As a postscript to the three-part series on online dating, I thought I’d begin with one of my favorite poems:
Never give all the Hear
By William Butler Yeats
Never give all the heart, for love
Will hardly seem worth thinking of
To passionate women if it seem
Certain, and they never dream
That it fades out from kiss to kiss;
For everything that’s lovely is
But a brief, dreamy, kind delight.
O never give the heart outright,
For they, for all smooth lips can say,
Have given their hearts up to the play.
And who could play it well enough
If deaf and dumb and blind with love?
He that made this knows all the cost,
For he gave all his heart and lost.
If you are out there dating, in addition to always practicing safe sex, protect that heart of yours. Here is a review, some lessons learned and a few tips from other dating gurus:
Being a little retro doesn’t hurt. I have to admit that I struggled with this recommendation. I fully embrace 21st century female independence, (Do I even need to say that?) so when multiple dating experts suggested letting the guy set the first date, the feminist in me recoiled. No, forget the feminist: I recoiled. After reading enough, I realized it’s not about surrendering your power, but about knowing how men’s minds work (not to generalize or anything). “It’s not that men want a woman as a doormat, they just want to play their role as men, as protectors and providers,” says Lisa Copeland, dating coach. That’s not to say you have to be totally silent online; go ahead and reach out to people who interest you. “If you just put your profile online and wait around for someone to message you, you’re not being proactive in your dating life,” says Laurie Davis, founder of eFlirt. But after getting in touch, let him ask for your number, or make plans to meet up for drinks.
Know Who You Are and Embrace it: It should be obvious, but we all forget this: Changing yourself to match the likes of someone who looks really good on paper is only going to backfire. The most important rule of dating is owning who you are, which is admittedly easier said than done. If you are not comfortable with yourself, it’s going to be hard to be in a relationship, and even harder for someone else to be comfortable with you. Knowing what you want and what you don’t want out of a relationship helps, too, but, as always, when in doubt, trust your gut. Never waste your time on someone who isn’t confident or available to you. If something really doesn’t feel right, love yourself enough to know that you deserve better and move on.
It’s All About Diversifying: There is a big difference between dating and being in a relationship, and if you are not in a committed exclusive partnership, it’s OK to date more than one person. “Everyone dates multiple people. You need to take advantage of every opportunity, and there are going to be multiple opportunities,” says Davis. It’s not just about keeping up with other daters; it’s a way to slow down your emotional pace with a new person. The other person is probably dating other people, and if you’re not, you’re already putting more effort into the relationship than the other person is ready to commit to. And well, we all know how awful it feels to be in a one-sided relationship. Plus, going on multiple dates, with multiple men, is incredibly empowering. Instead of constantly checking your cell for messages from that one contact, you get to choose who stays in your life and who doesn’t.
Give Up Height Requirements and Other Similarities to Previous Partners: We all have a type, but if you keep ending up with the same heartbreaking results maybe its time to broaden your search criteria. We always think certain qualities will make us happy, but it’s a how a person makes you feel when you are together, and when you are not, that makes a good match. Try wiping your slate clean and get rid of any preconceived notions of who your mister perfect is.
Remember to Keep Your Profiles Short, Up-To- Date and Proactive: Refresh your profiles every week or so, and upload different pictures. Men are visual and like to imagine themselves in someone’s life. End your profile with an invitation. If you do the Sunday crossword puzzles, try something like, “Let’s spend Sunday brunch mulling over 2 across.”
Don’t give up and have fun out there.
Enter Elizabeth Millen, PINK Magazine Publisher
(A/K/A the guinea pig):
It was on Bumble, a dating site where women have to message first, but are only allowed to message if both parties have swiped right. As soon as I saw his picture, I knew I would be swiping right. I don’t remember what his profile said. I barely finished reading his specs before I swiped and boom! It was a match. I messaged him immediately and prayed he would message me back. This was the first guy I had seen across three dating sites that felt right—even before he ever responded.
Long story short (most of you read about him last month), I dubbed him Mr. Pecan. Why? Because I had likened online dating to a can of mixed nuts. I stated, “If you shake the can hard enough, you just might find a pecan—my favorite.” Alas, Mr. Pecan and I went on a fast and furious ride of seeing each other—three weekends in a row. It was fun, special, exciting, romantic, comfortable, intellectually stimulating, kind and loving. I enjoyed Mr. Pecan, and he enjoyed me…I think.
What? Is that hesitation? But it all sounds so good. And it was good, except…
Except, perhaps I was too excited. Except, Mr. Pecan and I had different expectations. Except, we never discussed those expectations. Except, I am a communicator (translate as open book) and he is not. Except, Mr. Pecan is dragging around wounds from a previous marriage and a previous long-term relationship, and quite frankly, so am I. Except Mr. Pecan was hot and cold. Except, I didn’t understand cold. And finally, except, I broke almost every rule Phoebe Jayne counseled me on. Can she say, “I told you so?” Yep. Except…she is too gracious for that.
