Well, I burned through a few boyfriends on the way to my husband, mostly because I had no idea what I was doing. If I could write a manual, a kind of how-to dating manifesto, and give it to my single self, here are some things it would say:
1. Find yourself first
You need to know who you are before you can figure out what it is you want. You heard that old saying: if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. That’s true. Make a list of what you believe in, what you want from your life, what your own goals & hopes & dreams & wishes are. Realize your own moral compass. Figure out your own true North. Then, and only then, get into a serious relationship. (If you find yourself first, you’ll be able to stand in your own light and you’ll be able to enforce your own boundaries and you won’t listen to people tell you about yourself because you’ll know who you are. That, my dear, is priceless & worth both your time and the wait.)
2. Listen to your intuition
If that little voice in your head is whispering or talking or screaming at you, you should listen to it. If it says, stay away from this guy, you should heed that warning. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and the heartache of finding out months/years down the road what your gut knew the moment you met him.
3. Some people are brought into your life to teach you
A friend of mine once said that some people are big piles of yuck dropped into your lap. She went on further that those big piles of yuck are also gifts. Sometimes that’s hard to see, especially when you just got your heart shattered and you’re sitting on the couch sobbing and snarfing down Ben & Jerry’s while nodding along to Days of Our Lives. But some of the worst people really are the greatest gifts. They teach you a lot but only if you’re willing to learn the lesson. Be open to learning the lesson.
4. Sometimes you find out what you do want by finding out what you don’t want
You’ll date some duds, guys who’ll forget your birthday or cheat on you or think a can of pepper spray makes a great Christmas gift (true story ~ wrapped it & everything). But you know what? You’ll make a list of what you don’t want, which is really a list of what you do want. That’ll make it easier when your husband eventually shows up. He’ll be most if not all the things on your I-want-this list.
5. Some things are deal breakers no matter what
Abuse is one of those things. Physical abuse, absolutely, which you already know. But emotional and verbal attacks are abuse, too, and can be even more damaging. Bruises heal; memories last a long time. There are no second chances on this one. There’s no listening to I’m sorry or I won’t do it again or I promise, Baby. There should just be you running in the opposite direction.
6. You can’t change him
You fall head over heels. You think you love him. Isn’t he great? Then he does a couple things you don’t like and you brush it aside. You give him a pass. You think, well he’ll come around the longer we’re together. No, he won’t. If you don’t like him the way he is now, it’ll only get amplified the longer you’re together. He won’t change for you (unless he wants to, and that’s a big unless). Do yourself a favor, find somebody you like the way he is.
7. He doesn’t love you
Hard to believe, I know, because you’re so lovable. But, sadly, it’s true. He doesn’t love you, not like you do him. He likes you a lot, sure. He loves the idea of you, maybe. You look pretty there on his arm, he loves that. But he’s not in love with you. Be open to seeing that. Then be willing to wish him well & move on.
8. Maintain high standards
Sometimes you may be tempted to say, “Well at least he doesn’t [FILL IN THE BLANK] (spend every night at the bar, gamble away his entire paycheck, beat me, etc.).” Well, if that’s your standard, your standards are entirely too low. You are worth more than that. You are worth someone who inspires you to be better, who encourages your hopes and dreams, who values all the energy you have, who wants to see you succeed and is willing to help you however he can so that you will. That’s the kind of standards you need to have.
9. No is a complete sentence
You don’t have to negotiate or explain or feel guilty. You are allowed to say, “No.” Period. End of sentence. If you find that he doesn’t see it that way, stop trying to change him (see number 6 above). He’s not the right guy for you. Period. End of sentence.
10. You want someone who adores you
If he doesn’t adore you, find someone who does. Find someone who will work with you, be your partner, your support system, someone who will love you through it all. You might not think you need all that. Trust me, you will. When your dreams fall apart and your child ends up in the ICU and your parent dies and an editor carves up the manuscript you slaved over for four years, you’ll need a rock who will let you be a crying mess, who will hold your hand and tell you it’s all going to be okay, who won’t let you go no matter what. Trust me, that’s what you want.
So what advice would you give about dating? Please feel free to share your thoughts & experiences in the comment box below.