Nobody will ever accuse me of being a dating guru. I’m the most indifferent dater of all time, and I can’t think of many things that interest me less than going on a first date. This doesn’t mean my dating pool has been completely dried up; I’ve actually had a few serious relationships.
None of them worked out, but that doesn’t mean they were a complete loss. Each time one fell apart I managed to find wisdom among the pieces I was putting back together. What I’ve learned over time is that love isn’t about dating more, it’s about dating smarter, and that’s why I’ll never make these mistakes again.
Date a guy who is emotionally or otherwise unavailable.
Are you emotionally detached? Married? Hundreds of miles away? Currently serving a prison sentence? Still hung up on your ex? I’m not interested. If I’m going to be with someone I want to be with him. When someone doesn’t have the ability or desire to allow you into every aspect of their lives, you end up being second, third, fourth or even lower on their list of priorities. I’ve found myself feeling like a supporting character in my own relationship, and I deserve to have one of the two starring roles.
Give more than my 50%.
Relationships are like a high stakes game of poker between two people who are required to go all in. If one person doesn’t push their chips to the center of the table, the game cannot proceed. Not only does the game cease to be fun, but nobody is a winner. When someone is unwilling to do their part, what they’re really saying is that the relationship isn’t worth the investment of their energy and time. If it isn’t worth theirs, it isn’t worth mine.
Date a friend.
“But Jen, your partner is supposed to be your friend.” I believe the person should absolutely be one of my closest friends, but I will now only become their friend after I’ve begun dating them. I dated two guys I was longtime friends with; I despise both of them now. Being wronged by a guy you met on eHarmony is one thing, but being wronged by someone who knows you intimately is an entirely different beast. Add the fact that I’m losing a boyfriend and a friend at the same time, and I have a recipe for a four alarm emotional fire.
Try to be “good enough” for my relationship.
I always had this idea of what a girlfriend/wife should be: beautiful, funny, smart, feminine, successful, [insert a million adjectives here]. I see her as my antithesis, someone who wears heels while she cleans the house, and who throws parties that make her the envy of all those who know her. I am currently trying to outlaw pants with button waists, and I spend more time alone than most bridge trolls. What I’ve come to accept is that I have a particular brand of crazy that some fetishist out there is going to love one day. Instead of seeking out the person I need to become, I’m going to seek out the person who loves what I already am.
Not letting go when I know I should.
I let two of my relationships linger well after their expiration dates, and like spoiled milk, they left a bad taste in my mouth. When two people stay together through their insurmountable dysfunction, it becomes a race to see who can drive the other crazy first. I’m finally at a place in my life where I’m taking my overall well-being seriously, and I refuse to give myself or my partner permission to undo my hard work.
All relationships take work, and I’m not under any false impression that I’ll live out a Disney-esque romance with someone. I know we’ll disagree, and that there will be moments when compromise is necessary. Weathering a storm is possible if you have the right captains aboard the ship.
There is no blueprint for success in relationships, and what is right for one may not be right for another. The pleasure and pain of love lies in the lessons you learn while mapping out your own course. Right now I’m feeling a little of both.