Dating in modern times is like navigating a minefield as there are so many unspoken rules and nuances of facial expression and body language. Ultimately, it may affect your psychology and overall attitude towards romance or, at the very least, leave a bitter taste in your mouth. As a result, you may find yourself overthinking, overanalyzing and often overplaying your hand to the point you may just hit the wall and burn out with dating fatigue.
The following are some anecdotal scenarios that are way too real to claim as fiction. Allow me to preface this to say my only caveat is that I by no means claim to be an expert or even remotely understand the sacred laws of dating. That said, follow me on the journey of Romeo and Juliet as they try to find love on the dance for romance…
It all starts with the ice breaker. Conventional wisdom states Romeo should always make the first move; so if the gal pursues, does that make her a pushy broad? Perhaps, but some guys need a jumpstart and multiple signals for their fragile egos before taking action. But let’s assume Romeo acquiesces despite Juliet’s signs of aggression and goes on the first date. Conversation is flowing and the dinner tab arrives. Juliet offers to pay in that agonizing go-for-the-purse-in-super-slow-motion gesture. Romeo is tempted to say ‘ladies first’ but regardless of the circumstances (i.e., the very real possibility that Juliet makes more money than Romeo, Juliet asked Romeo out, Juliet ordered the lobster while Romeo chewed on breadsticks and water) Romeo should still man up and pay. The simple fact that Juliet spent hours getting all dolled up while Romeo just grabbed the closest t-shirt out of his laundry hamper easily justifies the cost.
First dates should be light and casual with butterflies floating in a playful breeze. But the fun may quickly detour into an interview as one participant is operating at a far faster speed than the other. Juliet may bring up her strong desire to have children before Romeo takes his first bite of his burger; Romeo may share his dream of quitting his job and becoming a freelance writer (translation: no income) while the waiter is tossing her caesar salad. Restraint is the operative word here. The freeway of love is still far in the distance, so take it out of fifth gear and keep the dialogue coasting along at a slow pace in the right lane.
If Romeo & Juliet can overcome the mental hurdle of all the head games and awkward moments of the initial first date, who carries the momentum forward and makes the next move? Can Juliet call to say thanks for a great time? No! How about texting? Maybe. Sexting? Hmmm. What if Juliet doesn’t hear from Romeo, as he’s playing it too cool for school with the 3 day rule? Romeo thinks he’s maneuvering brilliantly all the while Juliet’s rapidly cooling off and moving on to the next guy.
But let us pretend our fictional Romeo & Juliet magically navigate past these land mines and now comfortably settle into an understanding. They both cautiously play their hands and the rules of communication have been established: boy likes girl, girl likes boy. They go on date number two, three, even four but nothing is defined as to the nature of their relationship. Too early for imposing boundaries and demands on each other. Juliet still needs to be coy and pretend she’s insanely busy, mandating Romeo makes plans days in advance (hello, spontaneity?). If Romeo doesn’t ask her out by Thursday, the coveted Saturday night slot is booked, even if Juliet secretly stays home doing laundry. But, if there’s potential in Romeo, Juliet expects and desperately hopes he won’t date others and would be devastated to see Romeo out on the town with another date (even if it’s the same evening Romeo originally asked Juliet out first on!).
During this phase of courtship, Juliet may constantly worry about ‘giving it up’. Every guy loves the chase and the thrill of the kill. The forbidden fruit is desired because it is forbidden, not just because it is fruit. Timing is essential and if misplayed – either too early or too late – Romeo may cut his losses and bolt for the exits. But where was the clock, or calendar, that Juliet needed to be aware of this ticking time bomb? Ironically, Romeo may not even know the timing himself, but the macho feedback fueled by bravado from his buddies may influence him to move on prematurely.
But our adorable couple navigates through all this and rolls on in their quest for love. The dust is settling and they both now relish the predictability of having that unique connection of understanding between each other. Just as they settle into a comfort zone, a bombshell inevitably drops: Romeo has a criminal record; Juliet used to be a stripper…boom goes the dynamite! All bets may be off with this new nugget of information. We all have secrets and surprises, including more baggage than will fit as a carry-on in the overhead bins, so when we sign on to dating we must agree to the terms and conditions: hearts may be broken, egos crushed and dreams shattered in this contact sport. One of our lovable characters may drop to the canvas with a knockout punch.
Once one has gone through multiple rounds of the dating game – hitting rewind, pause and repeat on the wash cycle and hoping for a different result – burnout settles in. The actors change but the game remains the same. Been there, done that: Same drama wrapped in v2.0 with different packaging. Official diagnosis: Dating Fatiguitis. Consult your doctor, see a shrink, buy some self-help books, a shiny red Corvette or pop a few happy pills…or NOT! Just take a breather, reflect and continue to improve yourself. The promise of love and connection always brings us back to the madness of dating because the reward outweighs the risk. With renewed energy and a positive attitude, the next date may just be your last first date. Hope springs eternal.