“I'd love a piece from you on what you liked about dating, and what (if any) you would do differently. And anything else you want to say about dating/marriage/love in your 30s.”
That's the instruction I got from Erin when she asked me to appear as a guest blogger here. I have to start by saying, in all earnestness, that it is only with hindsight that I can identify any pattern in my dating or relationships so I don't proport to be an expert on the subject.
Let's start at the beginning. I'll be frank—the thing I miss the most about marriage is dating. I loved the idea of dating, the essence of it. Not the kind where my (for the record, dearly beloved and brand new) husband takes me to a different restaurant every week. The kind where you go not having any idea what the responses to your questions will be, if he'll be earnestly attractive or if you'll somehow end up on his private jet to France where you'll discover his secret billions which he hides so you'll love the real him. Admit it. You've gone there too.
I know, I know. I can hear the arguments about hills and their greenery. I'm not sure, however, that until you're in a relationship where all other options are excluded for ETERNITY that it becomes clear how much fun it is to consider The Next Big Thing. It's like a tattoo—fun to get but you look at it ten years later and think, “Wow! That's really PERMENANT!” The future is so fun to shape in our imaginations that it's been quite jarring for me embrace the change in my fantasies.
So, what kind of advice do I have for you? I think that dating and relationships come down to the single idea of distillation.
What are the common factors that keep popping up in your men (or women)? Why? Do you really find them attractive or are they just comfortable because you're not willing to raise/lower your own behavior to meet what you'd like in a partner? And are you looking for a partner that matches your future self or your real, right now, fatter-than-I'd-like-to-be-
I love geeks. Bearded, awkward, socially impacted, weird-compliment giving, programming, game-playing, Woot shopping geeks. I had no idea that I love them until I dated the man I'll call K. Mostly because that is his first initial. I met K working as a waitress. He hung out with the gaming geeks who took their dinner break in my restaurant. Who am I kiding? He was the leader of the pack. He was a long-haried Catholic and regularly wore dragon-themed shirts. And had the most amazing blue eyes. But I digress (Hi, Honey!). I spent the first six months of our two plus year relationship with no clue as to why I was dating him. I really thought I was just biding my time until The Next Big Thing. He was fun, challenged my mind, was totally devoted and truly loved me. I thought, “He's a great guy and I'm enjoying myself but I could never REALLY date him.”
Wrong. After six months I was feeling horrible. Mostly because I'm not the kind of girl who enjoys that type of surface, fake interaction. Having my boyfriend on weeknights and my LDS friends on others—never the twain shall meet—was making me miserable. I started to think about why I spent time with K. What was it that I found so captivating? After a long while of considering it came down to this—I could never anticipate what he was going to say. I was totally captivated, fascinated by the mind of this man. I hated his clothes, his home (so messy), his rabid views about religion drove me up the wall. But I stayed because I could not get enough of his conversation. That may seem an odd conclusion but, to me, it was a revelation.
I tell that story not for any other reason that to illustrate what became my central idea in my future dating: distillation. I looked at my own set of experiences and figured out the deal breakers. Mine are religion, temper and intelligence. You can see how the relationship with K didn't last, eh?
After that revelation I decided to put a business spin on things. I was tired of being hurt so what could I change about the way I was regarding dating, how could I make it more objective and less emotional? For me it was the logic of it. I discovered that dating is marketing. And marketing is only effective when you can deliver on the product, are hitting the right markets and, above all, are really aware of the strengths and weaknesses of your own brand.
Sure, I thought that 6'5” athletic fitness freaks were good looking—you betcha. But I was a 5'8” book loving doughgirl. I love camping and hiking and such—so I had those things in commmon with those guys—but I wasn't motivated to get to the tops of mountains or to look at myself in the mirror as I pumped iron. Or even to get up from the middle of a great book so that I could go to the gym on a regular basis. So, I had to get real. And I was feeling all defeated about that until I remembered, “Oh! I shouldn't be sad! I love geeks! Geeks don't exercise in this planet!!” And then I smiled to myself because I'd finally identified my target market.
Anyway, those are some thoughts about my journey. I know the theme is “Joy in the journey!” and I get that. But I suppose that for me it's not really about joy. It's about realism. It's about knowing yourself, knowing the situation of dating and gaining knowledge to make the situation work best for you. Distill. Get to your most simple truth, you most basic attractions and deal breakers and work from the point of strength. If you're not driven to marry, don't. If you're feeling guilty about that, take it up with Heavenly Father. If you find yourself talking to guys who are rude to you and make you feel bad, stop. Find another addiction, something else to do that won't bring you down. Just be real. Be earnest. And move along down the road. If someone falls into step with you, yahoo. If not, you're at least farther through your tour of Holland.
And remember—in marriage you have to compromise. So revel in your apartment until then.
(Erin's note- I added the bold, italics, and picture myself.)