When It Comes to Dating I'm Hard, Emotionless, and Completely OK With That

dating while emotionless
Oren Aks/Thrillist

I won't say I'm good at dating, per se; but I'm no stranger to the tradition's most basic expectations. I show up to dates in a timely manner, dress my best, and do what I can to appear interested, charismatic, and friendly. I stay off my phone (most of the time). Hell, I even read The Rules when I was a teenager.

But I'm also not particularly emotional. I don’t cry at Nicholas Sparks movies, beam with joy over flowers, or have deep "we need to talk" conversations. It's not because I'm trying to be a cool girl, I'm not a bitch, and this is not an act. But while serious guys come across as mysterious and attractive, my lack of emotion has led to a lot of disappointment from the dudes I date.

That sucks -- but it's not going to change the fact that I just don't feel exceptionally emotive around issues of the heart. Here's why.

Emotional intimacy doesn't occur on a timeline

In my dating tenure, I’ve picked up on some basic heteronormative expectations. There's a consistent pattern of people believing emotional intimacy happens on a timeline, and we’re all supposed to hit specific points along the way. First date: share our happy times, interests, and minor pet peeves. Second date: divulge that time at work when we felt mad and regretted it, and/or share a small token of pain from our childhood. Third date: there’s a small catch in our voices as we trade our biggest heartbreaks. By this time, it’s been a month -- and most guys I’ve dated think I’m ready to cry and share some secrets.

But this isn’t how my emotions -- or life -- work. Somewhere around the third date, I usually get dumped because I seem closed off. But I’m not here for the short-term! I want the forever, best-friend kind of deal. And I need more than a few dates to make that connection with someone. Life isn't a two-hour, neatly sewn-up Lifetime movie. Let's be real here.  

Fact: if you’re dealing with someone who seems kind of serious or distant, but they keep spending time with you, they enjoy your company. Chances are, you’re already a lot farther along than most people have gotten. Opening up is a slow process for women like me -- but when we do, we're all in. That kind of loyalty and vulnerability isn't given out casually.

'Emotionlessness' is a misnomer

Of course, no person is devoid of emotion. Many of us just process our feelings differently. When one man broke up with me and I laughed at him (not my proudest moment for sure), it wasn’t because I didn't feel anything -- conversely, by that time I was just so disappointed in our relationship that I expected nothing from him.

I am what I am, and feel what I feel. Most of those emotions are catalogued in an OCD label-maker kind of organization, in which I distinguish specific emotions and when and how to show them. Some people have a natural comfort within their own skin and can let themselves go at any moment with any person. People who come across as lacking emotions have a more difficult time doing that. And sometimes, it's just as simple as figuring out simpler ways to make our ‘ice-cold hearts’ melt. (Chubby animal pictures on Instagram. Every time.)

Being tough is part of my survival strategy

I work as a travel writer and photographer, so I spend a lot of my time wandering the world alone, finding my way alone, and trying not to get myself killed. Not only that, but every time I show up to a shoot I have to re-earn respect from male counterparts.

Basically, I have to be tough. All the time. So I don’t get ripped off in the cab. Or get pegged as an ‘emotional female’ if I cry from exhaustion. And just to get picked up for another job. It's become part of who I am -- not some part of me I click off and on. And it's not like armor, that when peeled away exposes some three-ply Charmin softness.

On the plus side, I am one hell of a person to have around in an emergency. And to ask for practical advice. And to travel with. And depend on. And a million other things.

It’s not all or nothing with someone like me

For some reason if a girl is emotional and cries all the time, but then toughens up and stands up to her boss, guys understand. But if a girl who is tough and hard tries to show affection, it’s not allowed. I remember crying in front of my guy friends once. They froze in fear.

My more typical version of showing I care is stocking your favorite beer in my fridge and cleaning up that one area of my apartment you hate. I get it, it’s not showering you in kisses or sending heart and smiley emojis.

Please don’t make me do that shit. Please. I’ll set my alarm for you in the morning, and get you coffee the way you like it. That, my friends, is my version of love; in the actions, in the details. If your name is in my phone, I talk to you, and make time for you, YOU MEAN SOMETHING TO ME. I just happen to be more comfortable high-fiving than holding hands.

And best of all, I'm completely drama-free

All right, so there are some tough breaks in the dating world when you’re a little tougher, harder, or less emotional than the average girl. But the best part of dating someone like me is enjoying a drama-free relationship.

I’m not saying I don’t ever feel jealous or get fixated on issues. But I definitely don't let those moments run my life or ruin my relationships. I might take longer to open up to someone, but once I'm in, I'm in. Problems and arguments get addressed and corrected. I'm devoted. I'm honest. And I don't fake my vulnerability.

Most guys react in one of two ways: happiness or disenchantment. Those demonstrating the former are undoubtedly keepers.

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Jennifer Hope Miller is a freelance writer for Thrillist, wandering Caribbean photographer, and master of awkwardly unemotional dating moments.