The Silent Relationship Killer
After a 14 year relationship ended when I was 32, I remember the nervous excitement of dating again. I was thrilled to be joining the dating scene in every way imaginable. But the reality was that I hadn't actually dated as an adult. In fact, the last time I had experienced a first date was when I was a freshman in college. Back in those days, college boys left notes on the marker board in the hallway of the freshman girls' dorm. The idea of online dating wasn't even an option and nobody my age had ever tried it. Online dating was in its infancy so the only real way to meet single men at that time in my life was through meeting someone in person at a social event. This seemed simple enough living on a college campus. Meeting new people was exhilarating and seemed so natural. I was expecting the experience in 2015 to be similar to what I experienced as a teen. Clearly, I had no idea of the wild adventure ahead in the world of online dating.
Because I was married for a decade, it's fair to say that I quickly realized I was completely lost when it came to dating as an adult. I didn't really even have anything to compare it to. I had a limited network of friends outside of work and very few people even knew I was divorced. So, in my eagerness to begin dating again, I made the decision to try online dating. It seemed to be simple enough to meet people but meeting them was only the first step. However, I didn't expect the culture shock I was about to experience when I began my single lady adventures. I remember feeling so confused about the modern rules of dating, and I simply could not wrap my head around the games so many single people were playing.
It wasn't until about a year into my single lady adventures that I began to more clearly understand the mistakes I had been making. What I didn't realized was that I was still functioning with the mindset of a wife not that of a single lady dipping her toe in the world of online dating. My biggest mistake was having expectations when I didn't even understand the rules. I needed a reality check and dating certainly provided me with exactly that.
Here's the truth... When you are in a long-term relationship, you become accustomed to communicating regularly, planning ahead for nights out, and having a clear definition of the relationship status. The casual dating scene seemed to be missing all of this or so I thought. I was making the mistake of confusing my expectations with that of a wife, not that of a single lady. Those roles are as far apart as you can imagine in the beginning. Trust me.
What I later realized was that I was pressuring men when I wanted to talk frequently and make commitments a week ahead to plan a date night. I found myself talking about things that felt very natural to me but likely felt quite invasive for my dates. The result was that relationships weren't even surviving more than a few dates. All of my frustration and agony over men ghosting me was what I later recognized as my mistake of moving at lightening speed toward a committed relationship when the men I was attracting simply wanted to get to know me in a casual way. I was scaring men off one by one completely unaware of the message I was sending through my actions. I was expecting too much too soon and that killed my ability to pace my emotional investment. And, to top it off, I was allowing every failed attempt at a relationship create new insecurities within me that seemed to be impossible to overcome.
Once I had the realization that I was approaching dating with a wife mindset in a culture were casual dating seemed to be the predominant way of thinking, I began enjoying my dating life more because I had a much better understanding of the mindset and expectations of single men in a casual dating scene. I realized that I had be clear about my expectations of what I really desired from my dating life and allow the process of getting to know someone to naturally evolve. I was accepting of standing out from the crowd by wanting more from my dating life. I also began searching to date relationship-minded men rather than men who were only interested in casually dating. And, I reminded myself daily that I needed to be aware of my tendency to move too fast, commit too early, and share too much too soon. You simply cannot date with the mindset that you will fall into a relationship like the one that just ended. You are starting all over again one step at a time.
While starting over can be exhilarating, my advice to you would be to take a mental note of the pace in which you are investing and remind yourself you are a newly single person who is just dipping your toe in the world of online dating and remain open to relationships naturally evolving at a slower pace. It takes a while to transition from spouse into the mentality of a single so give yourself time to allow that process. I share my story so you don't make the same mistakes I made along the way. Simply being aware of my mindset completely transformed the way I approached dating. I didn't have to conform to the rules, I just needed to understand them. I learned to be true to myself always and make my intentions known that I was seeking more than what the culture was accustomed to offering. What did I have to lose? Nothing and I had everything to gain. So do you.
XOXO, Laura Lee Wood
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