People who are cautious or hesitant in a dating context have always gotten a bad rap. "How are you supposed to bond with someone if you're holding part of yourself back?" says that nagging alter-ego who's always questioning your life choices. Her outfit is atrocious, but she may have a point; you need to be brave when looking for love, and if you've been hurt once it can be incredibly difficult to make yourself vulnerable to that kind of pain once again. But it's also possible to remain cautious, in control, and full of perspective while showing someone who you are and what you need. It often seems that we're so focused on "winning" one another over that we don't consider what a relationship will be like when the cards are down and there are actual human needs that require satisfaction. (*non-committal gasp*)
Caution is often considered the less-exciting step-sister of more exotic behaviors, like one-night stands and, you know, general millennial tomfoolery. Reminding yourself to stay grounded isn't the most scintillating behavior. But I intend to make an argument for it, in favor of redefining our current dating culture. Holding back may be exactly what we need. Here are five reasons why being a cautious dater is a good thing.
1. You can open up while still protecting yourself.
So you've decided that you trust a potential mate enough to share something intimate with them. Maybe it's a family issue, a financial problem, or a personal shortcoming. Everyone (I repeat, everyone) has a little baggage. You don't need to get drunk, cry, and sit in your Volkswagen chugging Cab and laying it all out there as they look on awkwardly. You'll probably regret that. Take my completely hypothetical word for it.
Instead, there's so much merit in having the patience to introduce a topic to someone only when you're ready, and broaching it at the depth with which you are most comfortable. If they don't handle it well, it's more a testament to who they are than who you are. Most importantly, do you really want to be with someone who's incapable of understanding and support? Who's so wrapped up in their world that they can't venture into someone else's? No — but if you waited long enough to make sure he or she was trustworthy before confiding, you can save yourself some disappointment.
2. You take the time to learn about the other person before you play all your cards.
I believe that listening more than you speak is the key to success in most things.
Talking about yourself is fun, but it's a rare kind of person who's more interested in learning than in teaching; being that person is going to get you especially far in a relationship. Learning who this person is before you decide to put yourself out there — there's something to be said for that kind of patience. You'll reap the reward.
The person you truly want to be with is going to engage you in discussion and try to learn about your worldview anyway — wait and see if that happens. You shouldn't have to interrupt to be heard.
3. Slowly developed relationships can make for the best relationships.
It can be really easy to fall for the idea that because you're attracted to someone, you should be intimate, or be together, but it takes more than chemistry to make a relationship work. It's smart to form a solid friendship with someone before jumping into anything romantic with them.
Laughing together, sharing the same general life goals, being supportive of one another's drive and dreams — that's the trifecta for the foundation of a great partnership. And you know who is likely to be your match on all those counts? The person who you've taken the time to first bond with in ways that aren't romantic or sexual. One Match.com study showed that 44 percent of people with "friend with benefits" situations in their lives ended up entering full-fledged relationships with those people. Maybe that's because they really took the time to get to know one another prior to entering into a serious relationship. Confirming that you're compatible with someone and that they accept and appreciate you for who you are before dating them works? Who would have thought.
4. The "hookup culture" we've created sometimes lends to disrespect.
In this arena, caution could be seen as prude or boring. I'm not suggesting that you don't hookup. As a matter of fact, please hookup before you commit to anything. You need to know what you're getting yourself into, and sexual compatibility can be absolutely vital to a successful relationship.
What I mean is that before you go giving a single person all of your time, energy and body, make sure they deserve it. Know this person well enough to know that if you somehow found yourselves in some awkward sexual situation (as you're sure to), you'd make it out laughing.
5. This is your time to test the waters.
Or, in this case, test the man or woman that you're seeing. How do they behave around you in public situations? What are they like at 6 a.m., before their coffee? How do they treat you once they've realized you might stick around?
I don't necessarily mean that you should go play mind games, but if you're not in a place confidence-wise that you know what a catch you are (and how you deserve to be treated), you're not ready to be with someone. No one should have to convince you that you're worth it; that's not their job. What is their job is to convince you that they value you. Find out if they do before making yourself entirely vulnerable to them.
And if all else fails, channel Cher.
Images: Hayley Bouchard/Flickr; Giphy (6)