A strategy that takes us back to when life was simpler.
Like most singles these days, I use dating apps to meet new people. When looking through dating profiles, I find it really odd when someone says, “Let’s go have our last first date ever.” I get the sentiment behind this, and it’s really sweet, but who are they talking to? Are they talking to me? Or, are they talking to the next person who is going to see their profile? If they are talking to me, how do they know what I’m looking for? Isn’t it presumptuous of them to assume that they could have anything with me? I don’t even know who this person is, and already they’re trying to spend the rest of their life with me? Sigh, and…swipe LEFT.
When did it get like this? When did we become so guarded, and so jaded, that an innocent comment could set us off to the point that we would never attempt to meet the person who was simply trying to say that he was looking for a relationship? You could say it’s just me, but I know that it’s not. I’ve been talking to you, and I already know that you agree, too. When did everything change? Easy answer — sometime between our teenage years and today. We had our first loves, and then we had our hearts broken. Many of us had marriages that did not go our way — children, divorces, custody battles, possibly second marriages. Now, we find ourselves looking for love again, or a relationship, and we are coming to the table with all of the knowledge and life experience that warns us to do it differently this time. (Which is not the same thing as “baggage.” Baggage, to me, means unresolved issues that you have with other people or experiences in your life. Some of us may still be carrying baggage, of course, but this is different.) We have hindsight now, and hindsight is 20/20. How could we not be protective of ourselves? How could we not draw on what we have learned over the past 10, 20, or 30 years? How could we not be guarded and jaded? So, here we are. But look what it’s doing to our dating lives, it just isn’t pretty.
The question becomes, can we do anything about it? By drawing on all of those interactions in order to protect ourselves, we are doing something else simultaneously — we are not coming to the table as our best self when meeting potential mates. It’s like showing up to dinner wearing a shield of armor and carrying a copy of “The Rules.” Then we wonder why we’re not getting asked out for a second date? The dilemma is obvious — we know what we know, and it has changed us. How could we possibly not bring that with us wherever we go? It’s a wonder that anyone is making it to the first date, really.
There was a time when making it to any date was simple and joyful. A time before our hearts had been broken, before marriages and divorces and custody battles, where we still trusted in love and had hopes of bright and happy futures. After much thought and debate, I think this is wherein the answer lies for all of us: We need to retrain our thoughts and actions to where they were before our hearts were broken, while still holding onto the protective knowledge that has brought us to this day, and come out with a more balanced approach to dating. Can it be done?
The answer is yes, it can be done, and there is a way. Three ways, to be specific. Three ways to both protect ourselves, and open ourselves to the notion that love doesn’t have to crush us just because it has before. The strategy: We simply change the way we are dating by approaching it the same way we did when life was simpler — looking through innocent eyes, starting over with a clean slate, and keeping our minds clear of years of emotional clutter. The key? We’ll never “unlearn” what we already know.
1) THE EYES OF THE INNOCENT
How do you go on a date and see the person sitting across from you as something other than a threat? It’s easy, you have to view them differently than what you’re used to. Tell yourself that you are going to make a new friend tonight, and that is your only goal.
Pretend your best friend is going out of town and asks you to have dinner or drinks with their college roommate, who has just moved to town. How would you treat that person, realizing that they are very likely to also become a friend of yours? You don’t know much about him or her, only that they are important to someone who is important to you. You would want to make a good impression, right? You would want to find out why that person is important to someone that you care about. You might ask them about their favorite movies, or books, vacation spots, or cuisines. For sure you would not ask them about their last relationship, or intimate details of their life, when you just met them. You would want to share laughs, stories, and get to know them a little. You would care if they were having a good time. You would have good manners, not drink too much, and not act in a way that would reflect poorly on you. You wouldn’t show up thinking, “Who cares how I act? Who needs a new friend anyway?” Exactly. So you need to act the same way on your next first date. This is where you begin to make a critical change in your behavior.
2) BEGIN WITH A CLEAN SLATE
Contemplate this and you will never see a first date the same again: I can guarantee you of something 100%. I can guarantee you that if you’re taking me out on a first date that you have never dated me before. I can guarantee everyone that if you are taking someone out on a first date that you have never dated them before either. Why is that significant? Oh, it is SO SIGNIFICANT. If you have never dated me before then you already know that I could not possibly be the woman who broke your heart. I am not the woman who cheated on you, or dragged you through court, or did whatever it was that made you miserable in the past. And, you are not any of the men who have done anything to hurt me, either. Think about this. With 100% certainty I can tell you — WE ARE a CLEAN SLATE to one another. You do not represent mankind, you are a man. I do not represent anything, only myself. If we start there then we have traveled light years ahead of where most people begin on a first date. We are not holding one another accountable for something that happened in the past that has nothing to do with us. This is a step beyond where anyone can usually get on a first date, this is incredible progress towards changing our thinking.
3) KEEP A CLEAR MIND — NO EXCEPTIONS
This will be a challenge, but you must arrive at your date with a CLEAR MIND, and there are two critical pieces to this that counterbalance one another: listening to your gut instincts, and not assuming. Listening to your gut instincts will ensure your safety, while not assuming will keep you in check and make sure that you are looking at each new person you meet as exactly that — a new person that you just met.
As a 20 year victim, and a 6 year Survivor Of Domestic Abuse (SODA®), I am always asking others to be mindful of their gut instincts. Not following my own led me directly to trouble, so I hope that others will heed my advice: If you see or sense any of the warning signs of domestic abuse, move away from this person as quickly as possible and do not look back. Keeping a clear mind means that you are aware of what is going on around you at all times and you know what to look out for.
Not assuming means you look past what you are seeing. In other words, give your date a chance before you unfairly judge them. Look at each new person and remind yourself that you do not know them, yet. I have turned down dates from men who drove the same car, had the same hobbies, and once wouldn’t go out with someone again who suggested that we share crab dip as an appetizer, because my ex-husband always used to force me to share it with him. Don’t dismiss someone based on something benign that reminds you of someone else — unless it evokes such a strong reaction from you that you are sure it will be a deal-breaker, and only you will know that. If you can see past an initial reaction then you are putting yourself in the right place to both protect your safety, and not make an early judgement that may not be accurate. This leads to an awareness and open-mindedness that we are missing right now, which will then guide our actions towards increased success in our dating lives.
When you use this approach to dating, things should immediately change for you in a positive way. You should get invited out to many more second dates. What this does not fix is how others will act on first dates, and how they will respond to you. This is what we already know and why it is vitally important: We must remember that we can only control two things in this world: our actions, and our reactions to others. This new approach to dating is all about us. If the other person is not right for you, or not ready to approach dating in the same manner, then it is up to you to react and say no if asked out again. Then, use what you’ve learned all of these years, and move on and find someone else. You never know, that someone could end up being “your last first date ever.”
Please comment here, on www.thesoda-pop.com (anonymous), or on Facebook at @susansparkssoda and let me know how this worked for you!
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