About two years ago, I was going through a dating crisis of I’m-going-to-die-alone proportions and sought help from a therapist who specialized in that sort of thing. She gave me all these rules I should be following to help me find love. Like, she told me I should date at least three guys at once and tell each of the guys on date number two that I was dating other people. Then, she instructed me to wait for two to three months and decide which one I liked the best and dump the other two. This is not something I ever would have considered doing on my own, but because I was blaming myself for being single, I was willing to try it her way. Following her advice, I cancelled plans with guy #1 — who I really liked — because guy #2 had asked me out for a drink and I felt obligated. I arrived at the “date” with guy #2 only to discover that without even asking me, he had invited 12 of his closest friends to join us. Long story short (because the rest is pretty lame), the night ended with me crying in a cab on the way home from Brooklyn feeling like poop about myself because even following an expert’s rules, I couldn’t date “right.”
Anyhow, this long, tear-filled cab ride helped me realize that there is no “right” way to do anything and that I should stop following other people’s advice and start following my instincts. That was really the only dating mistake I was making. Duh. Not long after that, I decided to clean my love basement, if you will. I emailed guy #2 and told him he was an ass. I dumped guy #1 and, shortly after, the therapist. Then I went through my phone and deleted all three of their numbers. It felt amazing. I didn’t meet anyone special for a while still after that, but it was a definite turning point for me from hating dating, to embracing it.
So, to recap: there really are no dating mistakes you can make, only mistakes you can make about the way you think about dating. In honor of Spring CleaningWeek, here are some things you can do to put yourself in a clearer, more receptive head space for love.
1. Having a “type.” We all have preferences about what we’re attracted to. But when we get too locked into dating say, dark-haired, tattooed musicians who are well-read, we’re discounting a whole wealth of other men who might be great. When it comes to really clicking with someone, it’s all about that wild card X-factor. And you really never know who you’re going to have that with. So remember, it’s not about a look or a list of personality traits, you’re looking for a feeling. Go out with a short, non-tattooed accountant and just see what happens.
2. Trying too hard. If you’re like me, you think you can make things better by trying harder. I mean, it makes perfect sense. That’s how I’ve handled every other obstacle in my life; by working harder. The same principle doesn’t apply to dating. Take a time out and try doing NOTHING AT ALL. You don’t need to flirt with anyone at the bar. Give yourself permission to sit back and let the worthwhile ones find you. It’s liberating.
3. Playing too hard to get. When we go on bad dates with shitbirds over and over again for a long period of time, we start to assume that everyone is a shitbird. We get defensive and expect the worst from people. I know, I’ve been there. This is a normal human reaction to shitbirdery. But sometimes it keeps us from recognizing when someone worthy of our time is tapping on our window. So for instance, when you go on a date with a nice dude who sends you a text message telling you he had a good time, don’t start imaging all the ways he’s going to screw you over and go out of your way to make him prove himself to you. Each new person deserves the benefit of the doubt.
4. Saying yes to dates you don’t want to go on. Fuck that. You don’t have to go out with anyone unless you feel like it. End of story.
5. Negative talk. Watch what you say about your love life because what we say has power. Stop telling everyone you meet how unlucky in love you are and how you’ll die alone and all the other things single people need to stop saying. Try — just try — to keep it positive as an experiment.
6. Indulging guys that you know are wrong for you. Sometimes a complete, deep cleaning of the basement is in order. There might be guys lurking around down there that you’ve needed to sweep away for years now, but because of fear, or whatever, you continue to entertain the idea of them. It’s time to say bye to the guy you sleep with occasionally when you’re feeling lonely or the ex you text every time you have a bad date. These people — as special as they might have once been to you– are clutter from your dating past. Look ahead to your future by acknowledging that these romantic interactions aren’t right for you.