HONEST TO A FAULT …how to avoid coming off as desperate…
We dogs don’t really like TV. Lots of the time the noise bothers us (NO dog likes Game of Thrones – though I don’t think I’ve met a person who doesn’t!), and of course it’s always taking our humans’ attention away from where we want it – on US!
But occasionally I’ll watch something with Handsome. And recently, I saw something great.
An episode of an old program called Mary Tyler Moore, show had this woman, Mary, go on one date with a guy who instantly decides she’s the one, and starts sending her flowers, gifts, messages, and constant requests for more dates. Finally she overcomes her niceness and manages to reject him. But when he later approaches her in public with a giant cake with “Will You Marry Me” on the top, she explodes in fury, smashing the cake to bits.
You might say that fellow had earned dating’s most dreaded diagnosis: Desperate.
Everyone I hear from says they want a relationship where they can stay honest and expressive, but they don’t want to come off like that guy. And why would they? Desperation, I hear, can be a bigger turnoff than rudeness, bad breath, and overeating combined. So how can you avoid it? Especially when you’re totally smitten over a new love?
Well, we dogs are just great at this. We’re always honest (we don’t know how not to be – our brains simply aren’t big enough), and no one ever complains about us being desperate.
(Hmm… actually that last bit isn’t true. People who like cats tend to find us too clingy and attentive. But that’s just us as a species. People who like dogs tend to like us just the way we are!)
And I have a solution for you people too. To start with, let’s look at the five main ways daters come off as desperate:
- Dressing too much of a statement
You see it at school, at work, and on the streets. The person so eager to be noticed, to be liked, that they dress in a way that doesn’t suit their lives. The man dressed in shirt and pants so tight he can’t sit down, the woman wearing something so low-cut she’s constantly pulling it up to avoid getting arrested! Or the person dressed in duds too fancy and expensive to fit in where they are.
- Giving, and demanding, nonstop attention
This is the one we pups get accused of the most. Cat-lovers want to be left alone most of the time, while we’re always coming up to you with a toy or a kiss. But where I see it the most in humans is that crazy menace, TEXTING! One person texting another over and over, and completely devastated when they don’t get a response within minutes. This can drive both people nuts – the texter and the textee (Is that a word?).
- Can’t keep hands off
Everyone loves being touched by someone they like. But some people just need contact all the time. Always grabbing their beloved, or insisting on PDAs (public displays of affection) no matter what’s going on – regardless of how it affects everyone else.
- Constant asking for validation – literally
Nothing makes a person less eager to give validation (whether a mild “I like you” or a bigger “I really respect you” or “I love you madly!”) than being asked for it all the time. And when a person’s trying to pay attention to something else, while being interrupted with “Don’t you like me?” it’s only a matter of time before they blurt out “Not anymore!”
- Expressing suspicion
Okay, this one is The Worst. When one human is feeling insecure in a relationship, and instead of just talking about it, accuses the other of cheating, wanting to cheat, or even just thinking about someone else. There’s an old rule of logic that You Can’t Prove a Negative. In other words, while you can prove I have a bone I stole, no one can prove I never stole one. So when someone’s accused of doing something, wanting something, or thinking about it, they’re stuck – there’s no way for them to argue their way out of it. Which I’ve seen reeeeeeeeeeeeally drive people up the wall!
Now the way I’ve described all these, each sounds just awful, doesn’t it? But imagine if I rephrased them, in ways that sounded ideal. Wouldn’t you love – wouldn’t anyone love – to get involved with someone who:
- Always looks attractive, takes great care of themselves
- Stays attentive and interested, never making you feel ignored or abandoned
- Is willing to show affection and express their love through casual touch
- Lets you know that you’re important and they need you to care about them
- Isn’t naïve, and pays attention to subtle signals from you?
Well, sure. These sound so great, they could describe me! (Though we might disagree about whether I’m attractive after I’ve rolled in a big pile of horse poop; but I always think that’s me at my very best!)
But there’s one big difference between these two lists: And it’s called Awareness.
Being honest is great and necessary, but just as you didn’t want your mother yelling “Hey you’ve got toilet paper stuck to your shoe!” as you left her car to join your schoolmates, the trick in relationships is to temper your honesty with awareness of how the other person takes what you’re giving.
So, to go through that list yet again, while of course you always want to look your best, maybe you can show up to his World Cup party looking casual-cute in an oversized Kansas City Chiefs jersey and your hair in an adorable ponytail, instead of oozing drama in a halter top or your best black dress.
And while you want to let her know you care about her, one casual text of “Hey, hope that meeting went okay. Can’t stop thinking about last night!” at noon could win her over a lot more than six “I care more about you than you do about me”s per hour.
Similarly, a quick unexpected peck on the cheek or squeeze of a love-handle in the middle of a meal can be charming, sweet, and an electrifying promise for later, while interrupting their bite of potato in the middle of a discussion of the Palestinian crisis, to insist on a long French kiss, will push them away.
And saving those “I need to know you care” moments for when you’re in the middle of the day from hell can melt his heart, while telling it to him every night will just translate as “I’ve never believed you so far,” and leave him to look for someone who’ll trust him.
And speaking of trust, back to the biggest Desperation of all: Asking, “So your coworker could be a movie star; how is it he didn’t beat me to you?” is SOOO much better a way of finding out about their relationship than “I know you and Joe are meeting behind my back! Can you prove me wrong?!”
It really all comes down to one simple fact: Humans act desperate because they’re stuck in their own minds, and not paying attention to their partner. Think about it. If you really pay attention to someone, you’ll see what behavior pushes them away, and change it to something that makes them like you better, right? Instead of not really paying attention to them, and acting on what your mind says is going on, and how you think they should react to you.
And believe me: no one wants to be with that in-their-head person!
So when you find yourself acting desperate, just open your eyes and focus on what your beloved is doing, saying, and feeling. And that should be enough to change your ways – not to make you dishonest, but just expressing yourself in a realistic way. One that keeps you feeling proud of yourself as you navigate these difficult paths.
I know that sounds ridiculously simple. That’s because it is! That’s why we dogs are better at it than you guys!
But one final reminder here, about that difference between dogs and cats? What comes off as unacceptably desperate to one person can be wonderfully romantic to another. Remember that Mary Tyler Moore episode I mentioned? Well after Mary smashes the cake, she discovers that that guy was actually bringing it to another woman, who then breaks down in tears of joy at her dream man’s proposal (of course, making Mary feel awful).
So if you find your intended keeps rejecting your enthusiasm, maybe the answer isn’t to alter your behavior, but just to put that puppy-love energy to better use elsewhere. Don’t worry – the world is FULL of dog-lovers and cat-lovers. Someone out there will like your style!