As a girl fresh out of the college scene, I am no stranger to the following broken conversation that has happened repeatedly between my friends and I:
"I'll be single for the rest of my life."
"Boys are so stupid and not even worth it."
"Girls are so confusing and don't know what they want."
I'm sure that if you're a young single adult, you've probably thought some of these things, said some of these things, or heard some of these things many, many times in your life. You throw together lunch dates with the sole purpose of talking about them. You get lots of questions from the adults in your life about how you need to be dating and when you aren't, you get frustrated and seek sympathy from friends who aren't dating either. You find satisfaction in criticizing the opposite sex when things don't work out or they don't pick up on your hints and interest. You get hurt. A lot.
Trust me. I know you do. I get it.
And maybe you're reading this to find some of that sympathy. Maybe you clicked on this post because you wanted to get involved in another one of those discussions about how everybody else is to blame for the romantic failures in your life. Maybe you want pity and reaffirmation that yes, dating indeed sucks and it isn't your fault.
Well, I'm going to disappoint you.
The real reason why dating sucks is because you have no idea how to do it, and if you knew how, you likely wouldn't have the desire to date.
Yeah. Crazy, right? Some of you are probably going, "What? That's ridiculous. You don't know what you're talking about. You don't know me or my life."
Don't I, though?
Dating doesn't suck because girls are confusing--although, we can be really confusing. Dating doesn't suck because boys are dumb--although, they can be really dumb. No. In reality, dating sucks because we just plain don't know how to do it the right way anymore. We have romance novels and chick flicks and TV shows and love doctors and Dear Abbys as far as the eye can see, and yet, we still don't know what we're doing. It's like we're trying to learn how to play the piano by studying up on the recorder and the drums. We're reading the wrong textbooks to teach ourselves how to do what is sometimes the hardest but always the most rewarding thing we can do as a person: love someone.
And if dating sucks, it's only because it's not what we believe it is.
Here are some common misconceptions about love and dating that you hear on a daily basis from the media you consume:
Love is about passion all of the time.
Physical attraction is the most important thing to look for.
Dating is about getting what you want.
Dating is about playing games.
The more options you leave open, the better.
Love is easy.
You can just fall in love without doing anything.
Love happens overnight.
The right relationship is perfect.
Love is about being satisfied.
Love is a feeling, and if that feeling fades, you are entitled to seek it elsewhere.
Commitment is boring.
Commitment is not worth the effort.
Commitment is not natural.
The best love stories happen in exciting places with mysterious men/women.
Love is about soul mates who are destined for each other.
Love means there aren't any problems.
"If it's not like the movies, that's how it should be," Katy Perry croons. Well, Katy Perry's songwriters suck at giving advice. As do the movies.
Let me break the news to you: you have no soul mate waiting for you to find him or her and hit it off. Your job is to find an imperfect person who can become a soul mate and help you to become one, too. Your dating experience should not be about playing games and being coy and trying to sneakily like someone. It should be about being open and honest and letting the person you choose to pursue know that you like them, and on the flip-side, it should be about respecting someone else's ability to be that honest and open with you, even if you don't feel the same. How can you expect an honest and respectful marriage if you're not an honest and respectful dater? You can't. Furthermore, you're not, as people in the movies do, going to fall in love with someone in 196 minutes. You have to work for that kind of love. You have to be patient about that kind of love. You have to choose that kind of love and actively do it every day.
In reality, love, like life, is hard and painful. It takes a lot of sacrifice, and sometimes, what we end up sacrificing is our perceptions about what love is and is not. Love is not about finding someone who shares every one of our interests. Love is not about finding someone who immediately satisfies all of our selfish desires. Love is not about finding someone who is perfect every single day of their life. Love, I believe, is the result of trying to learn who someone is and appreciate their differences and recognize who they have the potential of becoming. Love is choosing to spend time with someone when they are annoying, distracted, weak, hurting, sick, or overwhelmed because you really see them. Love is putting an average person in an extraordinary light and trying to teach them what they look like in that light.
Love is a verb, not just a feeling, and dating is how we practice and test it out. Dating the right way takes time. Dating the right way takes effort. Dating the right way is a lot harder than we expect it to be sometimes, and it's scary. Dating is a commitment.
I think that's why you and I are bad at it. Commitment scares us.
There are a lot of attractive, cool, and exciting people in this world. And that means there are a lot of dating options, a lot of roads to travel, most of which we won't ever step foot on or see the end of. And that scares us. Dating scares us because decisions scare us and because movies and the Internet and other peoples' relationships have scared us into believing that we can't trust ourselves or each other to do what is supposedly right. That's why love in movies just randomly happens, right? Because it's easier.
But I think we underestimate ourselves.
I think we want to know the right person or the right circumstances before we choose them instead of trusting ourselves to make a choice and work to see if it's right. And right, in this sense, doesn't mean perfect. It doesn't mean exactly the same as us. It means what makes us happy. The right person and the best person is the one that brings us peace and happiness and teaches us how to become better.
Too often we think that love is a puzzle and we have to find an exact, matching piece. We think we need to put all of our efforts into testing out different pieces as rapidly as possible to find the best fit. But I think love is a rock wall. There are many routes to choose from that work and can, depending on our determination, get us where we want to be. We just have to stick to the one we choose and give it all we've got.
I know that for some of you, dating really sucks right now. I know you're scared of commitment. I know you're leery of putting so much work into something that sometimes really hurts you and doesn't go as planned. But the day dating stops sucking is the day you choose to move forward with faith and put everything you've got into it.
Everything good in this world requires hard work. Every road we take requires hours, days, and sometimes weeks of travel to reach a destination.
But it's the choice to move forward, in spite of all of our fears, that makes all the difference.