own view on life which has nothing to do with you at all. It’s their perception and maybe they’re bored at work so they’re trying to make small talk with your mom. It comes back to the gossip thing we talked about, gossiping about other people’s relationships.
It’s such an interesting thing that we do. I also had this interesting thought when I was driving, I saw this woman crossing the street. She could have been about my age. She looked like she wasn’t wearing any make-up, she was wearing a work-out outfit. She had her hair up and glasses on, she was pushing the stroller and I had this one moment where I looked at her, “She must feel so relieved. She’s got her child and she doesn’t have to look perfect all the time.” That was my thought of like, “There’s this cultural thought for women or men too.” If I’ll present myself as looking perfect until I get married and have kids and then I can let myself go. I don’t have to try so hard anymore.
It’s this primal thing of a lot of mammalian species do. I’m going to puff up my feathers or present myself in a way to attract the mate to propagate the species. In this case, we’re assuming a lot about this woman you saw, but I have the baby and my man, so I don’t need to peacock anymore.
I remember catching myself in that thought and thinking like, “She’s probably worried about something else now or stressed about life but then again, maybe she isn’t stressed.” How do I know if she’s stressed?
How do we know? That’s the thing.
I found myself making some assumptions or projecting some things onto this woman and I have no idea what her experience is. Part of my lesson was thinking that because she had that baby in the stroller that her life was more relaxing. Obviously, having a child is a lot of work but it was some weird old programming that was coming out of my mind at that moment where I was making assumptions, but because she had that thing that she could relax a bit. She didn’t have to or she was so busy focused on the child, it didn’t matter what she looked like. There was part of me that I don’t want to have to try to puff up my chest all the time. Everyone around me especially in Los Angeles and on social media, it seems like there’s so much peacocking that goes on and it’s so exhausting for me. Some people might enjoy it, but I wonder how many people don’t enjoy it and wished that they could relax and be with themselves and not have to present themselves as a slightly better version of themselves.
It’s so misleading, it’s like catfishing where you go on social media and you post all these perfect photos and when people meet you in real life and they’re like, “You look nothing like your photos and you don’t act like them. The person that you are is not who I thought that you were through social media or the online dating site.” “Our first few dates, you presented yourself in this way.” That rose-colored glasses experience then we see the real person. That is part of coming back to that show, Love is Blind. They kept referring to even though these couples were only together for a few weeks. Even in that matter of a few weeks, there were arguments and they’re like, “This isn’t who you were when I met you behind that wall.” It shows that even after a few weeks, our perception of people can change because people are trying to get our attention by pretending that there’s something that they’re not. That’s an interesting side of relationships too. Some of it is not even real.
There are a few things I want to unpack really quickly. I used to have a joke in one of my stand-up routines about how on first dates, it’s so weird because instead of showing up, you send your PR representative version of yourself and it’s like, “Whitney, I’m Jason Wrobel. I hosted the first and only primetime series on The Cooking Channel. I’m graduated with a 4.0 GPA from Columbia and I rescued a whole village of Somali refugees last month. How about you?” We’re presenting this glossed over exquisitely crafted CV, Curriculum Vitae, of our life to people. Let’s fast forward nine months from now. It’s like, “I’m showing up in my Ninja pants covered in cat hair with kale chips stuck in my teeth and I’m high as hell. You’re going to show up in your best sweatpants from college, your finest period panties and a pack of chocolate chip cookies.
We don’t give a shit. Why not lead with that. I’m not suggesting some on the first date, but I know you’re a person with fears, flaws, shortcomings and pain and there are things that you think are fucked up about you that I think I’m fucked up in certain ways. Let’s be human and real. From the get-go instead of, “You use my resume and I’m this perfect person.” That’s one of the most uncomfortable things about dating to me. Thankfully, I haven’t had a date that in a long time but it makes me uncomfortable when I remember dates like that. When you can feel the energy of the peacocking happening and each person is like, “I’m going to puff up more and you’re going to puff up.” Next thing you know, the whole room is going to be filled with our egoic puffery. No one’s connecting on a human level. Its ego is connecting with egos.
