“If I could live anywhere again, I think I’d live in St. Paul,” I told my date as we finished our dinner at the counter of a local diner. “It’s such a great city, with great community, and even the winter brings out the best in people!”
“Well we can’t have everything we want, can we?” said my date bluntly. It was an abrupt remark, considering he had just told me that he had never visited Minnesota.
It wasn’t exactly the reaction I had hoped for. I had meant for my musings to spur him to ask a few questions—what makes the community so great? How do people survive the brutal winter? Do you get back to visit the city?
In short, I had hoped he would try to get to know me better. Instead, he dismissed my thoughts and the conversation moved on.
I wish I could say it was a one-time gaffe, but to tell the truth, most of this date had consisted of my ideas being disregarded or dismissed. And needless to say, by the end of the night I was ready to quickly say my goodbyes and head to my car.
The date was a bust. (He must have figured that out too, as I never heard from him again.) But after some post-date analysis with my girlfriends, I determined why this particular encounter had been so unsuccessful: it wasn’t other-centered.
What do I mean by “other-centered?” Basically, dating is supposed to be an opportunity to spend time with another person, one who might see the world differently than you. Asking questions and fully engaging with the other person can open your mind to new ideas, introduce you to different ways of living, and help you understand the experiences that led you both to where you are today. Ultimately, however, there are two people on a date and both should do their part to help the conversation along.
I know I’ve gone into dates too nervous to really be myself. I’ve probably been just as rude as my date at the diner was that night, and I’ll admit that I’ve gotten hung up way too early on my date’s “marriage potential” or the physical attributes he may or may not have possessed.
But if years of dinners, drinks, and coffees have taught me anything, it’s that the best dates are the ones where both individuals simply want to know—who are you? What makes you come alive? What can we teach each other about life?
Most dates won’t lead to a walk down the aisle, and in fact many won’t lead to a second meeting. But that doesn’t mean that dating can’t still be a fun way to get to know another person. It starts with setting the pressure aside for a while and asking a few genuine questions. In my experience, when the focus is less, "Could I marry this person? Do they fit my 'type'?” and more, "Who is this person? What gets them excited? How have their experiences shaped them?"—a date can be an enjoyable (and way less stressful!) encounter.
Photo by Nima Salimi