“I’ve been on six dates in the last month and all of them sucked. Everyone I date sucks. What should I do?”
This is a question we hear quite often. First of all, I’d like to point out that the question itself is a little misleading.
Dating can be a lot of things—challenging, exciting, interesting, and a chance to explore your own values and communication skills. Oh yeah, and it’s a chance to really connect with another person who you may eventually explore a more serious relationship with.
Many of us get frustrated in the dating world because we forget that the true excitement and beauty of dating is that you get to connect with so many different people. You get to have fun with someone else and learn a little bit about him or her, and in turn, you can learn quite a bit more about yourself. Dating is exciting and interesting. Keeping this mindset can help you approach dates with an open and positive mindset. This keeps your dating experiences growth-focused and helps you learn to engage with different people in different ways.
Reassess your expectations and move away from the cultural mindset of what dating “should be” or an idealized view of a date. Yes, he may chew with his mouth open or she may talk incessantly about her cat. Try to gain something from the situation anyway. Even if you know in the first five minutes that this isn’t something you wish to pursue, consider what you can gain from this interaction. What can you learn about yourself?
So if you live in a small town or if you have a limited dating pool, you may have to get creative with your exploration. Even if you’re trying avenues like online dating, consider how you’re setting up your expectations and if you’re giving credence to dates that are really not going to be mutually satisfying from the get-go. Be up front about your needs and when you’re viewing a potential date’s profile, carefully consider the buzzwords they use.
Many of us tend to overlook those gut feelings or reactions in the hope of connecting with someone we find attractive or interesting. Attractive and interesting are important, but five or six months in, when you’re ready to hit up a gallery opening and a charity dinner and he’s browsing through Netflix in his snuggie …well, attractive and interesting just won’t be enough.
If you’ve been on a string of bad dates, consider what they have in common. Are you unconsciously seeking out personality traits you actually find off-putting? Do you feel you’re connecting, only to be ghosted at the six-week mark time after time? It’s time to be honest with yourself about what you’re really looking for in someone and if you’re being clear with your expectations. Don’t shy away from the difficult questions and don’t go for someone because on paper you feel they’re what you “should” be seeking.
As you engage with another person, set yourself up for success by keeping the conversations genuine and authentic. It’s easy to fall in the patterns of griping about your day and talking about mundane aspects of work, but you’ll find, down the road, that you’re sitting on a string of “bad dates” with nothing to show. To really connect with another person means to get past the minutia. If your honest thoughts and emotions scare someone away, then you know they weren’t ready for the relationship anyway.
If you really want to figure out if a date is worth going out of your way or taking up an hour of your time, consider screening your dates a little more thoroughly. Ask each date if you could briefly talk on the phone beforehand—and be direct. Use their answers as a barometer for their emotional availability and interest.
Avoid the mindset that “all the good ones are gone” or that you’re the last person left without a relationship. This can be especially damaging when you find yourself single later in life, but there’s no reason to let this mindset enter your view.
People can grow and change at any age. For example, there are plenty of 55-year-olds who are running in their first 5K or tackling oil painting for the first time. Growth-oriented people are growth-oriented at any age. Conversely, there are plenty of teens and twenty-somethings who have no interest in personal responsibility, growth or change.
Look at dating as a great way to get to know some people a little better and to brush up on your own interpersonal and communication skills. Be realistic about the process and approach it with an open attitude. You may be surprised to find that your dates stop “sucking” and get a whole lot better.
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Monica is the Admissions Coordinator and Marketing Specialist at the Wright Graduate University. As the admissions coordinator and head of marketing for WGU, Monica oversees recruiting, student admissions, customer services and marketing efforts.
The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.