by Gina B.
It took a while for me to realize that dating requires strategy.
Out of college as a young adult, I dated haphazardly and infrequently. I was more excited about work and my social life with friends. A man had to be really aggressive to get my attention, and most guys didn’t have the energy (or desire) to work so hard. There was a larger pool of women who were far prettier and much easier. I was subjected to dating the guys who were super aggressive, which generally made them a bit (a lot) off-kilter. I fell into many of my relationships – in much the same way that one would fall into a muddy pool of water after a rain storm.
On the other end of the spectrum, one of my girlfriends was a dating machine. She was fascinating to watch because she attracted a lot of men and went through them like a warm knife through butter. Armed with a checklist, she moved on speedily if her criteria weren’t met.
She understood the fine art of Deliberate Dating.
She had a timeframe. She planned to be in a committed relationship so that she could get married and have kids. Even more specifically, she wanted the luxury of being married for five or more years before having children, at which point she planned to become a stay-at-home mom. Given her schedule, she had no time to waste – even at 22.
I thought she was crazy at the time, but if we look at the results several years later, she’s happily married to a great guy. She was married for nearly five years before starting her family of three kids and she’s a stay-at-home mom in a beautiful house.
To be clear, her path is not for everyone (it’s obviously not mine, given that I’m happily unmarried and child-free). However, the deliberate dating process is a good one to consider whether you’re looking for a family, or simply a good partner.
The Rules of Deliberate Dating
Stick to the baseline requirements. At very minimum, he must be nice to you and he must want to be in a relationship with you. If you’re struggling with him on either of those two points, move on.
Have standards and a list of criteria. It doesn’t have to be a long list, but it should be realistic. Stick to that list as you evaluate men. It’s okay if some of the must-haves drop off the list over time (for the right reasons), but the purpose of the list is to provide a guideline and get you to think about the qualities of a mate that are important to you.
Be the chooser, not the chosen. As women, we often go with the men who choose us, but it’s equally important that we weigh in on the choosing process. Home in on the type of man who could be a true partner. If you’re not attracting the guys that you would choose, do the work and figure out what you need to do to appeal to those men.
Don’t be afraid to move on quickly. Most relationships don’t work, and the purpose of dating is to sample various people before choosing a life partner. If there are early red flags, go with your gut and get out before one of you becomes emotionally involved. If you know he’s not the right one for you, you’re wasting the time of four people – yourself, him, and the two people that you’re each supposed to be with.
Don’t listen to your friends (especially your single friends). Everyone has an opinion of who you should be dating, and those opinions are generally moot. If you have deliberately chosen a path and have identified the type of person that you’d like to pursue, follow that path. Trust yourself.
Establish the direction of your relationship early. I’m not an advocate of the “what are we doing” conversation because I believe that men will tell you who you are to them. You won’t need to ask. He will volunteer that information. If you’re not dating the expressive type, listen and watch. Make sure that what he says and what he does are aligned. If his desires and timeframe don’t match with yours, don’t deliver an ultimatum. Just move on. Unless you’re interested in sitting in an uncommitted relationship for 5+ years while he figures it out.
Proceed with trepidation. It’s easy to get excited about a new relationship – especially when he appears to be “the one.” However, if you are being deliberate, you need to take a moment to ease into the relationship slowly. You’re in it for the long haul, and you want to make sure that he’s consistent over time.
Remember ladies . . . it’s chess, not checkers.