Smart Relationships

Dating and relating in the modern world

Getting Going After a Really Slow Start

An introduction to Smart Relationships.

Last March I received an email from Psychology Today asking if I wanted to have a blog on their site. I immediately said, “Yes!,” because, well, why wouldn’t I want a blog on their site?

They asked me to write specifically about dating and relationships – could I do that? “Of course,” I said, because I could. But then when it came time to actually do it, to put words to paper, I didn’t. Something else was always more important or I just couldn’t find the time.

Now, fast-forward seven months, and here I am finally writing my first post.

I realized last night that my approach to writing the blog was actually very similar to the time – both of them – that I actually decided to take the plunge into the world of on-line dating. Essentially, I was petrified. All of the negative thoughts and doubts that I had about myself came rushing forward with a vengeance: Am I good enough? Will I have anything to say? Will I sound like an idiot? I’m not even a psychologist. What if no one clicks my link?

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And, underneath all of that: what if no one likes me?

I was scared. Scared of being wrong. Scared of being laughed at. Scared of being rejected. Scared of not being enough.

So, who am I to be writing a blog on relationships? While it is true that I am not a psychologist, I am a sociologist who studies social psychology. That means that I teach and do research on the self, social interaction, and the ways in which our beliefs – both our individual beliefs and those shared by the broader society –affect our behavior and thoughts about ourselves, others, and relationships.

I also study emotion. I am particularly interested in the relationship between emotion and identity, how societies affect emotion, and how emotions arise during the course of our daily interactions – especially interactions with friends and loved ones.

I also teach a college course called “Love, Dating, Intimacy and Romance,” that bridges topics from virginity to marriage, and deals not only with issues relevant to college students, such as hooking up and dating, but also helps them to bridge the gap between college dating and marriage – especially given recent demographic and market changes that have the potential to upend traditional gender roles, by placing the more and more women in the role of breadwinner.

That said I am also a wife. At the age of 41, I married the man of my dreams. I met him on Match.com. He’s my best friend and partner in life. We have a very conscious relationship and whenever we meet new people one of the first things out of their mouths is, “you guys have great energy,” “you’re such an amazing couple,” “he loves you so much,” or some other variation on the theme. Some of my previous students have approached my husband and I to do pre-marriage counseling, which was both exciting and humbling.

And finally, I belong to a tribe of really conscious women. These women, many of whom are entrepreneurs, include business coaches, health coaches, energy workers, and healers. They work with others – primarily women – to help them create the lives they want. They are also committed to raising the consciousness of the planet; some of them do it by helping their clients deepen their relationship with their bodies, others do it by deepening their relationship with money, others do it by deepening their relationship with spirit, and others do it be deepening their relationships, period. Needless to say, all of these women are excellent sources of knowledge for me as I bring my own brand of expertise to bear on these issues.

So I will be drawing on these three sources: decades of academic research on social psychology and emotion, personal anecdotes of what works in my own life, and the collective wisdom of my tribe.

The name of this blog is Smart Relationships: Dating and Relating in the Modern World, but I must admit, it’s probably going to be heavier on the relating side than the dating side. Why? The simple reason being that you can’t date without knowing how to relate. And there is no way you can be in be in relationship without relating.

Further, the most important relating that you will ever do – whether your goal is getting that perfect partner, getting that raise, getting that body you always wanted, or making that career move – is learning to relate to yourself.

It’s worth repeating: The most important relationship that you can have is the one with yourself. It took me years to get this.

It is my sincere desire that by drawing attention to the broader social forces that cause us to act and react the way we do, you will be able to improve your relationship with yourself, your friends, your family, and all of your loved ones in all sorts of situations.

 

Kathryn Lively, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Dartmouth College and is co-author of Selves, Symbols, and Social Reality.

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