How to Date… Again

And we are back… to dating, that is. Something that’s somehow just as uncomfortable, hilarious, awkward and baffling as it was when I left it six months ago for a brief vacation I like to call “recovering from the PTSD I got from my last ex.”

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Breaking up with my last ex was similar to walking into a sliding glass door repeatedly while carrying hot coals in my mouth and trying to whistle. I don’t know where that metaphor just came from but it feels about right.

The point is: you all can relate to getting out of a relationship so mind-numbingly shitty that you’re now reacting to any remnant of an affectionate feeling towards another person like it’s automatic gunfire.

Most people don’t really mean it when they say they’re gonna take a “time out” from dating. What they really mean is, “I’m gonna pretend I’m not looking. I still am, but I don’t want anyone to know, or notice that I’m flailing around making bad (mostly drinking-related) decisions. I just hope I’ll somehow manage to go home with someone fairly decent who I’ll end up dating and they might just be the one.”

To be fair, I admit I decided to take my “break” while dating three people — my second set of three since my last break-up. At the time I thought three was the magic number for dating. My unerring belief was that by triangulating your (love) sources, you’d make it impossible to become too fixated on just one of them. It was a great way to “get out there” while also “keeping everyone at arm’s length.”

Shocker: THAT DOESN’T WORK.

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You can still make terrible decisions and fixate on people regardless of if you’re dating 10 or 2 of ’em, like for example if you’re dating a person who is living at home, has a child and is going through a divorce. I’m a love sadist, I think. Not that I loved this person. I want to be clear on that because they might read this and that would be awkward because we are still gchat friends. FUCKING G-CHAT.

After that little misadventure I realized it was time to bench myself. I was no longer fit to be in the game because I just kept throwing up air balls. Frankly, I was worried not only that I’d damage myself further but also possibly also those around me, so I sat myself out for three months.

90 days of not dating turned into 120 no-dating days which ended rather spectacularly around New Year’s Eve when I decided I’d come out real strong — by dating someone who worked for me!

Clearly there were some flaws in this plan from the start, but I thought to myself… how bad could it be? Pretty bad, I realized, when you’re dating someone who always thinks they’re right and wakes up at 4 am to run the entire length of Manhattan because they’re JUST HAVING SO MANY GOOD IDEAS.

Getting past the second date with anyone seems impossible. I’m still not shooting 3 for 3, but I think I’ve emerged from the winter of my dating discontent with a few good rules, which are probably more like guidelines since I’m genetically incapable of following rules. So here they are…in all their fucked up glory.

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Sarah’s Four New “Rules” For Dating

(a companion piece to Sarah’s Original Guide to Properly Courting a Lesbian)

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Bring your A game. Because you are grade A (even if they are grade C but you don’t know that yet because it’s a first date)

best outfit

 

Wear something flattering… this seems obvious, but you’d be surprised what people try to get away with these days! But you know how you have outfits and then you have OUTFITS aka your starters. Wear your starters unless it would be totally situationally inappropriate.

dressed to impress

Here’s why — you need to put out what you want back. If you want to be taken seriously and treated as someone who respects themselves then put yourself together in a manner that indicates that. Though it may seem like self preservation to protect your ego in sweatpants lest you get rejected in your Starters, it’s important to wear something that says “yes I look good, yes I know how to dress myself, and yes you should probably pay because obviously I am in HIGH DEMAND OVER HERE.”

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The Only Rules Are Your Rules

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Don’t have sex until the sixth date! Don’t revel too much about yourself! Don’t be too direct! Don’t come on too strong! Don’t call until the fourth date…

I hate those rules. These rules aren’t those kinds of rules. But sometimes when you’re out there grasping for guidance, you’ll catch yourself almost following them like some kind of social pact someone signed up for without telling you.

Here’s the thing, make your own rules. You decide when you call someone, when you sleep with someone and how much of yourself you want to share with the person you are dating. If you’re self aware and comfortable in your own skin, this will work better than any guide to dating. I’m sure your mother has already told you this, but you don’t want to be with someone who’s forcing you into acting a certain way around them. We already spend a significant portion of our lives doing things we don’t want to do and behaving in ways that we are “supposed” to at school and at work etc.

Dating should be different. Make it different.

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Don’t lose sight of the most important thing…yourself

Dating tends to pull you away from and outside of yourself, and that’s a one-way road to compounded self-loathing and an overall sense of wasting time. Maybe instead of working on that screenplay you spend the evening obsessing about why she didn’t call, or you start watching all her soccer games instead of going to the gym for yourself.

