Until recently my dating M.O. was thus:
I met a man and either:
a) I loved him and wanted to have his baby.
b) He was dead to me.
More or less. I like to say that in the past three years I haven’t had a bad date. I’ve probably gone out with more than 20 guys — mostly first dates — and enjoyed every single one. The key is expectations. If you date with the intent to have fun and meet interesting people — and you yourself are fun and interesting — you are guaranteed to at least have a pleasant time. Other good stuff can happen, too. Like you make a new friend, gain a business contact, fall in love or get laid. You might also get a free meal, be introduced to a new bar, explore a different neighborhood or get laid. The possibilities are endless!
The key is to be open-minded not just about the men and the activities at hand. It’s also critical to be open minded about the type of relationship you may encounter. Me? I’d love to find a serious long-term relationship that can be part of my whole family (and his). Until then, there are lots of Saturday nights when my kids are with their dads, and plenty of weekdays when it is nice to have someone to share tidbits from your day.
Dates are good for filling these needs. And if a person who I’m seeing is not yet — or, I suspect, may never be — a serious boyfriend, then I also see other people. Or at least keep that door open. Which is where my new thing comes in. In the past, if I didn’t get rocket vibes on the first date, there would not be a second. But if there were good vibes, I was all-in 100 percent. That was fine. But being somewhere in-between is better.
In the past months I wrote about someone I dated casually who turned out to be a delightful surprise. It started as a hot fling, but something about him gave me permission to take my time to know him. Yes, as a lover. But not a committed one. As a result I found so many things that I did not see on that first date, and things that changed what I will look for in a serious relationship. Plus, I had tons of fun — fun I would not have had if a) I had never seen him again owning to my hunch that it was not meant to be for ever and ever, and b) if I were pressuring him (or myself) to commit. Instead, I had a handful of sweet dates, learned a bunch and then we parted ways.
That so many people rush to commit is part of the whole fallacy of the forever and ever marraige, and the wedding industrial complex — all kinds of false pretenses to support our fantasies about how things ought to be. Many of us — myself included! — fantasize about those fairytale love-at-first-sight relationships. And while those rarely happen, we instead hastily latch on to one another before the relationship naturally takes us there as a way of forcing our fantasies on to real life.
To which I say: Knock it off! Take your time. Get to know the people you date — on second dates, 10th dates. Dates without the pressure of forever and ever.
And then let’s talk about how much fun we’re having.
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post’s ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.
A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.