I recently started dating someone and let me say that this has definitely been an experience for me. I've had to try to extract my brain from "marriage" mode and put it in a "dating" mode and part of the problem is that I've never really "dated" anyone. I don't know when I realized this, but somewhere along the line, I started thinking about all my "relationships" and noticed that really, there had been pretty much zero dating. Just meeting, clicking and jumping headlong into a relationship. I'm basing this primarily on my three last relationships.
My boyfriend that I had my senior year of high school asked me out to lunch one day (he was already graduated and maybe three years older than me) after recognizing me in one of my classes. I already knew who he was and had met him once a year or so beforehand. I remember eating lunch with him and then starting to see him after that. He lived with me my senior year. My dad was never home, so both he and my sister's boyfriend lived with us that year. Then I went off to college.
Then, in college, after meeting my future boyfriend in the cafeteria, I asked his roommate about him and mentioned I thought he was cute. Shortly thereafter, my college boyfriend asked me out on a date to the movies and we became inseparable. We watched movies, made late night runs to Taco Bell, stayed up all night playing games with our friends... you know, all that fun college stuff!
After my college BF broke up with me, about five months later, I met my husband. We went out on a couple unconventional dates that involved hours of non-stop talking and then we spent all our time together and then eloped two months later because (obviously!) we were crazy about each other. Turns out, we weren't as compatible as we were crazy about each other and here we end up getting divorced 10+ years later. But we had chemistry and a connection (plus some determination) that somehow kept us together for years. Not all happy years, that's for sure, but still, somehow we muddled through and had some fun along the way.
So, that brings me to now. I'm dating. Looking to connect with someone. Looking for the next relationship. Hoping to meet someone extraordinary. Taking the present candidate out of the equation leads me to ponder: What am I really looking for in this whole dating experience? Forget about what I want from him and what I wish were different. A good friend told me that I need to figure out what I want and then the rest will kind of fall in to place. I think he's right.
Figuring out what I want seems like it'd be tough, but really it's not. I want to find someone that I connect with and I care about and know that he cares about me. I want to have fun, talk, play around, spend enjoyable time doing stuff together and know that when I'm not around he misses me as much as I miss him. I want someone who is as much into me as I'm into him. I don't want it to be skewed in either way. It just doesn't work. If he's more into me than I'm into him, then I think I'd feel smothered or responsible for someone's feelings towards me. If I'm more into him, then I feel like I'm doing the pursuing and frankly, I'm not interested in doing that. I need a man with some initiative. Someone who wants to come get me. I'm happy to show that I'm equally interested, but really, I don't need to chase down a man. It's innate for a man to pursue, so frankly, if he's not pursuing, then he must just not be that into me! At least that would be my logical conclusion... And I do really want someone who is into me. So, that would never work for me.
I guess that for everything I lack in dating experience, I'm going to have to make up for it in analytical reasoning and make good decisions for myself. I have my "Ideal Husband" list (yes, you read that correctly!) and keep checking it to see how I'm doing so that I can very consciously pick someone who meets criteria that I set up months and even years ago. The criteria is set up into three columns - must have, would be nice, and absolutely not! All the criteria on that list are very concrete, measurable items, like personality traits, interests, beliefs, etc. What the list doesn't cover is emotional stuff that is more difficult to quantify. I guess one good thing about dating is that it gives me more ideas of things to add to my list. I made this list so that I wouldn't get caught up in the throws of chemical, neurotransmittal ecstasy and forget what the heck I was looking for! I've always "fallen" into relationships and this time, I'm making an effort to be conscious about what I'm doing, every step of the way.
I know I've been thankful for my friends many times since moving out on my own (both on this blog and many times privately), but really, I don't know what I would do without them. I love them and what I really appreciate is that they love and care about me. I think that's what I like the best. I know they care about me. I don't ever question or doubt that. I'm not saying everyone I know absolutely cares for me, but my close friends do and I feel it every time they call just to see how my day's going or to tell me about something funny that happened to them today. Or to tell me how they were a complete basket case or why they're going straight to hell or how sad they are about something that triggered a memory of a really hard time that's still just under the surface. Or when they share stories about their past and then hold me when I start crying thinking about all the pain and loss that have come with the last couple years. They are the best and I'm glad they put up with all my crazy intensity. They appreciate me for who I am and I appreciate that about them.