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Erika Ettin: Going on a date isn't a waste of time

Erika Ettin, Tribune News Service on

Published in Lifestyles

As a dating coach, I browse hundreds (thousands?) of dating profiles every week on every app imaginable, and a few phrases tend to repeat themselves:

“I like to travel and go on adventures.” Great, but who doesn’t? Also, what does “adventure” mean to you?

“I look younger than my age.” You don’t. Sorry.

“I can’t believe I’m on here.” Not only is it negative, but it’s also offensive to anyone else on the site.

But one thing really irks me—the many, many people who talk about not “wasting their time.”

For some daters, it feels like such an inconvenience to meet someone face-to-face for an hour or two. They would rather put their potential match through an interrogation about the “important” questions before agreeing to a date, lest they risk the dreaded “wasting of time.” But here’s what that achieves: unrealistic expectations and a false sense of stability.

Asking the “big” questions off the bat—perhaps about religion, politics, money, having kids, relationships with exes—doesn’t help you get a better idea of the person. You’re really just trying to rule out those who don’t give the answers you want to hear, and that quickly depletes your pool of candidates.

 

The biggest question people ask to try to avoid wasting time is this: “What are you looking for on this app?” Sure, you might weed out some people who say they only want casual fun (assuming people are honest), whatever that means to them, but the majority of people will say, “a relationship.” Here’s the thing: that doesn’t mean they necessarily want a relationship... with you.

Remember the old adage about topics to avoid during a polite conversation? Those apply to a first date (and pre-meeting in person!) as well. The first date is to see if you connect—if the conversation flows, if you have some things in common, and if you’re comfortable around each other. Did you laugh? Feel good about yourself? The talk about “the hard stuff” will come after you’ve established whether you even enjoy each other’s company, a prerequisite to any type of relationship.

If you ask me, spending an hour to see if someone is a good fit is always a good use of one’s time. Sure, it may end up being a bust. You may know from the first five minutes of conversation that it’s not going to work. But it’s still one step closer to finding someone you’re truly compatible with. (And if scheduling is tough due to childcare or something else, then set up a video call. You don’t even have to leave your house!)

Another thing to keep in mind is attitude. If you go in with the mindset that the date is going to be a “waste of time,” it’s likely going to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Approach every new interaction with an open mind and optimism. You owe it to your potential match, but mostly to yourself. Worst-case scenario? It’s good practice for your next first date.

Everyone has busy schedules, packed calendars and an ever-growing to-do list. However, a date is when you may need to put off a few things until tomorrow to see if you have a good connection with a new person. Nothing more, nothing less. Assuming we all plan to live a while longer, an hour (with an optimistic attitude) doesn’t seem like such a big deal. And who knows? You may come away with a great connection… or have a really good story to tell friends.

Lastly, it's important to remember that dating is a skill like any other. The more you practice, the better you get at it. Each date, whether successful or not, is an opportunity to learn more about yourself, refine your preferences and improve your social skills. So even if the date doesn’t lead to love (or, more importantly at this point, a second date), it’s still a valuable experience in your dating journey. Embrace each encounter.


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