Bae Challenge: Why TDB's Founder Took The Challenge
As the founder of the Thirty Day Bae experiment, I felt the need to better understand the project that we’ve funneled people through and to gain empathy for what Thirty Day Bae participants have offered to the dating world.
Admittedly, these noble purposes were prompted by questions like, “Well, would any of you (Thirty Day Bae team) do this?”
The only answer with any integrity is “yes.”
And thus was born the need to try my own experiment.
First things first. After thirty days of dating a near stranger and writing about it for everyone to read, I want to say to each Thirty Day Bae participant up until now: I see you, I hear you, and I thank you. I’ve hugged you all, but I want to hug you again. You are brave.
To everyone else, fans, critics, and beyond, I dare say… you should try it. Like try a thirty day baeship. That is, if you happen to be single (*important*) and want to learn something new about yourself in relationships. And I don’t even necessarily recommend that you do it through the official Thirty Day Bae program. I don’t care if you never apply to our program or refuse to read any of our future seasons.
I just mean try dating someone, intentionally, wholeheartedly, fully committed for thirty days (barring toxic, dangerous or sociopathic behaviors) before making a decision about that person. Then let the cards fall as they may.
And for those interested in the origin story of my baeship, Herb and I technically met outside of an elevator a long time ago. We re-met through the Thirty Day Bae interview process. Apparently, the day after his interview he told someone that he’d like to date me because we had “similar vibes.” He wasn’t chosen for the season. But he later asked me on a date. It was very fun. During that date I floated the idea of doing a Thirty Day Baeship partly to get street cred and partly just to date him because he was cool. He was in.
And finally. Before getting to the “lessons learned” section -- which by the way is the actual purpose of this experiment -- here are the basics that some will want to know: Herb (Herbastank) and I got along really well. Like really well. Despite our different religious backgrounds and sharply diverging political viewpoints, it was honestly a pretty easy, grand old, hilarious time. But it was not perfect, and we had things to work through. Still, it was good enough that before the timeclock ended we decided to stay together after the experiment. However, we are no longer dating. We are on good terms as friends.
What I Learned
Communication might be > than compatibility
I’d like to take this opportunity to pat myself and Herb on the back for being A+ superstars in the area of communication. Even our relationship coach Emily (we love you Emily) was like, “You guys are perfect communicators. Why are you even here wasting my night? Get out.” Just kidding. But she did say we had a great communication skills with each other and that we probably didn’t need a final appointment because we could figure things out ourselves. Still proud of that.
Alright, here it is...In some ways, I’m confused by compatibility. Is compatibility a list of things you have in common? Is it a set of differences that complement each other? Is it that you just jibe in some indescribable way? Is it just a stupid word? I don’t know. But I’ve come to believe that no amount of “compatibility” in a relationship can avoid deep pitfalls if one or both is a terrible communicator and makes life miserable for the other person. The mysterious compatibility may not ever be changed, but communication skills can be learned.
Which is why I think communication can overcome at least some compatibility issues.
I’m not going to lie, there was a lot of potential for major conflict between me and Herb. Like I mentioned, we don’t share a similar religious faith or childhood experiences or political ideology (can confirm that we discussed the 2016 election and didn’t yell or swear or call names). And actually, all of these differences tumbled out right at the beginning, and I thought “this is either going to end like right now or I’m going to learn it has some lasting power because we can disagree well.” Turns out we disagree well.
We had other challenges as well and there were times when I was frustrated by the process or disappointed by interactions, but we were both willing to talk, genuinely listen, find a way forward and then move on. Were we super compatible? In some ways probably and in other ways probably not. After all I’m a Gemini and he struggles with Geminis (Herb taught me about astrology and was patient with my skepticism). But we talked through things really well and it kinda just worked despite the other stuff.
Having witnessed several Thirty Day Baeships up close and now having been in one, I know that the process is strange, and sometimes awkward, and uncomfortable because you’re like, “Who even is this person that I’m spending a whole month with?” Or sometimes you realize that you aren’t “compatible” in some very important way and it feels like a deal breaker, and it’s disorienting because you’re already in it. But I think that in the end, good communication skills can overcome or soften some of those conflicts. At least that’s what I experienced during my lovely time with Herb.
There are different types of “commitment”
Listen, you’d think that having built an entire dating social experiment around commitment as a variable to be played with and studied, I’d know what commitment means. Nope! Commitment has different meanings and applications.
Turns out that in my baeship I had “committed” my time, 30 days to be exact, of spending my evenings and weekends and hours getting to know this person. I’d committed to official dates and calling him my boyfriend (read the rules) and to going to relationship coaching (rules again). In my mind, I thought, and still kinda think, this was an honest and fair way to approach the whole thing. After all, I couldn’t promise my heart. How could I?
