Once upon a time, I was swiping away on Tinder several times a day. After many terrible dates and a lot of lessons learned, I found someone who is the cheese to my macaroni. I wish I could have met him a year earlier and skipped over all the grief and anxiety of dating the other guys – but upon reflection, I realized I learned a lot from those failed dates.
1. Know what you want: It doesn’t have to be overly specific, but the more you know what you want from a partner the more likely you are to find that person. For example, I’ve dated younger guys and decided that I wanted someone who was my age or older because I felt that I needed someone more mature. I’m about to graduate from college, so I’m in a transitional period and having someone the same age as me or older gives me support as we have similar lifestyles.
2. Experiment with qualities: While you should have some steadfast ideas about what qualities you’re looking for, try to meet someone who also has different qualities. I don’t know anything about video games but my partner loves them and that’s fine. However, he does take school seriously, which is a quality that I find to be important and non-negotiable. Having some flexibility in the qualities you’re seeking in a couple allow you to learn and grow with that person.
3. Set no-no’s: Know where your boundaries are. It’s okay to acknowledge that some things are irrevocable. For example, I had several dates where a man referred to something as “retarded,” which is a huge no-no for me. The fact that he knew I wanted to be a special education teacher and was still using the word in the non-clinical way showed me that he was clearly not respectful of my passion or was too immature for me. If you are an advocate for pro-choice or same-sex marriage, those may be issues that are non-negotiable as well.
4. Have fun: Not every date needs to be the person you’ll marry! You’re going to learn more about yourself and who you’re looking for with each date. I may not have liked the guys I was with all the time, but I got to try new restaurants, see new movies and I learned how to mini golf. Dates aren’t job interviews – you should be having fun.
5. Don’t talk about exes: I went on one date with a guy who informed me of his entire dating history. This makes you look like you’re hung-up on someone from the past or that you’re bragging. In his case, he sounded like he was trying to impress me, but regardless this was a deal breaker for me. When things get more serious, it’s okay to acknowledge that there were other people in the past but that you’re both ready to move forward. Talk about you and ask them questions about themselves – that’s the key to successful conversation.
6. Be honest about what you want: Don’t compromise your opinions for the other person. Tell them what you think – that you had fun with them, you’d like to see them again or you don’t really see things working out with them. Whatever you have to say, be honest. Playing games is doing yourself and the other person a disservice.
7. Online dating is normal: Tinder, Match.com, OkCupid, Twitter, Tumblr…whatever. Every relationship is valid no matter where you met. However, make sure that you’re safe about it. If you plan to meet someone you found online, check Facebook to make sure they’re a real person and meet them in a public location.
8. Follow your instincts: Does your date seem creepy? Leave. Make up an excuse and/or have a friend on-call in case of emergencies. I went on a date with a guy who forgot his wallet and offered to take me back to his house twenty minutes away to go get it. I knew what he was getting at so I paid for the date and had my roommates call me with an excuse to leave. Not having sex on the first date is one of my boundaries and I didn’t like his dishonesty to try to get in my pants.
9. Love yourself: After dating off Tinder for about a year, I was ready to give up when I couldn’t find a guy who was a good fit for me. Finally I met a guy who seemed perfect but then never texted me back. I took the rejection pretty hard and blamed myself, when in actuality he wasn’t good enough for me because he didn’t respect me enough to be upfront about not being interested. Loving yourself means not settling or compromising your values. Be happy with yourself and love will find you.
10. Enjoy learning: Let yourself enjoy every moment from the first date onward. See every failed date as a learning experience. All my bad dates up to this point led me to the amazing person who would become my partner, and I wouldn’t have gotten there without some work involved.
What have you learned from your bad dates? Let me know in the comments below!