People who have known me for years are fascinated by what I do but are sometimes a little confused. I am a live-life-to-the-fullest kinda girl, and when they think of a dating coach, they think I am spouting off a lot of rules, dos and don'ts and how to be on your best behavior. It seems like an odd combination.
What they don't realize is that when it comes to dating, my so-called "rules" are a little different than they might think. So, I wanted to introduce a little theory that I have been coming up with for a while: undating, for those who are over dating and ready for something better.
A few years ago, I connected with an ex-boyfriend. Nate had always been my "alternative" boyfriend. Not because he had tattoos or piercings, but because he was so comfortable in his own skin. He had his own wacky ideas, made bad films with his friends and built a lego castle in his freshman-year dorm room. He lived his life just as he thought he should and really didn't care what anyone thought about it. At first it was confusing that someone could care so little what others thought of him, but then it became inspiring. I found myself in awe of how this incredible and quiet guy attracted so many people to him by just being his cute, somewhat dorky self.
One fall afternoon many years later, we were catching up over the phone and talking about dating. As soon as I mentioned it, Nate chimed in, "I don't really believe in it."
"Huh?" I asked. "Like it doesn't exist? Is this a conspiracy theory like the moon landing?" I teased.
He went on to explain how he thought dating was the short track to complete and utter awkwardness and relationship doom. He thought there was no way that two people sitting across from each other over dinner would ever be themselves and start a real relationship. I believe that he then called dating "stupid."
That conversation has stuck with me for quite a while because, well, it just makes sense. With the college dating scene pretty much being nonexistent, I figured let's just kick it to the stinkin' curb and get this right. It makes more sense than the almost job interview that dates have become where we pretend that there is nothing wrong with us and we carry a little checklist to see if they fit our six pages of expectations. Oops, was that a rant? Warning... there may be more coming.
So what is undating? Let me break it down for a moment. (Please add beat box sound here.)
The concept of undating is this: There are no rules to dating. You don't have to go to certain places or have certain conversations. There is no right or wrong way to do it. You are just out there meeting people, trying them on for size and being smart about it so that if there is something there, it can become something real. You don't shove on a huge amount of expectations that no one can live up to, and you communicate what you are looking for. You be yourself (all of you) and trust that if someone isn't a good fit, there is a probably a good reason and something better is going to come along.
Here are the basics behind my new "Theory of Undating":
- Be creative.
- Go slowly.
- Live the relationship you want to have.
- Create healthy boundaries.
- Let go of the expectations.
- The more the merrier.
- Look for the whole package.
- Know yourself.
- Take care of your crap.
Start by having fun together and doing everyday things to see how they tick. Do your laundry, take a dance class, go to an art show and have fun critiques afterward, cook something hard together. The point? Have fun and be yourself. Most importantly, be aware, watch for red flags and listen to your gut.
"But Kira," you say, "I thought there were no rules." This is true, but you are going to be smart and start setting yourself up for success. I think so many more relationships could grow and flourish if one person didn't rush ahead and leave the other person sitting there scratching their head, wondering what happened. Go slow enough to really get to know them in a natural way, to have fun together, to get excited and most importantly to really find out if this person is a good match.
Unless your relationship is really going to be going out for romantic, fancy schmancy evenings for the rest of your life, it is nice to have some realistic dates. You are going to learn a lot more from them than all the dinners in the world.
I am convinced that half of the demise of current relationships is because people don't take care of themselves in the beginning of the relationship. They are not honest about their needs up front, taking care of their hearts and giving themselves away in a way that is never going to be healthy. If you are not healthy, your relationship is not going to be. You may like this person so much in the beginning that you want to bend over backwards and do anything for them. No, you don't mind doing their laundry. Sure, you are happy to go to that sporting event that bores you to death. What? You love fishing... kinda. Here is the point: if you are not willing to do it for the rest of the relationship, don't do it in the beginning, or at least let them know you are happy to do it occasionally, but that is all. That makes sure that no one wakes up five years from now and says, "I don't even know who you are." Get it?
What if you walked into an undate with the idea of just wanting to find out what makes this person great? What makes them different? What are they passionate about? What are they embarrassed of? Did you notice that I said nothing about whether or not they were your future boyfriend, spouse or parent to your unborn child? My best dates have been when it wasn't a date. When it was two people, no expectations and just getting to know each other. I was able to be myself, and that went so much farther than anytime I went in with expectations. Who knows... they may end up being a new acquaintance, friend, skiing buddy, cat-sitter or old-movie-video-watcher. Maybe even more, but taking it slowly, you will figure out one way or another, which leads me to...
No, I am not being naughty. But in the world of undating, slowly getting to know people and trying them on for size should be pressure-free. One of the best ways to do that is getting to know more than one person at a time. Hear me out! It is so easy to be obsessive and over-think every little thing, which can lead to "the crazy" (you know what I am talking about) when you are just checking out one person. If you have a few people, you can keep things in perspective, your eyes open and not put all your eggs in one basket. Think of it this way: you won't be so disappointed if you are not expecting this one and only person to change your life. If you have been undating a while and really want to check it out, then do. But it will be because you have taken some time to know the person, kept it real and are making a conscious choice. Not because they are the only option and seem to be good enough.
Wouldn't it be great to find a smart, attractive, successful, athletic, funny, happy guy who also loved to cook? Sure, it would also be great if I owned my own island. The thing is, the right person for you is going to have good stuff and not-so-good stuff. Just make sure the not-good stuff is stuff you can live with. They may not look how you think or fit this mold, but really, who cares? Great relationships have nothing to do with two perfect people. They have to do with love, respect and a willingness to work together to keep it great. I know I have said this before; it is not rocket science, but it's always a good reminder.
If you know that you get attached easily, tread lightly in the beginning. If you get nervous, let them know. If you tend to scare, set a pace that works for you making sure you communicate with them. Are you very particular? Make sure it is coming from a place of finding someone great for you instead of a fear of love or one where no one can live up to it. Then you will always be disappointed and blame the universe for the fact that "you just aren't meeting people worth dating." We both know that bullsh*t.
It is no one else's job to break down your wall, see through your games, give you confidence, make you feel pretty, find you friends, pay your bills, ignore the intimidation or figure a way into your busy life. It is your job to figure that stuff out, and the longer you wait, the longer you will be waiting for a person that doesn't exist. True story.
I think my friend G said it best: "I just want to be crazy in love. I think everyone can have that and deserves it." I agree with him, and I think undating is a great way to get you there.