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Dating Update: The Lessons
Friday, 2005 September 9 - 8:27 pm
This is mostly about me, and all the things I've learned about dating.

There's something I've realized recently: I've been in the dating/relationship game for a VERY LONG TIME. And you know what? I think I've gotten to be pretty good at it. It's taken me about fifteen years to work the basics out. I really don't know how teenagers are able to date successfully. Maybe, at that point in their lives, they just don't know any better. They don't know what bad dating is.

Dating is fraught with peril. There are a billion ways you can be incompatible with someone, and a billion things that can go wrong with any given date. It's usually not a clear cut case of your date being "right" or "wrong" for you, or the person being inherently "good" or "bad". It's more a matter of where on the personality spectrum your date resides, compared to you. Are you not paying enough attention, or are you being too smothering? Are you too clueless, or too snooty? Are you too old-fashioned, or too freaky? It all depends on who you are, whom you're with, and whether your date happens to match your particular style.

Sometimes you have to go on a lot of dates before you even realize what your own style is, much less figure out whether your date matches it. And a large percentage of those dates might go badly. It can be discouraging after a while, but it's all part of the process.

The key in figuring out what you really want is "root cause analysis" (to borrow a manager-speak phrase). You probably know what attributes you like in a person, but you have to figure out why you want those things. Guys, you want to date a blonde woman? Is that so you can impress your buddies? Because you're insecure and you need that validation? Because you lack self-esteem? Be honest with yourself, and face up to it, if that's the reason. Women, you want to date an artist? Because you think that artistic sensibility goes hand in hand with compassion, and that's what you were missing from your last relationship? Dig into it. Even if you don't want to share these ugly secrets with anyone else, you have to be able to be honest with yourself about it. Once you do that, you can get past all the superficial junk, and concentrate on what's really important to you.

When you do figure it out, you probably find that all things that you once thought were important, aren't. Money? Clothes? Looks? Height? Weight? Power? Social status? Bah. When you really connect with someone, all those things become less meaningful. This, by the way, is why most on-line dating services suck. They encourage people to filter primarily based on those superficial criteria. It's something I call "trophy-chasing".

But hopefully, if you go through the exercise of figuring out what you really want, you'll meet someone you truly connect with, and you'll start dating. Here, things can go one of three ways:

(a) you like the person so much that you ignore all of his/her faults
(b) you instinctively think the person isn't right for you, and you sabotage the relationship from the start
(c) you're able to look at the relationship objectively, seeing both the good and the bad

With (a), you tend to suppress negative thoughts, even legitimate ones. You fail to communicate when something makes you unhappy. You compromise your own needs in order to maintain the state of bliss. But resentment can build up over time, and when the honeymoon period is over, suddenly the person's faults are greatly magnified. But you've already established a pattern of poor communication, so all that's left is silent seething. Bad news. This leads to what I call "dating flameout".

With (b), you probably ruin a lot of relationships that have potential, rejecting people for very minor reasons. This typically happens when you've been hurt a lot, and you're trying to protect yourself from being hurt again. This is what I call "baggage". Also bad news.

Response (c), of course, is the way to go... but it takes a lot of mental discipline to go down that path. It takes courage to say to yourself, "he's not as tall as I would have liked, but I can get past my own insecurities and accept that". It takes tact to say to your date, "I don't want to go to the Nascar race with you", or "I'm not really that into antiquing", without belittling his/her interests. This the difficult road, to be sure, but ultimately the most rewarding one, because it's the most honest.

Eventually it becomes time to try to enter the "relationship" phase, and that's when all the dirty secrets and idiosyncrasies come out. It's when a lot of people break up. But what I've figured out is this: if you can lessen the shock of switching from "dating" to a "relationship", you're more likely to build a good long-term relationship. And the key to that is to figure out exactly what it is you want from the beginning, and to communicate your needs to your date in a non-threatening and positive way.

I don't know whether I'm doing everything right in my current relationship. But I'm definitely trying. (Amy, how am I doing?)
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Posted by Ken in: dating

Comments

Comment #1 from Amy (Guest)
2005 Sep 12 - 9:43 am : #
You are magically delicious!
Comment #2 from Speaker (Guest)
2005 Sep 12 - 1:09 pm : #
i've always skipped dating. i don't know how to date, and am kinda glad i never did. it was always friends then "together" and it worked out fine.

there was never any shock either, becaus i already had what i wanted, someone who was my friend and who "got me."

in the end, i married my best friend who had the correct genetalia for my prefferences. (and having passion for that person helps out a lot too!) :)

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