Meeting the world with an open mind is a good thing, usually. But when it comes to dating, it can open up whole cans of worms.
And those worms can quickly burrow under your skin, causing trauma.
That might seem alarmist, but we have to be realistic here. Dating involves allowing other people into your life — and often your heart, with little background information.
When we take time to weigh up the pros and cons of dating someone, we are dismissed as ‘too picky’. As though everyone should just see how it goes, because “you never know”.
But when did weighing your options become a bad thing?
Nowadays, we date online, meet people in bars or have friends set us up. When we date, we hide our ‘negative’ traits, airbrushing our personalities to seem desirable. Amenable.
Then, when it all comes crashing down around us, we wonder what happened.
What happened is that you had no idea what the hell you wanted in the first place.
I’ve never been ‘picky’
I’ve never been one to take things slow. If I ever felt a spark (even a small one) I struggled to dampen it.
Especially when my ego was on the line.
But I was fairly good at dating. I could put on a show. I am a dab-hand at seeming fearless, casual, off-hand, intellectual. I can talk, and I know how to use my sexuality. In the game of dating, I was often a winner.
But this is what it often came down to: A game where my self-esteem was up for grabs. I could either walk away feeling fabulous, or downtrodden. And this lay in the hands of someone else. Someone who didn’t really know me.
And I didn’t know me really. And because of this, I didn’t really know what I was looking for in a man. All I was looking for was the attraction factor.
It didn’t matter if I saw it going anywhere or not. I just needed that approval. And if it didn’t come, I would fixate. This anxiety became ten-times worse if we’d been dating a couple of weeks or months.
I just couldn’t let go.
What I know now is that I wasn’t picky enough. I was letting my need for attention lead my dating choices.
If I had taken the time to be alone and love myself, I might have saved myself a lot of heartache.
Knowing what you want in a relationship starts with knowing yourself
My blatant need to be desired was coupled with the thought that my life wouldn’t begin until I met the right person. And this is a fatal flaw in reason.
Instead of spending time understanding and loving myself, I put my life on hold. I set about finding someone to understand me, essentially trying to outsource the work I should have done on myself.
See, the only way you are going to have a successful relationship, is if you have a successful relationship with yourself.
And that requires love, kindness, and effort. Pour that shit on yourself!
What I realise now, after several botched long-term relationships (and some torturous short-term ones) can be neatly summed up in this quote:
“The distance between what you want and what you get is what you do.”
The source is unknown, but the truth of it speaks volumes.
If what you are doing is pouring effort into knowing yourself, being comfortable with yourself, you are on the right path. Be picky with yourself: choose what you let in, and what doesn’t serve you.
It helps to spend time alone, doing things you enjoy. Talk to yourself, out loud, laugh with yourself. Note the things you love about yourself. Celebrate them.
Once you have this down, you can look at what you like to have around you.
And no, I am not talking about creating a ten-point list of stringent credentials a partner must have. They do not need to own their own company, and you don’t need a man with a six-pack. Abs are overrated.
Focus on the traits of family and friends that make you smile. Qualities like open-mindedness, humility, kindness. These are the kinds of things to be picky about.
Breaking the spell of the ‘open mind’
When we date, we are told to go in with an open mind. But this only goes so far. All too often, it becomes the catalyst for people to spend too long dating someone they aren’t sure about. And what is the point in that?
“We have romanticised the idea of romance, and it is cancerous”
Comedian Daniel Sloss said it best. His Netflix special ‘Jigsaw’ holds one of the finest insights into dating I’ve heard.
He attacks the notion we are fed in films and television: we’re not whole until we have found someone to be with. As a result, “we force this person into our lives because we would much rather have something than nothing.”
But this only leads to disappointment. In rejecting our desires, and downplaying the relationship with have with ourselves.
He goes on to say that “we have romanticised the idea of romance, and it is cancerous”. He is not wrong. In movies across the globe, the credits roll when the relationship starts.
To date, Sloss’ campaign of insight into our dating lives has ended a slew of marriages and long-term relationships. And he is not sorry. The relationships he ended were not true love. And so, to his mind, he has saved lives.
And I am inclined to agree.
Too often we try to shoehorn a partner into our lives. Disregarding the parts we don’t like because we are afraid of being alone. But what is so wrong with being alone, if the alternative is being less than completely satisfied?
If we are picky with the people we date, we will look more keenly for worthy candidates. And eventually find we’re more willing to bail out of the wrong relationships when necessary.
Dating is a funny business and should be treated with curiosity, of course. It does us no harm to mix it up. Go for dinner with someone you wouldn’t normally choose to date: it can be eye-opening.
But be honest about what you want. Be honest about who you are, and don’t be afraid to dismiss something that isn’t exactly what you want. Or else you could find yourself fitting into someone else’s ideal of you or settling for something you don’t want.
But be picky, and strive to find someone who you love entirely. And who loves you the same. It is not an exact science. Trial and error will always play a part. But even if you have been with someone for ten years, be picky.
Actively assess your relationship, and work on areas if you think it worth saving.
Most importantly, work hard to love yourself. Because when you do, you find you are less willing to compromise on your own happiness.
And if you don’t end up meeting your forever person for a while, at least you get to spend more alone time with the real love of your life. You!