Do you ever get tired of feeling like your dating life is a big swipe left?
It was #ShootMyShot2018 when I approached this guy to ask him on a coffee date. I already knew his name, made small talk with him a few times before, and knew enough trivial amount of information about him to make my move. After about 45 of the most heart-jolting seconds, I had managed to talk briefly, invite him on a coffee date and get his number. It was all over in a manner of seconds, and I managed to not chicken out or run away. I walked to my car with a little glee in my step and the confidence to run for president. All I had to do next was actually go on a date and be present. Piece of cake right?
When it comes to relationships, especially in the world of online dating, sliding in the DM’s and text-preferred communication channels, making the most out of every in-person encounter can seem like a challenging, near-impossible feat. Though my experiences are my experiences, I am positive that there are at least a few nuggets that can help you on your journey to dating with confidence, intention, and peace of mind. The following list is not exhaustive but covers a slew of dating blunders that I’ve encountered in the last few years of on-and-off dating that I want to share with you.
Mistake #1: Thinking you don’t have options
One bad mindset that will keep you in relationships that don’t really fulfill you or align with your needs and desires in a relationship is the lie that you don’t have any options. If you’re like me, at one point or another, you’ve had some dating droughts that are then interrupted by one guy who wants to take you out. You think that it must be the one since you’ve been waiting so long. Over time you realize, maybe he’s not, but he may be the only one pursuing you at the time so you just continue to go with it even though you know in your heart of hearts that he’s probably not the one or it’s just not the right time for both of you to be together. I’ve been in this spot more than I’d like to recall. And the worst part is, you do like him, he’s a really great guy…but he may not be your guy. And the most important thing you need to know about this point: It’s ok.
Solution: Remind yourself that everything and every dating situation does not have to work. Every date, every guy who wants to pursue you – you don’t have to be with. You don’t have to have a big reason. Even if it feels petty but your gut/your peace is telling you naw – it’s ok! Everything doesn’t have to work. You don’t know what God is doing, what He has already seen or prepared for you. Granted, there are emotional wounds that will sometimes cause us to self-sabotage relationships that may mirror past situations or may scare us with the possibility of actually working out (which can be just as new and scary), so of course, make sure you are working on your healing and speaking with wise counsel and perhaps a therapist if you are worried your flight may be caused by internal factors but outside of that, you have options girl! If it ain’t right, it ain’t right! And just know that the sooner you deal with that reality the quicker you can move forward into what is next. One more time: Everything does not have to work…and it’s a-ok!
Mistake #2: Trying to Impress instead of Inform
Early on in my dating experience (college for me), I realized that whenever I saw my crush, I would instantly freeze. Actually, I was probably the inspiration for Disney’s, Frozen because Elsa and I had a LOT in common. This inability to talk in a complete sentence or get words out of my brain and into a simple conversation evolved in my post-grad years into more of a performance than a first date. I find myself trying to impress the guy instead of trying to inform him of who I really am. What’s the difference? I’m glad you asked. Impressing someone involves two main things: talking a lot about yourself and making light of all the great or amazing things you have accomplished. While none of that is exclusively bad, trying to impress someone can cause us to try to put our best foot forward on day one meaning that anything we do or say after that point will be overanalyzed and judged by the little voice that always tries to convince us that we are “not good enough.”
Solution: What I’ve learned to do instead of trying to impress my date is to focus on informing him of who I am through what I wear, what I say, how I listen and respond to the environment, and the conversations we have. Instead of worrying about the absolute perfect outfit to make any man fall in love with you, consider the outfit that makes you feel both confident and comfortable instead of having to worry about looking like an IG model. When it comes to conversation, let the flow cater to him and use this time to get a sense of who he is, what he’s about, and notice how he interacts with the environment you both are in. Respond in the moment. Don’t worry about giving him your elevator speech. He doesn’t need to hear your resume. Share the bare minimum and let him ask you for more information. Again, you want to inform and be informed. You don’t need his life history and you’re not sharing yours (in most cases). Get what you need to answer this question: am I interested in learning more about this person and going on another date?
Mistake # 3: Too much, Too soon
I am a former perpetrator of the super deep, soul-stirring questions and conversations on date or conversation one. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you’re like me and prefer to skip the small talk and get to the serious stuff, but I’ve learned that the small stuff or the surface stuff can be just as important as your big questions. What I would find after asking all the questions I could possibly need to know, is an unsettling silence. I mean, if we already know the most important things, what else is there to really talk about, right? Wrong! Through my many dating mistakes, I learned that I wanted someone I can just chill with as much as I want to be able to get knee-deep in conversation about worldviews, destiny, and internal battles.
