“We are all fools in love,” author Jane Austen once eloquently penned 1 . Imagine what her reaction would be after sitting through a few YSA speed dating activities.
The truth is that the search for love in the singles ward isn’t all that different from how it is in a Jane Austen novel. There’s the ward Mr. Darcy, whom every girl in the ward wants to date, but who, for some reason, doesn’t want to date one girl in the ward. There’s the ward Lydia Bennet, who’s too boy crazy for her own good and probably winks at all the elders passing the sacrament. There’s the stunningly beautiful and — stunningly — still single ward Jane Bennet, who all the other girls want to be. And then there’s the ward Mr. Collins.
Oh, the ward Mr. Collins.
If you aren’t well-versed in Austen, Mr. Collins is the “dreaded cousin” in Pride and Prejudice who is expected to both inherit the Bennet home when Mr. Bennet dies and marry one of the man’s daughters. He’s an awkward and shallow man with the tendency to make everyone in a room immediately feel uncomfortable. He uses flattery like it’s going out of style and pursues women like they are, too. Nobody really wants to date or marry Mr. Collins, and the one woman who does end up marrying him only does because she wants to move out of her parents’ basement. Romantic, eh?
As much as I hate to say it, if you’re a young man reading this article, there’s a slight chance that you’re your ward’s Mr. Collins. You, like he, might be sabotaging your own efforts to find your eternal companion without even realizing it. And that’s a really bad thing, because THE PLAN.
So, for the sake of your future potential dates and personal exaltation, here are a few tips on how to avoid being your ward’s Mr. Collins.
1. Give your ward crush space.
We get it. Liking a person is a pretty big deal. It makes you feel light-headed and stupid happy. Whenever you see that special someone at an activity, you just want to rush to their side and be there with them always. Though that’s an admirable desire that will serve you well in your eternal marriage, it can be a bad plan before you’ve begun dating a person, especially if that person hasn’t communicated that they like you. Most girls like to socialize and mingle with lots of people at activities, so asking to be with one all night is potential relationship suicide that might make her extremely uncomfortable. If she says yes, but she’s taking lots of “bathroom breaks” and lots of “trips to talk with her friends,” chances are she’s not into ya, man. I’m sorry.
Say hello to that girl you think is fine. See how she’s doing. But give her some space to do her own thing. Don’t monopolize her time, but hand her a hint of how her time could be spent to keep her interested, then move on. Less is more, and in situations like this, it’s ALWAYS more.
2. Tone down the flattery.
Flattery is a two-edged sword in the world of courtship. On the one hand, most girls really love compliments, but if all you ever talk to a girl about is the violence of your affections for her, expect to get shut down pretty quickly.
You might be a Wordsworthian wordsmith who can write sonnets in his sleep and quote Shakespeare easier than most people can count to ten. That’s definitely impressive, and once you’re in a long-term, committed relationship, you go for it. But in the beginning stages of any relationship with a girl, sincerity and simplicity usually mean a lot more than carefully constructed flattery. Just as important is making sure that you can use the same words in real life that you use when you text or message someone. Make your words sincere and make them count. Compliment her, but don’t overdo it.
3. Control your eye contact.
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that brief eye contact between two acquaintances is only a few seconds away from being socially unacceptable. Staring is not caring, guys. Staring is scaring. most of us girls have seen way too many Criminal Minds and Castle episodes to not feel uncomfortable when someone looks at us for too long. It’s certainly okay to look at the people you like — how awkward would it be to not do that? But most of us girls have seen way too many Criminal Minds and Castle episodes to not feel uncomfortable when someone looks at us for too long. Make sure all of your eye, and for that matter, physical contact is respectful. It’s best to avoid doing anything that may make another person feel uncomfortable.
4. Respect the ‘no.’
Sometimes, after you’ve mustered enough guts to ask that lady you’ve been likin’ from a distance to go on a date, you’re told ‘no.’ You might be tempted to get upset, after all, she might not even know that she could really like you some day. If you can’t know someone by one date, how can she expect to know you by none? It’s a valid point, and you may press her a bit to get the answer you want, because all elegant females just say ‘no’ to keep men in suspense, right? She couldn’t possibly actually mean no.
Well…yes. She could, and disregarding her feelings is a bad plan.
Though persistence is a really great quality to have — many a Darcy and Elizabeth-esque relationship has come from one person who kept trying — lack of consideration for another person’s lack of interest is not. A girl may have good reasons for declining, or she may not, but remember that she doesn’t owe you a date, because agency. The choice is hers alone to make.
It’s okay, though. Don’t take it too personally if she says ‘no.’ Move on and search for love in other places! If a girl doesn’t want to go out with you now, she might change her mind and express interest later. Even if she doesn’t, there is many a fine and accomplished young lady to be found in the world.
5. Make your dating life about the girls you date, not about you.
When you find a fine and accomplished young lady who accepts your invitation to go on a date, make sure you don’t pull a Mr. Collins and focus only on your own needs. A Mr. Collins date might go as follows: “A’right. We’re going to go see this movie that I want to see and go to this restaurant that I really like, and we’re going to talk about what I want to talk about.”
make sure you don’t pull a Mr. Collins and focus only on your own needs. One thing that separates Mr. Collins from Mr. Darcy is that he’s far less willing to sacrifice his own desires to make the women in his life happy. Darcy, in contrast, does whatever he can to satisfy his leading lady’s needs, and he goes out of his way to make her happy. Even when Elizabeth puts him in the Last Man in the World Whom I Could Ever be Prevailed Upon to Marry Zone and his own needs aren’t being met at all, he’s meeting hers. That right there is love, my friends.
Too often, we go about dating thinking, “How can I satisfy myself? How can I have a date that I will enjoy?” Well, if we want to eventually have an eternal marriage that works, we’ve got to start thinking in terms of, “How can I satisfy them? How can I make this a date that they will enjoy?” For heaven’s sake, have a plan when you ask someone out, but make your date more than just the person you’re picking up to spend money on. Her needs are important, too, so forget yourself and go to work.
6. Be yourself. Mostly.
The fatal flaw of Mr. Collins was that he tried too hard to sound cool, distinguished, and attractive to people. He had a nice job and a wealthy boss and he could kind of dance, so he thought that if he talked those things up enough, girls would find him interesting. The truth is that he spent so much time trying to live up to prestige and titles, no one ever really got to know him.
Don’t be like Mr. Collins. Don’t feel like you always need to impress people for them to like you. Just do your thing and own it. Be yourself. Make sure, however, that you’re a good, enjoyable person to be around. If “being yourself” means you settle on being rude, unsociable, creepy, or unhappy, then try to be better. Live up to the best in yourself. One day someone will fall in love with that best self. You’ve just got to help her see it and then keep working at being it. And that’s THE PLAN.
These tips won’t solve all of your dating woes, and they won’t make you a Mr. Darcy, but they will make you less of a fool in love and maybe a bit more cool in love.