An open letter about dating

Subject: An open letter about dating
Date: 17 Feb 2016

Okay, so things have changed since I was first passed a note in fifth grade from one of the twins about how the other one wanted to be my boyfriend. Truth be told, I probably had a bigger crush on their best friend {the dark, elusive type}. Could this maybe be a glimpse into my future?

For the first decade or so of my dating life, I did it without the internet {*gasp*}. I have to say in hindsight, with the exception of a few stellar moments/days, they were probably the best of my dating years so far. Eyes meet across a crowded school dance/sporting event/regular Thursday night bar/lift at work - and the rest was history - for a few months or a few years. The following decade was a combination of online dating and eyes meet across a crowded boardroom. Although the former had its challenges, the latter certainly did too.

Trust in a relationship is not always implicit or immediate. If we question something you do or say, don’t jump to the immediate conclusion that there’s something wrong with us, rather that we may be reacting to something that has happened in our past. We may be looking for red flags we missed another time and trying to avoid being hurt again. You are probably doing it too, to some degree.

Everyone has priorities and options. The person you are dating should be a priority, not an option. They are not necessarily going to be your number one priority {particularly if, like me, you’re a sole parent}, but they should never just be an option. Yes, I did just repeat myself. It’s worth repeating.

Busyness engulfs most of us. I don’t know many people who aren’t busy and are just cruising delightfully through life. Then there’s Murphy and that Law of his - if most things in your life are going swimmingly, there will be one thing that is causing you some angst. I will mention this here because it’s a well-known phenomenon, and I’ve had more than one man tell me himself: men are not good at multi-tasking. They can generally only focus on one thing. So if you need to focus entirely on the thing in your life that is giving you some stress, focus on that and don’t try to date at the same time. If the thing that’s bothering you is something small, then you’re probably okay to date at the same time. If you’re a good communicator, you may be able to juggle stress and dating. But communication is key.

You disengaging from our relationship is hard to deal with because you are generally giving enough snippets of yourself for us to forgive {albeit sometimes naively} your absences. Disengagement feels like you have let go, or stopped showing up or sharing as much of you with me as you were. If I then cross the line to wondering if it is just something going on in your life or if it is us you are distancing yourselves from, it all gets a little murky. Up front honesty is a much better scenario for both of us. Trust me.

I’ll wipe the board with you at Scrabble, but any other games you can keep to yourself. Seriously. If you like me, tell me. And behave like you do. I can promise you I'll do the same. People are afraid to tell each other how they feel, understandably. No-one wants to be rejected. Putting your feelings out there on a platter can be terrifying. But you know what, if you run away, so be it. If I run away, so be it. We’ll both survive. Eventually. Here’s a little tip though ... I will tell you it’s not working for me before I leave.

Just so you know: you should do the same. If you decide you don’t want to see me, then I am the first person you should tell, not the last to find out - quite by accident - that you have a girlfriend you live with in another city. Or because one of my girlfriends finds you on a dating site. Or worse. {In case you were wondering, probably best not to lie about having a terminal illness. Just saying.}

Emotional though I am; I am far from needy. Self-respect and self-worth however, are important to me. They should be important to you too. In fact, they should be most important.

This extends to general respect. Aretha sang about it. If you don't have it already, you have got to get some. For both of us. Whether we’ve been out once or been hanging out for weeks/months. Whether we’ve had the exclusive conversation or not. Manners, common courtesy, RESPECT. They’re not just song lyrics or something you vaguely remember your mumma talking about. They’re non-negotiable life principles. Even if what you’ve got to say is tough, man up and say it.

Chivalry should not be dead. I will want to do nice things for you and you should want to do nice things for me. Women in generations before mine burnt their bras for the right to be treated as equal, but they didn’t stop doing nice things for the men in their lives. I am giving and generous. I’m happy to pay for my dinner, but it would still be lovely if you held the door open for me.

I have had some wonderful relationships, both short-term and long. I have had some wonderful moments/days/weeks/months within relationships. I have had some great loves. I believe there is more than one great love for each of us in our lifetimes.

I’ve had the full spectrum of breakups. I’ve whispered goodbye when I should have yelled STAY from the rooftops. I’ve cried many tears. I’ve said goodbye when I needed to say goodbye with barely a tear, but with happy memories. I’ve said goodbye later than I needed to say goodbye with many a tear and not so fabulous memories.

I am very happy in my own company; I have lived alone, lived with men I’m dating, lived with family, friends and housemates. I am also a realist. I have been lapping the dating block for many a year and trust me, the right one is not just around the corner. I have spent plenty of time not looking and you know what, the one didn’t appear while I wasn’t looking either.

What is wrong with me you ask? Oh, believe me I have asked myself the same question many times. The answer may surprise you - when I finally came to it, it certainly surprised me. There is nothing wrong with me. That’s right - there is nothing more or less wrong with me than is wrong with you, or the next person. We are all what we are, warts and all. We are the sum total of our experiences. Some of those experiences make us brighter, and some leave little dark spots.

I've been told that: I’m good fun. I can cook. I’m engaging. I’m attractive and witty. I hold a good conversation and have a variety of interests. I’m a good kisser {apparently!}.

I am a glass half-full kind of girl. I look for the silver lining. I believe in the inherent good in people. I try to perform an act of kindness every day and I am an advocate for animals. Don’t get me wrong, I am flawed. I am. And I am fully aware of each of those flaws.

So, I hear you ask, if I'm all that why did none of those relationships work for the long haul?

I think it is probably some combination of luck, cosmic force and timing for two people to meet who are at the same stage in life for them to have a relationship that works forever.

A small part of me still wants to believe the fairy tale hype, but realistically I don’t know if I believe in happily ever after. I know what I do believe in though, and that is while it makes both of us happy, however long that is.

And trust me, if I’m not happy, I’ll have the respect for both of us to let you be the first to know.

These thoughts, feelings and experiences are an amalgamation of those garnered over a quarter of a century of dating. If you’re a girl nodding her head or agreeing with any or all of what I’ve written, I am not surprised. Although written from my perspective, conversations with girlfriends in the past 25 years or so indicate that this may have been written by Every Girl.

If you’re reading this and we have dated at some point, there may be something of our relationship here. If we haven’t dated but some of it speaks to you, there may be something in it you’ve experienced with someone else.

... or maybe you’re just the guy Carly Simon wrote the song about?

{DISCLAIMER: This letter is addressed to men because I date men, not women. I am not writing this from the perspective that women are perfect. I don’t think any of us are perfect, and I think that chasing perfection is futile.}