One of the biggest issues in dating and relationships is failed expectations and the answer to the above question differs greatly from woman to woman as do her expectations.
For me, if I’m going to give up one of my two kid-free nights per month to go on a date with you, you need to have planned something and asked in advance: not the day of, not the day before, but at least a week before.
To me, a date is something that a guy has put his time and effort into. Hanging out is just like, “Hey, are you free? Because I really don’t care enough about you to make any plans.” If a guy isn’t willing to put any time or effort into seeing me, then I have no reason to put any time into seeing him, like at all, ever, so that’s a “no” to hanging out.
I was recently part of a discussion on this topic and someone brought up coffee “dates.” I don’t think coffee constitutes a date, but I have met someone for coffee or drinks just for an initial meeting to see if we click and make sure everyone looks like they say they do. I will say though that most of the time, those coffee dates have turned into nothing for me. I’m much more likely to want to go on a second date if the first meeting goes well.
This isn’t about money. I don’t expect a guy to drop a percentage of his paycheck on our date. In fact, I’ve been a little put off from those who have.
A date to watch my Cowboys play at a sports bar with some yummy food can be just as much fun as an expensive date out on the town or to an event. So would a date exploring Austin. A date planned while my Cowboys are playing at some place that doesn’t have a TV, not so much. You’ve clearly not done your homework. It’s about time and effort and research.
I’m not a hanging out person. I’m a date person. Show me you’re interested in putting in some effort, otherwise I won’t either. Despite the success of Bumble, this is still a guy chases woman culture, and that’s what most of us expect.
My thought is if you aren’t going to put in the time and effort into pursuing me, then things are really going to go south once we’re committed and that will be a serious case of failed expectations.
I’m a sensitive person. So far, I’ve lost my younger sister followed quickly by my mother and then my grandfather who helped raise me. As a result, I built walls, really thick, tall walls, to protect myself from being hurt.
Growing up, I was friendly to most people, but only let a few people get close. I tended to be more of a relationship person, preferring to develop close relationships with a few rather than date around. All of this was a way to protect myself from being hurt.
I wasn't aware of the concept of boundaries until after my divorce when I learned what to look for when someone crosses my boundaries. Up until then, I just built walls to keep people out.
I had set boundaries with my kids, but I didn’t think of them that way. When they whined, I loving looked at them and let them know when they could speak where I could understand them, we could talk. I held firm. I was able to do that with my children because of the way I had been raised and modeled my parenting that way.
However, I hadn’t really seen examples of that in the context of romantic relationships. The only thing I truly understood about boundaries had to do with sex. But what about boundaries when it comes to how you're treated?
I tend to learn through reading, processing and then discussing with others. One of the best books I’ve read on boundaries is “Boundaries in Dating” by Cloud and Townsend.
There were a lot of “a-ha” moments for me and situations where I found I had been on the receiving end and guilty of some things.
Some of it you read, and think, “Well, duh,” but I’ve never honestly focused on it and processed it in terms of a relationship. I haven’t analyzed relationships and what I’m feeling. I’ve had some key takeaways in forming my boundaries for future relationships. Here are some quotes that rang true with me.
Honestly, this book is full of great advice. I highly recommend it for anyone who is dating or in a relationship and interested in making it better. Boundaries are about letting the right people in. Walls just keep everyone out. Boundaries allow you to have meaningful connections with healthy people; walls do not.
I’ve heard from so many people who said 2016 just plain sucked. I have no doubt that they had bad things happen during the year (so did I), but surely there is something during the last 365 days that was good.
After all, the Cubs finally won the World Series again, and someone other than the Patriots won the Super Bowl.
I’m a firm believer that the quality of our thoughts determines the quality of our lives. When I’ve shot for the stars and put my fears aside, I’ve gotten what I want. When I’ve let my fears and insecurities creep in, my fears become reality. You get what you focus on.
Tony Robbins said, “Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.”
This plays out in so many lives. I know someone who is afraid to date again because it’s been so long since he has. I know someone who is afraid to live with someone again because it’s been so long that he feels like a loner. And I know a friend who is afraid to let go of someone who is not good for her because the fear of not being good enough is greater.
I’ve let fear rule by not submitting my work to national publications because I’ve been afraid of rejection. If I don't submit, there’s still that possibility of acceptance one day when I’ve learned more, when I’ve grown more and when I’ve experienced more. If I do submit and fail, then I have to live with that.
But what is the alternative to those fears? Why not take a chance on happiness? Why stay in the same rut? Most people tend to repeat mistakes until they learn from them. I’ve played it safe and not made myself vulnerable to failure in some areas of my life.
One of my growth goals this year is to strengthen my weaknesses. My strength is that I see the good in others. My weakness is that most of the time, I obstinately refuse to see the faults of someone I care about.
