Instead of coming to each date with a list of what I needed and wanted, I made each date an opportunity to become acquainted with a unique human being.
Dating in Los Angeles is not for the faint of heart. In fact, dating anywhere these days is a lesson in strength and humility. The search for love is a roller coaster that can leave you with your head in the clouds one minute, and crashing back to earth the next, reaching for that bottle of Pinot Grigio or pint of Ben & Jerry’s to soothe your depressed heart.
That’s how I felt for many years about dating, especially after I moved to L.A. In fact, I began writing about my experiences in order to process and understand them myself. I sympathize with women and men who endure the struggle, who want to find love despite the challenges, which is what inspired my new book, Date Expectations: A Guide to Changing Your Dating Life and Finding Real Love.
The book begins with my own dating journey. I was so frustrated with meeting the wrong guys that I decided to start hosting speed dating events with a friend — just to meet more men. For me, dating was a process of elimination: as long as I endured a lot of bad dates, my reward would be meeting the right one. He was “out there” somewhere, even though it felt like I was looking for a needle in a testosterone haystack.
I didn’t want to waste too much time with the wrong men, so if I wasn’t interested in him right away, I mentally and emotionally checked out. As you can imagine, I spent a lot of time on dates feeling bored, uncomfortable, or unhappy, which made me want to stop. So I’d take a break for a few weeks, get my energy and enthusiasm back and then start all over again, wearing myself down when things didn’t go according to my plan.
That is, when I didn’t meet the guys I was “supposed” to be meeting. You know — the tall, dark, handsome, and charming ones who could make my knees weak. Instead, I was meeting people with sordid pasts or commitment issues, or who were hung up on an ex. Not exactly man-of-my-dreams material.
Where were all the good guys? Were they even interested in relationships?
I knew I had a lot to offer. I was smart, funny, independent. I liked to travel, had a successful career and wasn’t afraid to introduce myself to strangers. I wasn’t needy and I didn’t jump from one boyfriend to the next. I was stable, hard-working and ready for a mature relationship. What was wrong with these guys?
My speed dating events turned out to be a wake-up call, to help me see what I had been missing. I was so busy blaming others that I didn’t look at what I could change in me. I saw men and women jump to conclusions about each other, misunderstand each other and judge each other all the time. Many times I wanted to intervene, to explain how they had overlooked each other’s good intentions.
“Randy is really a great guy, he just gets a little nervous meeting new people!” I’d think to myself, crossing my fingers on his behalf. “Sara is really a kind and generous person, but she comes across as a little defensive and uptight. Just give her a chance!”
I realized that I should take my own advice: start giving people a chance. That maybe I was going about this whole dating thing the wrong way. I was comparing each man I dated to the man on my wish list instead of getting to really know the person right in front of me. Maybe my filters were a little off and I wasn’t really seeing each man for who he was.
Instead of focusing only on the goal, the “end” of the dating process — that is, getting to the relationship — it’s better to think of yourself as a student that is learning with every date. I explain in Date Expectations that we have so many opportunities to see things differently, to change our behavior, to connect with other people. Dating helps us better understand who we are, so that when we meet someone who has long-term relationship potential we can recognize it.
It’s scary to break out of our comfort zones, to try a different approach, to have a different experience. But as I describe in new my book, this is the path to love, to connection, to understanding what we really want. It just takes a little practice.
Copyright © Kelly Seal/2014 Singular Communications, LLC.