originally published on the well written women. ~~~

I get a lot of emails from women who ask me my personal stance on dating relationships; when they are appropriate, how to decide if you’re ready, when to know it’s time to leave one. These women are all across the board on the subject: some have dated for years, some have never dated anyone. Some are very picky about who they date, some only require that the men posses the Y chromosome and a set of car keys. Some think it’s boring, and some treat Date Numero Uno as grounds for the marriage talk. #desperate

 

I started dating – if you can even call it that – at 15. It was more like holding hands and publicly admitting that we liked each other. I think dating should require dates, and we didn’t have very many of those. #burn

 

So we dated for a few years, blah blah blah, he broke my heart, angst angst angst, it took me awhile to get over it, blah blah blah. Then I dated some more, and some were fun and some were kind of jerks. Then I stopped dating for a long time. And currently I have a super great boyfriend. So I now I have an opinion on dating.

 

So here is my completely biased, 100% unscientific, based-on-a-true-story opinion about dating:

 

Dating should be taught. My parents never really had a dating policy for me. Or if they did, I conveniently do not remember it. When I was 15 I liked a boy who was not allowed to have a girlfriend until he was 16 and I was crushed. There were also girls in my friend group who could not date boys until they turned 18.

 

I did not have these rules. I was grateful for the freedom, because I was incredibly charming and good looking when I was a teenager, and it would have been exhausting beating off all of those boys with a stick. #waitnothatsnottrue

 

I don’t know if it should necessarily be rules like that, because I think that’s a little much. But I do think there should be an important conversation that happens at some point. It should be honest, open, and have some time for Q & A. It should be a parent’s clear explanation of what it takes to be a boyfriend or a girlfriend. It should include information on what this type of commitment can do to one’s heart. It should absolutely not include any anecdotal stories with Mom and Dad as the examples. No child needs those visuals.

 

Dating, at any age, awakens emotions that are not yet known. This is true no matter if you are 15 or 34. All of the sudden you are calling someone for hourly check-ins, using words like “babe” or “sweet thang”, and simultaneously baking cookies, watching The Notebook and listening to love songs. #oristhisjustme?

 

It comes out of nowhere, but at some point between “who’s that guy?” and “happy one month-a-versary!” you enter into an uncharted land called Emotion. And it is a jungle. Your heart gets racy, your palms get sweaty, and your mind gets cluttered with daydreams. It’s hard to sleep, drink, or sit without thinking about love. You have Skype sessions from 45 minutes away (#guilty) and text each other while in the same room (#invtentedthistrick). You kind of turn into a basketcase.

 

Most importantly, and more seriously, you begin to tap into a part of your brain that experiences pleasure. There really aren’t enough words in English to describe human love. It is so pleasurable that it actually hurts. And truthfully, the good parts of love come with many consequences. Being in a committed relationship really evokes the desire to put someone else before everything else in your life, and this can be dangerous if it happens too early in life. Anyone entering into a loving relationship should be prepared.

 

(Let the record show that I realize no one can be fully prepared to handle being in a relationship. I also realize that not everyone handles relationships as dramatically as The Basketcase Formerly Known As Rachel.)

 

Being too hurt, too damaged, too scarred, too afraid, too ___________, to date is a horrible way to live. I think we can all agree that fear shouldn’t be the cruise director for anyone’s life. To operate on fear alone is about as smart as building a house on top of a termite colony; it’s only a matter of time before it completely falls down.

 

Don’t get me wrong; I support the idea of needing someone to prove themself worthy of being let into your heart. There’s something to be said about finding a man to prove that the other ones were crazy to say goodbye to you. But this is taken a little too far a little too often. We’ve all seen Twilight; there is no need to be closed off just for the sake of being dramatically difficult. There’s also no need to make So. Many. Freaking. Vampire. Movies.  #whydoeshekeeptakinghisshirtoff

 

It is important to have standards. When I was 12, the leader of my girl’s group asked us all to make a “shopping list” for our future boyfriends. She told us to never date anyone if they did not possess all of these qualities. I wrote things down like “blue eyes” and “a love for Mexican food.”

 

I think this exercise is crap.

 

Of course you are going to be attracted to someone with similar interests as you, but a common love for chicken enchiladas does not a relationship make. Relationships take hard work and compromise based on common values and  goals.

 

Maybe he will hate chicken enchiladas. But he will learn the beautiful art of sacrifice so that he can please his lady.

 

Maybe she will never understand the ins and outs of baseball, but she will still watch every game because she knows he loves to teach her. #isithalftimeyet?

 

 

No one gets to determine your expectations from a relationship except you. I don’t know how so many millions of people have sold books or TV shows all about love and relationships, when they all say the same thing: “Talk it out, learn from it, put the toilet seat down, and don’t let anyone else tell you what you need out of your relationship.” Only you can prevent forest fires, and only you can know what it is you need out of a significant other. Don’t let Dr. Phil or Us Weekly tell you who to date or what to expect from a spouse. Discover these things on your own. Learn what you need and be confident of that.

 

 

Don’t date just to date. If you meet someone and they intrigue you, go out with them. Explore the possibility. I think it’s worth it to at least try. But don’t live your life desperate for a significant other because you are already “significant” without an “other.” If you make a shopping list and set out to force love into your life, chances are you will end up elbow deep in a bag of Doritos while you rewind the “You complete me” scene from Jerry Maguire. #ithappensmorethanyouknow

 

Let love find you. I promise it’s better that way.

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