1- Not treating the process like a job
Finding someone you connect with on a deeper level is no accident. It takes work and focus. Sure you can grab a glass of wine or a nice rich whisky and sit on the porch Friday night and do some casual swiping when you’re bored, but that isn’t going to get you very many dates. It might occupy some time though and if that’s what you really want… carry on!
Dating is kind of like sales, you need to fill the funnel full of opportunities in order for even a few gems to pop out the bottom. I moved back to the US a few weeks ago and I’ve spent some concentrated time on Tinder. (I also use other apps but Tinder is the one more people are using here.) I’ve chatted with quite a few guys; real, detailed conversations, not just “Hey”- “Hey”… yet, I have only had two dates. I’ve had three dates cancel on the day of or just before too, and barely heard from those guys again, or if I do hear from them, it’s been haphazard.
If you’re really serious about meeting someone in person and possibly taking things to the next level, you need to make a focused effort, work the apps. It’s helpful to be chatting to a couple of those potentials at the same time because chances are, only one (or none) of them will make it to an actual date. That leads me to mistake number 2…
2- Talking too much. Meeting too little.
Many times we think it’s best if we spend a lot of time getting to know someone before we meet them. I always recommend meeting sooner rather than later. Prolonged chatting tends to lend itself to boredom and moving on. We think we should get to know someone “better” before we meet, but then all the tingles and excitement start to fade. It also gives us a false sense of “knowing” the other person. We start to get comfortable, which is nice, but is it real?
If you meet for a quick cup of coffee you can get a real-life feel for someone. You can tell if the energy is good or if it’s just been texting fun. I’ve talked to guys in text for weeks who I thought I was going to ADORE in person but when we met there was NO energy AT ALL. ZERO manifestation of all those things I thought I was going to experience when I finally met them. The result was weeks wasted when I could have been focusing my energy elsewhere. (See mistake number 1 and treat dating like a job!)
My BFF agrees about meeting quickly rather than waiting, “You can give them a sniff test, see how it feels to be with them before you go building them up in your head.” If the end game is an in-person relationship with this person, then why wait to meet them? If you are worried about safety, there are safeguards you can put in place to feel more secure and a cup of coffee on a Sunday afternoon is a great option for a safe way to meet. (COVID safety: Make that a cup of coffee in the park!)
3- Treating first dates like they’re the first day of the rest of your life.
Someday this person you’re going on a date with may become a forever person in your life. (Fingers-crossed) But your first date is not that day! Putting all your romantic hopes and dreams on one-time slot, on one person, is a lot of pressure. Too much pressure for you and for that person. Too much!
Think of a first date as an adventure (even your 2nd-3rd date is still adventure territory… especially if coffee was your first date.) The worst thing that can happen is you have a good story to tell about how weird or awkward it was. You can have a wine or beer with your friends and tell them how she picked her teeth with the fork or he talked about his ex the whole night! The best thing that might result from a first date is a second date, not a marriage.
This is not the time to be wondering what they will look like all dressed up at the front of a church, pledging love to you forever. This is the time to ask interesting questions, find out who they are, get to know them, not have the rest of your life planned out, or be figuring out how to make them fit into that mold. Chances are they might not fit at all.
4- Not saying ‘No’ to get what you want.
Say no right away when things seem off or make you uncomfortable. If you think that joke was racist, assume the person is too. Just say NO. If they seem to be possessive, or transphobic, or just plain self-absorbed assume they are. Just say NO!. By saying no, you free yourself up to go back to that funnel and meet more people who are hopefully more compatible with your viewpoints and beliefs. This person is not your only option and never will be. There are “plenty of fish in the sea.”
Have important conversations early so you can say no before things get deeper and you might be tempted to make excuses to stay involved because you’ve started to have feelings for them. Find out about their views on things like sex, money, monogamy, and work-life balance. Can you live with their views? Are they compatible with yours? There are so many topics we find difficult to talk about but in the end, the answers can be deal-breakers, so bring them up now and be prepared to say no before you are too far in. You’ll find someone you’re compatible with more quickly if you move on than if you stay when you see something that doesn’t quite fit.
Find out what makes them tick and if at any time you think, “Hmm really?” Or “Ew!”, then say no and move on. You are still in the early days, This is not the time to “feel bad” for sticking to your beliefs and boundaries. You don’t owe anyone your time or energy. You do owe yourself honesty and integrity. Remember, you deserve to get what you want, so know what that is, have clear boundaries, and don’t let them be pushed.
5- “Going Steady” after just a few dates.
How easy it is to simply fall into a relationship! We go on a few dates, we enjoy it, we start spending the night, and before we’ve actually processed it or made an actual decision, we’re “in a relationship.” There is no intention. No surety that this is what we want. We’ve just kind of fallen in line and off we go. In some circles, this is known as the “Relationship Escalator.”
Relationship Escalator. The default set of societal expectations for intimate relationships. Partners follow a progressive set of steps, each with visible markers, toward a clear goal. … The Escalator is the standard by which most people gauge whether a developing intimate relationship is significant, “serious,” good, healthy, committed or worth pursuing or continuing. – Amy Gahran
Why do we do this? Is it because this is the person you want to go the distance with? (How do you know yet?) Or are you doing it because it’s the path of least resistance? I think that our culture encourages us to “go along” instead of choose. Too many times I have gone along because he liked me, less than because I liked him. Sometimes that works, mostly it doesn’t. It’s ok to take your time. Think about what you want and what that looks like. I am not monogamous anymore. But when I was, I wasn’t ever INTENTIONALLY monogamous. It was just something I did because it’s what people do.
A relationship you are hoping will go the distance, deserves intention. Don’t just fall into something. Take the time you need to decide if this is who you want and if this is the way you want the relationship to manifest. No one said you can’t see more than one person until you are sure either! Don’t let anyone pressure you into being exclusive until you are ready, not your lover, not your friends, not your mom. You worked hard to fill that funnel and there are still other potential partners in there. As we say in sales, “Don’t leave money on the table!”
Not everyone is making all of these mistakes, but it’s possible you are making a few of them. When I talk to people about dating these are some of the most common things I hear. There is nothing wrong with being objective in your search for love. You are not obligated to live out a Rom-Com love story. (That whole love them, lose them, get them back thing, is stressful and at the end who wants all that drama!?) In between this objectiveness, romance can and does thrive (I promise, none of these things will negate the butterflies and the New Relationship Energy (NRE)). Knowing what you want and being willing to wait for it, while putting in the work to find it, is its own reward.
E.L Byrne is a polyamorous person with more years dating than she can count! She currently has two boyfriends and is working a funnel full of opportunities as we speak! For more stories about dating and relationships, often focused on relationships from a non-monogamous perspective, check out more stories on the blog! (www.elbyrnewriter.com)