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Making A Case For, ‘Are You Happy?’

By Erika Ettin Tribune News Service

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As Dating expert Erika Ettin points out, "Somehow singledom always reflects poorly on the one being asked, as if that person is struggling in some way. Likely, he or she is A-okay and even, dare I say it?, happy on his or her own."

Tribune News Service

I know I often give a lot of practical advice when it comes to dating, what to write in your profile, which photos to choose, etc., but today I want to give advice on a larger scale: Ask people if they're happy.

In one of the latest episodes of my podcast, "So, We Met Online..." my co-host Chris and I discussed outside influences on our personal relationships. We talked about how people's curiosity (nosiness?) can actually influence you.

"Are you married?" "Are you dating?" "Still single?" The list goes on. People generally don't have ill intentions when asking these questions, but depending on the responder's current situation, it could come off as off-putting or even judgmental. It's as if the only "correct" answer is to say that you're in a committed relationship. End of story.

I know I'm a dating coach, and most of my clients want to be in a long-term committed relationship, and I want that for them.

They are taking all of the necessary steps to find one, hiring me for starters, dipping into the online dating pool, taking new photos, etc. Yet, they often complain to me that their friends are asking... ahem... nagging them about their dating life. I give the advice to try to tune out the noise, but that's often easier said than done.

It's like people, once they are paired up, become oblivious to the fact that there was a process to get there. There are trials and tribulations, starts and stops, dates and more dates. And, even when putting all of that work into the dating process, what no one can ever control is the other person in the relationship.

A potential client called me the other day. As she was about to sign up over the phone, she asked me, "Are you in a relationship?" Before I share my response, I want to discuss her rationale for asking. She is thinking, "Well, my dating coach should be in a relationship so I know that it works." I get that and don't blame anyone for being curious. Heck , I might be! And, of course, I've been in relationships... most of which came from online dating sites. It works. But 1) perhaps my goals are not those of my clients, and 2) the circumstances as to why my last relationship is no longer are far beyond anyone's business, especially a client.

For what it's worth, after eight months of dating last year, my then-boyfriend shared with me that he started dating too soon after the dissolution of his marriage, and that he no longer wanted to be someone's boyfriend.

I was disappointed, of course. But, ultimately, I can't control other people and their readiness. So we broke up. Yet, somehow singledom always reflects poorly on the one being asked, as if that person is struggling in some way. Likely, he or she is A-okay and even, dare I say it?, happy on his or her own. (Or working through things, which I highly recommend after any relationship ends.) In my own case, I could have been single as of yesterday or I could have had a partner who, god forbid, died. Or maybe I don't want a partner at all. "Are you in a relationship?" sizes people up in such a black and white manner. Life isn't black and white.

I replied to this potential client, "Is it important to you that someone you work with is in a relationship?" She said no. I said, "I understand that you want to know that the process works. Well, it certainly does." I went on to explain how I work with, and am successful with, my clients. That's what she wanted to know. And that I have personally been in relationships, the aforementioned one was someone I met on OkCupid, but I cannot control, as I said above, other people.

What I didn't say is that you want someone who knows the dating scene inside and out helping you date!

What does a person who married his or her high school sweetheart (technically "in a relationship") know about dating ... or Tinder?

What makes me sad is that a premium is put on being in a relationship, even a bad one, because people equate any relationship with "good."

Outside the context of my job, I would so much rather people ask, "Are you happy?" vs. "Are you in a relationship?"

I don't believe personal happiness should ever be tied to another person. Yes, being in a good relationship will certainly make life better, as it should, but it's not the end all be all. Life is more complicated than a simple yes or no. ___ (Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating)

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