It Takes Courage to Date

man and woman having coffee dateI think I spent most of my twenties in a state of perpetual angst. There was a constant knot tightening tighter and tighter in my stomach. Some of this may have been due to working in the stress-fueled film production industry, but most of it, I think, was owed to the horrors and excitement of the dating lifestyle.

Nothing ticks up worry and anxiety like a little dip in the dating pool. We constantly try to look good, shave our legs, dab on something that smells nice, put our wittiest selves on display, and spend hours analyzing the tea leaves. “What did it mean when he said …” “Does she like me?” “OK, when he said, ‘I’ll have the same,’ did he really want the same or is he a suck-up?” It’s a time of introspection on overdrive, of hedging our bets by assessing all the single people we meet for date-ability, and of vetting the dating sites to pick the best one—eHarmony if you’re serious, OkCupid if you’re not, Match somewhere in between (or is it the other way around?). Dating is messy, arduous, worrisome, and a blast, too! It’s the ultimate ride.

Yes, dating is not for the faint of heart, yet most of us have to face it at some point. The whole dating (courting) thing has gone on for thousands of years, yet no one has mastered it—other than arranged marriages, no one seems to come up with a better solution for finding someone to go through life with or spend time with.

Dating comes up a lot in therapy. It dredges up uncomfortable feelings in otherwise confident and competent adults. It can leave folks breathless with anxiety or anticipation, totally sick to their stomachs, and everything in between. Some people avoid it altogether. Some have one bad experience, shut themselves up in their moldering house, and never leave again—Miss Havisham, anybody?

Dating is a judgmental business. It’s the ultimate reality series. How you “frame” the idea of dating, how you think of dating, can make it more emotionally doable. How high are the stakes? If no one winks at your profile, is life over? Or is this an adventure, an experiment to see whom you like? Winks go both ways.

Here’s an idea that may make the dating journey a little more comfortable. (It’s a marathon, not a sprint.)

Write a list:

  • What do you want in partner? Not what your mom wants for you, not what your best friend thinks would be good for you. What do YOU—in your secret heart—want?
  • What are you willing compromise regarding what you want?
  • Would you be willing to eat vegetarian?
  • Would you be willing to leave the state?
  • What are the deal-breakers for you? Are kids from a previous relationship OK?
  • Is being gainfully employed a must?
  • Does the person have to be good-looking?

You see, you get to pick. You get some control. You get to think about what is important to you to have on your team.

Then, as Bette Davis says in the film All About Eve, “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

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  • Tenille

    January 16th, 2014 at 6:17 PM

    I have always just been on the lookout for guys who seem like they would be a lot of fun to hangout with. I haven’t been to the point in life yet where I have looked for anything serious yet and I don’t want a guy who is looking for that serious kind of relationship yet either. So for me it is all about can he make me smile, can he make me laugh and show me a fun time without all of the hang ups about settling down. I know that’s not the right thing for me right now so I am looking for someone cool to hang out with. Dating can be pretty laid back if you are pretty set on what you are looking for and you don’t get so hung up on one or two really small little things. Just think of it as a way to meet some really cool new people, not as a chore.

  • sue

    January 17th, 2014 at 2:19 PM

    For me, it is all about being a little sacred to let someone new get to know me.

    What if he doesn’t like me for who I am or like the way I do this or that or whatever? And what if I feel the same? Or worse yet, what if I do like him and he finds something wrong with me? I think that there is just naturally this fear that most of us have about letting someone new in and feeling that we want to protect ourselves against getting hurt especially if we have been hurt pretty badly in the past before.

    So you are right, it does take some courage, almost a little bit of a mindset that I am just going to close my eyes and jump because there is no way to find out unless you do.

  • Katerina

    January 18th, 2014 at 8:21 AM

    But there is something to be said for choosing to live alone too. That takes a little courage too wouldn’t you say?

  • sam

    January 21st, 2014 at 3:56 AM

    @ Katerina- I agree that that takes courage too, especially when society gets so hung up on trying to make everyone have the perfect mate and feeling like there must be something wrong with YOU for choosing to be alone.

    Well I don’t mind that aloneness either. I have a lot of great friends and a lot of fulfillment in my life and I don’t think that I need someone else to complete me so to speak.’

    I am not against the idea of meeting that right person or closed off to that, but I have always felt that when something is going to happen then it will happen, and that there doesn’t have to be a whole lot of work to make it happen.

  • Brooke

    January 22nd, 2014 at 3:51 AM

    A difficult thing for me has been to get past this little list that I always had in my head about what I thought that I wanted and didn’t want. I had to get a little more realistic and consider the things that really mattered and those that didn’t. Height doesn’t matter, but kindness and a sense of humor do. Those little things. Being able to let go of the “perfect” man and just being able to start looking for the traits that really matter for a lasting relationship.

  • ivy

    January 23rd, 2014 at 3:54 AM

    i will go a step further and say that as you get older and have expereinced not the best of relationships a time or two, that dating gets even harder. you become afraid that you are going to give your heart over again to someone who is going to hurt you and this becomes something that most of us want to avoid when at all possible. i think that you can deal with those heart aches maybe a little better when you are younger, but as you get older and think about wanting to be settled and commited then you don’t want to have to go through the ups and downs of the dating world constantly. so there is some fear there, fear of being hurt but also fear perhaps that you will stay alone, never find that right person to share the rest of your life with.

  • Andre

    January 10th, 2015 at 5:22 PM

    I agree 100% with you.

  • Leo

    January 27th, 2014 at 3:50 AM

    But if you aren’t willing to give a little bit of yourself and put yourself on the line, then you will never find someone meaningful to share your life with.

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