By Jennifer Butler
I met my ex-husband when I was eighteen and we were married when I was twenty-two. Needless to say, I never really had the opportunity to date and from the way people talked, it didn’t seem like I was missing out on anything at all. I heard horror stories about how bad it was out there and as friends got married, they constantly praised the heavens for never having to go out on another date again. I’m not going to lie, I was pretty psyched that I had fallen in love and gotten married so young, not ever having to experience this awful thing called dating for myself.
As life would have it, my marriage was not forever and at the age of thirty-five I became a single mom, confused and scared about the future of dating that now seemed to lay before me. I had no clue what I was doing and felt paralyzed by the thought of it all. I am pretty sure I had a running belief in my head that I would never find someone again. I spent time alone, consciously focusing on my own growth and healing. I enjoyed more causal periods of fun and lightheartedness with friends. I threw myself into single parenting with all of my heart and soul. But when it came to dating, I was like a fish out of water, no clue what I was doing or how to find my way.
I floundered my way through the process at the beginning, getting disheartened plenty of times and more than once declaring I would never date again. Not one to actually give up though, I kept trudging forward and eventually found my way to a space of happily dating and actually enjoying the process. Even though it has had its ups and downs, I’ve met some amazing people and more than anything else, I realized I learn more and more about myself every single date I go on. I have woven these experiences into the fabric of my story and of course, have learned some pretty awesome lessons that I am excited to share here with you.
1. Do not take yourself or life too seriously
Let’s face it, life is full of challenges, mishaps, bad days, disappointments, and downright heartbreak. It can be very easy to get caught up in the heaviness and seriousness of all of this. Now, I am not saying that there isn’t some serious stuff happening in your world and the world at large, because there definitely is. I am guessing though that you spend plenty of time focused on all of that. What you must remember to do, is to take a step back and notice that the universe actually has quite the sense of humor.
Did you ever notice when you are having a bad day, the universe will throw the most ridiculous events your way? I mean, you can go from waking up grumpy to a few hours later, splitting open your pants in the worst spot and having to walk through the city streets to replace them. (This may or may not have happened to me). Now, there are two choices here: to get really upset, embarrassed, and let it ruin your day, OR throw your hands up in the air, your head back with a full-on belly laugh and let the universe know you are laughing along with it. I choose the latter, for split pants and for navigating the dating world. Let’s face it, laughing your way through dating is a heck of a lot more fun than getting upset at the ridiculous parts of it. So, next time you show up and your date can’t stop talking about himself or you realize quickly he has had one too many bottles of wine prior to your arrival, throw your hands up in the air, your head back with that full-on belly laugh and let the universe know you are laughing right along with it!
2. Don’t make someone else’s crazy your own
Since we are on the topic of ridiculous dates, it is a great time to stop and notice that dating really gives you an opportunity to directly interact with other people’s issues. Let’s be honest here, we all have issues that we are working through and hopefully, you are in a place in your own personal growth that you are aware and growing through your own stuff. Have you ever sat across the table from someone, though, who is completely oblivious of themselves or their behaviors? If you are dating, I am guessing you have many of times and have also probably been a witness to some downright crazy behavior too.
I have had the honor of engaging with men who were downright narcissistic, others who used the date as a therapy session, and the best of all time, which was two brothers who pretended to be the same person. (I promise, this one is not a joke!) Now, it could be very easy for me to begin to feel pretty bad about myself and wonder what the heck is wrong with me that these people are coming into my world. But you see, that would be me making someone else’s crazy my own, and well, that just doesn’t make sense or serve me in any way.
What I know is that every interaction I have with another human being is an opportunity for me to learn something and grow. If I make it about me, and take on their stuff as my own, then I lose the chance to learn the lesson in front of me. And here is where laughter comes in again, because how comical the universe is, sending me these crazy situations to learn from!
At the end of the day, no matter what happens out there, you have yourself and this is the relationship that must be nurtured and cherished.
3. Good friends are essential for your survival
It is probably safe to say that most of us know how important friends are in our lives. There is a saying that good friends are the family you choose, and I would tend to agree with this statement. Your friends will usually be the reason you get out of bed when you just want to pull the covers up over your head and they will be the ear that listens to all the challenges you face over the years. If your friends are important in your life, then they are doubly important when you are dating.
No matter how hard you try and how self-aware you are, dating can make you question all sorts of things about yourself. I have spent time obsessing about things I have said or things my dates have done. I have wondered if certain behaviors were acceptable, like it taking someone three days to text me back, and well, I have questioned my sanity time and time again. “Am I crazy or…” can literally become one of your catch phrases.
Here is where friends come in, and not just any old friends, I am talking about the friends that will tell you like it is, courageous enough to be honest with you, and loving enough to bring you back to reality. Friends will pull you out of your head and remind you of your worth, all while making you laugh your way through the process. These friends are essential for your sanity and survival when you are navigating the dating world.
4. You have to take care of you
When I was fourteen I went to the junior prom on my first date and my father left me a beautiful letter. One of the things he wrote was that no matter what, I always needed to remember that I had myself to answer to. These are words that I have carried with me throughout my life, and now steer me through these dating adventures. At the end of the day, no matter what happens out there, you have yourself and this is the relationship that must be nurtured and cherished. This is the relationship that will allow you to ride the waves of dating and not let it get you down.
No matter how tight your schedule is and how many plates you seem to be juggling, make yourself a priority. This means taking the time you need to check in with yourself and reflect on your own needs and desires and continuing to do the things that make you happy and fill your soul. Dating can throw you for a spin, but the more you cultivate the relationship you have with yourself, the more you will be able to truly just have fun with the process and weather any storms that arise.
About the Author
Jennifer Butler is a writer and transformation coach, currently working as a community leader for DivorceForce. Beyond an extensive education, Jennifer also went through a life transformation as a result of her own divorce and has dedicated her work to supporting others. You can connect with Jennifer at JennJoyCoaching and on Instagram.