Monday, March 30, 2015

11 Lessons from One Year of Dating

Today marks One Year from my very first date.  A date that was an incredible first experience!!!  11 Hours being treated like a Queen.  Yet, this unplanned experience is the very thing that ended up having my coach challenge me to dig deeper and look into the reasons for my walls.  The pain that was behind them.  The beliefs I had about myself.  The negative feelings I had about men.  The fears that kept me from letting someone in my secret places of my heart, mind and life.

I did online dating April 2014 - October 2014.  Six months paid subscription to Christian Mingle, 3 months on Tinder (a free online app), and 2 months on OkCupid (another free online app).  I responded to each and every single guy that messaged me with the soul purpose to be different in the dating process and to leave an impression with each guy I had communication with.  The initial process was simply to work on me.  Get comfortable meeting guys alone.  Having discussions all over the map.  As I got used to the experience, I approached the experience differently.  After doing the process for about 3 months, I learned that I would like to have someone in my world.  I ended up having one exclusive relationship in that time.

I did two sessions of Speed Dating, one in November 2014 and one on Valentine's Day February 2015.  If you love to have an evening out, get dressed up (or not if that isn't your thing), meet new people, and converse with a drink and maybe appetizers, then you will have a blast.  You get 5-10 minutes with each person.  This is enough time to get a basic feel for the person and whether you would want to go for coffee to get to know them more or not.  For me, both sessions were different experiences, yet complete fun!!!

I reactivated my online account with OkCupid for 2 months, January 2015 - March 2015, however I did nothing with the messages that came in.  Unlike last time when I responded to each and every one, I didn't respond at all this time.  I found my heart simply wasn't in it.  I decided it wasn't something I wanted to invest further time into filtering through and I deactivated my account.

I am grateful for the experiences this past year...they have grown me in ways I could have never grown myself.  They have challenged me to face fears that were deeply ingrained in my thoughts, actions, beliefs, and motives.  

Today, I wanted to make a list of 11 things that I felt were life lessons I have learned from my 1 Year Experience of Dating.  Please remember, these come from my experiences and through my eyes, yours may have been different, but they were things that stand out to me as I reflect on my experiences.  

My One Year of Dating has revealed:

  • Men have a story, but very few are really willing to share it.  The ones that do, become great guy friends.  The ones that don't is usually because a previous relationship shut them out so harshly, or told them it was nothing, or simply didn't want to hear it.  Either way, by showing them you truly care they generally will open up.  By inquiring about their world and staying connected you demonstrate that their story is important to you.  They will eventually share things they have never told anyone.  
  • Men have deep fears that they wish woman knew and they didn't have to share for you to understand them.  Yet once they do, they tend to brush them off like they are nothing for fear you will reject them, make fun of them, or think less of them for not being perceived as more strong.  Confirming you understand and accept them for who they are will get them to reflect on why their fears have such a hold on their life and maybe they just might be willing to face them in a way they never have before.
  • There is nothing better than getting a text message that says: Good Morning Beautiful!!!
  • Having someone in your life that you get the opportunity to be in touch with every day, is a meaningful experience.  It brings value to life.  You can have lots and lots and lots of friends, but being special to one person is a unique experience that brings out the best [and the worst] in someone.
  • A man that takes the time to truly get to know you, without you trying to have him do so, will truly make you feel like someone special, like a lady that is worth a million bucks! 
  • You have to hold to what you believe are appropriate boundaries no matter what someone says to you, thinks of you, believes about you, or does to belittle you.  In the end, the decisions you make will be between you and God, though they will impact them, they are yours and only you are the one who will live with the choices long term.
  • The more you focus on enjoying the dating journey and don't approach it with expectations, the more you find it fun.  It simply is another relationship, just a way more personal one.  
  • There will be challenges in communication styles, love languages, preferences, beliefs, but the more authentic you are in the whole process, the more you will filter out those who are not compatible.  Don't be afraid to be you.  On all levels.  You should not have to change who you are for someone else.  Though everyone tells you this, you are the only one who can sift through the situations and your reactions to them to figure out what this looks like.  But the more you love you for you and search for the one who will love you for who you are, the easier it becomes to release them and let them go when they don't.  Holding onto something that isn't a fit only creates friction and internal quandaries.  Anticipate each relationship and person you meet to develop you to a deeper level of trust, vulnerability and change you.  This is what happens when you let someone in your world.
  • With steady communication (email, text, phone calls, Skype), it only takes a few days to know if you have any general common ground to get to know each other beyond the surface small talk.  After some time of chatting like this, you will know if the two of you have a connection and mutual interests.  It doesn't take me more than one date to know if there is a connection, attraction and if I want to spend more time with you.  It generally only takes a few weeks to have a general overview of their life, what they are looking for in a relationship, what the differences are that may cause some work to understand or resolve, and the like.  In my experience this is about 2-3 weeks.  At this point, you will know if someone has potential at developing a deeper relationship.  If you have made it past this stage, I find it generally only takes a few more weeks, in my experience about 5-6 total, to know you are compatible and a match and if both parties have a foundation to build a relationship on and if both are willing to put the effort into the relationship.  If the issues presenting themselves at this point don't change, they probably won't.
  • Everyone will have an opinion on how you date, whether online dating is bad or good, how many guys you talk to at the same time, what types of formats you use to communicate, whether the girl or the guy should initiate communication and dates, when is too soon to see someone in person, when you should cut the relationship off, when you should move to being exclusive, if a guy can just be friends with you, if you are even ready to date...and more.  The more you ask yourself the hard questions and find your own answers through prayer and seeking Gods will in your life [just as you do all other decisions], the more you will realize that the answers come and that everyone will have an opinion as they view your life through their lens and their own personal experiences.  The more you keep this in focus and use the comments, feedback, and insight as additional guidance but not necessarily the written plan God has for your journey, the more you won't let the differences they bring up to oppose you stop you from pursuing the dating process as is fit for you.  Yes, many people will challenge you.  Disagree with you.  Tell you you are wrong.  They will do their best to pull you back from facing your fears, your dreams, your desires, and your vision that you have for your life.  They will believe they have better wisdom than you.  Yet, if you will appreciate having them in your life as a tool to help sort out the answers, knowing these people are not the answer, but they can be used to influence you, you will be letting these situations have their perfect work.  When it is tested against God's ways, then and only then, will you be following Gods will for your life.
  • You must have your mind, your eyes and your heart aligned as you evaluate a dating prospect.  At any point these three things get out of alignment, you will face an internal war that will make your relationship challenging.  If you embrace this internal war and seek to question and find the answers, you will not be ignoring red stop signs, debating yellow flags, or flying through green lights.  You will find the truth.  After soul searching the answers do not define the truth you need to see, and peace doesn't come, then you have your answer and you will need to make decisions based on this or face the consequences that come from ignoring them.

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