I jumped back into dating feet first, full cannonball. Wheeee! Look at me! Overzealous would be a good word to describe me. I was like the man on the Internet who is colorblind and his family gives him a pair of glasses that allows him to see color; he is so overwrought in seeing so much color at once, his emotions overtake him. That was me. My life became colorful again. I had hope. From affection-starved to dinner being cooked for me, big bear hugs, long phone conversations, belly laughs, long gazes into each other’s eyes and compliments. Somebody pinch me; this can’t be true.
I felt emotions I hadn’t felt in a long time. I allowed the hidden door to the protective brick wall I’ve built around myself to be entered, and I trusted…fully trusted. My femininity came out of hiding; she felt safe. What a feeling! What a long lost, long overdue, wonderful feeling. There is nothing wrong with any of this. In fact, if I am going to have future relationships, I am going to have to allow all of these things to happen again. However, I think I did it all a little too soon with Pecan.
Dating was overwhelming to me. I haven’t had to “wait” on another person in a long time. What do I want to do this weekend? Well, I don’t know, I’ll have to see what Pecan is doing. “I need to reschedule lunch with you, Mr. Pecan is in town.” He wasn’t requiring this of me; I was. This was my first mistake, and one I want you to learn through me instead of making the mistake on your own—SO LISTEN CAREFULLY: Do not put your life on hold for a relationship! You do you, first. He will work around your schedule, and you will never feel like you are giving more, or sacrificing more than him. What I found was I was including him in my life, and he was showing up for that, but he wasn’t including me in his. He knew my children, my friends, but I didn’t know his. It’s no one’s fault, we were simply moving at different paces.
I definitely got ahead of myself. However, this is why I’m not going to beat myself up over it, as if everything I just shared isn't a self-inflicted tongue lashing:
>> As much as being “all in” is overzealous, I would much rather approach life in this manner than being fearful, distrusting, or pessimistic. I couldn’t be who I am without my childlike zest. Every life experience is a lesson, and my goal is to get stronger and wiser, but not harder or tainted. I refuse to live from a place of fear. No matter what, Mr. Pecan is a really good person. Like one of my friends said, “You did great for a first timer (It has been 28 years). Your picker is really good.” That means I know what I want, what I need and what I like, which makes me further ahead than many.
>> Phoebe Jayne said I did a great job of putting myself out there. She called me courageous, which made me feel good. She told me many women won’t even try online dating because they are too afraid. I understand that. For me, online dating is not the scary part, building a relationship is. Before I ever went on the first date with Mr. Pecan, I was scared of messing it up. I had been told no one would ever love me, which I partially believed. My same wise friend suggested a great read: Mars and Venus on a Date by Dr. John Gray. This book is incredible, and I’m on my third reading of it. By the way, I broke most of Dr. Gray’s rules, as well. Nonetheless, this book is essential for any woman trying to get along with and navigate a relationship with a man—single or not. If I had read this a few years ago, I may have been able to save my marriage. And yes, I have recommended the book to both my ex and Mr. Pecan. Why should I be the only one trying to understand this he said/she said stuff? If it were left up to me, I would say women are from Venus and men are from Uranus. Seriously, read the book. I don’t care what planet you’re from.
>> Mr. Pecan and I are on a break, possibly for life, but more than likely not. My belief is you don’t need a break after only two months, but that’s just me. I don’t know what others need, especially when they don’t tell me. However, my hope is that two months in is still the “butterfly days,” the “you do no wrong days,” the “they say our love can’t pay the rent” days. I would consider a exploring a relationship with Mr. Pecan with one caveat: We communicate better. I honestly don’t have the time, or the heart, to wonder. I want to be enlightened. I want to dwell above the minutia. I want to love fully, and I want that to be reciprocated.
My son’s fifth grade teacher used to say: “Life’s tough. Get a helmet.” And I agree, life is tough, but love doesn’t have to be. I’ve spent my whole life loving people more than they love me, and I am too full of life to only be half loved. It all boils down to two questions I now ask myself almost daily: Question No. 1: What do you want to do with your one wild and precious life? The answer: Love and be loved every opportunity I get. Question No. 2: How good are you willing to let it get? The answer: Very, very good. In fact, magically delicious. What about you?
References: Lauri Davis eFlirt, Lisa Copeland The Winning Dating Formula for Women over 50, Tracey Steinberg, dating coach, www.prevention.com
In addition, Phoebe Jayne is currently gathering testimonials for her upcoming online dating workbook and would love to hear your experiences.