Dating 101: Things I Wish I Knew THEN About Dating

How often do you run into an old flame and immediately reminisce on what used to be?  Brief exchanges with an ex-beau always take me back to moments lost in time, reminding me of the girl I used to be way back when.  I went into getting to know individuals in all the wrong ways and created so much unnecessary drama for myself after getting to know quite a few of them.  I often wonder what life would have been like had I been given a manual or self-help book for dating in one's late teens.  I also wonder if I would have even taken the advice.  You ladies remember what it was like to be young and just KNOW you were in love with someone new every three months right (I hope that wasn't just me)?  Well I decided to share here a few things I wish I would have known then about dating, since I can't go back and give the old me any pointers.  

I wish I would have...

Recognized the importance of getting to know myself first.  During our teenage and young adult years, it's so easy for us to become so immersed in what's going on around us that we lose sight of ourselves.  I know this was true for me, hence the years I spent trying to "find myself" in early adulthood.  Did I "find" myself?  Not exactly.  But I did begin to identify my values, truths, and personal qualities I either wanted to enrich or improve.  I didn't have all the answers back then, but I do believe being true to myself and standing firm in my beliefs would have made a difference in the people I allowed to come into my life.  I had no clue who I was, what I wanted, or who I wanted to become.  So that made it easy to get involved with others who (a) also had to clue who they were or (b) knew I had no clue who I was and wanted to take advantage.

Discovered what dating meant for me.  I never defined the meaning of dating for myself, so I had a hard time understanding the concept.  Did it mean I was going steady with someone?  Would I form a relationship similar to those I saw in movies?  What exactly did dating mean?  The dictionary defines dating as going out socially with someone, usually out of romantic interest.  But this definition wasn't quite what I was looking for, so I began looking anywhere for answers.  Did I take ideas about what my friends considered dating?  Yes, I did.  Did I jack images of what dating should look like from movies and popular television shows?  Again, I did that.  So in gathering from various places I ASSUMED what dating could mean for me.  This ended up being when a flashy guy with a nice car decides to take me out everywhere I want to go, do all the things I want to do, and pay for everything! Not really, but yeah.  That's about all the thought I put into it.

Considered my reasons for dating.  No matter what I thought dating should look like, those ideas never really materialized for me.  I was very passive at this time in my life, so I had a tendency to take the "passenger's seat" approach to dating.  In other words, I allowed others to make the decisions for me.  Sometimes we waste time with people simply because they ask us to, and that's a no-no.  I really wish I would have took the time to ask myself some of these questions:
  1. Was I attracted to this person?  Or was I just going with the flow?  
  2. Did I even like this person enough to share my time with them?
  3. What about me made them want to share their time with me?
  4. Am I just bored and looking for something new to do?
  5. Is the person I'm interested in dating for the same reasons I am?
Considering each of these things thoughtfully would have saved me so much time! Not to mention the disappointment I could have avoided!

Understood the art of getting to know someone else. Oftentimes I confused the idea of getting to know someone with getting to know "about" someone.  See, in getting to know "about" someone, I was tuning in to the gossip circulating about that person.  These are things I let sway my decisions in choosing a boyfriend.  I didn't realize there was a difference in getting to know someone and learning about someone.  When you get to know someone, you discover his or her likes, dislikes, aspirations, personality traits, quirks, and pet peeves.  You learn what type of person they are by being around them, taking note of their body language, and paying attention to how they respond to things.  You also give another person the opportunity to get to know you on a more personal level.

Getting to know a person does NOT mean get to know about his or her exes! How many of us have asked all up in someone's past business with another before learning about them, personally?  And how many of us have spilled T about our past relationships before sharing about us only? Yep, I did these too. Smh.

Relaxed a little! I now realize that dating should have been a fun time for me.   It's an interesting thing to get to know another person.  It gives you the opportunity to share space, stories, laughter, and good times with another.  For me, dating brought forth so much pressure simply because I was working hard at the wrong things.  I was reading all of these advice columns in magazines that encouraged girls to do THIS to make him like you or dress like THAT to get his attention.  I was so focused on making sure I appeared to be the ideal girl for someone that I forgot to just relax, be myself, and have fun.

What is something you wish you knew THEN about dating?

Photography by William Stitt
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