“I've found that when you're wrapped up in the process of dating and want so badly to have something work out with someone -anyone- it's easy to forget that your choices aren't limited to one person or the other. There's also the choice I always forget about: To not choose anyone in order to keep myself open to someone who IS right for me.” ~Rachel Machacek
I’ve been talking with one of my girlfriends a lot lately about the craziness of dating. Comparing war stories, dissecting what we did wrong to make a relationship go south, laughing at some of the freaks of nature we’ve found ourselves with…and in all the talk, I’ve reached what I feel is a very important conclusion.
Dating doesn’t have to be so serious. In fact, it shouldn’t be so serious. It’s actually kind of a hoot.
When did we lose sight of that? I think of my own dating experiences and history, and I feel like I’ve done it all. Dated. Not dated. Waited on God. Kissed dating goodbye. Been in serious relationships. Been in a long-distance relationship. I’ve received two “pseudo” marriage proposals – and I mean “pseudo” in every sense of the word, because one was in the form of a drunken text message at 3:00 a.m. from my most ill-conceived ex and the other was when my “Mr. Big” ex took me to a jewelry store in Manhattan he had closed down specifically to show me engagement rings. Sounds romantic, right? Right up until I tell you that he showed me LOTS of rings but issued zero marriage proposals. Through ALL of this, you would think I’d have developed a better sense of humor about dating over the years. And yet…I still take it too seriously.
A few months ago I had what I considered to be a “first date” – a lunch date with a cute guy who I had been eyeballing on Facebook for some time because he seemed like such a great catch. When he finally asked me out, I was super excited. So excited, in fact, I decided that absolutely nothing in my closet would be right to wear on said date. So I went on a shopping venture across town that would rival that of a celebrity stylist in search of the perfect gown for a client for the Oscars. And this was all for a LUNCH DATE. I wore myself out looking for the “perfect outfit” when my closet is full of them. And why did I feel so much pressure to be “perfect” for this lunch date? Probably because somewhere inside my head, I was thinking: “This guy is a really great catch and really great catches don’t come along very often, so I need to not mess this up.” Though I was authentically myself on the date, I still look back at the experience and wish I hadn’t been so focused on looking like I just stepped out of a catalogue and instead just showed up wearing something from my closet. Ultimately the lunch went well (or so I thought) and we scheduled a second date…but he called and canceled the night before and I never heard from him again. And you know what I was doing when he called to cancel? Shopping for shoes for our second date. It’s a good thing he canceled and I never saw him again, because I would have gone broke just trying to look “perfect” for this guy! And why???? He wasn’t perfect. I’m sure he’s a nice enough guy, but he had red flags that I overlooked because I wanted the excitement of liking someone again. And how often do we do that? Build someone up to be this perfect guy, or convince ourselves that because he looks “good on paper” he must be good for us? I think the problem is that once you get to a certain age, you start to look at dating less as an opportunity to have fun and meet new people and more as auditioning for marriage. And that’s far too much pressure and stress to put on yourself and on the situation. Not to mention on the guy.
I would like to propose that we change our attitude toward dating a little bit. I would like to suggest that we ease off all the expectations and the urgency and the seriousness and just HAVE FUN. Whatever happened to just casually dating for the purposes of getting to know people? Going out just for the fun of having a new experience? Maintaining your own identity and lifestyle and agenda and just allowing dating to compliment that lifestyle instead of supplement it? Hitting the pause button on the frantic search for Mr. Right and just having fun right now? Not every person you date is going to be marriage material. Not every person you date is going to be “The One,” or even in the running to be “The One.” But every person you date IS going to make you a little bit better at dating. A little more relaxed. A little more open to love. People are sent into our lives to teach us things that we need to learn about ourselves…so look at dating as setting out a welcome mat for all sorts of little messengers who each have something new to show you about YOU.
I’m not suggesting putting your heart on the line and emotionally attaching yourself to every person you date – far from it. I’m suggesting guarding your heart and dating SMART. Spending time in casual environments with people whose company you happen to enjoy. Maintaining a healthy perspective on dating and not setting your heart, your soul, your emotions out on the line with every single person you encounter. When the time is right, you will know, and the safeguards you’ve put in place will fall away naturally. But until then – RELAX! Have fun! Be yourself in an outfit you didn’t go buy specifically for the date! Engage, converse, get out of your safe little comfort zone and just get to know people with no other agenda than getting to know people. Stop looking to every person to be he great love of your life and just allow dating to be a great adventure in your life. You’ll likely make some really amazing friends out of it…you’ll definitely get some really great stories out of it…and who knows? Having the time of your life just might lead you to the love of your life.