I wasn’t sure about my last boyfriend for a long time. For a long time I would not have pictured us ending up together at all. Then at some point we were dating and I could cry with him and be held by him and wasn’t self conscious of the way I looked at any moment after a certain point that I can remember. Etc. Things changed for us, in how we acted together and talked together, but it didn’t happen overnight.
It is scary in the beginning of a relationship, or before one starts, to imagine what it might be like in the future. But it’s like what I’ve said for a long time about first dates: They don’t make sense. You’re taking two people who have never kissed each other, touched each other, talked about much of substance. They could essentially be strangers. Even if they’ve been friends for a long time, there is a whole land of conversation and vulnerable boundary crossing that hasn’t happened yet. So if you put these two people in a romantic setting, at a swanky restaurant or what have you, it’s going to be uncomfortable simply because you’re trying to put two people in a place that doesn’t fit their timeline.
Sometimes I can get myself all worked up thinking about stupid stuff like what someone was like when he was a kid and how that might affect my opinion of him now. Who cares?! I’m not looking to date the self-conscious 8-year-old version of the man I’m interested in today. If he was a spoiled brat then but he’s not a spoiled brat now, well then guess what? The spoiled brat is gone. Just as he is not dealing with the Bailey from two years ago or 15 years ago, it is only fair for me to deal with the man in front of me today.
At the beginning of a relationship, it’s scary to think of how you and this other person will match together, and if you will at all. But just as we change as individuals over time, we can change together in our relationships. We can become vulnerable together, we can start talking comfortably about things that would have been really weird to discuss on Date One.
I will pause here and say that I believe in second dates (as long as you feel at least potentially attracted to the person and feel SAFE and respected with him or her). I also will offer some unsolicited advice and suggest that you try to have your first dates in natural, casual environments whenever possible. Save the 4-star restaurant for date No. 6, or later. That is at least the suggestion of this woman right here. Too much pressure on a first date will make everyone feel just that: pressured. Yick.
I’m lucky to have experienced a relationship with a truly wonderful person who was very patient with me and who I grew to be vulnerable with over time. I’m lucky to have been loved, and I’m also lucky to know that transformations can happen. I didn’t get myself on the dating gameboard for a long time, and this is for several reasons, but one of them I can tell you confidently is that I was scared. I could talk myself out of dating any guy, coming up with a reason for why it wouldn’t work, and when it came to the guys I really pined for, I never spoke up.
Now I know that we don’t see everything on Date One, or Date “Minus Three” (this is my name for all those times you hang out with someone before you actually decide to date). In my case, a lot of times this number is more like Date “Minus 83.” I’m a slow, scared little girl.
I believe in giving people a chance in general, whether we’re talking romantic situations or not. People have given me a chance, time and again, including one very patient man who let me hang out with him 83 times before I finally, though still scared, agreed to date him. We didn’t stay together, but I am grateful for the lessons I learned from our time together, including the clarity that Date One is not all that clear. And I’m not sure it’s meant to be. Personally I love a good surprise.