10 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Was Dating

10 Things I Wish I'd Known When I Was Dating
Me about a month before I met my husband.

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.

28 thoughts on “10 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Was Dating”

  1. I’d like to do one for the lads, you know the sort of thing; stay away from bunny boilers, women who look too longingly at prams, ones that hate your mother, don’t expect your mates to understand if her only good point is her personality etc. etc. etc..
    However, as a bloke, I don’t see the need to because the majority of us don’t see the need to do heed warnings. Whereas you look for the ideal partner, (who you will never find because George Gooney and all the other eligible bachelors want super models) we tend to just drift from one girl to the next. The length of the relationship depending mainly on how cool/sexy she is, how much of a laugh she is and how high her tolerance levels are in regards to my friends.
    I understand that the ladies want a good provider who dotes on her every whim, looks after himself, shares the housework blah blah blah Cosmopolitan a go-go. However, reality check here, if you’re an overweight couch potato with the IQ of a carrot and the personal hygiene of a geriatric baboon, then be prepared to peg down your expectations a notch or two. Just don’t expect a man to love you for your inner worth, we’re far too shallow,
    Only saying like 🙂
    Really interesting post BTW.

    1. Hi Reggie! Thanks for making your own little list, even if you won’t heed it. 😀 Thanks, too, for sharing your opinion, especially this line: “The length of the relationship depending mainly on how cool/sexy she is, how much of a laugh she is and how high her tolerance levels are in regards to my friends.”

      1. I shared it on FB for you, two of my friends liked it. More fans for your Blog perhaps?
        Whatever, it’s a good post, nice one Shelli.

  2. This made me laugh: “guys who…think a can of pepper spray makes a great Christmas gift (true story ~ wrapped it & everything).” I once got hand soap for Christmas (the ONLY gift I got), it was in a gift bag with a card, and he was totally serious about it. We’d been dating for over a year, and I’d spent–well, a lot more than $3.95 on HIS gifts. Yes, gifts. Plural. And none were the sanitary kind.

    I would add more one: “Be willing to give the unlikely guy a shot.” If you’re always dating 6’4″ football jocks and the relationship is always falling apart, it’s not them that’s the problem–it’s you! Look outside the box, open your eyes to that 5’8″ bookish type who’s been trying to get you to go out with him for months (and stuck around after you’ve given him the cold shoulder over and over), and give him that first date. You might–much to your surprise–have a great time!

    1. Hi Anne! *waves* We’d been together 2 years when he got me the pepper spray. Hand soap is in the same category, I think. 🙂 Thanks for the add, too, because that’s so true to give the unlikely guy a shot. Cheers!

          1. It was regarding Anne’s post. I read it in philosophy in college but it was recently brought up on The Big Bang Theory. Penny asked Sheldon if she should go out with Leonerd. He told her Schrodinger thought up an imaginary experiment of placing a cat in a sealed box along with a vial of poison which would release at a random time. So the cat could be thought of existing in two states, both alive and dead, at the same time. Like Penny’s relationship with Leonerd could be thought of as both good and bad, but she would never know until she opened the box. I was cheering for Anne’s bookish type who remains persistent.

  3. Shelli,
    This is perfect! I wish I had written down ‘rules of engagement’ when my two eldest began dating, but it isn’t too late for my younger ones 😀 They will read this blog post, and I couldn’t agree more with #10 (been there, done that!).
    Have a terrific week (heart)

    1. Hi Sandy! *waves* I’m so glad I found someone who adores me, truly. I’ve been very lucky that way. Hope you did, too. 🙂 Have a fab week & *heart* back!

  4. Shelli, I realize your message in this post is focused primarily on young women. That said, there is much that any serious, sensitive young man can take away from this.

    These are enduring principles you are sharing and can be applied without regard to gender except for the pronouns you have used.
    Great article!

    1. Hi Rich! *waves* It’s funny because while I was writing it, I was thinking that some of it applies to other kinds of relationships, too (especially sometimes people are brought into your life to teach you). Thanks for the compliment. Cheers, my friend.

  5. Katherine Owen

    Love this post, Shelli! It seems to me that most never get past number 1. They rush in, let the guy define them before defining and finding themselves, and then, the mistakes between them unfold. By the time I met my soul mate, I had dated plenty and had my heart broken more than a few times, but I had a sense of who I was and what I wanted. We have a marriage that works because we allow each other “to be” and approach life with a shared sense of humor and purpose for both good times and bad.

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom~love it!


    1. Hi lovely Katherine! *waves wildly* I think #1 is the most important thing because it’s so easy to get lost and then 10+ years down the road, you’ll still trying to figure out who you are. I LOVE this line: “We have a marriage that works because we allow each other “to be.” That will be added to the list. 🙂

  6. Now depending on the guy, pepper spray could be a romantic gift. Again, depending on the guy, it could mean, “I care about you and want you to be safe.” Of course it could also mean, “Oop. Forgot I had to buy you a Christmas gift and this was just sitting there when I went in to pay for gas.”

    What advice would I offer? Two thing, actually. I really like the saying, “Don’t make anyone a priority who only makes you an option.”

    And watch out for the controllers and manipulators. They want to be in charge of everything in the relationship…from when they see you, to where you go and what you do, to when they can trouble themselves to contact you.

    We’re dealing with now and I’m going to drown the little piece of crap in my septic tank (because that’s the best place for him) if he doesn’t start treating my daughter better. 🙂

    1. Hi Kristy! *waves & hug* You know, he wanted me to be safe, which is fabulous and which, IMO, is not something you wait until Christmas for. The gas station comment made me laugh because my husband actually picked me up a birthday gift at a gas station once (although it happened to be something I wanted). I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your advice: “Don’t make anyone a priority who only makes you an option.” This will be added to the list. Cheers, darlin.

  7. That’s a pretty good list, Shelli. I especially like the advice to find yourself. In high school we’re barely figuring out who we are and then we turn around and get swept up in relationships. It’s way too soon. Of course I can see that very clearly indeed at 43. Right?


  8. Maria S McDonald

    Love this post, Shelli, and couldn’t agree more than #10 tip. Something I wish I had learnt before prior to dating was not to let finding ‘the right one’ consume your every being. I met my husband shortly after I ‘let go’ and said to myself, ‘when the time is right, that right man would present himself. Until then, I am going to enjoy life the way it should be enjoyed.’

  9. Christopher Godsoe

    Very thorough and well balanced piece Shelli!

    It took me (or more accurately, my x wife) 13 years to discover that we really weren’t the best fit for each other. There’s a delicate balance that must be struck between fighting to make a relationship work and just fighting. I would not recommend starting a family or getting married until at least 27-30.

    Great post! But I agree, we men need our own guidelines too. Hmm…….

    1. Hi Christopher! *waves* Thanks for the fab compliment! I’m sorry it didn’t work out with your ex-wife. Knowing what I know now, I’d tell people the same thing, wait until you’re older, like 27+ because you’ll have a much better idea of who you are & what you want out of life. Yes, men need their own guidelines so you should get cracking on a post (& let me know if you write one). 😀 Cheers!

  10. Congrats for another lovely post. That bit I read yesterday, about being grateful, and the one today, will surely make me bookmark your site. Cheers from Romania! 🙂

  11. I think you’ve covered everything.

    I’m still single, do you think I’m tooooo fussy??? I know who and what I am. I know what I will/won’t tolerate and I know what I want.

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