Dating is hard. It’s a numbers game, meaning you have to go through a lot of duds to get to a winner, and even then you better hope and pray you’re both self-aware enough to make it last, and are both at the right place at the right time, willing to be vulnerable, and risk being hurt.
Dating and intimacy often uncovers unhealed parts of ourselves and our childhoods, and it can feel really uncomfortable when these flare ups happen. It’s much easier to swear off dating for good, or convince yourself there’s no good ones left.
Plus, with online dating, and the modern romance landscape in general, ghosting is common place, people may misrepresent themselves, and the whole experience can you leave you feeling like… is this even worth it?
Maybe you’ve had the experience of stressing to meet someone new, spending a couple of hours getting primped and pretty, picking out just the right outfit, and plucking every stray hair, only to show up to the date and instantly realize you’ve been duped and will need to endure an hour of nodding, smiling, and polite conversation. You realize you’ll never get your time back.
Dating takes time and effort. It’s also scary to put yourself out there and face rejection, and the world (and the internet) is full of wonderful people, but also a lot of crazy people. It’s wild out there!
The Good, The Bad, and the Fugly
I’ve been on dates with people who did not look like their pictures, who skyped their mom mid-date for half an hour, who reeked of B.O., one “divorced” guy who was actually still married, people who showed up 45 minutes late, people who did not stop talking the entire time and appeared to have no interest in me whatsoever, one guy who farted TWICE mid- monologue (while we were inside his car!) and kept going, and another who discussed his ex’s weights, breast sizes, and sex schedules with me unprompted. I dated a guy who asked me for cab money for his ride home, and another who paid $5 for parking at a state park where we were going to hike, and then tried to fish the $5 out of the cash box afterwards. One guy picked me up (late) for our date wearing sweatpants. So believe me, I know it can be scary out there. You can’t make this stuff up. Still, I’m staying hopeful, and regularly remind myself that the worst dates make the best stories.
I’ve also been out with guys who introduced me to new favorite restaurants. I’ve met two guys who introduced me to the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had (with the second guy topping the first.) I’ve been introduced to new favorite books on first dates, and had heart-to-hearts about our healing experiences with psychedelics. I’ve had a guy fix my car on a first date. Another where we went cliff jumping. I went out with a couple of guys who were so funny my stomach literally hurt from laughing and I had to TRY to pull myself together to have a serious conversation, and another who discovered secret (and gorgeous) hotel bars with me. There are good ones out there.
Did any of these men become my husband, or my live-in boyfriend, or sweep me off my feet into happily ever after land? Absolutely not. But they were all worthwhile experiences that made my life richer, more interesting, and better prepared if I do meet someone who sticks around for a while? Certainly.
Most of us have had our hearts broken before, and fear having them broken again. Looking for meaningful connection, however, means you risk getting hurt. The only way to love is to go forward knowing you might get hurt. Like many worthwhile pursuits, you have to learn to do it afraid.
I know dating can be scary, frustrating, and sometimes feel like WHHYYY AM I DOING THIS?! It’s true, and sometimes we need a break. I am in no way advocating for jumping from relationship to relationship with no time to just be you, and to just be single. You don’t have to date if you’d rather focus on other things. In fact, I encourage dating sabbaticals, and actually think they are crucial to our well-being as individuals and in helping us show up as better partners. If you just want to live your life and see if someone shows up, you can decide then. I think it’s important we take a step back sometimes, get back in touch with ourselves, enjoy our own company, and learn to be alone.
But if it’s just fear or a few bad dates that’s stopping you from dating, and you’re looking for a little push to get back out there, or maybe get out there at all, read on.
Dating Can Be Challenging, But Here’s Why You Should Do it Anyways
It Helps You Get Clear On What You’re Looking For
How can you expect to find a great relationship if you don’t even know what you’re looking for? When we don’t know what we like, or dislike for that matter, we run the risk of giving our hearts away to the first person that pays us any attention. Don’t do this. It’s unlikely to work out, and you deserve to be with someone you think is awesome, not just someone who’s there and ready to jump into bed with you.
