Talking in Code and Cognitive Dissonance

Ok. It’s been awhile. (Last post February of 2018!) I hadn’t been writing because life brought me to a place in which I didn’t have much to say. As things have started stirring up in me again, I want to be just as thoughtful about what I say now as I was in the past. I want every post to be as relevant, funny, and honest as the previous ones.

I’ve noticed some things. Things that are coming up as I get older, know myself better, and seek to be in a relationship with someone who is actually a good fit. I think these issues are so interesting because I might have expected them in my teenaged years, or even with 20-somethings, but they are apparent now (in my 30’s).

I debated several names for the following list I created. The first was Tricks to Watch Out For – but I can acknowledge it’s probably less that I’ve been “tricked” in the past and more that I can still be overly optimistic, unassuming, or even naïve at times. The second was How to Tell the Difference Between Boys and Men – but that seemed a bit harsh. A third was Um…What? – because that’s what usually what I say in my head when these issues come up. In the end, I just left it as Things I’ve Noticed… because it’s simple, true, and I figure I can add to it or edit it as I notice more.

Thankfully, with each relationship I am getting wiser and more comfortable with myself. I don’t expect to get “tricked” in the same ways going forward and can move on with understanding, forgiveness, and laughter when things don’t work out. Most of this list are things related to what I’ve heard men say versus the things they do. In psychology when there is a discrepancy between the two, we call it “cognitive dissonance.” Dissonance can occur all the time around us and within us. When it does, we typically get a signal something needs to change. It may be anxiety, sadness, feeling a need to avoid someone or something, irritability, feeling confused, withdrawing, etc. The point is, we will continue to feel poorly until we get rid of the dissonance by either a) changing what we say (or believe) to match our behavior OR b) changing the behavior to match what we say (or believe).

{As always, I’m not saying all men are like this and I’m sure the list could be applied to females}

Things I’ve Noticed:

1. Men can speak in code. Example: “I don’t want to put that we’re dating on (insert name of social media platform) because I don’t want people in our business.” That is code for: If we break up, I don’t want to answer questions or be held accountable.

A related one for us church goers is: “I don’t want to tell anyone in leadership we’re dating because they’ll start scrutinizing everything we do.” That’s also code for: If we break up, I don’t want to answer questions or be held accountable.

“I’m not looking for a relationship, but if one happens, I’m open to it.” Code for: I am not at all willing to put any effort into a relationship right now, but if the semblance of one is convenient, I’ll act like I am.

My perspective: In life we should understand that sometimes things don’t work out and sometimes you have to have hard conversations and be held accountable. It’s part of being an adult. We’ll live. If someone doesn’t want to be held accountable to anyone else, and/or is just waiting for a relationship to “happen,” it’s usually a bad thing.

2. Men may say they want someone who will be there for them in hard times, but when hard times come, they say, “I think I need to work on myself…. alone.” (and if you’re REALLY lucky they’ll add) “It’s so I can be better for you. You deserve someone better than this.” Um…What? So you leaving is for me? Even though I’m saying I want you and accept you in this ugly time? Right.

My perspective: Hard times are going to come. Adults who want to be in a relationship accept that and work through them, together. If you don’t know what you look like in bad times that’s fine, and if you really feel like you need to weather them alone, that’s fine too. Just don’t say one thing but then do another (that’s dissonance). If you have someone who’s sticking with you in hard times, and that’s what you said you wanted, it’s lame to change your mind and breakup.

3. Speaking of breakups: It’s interesting the things that are initially appealing to a man may become exactly why he says he wants to break up. Examples:

 “I like how smart you are” becomes, “I think you need someone smarter than me.” Code for: I’m insecure about my education level/occupation.

 “I love your style” becomes, “I think you need someone more put together than me.” Code for: I’m insecure about how we look together.

 “I like your maturity” becomes, “I think you need someone more ready for a relationship than I am.” Code for: I’m not willing to grow with you at this time.

 “I love that you’re successful at work” becomes, “I need to be more successful at work.” (No decoding needed for this one).

“You’re so talented,” becomes, “I’m not good enough for you.” Code for: I’m generally insecure and don’t know what I want.

My perspective: What’s particularly dissonance creating/crazy making about these breakup reasons is that men typically say they want smart, stylish, mature, successful, talented women. I believe a lot of us are around, but they don’t know what to do with us.

I’m in my 30’s – we ALL have insecurities – but at this point we should know what they are, be able to discuss them honestly, and be working on them. A relationship does pull out many things in us, some ugly that perhaps we did not know were there, but I’m tired of being the one that makes men realize how much they need to “work on” themselves.

4. Men may say they need to work on themselves (alone), too be better (for you), but start dating someone else like a week after you (or they were already dating them).

My perspective: Working on ourselves is hard – harder than dating someone else.

5. It appears some men are willing to go through great lengths to be with some women. They’ll move across the country, they’ll change jobs, they rearrange their schedules, they may even change their diets, hair, hobbies, etc. But my roommate found this HILARIOUS meme that summed up what most men we’ve dated would say in response to even the smallest request from us:

“Uh…. It’s like daylight savings time, and I need to fill my car up with gas after work…and it might rain so, I just don’t think I can commit to you.” (Insert eyeroll and an um…what?)

Summary: Like almost every other female ten years ago, I read “He’s Just Not That Into You.” Perhaps everything I’ve written above is simply the 2019 version of that idea? No matter what someone says, if they leave you, “they’re just not that into you”?

We don’t need to talk in codes. We can be honest (while being kind) with ourselves and others. The more we do this, the less dissonance in our lives and the better we feel. The better we feel, the more kind and honest we can be, and the cycle continues. Yes, it’s harder to be honest than to tell half-truths and (white) lies – and yes, the full truth may sting more, but at least it will make sense and persons can move on. The more it makes sense, the less time needed ruminating on it trying to figure it out.

A big THANK YOU to those who have said they’d like me to keep writing. I will, and I am always excited to hear your thoughts and experiences. Please take a look back at older posts and let’s continue these dialogues.

And to those who would say: “Dr. J, you just need to date better men.” I would ask, Do you know where they are? (see post from October 2017). 😉

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