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I’ve run this twice already but ...

Posted Sep 28 2008 7:37pm

I’ve run this twice already but I thought I would run it again for all you newly dating guys and gals with some new edits.

I hope that you venture forth after you’ve done your grief work and learned to spend some time with yourself and know more about yourself than you did before your last relationship. If that is the case, take the healthy dating tips to heart and ENJOY YOURSELF!


1. It bears repeating: enjoy yourself. Dating does not have to be a chore or a thing you HAVE to do in between relationships.

Many people RUSH into relationships because they experience dating burnout. If you are not having a good time, you need to step back and learn to take it for what it is. If it’s not just a pleasureable afternoon or evening, see it as a learning experience. You’re learning how to BE and how to relax around new people.

2. What if you’re not feeling it and no one is feeling it for you and you’re beginning to think that no one likes you? Well there might be a few reasons. Maybe people are picking up some vibe that you’re just getting out of a relationship and not ready.

Or maybe you’re looking at the wrong type. Rethink your usual “type” since your type appears to be leaving tire tracks all over your heart.

When I met my husband, he was not my “type.” Almost all of my ex’s were compared to some gorgeous film star…not this guy. He’s Sicilian and Napoletano and I tease him that he’s short and hairy with a nose that has its own zipcode. Al Pacino is also Sicilian and Napoletano but Al Pacino he’s not…. :) . But he’s cute in a funny (humorous) way and for some reason I knew he was honest.

I had done my work and I just knew he was honest and he was BLOWN AWAY by my honesty and said to me, on our third date, “I really like you because you are who you say you are.” (apparently he’d been with the quick change crowd as well). If you asked him, right this minute, what he loves about me, that is what he would say. I met him almost 12 years ago and married him 11.3 years ago and he has not disappointed either.

He’s been loyal, loving, trustworthy, hardworking, generous, and there for me and my kids in every way possible. He’s not only smart and sexy and the best lover I’ve ever known but in 12 years he has NEVER MADE ME CRY.

You can take that kind of loving to the BANK. My “type” only took me to the (emotional and financial) cleaners. So the hell with my “type.”

And I only gave him a chance because I started to lose the idea of my type since my type was a bonehead anyway.

Seriously, one year earlier I would NOT have given him a second look. Oh no please.

So RETHINK your “type.”

3. NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS: Don’t see it as a negative thing. Whether it takes a while to find someone or if you have the date from hell, you can turn it into a funny yarn for your friends maybe not tomorrow but at some point.

Don’t take anything seriously. Not the inability to get a date or the dates that are complete and horrible.

If you’re taking this process personally, it’s going to be very very hard and it shouldn’t be. Don’t take the search process personally and dont’ take each first date personally.

If you’re having strong emotions around it/after it, maybe you’re not ready yet. It’s okay…go back to your work and stick your feet in the water later.

Once you take the “ desperation ” out of dating, and that includes the desperation to have the BEST time, you will do better at it. You will be less attached to the outcome and more involved in the minute to minute evaluation of what this person is all about, what your behavior, thoughts, feelings are telling you, what is going on in the MOMENT.

4. Similarly, stay out of the future. If it goes badly, don’t latch onto the fact that you will be alone for the REST OF YOUR LIFE. If it goes well, don’t start picking out tuxedos and china patterns. Just take it as a day in your life. If you are on a blind date or online dating date, know that people cannot always KNOW enough to pick the right person and the right place and the right time. It’s okay if you get to the place and you just sorta like the person but nothing that would move you to a second date. Don’t go home and be depressed. Don’t go home and try to hook up with someone (gawd forbid - your ex) to erase the memory of the evening.

Go home and take a nice shower, get into bed with a good book and think to yourself, “ Okay that was interesting ….” or call a friend and say how silly/nice/boring/ridiculous it was or write in your journal or just brush it off and LEAVE IT AT THAT. No more, no less. It is not the beginning of the rest of your life and it’s not the end of the world. It was simply A DATE. No matter if it went well or not, it was a DATE. Don’t make it the rest of your life.