Herb, on the other hand, I think interpreted commitment as a little bit more, which was trying to put your heart into it romantically from day one. Truthfully, this led to some interesting moments and conversations, but those challenges helped me learn a few things about commitment through some research, relationship coaching, and jarring realizations.
One is that there is an order to relationships that makes them work. If you’ve heard of the Relationship Attachment Model (RAM), then you know that basically relationships should progress in this order, also no dynamic should get ahead of the one after it : (1) know, (2) trust, (3) rely, (4) commit, (5) touch. This progression makes sure that a relationship is stable.
You can mess with this order, but a relationship may suffer for it. Sometimes one partner will think that they are in one category and the other does not. But even if you’ve messed with the order and a relationship has suffered because of it, not all is lost. You can go back and build the other categories so things are in proper order and proportion.
So, mid-baeship I had this nightmarish realization: messing with the RAM order is 100% what Thirty Day Bae does! We put commitment WAY before the “know,” “trust” or “rely.” Like we bungle the whole thing from the get-go! It’s a humbling thing to feel like you’ve found the fatal flaw in your creation, no less, while experiencing it.
But then I had a smaller, more comforting epiphany: commitment has different meanings and applications. Which one are you dealing with?
Commitment of time actually provides you with the opportunity to know, trust, rely, commit, and touch. And we as a dating culture could use a lot more of committing quality time to people in our app-crazed, option-saturated, swiping-frenzied world. Why not try committing some of your time to get to know someone?
But also, taking a page from Herb’s book, once you feel like you know someone, trust someone, have relied on someone, why not commit more, emotionally, physically, not holding back or putting up walls? So to all you best friends out there, who have the first three RAM dynamics down pat, who have secretly thought about dating that friend for the past 2 years, why not try the second kind of commitment? Offering more intentional interactions and maybe your heart?
You don’t always have to be in decision-making mode
I get it, decisions are an essential part of life. And decision-making skills are necessary to learn because you will eventually be moved out of limbo into some sort of outcome even if you never “make a decision.”
But decision-making mode has a time and place.
And we don’t always need to be in decision-making mode in a relationship.
If Thirty Day Bae gave me any luxury it was the indulgence of knowing I didn’t have to make a decision about the fate of this relationship until day 30. What a relief. I could just enjoy each day. I could focus on the conversation at hand and not “what it meant.”
And in that space I was able to see the ups and downs in context rather than ups as signs and downs as omens. I didn’t have to ride that emotional rollercoaster right off the rails. The ups and downs just existed. Full stop. And I could see Herb more clearly and see myself more clearly.
I really do believe, there is time in dating when we’re in experiencing-mode, kind of an osmosis information-gathering time. At other moments, we’re in decision-making mode. And I also feel like if we’re constantly spending mental calories on trying to make a decision, we might actually be missing out on the experiences that could help us make the best one.
Too many people I know (also guilty) make life-long decisions about a person after a date, an interaction, or a look over a dating profile.
This is especially true for people who struggle with some variation of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). News flash, it’s not just about washing your hands a lot or put away your shoes nicely. Read my article on Relationship OCD here to understand the cycle that’s at the root of all OCD manifestations. Anyway, OCD-type thinking puts you in a nearly constant state of mental turmoil trying to “figure out” with “absolute certainty” if something “feels right.” Endless mental checklists, reassurances from friends, or repeatedly thinking of something in just the right way will not ever give you enough space to just enjoy today.
All this is to say, think about when and why you’re trying to make a decision. Maybe even give yourself the space to say, “I’m not going to think about that or figure that out today, but I will in two weeks.” Or some variation. Basically, if you need it, give yourself some space to enjoy dating too.
My conclusion to this long blithering post, is that giving up thirty days to try this experiment could be good for a lot of people. Especially in today’s culture with all the weird, unique-to-this-generation, technological noise.
I can say, for sure, that it was a positive experience for me. My understanding from Herb is that he feels the same.
And even though me and Herb are no longer dating, I still think he’s the dopest, funniest, most honestly respectful person ever. On top of that, I gained new insights about dating for me to use when navigating relationships later (see above). Sadly, I probably wouldn’t have gotten to know all of that unless he agreed on our first date to give me thirty days of his time in exchange for thirty days of mine.
Luckily we both did.
And even luckier, you can try it too.
Try Thirty Day Bae yourself by taking the #BaeChallenge. Send us your stories about your journey and we’ll feature them on our site!