Don’t give up all that ground you gained when you were single. Hold on to that little space that you carved out for yourself to do the things that make you happy and be with the people you love. It’s what makes you interesting and probably part of what attracted that other person to you in the first place. It’s also what you are going to be left with if this doesn’t work out.

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There will always be another ONE

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We all want to meet THE ONE. Well most of us do anyways and it’s easy to get caught up in thinking that the person you recently started dating and really like could be THE ONE. Sometimes if you immediately click with someone or your eyes meet intensely across a crowded room, it’s easy to project a lot of romantic ideals onto a person before you actually get to know them. Love at first sight sure sounds neat, but it’s not the golden ticket. When you’ve just started dating someone it’s always probable that for a combination of reasons – some related to you, some them and some just fucking environmental– this isn’t going to work out.

When you’re early into it and already feels like it’s not working out, JUST LET GO. The harder you hold onto something that’s bad for you and/or not a good fit because you’ve got some idea that this person is IT, the more it will hurt. If 1,000 things seem perfect but you’re fighting all the time, news flash: THAT’S NOT THE ONE.

Don’t worry, there will be another one. I know it doesn’t seem like there is, but there is! The younger you are and the smaller your world, the harder this is to see — but I promise you there’s hundreds of people in this world who, if you let them into your life, will fascinate you, intrigue you and maybe even love you. Choosing someone day after day is a conscious decision, not something destined by the gods because there’s nobody else out there you could ever ever like.

If you think someone’s the one and they don’t think you’re the one then — surprise! THEY’RE NOT THE ONE. Why? Because “the one” would feel the same way about you as you do them. YOU YOURSELF should be a shared interest, like Tegan & Sara or spaghetti.

If I know myself, there is going to be a part two to this with some more rules. Or guidelines. Or disasters. Whatever. Because this is how it goes. You date, you try and sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. And when it doesn’t you cry about it, you laugh about it and maybe even watch some Mob Wives to distract yourself.

Happy dating!

Sarah has written 4 articles for us.

71 Comments

  1. “you all can relate to getting out of a relationship so mind-numbingly shitty that you’re now reacting to any remnant of an affectionate feeling towards another person like it’s automatic gunfire.”

    I’ve been spending the last 6 months attempting to undo this very reaction – I think I’m almost there. Thank you for this, so well written and insightful and funny and painfully honest and all those good things I expect from AS.

  2. That’s so weird, you plucked the “if she was the one, she’d be into you” line from my brain!

    Gaaah I’ve been single so long I’ve used up all my dating baggage and now have single-baggage instead… [cue violins]

  3. “you all can relate to getting out of a relationship so mind-numbingly shitty that you’re now reacting to any remnant of an affectionate feeling towards another person like it’s automatic gunfire.”

    well said. i still feel nauseous just thinking about any affectionate feeling. i guess i’m still suffering from my PTSD.

    awesome post!

  4. Every time I see something like “no sex til the sixth date” I feel remarkably slutty…

    and I am decidedly not slutty, I know this.

    So I’m glad you told me not to follow rules. I will make that my rule.

  5. Since I’m in the process of sorting myself out after a near-two year disaster of a relationship, this was just what I needed. And yea, that volatile reaction to affection is a kicker! I have got to get over that. Bleh.

  6. thankyou thankyou thankyou for this! came just at the right time following a “holding onto something that’s bad for you and/or not a good fit because you’ve got some idea that this person is IT, the more it will hurt” breakup.

    I shall know better for next time.

  7. I tend to be one of those people who cannot follow relationship “rules” and then feels terrible about breaking them. Y’know, when you put out long before the sixth date and then feel easy, or text within 24 hours after the first date, or whatever – so I’ve come to the conclusion that dating rules are silly, and I appreciate it when other people think this, too.

    • Amen to this–took me years of dating to realize that all the dates that went really well and turned into relationships or friendships (usually both. stereotypes are lies that tell the truth) were the ones where I wasn’t all hung up on the person and thus was my own neurotically charming self instead of a carefully groomed Date Persona.

  8. can i just say that i love that other lesbians out there enjoy the vampire diaries as much as i do? bc that graphic, despite the fact that ian somerhalder and paul wesley are no where near as attractive to me as candice accola and kat graham, is still hot as hell. if only theyd do some shots of elena / katherine, we could go all doppelgangland sexy.

  9. THIS: “Don’t give up all that ground you gained when you were single. Hold on to that little space that you carved out for yourself to do the things that make you happy and be with the people you love. It’s what makes you interesting and probably part of what attracted that other person to you in the first place. It’s also what you are going to be left with if this doesn’t work out.”

