Monday, September 24, 2012

Are Hope and Fantasy Running Your Dating Life?

For a variety of reasons, we often fail to listen to our guts, intuition, or what have you. Sometimes, it's giving in to the competing circus of voices in our heads. Other times, it's the allure of the person in front of us. Adding a few or more drinks to the equation is another common method of blurring out awareness. And let's face it, most of us live in a society that doesn't value deep listening, and truly following our hearts.

So, we end up making mistakes. Sometimes repeatedly. And when it comes to dating, those repeated mistakes can drain your energy, make you jaded, and press you into a corner, desiring to give up or settle for being with someone you really shouldn't be with.

That's why paying attention from the beginning is so important.

I have trained myself to listen and pay attention closely - both to myself and whomever I am on a date with. If something feels off or sounds off, I really cue in on that to see what's going on. Sometimes, it ends up being me reading a situation falsely, and sometimes it's a recognition that something is actually off. Regardless of what any given gut level feeling ends up being, it's not enough anymore if someone has similar interests to me, a similar approach to life, or if there's some kind of "chemistry" there.

In the past, I would frequently override signs that indicated coming discord or simply a bad match because of one or more of those qualities. I'd notice dysfunctional behavior, but think "oh, but she loves to do the same things as me." Or I'd see that she was responding erratically to my calls or e-mails to get together again, and I'd rationalize that she was busy, or that things were just "moving slowly."

Why did I do this? Well, you know, endless rounds of dating get old. I hadn't learned how to be alone and actually enjoy it yet. And I also really liked some of the women who displayed red flags, and truly hoped that my gut was wrong.

Hope itself is a trouble spot. It's a story about a "better future" that frequently is built on a house of cards. Politicians often play on the hopes of the people they end up supposedly representing. Marketers play on the hopes of the populace as well, saying that whatever product they are selling will cure all our ills and make us happy. And while there are also a small percentage of people who deliberately play on others' hopes in the dating world, more often than not, we let our own hope stories play each of us. The person we are dating might spark the story to surface again, but he or she is simply today's version of the leading role, the current star of the love narrative we can't seem to shake.

Dating and building a relationship are hard enough as it is. Why add in a failure to pay attention and to trust your gut responses?

I did for many years, and still have to work at it sometimes - to not let other things override what I am really experiencing. But I really think I'm better off now than in the past, when things like hope and fantasy ruled the day.


  1. Hi Nathan,

    I wanted your recommendation on books about spirituality that would help in "to not let other things override what I am really experiencing". I know that spirituality is not the theme of your blog, but I notice that sometimes you mention some of your beliefs in this area when talking about relationships.


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  3. Hi. As you may have noticed from my bio, I practice Zen Buddhism and yoga. I also have another blog, which focuses on both.

    Many of my posts here are influenced by all of this.

    Anyway, a few authors that come to mind are Thich Nhat Hanh and Pema Chodron. Both write a lot about staying with what's present, checking the talk in your head, examining emotions, etc. For Pema Chodron, a good place to start is her book When Things Fall Apart. For Hanh, Peace is Every Step is a nice place to start.

  4. Oh, damn you, Nathan. Now I have to pay attention to my intuition that my latest fling isn't finding time for me because he is done, not because he's "busy." Boooo!

  5. It's a bummer sometimes, no doubt.

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