When friends talk about the terrible dates that they've been on, I simply can't relate. I married young, and I was married for nearly a dozen years. Now, in my mid-30s, I've been divorced for a handful of months and separated for over a year now.
Since I've been single, I've been on a number of dates. And before you ask, no. I will not be quantifying that number. I will, however, state that every single date that I've been on has been an absolute pleasure. I haven't had one awful, terrible, no-good, very bad date. I bet you're wondering how this is possible, if there's a secret to it or if I'm lying.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am still single. I've not once updated my relationship status or referred to anyone as my boyfriend. I have, however, dated the same person for a period of time on more than one occasion. I have had first dates that turned into second ones and third ones, and so on and so forth. And I've had a few that were only first dates. However, I will say that each date I've been on has been terrific in that I met attractive, interesting men who treated me well. For me, this has been a win, as I enjoy a good date, regardless of the relationship outcome.
As a feminist, I believe in equal rights for women. I also believe in chivalry. So, I appreciate the doors being opened, the meal being paid for and generally being treated nicely on a date. And the men I've met have been very obliging in this respect. Also, I feel that I've been a pleasant date, as well, courteous and interested. Again, you may be wondering if this is all luck or something more.
But first, this is my shout out to all of the stand-up guys out there: the true gentlemen, the nice guys, the chivalrous men who can show a girl a nice time on a date. Though rumored to be as rare (or nonexistent) as unicorns, we know you're out there, and we appreciate you.
While these dates didn't turn into relationships, I will say I had the opportunity to make new friends, meet new people and spend time listening to others tell their stories. I enjoyed the conversations, laughed and generally felt they went well in the end. I've been working on a theory as to why my experiences so far have been so positive (knock on wood), and how I might be able to share this strategy (for lack of a better word) with others to help improve their dating experiences.
I've been examining my dating experiences from the moment I first meet someone (whether in person or online). You see, I've been asked out on quite a few more dates than I've accepted. I've also canceled a number of dates that were scheduled. Since my divorce, I've been learning to trust my intuition. If I get a gut feeling that something is off, I trust it, even if it doesn't seem rational to anyone else.
For example, I talked to one guy for a couple of weeks, and we had a date planned. Then one night, he actually made a joke about me being a bad mom. As a single mother, I did not find this amusing. When I stated as much, his reaction was to accuse me of being uptight rather than acknowledge that his joke was an insensitive one. When I told him I didn't feel comfortable going out with him, he quickly backtracked and apologized. I'm not making a judgment about his character. He may have simply misspoken. I will say that I knew at that moment he was not the man for me. Not as a short-term option, and certainly not as a long-term one.
Another man offered to take me to dinner, but then as the date drew near, mentioned we were instead meeting at a bar. Which, by the way, would be conveniently located near his home. He then asked if I would like to come to his apartment before or after the drink, with the assumption that I would go there at all just hanging in the air. I politely declined this date, as well.
There have been a lot of these situations. I'm trusting my intuition when I feel that there are red flags in play. So far, this has paid off. By being fairly selective about who we choose to date, we are more likely to have pleasant dating experiences. I feel that we often ignore intuition (and I'm as guilty as anyone in believing what I want to believe at times). When we ignore all of those red flags, we're less likely to have a good time on those dates or to feel a real connection with those people.
As single people, it can get very lonely, even for those of us who are perfectly happy being single. We all enjoy human companionship. I would say that most of us enjoy flirtation, attraction and the possibility of falling in love with someone else. Despite those feelings of loneliness, our intuition is there to direct us toward what we need and away from what we don't. Those little things we overlook in the beginning may become big issues for us down the road.
I know, in my life, I have asked my friends to call bullsh*t anytime I make excuses for someone I'm dating. If I try to explain an ignored text or an unanswered phone call, a behavior that made me feel uncomfortable or any action that raises a red flag for me, they warn me. The moment I make an excuse, they are all instructed to call bullsh*t so that I can see I'm repeating an undesirable behavior that could have negative consequences for me (i.e., an unhealthy relationship or attachment).
It's helpful to know our weaknesses and have our tribe ready to call us out when they surface. My dating weakness is trusting too much, and making excuses for others. My tribe won't let me continue that because I'm self-aware enough to ask for help with this particular problem.
The dating field may seem limited, but it's really not. For every one attractive man who acts like a total douchebag, there are 10 more attractive men out there who are wonderful, fun, compassionate human beings with an infinite capacity to love. Have I found these men? Well, I certainly haven't found the one for me, but I have found ones who will make some other woman extremely happy.
There are good guys out there. No, scratch that. There are wonderful men out there who are just waiting to find the right woman. We simply have to trust our gut when it comes to getting to know someone new, and choose only to spend our time with people with whom we have a positive connection, rather than settling for a warm body across the dinner table.
The trick on both sides is that we don't EVER settle. We don't accept the dates with the person who is already annoying us with uncomfortable statements before we even get to the restaurant. We don't continue a relationship with someone who shows us they don't value our time or attention. Sure, this may not work every time, but it will certainly eliminate a lot of uncomfortable dates with people who we know in our hearts aren't right for us.
I feel like being more selective at the outset has narrowed the field to men with good intentions, or who can at least make themselves presentable, carry on an intelligent conversation and be pleasant company for a night out. These men exist if only we stop giving our time to the men who are telling us with their words and actions that they are emotionally unavailable to us.
We need to leave ourselves open and try to get comfortable in the space between what we have, and what we want in a relationship. We lean into that loneliness and get to know ourselves really well, so that when the right man or woman comes along for us, we'll be ready.
What we're not ready to do is settle for anything less than what we deserve. And we deserve a damn good date, whether it leads to forever or just lasts until the end of the night when we say our goodbyes and go our separate ways.