It’s come to my attention that certain points of etiquette have been lost in recent years when it comes to dating. To fill in the gaps of knowledge that abound, permit me to share some insights and bits of wisdom. (While many of these examples use online dating as a specific context, know that the advice applies to connections made in other ways.)
1. When you are meeting someone for the first time, your purpose is not to decide if you’re going to be getting married or having children together or anything like that. You’re just looking to learn more about each other. That means that you have to ask questions and listen actively. “Do you like comic books?” “What’s your favorite anytime movie?” “What kind of music do you like the most?” “What do you like about your favorite sport?” These are all excellent questions to get to know someone. If you find yourself talking non-stop or you find you are the only one asking questions, there may be a bit of disconnect in there somewhere. Be mindful of this.
2. Even if you think the other person might not like what you have to say, be honest about everything. If you find out on the first date that you have a deep passion for opera – which is something that she abhors – you’ve just saved yourself several months of discomfort, at least. So what if you find out that you’re incompatible? Better on the first date than the tenth. This does not mean to tell your life story or to spill the beans on every bad (or good!) experience you’ve ever had, but if you don’t like sushi, don’t try to play along. This also means admitting when you’re not familiar with a particular topic – which is one of the most common mistakes people make at this point.
3. Even if you’re just planning on dating casually, maintain your boundaries and state your needs. Sometimes, that casual hook-up turns into a long-term relationship, and it gets messy having to go back and redefine those boundaries. That weekend fling was awesome, sure, but then it happened again, and after a few months, do you really want to have to admit that you like more than just that one position, or that your schedule maybe isn’t as flexible as it was that first time? Put it out there, just in case.
4. You cannot reasonably know beforehand what your ideal relationship with a person is going to be. Your chemistry is different with different people, so one person may be a great short-term lover while another could be a wonderful platonic friend while still someone else could be The One – and that is true for everyone. You may believe that you have what it takes to be a life-partner with someone ’til the cows come home, but that’s a recipe that requires you to consider actively who the other person is.
5. Don’t take it personally if it doesn’t work out. Seriously. There are so many ways that we each contribute to the chemistry and dynamics of every situation that trying to take all of the responsibility when things don’t work out just right is a little nutty. Some people just don’t mesh, and that’s okay. Every time you meet someone and it doesn’t turn into doves and wedding bells is one more thing that you learn about yourself and what you want – and what you can give. The definition of a “successful relationship” changes with each person you interact with, and one good date may be all a relationship is worth. Failure to move to the second date or beyond is not a sign of weakness or fault.
And now, a few short one-liners to mull over:
- For the love of all things holy, keep your sense of humor about yourself and others.
- Don’t be afraid to be charming.
- There is a difference between charming and smarmy.
- Being lascivious is kind of like being lecherous – but with more class.
- If you’re open to having sex, then talk about sex. It’s better than finding out too late that you have a fatal incompatibility in bed. (Or in the back of a Volkswagen.)