Refusing to see a friend’s faults/weaknesses, or a potential partner’s faults, robs me of an important learning opportunity. It makes it harder to create boundaries to protect myself from disappointment or from being taken advantage of. It makes it harder to pick someone who will be a true match. It also robs us of a deeper connection.
Figuring out what your weaknesses and fears are is half the battle. At my mentor’s suggestion, I took the Myers-Briggs and DiSC personality tests. It was incredibly interesting to focus on the results and become more aware of what my weaknesses are and how I can become more effective in my relationships and at work.
So what are your fears? Do you even know what they are? I would say that for my friends mentioned above, their fear is all the same: failure. They are simply afraid to fail. But there really isn’t failure. With each relationship, situation or experience, you gain knowledge. When you gain knowledge, that is not failure. It makes you wiser to try something else. You know what not to do next time.
So if you have a fear of failure in relationships or other areas of your life, surround yourself with friends and loved ones who won’t bail when you fail at something. If you fail in one area, your support system will be there.
A girlfriend of mine keeps apologizing for being a bad friend while she goes through a hard spot in her life. But as her friend, I want to see her succeed and eventually she will. What she also forgets is that she was there for me during one of the hardest times of my life. She was there with a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen to me ad nauseam about my fears, my worries, my insecurities. She was there with a cup of my favorite hot tea to comfort me. Friends don’t mind if you fail. They help you get back up or stand beside you when part of your growth is to pick yourself up.
I challenge you to overcome your fears. Whether that is coming to terms with your weaknesses, or asking that girl out, you will never succeed unless you suck it up and go for it. Want a raise? Ask. Want something different in life? Make the change.
Life is now and I refuse to sit on the sidelines of my life waiting for something to happen. Good things sometimes fall into your lap, but they always come when you work for them. Good things come when you overcome your fear and go after what you want. I’m not implying you will be successful 100 percent of the time, but I would rather try and fail than sit in fear and wonder “what if.”
So this year, I’ll submit my work. I may fail, but that’s okay. If I get feedback, then I’ll know what to change and gain experience. This year, I’ll also work at not just loving others but acknowledging and accepting their shortcomings and mine. This year, I’ll work toward achieving my goals each day and not overcome my fears and weaknesses.
So much is made about “the one.” But how I define my perfect mate probably differs from your perfect mate. That’s part of what makes dating so exciting.
Most people (including me) start out defining what characteristics they want in their potential mate (tall, dark, thin, curvy, etc.). But in my short year and a half of reentering the dating world, I’ve discovered that I’m doing myself and my date a much better favor by defining what I want by looking for values.
After a long marriage, I can tell you that having similar values is much more important than what a person does, how much money they have or what a person looks like. This seems like a no-brainer, but how often do you hear someone physically describe their perfect mate? And, I’m just as guilty when a friend asks me what I’m looking for.
Do we even know what we’re looking for? I had a friend recently (so refreshingly honest) tell me he had no idea what he was looking for in a woman. I think to know what you want, you have to know who you are.
While I took a shotgun approach to dating, it was really an exercise in figuring out what I wanted and defining what matters to me. It’s been a time of reflection and definition for myself. Because I took the time to do that, it’s given me the opportunity to define how I want my life to look like, how I want to live, who I want in a partner and yes, what I truly value in life.
A book that I love is called “50 Things That Really Matter.” It’s a great peak into my value system and what I think is important in life. This is what I want to impart on my children and what I want from a partner.
“Big homes. Luxury cars. Diamond bracelets. Digital TVs. Exotic vacations. Extravagant trips to the spa… These aren’t the things that really matter in life. Not by a long shot. What matters most is the simple pleasures so abundant that we can all enjoy them; the plain values that define us as good people; the emotional connections with friends and family that fill our souls with a sense of purpose.”
But, do I love those material things? Sure, I do. They make life more comfortable. But if I don’t have those connections in my everyday life, that big home, luxury car and all of the diamonds I can wear mean nothing. A luxury ski vacation doesn't mean a thing if you don’t want to be with the person with you.
In addition to those values, I am looking for someone with certain characteristics, someone who has similar interests. But those things are more “wants” than “must-haves.” Someone with similar values is a must-have. Someone tall, dark, silly, responsible, warm and genuine is certainly someone who would catch my eye, but he has to have similar values to keep my attention.
Another girlfriend suggested that there has to be a happy medium. I agree. I doubt I will find someone who checks every single box. But I do expect to find someone who shares my values and wants to live the same kind of life that I do.
So the next time you’re asked what you’re looking for, tell a friend about what values you want and you’ll more likely find the person who you’d really like to date instead of just someone who meets those physical characteristics. As my grandmother always said, “Beauty is only skin deep and we all grow old eventually.”
I'm single and loving it. Two kids and a busy job. Life is an adventure. Being single is liberating. Life is short, spread joy.