Tips to Happy Dating

When you think of dating happily, you may think of spending time with an interesting and neat person, doing lots of fun and exciting things together, and connecting intimately. Yet those are only a few of the things that go into a groovy dating experience. In this chapter are ten more things that, although they may not pop immediately to mind, are also keys to having rewarding and fun dating experiences.

Be Realistic

We live in a society in which an artificial need is created to sell everything from toothpaste to cars to hot dogs. The need that advertisers create is the need to smell great and look great and be perfect. In short, it’s the need to be loved, and they convince us that by buying this product — voilá — we will find true love.

If you’re looking for the perfect date or mate or state, you’re in trouble for two reasons: First, perfection is unlikely, if not impossible. Second, if a perfect person were to exist, he or she would most likely be looking for a perfect person, too. Yikes! Heaven knows, I’m not perfect, and neither are you.

Be Specific

Often, when people talk about the opposite sex, they either go all gooey and soft focus or become harsh and judgmental. Neither stance is particularly helpful. Look carefully at the details. Being specific is one of the best ways
not only to problem-solve but to be realistic as well.

Abstractions are almost always trouble. Saying, “This relationship isn’t working for me,” makes everybody unhappy and anxious. Saying, “It makes me nervous when you’re more than five minutes late while I’m waiting on a street corner for you because I once saw a pedestrian hit by a car,” is much less threatening and much more helpful in terms of offering a problem and solution. In this approach, you can agree to wait inside, your partner can promise to be early from now on, or you can get some therapy about the pedestrian trauma. My point is that specificity gives everybody a place to start with a minimum of blaming or value judgment.

Take Responsibility

This is a way cool rule for life as well as for dating. Nothing makes people angrier than the “who me?” routine. All of us make mistakes — sometimes because we’re thoughtless, sometimes because we’re clueless, often out of ignorance. But when it’s clear you blew it, even though every instinct is saying play dumb, accept responsibility: If you’re late, ’fessing up — “I’m late, I’m sorry, and I didn’t leave enough time” (or “I got caught up and lost track of the time” or even “You’ve kept me waiting; I thought I’d try payback”) — is still much better than playing dumb.

Besides, playing dumb is an expensive defense: Think back a few years to when you got caught with chocolate on your face, and your mom said, “Who ate the ice cream?” and you said, “I don’t know.” Remember her response? “It was bad enough you ate the ice cream, but I’m going to punish you twice for lying.” Ouch. Not taking responsibility when you know ya done it is the momand-chocolate-ice-cream scenario all over again.

Be Active

In our society, we seem to have become a nation of crybabies and busybodies. We’ve all become professional victims. The best way not to feel victimized is to do something, (almost) anything. Don’t wait for someone to call you. Either make the call, take a walk, scrub the floor, scrape gum off your shoes, or jog. Don’t wait for someone else to make your day or make you happy or get the ball rolling. This is your life, not a dress rehearsal.

Nobody likes to be around someone who has no opinions, no energy, no personality. Do something and watch the world watch you.

Don’t Settle

A life is a series of compromises — going left when you wanted to go right because the taxi cut you off, taking the chicken on the buffet table because the prime rib was all gone, going to the prom with your best friend because
you thought your dream date would turn you down. There’s nothing bad or wrong about being flexible. The trick is knowing when to compromise and when to go for it.

To do that, you have to know what’s really important to you, and once you know that, don’t settle. If you don’t have what you want, make sure you do know what you want — being both realistic and specific — and then go for it. You can always reevaluate. What most people regret is not the mistakes they made but the chances they didn’t take.

Reevaluate Often

Something that made you happy or behavior that pleased you or someone who rang your chimes once may or may not be in for the long haul. The only way of knowing the short term from the long term is to be willing to take your
own emotional pulse from time to time.

If you’re happy and you know it, not only clap your hands but enjoy, and if you have a few extra moments, try to figure out why you’re happy (although, to be quite honest, most of us don’t know; we just let the good times roll and rule). But if you’re miserable (or even if there seems to be just a tiny pinch), for heaven’s sake, take a moment and see whether you can figure out alternatives and understand cause and effect (what makes you feel the way you do).

Don’t waste time blaming; just try to be specific and active and responsible and problem-solve.