Practical Dating Advice for the Tinder Generation

The song goes “Only Fools Rush in”…

So why then does it feel so good to fall in love as quickly as possible? Maybe even at first sight? Or after the first date? Or the third? What is that rush that sucks us in? Hell, maybe ignorance is bliss? But only until the chickens come home to roost. Ok, that’s a lot of clichés.

Of course, there is chemistry that draws people together initially. That shit is real. But beyond that, I wonder if there isn’t a desire to hurry up and magically “know” he/she is the one. I imagine many of us would like to avoid the discomfort of uncertainty. I always did. To be uncertain about how you feel about someone or worse – how they feel about you – is tough. Real, real tough. To sit with that discomfort is near impossible. And so instead of managing the anxiety, we project who we want them to be, who we hope they will be. Meanwhile, they are still an unknown person. There is so much to discover. So much you can’t know. And the same goes for them about you. Anticipation could actually be part of the fun, but we’ve been taught we’re entitled to instant gratification and happiness on demand. Or keep swiping.

So if that happiness isn’t immediate and automatic, it must be the opposite – wrong, bad, unhappy, etc. But I’m starting to realize we only value things based on the energy and investment we put into them.

Something that’s worth thinking about… has this new person earned the privilege of knowing you deeply yet? Could they possibly know you deeply in the early stages? The way they can truly get to know you is through experiences over time. Not by saddling them every shameful story about yourself. Not by sharing about every guy you’ve dated, broken up with, slept with, been devastated by. They don’t need to know this stuff. Yet. Or maybe ever. That can be your choice – when the time is right. What they need, to really know you, is to see how you show up in the world.

Go slow. Spend time with them, and the experiences you share together and particularly how you both react to those experiences will show them who you are, and you will see who they are also. Then you can make an informed decision.

Rather than spend that entire first weekend together, and mistaking that for love, go slow. Sure spend the night Friday night, but go home at some point. Have breakfast with your friends, get excited with them about the possibility. The anticipation is intoxicating. So give it a beat. He isn’t going anywhere. And if he is, well, then he wasn’t yours to begin with.

And if they seem super into you, right out of the gate – wanting to spend every second with you, or telling you how amazing you are? Well, that’s bullshit too. I don’t care if you are a super model/molecular biologist…this guy (or gal) doesn’t know enough about you yet to know you are awesome. Even if you know you are awesome. And you are awesome. But they don’t know that. They can’t know that.

I met up with my man, after 15 years of not seeing or knowing him (we’d gone to college together). That first night, I was bowled over by the enchanting connection; that’s chemistry, folks. And yep, chemistry is everything in the beginning. It’s the reason we should and do keep coming back. However, I didn’t truly know him. He was someone I’d met 15 years ago in college, and even with that perceived knowledge base, I didn’t actually know him. He wasn’t the same person any longer. He wasn’t a lacrosse playing fraternity brother. In fact, he now had a mustache and looked more like a French movie director than a frat boy. And I sure as hell wasn’t that insecure complicated feisty young woman from back in 1997.   Well, I’m still feisty, thankfully. But what did he really know about me now?

Having distance between us helped slow things down. Like 3000 miles between NYC and Los Angeles.  I admit I didn’t wait as long as I should have for a lot of firsts. One in particular. Oops. I was anxious. And anxious for a connection. But I did wait longer than I wanted to, to say I love you. And he waited even longer to say it back! Talk about sitting with discomfort! And guess what, I waited even longer to hear it back. Yep, still uncomfortable. And ultimately, I did hear it back.

What about starting a family, you say? I hear ya, ladies (and gentlemen). I was ready a year before my partner was. We talked about it, and it was frustrating to not be 100% in sync, but we muddled through (again, sitting with some uncertainty …what if he was never ready and I’d wasted another year!?), until we were on the same page, and now we have a beautiful baby girl. I’m not saying to pretend time stands still. If you are over 35, and want kids…parallel path your intentions. If you haven’t been together long enough to feel it’s acceptable to talk about family planning, at least suss out whether he wants kids or not (if this is important to you). And along the way, if you are feeling your clock ticking, then why not go see the doctor? Make sure all your ducks (or rather, eggs), are in a row, so you can do away with any unnecessary pressure on the relationship and pump the breaks. Maybe even freeze some of those healthy eggs, if you’ve got the means.

It can feel scary to allow time to pass and get a fuller picture of your partner. B/c guess what – you might not like what you see. The person we imagine our partner to be on the first date is anything but. I didn’t think Peter was funny when we first got together. And for quite awhile, he didn’t show me his quirky, humorous side. I probably hadn’t earned that intimacy (yet). Now we get to dork out regularly, and boy, was I wrong about assuming he wasn’t funny. And maybe if we hadn’t powered through the various miscommunications or misunderstandings in the early days, I never would have been around for the goofy good stuff that came later.

Anticipation is half the fun. We always want to hurry and know that he/she’s the one. But it isn’t possible to know that without getting to know the actual person. At the beginning, it is simply the idea of them.

I’ve made a sport of falling for “the idea” of someone. Guess what – none of them stuck around, or I didn’t keep them around. For a reason. B/c the idea or the image ultimately dissolved.

It’s a hologram. Light-filled and beautiful, but a hologram none the less.

And a hologram, while enticing, cannot stay by your side while you are violently ill from food poisoning. A hologram cannot surprise you with the leather jacket you’d coveted but decided was too expensive to buy for yourself.

So stick around to see what he or she is made of. Maybe the bad is worth the good. But how else will you know unless you go slow? Slow doesn’t sound sexy, I know! But you know what is sexy: an earned connection that is deeply rooted in reality.

 

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