That can even happen within relationships because there’s this insecurity, when are they going to find out, when are they going to see who I am and they couldn’t possibly love me? My experiences with men that I’ve dated short-term or men that I was interested in dating but it didn’t work out where I perceive that perhaps they had intimacy issues because they were afraid that they weren’t good enough like, “She couldn’t possibly I or I wouldn’t her. She’s not who I think she is.” There’s this big fear of, “I don’t want you to see who I am and I don’t know if I want to see who you are. Let’s not even bother. In a lot of relationships, people say that they still don’t know each other after X amount of years. I’m like, “That doesn’t make any sense.” That to me is scary. I’d so much rather know who somebody is as much as possible. I saw that movie I told you about, Jason. The Spanish film and it translates to my boyfriend’s pills. I know pills are pildoras.
It sounds familiar.
I forgot what the word for boyfriend is. It starts with an N.
Yes. That’s what it is.
Las Pildoras De Mi Novio.
That’s the name of the movie. I would love to have the writer on to talk about it because the movie is what I’m talking about where this guy with a mental illness is afraid of this beautiful woman that he’s started dating finding out that he has a mental illness.
It’s close to home.
It’s a comedy, but it’s one of those movies where there are times where people were laughing and I’m like, “I don’t know if I should be laughing.” I feel like we’re laughing at his mental illness. It’s being presented as funny, but it’s funny because it’s a true type of thing but it was an interesting movie. At the very beginning of the movie, he’s talking to his therapist about how he’s afraid to let a woman know that he is suffering from mental illness. This therapist says to him, “You have to let this one know about your mental illness. Have you told her yet?”
He says, “Not yet. I’m going to wait,” and all this stuff happens. The fact that he wasn’t transparent about his mental illness caused all of this chaos. That’s the moral of the story. It’s a beautiful story and very funny along the way. Before the movie, one of the producers was introducing how it’s so important to bring awareness to mental illness but also in other cultures where it might be more stigmatized. It got me emotional in this film. This poor guy who’s trying so hard to cover up who he really is because he’s afraid he won’t be accepted for it.
That resonates. I want to see this and then have the writer on because I know that you’ve discussed that as a possibility for the podcast here.
He already said yes. It’s just a matter of time.
That’s something that I struggle with because as you know, Whitney, and for the audience, if you’ve read some of our episodes or have been paying attention to my journey of me as Jason on social media, I’ve been struggling with clinical depression. I was diagnosed at the time of this podcast and still struggle with depression and suicidal ideation. I don’t struggle as much as I used to but I do still struggle with it. It’s always a question to me of when is the right time and how do I even broach that subject? With the last few people I’ve dated, I’ve had a variety of interesting reactions when I have told them. In particular, one person I dated, her father had committed suicide when she was little. She had done a lot of work in therapy around it and said that she didn’t feel threatened by the fact that I had struggled with clinical depression and suicidal ideation. She didn’t feel freaked out by it but one more recent person concerns me, “Are you going to kill yourself one day? Are you going to do something drastic?”
It leads me into like, “I don’t want to worry this person and I don’t want to have this person constantly worried about it.” Even though it comes up, I’m managing it well right now with meditation, supplements, and therapy. I feel like I’m managing well even though it’s there. I know it’s there. I still hesitate sometimes about scaring someone away. It’s not that I don’t tell people about it, but it’s always something that I still feel that pain in my chest and my heart of, “How am I going to tell this person?” “I still think about killing myself sometimes and I still struggle with clinical depression.” It’s a challenge for me especially in romantic relationships because I have no idea how someone’s going to react or respond to that.
That did come up on that show, Love is Blind.
It did? How so?
I remember that too and I’m laughing simply because I’m like, “Maybe that show is more inspirational than you would think.” Thinking of it as a cheesy dating show on Netflix. There is a man on the show who has an element of his life that he did not disclose right away. It does eventually come up. It caused a major dispute between him and the woman that he got engaged to who is upset with him for not telling him upfront. He got very defensive. He’s like, “I’m afraid that if I had told you upfront, you wouldn’t have wanted to be with me.” He was hiding something from her purposefully because he was hoping once she falls in love with me, then I can tell her. You could see both sides where he was afraid. He wants to be loved, but technically he wouldn’t be loved for who he truly is if he didn’t say who he truly was. On her end, it was hard to tell was she upset because she doesn’t want to be with somebody who had this element of him that he revealed to her. Was that not okay with her and had she wanted to know that up front so she could make that decision?
