What I learned about Relationships from Yale (and NYC)
Okay, hope you all had a wonderful Valentine’s Day! I had a great dinner at Koi with M the birthday girl and one of the guys was gentleman enough to bring a rose to each of the girls, very nice gesture I have to say! And then we went out to drinks at Stone Rose at the Time Warner Building. Again another cool spot in NY, you have to check it out next time you want a romantic yet low-key spot, with a lot of space, unique drinks and a great view!
Anyway, I have to admit that originally I plan to write on “What has Yale taught me about sex”! But I realized I am yet to be that aggressive and I don’t want to scare away some of my younger readers and I am pretty sure I’m not an expert on that subject anyway! But if that’s something you’re interested in reading please give me a shout in the comment or something.
So let me get back to what I actually want to talk about today: What I learned about relationships at Yale and in the US?
1. Be an independent person first
It took me a long time to realize how much truth lies in this simple idea: If you are not a happy person single, you will not be a happy person in a relationship. I’m not sure about you but I was raised up in an environment with this whole idea of “we are born to be incomplete and we spend our whole life trying to find someone to complete and to heal us”. After I came to Yale and the US, I realized it was a lie. Why? Because this idea leads us to the trap of being too demanding.
Ultimately you have to depend on yourself in this world, and your life your happiness your future is your own responsibility not anyone else’s. You don’t have to be a feminist to be independent; you don’t need to be totally cold-blooded to other people to be independent. You can be sweet, caring, funny, sexy all you want, but you just simply have to figure out your own sh*t first, and that’s how you earn true respect from any men equally capable if not more.
2. It’s okay for girls to take initiatives
I didn’t realize how frightening it is for guys (even American guys) to talk to girls in general, until I met J at a house party my senior year. He was really tall, and I saw him standing by himself at the corner with a bottle of beer. So I went up to him and said: hey are you on the basketball team?
Turned out he was on the basketball team, and he studied psychology and he’s very good at reading people. And then one day he revealed to me how hard it was to initiate a conversation with a girl in any kind of setting: you don’t know what she’s really like, you don’t know whether she already has a boyfriend or something, you don’t know if you are gonna make it awkward, etc.
I was stunned. I had no idea that a good looking, well-educated, sportive, popular, totally attractive guy would ever come up with anything like that. And right there and then I realized wouldn’t it be so much easier if the girl simply said hi? Plus, a hi doesn’t mean you need to date him or anything, so it really doesn’t hurt!
3. But know what you want
Or at least, you should move toward that direction. Knowing what you want, knowing what you can do and what you cannot do is probably the biggest lesson I learned about the party culture at US universities.
People go to social gatherings and parties with different goals and these goals may include getting drunk, getting hook ups, trying to find someone you really really like and get into a real relationship, and etc. People may behave similarly at first but your goal should tell you when to call stop. The good thing is that people in the US rarely push anything to happen. If two people want different things then that’s the end of the story. You don’t need to make compromises at the beginning of a relationship or the end of a dance, and it’s totally okay to reject at any point.
In retrospect I realized it actually makes sense to date a few (and more than a few) people when you are young, because this is the only way to figure out who you are, what you really want out of a relationship, what is really important to you, and how to handle difficult situations with your partner. If I have to make a comparison, it is always preferred that you get to experience this now so you can make a wiser decision when it comes to marriage, than to experience this later AFTER your marriage (and that is not dating anymore that’s called having an affair!)
4. You can’t change other people so forget about it
Note I’m not saying you can’t make compromises. Actually every relationship demands some sort of compromise, and from both sides, to work out. But don’t expect to change other people. It’s probably an Asian thing: the girl always wants to train the guy and turn him into someone perfect along the way. I’d say, forget about it. It doesn’t work that way.
You make compromises willingly because you LOVE your partner and you WANT this relationship to work out. Compromises do not change who you are as a person, but the changes your girlfriend want you to make usually touch the fundamental aspects of how you live and breathe. Most of the time you don’t want to change willingly, and even if you make an effort to change, it’s hardly ever sustainable.
That’s why it’s almost like recruiting, you should never hire for “hidden potentials”. You should always hire for what’s already out there, explicitly demonstrated, and well known. If there is an issue of concern in the beginning of the relationship, you will revisit this issue again and again and again throughout. It never dies, and you will fight over it, and the harder you want to fix or change, the more resistant the problem becomes, and the more distant you drive your partner. I don’t think that’s how you want to spend the rest of your life.
5. Emotional strength can be trained.
What if you are still working on becoming independent, and the guy you are seeing happen to be too good at “knowing what he wants and knowing when to stop” so you are left alone, sad, hurt, and desperate? I know how you feel and I’ve been there before too, probably too many times. But you need to have faith in yourself that emotional strength can be trained.
One of the major reasons why you cannot be independent and you are insecure and you are still super demanding is because you are not emotionally strong enough yet. You might think this is hard but it is really not. If you say relationship is hard I agree because relationship demands the affection and constant effort from two people, and it’s hard because you can never really represent how the other person may think or react. But emotional strength is about you yourself and nobody else. Once you understand how you yourself should think and react, there is no reason why you cannot achieve emotional strength.
And how exactly do you do that?
- Magnify your positive feelings and minimize your negative feelings
- Be forward looking, think about improvement, think longer term.
- There are always two answers to a problem, a happy one and an unhappy one. Tell yourself that you always choose the happy one.
- Give yourself one day or a few days to be sad and be a total mess, but give your emotional breakdown a deadline, then get up and move on.
6. Trust that other people are grown-ups too
It’s almost funny but I’ve known both girls and guys who are incapable of rejecting other people. Let’s take the example of a guy: deep in his heart he knows he doesn’t have romantic feelings for her, but he is particularly confusing, ambiguous and misleading in words and actions. I used to wonder why so I had a conversation with one such guy back in college; and I realized it’s because he doesn’t know how to deal with the reaction of the other girl if he explicitly and bluntly points out he’s simply not into her, so he is doing what he is doing actually trying to be nice and protective, and he thought that’s called being responsible.
I think this is RIDICULOUS and totally unnecessary. Girls are not your babies. You have to trust that they are independent human beings and they know how to deal with their own problems (and if they don’t you should probably be even more careful about why you should date them). You need to tell them the truth so you can set them free so they can grow up and move on.
At the end of the day, you are not responsible for them in a way that you have to hide your real feelings. Being honest about how you feel might make you feel bad about yourself and you are putting the other person in a vulnerable situation, but the worst thing that would ever happen to a girl is that you lead her on and act as if you’re into her for a long time, and she ends up discovering you were not really into her in the first place.
Try the above!!! At least they have worked for me! I know they will work for you too, so let me know!