Goal-Free Dating

February 14, 2006  

Valentine’s Day is here. A time of celebration for some. A day of great emptiness for others. Think about the pressure that men and women 25+ put on themselves when it comes to dating. They have convinced themselves that they will be happy when they are in a relationship. That the right person will “complete” them.

It’s not only about finding the perfect date, but finding the perfect venue, getting perfect weather, wearing the perfect outfit and having the perfect conversation – one that more often than not ends up being forced, formal and frustrating!

Well, take a breather from it all, Valentine’s Day or not! Dating is like the romanticism of travel. Prior to a vacation, there is imagery of perfect weather, fabulous food, lots of rest and reading, etc. Fast forward into the trip after two days without your luggage (including your raincoat), the rooster that has perched itself out of your “ground-level-overlooking-the-parking lot-room” window, and you’d like to sic some of your own revenge on this Montezuma person!!

The solution? Stop romanticizing the future. Live in the here and now. Appreciate yourself first. Then relax about the whole dating thing. Here are a few tips to help:

1. Stop romanticizing: Instead of going into each date worried about perfecting it so as to secure “this one” being “the one” approach it from the standpoint of a fun meal with someone you may learn a thing or two from and if at the end you have a friendship or more out of it, then it was a success.

2. Stop trying: When you are on a date, do not worry about the next date. Instead, just enjoy the other person’s company…for that moment. You will come across as more genuine and less desperate. This, ironically, increases your chances of getting that second date.

3. Stop doing: Instead of signing up for 40 different online dating sites, going on 90 dates in 30 days, ending up broke & miserable – and still without a relationship, let it go. Go to events without the goal of meeting your spouse. Rather go there to have a good time and to meet new people.

4. Appreciate yourself: One woman I met in my travels “married” herself several years ago. The purpose was to continually remind her of her commitment to doing for herself what she would do for a spouse. She would love, make time for, and respect herself. Only after having this type of relationship with herself could she begin to have a similar relationship with a man.

This year, have the best time and the best relationships during Valentine’s Day by being goal-free.

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4 Responses to “Goal-Free Dating”

  1. Alexander Kjerulf on February 16th, 2006 5:00 am

    Great tips. Reminds me of a woman who took it one step further:

    n 1998, Maria Headley, decided that her dating standards were just a little too high and for a year, decided to say yes to anyone and everyone who asked her out. She accepted the invitations without regard to sex, race, age, income or ethic origin.

    A hundred and fifty dates later, she met and eventually married Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan, a man 25 years her senior, with two teenage children from a previous marriage. It was perhaps a match she might not have considered if not for this experiment and the resulting open-minded that led her to date everyone from a homeless man to millionaires and everything in between.

    Whole story here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10990388/

  2. Stephen Shapiro on February 16th, 2006 12:25 pm

    That’s a great story! Thanks for sharing it.

  3. Rosario on February 16th, 2006 6:21 pm

    I want to bring here in honor to sensuous Valentine the reflections on love from the wonderful Irish poet and philosopher John O’Donohue, who, despite being a former Catholic priest, is able to speak of sensuality and erotic love in an incomparable thrilling way. I love his words and the poetic way in which he communicates deep truths, both in writing and in lively and fun teaching events (information on his books and activities at http://www.jodonohue.com/).
    He draws from his Irish ancestry and the mystical knowledge embeded in the Celtic tradition to anchor friendship and love within the context of the Celtic concept of anam cara (anam=soul, cara=friend), the soul friend, or the person “to whom you could reveal the hidden intimacies of your life”. Although a soul friend can be any one we are able to relate in a deep way when risking to be known, this image applied to intimate love relationships is one I am especially fond of. This is love as erato, sensous love, and not agape, ethereal or fraternal love.
    He speaks of the hunger of the heart for love, ancient recognition and belonging, for a need to awaken hidden dimensions of destiny that the heart knows lie in the warmth of awaken love. For the legitimate desire of meeting someone with whom we do not merely engage in “relationship”, as he says, but with whom we find resonance as “an ancient circle closes” or “an ancient belonging awakens and discover itself”. So, although we may approach dates with an openness to live and enjoy the present moment, I think that it is not incompatible with acknowledging our deep longing for finding an intimate friendship where we can feel at home, understood and nourished. Being honest to the burning desire of our soul sounds to me that can deviate us from the risk of getting traped in the loop of what O’Donohue describes as “the superficial and functional lies and half-truths of social acquaintace”.
    Being generous to oneself, remaining still within, and confident of love finding us are some of the ways he suggests for kindly inviting an anam cara to enter our life. Also, praying for the grace of recognition, riches of feeling and sincere affection. Maintaining the flame, according to the tradition, is about nurturing the in-betweenes, so that there is a third one in the picture, the Holy Spirit that O’Donohue describes as the keeper of Eros or the perfume of desire. So, a delicate balance of closeness with distance, fired with creativity and imagination, is fundamental if we want to keep at bay the threat of overanalysing, or talking about the relationship instead of living the relationship. This is perhaps the aspect that relates to the stop-trying/doing and more being that Steve recommends (but including perhaps the nothingness that in itself is something between a couple, as allows it to breathe).
    This unusual former priest also speaks of intimacy, and the willingnes to be vulnerable to the possibility to be hurt, because as he says, “no one can hurt you as deeply as the one you love”. This requires great courage, although also great vigilance and care to not recreate barriers that we have created over past hursts, and to not carry around “the corpses of past relationships”. I think that this lightness and newness are very needed if we want to be present and open in the other person to the mistery that he or she is. And if we remain open and vulnerable in this way, why to hold a goal in mind of how the person suits or not our expected image of a perfect partner?. After all, if we could say to the anam cara we have encountered what the poet Pablo Neruda said to his love, “you are like nobody since I love you”, this would mean that the person always will reveal new facets under the tender care of a loving gaze, leaving our goals or pretensions soon obsolete.
    O’Donohue also tells that the human heart is never completely born, that it goes through an on-going process of deepening and discovery of new territories within. I imagine that the woman with 150 dates set on a journey to discover unknown territories within her heart, and this process took her to acknowledge new values, perceptions, and ability to see and recognise what she truly valued and looked for in another, as she states in the link that Alexander provides. In many cultures -Celtic is just one of them-, face and heart are related, the inner face being the heart that reveals through the uniqueness of a face. In the light of some of O’Donohue’s words, such “love begins with paying attention to others, with an act of gracious self-forgetting. This is the condition in which we grow”, it seems that the dating woman found herself through a long process of encountering many faces who mirrored her many inner faces, in parallel with a self-forgetting conscious decision to surpase preconceptions of what might be or not be a suitable partner. I think that her dating agenda was imbuded with purpose and committment to herself, and that made the difference, independently of numbers or time spent in the search. For others with different soul needs, I am sure that the journey will unfold quite differently, maybe just in the levity of an instant, through the knocking of a strangely feisty heart that beats without control to the mere thought of an unexpected special someone. Then, imperfections do not seem suddenly so important, as we are even able to find beauty in our flaws and woundedness, as we come to find it in the other.

  4. Lisa on April 4th, 2006 5:56 pm

    Alex – you are SO right on! As someone who has been involved in a number of on-line dating sites in the past 2 years, I can vouch for many of the statements that you make.

    However, I would be one of the ones who would initiate contact with someone I was really interested in, as opposed to just “winking” at them and expecting them to contact me. That’s so archaic.

    In a world where women want to be treated as equals and progress continues to be made in that area, many women forget that and revert back to the olden ways and days when we were expected to wait until contact was made with us. No wonder men are confused sometimes.