Because of that condition or that element.
The other thing was I couldn’t tell if she was upset that she wasn’t given all the information about him because she didn’t want that thing or if she was upset that she didn’t get the information. She felt that he wasn’t fully honest. That brought up an interesting thing and the movie did as well. There’s another scene in that film-like, “Why didn’t you tell me?” Both characters had this conflict because they were afraid of not getting a chance with somebody. It does bring up a tough thing because I can see that it comes down to control. You’re trying to control things and you’re trying to manipulate people. Wouldn’t you much rather be completely transparent with somebody, they love you immediately for that and having to wait a little bit longer versus trying to pretend that you’re somebody that you’re not or hide an element of yourself and then reveal it to them later? You might be losing their love no matter what in that sense.
If they don’t love you from the beginning because of that thing, then A) What if they stop loving you once they find out so you’re still losing no matter what that person? Or B) You might also lose them as a result of holding off information because then they feel trapped or they feel manipulated or they feel conflicted. I don’t think any of it is good. Culturally, we have to work through that but also, we’re expected to present ourselves in certain ways. There’s a cultural expectation that you’re going to put on make-up, wear high heels or put on a cute dress and maybe show off your best assets whether it’s your legs, your chest, your butt or whatever else. You’re going to accentuate those things to draw attention to it. You go through this whole routine.Sometimes, we make assumptions about women even when we have no idea what their experience is. Click To Tweet
I feel some of my best dating experiences were when I didn’t do all of those things. There was one time I went on a date, it was very last minute and the place that we were going was going to close down and we decided to meet there as soon as possible that night before it closed. I barely had time to get ready. I had to show up in a little bit more of a vulnerable raw version of myself than I would have felt comfortable on a first date. I remember thinking if this person doesn’t like me because I didn’t make my hair look a certain way, put on a certain outfit, put on an extra layer of make-up, or whatever because that’s not me. Another relationship, I never was even going into this situation thinking that it would turn into romantic. I showed up after my yoga class, my hair up, my skin still a little bit sweaty, zero make-up on and wearing whatever clothes I put on after class like zero expectation. This person still wanted to be with me despite me looking at what I perceived as not my best.
One of my most raw-looking states but were attracted to me. I’m like, “That makes me feel so much more confident about the relationship.” I wasn’t looking for it and I wasn’t trying, I was just being myself and that person wanted me versus when I feel all done up and someone chooses me, I felt confident, yes, I felt beautiful, yes but was that me on a daily basis? No, and then it almost makes it harder. It’s like women that feel that they can’t step out of the house without make-up on. I’m like, “That’s your choice. There’s nothing wrong with it.” If you feel your whole life revolves around trying to make yourself look different than you naturally are and then that’s the only way you feel accepted. I imagine you’re living a life of tension and not-enoughness and fear all the time, which I don’t think is good for your long-term well-being.
I hear from you. It’s also denying the inevitability that if you do enter into some semblance of partnership or longer-term relationship, you’re going to see that person without make-up, in their sweats, with their hair up sweaty, you’re going to see me putting myself stinky, sweaty from yoga class or the gym or whatever. In my case, I’ll have low emotional points. To hide my depression from someone is just delaying the inevitable. There’s going to be a day when I’m with you in your presence where I’m going to feel low. If I’m hiding it from you, that feels dishonest in the sense instead of springing it on you where someone’s I didn’t realize you were saying before, I didn’t know this part of you existed. Why do you get so low all the time? Is something wrong? Did I do something wrong?
A lot of people will start to reflect the mirror back on them thinking they’ve done something to cause it rather than upfront at some point, me saying, “I was diagnosed with clinical depression. I manage it these ways. It still comes up. There are times when I still get down, sometimes I feel suicidal and I want you to know now because if it comes up, it’s not your fault. It’s nothing you did.” Beyond that, you sent me an article, Whitney a while ago about what are the best ways that a person can support a partner who is struggling with mental health? There were these interesting steps around it. Encouraging a person to show up in a way to support you best is also a great conversation to have. Some people might want a person to physically be with them and be closer or offer support in a specific way.
