When it comes to relationships, there are always two sides of my brain that are constantly at war. My feminist brain is telling me, “Daisy, you are a strong independent woman, you don’t need a man, you owe your success to you and you, alone. You are so fulfilled, even when you’re not in a relationship.” And then the other brain, who has watched one too many romcoms and stayed too long in the Valentine’s Day aisle in Sainsbury’s, says “All of your achievements will feel meaningless without a partner who you can share the happiness with.” And it’s a tough old tightrope to tread.
Being a feminist who is dating can be a bit of a minefield because you don’t want to compromise your basic belief system, but it can often be quite difficult to find a partner who treats you the way you want. Many feminists find themselves in disappointing long-term relationships because they had to compromise their morals to be able to continue dating. So, how do we date in a post-feminist world? What are the pitfalls and mistakes that every feminist on the verge of a great love story makes? How can we successfully date while avoiding casual misogyny and compromising our morals?
Here are some ideas that might help:
Don’t compromise on the big things.
I’m not saying that you should have a list with absolutely everything you want in a dream partner, but if there are definite non-negotiables then make sure that anyone who has the potential to be your partner ticks the right boxes. If your political standing is really important to you for example, and you know you would clash with someone who disagrees with your views, then you need to factor that in when you’re dating. In the modern feminist’s case, you need to believe that you’re worthy of a partner who treats you with the respect you deserve.
Take the initiative.
As a straight, cisgender woman, it could be very easily expected of me to take the backseat when I’m dating and let the man take initiative. However, I try to be more dynamic when I’m dating. Whichever gender or sexuality you are, it might be time to ask your crush out yourself, take the pressure off of them to do it, who knows? They might just say yes.
Don’t conform to heteronormative gender roles.
The main drive of feminism has always been equality. This means that to be in a successful feminist relationship, it has to be a relationship built on mutual respect. All relationships are different, but one person doesn’t have to be the ‘man’ and the other the ‘woman’ for a relationship to work. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter who pays the bill at the restaurant or does the dishes as long as the financial and physical labour doesn’t fall onto one person because it’s tradition.
Don’t ditch your mates.
This one should be a given, but a person in a new relationship does sometimes tend to get love tunnel vision. Especially in the first few months of dating, the person who you love can have absolutely no faults in your besotted eyes and so established friendships can fall away. Friends can offer an alternative view without the rose-tinted glasses and can be the voice of reason that you need to hear because they have your best interests at heart. If you’re struggling in your relationship, it’s important to have people to talk about it with and get an alternative opinion.
Don’t ignore red flags.
This one is really important. If you’re on a date with someone and they do or say something that makes you uncomfortable, then you are under no obligation to carry on with the date. If a red flag rears its ugly head further on in an established relationship, discuss with your partner the issue you have and if they won’t compromise, then remove yourself from the situation. Don’t change what you can tolerate based on who you’re dating.
See how your partner treats their loved ones.
A lot can be said for seeing how your potential partner treats those closest to them. Also, ask them about past romantic and sexual relationships. If all your date’s exes were ‘crazy’, then maybe think about the correlating factor in all of those relationships.
Be open and honest.
Communication is the key to any relationship, and it would be remiss to not have it on this list! If you find that there are issues that need addressing, bring them up. Don’t suffer in silence or give your partner the silent treatment. Good communication can stop arguments before they happen because it keeps situations from snowballing too quickly.
Set clear boundaries.
If your partner is pushing the boundaries of what makes you feel safe and comfortable then they don’t respect you. Consent is really important and if your partner doesn’t hear the word ‘no’ then reach out to others for help to get out of that relationship. You should never feel scared or threatened when you’re with your partner.
Make sure you are putting in an equal amount of effort.
Relationships are not always plain sailing and they do require attention and effort invested in them in order to thrive. If you are putting in 100% of your effort into maintaining a healthy relationship, but you are receiving no effort back, then re-evaluate your role in the relationship. A lot of people stay in unhappy relationships because they believe that they can’t do better. If this is the case, discuss it with your partner and ask them about whether they want the relationship as much as you do.
The number of people meeting online has skyrocketed which could be seen as a generally good thing, meaning you can expand your dating horizons far wider than your hometown or your college course. Let your friends know where you’re going if you are meeting someone new and share your live location with someone you trust.
Hopefully, some of these tips will help you navigate the difficult world of dating and relationships. TLDR? Don’t settle for anyone! Good luck, feminists!