  10. This article was great for reaffirming a bunch of things I needed to be told, even though I already know they’re true. I’m in a kind of awful pseudo-recovery right now (which admittedly I’m also self-sabotaging) and … yeah.

    love you AS!

  11. Yeah, there IS NO ‘ONE’. I mean the concept of a soulmate is just a ludicrous as the tooth fairy!
    I feel like it’s just an excuse not to try and work on your relationship

    ‘Uhg compromise you say? kthxbay!
    neeeext?’

  12. “you all can relate to getting out of a relationship so mind-numbingly shitty that you’re now reacting to any remnant of an affectionate feeling towards another person like it’s automatic gunfire.”

    Oh jesus that just described my last two relationships (relationship A was the shitty one, relationship B was the one where I reacted towards affection like it was automatic gunfire).

    Also this:
    “We already spend a significant portion of our lives doing things we don’t want to do and behaving in ways that we are “supposed” to at school and at work etc.
    Dating should be different. Make it different.”

    may be the best and most accurate thing I’ve read ever.

  13. “If you’re self aware and comfortable in your own skin, this will work better than any guide to dating.”

    Yes! I’ve met so many amazing women who are so consumed with being who they think you want them to be that it takes so much away from the beauty of who they are.

  14. So much awesomeness dispensed in here. I’m still kind of at the post-relationship point of feeling sad and not realizing I drank too much wine/assorted other beverages until it’s 9 the next morning and all I can remember from the past 8 or 9 hours is a shot at a bar and a panic attack. Think I’ll be bookmarking this and coming back to it in another couple months…

  15. “The harder you hold onto something that’s bad for you and/or not a good fit because you’ve got some idea that this person is IT, the more it will hurt.”

    I so needed to hear this today. I feel incapable of meeting normal single lesbians in my town so I have been trying to ‘make it work’ with someone who is clearly all wrong for me. Thanks AS for helping me see the light!

  16. “Don’t give up all that ground you gained when you were single. Hold on to that little space that you carved out for yourself to do the things that make you happy and be with the people you love. It’s what makes you interesting and probably part of what attracted that other person to you in the first place. It’s also what you are going to be left with if this doesn’t work out.”

    YES. Learned the lesson of the last line the hard way. You have to have a self and a life to come back to if it doesn’t work out.

    • Also, I hate the whole “THE ONE” thing. Not what you wrote, but the idea of “the one” that you’re disagreeing with, that there is ONE PERSON in this entire world who you would be happy and in love with forever and ever, and white picket fence and 2.5 kids blah blah blah. It’s such a toxic and just plain wrong ideal that is spouted all the time. There are probably hundreds of people out there that any one person could be happy with.

      Wow, that rant reads a tad angstier than I’d meant. Ah well.

  17. Ah, dating. See, the problem with dating is that you can follow all the rules you like, but there has to be someone willing to *actually* date you in the first place! But no. It’s all “Aw, you’re such a good friend” or “I wouldn’t want to ruin our friendship” or “Now that I think about it, I’m actually straight after all. BYE!”

    But I’m not bitter. Nope, not me.

  18. Sound advice. If only the logical side of my brain were capable of overpowering the feelings side on this one (I’m usually so very logical). My last not-even-a-relationship has left me completely fucked up, and thoughts of other girls just make me physically nauseated. Good times. But, yes, these are fantastic guidelines. Which I will take into consideration as soon as I’m capable.

  19. “The younger you are and the smaller your world, the harder this is to see — but I promise you there’s hundreds of people in this world who, if you let them into your life, will fascinate you, intrigue you and maybe even love you.”

    I really really hope this is true. I love this girl to bits and she doesn’t love me and I feel like I’ll never find anyone else but I guess thats because I don’t know any other gay people but myself. 🙁

    • I figured out how to log in and leave a comment JUST FOR YOU. You will absolutely meet someone else (probably many someone elses) but I know how hard it is when you have a whole lotta lovin to give someone who can’t give it back. Just keep reminding yourself that someone’s inability to love you for whatever reason is no reflection on you.

