Jordin Sparks appropriately described love as a “battlefield”. (Yes, I just quoted Jordin Sparks and, yes, Pat Benatar did it first but I don’t know what the demo for this blog is). And there is something disarmingly appropriate about this analogy. Every part of dating from the initial contact, to setting up dates, the dates themselves and figuring out when things are “official” are separate anxiety inducing micro-dramas. You can drive yourself crazy analyzing every single text message or awkward silence. One thing I’ve learned from 32 years of life is that dating doesn’t need to be difficult at all. I started a list of my “rules” for dating and created a practical checklist for dating that I will religiously adhere to (the next time I actually start dating someone).
- Make Plans – If I want to go out to dinner with my girlfriends, I make reservations. The same rule should hold true for a date. Too often, guys will text you that they’d like to “do something” or “hang out” on a certain day. No activity described. No time given. Just an ambiguous hint of a possible plan which may or may not be a date. Demand simple answers. Asking for details, specifically time and place, is not being a “nag”, it’s being a responsible adult. I want those details for every activity I participate in, including a potential date. If I don’t receive those details within 24 hours of said “something” or “hang out”, the possible date is off.
- Busy is code for a-hole – We’ve all done it. We’ve begged someone off who we don’t really want to see with the patented text or email. We explain “Things are really busy right now and I really DO want to hang out. I’m just not sure when that will happen.” And as someone who has used that line, I know its complete BS. We’re all busy. We all have things going on. But when we care, we make time. Next time you receive the trusty “I’m so busy” line, recognize it and keep it moving.
- Be Responsive – It’s the age of the smart phone. Everyone has one. And everyone usually keeps their smart phone right next to them. I was dating a guy last year who would take hours (and sometimes days) to respond and then respond that his phone died or that he didn’t have his phone near him. Never put up with this. When it comes to responsiveness have a one strike rule. (Unless, of course, there actually WAS a natural disaster). I have never taken more than a day to respond to someone I’m interested in. If it takes more than a day for someone to respond via text message, cross him off the list.
- If its not a “hell yes”, its a “hell no” – Trust your gut. Quick: do you want to go on this date? If the answer starts with a few seconds of silence followed up with a “Well…”, you don’t want to go on the date. So, don’t go on the date. As a single woman in her early 30s, I often feel guilty for passing on dates. The outdated thesis of 30 marking the death of carefree singledom and the entrance of spinster-dom dances around in my subconscious. And as a result, I’ve guilted myself into regrettable dates that felt more like chores than an enjoyable experience. If your gut reaction is not “Yes! I want to go on this date.”, take a rain check.
- Bail early – So often we make excuses to stay in something that isn’t working. Maybe you want to give it a sixth date with the hope that you’ll magically become attracted to the person you’re dating. (Here’s a hint: you won’t) Maybe you have an upcoming trip planned or wedding to attend and you don’t want to pull the plug and have to go solo. These are not real excuses to keep a bad thing going. If your excuses for sticking with someone pertains to merely tangential or superficial things, it’s time to cut the cord.
- Your body, your choice – This rule shouldn’t need to be stated. But it needs to be stated. It needs to be repeated. It needs to be shouted from the rooftops. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty about not hugging, kissing, hooking up with, etc. the person you’re dating. You do not owe your date anything. Dinner doesn’t entitle anyone to anything except a verbal “Thank You.” You’re the person living in your body. Therefore, you’re in control. Enough said.
- If its important, just call – A former boss once said, “if it requires more than four replies in an email string, pick up the phone”. The same rule holds true for texting. Communication via text message is tricky. There is so much room for miscommunication and confusion. If it requires several text messages, pick up the phone. If it is important to you, pick up the phone. If you want to say “I love you”, pick up the phone. If you want to say “this isn’t working”, pick up the phone.
- Be honest – Never try to guess what people want. I’ve been on dates with people and been preoccupied with what their reaction will be to my comments. So preoccupied that I’ve changed my comments before they’ve left my mouth and, more dramatically, molded my personality to what I think this person will like. When I say “be honest”, I mean “be honest” to the person you’re dating but more importantly “be honest” with yourself. Are you wearing that outfit because you like it or because you think he’ll like it? Are you answering that question truthfully or are you conforming to what you think he’ll like? Be honest. Be you. If he’s into it, he’ll stick around. If he’s not into it, it’s truly his loss.
Ta-da! Simple, right? These rules are straightforward and easy. And, at bottom, dating should be straightforward and easy. However, we end up making it complicated for a variety of reasons. But think about it. Has a complicated approach to dating helped your romantic life? Has over-analyzing a five word text message ever brightened your day? Do you feel good when the person you’re supposedly dating is systematically ignoring all of your text messages? Of course not. The energy wasted in the messiness of dating leaves us depleted, pessimistic and hopeless. Why not try a simple approach? What’s the worst that can happen?