Interacting with others teaches us what we’re looking for, and helps us recognize a true connection when it’s in front of us. The bad dates are just as valuable as the good ones, because they help us get clear on what we want, what our deal breakers are, and what we will, will not, and cannot tolerate. Without experiencing what’s out there, how will you know what you prefer? It’s kind of like going to an ice cream shop. If you only ever order chocolate, and never take advantage of the free samples, how do you know chocolate is your favorite? Have you ever tried salted caramel fudge? It’s pretty dope, but maybe you find out you want chocolate after all, because you like to add a lot of toppings. If you’re single, try a few samples.
It Helps us Grow and Get To Know Ourselves Better
You learn what kind of company you’re looking for romantically, how you handle certain situations, what your triggers are, and what you bring to the table. Those old childhood wounds and all your baggage will float to the surface when you get close to others. Don’t run from this. It’s a good thing. This is the chance to clean your metaphorical pool. Nobody wants to swim in garbage, but your pool is going to go to waste if you don’t clean it! Scoop out the debris, get a new filter, and go swimming.
Maybe dating helps you realize you want to bring more to the table and so you’re inspired to read more, travel more, or step up your fitness game.
You Learn to Trust Your Gut
We often know before we know, but sometimes we chose to avoid it. For instance, when I met an ex that I spent a year in a very tumultuous relationship with, I wrote in my diary at the time we met, “I have a crush on someone who is probably bad for me.”
Also, one time before I met someone from a dating app. Leading up to the date, I was dreading going. I was tired, I annoyed I had to put effort into my appearance, and I felt zapped of energy before even leaving my house! Guess who that was? The guy that babbled for hours and farted in his car without even saying excuse me. My body knew it was in for no good ahead of time and it was right.
On the flip side, another time I was going to meet someone and I was excited. I wanted to get dolled up and put in the effort, I was a little nervous, but in an energizing way, and what do you know? We hit it off, had a seriously stimulating conversation (and where I got my new favorite book and paint pen recommendation) and had an equally good second date later that week.
Your body knows what’s up. I could list a million more examples where this happened, but I’ll refrain. Dating is prime for getting in touch with your intuition. The experiences will show you over and over and over again that your body is wise AF and you should listen, and (hopefully) you’ll learn to actually trust it.
It’s Just Makes For Good Social Interaction
Dating puts us into somewhat intimate contact with people we otherwise wouldn’t interact with. With dating apps especially, your pool for who you interact with and meet expands exponentially. This means there’s a bit more weeding, too, but it can also be a gift to be able to learn from people who are different from you, from all walks of life, and who you otherwise wouldn’t have met.
It’s just good to socialize, and freshen up your typical social circles.
It Gets You Out of Your Comfort Zone
We get so comfortable in our social circles, and hanging out with the same people, but dating can really get us out of our comfort zones in terms of socializing with new people, doing something scary, putting ourselves out there, facing challenges, and putting our hearts on the line. This only ever leads to growth. If you want to grow, do hard shit. Dating is hard. You should do it.
Life is All About Relating to and Connecting to Others
Of course, while I believe having a good relationship with yourself and enjoying your own company is paramount, that’s only half of it.
If you think back on your favorite memories from your life, were they alone, or shared with others? I’m going to bet that at least half of them were times shared with others.
We are social creatures, meant to connect with one another. Your best friends were once strangers to you. Same with the great loves of your life, including the ones you haven’t even met yet. Sometimes, too, it’s not even the length of time we know someone that defines the value of our relationship with them. Open yourself up to others, and listen to your body. You never know who someone might become.
We need other humans, we grow from one another, and if we want to, we can become better people as we learn to interact with others. Even if you don’t meet the love of your life, there is still so much value in connecting with and learning from new people.
You’ll Gain Experience
If meeting new people or dating makes you nervous, and you are shy when it comes to romance, dating more often will help alleviate some of that nervousness by sheer exposure. The more you do something scary, the less scary it becomes.
Not to mention, you’ll end up trying new restaurants, visiting new neighborhoods, learning about different careers, backgrounds, people, hobbies, and navigating plenty of different personalities. This will not only improve your people skills, but it will give you more stories and life experience.
So even if you don’t meet the love of your life in a few swipes, you never know where a new connection could lead, or what special memory or funny story is yet to be made.
Maybe you don’t want to pair up with someone ’til death do you part. That’s cool, too. Maybe you’re in it to commit, have children, or die trying. Whatever you end goal is, dating brings us valuable experiences that enrich our lives and learning opportunities that teach us about others and ourselves. You’ll have something to gain if you keep your eyes open, no matter your outcome.