Too soon?: Why men use terms of affection so early in the dating process…

When the dots are too much…

I typically hear the phrase “’I miss you” or “I’ll miss you” when saying goodbye. Sometimes I say it if I haven’t seen or spoken to someone in a long time, the implication being that I wished we connected more often. I also say it to significant partners, which can be scary but also exciting because it often signals the deepening of the relationship.

Hugs and saying “I love you” come easily, however, I use the word “miss” quite sparingly. In my mind, it is linked with a groundswell of feelings that are distinct from those associated with love, feelings like longing, relationality, nostalgia, and sometimes a sense of loss or even guilt.

My orientation to “miss” seems to diverge from that of most guys I’ve met or dated, many of whom use it right out of the gate. I’m always surprized when a man I’ve met a couple of times and rarely communicate about anything substantive with says he misses me. How, sir? What does he really mean?

The sad, the bad, and the compelling: Hyper-intimacy unpacked

“Babe” or “babes” and “boo” also pop up soon in dating convos. How can I be “babe” when we JUST matched, haven’t even met yet, and are both talking to a bunch of other people? I think this hyper intimacy may be linked with our accessibility to one another via dating apps and tendency to get right to the sexual chit-chat.  There may be some more subterranean forces at work, too.

When asked about their rapid use of such terms, most men say it keeps communication fresh. For some, it’s also a way to depersonalize the dating pool. If we’re all ‘babe’ versus individual women with unique names, it’s easier to ghost, gaslight, and engage in the general douchery that pervades all the platforms (and yes, I know that women do these things too).  

Although it might sound sad and/or bad, many men also “babe-ify” their dates to protect themselves from being dumped or cheated on, which they see as inevitable. Keep it light to stay in the game without significant heartbreak, so the story goes. In these instances, “miss” and “babe” are sometimes used to test the waters – does she like me? – and navigate dating risks.

Cultivating dating courage

Beneath these choppy dating waters lie men’s real sexual desires, which they are often uncomfortable to voice. Despite what they say or “like” publicly, guys usually want more than the Cardi B body and red-bottom shoes attitude.  I’ve spoken with many guys who lament how money and celebrity-focused some women are, which makes them feel financially inadequate and typically hastens their emotional retreat.

A rather messy Venn diagram of modern romance emerges, with one circle representing women working hard to achieve cookie cutter lives/bodies they’re told that men like and may help them reap success. In another circle, we have men superficially buying into these idealized norms while secretly wanting something closer to reality. Atop these overlapping spheres are the tensions that impact all of us, the social messaging about being our best selves and the harsh reality that our culture isn’t yet ready to receive us in all of our uniqueness.

It’s no wonder men (and others) use intimate terms so quickly to mask vulnerable feels and expedite the dangers, real and perceived, associated with love/lust/romance. The sooner we move through the pile, the sooner we…do what? The sooner we accumulate what…exactly?

Finding ways to resist these homogenizing trends seems vital if we want to experience the gushy, cool, powerful effects that come with showing ourselves more in our love lives, and beyond. Perhaps one of our shared projects during these strange minutes and weeks of social separation is to map out what this will look like. 

Do you fear the, “I miss you text,” because of what it can or could symbolize? What’s your texting kryptonite? #HMU with those messages that keep you awake at night.