Lessons about dating from my two-year anniversary

It’s been a while since my last newsletter, huh? At Quietly Romantic headquarters, it’s tradition that if I fail to write something new in a reasonable amount of time then I get to tell you something embarrassing about myself.

So, here’s a picture of me the last time I was at Disneyworld (before the pandemic started). The name of this photo: “Steve tries to understand dinosaurs better by becoming one.”

When I look at this picture, there’s three things that come to mind:

  1. Was I sober when I had this picture taken?
  2. I can’t believe that the woman who took this photo thought it was a good idea to marry me.
  3. Holy cow, my two-year anniversary is coming up! I’ve been married to this amazing woman for two years now.

Wow. Time goes by fast sometimes, doesn’t it?

During that time, I’ve discovered that I’m a pretty dense person. If there’s one thing that continues to amaze me about being married, it’s constantly realizing how little I do know about being a good husband and a good man.

Today, I’d like to share with you a few things that would have made my dating life a lot smoother had I known them earlier. In my infinite capacity for being a dumb person, I’ve learned these after already being married. I’m sharing these with you now so you can apply them to your own dating life right away.

The SINGLE most effective way to flirt with her

Okay, raise your hand if you’ve ever heard or read a lot of advice along the lines of “just learn how to flirt with her” but you’ve always been confused because no one actually explains HOW to do it?

Come on…I’m not the only one who felt this way, right? Right??

Here’s how to do it.

The single best way to flirt with her is to learn the things that cause her to feel loved, then respect and honor those things.

A great way to do this when you’re meeting someone for the first time is to ask questions that show you’re interested in her as a person. For example,

  • “So, what do you like to do?”
  • “Oh, you like XYZ? I love XYZ as well. You know, recently I [story about when I did XYZ].”
  • “I bet you have some interesting stories about the last time you did XYZ.”

As you get to know her better, you’ll learn some of the deeper things that make her feel loved. Always make sure to respect those as well. Always do this! I suspect that many relationships falter because one or both partners start to forget about this.

Some of those deeper things that make her feel loved include stories from her childhood and values that she learned from her past. For example, it turns out my wife was very athletic back when she was in grade school. Playing sports has made her very ambitious and competitive, and one of the best ways for me to flirt with her is to honor and respect her values.

Yes, even if I’m not a very athletic person myself. Even if I’m the type of guy who was so nerdy that girls half my size would bully me back when I was in grade school.

(Crap, I just said that out loud didn’t I?)

How to overcome conflict, even with “unsolvable” problems

My wife and I are two, very different types of people. She’s an athlete, and me…

…not so much. She loves surrounding herself with this many people…

..and I prefer to spend my Saturday nights doing this…

We’re about as different as night and day. So, how do we get along?

Turns out, having a lot of commonalities in a relationship is entirely overrated. Here’s what I mean. The famed psychological researcher and clinician who’s done extensive research on divorce prediction and marital stability, Dr. John Gottman, identifies two types of relationship conflicts: solvable and perpetual (unsolvable) problems.

Solvable problems are easier because they have a clear-cut solution. For example, one partner is unhappy because they haven’t been spending a lot of time with each other lately. The clear-cut solution? Look at the calendar and carve out some hours for each other.

Perpetual problems are more difficult because they include differences in values, or areas where the two partners differ on a fundamental level from each other. Each of the problems that I mentioned above are an example of a perpetual problem.

How do you overcome “unsolvable” problems when your wife’s favorite pastime is PUNCHING people in the face?

Having a lot of perpetual problems sounds like a bad thing, but it totally isn’t! There are many ways to overcome unsolvable problems as well. I think that if more people realized this, than there would be fewer couples breaking up just because they have “nothing in common”.

Let’s look at the perpetual problem of my wife being an athlete and me being a complete nerd. How do we overcome this?

First, we bring some humor into the mix. She loves to poke fun at me, saying that if we had never met then I would probably have ended up discovering that I was gay and marrying another gamer dude. And we laugh because that’s silly, but it also has a modicum of plausibility.

Second, we honor each other’s point-of-view and hash out a solution that respects both of our values as much as possible. She loves working out almost as much as I love pizza. Ideally, she wants us to exercise together every day. On the other hand, I absolutely loathe working out and I’d rather take a baseball bat to the stomach than start doing push-ups.

How do we solve this? We can’t. Solving this means that one of both of us would have to fundamentally change who we are.

Perhaps we can’t solve it, but we CAN overcome it.

So…she wants to work out together every day, right? I do not. But…I can make it work, if I take most of the unfavorable aspects out of it. I dislike spontaneity, so we’ve both decided to make our workout sessions at 6 pm every day. I’ll plan out my day so that I tackle the hardest tasks in the morning and the easiest tasks in the afternoon. That way, I’m at the top of my natural range of energy once 6 pm rolls around.

By doing this, we give everyone what they want while also respecting both our points-of-view as best we can. That’s how you overcome an “unsolvable” problem in a relationship!

How your partner serves as a mirror to your own character

One of my favorite articles ever written on relationships is called 4 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Fought With My Wife by Tyler Ward for Relevant magazine. They’re a Christian lifestyle magazine whose tagline is “God, life, and progressive culture”–so I don’t necessarily agree with some of the things they write–but this article in particular is one that I’ve saved and I constantly find myself referring back to over and over again.

In this article, Tyler writes that his wife serves as a mirror to his own character. It’s useless to blame a mirror if what you see isn’t what you like. If you’re having problems in your relationship, it’s important to set your ego aside and look at your reflection through a critical lens to see what you can be doing to make things better.

Honestly, I think the hardest part of dating or being in a relationship is that it reveals just how deeply flawed your own character is. I mean, we all know intellectually that we’re not “perfect”, but being in an intimate relationship with someone else forces you to shine a light on your own values or beliefs and critically evaluate them to see if they’re good values to live your life by.

For example, I always used to pride myself on being a “good listener”. I always used to believe that with all the women I dated, I’d always be impartial to both sides whenever conflict came up. And I always used to resent that other people could not do the same.

Now, I’m not so sure about myself.

When it comes to my wife—the woman who doesn’t take BS from anybody and who’s not afraid to punch you in the face—I’ve started to realize that I might not be as impartial as I thought I was. I’m a lot more biased in my own favor than I’d like to believe.

And that’s a hard truth to accept because…what does that say about all my previous relationships? That I unfairly broke up with every other woman I dated? That those relationships could all have been saved if I’d only been just a little bit less stubborn?

Yep. My ex-girlfriends are all probably reading this and nodding their heads right now.

The hardest thing about being in a relationship

The hardest part of being married—or being in any sort of relationship—is constantly learning that you’re not as good a husband/boyfriend/partner as you imagine you are.

And…that’s OK. As long as you’re open to accepting that and continuing to learn from it.

It’s been a while since my last newsletter, and Quietly Romantic tradition is to share an embarrassing photo of myself whenever that happens. I’ve gone a little bit further and made this entire post an embarrassing column about myself.

I hope you learn from my mistakes so you don’t have to repeat them like I did.

Finally, if you liked this article and you’d like to learn more of my best dating strategies, enter your email below and I’ll send you The Quietly Romantic Guide to Talking to Women, including EXACT word-for-word scripts you can use to find the woman of your dreams.

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