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Ask The Cougar: Building, breaking, brain fog

Jose Gonzalez-Campelo/The Cougar

In this week’s Ask The Cougar, Editor-in-Chief John Lomax, Managing Editor Cindy Rivas Alfaro and Community Assistant Editor Atirikta Kumar answer some questions about starting relationships, keeping them and how to avoid brain fog. 

I’m past the hookup phase of my life, and I want to explore something serious. Only problem is I’m not sure how to flirt with women without leaving the impression that I’m only interested in sex. How should I approach women without making them think I’m just trying to sleep with them? 

This is a struggle I feel a lot of men experience in their early to mid-twenties. First, you need to prepare yourself for a much slower process than when you were looking for something more casual. Second, you need to really take a second to think about what it is you want before you go looking for it. 

Based on how your original question was worded, it sounds like you’re gauging interest largely off of first impressions. This is fine when your intentions are purely based on physical attraction, less so when the goal is a relationship. 

You need to get to know someone at least a little bit before you decide you’re interested in them. That doesn’t mean you need to build months of friendship before you ask them out, just that you should have an idea of who they are before you decide to pursue them. 

A great way to do this is to look at the first couple of dates with someone as purely platonic. Don’t concern yourself with the ideal timing for the first kiss, or when you should invite them back to your place. These initial dates should be focused solely on determining compatibility. 

This approach not only takes the pressure off the early dating phase, it can also help demonstrate your intent to whoever you’re courting. As men, we will always have to work around the “only interested in sex” stereotype, and waiting to make a move can go a long way in showing that your interests are in the long-term as opposed to the short. 

This is usually easier said than done. Cultural conceptions of how and when to make the first move often cause men to self-sabotage relationships. A common refrain among men is that women appreciate a confident man. While that might be true, it’s important to distinguish between acting with confidence and acting on our insecurities. 

Confidence is being sure of yourself and what it is you want. This is not easy to achieve and can take years of development, self-reflection and learning. You need to sit down and think long-term: What type of person can you see yourself building a life with? Once you’ve decided on your “ideal partner” you can begin the vetting process. 

– JL

I’m currently struggling with brain fog and I feel like I’m not understanding anything going on with my classes even with all the hours of studying I’m doing. Any advice in overcoming this?

This is a great question and something I have been struggling with myself. My first and best advice for you would be to sleep. I know being overwhelmed by the end-of-the-semester responsibilities can make you question if you even need to sleep when you can have coffee. Mostly it feels like you don’t even have time for something as trivial as sleep. But as much as it pains me to say, sleep actually is important to us. 

Trust me, I have been trying to find a workaround but I have felt the best this semester after I passed out for 14 hours one day after not sleeping properly for weeks. 

Secondly, I would divide up the tasks I have and give myself a reward after each workday. Keeping a list of topics I need to study helps me immensely and at the end of each workday after I have gotten the serotonin boost of checking off my to-do list, I read for at least 20 minutes. Reading is my happy place, even reading for a few minutes helps me relax, so find whatever makes you happy. 

I would also try and take a few moments for just yourself each day. Go on a walk, do yoga or just lay on the floor for 10 to 15 minutes and try your best to block out the rest of the world. I personally like to lay on the floor with my earphones and I call it floor time. Just me, the floor and music help ground me most days. 

And most importantly, be proud of yourself, you are almost to the finish line. You got this! 

– AK

I’m a senior majoring in biology. My girlfriend is also a senior, majoring in bio-tech. My goal is to go to PA school. Her goal is to get a PhD. Our paths are divulging. If a breakup is inevitable, I’d rather do it now, to put it bluntly. I wish I could see the future, but is there any way to gauge how likely we are to break up? What steps can we take in order to prepare to face this as the time comes closer?

Hello, thanks for sending this in! I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. What do you value in a relationship, or more so, what do you value in your girlfriend? I think if you really want to be with a person, you should find a way to appease both your personal goals and your relationship goals.

It seems here that your career is something you value a lot and now, it’s in conflict with the relationship with your girlfriend. If you really want to make this work, consider choosing a school that’s closer or even trying a long-distance relationship. Maybe even take a gap year to take turns supporting each other.

If that doesn’t seem like something you want to do, then bring it up to your girlfriend ASAP. Try and be optimistic. I hate making assumptions but it seems like your mind is already set on breaking up. If there is a will, there is a way. I wish you luck with your studies and your relationship! 


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