Love and Relationships

[Two Pronged] Dating difficulties

Margarita Holmes, Jeremy Baer
[Two Pronged] Dating difficulties
'Those I am very much attracted to don’t want to commit. The guys who want to commit, I am not very attracted to.'

Rappler’s Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.

Jeremy has a master’s degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives

Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.

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Dear Dr. Holmes and Mr. Baer,

I have been dating and want to be in a relationship. However, those I am very much attracted to don’t want to commit. The guys who want to commit, I am not very attracted to. What does this mean? HELP!


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Dear Tina,

Thank you for your letter.

Dating has been problematic since time immemorial. We have “progressed” from the olden days of being restricted to members of our tribe or locality, via arranged marriages often based on political, financial, or religious considerations, to dating in the pursuit of love and/or sex. 

In many but definitely not all countries, there are now apps that enable us to filter out the unsuitable and hone in on whatever our dream date may be.

Of course dating is not the real problem. The real problem is successful dating, finding the right person. We are each of us unique people, no two alike even if we are twins. We each have our own definition of what is attractive, what is moral, what is funny, etc. And often these cannot be accurately described in a way that would help us winnow the wheat (good dating prospects) from the chaff (the rest).

We can learn a lot as the dating process progresses. We identify the attributes that we want in a partner – height, weight, other physical characteristics, education, religion, career, etc. but often the whole process is thrown into reverse because we may meet someone who does not fit what we thought of as the “ideal” yet nevertheless attracts us.

This can shatter a methodical approach to any selection process.

All this and we have not yet even considered the reaction of our date. They are going through a similar process which is also veering from methodical to haphazard. They also value say a sense of humor, certain politics, have a desire for children, whatever.

But their definition of many of the desired attributes may have the same label but be defined quite differently. Certainly sense of humor and also morality fall in this category. At the end of the day, we can try to select but nothing will truly prepare us for the real thing except meeting the person and all too often the reality is a disappointment.

Lessons can be learnt. Experience can help but persistence is key. Chances of success can be immeasurably increased if you are over time prepared to adjust your criteria in the face of what the market has to offer. For example you may be attracted to men who are very tall, say six foot six, but they are in short supply and compromises may be needed. 

Decide what attributes are essential and what are optional extras that would be nice but can be given up if the rest of the package so warrants.

Above all, remember that practice may not make perfect but it can go a long way towards perfection.

Best of luck,

JAF Baer

Dear Tina:

Thank you very much for your letter, which represents what many women seem to experience at some (if not many) point(s) in their lives. Usually, at roughly the same time, many men might write its very opposite: “Help! I don’t want to be in a relationship (just yet). But every woman I want to hang out with wants to and the ones I don’t want to hang out with want to even more.”

Since your question seems more general than specific in nature, allow me to go evolutionary on you: Your dilemma is what Richard Dawkins wrote in 1976 about our genes being selfish (Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, Oxford University Press). 

Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene was no mean feat, by the way. It has been listed as THE most influential science book of all time by other scientists in the Royal Society. Imagine that! THE most influential book of ALL time, ahead of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species and even Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica!

The Royal Society is shorthand for The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge and is the UK’s National Academy of Sciences.

Thus, The Selfish Gene’s conclusion is that women are hardwired to want committed relationships and men hardwired to have as many “relationships” as they can (this increases their probability of siring as many children as possible). Your letter encapsulates this very idea in modern times. Yes, yes, despite the advent of birth control and, even more happily, the more liberal concepts and actions supporting gender equality, sexual orientation, goals of relationships, gender roles etc.

It sounds like your dilemma has most to do with patience. On the one hand, at this stage in your psychological/emotional life, it might be better to be impatient and give up dating for a while. Depending on where you are at right now, this might be the better option.

However, on the other hand, if you have the time, the energy, and most of all, the desire, then hang on because it may all be worth it. Not necessarily on dating apps or blind dates set up by friends, but on keeping an open mind.  Hang on because one man (or many) – the kind you want to have a relationship with – will see the light and want  the same thing.

All the best,

MG Holmes