As some of you may already know, I’m getting a dating advice book ready for publication. My wife and I have a dating advice blog as well, which we’ve neglected a bit lately, but since I post fairly regularly on this blog, I thought I’d post the entries for that blog in both places. So here’s the entry for today!
Photo by Shelly Hathaway at shellyhathaway.com
One of the important lessons I had to learn quickly in dating is to not let fear of the future rule the present. I suppose I wasn’t unique in wanting to get just the right girl on the first try. As a teenager, I used to think to myself: wouldn’t it be cool if the first girl I ever have 2 dates with turns out to be my wife? Well, that goal was spoiled in high school when a girl I asked out asked me to a school dance, and we never went out again.
So modified my goal: Wouldn’t it be cool if the first girl I went out with twice – where I did the asking both times, was the girl I ended up marrying? Well, shortly after my mission I went on a blind date with a girl, and it went well. I thought I might kind of like her, so I asked her out again. That didn’t last, though we did go on a total of three dates.
So I modified my goal again: Maybe the first girl I go on more than 3 dates with will be my wife someday. Well, a year or two after my mission, I met a girl who I liked, who liked me, and we hit it off okay at first – we even decided after “the talk” (we’ll discuss what ‘the talk’ is later), that we would consider each other boyfriend and girlfriend. A couple weeks later, we broke it off.
So much for my goals. I hadn’t yet held hands, kissed a girl, or fallen in love, so I thought about forming new goals around those things. But after that last failure, those kinds of goals suddenly seemed silly. The point was not to succeed without failure, the point was to succeed. I was looking for an eternal companion, and if that meant first holding hands with or falling in love with a number of girls I wouldn’t end up marrying, so be it. The Lord never said I had to get it right on my first try.
In fact, I think there is benefit in dating a good number of girls, and if in that process you find one that you think just might have a slight chance of being the one for you, don’t be afraid to encourage things to progress that way. That’s how relationships are formed, and once you find someone that meets your basic requirements, it will likely take risk and commitment to learn about the deeper aspects of the person’s life. You aren’t likely to find out a person’s dirt or gems on the basis of simple friendship. And once you do get close enough, and make simple commitments to each other, you will find out more about your date than you could in casual dating.
You need to learn as much as you appropriately can about a person before deciding to marry them. You won’t learn everything before marriage, but the more you learn, the more equipped you are to make that decision.
One day I attended a fireside talk by John Bytheway. His topic was “What I Wish I’d Known When I Was Single.” The whole talk was basically about single life and the dating game. One of the things he mentioned was that in his search for a wife, there came a time that he decided he would go on a date at least once a week.
I thought a lot about that resolution. By this time in my life, I had slowed my dating progress and was going out about once a month or so on average, and didn’t feel like I was getting much accomplished in the dating scheme. So I made a similar resolution (though not as intense): I would ask a girl on a date at least every other week. That was my rule.
For me, this was a very effective plan. For one thing, it got me going on dates often, and going on dates provided the social and emotional development I needed to be able to handle the whole dating experience. Of course, some of the early attempts at this program were rather humiliating, but with practice, asking girls on dates became far less traumatic.
Second, following this plan allowed me to focus on what I could control. My job was to ask a girl on a date. If she said “no,” then I was off the hook for a couple weeks. It never does any good for anyone to focus on what they can’t control. I could not control her response. I could only improve myself and try again with a different girl later. I’d try to give myself a better hairstyle or wear a different deodorant. I’d try working out a bit more and cutting back on my bad habits.
This pattern of every other week dating (and it wasn’t too long before I was going on dates at least every other week,) turned out to be one of the most fun periods of my life. I learned a lot, spent a lot, and met a lot of great people. Though it could be frustrating when these efforts didn’t seem to lead to any serious relationships, I was learning how to interact with girls, and learning what to look for – and look out for.