Don’t analyze it. Don’t obsess about it. Learn to detach from it. If it takes on a power of its own, you are not ready to date. Pull back and pull out for a time. DON’T use it to start fantasizing and re-writing the past with your ex. Your last relationship sucked, your ex is a jerk or jerkette. One bad date doesn’t change that reality. The devil you know is not necessarily better than the devil you don’t. Choosing the devil you know keeps you stuck and unavailable for non-devils. DO NOT let a sour date drive you back to your ex.

5. Now for logistics: for a first date go to coffee or lunch. It’s less pressure to have a good time. It’s less obvious if you’re leaving early because you hate this person and it’s less time for you to get the fantasies going in your head.

Don’t dive into any new relationship. Starting out with a coffee or lunch date helps you to keep your feet on the ground and if you need to get out, the getting is good — much better than if you’ve committed to dinner and a movie.

6. Listen to your head about what is going on for you. Are you evaluating your date or worrying what he or she is thinking about YOU? Forget what he or she thinks about you, you already know you’re wonderful and if this person doesn’t appreciate that, the hell with them. Worry about if this person is GOOD ENOUGH for you! Learn to sit back and shut up. This doesn’t mean to leave a lot of uncomfortable silence but LEARN TO LISTEN and listen to what is actually being said, not what you HOPE is being said.

Become aware of the spin machine in your head.

Are you trying to twist everything this person says into why they are wonderful and just right for you? Stop doing it.

Allow him or her to be themselves and listen to who they are and not who you want them to be.

Learn to let the other person reveal TO YOU what they are all about. Maybe they’re not even good enough for YOU to reveal anything of substance to them. Worry about what YOU think of them, not what they think of you.

7. KEEP IT LIGHT. Do not tell this person your life story. Don’t talk about arrests, addictions, abuse, childhood trauma, deaths or horrific accidents you’ve witnessed. If the other person wants to dump their whole pile of crap on you on your first date (or first few dates), you can smile politely and then move along. Meaning, don’t see them again.

Healthy relationships require two healthy people who either have or are working on their unfinished business.

Try to be aware of any savior/needs help duet going on. If it’s lopsided, meaning one of you needs to be saved, and the other one is willing to save, then the dance is GOING to be unhealthy. Avoid all temptation to save someone else or be saved. Go back and work on your stuff.

DO NOT tell your date about your last relationship and how much your ex sucks. Everyone has an ex that sucks. (several, actually). No one wants to hear it on a first date. If you’re driven to tell it, then you’re not ready.

If you are specifically asked to tell about your former relationship, keep it general and keep it light. A good idea is to have a “soundbite” ready if the question comes up. Write a few sentences on an index card that describes, generally, what happened. (”It didn’t work out….we wanted different things.” “It was not a good fit but we all learn from our relationships and so that was a good learning experience.” (if you say this and someone asks what you’ve learned…keep that general as well).

Think of a few things that explains, but not really. You don’t want to be drawn into a lengthy conversation about your former relationship. Work on the index card. Fine tune it and be ready. Also be ready to change the subject and move on.

Being prepared for these questions will keep you from running off at the mouth if you get them.

If you have some skeleton in your closet or some thing you want someone you’re involved with to know about like being a recovering alcoholic or having been incested as a child and you’re working through it or your twin died when you were 15 or something really BIG, it’s okay to let them know in a matter-of-fact way 3 or 4 dates down the line. This does NOT have to come out on a first date AND you should not invite anyone’s opinion about your recovery, your therapy, your trauma….you can say I’m working through this and I’m just letting you know. If your mate wants to know more, he or she is welcome to go find out but it’s not up to you to educate or to apologize. You are who you are…all of you…and you need to accept it. If someone else can’t THEY ARE NOT FOR YOU! It doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you.