  20. While there are many great things about this post, I have to disagree a little.

    “Don’t worry, there will be another one. I know it doesn’t seem like there is, but there is! The younger you are and the smaller your world, the harder this is to see”

    With the benefit of age and therefore hindsight, I’m sorry to say there isn’t always “another one.” At least if there is, it could be a really, really long time. I’m talking like 10 years or more. And I’m in a large and very gay city. Now I’m not saying this to depress anyone but the point is the idea that something better is around the corner or that there is anything around the corner should not factor into a decision on whether or not to stay with someone. It is either working or not working and that’s what needs to be addressed. By all means one should end a relationship that isn’t good for them and has no chance of growing in to such a thing. And you should be ok being alone & knowing that ending it was the right thing even if it means you will be alone for a very long time. But don’t do it because the grass is always greener or soothe yourself by thinking there are better people to come. There might be, there might not be. But that shouldn’t have any bearing on a breakup decision. The decision should be based on its own merit, not what may or may not come in to your life. If you look around, I’ll bet you’d find plenty of examples in your own life of people who never found anyone. Not only not “the one” but just not anyone. You’ll also find plenty of examples of people who are together & have been together for years and have no business being together – it’s absolutely toxic on every level. But they’re too afraid of being alone plus a bunch of other psycho babble reasons like reliving prior traumas, patterns, etc.

    I guess my point is please stop spreading the myth that there is someone or even many potential someones for everyone. It’s simply not true and nobody wants to talk about it. It sucks, no doubt, but in a completely different way than being with the wrong person.

    • THANK YOU. This one is the new dating fallacy. There are legitimate limitations. Especially if you are a sexual (and/or other) minority. Thinking otherwise is bound to make you crazy when you run into the brick wall that says otherwise.
      And then there are also those of us who are just not capable of pairing with “many different” people over a lifetime. There. Are Limits.
      seeing as how this website appears to cater to and have a lot of young-uns, though I can understand the fallacious wording.

  21. I recently let this point thanks to this helpful post – its nice to be reminded that I can make my own rules because everyone ALWAYS has some piece of advice or some rule to give me as it pertains to dating…
    My rules to my dating life. 🙂

  22. Love love lovvvved this article, especially, “…you don’t want to be with someone who’s forcing you into acting a certain way around them.” When I’m vying for someone’s affections, the entire process of trying to win them over causes me to over-analyze everything from every angle, hesitant of my every move, wondering if asking the person out for a second date right now as opposed to waiting an hour later will really make a world of a difference.

    Ideally, I wouldn’t be afraid to simply do what I want when I want. Personal experience has made me shy away from being [too] impulsive, and while I try not to abide by a fixed set of dating rules, I feel it’s best to at least give the girl something to work for, especially if she’s the type who is used to getting what she wants. That being said, I wholeheartedly agreed with the bit about maintaining self-worth by keeping busy as you would when you’re single. Not only does it prevent one from potentially projecting desperate vibes, but prospective dating partners may observe that sense of independence you have and become more enthralled – an added bonus.

    The last couple paragraphs hit the nail on the head and not enough people realize the truth to the, “Don’t worry, there will be another one.” Took me years to realize this, and after years of dating around, it seems that every new person I meet ends up being an upgrade from the previous one. It’s a comforting thought when mending your broken heart, and it definitely teaches you to not be a practitioner of settling.

  23. but then, I don’t date random people and i never could understand how or why people do choose those relationships over ones they know will work.

    “you never know” is not really true.
    People usually do know if they’re self-aware and capable. It squicks me out to watch them pretend they don’t. And I’ve seen them work hard at it. and I’m not just talking about falling into blind lust, either. I tend to see these couples and go “…???”
    I also see people i think are single whose relationship status doesn’t make sense until I meet their SO.
    I really do think people do know if they let themselves know.

  24. I don’t know how to feel about this. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m still feeling very “bleh”, if you will, because I just got out of an engagement…and I’m still living with my ex-fiancee…who I still am in love with…and she is in love with someone else… Or if it’s the fact that the towns that I have been stuck in, the whole lesbian community has dated someones ex, who’s dated someones best friend, and so on and so forth… in one giant lesbian circle, and it makes me feel like I CAN’T meet someone new who will amaze me because I feel like I’ve met them all and they all suck. It’s hard to get back out there and I’m not sure if I should…I really hope someone understands what I’m talking about and I’m not just rambling incesently with no one being able to comprehend what I’m trying to put out there…

  25. So I know I’m reading this super late, but I’m new to Autostraddler, and I have to say, this was literally exactly what I needed to read right now. I’m bi, and last couple of months have been one dating disaster after another. I definitely needed to hear that if you’re fighting early on, you need to let go. And I really really needed to hear that there’s always another one out there. Thank you. This fixed my day.

  26. I just got dumped by my polyamorous bisexual girlfriend (and my long distance boyfriend) and I searched the AS “Sex+Relationship” archives until I found this and this is literally the only thing that has made me feel better in the last hellish 24 hours.

    Thank you Autostraddle for always having something that I need, for every situation.

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