The other day I was thinking about what went wrong (again, sigh) in my last round of Dating Games. And it got me thinking about the lessons I’ve learned in my search for a partner. Here’s what I came up with:
Be Yourself: This can be hard for women. We try and make our man happy and fail to take care of ourselves. Men don’t seem to have any trouble with this one. They are who they are and rarely make an effort to hide it (even when they should). Is this difference between the sexes nature or nurture? Can we learn something valuable from the men’s team here?
Don’t Read Dating Advice Books: Ever. They all offer different advice about the exact same dating dilemmas. I know of someone who wrote one of these books and invented some of the quotes and anecdotes to make it more interesting. I’m not kidding, and I’m not suggesting all writers are doing this (I’m not) but who knows? Bottom line: there are only two people who know what’s going on in my relationship—me and him. So if something’s on my mind, I ask without being a pain in the ass or a drama queen.
Speak Up: Ever wanted to call out your guy or ask for clarification about something but didn’t because you were afraid of his reaction? Yeah, me too. I’ve finally figured out that, guess what? It’s my relationship too and if he doesn’t want me to participate I’ll find someone who does.
Leave It at the Office: In sizing up potential mates, I used to consider professional success and status as an indicator of the measure of the man. I assumed that if a man demonstrated intelligence, strength, and success on the job then that meant he would exhibit those same characteristics in his personal life. Little Big Man is an example of how wrong this thinking can be. He’s at the top of his career game, yet can’t navigate his own life with integrity. If we’re a match then it’s going to be because of our personal chemistry not his annual performance review.
Don’t Expect Perfection: A male friend of mine recently said that he thinks women are too picky. Apparently we’ve seen too many movies. I can’t say that I disagree entirely. He’s going to make mistakes, act weird, be a pain, and so am I. I’m learning to distinguish between a bad day and a bad habit pattern or, worse, a character flaw. When he misbehaves, I find it’s helpful to think about my friends—how would I react if one of them did the exact same thing?
Be Honest: This is not the same thing as being blunt. You can be honest and nice at the same time. Don’t mislead, don’t leave things unresolved if it’s going to bother one or the both of you and let him know how much you appreciate him.
Enjoy Each Other’s Company. Relationships have their ups and downs. But on balance, I want to enjoy spending time with him in the present moment. Variety is the spice of life and will keep the relationship fresh and fun. Don’t always go to the same restaurant or bar, don’t always go out, don’t always stay in. Explore. Mix it up. Laugh, talk, be quiet, hold hands, make out in the car.
Be Sexually Compatible: Your level of sexual desire needs to be in the same ballpark. I like sex. I probably shouldn’t say too much more because my parents’ might read this. But I will say that I’m not going to be a match for a sloppy kisser or a guy who comes home tired every night. I better stop there.
Keep Your Friends: How many times have you cancelled plans on your girlfriends because you-know-who called at the last minute and wanted to hang out? Bad idea. Because when you neglect your friends, not only do you jeopardize losing them, you also jeopardize losing yourself.
Break Up Nicely: Opening your heart to another person is hard. There’s no need to make it harder by acting petty or unkind when things don’t work out. Take the high road. Don’t break up by text or email. Ever. In person is best but if you weren’t serious then a phone call is acceptable. Don’t fight him if he really wants out. Clearing up a misunderstanding is fine but don’t beg. You have your dignity and deserve to be with a man who appreciates you.