Your personal information is PRECIOUS. Guard it and share it slowly. Do not continue to share if the person is not paying attention or not giving your precious information the validation it deserves. Conversely, if the person seems overly concerned or emotional about it, you may have someone whose stuff is going to trigger yours and visa versa. Slow and steady and OBSERVANT behavior will keep this from snowballing into a dysfunctional relationship. Be on guard and BE a good guard of you.

8. Do not get intensely physical (ie sex) on the first date. The rule of thumb used to be 4 dates because that signaled the beginning of a relationship. It’s still a good rule of thumb. If you are not interested in a relationship, cut if off by the 3rd date. If you are, talk about it.

For a first date, the less physicality, the better. For the second, just a little more. For the third date, you can test the water but not have sex…after that you’re out of “dating” territory and that’s a tome for another day. :)

9. If you’re going to have a second date, take a few days to do so. Also if you’re calling each other and emailing or texting, take a break. It’s HEADY when a first date goes well but resist the urge to fall right into “relationship” mode. Take time for you. Take time for your friends and family. Unplug sometimes. Be unavailable sometimes. Although it feels WONDERFUL when things are new and going well, try to pull back because keeping your feet on the ground will help you enormously.

10. If you go on a few dates and talk about former relationships, listen to how your date talks about ex’s. If every one did them wrong, if every one of them was at fault and your date was always WRONGED, then something is wrong. Listen closely. Do you want to be with the person who was always wronged? Try to figure out if this person takes responsibility for anything. You want to steer clear of anyone who doesn’t.

11. Constantly affirm for yourself that you are okay NO MATTER WHAT. You ARE okay even if dating makes you think of your ex it is ONLY because you were comfortable together and you don’t KNOW this new person yet. It DOES NOT mean that you still love the ex or that you should try to get back together.

I remember going out on a date and suddenly thinking of the guy I had broken up with 6 months earlier. We went roller skating and went too fast and hit the floor. The guy was really nice and took me to my car and said, “So should we do this again?” and I said, “What fall on my face?” and he laughed and said, “No, go out.” and I said, “Okay.” Then I got in my car and cried my heart out for my ex.

Well the ex was not someone I would have succeeded with. The roller guy? We had a very lovely 4 year relationship and parted as friends who were growing in different directions. We still talk once a year. So you never know. It was a good thing I didn’t call the ex after feeling so bad after that date. Why did I feel bad? Why did I cry? Maybe because it signaled that I WAS moving on. I really was.

probably residual grief. Whatever it was, it was meaningless. It has no bearing on how I felt about my ex or this new guy. Just some dopey emoting for absolutely no reason. Don’t put any stock into “after first date with a new person” feelings. They’re just stupid.

12. Keep observing yourself and what is going on every step of the way. It’s very very tempting to fall into the new feelings if things are going well. It’s also tempting to feel down if dating is not going well. Dating is a very warped mirror of your life. It’s very un-real. Stay in reality and keep observing YOU and what is going on for you.

Similarly, if this person doesn’t like you as much as you like them, don’t take their opinion about you to heart. YOU KNOW YOU’RE WONDERFUL (and if you don’t, you should). If that person cannot SEE it, they are obviously NOT for YOU.

The person who will be THE ONE for you will know, OUT OF THE GATE, that you are the GREATEST.

You don’t want to have to convince someone that you’re great. You want them to know. Sometimes people who reject you first are really just bullets you’ve managed to dodge. Thank your lucky stars that you don’t have this mediocre person in your life. DON’T take it PERSONALLY. It’s not YOU.

13. Keep yourself safe. Safety is more important than being polite. If you start to think this person is a creep or bad news, bail early. Just excuse yourself and go (or don’t excuse yourself, just slip out a side door). Similarly, don’t give new people your home phone number or address. Meet in public places where there are other people. This is not to scare you, but to remind you. Stay safe.

And to repeat number one: HAVE FUN WITH IT and if that is not possible, HAVE A LEARNING EXPERIENCE that will help you in the future.

If I were to recommend ONE book on dating and relationships, it would be: A Fine Romance by Judith Sills, Ph.D. (Click the book title to order).

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