Why it’s just not cool, to be chill.

When it comes to dating, being “chill” has climbed the ranks as a highly coveted, basically non-negotiable quality that our romantic partners should possess. Wait. Did I say dating? I meant “hanging out.” Or “talking to.” Or “chillin with…”

Sorry, I’m not sure… 

A few minutes on Tindr, Hitch, or Cupid, will render incontrovertible evidence that if you are not CHILL, then you might as well be dead. 

Wait, what’s that? You’re honest and fun? Understanding and ambitious? You have amazing personal hygiene, great friends, and breasts that men and women alike would murder their grandmother to get their hands on? Doesn’t matter. If you’re not chill, then, well, good luck to you.  

A culture of “chill” has invaded out modern dating climate.

Checking the weather? Don’t bother. It’s chill. It’s always chill. 

But what exactly is this chill, and why do we, as self-aware, conscious couplers care? According to Amazing Amy, from Gillian Flynn’s, Gone Girl…

"Being the Cool Girl means I am a … woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth … while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are, above all, hot. Hot and understanding. … Go ahead, shit on me, I don't mind, I'm the Cool Girl."

Some of us actually do love hot dogs and anal sex. 

We love poker and have as many threesomes as we do hamburgers (which we also love). But what if you prefer wine to beer, charades to poker, Pinterest to Porn, and boring old twosomes to threesomes? Can you still be chill? Can you still even date? 

As a couples therapist, I consider “chill,” a most troubling trend in the dating world. In my clients, it shows up as an ethos of passivity and lack of boundaries; An internalized pressure to pretend that we are cooly, unaffected, by everything that happens in our relationships, no matter how upsetting. 

It sounds like this:

“Oh, its no big deal that you showed up 20 minutes late for our date.” “It’s totally fine that you didn’t return my text, even though I saw you updating Facebook.” “Oh, a monsoon is coming and it’s going kill us all? Let’s just finish our PBR first.” 

In the course of dating, especially early in the relationship, it can be difficult to gauge what your expectations should be. It’s OK to give the benefit of the doubt, or assume good will. In fact, those things are necessary if you’re going to have a fulfilling connection. The problem occurs when the pressure to be chill, overshadows your boundaries, leaving you hot dog rich, but self-esteem poor.  

And here’s the irony: Chill turns you into a hot coal of burning lava. 

It makes your blood boil. It blazes inside you like brushfire, indiscriminately burning. everything. down. That’s the thing with pretending…YOU’RE PRETENDING! Your date might not know it, but your body sure does. 

Your blood pressure knows. The cortisol raging through your veins knows.  And the panic that looms right underneath the surface, definitely knows. 

Personally, I’ve never liked chill. My heart melts for fiery, Mt. Vesuvius humans who are passionate and opinionated about nearly everything. Of course they know what they want for dinner. Of course they care if your ex texts you at 3am. And watch out, because they’ll freak if they find out you don’t recycle. 

My partner is not chill. I am not chill. We can both be reactive and thoughtful, opinionated, and argumentative. In response to “do you want burritos tonight”, she told me “she would die” if I brought one home. 

This is not chill.  But it’s also not confusing or vague. It’s not open to guesswork, or based on the belief that our opinions, tastes and preferences are only there to sabotage relationships.  

The thing is, that many of us are shooting for chill (as in, “how can I pretend this doesn’t bother me”), when what we actually want to achieve is emotional resilience. 

Emotional resilience is a house you can live in, while chill is a camping tent, pitched inside the eye of a tornado. 

From a gestalt perspective, chill is nothing more than a persona, or a mask that you’re developing, at the expense of the person underneath that mask. Emotional Resilience, however, helps you develop a part of you that is true and lasting. 

It’s somewhere in between being swallowed up by your feelings and ignoring them altogether. 

  • Chill is denying that there is such a thing as a bad time //  Emotional resilience (ER) is perceiving bad times as temporary states of affairs. 
  • Chill values rigidity: everything is always fine // ER values flexibility: sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't! 
  • Chill lies about, or can’t identify boundaries // ER knows and can communicate boundaries. 
  • Chill is focused on what others think of them // ER sticks with self-awareness. 
  • Chill hates the unknown more than anything, but pretends not to // ER can sit in the unknown, even in discomfort. 
  • Chill is deathly afraid that they aren’t enough as they are // ER knows they are enough, no matter what (or who).
  • Chill spends all its time in its head // ER has learned not to over-think things. 

On the outside, emotional resilience, may still look like you’re going with the flow, being flexible and understanding. But it comes from a place of choice rather than fear. And most importantly, Emotional Resilience will help you have lasting and more fulfilling relationships with people who actually like you, value your opinions AND your Pinterest boards. 

It might not be the chillest, but it sure is cool. 

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