Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Trusting Your Gut While Dating

Photo credit: earl53 from

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 eventually trained myself to listen and pay attention closely - both to myself and whomever I am on a date with. If something felt off or sounded off, I would really cue in on that to see what's going on. Sometimes, it ended up being me reading a situation falsely, and sometimes it was a recognition that something was actually off. Regardless of what any given gut level feeling was, it wasn't enough anymore if someone had similar interests to me, a similar approach to life, or if there was some kind of "chemistry" there. The connection needed to pass the gut level test before I'd move into more seriousness about it. And I've been all the more happier since. Not only did I finally find an amazing partner, but also before that, I learned to trust my gut enough to end a few short term relationships that I would have stuck with (and suffered in) much longer in the past.

This bare attention can take some practice before you're able to do it well while during a date. However, even if you never get to the point where you're flowing between noting your reactions and engaging in conversation or activity with a date, you can still benefit from the practice. After the date, you can sit down and watch the various reactions that come up. Just watching them, not taking a side or trying to rationalize or apply a fixed meaning to them. Give it 10-15 minutes, just allowing yourself to have thoughts and feelings about the date come and go, and then note or write down anyone overall themes.

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 trust your gut responses? Your thoughts?


  1. First of all, congrats on finding an amazing partner! if anyone deserves it, it's you! You worked hard for it, wishing you two many years of happiness :)

    Great timing. Tonight I'm meeting with a guy that I have a ton of common interests with, click with as a friend, but there's less physical chemistry on my side than I'd like to have, and he's not passing the gut test. I cannot tell you why, he's a great guy, but I'm getting that vibe that moving forward isn't a good idea.

    It will be date six and we already have weekend plans... He is very hopeful. I have no clue what I'll tell him tonight, but I think I've got to rip the band-aid off. And yes, it is a shame that it took me five whole dates to figure out that he's not the right one. I feel like I'd led him on. I'm super logical and very out of touch with my feelings and that's how I got in over my head with this man. Ugh I feel terrible about this.

    The x-bf isn't helping with his periodic updates about how he's having a great time dating, or how "one is getting serious"... my knee jerk reaction is to go out and date myself, or get serious myself, just to show him and myself that I'm as successful at it as he is... And that attitude is dead wrong.

    Want to add two things I've found in this round of dating: one, people change; two, it's a small world. What that means to me is, guys that had turned me down two or three years ago, are now coming back (having seen me back on OKC) and are very interested... because I've had a lot of personal growth these past two years and am now a very different person. Sadly, this also means that I've outgrown most of them. But fact remains, you can move on from someone because they're not a good fit today, but that doesn't mean you two might not be a good fit tomorrow or a few years down the road. You're just not at that place right now.

  2. "But fact remains, you can move on from someone because they're not a good fit today, but that doesn't mean you two might not be a good fit tomorrow or a few years down the road. You're just not at that place right now." This is exactly what happened with my current girlfriend and I. We dated briefly a few years back. Went our separate ways. Both did some growing. Then connected again through a project I was working on, and it's been great ever since!

    I think it's very easy to end up taking several dates to figure out you're not a good match. And actually, there's nothing wrong with that at all. I've had my share of "short term" relationships over the years. 1-3 months. In all of them, there was enough to make things interesting and fun, but something missing at the end of the day. It may be true that you aren't very in touch with your feelings, but even so, it still could have taken several dates to get a sense that there's no long term potential.

    Yeah, having the ex lingering around probably isn't too helpful. Are there ways to minimize his presence without cutting him out entirely? I have friendships with a few ex's, but in my experience, friendship has only worked after a period of no contact or minimal contact.

    1. Wow this is great! Very happy for you both! Best of luck.

      Yeah well it still didn't go well. First he handled it okay, then I went home, walked my dog, then the texts started. "you are confused, you've been giving mixed messages" yada yada yada. And I can totally see where he's coming from, rejection is never fun. But I stood my ground, knowing full well that, had we dragged it out because "we like to do the same things", it would've hurt worse down the road. BTDT.

      No, no it's not. We tried staying friends, but it wasn't working. I wanted too much contact, and he'd reply with "life updates" that were really PA digs ("hey, I'm dating! hey, I went out with so-and-so! Hey, I'm having a party with everyone you know, but you can't come! Hey, I'm getting serious with someone, how about you?" Ugh!) We met for coffee last week, had a nice chat, and agreed to do these meetings a few times a year. i.e. I am not anticipating any contact for another 4-5 months, and I am ready for that. of course, in the unlikely case that one of us needs another's help, we know where to find each other; but TBH, at this point, he'll be the last person I'd ask for help, after I've asked everyone else I know on the planet. I agree with your experience - only other ex I have that isn't my kids' father (i.e. that doesn't require constant interaction), it took eight month of complete no contact, and over a year of hardly any contact, for us to become friends again; and we'd been close friends for ten years prior to getting involved!

  3. Sounds like you have a good plan with the ex!

    As for the guy you just broke it off with, yeah, not much else you can do with that one. Hopefully, after the initial sting dies down, he'll realize that it was the right choice and moves on.

    1. Thanks. I'm trying hard to stick to my plan with the ex. And hopefully he does. He's a good guy that can make someone happy, just not me.

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