Solution: Learn how to pace the conversation. I learned this tip from the dating project challenge. Think of every conversation as a level in depth. Date one is basic information with the exception of personal values or standards. Don’t ignore the fact that you are a person of faith or looking for something long-term in a relationship, but don’t worry about getting deep into the details unless it’s one of those rare moments where that person is as deep and intentional as you are. Get the information you need to know whether or not you’d go on a second date and focus on what’s happening at that moment. Date two may be a deeper dive into the what behind who you are, but maybe not all the why. You know your story better than anyone, think of each date as a chapter preview. The first is more of a general overview. The second gets into the beginnings of your story. Date three can start to get into the why and any follow-up can continue those conversations at a deeper level.
Mistake #4: Focusing on what they like instead of what I like
One question I’d advise every woman to stop asking is this: What kind of woman do you like? This question has overcomplicated and straight-up deflated so many dates unnecessarily. Let’s say you’re a natural hair kinda girl, who wears semi-trendy clothing, loves God, also likes trap music, and happens to be a closet-homebody. If you’re dating a guy, and he says his dating preference is women with straight hair, super on-trend, loves Jesus but not stuck up who also like going out a lot, there are one of two things you will do. You will either decide that this guy is not for you or slowly and sometimes unconsciously begin to change or alter yourself when you’re with him because his picturesque, ideal woman is now in your head and you don’t fit that description. Here’s the crazy thing: He probably approached you! Meaning that obviously, he liked what he saw regardless of his preference, but since you asked, he may as well tell you and now, you’re stuck trying to figure out why he’s talking to you and if every woman that meets that description will automatically become your competition. Dear trust me, we cannot compete with a wishlist! We were never meant to. More than likely, he isn’t even thinking that, but now the bad seed is already taking root in your mind, interrupting your ability to be present in the moment and nagging you to start changing yourself to meet the criteria. This is a lie.
Solution: Avoid the self-inflicted drama by not asking the question. If he asks you, you could tell him but focus more on the highlights. Don’t feel like you have to be super-specific. Throw in a, “you are my type,” if he really is.
Mistake #5: Telling more than showing/being
Another mistake we can make while dating is talking ourselves up without the realization that many of the character traits or likable personality traits we may have, may not come out immediately, especially with someone we like. I’m a dancer. I love all types of music and I’m usually either singing or thinking of a song in my head at all times. So you would think that when I went out on a date to a paint-n-sip night with a DJ, I would be ready to hit the canvas to the rhythm of my favorite trap beat, but that didn’t happen. In fact, the DJ even asked us to dance and I tried to hide behind my easel. I wasn’t yet comfortable with my date to be myself and I was too nervous to do anything that felt risky. This may all seem a little silly to you, but if we talk ourselves up and then don’t end up feeling comfortable enough to show that side of ourselves, we end up looking like we may have never been that person in the first place regardless of if it’s true or not.
Solution; Practice the art of showing. Instead of trying to tell the guy all the dances you know or silly you can get, just do it. Mention Salsa and then show him your moves on the dance floor. Breakup and awkward silence with a silly joke and make him smile. Show him who you are don’t paint a picture with your words that you can’t represent in person. Let him experience the unfolding of you. Remind him through each experience that getting to know you is an adventure, not a one-night or one-date thing. We are multifaceted beings. Let who you are come out like a pleasant surprise. I’m sure he will appreciate the many things he is able to learn about you by continuing to go out and spend time together.
Mistake #6: Not Allowing Yourself to be Human
Another aspect of dating, especially for those of us who don’t do it often enough to establish enduring habits, is the unconscious need to feel like you have to be perfect. Trust me, you don’t. Whether it’s how you eat your food, an accidental stutter, or wanting to have the perfect answers for every question, ignore the need to do everything perfectly. I know that this is easier said than done, but in order to truly be yourself, you have to prep yourself to potentially look silly, say the wrong thing, have a green bean fall out of your mouth or have to cough that thing out of your throat.
Solution: Keep reminding yourself: I am human. I am dating a human. We are both imperfect. I don’t owe him anything. He doesn’t know my good day from my bad day. Just have fun. You got this. If it doesn’t work out, you haven’t lost anything.
