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Welcome to A Millennial's Dating Diary series, where we explore real-life interactions and the hurdles of dating in Southeast Asia. The series will feature the dating stories and misadventures of Arika – a 26-year-old, straight female marketing manager with a penchant for over drinking — and fellow millennials.
Let’s begin by clarifying that I’m not the possessive, jealous type. I’m generally comfortable with my partner having female friends, and I’m not about to start a war with every girl my partner looks at. I might even occasionally nudge my partner to tell him about a hot girl I saw when we’re at a bar or restaurant.
So it came as a surprise to me when I started dating *Mark, 30, casually, and a mild pang of jealousy hit me like a train when he told me he was seeing other women as well.
I started doing the groundwork to figure out why I felt this way and what I needed to do if I still wanted to see him. I feel like my therapist would be so proud of me for doing this instead of going into an emotional spiral.
Was it because the other women were hot? Not really; I didn’t even know what these women looked like, what they worked as, or what they were like.
Was it because I was insecure about my looks? I’m not the most attractive woman around, but I’m also not unattractive.
Was it because I was already emotionally attached to this person? Heh… maybe.
Was it because I wanted a relationship? Not really, no. I’m casually dating other people too.
What was it about this person and his harem of women that triggered me so?
After a few honest (but hard) conversations with the man in question, I realised that it was because I just wanted to be in the first place.
I’m competitive, and I always want to be first — you can attribute this to my Asian upbringing — in pretty much everything I do. This trait served me well in school and now at work, but, as you can imagine, my competitive streak could wreak havoc if not kept in check.
Growing up, my mother was always comparing me to others. This was her (very twisted) way of motivating me to do better in life. “Danielle got a 90. Why can’t you?” my mum would say about her friend’s child when I failed my math exam. “Danielle’s such a good girl! She’s so obedient and such a polite kid,” she’d often say whenever I misbehaved. My mum’s bad habit of comparing led to two things:
I hated the hell out of Danielle and her buck-tooth-face. (I heard she got braces, so all’s good!)
I emerged with an unhealthy need to please others.
In some weird (and again, twisted) way, this emotional childhood baggage has followed me through my adult years and reared its ugly head in my relationships.
My friend *Mandy, 28, knows for a fact she can’t date casually. “What’s the point of dating if it’s not for marriage, right?” she says. Of course, Mandy and I have completely different wants and needs, and neither of us is wrong or right.
So, how do I stop myself from wanting to throw myself off a bridge when the guy I’m interested in is casually seeing other women as well?
Firstly, I needed to be honest with him (and myself) about why I was feeling this way. I openly shared my childhood traumas, fully aware that he might run away knowing these things about me.
Thankfully (and unfortunately for him), he didn’t run. Instead, he acknowledged my insecurities and reassured me that I was not “second place”. This kind human being has since also been telling me all the small things he appreciates about me and my strange habits.
Secondly, I needed to stop asking self-sabotaging questions. This means no questions about the other women, where he’s been or asking things I know will trigger me. The problem is, I sometimes forget and still ask. Thankfully, even though he’s sincere, he often reminds me not to ask questions for things I don’t want the answers to. He also reminds me that I’m seeing other people as well and that I can’t be a hypocrite. What an annoying prick.
Thirdly, I needed to work on myself. I can’t control who he’s choosing to see or what he’s choosing to do, but I can control my emotions and reaction. Getting involved with him was my decision to make, and it doesn’t make sense to blame him if I choose to over-romanticise our relationship. All I could ask of him is to be honest with me and put in the effort — all of which he’s already doing and then some.
Dating casually almost always has a bad reputation, but it doesn’t always have to be terrible if you have open and honest communication with the person you’re seeing. It also helps if you’re honest with yourself, your wants, and your needs. Of course, our relationship is in its infancy, so not much has happened, but check back in a few weeks for updates. :)
*Names have been changed to protect their identity
Balancing the New Normal: