“If you never have expectations then you’ll never be disappointed” — to be completely honest, this quote is bullshit. It’s totally ideal in theory and yes, it warrants truth. But raise your hand if you’re human. Oh, you? Okay, then you have expectations. It’s nearly impossible to avoid. So it’s not so much about not having expectations. It’s about having appropriate expectations.
And this totally applies to my experience with dating. I’m a licensed therapist and life coach, but I’m also a fellow single gal. I’ve been single for the last year and a half, and I’ve had plenty of my fair share of first dates. I can definitely understand how in a world of dating apps, seemingly limitless choices, and ghosting how modern dating can feel frustrating. But it could be the way you’re choosing to see it.
I struggled with expectations when I first got into the dating scene, especially when I was in my younger single days. I would start fantasizing — is this guy going to be it? Is he my soulmate? Are we going to get married one day? And this led to constant disappointment and frustration when something wouldn’t work out with a guy. So this time around, I knew I needed to adjust my expectations and see dating in a different light. So here are the only four expectations, count ’em, FOUR expectations I have when I go on a first date:
1. You’re going on a date to meet someone new. If you matched online or a friend set you up, then you’re meeting someone new for the first time, and that’s really exciting! If you met previously, you’re about to get to know someone on a deeper level. New people comes with new experiences. And new experiences are essential to our own growth.
2. You’re going to hear a story. And everyone’s got one. I have learned so much new stuff I didn’t know before from my first dates, especially through other people’s professions. I dated someone who went to teach English in China for three years and came back fluent in Chinese — and he taught me a few words on our date. I met someone who was in the Navy, and I learned all about our military. I met someone who worked in sports, and I learned the ins and outs of the difficulties of breaking into the industry. I met someone who designed custom stairs –didn’t even realize that was a job that someone needed to do, but it totally is. I met a pharmacist and we bonded over the opiate epidemic, and I got to hear about his side of the problem. And then you’re going to hear the personal stuff — whose parents are divorced, whose siblings are like best friends…or not. What led them to this moment where they’re sitting in this restaurant here with you. And it’s a really cool feeling to be invited into someone’s life in that way. You never know what connections you’re going to make.
3. Have fun. Just a reminder, dates are fun if you choose to see them that way. I had fun on every single date I went on, even if I wasn’t totally into the guy. I ate really good food. I laughed…a lot. I played video games at an arcade. I walked on the beach. I drank cocktails on the water as the sun set. And one time my date and I spent an hour talking to some other guy who started chatting with us. When you choose not to take the dates too seriously, you really can’t help but have a good time.
4. Learn something about yourself. My favorite expectation of all. Date to learn more about you. What do you want in a partner? What qualities did your date have that you liked…or maybe that you didn’t like? Did you like how they treated the waiter? Did they make you consider things about relationships that you hadn’t thought of before? And also be open to how your conversations can influence you. Back to the Navy guy from before — he was a triathlete all throughout his life. I had told him I was into running — but at the time, I really only ran short distances — 2, maybe 3 miles at most. He asked me if I ever thought about running a half or whole marathon. I immediately responded — “Oh hell no. I have no interest in that. I’m really cool with my short distance running.” And we left it at that. But later that night, I thought about what he said and more importantly — how I defensive I got in my response. And I realized it wasn’t that I didn’t have an interest in long distance running — it was I was terrified of long distance running. In that revelation, I decided to run a half marathon. I became a long distance runner from then on. And even though we never saw each other again, I can’t help but wonder if I would have become a long distance runner at the time I did if it weren’t for our date. Honestly, probably not.
So stop taking dating so seriously. It’s not that serious. See it as a way to meet new people and even cooler, a way to get to know you better. You may just have fun along the way.