Mistake #7: Not Letting Your Light Shine
This one may mean different things for different people, but feeling nervous about how someone may or may not receive an integral part of who you are is an indication that you really need to make sure you don’t censor that part of you to meet what you think that person may or may not be into. You may actually be presently surprised. I get the label, good girl,” quite often from a few guys I have gone out with, and at first, I used to resent the idea that they may be thinking I was a sweet little church mouse with no bite (not that there’s anything wrong with that). So I would try to overcompensate in areas I wasn’t really interested in…like drinking more than a few times a year (yeah, you read that right), or feeling like I had to make an extra effort to show that I was both saved and a sexual creature. Let’s just say, there were a few times I confused even myself as to what image I was attempting to portray vs. who I actually was.
Solution: Lead with your beliefs. This may sound like a contradiction to the “too much, too soon,” point, but not if you do this right. Don’t shy away from your honest to God response to questions that intersect with your beliefs, but your beliefs don’t have to be the driving factor of the conversation. Example:
Guy: Have you ever lived with your boyfriend?
You respond: No, that’s not something I’d do before marriage
Guy: Why not?
You: I believe living together is a component of covenant. I’m not wasting my time on anything that isn’t intentional and forever. We both deserve better than temporary.
Guy: Hmm. Ok, I can respect that.
I can’t guarantee every situation will go like that or that every guy will understand or respect your stance on an issue, but if you walk away feeling good that you shared your truth in a way that wasn’t judgemental and ended up actually being a quality he respected, I’d say that’s a win.
Mistake #8: Being Scared to be Yourself
This is more of an ongoing mistake that can potentially show up in multiple areas of our lives, especially dating. If you’re like me, you’re still on the road to figuring out who you really are in addition to trying to live out what you already know about yourself daily in multiple environments with varying luck. So dating as your most comfortable self can be a little challenging.
Solution: One way that I try to move past the fear of showing someone who I really am is to choose one trait I will be intentional about showing for the duration of that date or meetup. I choose to let myself be funny. (even if my humor is a little dry). I choose to be carefree and in the moment. I choose to be creative and artsy. I choose to be sophisticated and well-read. Whatever aspect of yourself you choose, each time it will get easier and easier to be yourself. This doesn’t have to just apply to dating, apply this strategy to every area of your life and make an effort to let yourself know that being you is not just ok, it’s preferred! There’s only one you!
Mistake #9: Falling in love with the idea of the person and not the actual person
Some of us are serial daydreamers, visionaries, and overthinkers by nature. Meeting someone, having access to their social media pages right away, or having a lot of information about the person and less actual interaction can set us up to create a person in our head who doesn’t actually represent the person in front of us. He may look the same or sound the same, but the guy in our head will likely not have the flaws or varying traits the guy sitting in front of us may show throughout the process of getting to know him. By all means, do your research. If you have mutuals, ask the need-to-know questions (how long have you known, what type of guy, is he a stalker etc) but let that be a small portion of your perspective of him.
Solution: Let him show you who he is. Match his words with his actions and let what other people tell you or what you learn from other sources inform, confirm or conflict with what you have observed in-person with him or in one-on-one conversations.
Mistake #10: Ignoring the Signs…and the Bullhorns…and the flashing STOP signs…
This last one is a gentle reminder that no matter how good a guy looks, talks or how can make you feel, if he doesn’t have the right things (a godly foundation, a sense of purpose, an alignment with your outlook on life, an interest in marriage, and a gentleman’s traits), he will always be wrong for you. Sometimes the signs are simple to see like how he treats your waiter (or those in service roles), the type of language he uses, the way he treats or interacts with family, or his ambitions that can tell you everything you need to know about a man. Then there are other signs that require a little more time and digging to see like his relationship with God or religion, how he acts when he is angry or upset, how he values women in general – these are all indications of the kind of man you are dealing with and the one you will continue to deal with if you decide to move forward in the relationship (assuming he wants to).
Solution: Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Be smart about your dating process. Don’t give out too much personal information like where you live or places you frequent unless you know you feel comfortable and safe around the person. Even then, exercise wisdom and get advice from older, more experienced men and women. Would he mind talking with your mentor? Is he someone you would bring home to meet your family? Does pass the inner circle of friends and wise counsel litmus test? These things are important for your safety, peace of mind, and time. If you know he probably isn’t marriage material, don’t lead him or yourself down a road of regret that ends in, “I told you so.” Be open and transparent about your relational desires and intentions and if he doesn’t align, it’s perfectly ok to let him know that being friends (or not) is all you can give at this time. You deserve your happily ever after God’s way. Don’t settle for anything or anyone less.
Was this helpful? Are you in the process of dating or considering opening up to the idea of a relationship? Do you have some reservations about yourself or your spiritual health when it comes to purity? Is your past holding you back?
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