Wednesday, March 2, 2011

When Dating Sucks: 5 Ways to Keep It Fun

Dating can be an emotional roller-coaster that takes from nauseating depression to euphoric highs -- all in the span of a few hours -- depending on what's going on. This is exhausting. It's also typically what causes the dating burn-out that makes us want to give up and run a cat-rescue clinic out of our living room. Putting up a wall to protect ourselves from the roller-coaster would be on obvious potential solution, but this up-and-down cycle is also one of the best parts of dating (or at least the euphoric high is), so it would be a shame to cut ourselves off from that all together. Fortunately, we don't have to -- here are five ways to keep the fun and banish the burn-out.

1) Don't take it so seriously. Focus on enjoying the moment, and not on the what-ifs. What if they don't like me? What if I don't like them? What if I'm really excited about this person, but they end up sucking? What if they're cool but there's no chemistry between us? What if I say something dumb? What if they don't share my plans for the future? Ahhhhhh! Worrying about these puts enough pressure on every interaction to burn anyone out before they ever even go on a date. When we don't stress, we're much more laid back and fun (and don't reek of desperation), so take a step back, turn off the what-if radio and enjoy the moment.

2) Be honest. When we're honest about what we want, and the person we're on the date with doesn't want that (for example, you don't want kids, but you do want to get married), it never would have worked out with them anyway. It's easy to get bummed out about something fizzling or someone not liking us, but at least if we're honest about what we want in life (and aren't wishy-washy out of fear of alienating a date who may not feel the same way), the information is on the table and we'll rest easier knowing that we stayed true to ourselves.

3) Embrace the bad. When things take a turn for the there's-not-a-shot-in-hell-for-a-second-date, instead of getting bummed, enjoy the date for whatever it's worth: having an interesting conversation, gathering details for your friends about how bad a date can get, or using your date as a mirror and asking them what their perception is of you. Our internal perceptions of ourselves don't always match what we project on the outside, so in a situation where you know it's not going anywhere and therefore the pressure is gone, figure out if there's anything they see about you that doesn't match with how you feel inside. Everyone perceives everyone else through their own personal filter of experiences and neuroses, so take whatever they say with a grain of salt, but it can be a very interesting exercise to see yourself through someone else's eyes.

4) Keep an open mind. A tremendous asset both in our pursuit of a mate and in keeping the process fun, keeping an open mind is a solid way to keep things light, enjoyable and fun. When we date by judging whether or not they have or don't have the must-have or hell-no attributes we've amassed a list of over the past several years, we severely limit our enjoyment of them as a person and the interaction, and also probably reject some people we may have found ourselves compatible with. It's very stressful to try and figure out, over the course of a 30-minute drink, whether or not we see ourselves marrying this person eventually. So, leave the lists at home and enjoy getting to know them -- without thinking about the future at all. Is the conversation fun and easy? Do they make you laugh? Are they fun to flirt with? Our chemistry with someone is ultimately a much more important metric of measuring whether we want a second date than judging them on what they're wearing or what their drink choice supposedly says about them.

5) Focus on you. Do things you want to do and let any worry about "I need to meet someone in the next year so that I can get married and have a baby by 20XX" (or whatever it is that's stressing you out) control your life. Life is not controllable, nor can organic things like developing a relationship be pushed into a timeline. So do the things that make you happy, explore yourself and explore new hobbies to enrich your life and grow as a person. When you're totally happy with yourself and excited about life, it's extremely attractive and you will attract what you want.

As disillusioned as we may become with the perceived dearth of available and compatible-with-us dates, in order to enjoy the dating process, we need to remember why we're doing it to begin with (to meet someone we like), and focus on enjoying the process rather than resenting it. It's exciting to go on a first date with someone new -- the outcome is a complete mystery each and every time: maybe we'll learn something new about ourselves. Maybe they'll introduce us to something new we didn't know we liked. Maybe we'll click with them. Maybe we won't, but they'll end up being a friend. Maybe they'll really dislike us and we'll learn that (for example) although we feel happy inside, we're not showing that outwardly and therefore look depressed and angry when we're not. Maybe the conversation will be fantastic. Maybe the date will be so awkward, it will be funny. These maybes are the fun and exciting part of dating, and as long as we focus on enjoying the unknown them rather than fearing the potential outcomes of the date, we can get all the good and none of the bad in our quest to find our future -- no game playing necessary. 

Originally published by BounceBack, LLC on, where I'm the dating expert, and also on Yahoo! Shine.

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