Some people might want to process those emotions and solitude. It’s not about communicating your mental health struggles or mental illness to your potential future partner but also communicating ways if they want to support you with it, which I hope that they would have the best ways you feel supported through that. That’s also another part of the conversation that’s critical. If we don’t, it’s going to come up. That’s my point. You’re not going to hide it away forever. Much like this movie and these TV series, it’s going to come out. That extrapolates to anything in a relationship. If you’re hiding or burying something, life has a way of exhuming those things and bringing them to the surface even if we try to bury them.
The big message here is that there is no right way and the right time to be in a relationship. Nothing is guaranteed to us. Just like we do in every episode of the show, questioning what our culture tells us. What do our parents tell us? What do our friends believe? What society seems to believe? What the government is saying? It’s not taking things at face value. It’s saying like, “What do I feel? What do I believe? What’s important to me?” If you don’t know, we’re inviting you along on this journey of seeking more clarity and realizing because you feel one way, it doesn’t mean that that’s how you’ll feel in an hour, tomorrow, a week, a month, or year, etc. We’re constantly changing and evolving. We’re always getting new information and having new experiences that shape who we are. That sounds the most ideal type of relationship.
Can you be with somebody who supports you on that journey, who’s along for the ride in that journey? Can you respect them and know that they think differently and they live differently than you versus trying to control them? If I go through all the lessons I’ve learned through relationships, I feel so grateful because I haven’t been married. I have had the gift of being with a lot of different partners and learning so much through each of them. I could have been with one person and learned a lot from that one person. I have no idea. I don’t think that there’s a right or wrong and any way that we should do life or should do relationships.
Those conversations are opportunities for us to reflect and thank somebody for sharing their opinion but not internalize it. If anybody else is listening and relating to what you’re experiencing, Jason, it’s important to encourage them to not take it too much to heart. If somebody else is judging you for not being married, having children, getting divorced or whatever stage you’re in. Maybe you’re in a relationship and you’re miserable and everybody’s telling you, “You should get out of this.” Sometimes that takes a while to get out of a bad relationship. I learned so much from my friends and their relationships. I’ve heard a lot of different scenarios through my friends’ marriages. The older I get, I am more interested in listening versus judging because I don’t have all the answers. I had this realization with someone who I’m very close to and going through phases of wanting to protect them, thinking that I’m protecting them. Who said I have even that power or right to protect them or that I know what’s best for them and judging this relationship?
I had a chance to speak about it out loud for the first time in a while or maybe even ever when somebody asks, “So-and-so is still with so-and-so. How do you feel about it?” I was like, “In the past, I had super strong judgments on that relationship. I’m recognizing so much in my own growth now realizing that it’s not my place to decide whether or not somebody is with this person. Who they should be with and how long should they be with them. Should they get married?” All these ‘should,’ it has nothing to do with me. It’s my opinion but it doesn’t mean that it’s the right way to do something. Knowing that about myself helps me understand that if somebody feels that way about me or you, Jason, or the audience, it doesn’t matter. Let them have their perspectives and you don’t need to take it to heart.
That’s sagacious advice. One thing that you reminded me of was there was an elderly couple that had been together for 40 or 50 years maybe even longer. They were interviewing the husband and the relationship and they said, “How have you guys stayed together in a contented marriage to this long?” He said, “I married a woman who I knew was changing. A lot of interests, a lot of things that she was exploring.” He’s like, “I feel like I’ve been married to nine different women over these decades but I made a decision no matter who she chose to be or change into that I was going to love that woman.” That hit me in a profound way for two reasons.
He made a choice to unconditionally love whoever she became, but also acknowledging the fact that none of us are static. Everyone is changing and evolving at different rates, at different paces in different ways. To your point, trying to control or manipulate someone into staying the same or this is familiar, this is comfortable, this is something I can control and understand. That’s denying the nature of who we are in this existence that we’re constantly evolving and changing. Can we grow together? Can we love and honor not only ourselves through our own personal changes but who knows? Maybe for with someone and they turned into nine different men or women throughout the course of our lifetime. Can we love all those versions of them too? It’s a question that I’m putting out there into the universe because I thought it was very profound, very sweet and thought-provoking.
Thank you for bringing this up.
Thank you. I’ve been wanting to dig into it for a little while. I appreciate your perspective, Whit.
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Thanks for reading!
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