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Let me add a quick disclaimer to this post: I hate dating a solid 70% of the time.
Some days, its 100%. So if you’re reading this and thinking the same thing, I’m with you, and I’m not here to change your mind. I know how fruitless dating can seem, and how often it feels you’re wasting your time. But I do believe we’re gaining more than we realize with each date we go on, even when it produces no positive results.
I’m not talking “dating” like a committed relationship.
I’m talking first dates, no commitment, both of you are just trying not to run out of things to say, and sometimes you’re just waiting for your friend to call with an “emergency” so you can leave.
It’s tough. And honestly, I never planned on having to do it more than a few times. I thought I’d have a few first dates that all turned into relationships, one of them would stick, and I’d be out of the game early on.
Didn’t happen. In fact, I’ve probably been on more first dates just this year than I thought I’d have in my lifetime.
(Don’t be too impressed; there have been many years of having zero).
And you know what? I’m glad it’s happened that way. Despite the awkward moments, first dates that didn’t lead to a second, ghosting (on both our parts, sad to say I’ve done it) and all around anxiety dating can bring, I’ve found purpose in it no one ever told me, and that purpose far exceeds just finding a committed relationship.
1. You learn what you really want, and what you really don’t want (even if you thought you already knew)
Dating may validate everything you ever thought you knew about who you’re looking for, but it also may shatter, or ever-so-slightly tweak, your expectations, ultimately leading you to someone far better suited for you than the person you originally planned to find.
When I first started dating, I thought I knew exactly the type of person I wanted. This was based largely on assumptions and fantasies of who I wanted to end up with, as opposed to any real experience. Since then, I’ve been surprised more than once by a characteristic of someone I’m dating and thought “huh, I kind of like that”. Or, to the contrary, I’ve dated the type of person I expected to end up with and thought “this just isn’t going to work for me.”
Dating gives you the chance to put your preconceived notions of who you are, what you need and what you’re looking for to the test.
2. You learn to recognize your own value (even when others don’t)
Dating is a sure fire way to bring out our insecurities, and at times, amplify our desperation born out of loneliness, which just so happens to also make it the perfect atmosphere to teach us to embrace our own self-worth.
It’s almost inevitable that at some point in dating, our feelings won’t be matched, or we will find ourselves settling for less than we really deserve. The amount of times that I’ve sat and questioned my worth because someone hasn’t called, or they don’t seem as interested in me as I am in them, are innumerable. In addition, the number of times I’ve continued to chase someone or made excuses for their behavior, purely to have someone, is nearly embarrassing.
But ultimately I tired of those feelings. I tired of the self-doubt, the insecurity based solely on someone else’s opinions, and I tired of the chase. I learned to walk away. I found my own strength and learned to define my own worth. Because of that, I’m now able to recognize what I truly deserve, and walk away from what I don’t. A lesson that I carry with me now, even outside the dating world.
3. You have the simple opportunity to get to know another human being
In the sheer panic and anxiety of “what should I wear”, “what will I say”, “what if I don’t like him/her”, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that in dating, you have the simple opportunity just to get to know another person. I look back on all the people I’ve dated, and while some days I can only remember the negative, other days I think what a privilege I’ve had to get to know so many different people, even if we never spoke again.
When you go on a date, for that brief time that you’ve committed to spending with them, you’re doing what we as humans so often fail to do. You’re asking them about themselves, you’re offering them your attention, and you’re sharing your own life with someone else. This has value, even if you choose not to pursue getting to know them further.
So if you’ve hit a point in your dating life where you feel that you’re not anywhere near achieving the ultimate goal of finding a relationship, and all you can see is wasted time, let yourself embrace the purpose no one may have told you.
With each date you’re learning more about who you’re truly looking for, finding opportunities to recognize and embrace your own value, and ultimately, spending time connecting with another human being.
Allow yourself the opportunity to see the purpose in the process.
* What purpose has dating had in your life that no one ever told you that it would? Drop me a note below! I’d love to hear it!