The Secret to Being a Happy Dater: Act Like the Grown-up That You Are

My friend Jen told me the other day about how she ran into her high school boyfriend while back home visiting her Dad. The guy had dumped her right before prom. She said when she saw him she felt butterflies in her stomach and was truly tongue-tied. She said she giggled. Jennifer is 48 years old and happily married. But you understand. It’s can be so easy to slip right into our 18 year old when it comes to a man we’re attracted to.

I was married for the first time when I was 47. And I started my “involvement” with boys pretty early in my life. (If I said exactly what age my 80 year old dad would have a heart attack. I’ll just say that I hope your daughters and nieces are waiting longer than I did.) Let’s round it out and say that I dated for about 30 years. Holy crap.

Ahhh, the memories. They go something like this:

    •  I really like this guy, maybe even loooove him
    •  He ignores me or treats me like junk
    •  I just know he will eventually change
    •  He doesn’t
    •  I stick around and wait…and wait
    •  I finally get that he has no interest or he overtly dumps me like a hot potata
    •  I feel like unlovable dirt

Let’s see, there’s Kelly, Danny, Tom, Ed, Justin, Sandy, a couple Jims, several Mikes, and countless others whose names I can’t remember (or never even knew). There were varying levels of pain, and sometimes I never even got past the “loving” him part because he couldn’t be bothered with me. I confess this was a common experience in my young and then not-so-young life.

Can you be the wearer this crown?  Whether you are 40 or 60, whether it was 20 years ago or 20 days ago, can you claim being The Queen of Men Suck and Whoa-is-me? Do you have the list of guys who did you wrong, took advantage, played you, disrespected you, didn’t appreciate you, wouldn’t accept the love you had to give, lied, cheated, and made you feel horrible about yourself? Or maybe you don’t have a list, just one that seems to haunt you? Those bastards.

Now my favorite part of this story is that after you get rejected, maybe after spending some time with him feeling unsatisfied and miserable… when you realize it’s officially over… then you get to experience the self-loathing and embarrassment because you did all that in the first place. Nice. I love being a girl.

This may be a little over-dramatic. But really, can any of you tell me that you haven’t at some point in your life been the needy, please love me, my worth depends on you wanting me gal?

Well, I’m just going say this straight out: it is all your fault! (Now hear me out because this ends really nicely and complimentary.)

Be honest with yourself. I know you know this. Yah, maybe those guys were mean, selfish, arrogant, horndog, users, but girlfriend, you didn’t have to pick ‘em and you certainly didn’t have to stick around. But you did. We did. Often over and over again.

I can’t help but think that this scenario that starts early in our lives is exactly what holds us back from dating and earnestly opening ourselves up to love. I think it’s a trust issue. But contrary to what we say, it’s not about mistrust of men. It’s about mistrust of ourselves.  We may be saying “all men suck” or, in a nicer way, “there aren’t any good men out there.” But ask yourself this: how much of your resistance to dating and falling in love is about mistrust of yourself? How afraid are you that you’ll repeat the bad choices you’ve made and feel the awful feelings and disappointments you’ve experienced in the past?

Here’s good news: if it’s your fault that means it is all under your control to change it. Excellent.

You are not, I repeat not, 18 anymore. You’ve been playing the same record for so long you probably haven’t stepped back and been honest with yourself. Take a few moments right now to give yourself a good look-over and allow yourself to acknowledge how truly strong and smart you are.

For geez sakes, look where you are in your life! These successes are not from an insecure, unintelligent, or impulsive woman. Sure, you’ve had moments of all of those. We all do. But overall, in the scheme of your life, you are a grown-up in charge! You carry yourself in the world in a wonderful way, you make decisions that are good for you, you are respected, you’re a nurturing friend, and for you mothers; you’ve raised fine children. Hey, you’ve taken care of yourself and those you love quite nicely.

There is no reason you can’t be this way when you date and as you search for love. There doesn’t need to be the drama or the esteem crushing experiences you had for all those years. You are in charge and you know how to take care of yourself. You don’t have to settle with a man who isn’t worthy of your affection or attention. You don’t need him unless he’s adding to your already lovely life.

Here’s what I want you to do.

    • Think of dating like you think of choosing friends or choosing a job. (Well, how you used to choose a job before everything went to hell.) Make well-informed decisions that are best for you.
    • Say “yes” to the men who are great companions and good for you, and “no” to those who are not.
    • Stay conscious in the process. Stay grounded in how fabulous you are and always be taking care of yourself.
    • Let the people you love support you. Including me. Keep reading my blog.
    • Think of dating and finding love as one more thing you are doing to make yourself happy and better yourself. Like taking an anthropology class, going to the spa, or planning a trip to Paris. I’m serious. This doesn’t have to take over your entire being.
    • While you look for Mr. I Love You, just continue to enjoy your already full life.

Will you feel bad at times? Will the insecure 18 year old rear its ugly head? You betcha. But the good news is that you don’t have to give it an audience. Seriously, you’ve survived far worse things in your life than a man saying no to you. And you’ll find that when you date like a grown-up those “nos” seldom seem to happen. At least from men you actually care about.

Gotta go. Be good to yourself.

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