When I began dating after my separation, I was incredibly lonely. I craved attention and validation and was often willing to take whatever I could get from wherever I could get it. A living, breathing cocktail of desperation and inexperience, I sought out and went on dates I shouldn’t have and certainly wouldn’t today. But in order to recognize how a good date looks and, more importantly, feels, I needed to first have my share of bad ones, too. And, as with every life experience, for better or for worse, there are important lessons to be gleaned.
1. I prefer my own company to bad company. After being in a 24-year relationship, 16 years of which I spent married, learning how to be alone definitely took some adjustment. Daily casual phone conversations with my husband all but disappeared and I lost my dinner partner and nighttime TV-watching buddy. For a while, I stopped engaging in pastimes I enjoyed and spent way too much time looking for love and companionship online. I often gave bad first dates a second pass, as though my first impression was categorically unreliable and patently mistaken. Now, not only do I cut ties quickly, I turn down more dates than I accept. The truth is I’m the best date I can ever have and a tough act to follow.
2. Rejection is good. I used to rack my brain coming up with reasons why a guy didn’t want to meet or continue seeing me. Am I not pretty enough? Smart enough? Thin enough? Young enough? Interesting enough? After two years of post-separation dating, I don’t pay these thoughts any mind. If a guy rejects me, that’s okay. He’s entitled to his opinion because, well, it’s his opinion. It’s got nothing to do with my value as a potential partner. Better yet, he’s just freed me up for a relationship with someone more compatible. And I deserve to be with someone who wants to be with me, someone who thinks I’m not only enough but more.
3. A bad date can also be my fault. In order for a date to be mutually enjoyable, I need to be present. There’s nothing worse than an evening spent worrying about conflict with the ex, my children’s homework, a stack of bills, and household chores. When on a date, I stay in the moment so my romantic interest can get to know the best part of me and I of him.
4. I’m better than this. It took a long time after my separation to realize I’m not worthless. If a guy doesn’t respect my mind and my body, the only choice I have is to walk away. Permanently. By accepting behavior I don’t deem acceptable, I give someone license to treat me badly. I then have only myself to blame when a relationship is unsatisfying.
5. Another date is only a mouse click away. The beauty of dating in the Internet age is the ability to meet more and more people. Whether it is through online dating, social media, or an interest specific Meetup group, I have the opportunity to find new prospects. And the possibilities are endless! The only problem becomes knowing when to stop looking. But that’s a discussion for another day. Or date.