First, I want to remind you of something. Dating is a gift. Stop, I know. I have horror stories myself. I’ve “wasted” a lot of time and energy on people who didn’t “pan out”. There’s been false advertising. Mismatches. Weirdness. Miscommunication. I’ve been in the battlefield. I get it. But here’s the thing. It’s not about something panning out. Stop focusing on finding your soulmate. There’s way too much pressure there. Dating is about exploration. Exploring a new soul but also yourself.
When two people collide, there is so much more than love potential and you finding “the one”. There is learning, new experiences, shifts in perspective, and new possible definitions. It doesn’t matter if it’s one date or six months. It’s a great chance to learn and discover or rediscover love and for course, yourself. Yes, people can get hurt. That’s the buy-in. But that should never be a reason why you stop exploring love.
Dating is a part of life and it can be a growth experience with the right mindset.
Here are seven dos and don’ts in the early stages of dating to give yourself that experience.
1. Do use some real f*cking pictures.
Let’s get rid of the word catfish so it’s not in our vocabulary anymore. Because behind every time someone uses that word, there is someone who feels ripped off, discouraged, and tired of dating. It’s happened to me and the drive home is not cool. She didn’t just not look like her photos. It was like meeting Drew Barrymore but Drew Carey showed up. I didn’t recognize her at all. But I still made the best of it. Here’s the question you should ask yourself. Would you rather they be pleasantly surprised or secretly disappointed? If all your photos are the best photos you’ve ever taken in your life, you will be starting with your date being disappointed. Now you better be charming AF to dig yourself out of that hole.
2. Do ask questions / don’t talk about yourself the entire time on the first date.
Usually, the more we like someone, the more talkative we are. And when we’re talkative, we can easily get into a talking loop instead of a nice back and forth flow of conversation. So if you’re feeling the date, make sure you ask them questions. It shows that you’re interested. But more importantly that you have self-awareness.
Topics to avoid on the first date.
How much you hate the dating process. You’re going to indirectly pee all over the date. No need to mention what everyone already knows.
Religion and politics, obviously. I mean you can touch upon various topics under that umbrella. But you’re not trying to convince someone to change their personal viewpoints. You’re just getting to know someone so stay on your side of the fence. It can quickly become sticky and you can write people off pretty fast.
Past relationships. Wait. I actually think is okay to talk about this as long as you’re sharing learnings and revelations. Not going on and on about the one that got away. A healthy conversation about relationships is a great way to learn about what someone thinks about relationships and what’s important to them. Just don’t make the entire conversation about all your exes.
Everything you hate about your life. Don’t turn your first date into a therapy session. Yes, you can talk about where you’re at in life and some of your frustrations but venting about all your life problems on the first date isn’t going to make people want to be in your life.
3. Do drop expectations/checklists.
The more expectations you have, the steeper the cliffs you will be creating. You can have some expectations later once it turns into something or there’s a conversation about the future and what both of you want. But expectation is earned. They take time. Right now, you should be in discovery mode. You’re getting to know someone. Not expecting them to be someone. (Well, that should never be the case). Having expectations and checklists will encourage judgment and make you narrow. The whole point of dating is to be wide, throw the widest mental net you can so you can experience new types of people that you haven’t experienced before. Through this experience-stretch, there will be learning. You will learn what works, what doesn’t work, what you want, don’t want. The only way to learn about these things is to actually experience them. And I think that’s why dating gets such a bad wrap. We only expect great things. But we need to experience all of it, the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s through all of this where the true gift of dating lives.
4. Do show yourself.
If you pretend to be someone you’re not, you’ll just be kicking yourself in the a** when they realize you’re not who they thought you were. I get that in the beginning you want to show your best self, especially if you’re into someone. And I get that it takes time to completely show ourselves. I mean we’re not going to act how we would around our best friends and siblings. But ultimately, as you guys peel the layers, you have to show your true self. You have to show who you are, shirt comings and all. You have to be you. On purpose. If not, it’s called false advertising.
5. Do Communicate.
You have a responsibility to communicate your feelings. Of course not on the first date or few dates. I’m talking about if the dates turn into dating. Through the dating process, as you get closer to each other and spend more and more time. Most people don’t communicate their feelings due to fear. But without communication, dating becomes a guessing game with an emphasis on game. And whenever we play games, there is hurt, anger, and resentment.
Communication doesn’t just mean to express where you want to go for dinner or what you like in bed. It means to express your state and where you’re at. Yes, your feelings. How are you feeling? What’s coming up for you? Express your fears and concerns. Dating itself is a mini-relationship. Do it together instead of alone. Or like any relationship, there will be drift.
Note: But there are some things you should talk to your therapist or dating coach about. As things come up, because things will, you are responsible for your own sh*t. Triggers. Resistance. Whatever. You have to decide what should be shared and processed with who you’re dating and what needs to be processed with a therapist. But you can and should let who you’re dating know that you’re struggling with some things and are working on it with a therapist. I believe that’s responsible and shows effort.
6. Don’t worry if he or she is “the one”.
We (including myself) put way too much weight on if someone’s “the one”. For me, it’s an age thing. I’m forty-five and feel like I’m running out of time. But this only puts pressure on myself and the relationship, pulling you out of the present and living in logic and criticism. In a nutshell, it prevents the space for magic and the natural unfolding. Instead, it’s become like buying car. Yes, there is a chance someone can be the next big chapter of your life. Or not. But if you’re constantly wondering if they are or not, they won’t be.
6. Do wait for it…
Many jump ship way too fast. Movies have programmed us to believe that if we don’t feel the lightning in the bottle, it’s not real. I’ve learned that that’s not true. Actually, I believe the opposite. The “lightning in the bottle” most of the times means the dynamic can be unhealthy. That “lightning” is most likely coming from past and wiring. For example, addicts/al-anon. Their attraction is magnetic. It runs deep and most likely comes from the past, upbringing -> wiring. Not what’s real and present. Onion over the apple. Truly sustainable attraction comes in peeling layers.
7. Don’t protect your heart
What?! Why would anyone not protect their heart? Well, it’s like life. You can protect yourself by living behind your fear walls and you’ll end up creating a moat around your life castle. You’ll end up becoming a prisoner and merely exist instead of live. Peep around corners. Hide. Play it safe. Or you can live fearlessly and you will fall and trip and get hurt. And people will hurt you. One hundred percent. And every time they do, you have a choice. Dig that moat or go out of your castle and run free. If you choose to leave your safe fortress, you will learn, grow, and evolve. But most importantly, feel something. Because that’s what life is about.
Our hearts were meant to get broken.
They were meant to shatter.
That’s what makes them stronger.
That’s what makes us human.
This post was originally published here and is republished with permission from the author.
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