This past weekend, I had brunch with a single guy friend and, as I tend to do when I’m in these situations, I took advantage of the opportunity to ask him questions about dating.
“So, what’s the your least favorite thing about dating?” I asked.
“When I’m on a dates, I hate when women project their dating history onto me,” he replied.
“You mean like they talk about their baggage?”
“No,” he said, “But it’s like I can tell who’s sat in the chair before me by they way they act.”
As we spoke more, he went deeper into why it’s such a turn off. You don’t even know the poor guy and he’s already getting grilled about being a cheater, or whatever crappy thing the ex boyfriend(s) did. It’s really not fair because it prevents the possibility of connecting to the guy who’s sitting across from you right now, who, in case you didn’t notice is NOT YOUR EX.
I use the royal YOU, but I really mean ME. The minute we started talking about this, I knew I’d have to cop to my history of behaving this way on dates. After experiencing a particularly heinous ghosting by a guy I was very serious about, when I did start dating again, my main mission was to find out if every guy I went out with was going to ghost me and when.
I would ask exhaustive questions about my date’s love history, trying to discover in which way he was “dubious.” Hopefully, I did this with some charm, wit and finesse. I still managed to have fun sometimes. But I admit it. I did this. I now understand that it was a defense mechanism, born out of fear, meant to protect myself from getting hurt. But the irony was, I usually ended up getting hurt — or at least having my hopes dashed. I didn’t understand why then, but now I do. I was expecting every single one of these guys to be like my ex. And rather than killing themselves to prove I was wrong, they took the easy route and slipped out of my life. Not that I can blame them.
I don’t recommend this method of dating for anyone. It hardly ever breeds success. Here are a few realizations, which helped me change my approach. And with much better results.
1. Expect the best. My former dating credo was “expect the worst.” But like Debbie Hunt in the movie “Singles” I’m learning to “expect the best.” No, I’m not joining a video dating service. Although, those seem way more fun that online dating. “Come to where the flavor is … come to Ami country.”
Back on topic: I just started employing this simple paradigm shift of expecting the best. It’s not like I walk into a first date now ready to profess my love, it’s just that I’ve started showing up, reminding myself that the guy is a new person whom I know nothing about, and expecting that he will be a good person with good intentions. My new mission is to find out all the things that are wonderful about him. This doesn’t mean putting blind trust in someone I’ve shared one beer with, or ignoring bad behavior that should set my Spidey senses a tingle. It just means that I presume he’s innocent until proven guilty. This mind set creates a better environment for both people to feel comfortable being themselves.
2. Build trust slowly. For most of my dating life, I didn’t really understand how to build trust. I thought trust was an all or nothing thing. I thought it was a choice I made. Should I trust this guy? Yeah, I think I’ll trust him. Apparently, it doesn’t have to be like that. I had a therapist who helped me realize that trust is a little house you build brick by brick.
“How do I know when I can start trusting a guy?” I asked her.
I was looking for her to give me a definitive answer, like wait 90 days to trust him. Her answer was much more illuminating.
“Just let him do what he says he’s going to do and little by little, your trust for him will grow.”
This was like a revolutionary concept for me. I didn’t understand that trust could be this thing that happened in increments. WHOA.
So now, that’s exactly what I do. I let him prove himself with his actions, not his words, and I remember to expect the best of him all the while.
3. Be in the present. This was big. I used to show up on dates with all of the hurt from my past and all of my hopes and dreams for the future preoccupying me. This was all so overwhelming that it was like I wasn’t even there on the date. I wasn’t really. I was some in-my-head version of myself.
I really hate platitudes, but here is one I’ve found to be true: The point of power is always in the present moment. It’s on this deck of Power Thought cards I have. This idea really helped me with many things, dating being one of them.
Now, I check my past and my future at the door when I arrive on a date. I focus on getting to know the person sitting across from me RIGHT NOW and see what our connection is like TODAY. I ask myself how I feel when I’m around him RIGHT NOW. I try not to worry about how I’ve been hurt in the past and whether they will do the same thing. I try not to worry about what our future may hold. It sounds cheesy, but it’s so freeing. And the more you show up and tune in, the more you’ll have a chance to see: he’s really nothing like your ex.