I’ve been single again for about four months. In the last few weeks, I’ve begun to think about dating again. I’m not entirely sure what kind of relationship I want going forward — whether I want to get married, or if I even want a serious relationship at all. The great thing about dating is that you don’t have to have all the answers when you start. You just need to be open to whatever happens.
But diving back into dating, particularly if you were partnered up for a long time, can be a bit intimidating. You feel like you need to know what you want, who you want, and that once you’ve decided on something, you can’t change your mind.
To keep dating light and fun, I’ve got seven tips for you. If you keep these things in mind, you’ll be able to enjoy dating and figure out what you ultimately want — and from whom — without any pressure.
Avoid “playing to win”
Too many people go into dating, and relationships, with the idea that they can change the other person to be who or what they want.
I can make him be faithful.
I can make him want children.
I can make him get a better, higher paying job.
Encouraging someone to be their best is a good thing. But there’s a difference between encouraging someone to be their best and trying to mold them into a fantasy you have of who they should be.
If you go on a date playing to win — thinking you can change this person into who or what you want — then you’re going to be disappointed no matter what.
People don’t change unless they want to. And most of the time, the things you want to change are the things that the other person will never want to change. It’s not usually little things like convincing them that if they just try black olives, they’ll like them. It’s the big things, like a desire to have children, a lack of fidelity, or wanting them to earn more money (or have a safe career).
Go on dates with the knowledge that whoever this person is, is who they are. Period. Take them or leave them exactly as they are. If you don’t like them, it’s fine to admit that and move on. But don’t allow potential to make you start thinking you can change them and make them the person you’re searching for.
Dating can be rough. You’re going to meet all kinds of people. You’ll have great dates with people you want to see again or who later become a friend. You’ll have awful dates where the other person is a total jerk and you’ll wish you’d stayed home to take a bubble bath and binge on Netflix instead.
Be prepared for all of it. Accept and acknowledge that it’s all going to happen. This will make it easier to get through the bad dates.
Being prepared will also help you if you come across that really crappy date who tries to make you feel bad about yourself. You know the one I’m talking about — the guy (or girl) who criticizes everything you say or do, disagrees with all of your opinions, and at the end of the date, does a line item analysis to divide the check and then asks if you want to sleep with him (or doesn’t ask and just goes for it). If you come across that date, being prepared will help you remember that it says far more about your date than it does about you so you don’t start questioning your decision to date.
We all know that dates can, and often should be, more than just a standard dinner and a movie. So of course, you should be creative in planning fun and exciting dates. But this is about more than just what you do. It’s about when you do it.
If you restrict dating to just Friday and Saturday nights, or nights period, you’re limiting yourself a lot. You’re limiting the dating pool by cutting out anyone who works nights, for example. You’re also limiting yourself by having only so much time available for dating.
Be creative with when you date. Have a breakfast date before work. Have a lunch date. Meet for a quick drink after work. Meet up at the dog park while you’re running your Saturday errands.
Dates like that serve two purposes:
· They drastically increase your dating opportunities
· They create a built-in out — if things aren’t going well, you have to get to work, run the rest of your errands, or get home for an early morning tomorrow.
So get creative!
Go on one date before you decide if you want another
Let’s be clear: I’m not advocating that you date one person exclusively. What I am advocating is that you not start building a future in your head with someone before the first date. Or the second. Or third.
When you’re first dating someone, take it one date at a time. You are just getting to know this person. And in the span of 1–4 hours at a time, you’re not getting to know a whole lot about them. Even if you’re talking the entire date, you’re still not getting to know them deeply enough yet to start seeing your future. The wheels could fall off at literally any moment.
Get excited about each date with this person. Look forward to it. But don’t start planning the wedding — or where their furniture should go in your apartment. Even if your ultimate goal behind dating is getting married, take it one date at a time. After each date, evaluate whether you really want to see this person again.
When you aren’t already planning a fantasy future in your head with them, you might just be surprised at how many times you decide you don’t really want to see them again.
Remember you want easy dates
I remember a date I went on when I was about 20. He was late. He blamed it on work. I could understand that — things happen, no big deal. But he complained about work all the way to the restaurant — on the other side of a fairly large city. When we got to the restaurant, he complained about the wait, then the table location, then the menu. Then he complained about what I ordered. When he started complaining about the way I cut my meat, I excused myself to the ladies’ room, walked out the front door and called a cab to go home.
That was the most excruciating date of my life and I could not even begin to imagine what a relationship with him would have been like. Pure torture are the words that come to mind.
Now most dates aren’t that bad. But they should be fun and easy. If you’re unable to agree on what to do, where to go, what movie to see, or even when to have the date, that’s not a good sign.
Yes, there are couples who enjoy some fun bickering. But the key there is that it’s fun. If it’s fun, it’ll be easy.
I can hear some of you scoffing and saying, “Oh, come on! Relationships aren’t always easy! This is ridiculous!”
You’re right, relationships aren’t always easy. But if you’re having trouble even getting the first date off the ground, that does not bode well for the future of a relationship with this person. If you’re not enjoying the company of this person for even a couple of hours on a date, you will not enjoy sharing a home with them someday.
If this is the right person for you — or even just a right person — it should be easy. You should be able to plan a date, enjoy your time together and walk away smiling, hopeful of seeing them again.
Remember your worth
Even if you’re not entirely clear on what you want from dating, you probably have a pretty good idea of things you don’t want. Polyamory might not be your thing, for example. Dating someone who is super religious, or not religious at all, may be a deal breaker for you.
When someone ticks all the other boxes for you, it can be easy to want to overlook that one thing that isn’t a match for you. You’ll tell yourself you can be okay with polyamory, or religion’s not that big a deal after all.
But you shouldn’t do that. Instead, you should remember your worth. You’ve chosen your deal breakers, whatever they are, because they matter to you. They’re important enough that even with not knowing what you want, you know you don’t want them. So stick with it.
If this person wants something that you don’t, and it’s enough to be a deal breaker, then know your worth. Acknowledge that you like them in all other ways, but in this, it’s just not a match.
Then move on. This will leave you free to find the person who does tick all the boxes — and you won’t have to compromise on something that really matters to you.
While we’re on the subject, remember what’s so great about yourself, too. Sometimes dating can be a bit disheartening. You might go out with several duds in a row, or get that one guy who seems to get off on putting you down. Take some time before your date to meditate, remember your good qualities, and wrap yourself in self-love so that no matter what happens on the date, you’ll remember that you’re amazing.
Keep in mind you have nothing to lose
A date is just a date. If it doesn’t work out, you’ve lost nothing but a little time. You have nothing at all to lose by going on a date.
Flip it around, though, and you have everything to gain. You could make a new friend, find the love of your life and future father/mother of your children, and live happily ever after — if that’s what you want, of course.
There is plenty to gain and nothing to lose by going on a date with someone you’ve never met, or going on another date with someone you think you might like but aren’t totally sure about yet. So don’t put a lot of pressure on it and just go out with the intention of having a good time in this moment. Let the future take care of itself.