I learned a lot about finding love when I was ghosted.

Freshman year of college, my friend set me up with one of her best friends from high school; let’s call him Mike. She prepped me by telling me that Mike and I had the same goofy sense of humor, we were both serious about our faith, and our height was compatible (although frankly, that’s something we should all probably get over). She was on point with this one—we immediately hit it off, and I thought for sure this relationship would go somewhere. So you can imagine how confused I was when, after a great interaction, I got ghosted instead of invited on a second date.

A few months later, the friend who set me and Mike up asked if I wanted to know the reason why he had never asked me out again. Positive that I already knew, but curious to hear it in his own words, I said yes.

Are you ready for it? 

Mike hadn’t asked me out again because I had said "sh*t" on our date. 

I was completely shocked and mortified to know that this was real reason. Never in my wildest dreams would I have guessed that this word alone would be a deal breaker for someone. But coming to terms with the fact that a word foul messed up my otherwise promising connection made me think deeper about dating and what exactly we're putting out there when we meet new people. This literal sh*tstorm taught me a few valuable lessons.

No need to lay it all out on the table.

Like it or not, first dates are a little bit like an interview. I would never have let slip a profanity if I were discussing my job prospects, no matter how nervous I was. The truth is, I don't love that I swore on this particular occasion and, in retrospect, I shouldn't have been surprised that Mike didn't either. From Mike I learned that there's a balance between being genuine and putting your best foot forward. Just as we all know not to unpack all our relationship baggage on the first date, keeping your bad habits in check means that your date can focus on seeing all the great things he really should be seeing about you. That doesn't mean you can't tell your favorite jokes or that you're pretending to be somebody that you are not. Maybe if Mike had learned one small thing he didn't like about me after three or four dates of learning things he did like, the one flaw would have been part of a larger tapestry of who I am, not the thing to remember about me.

You might not be his dream girl, and that’s OK.

My date with Mike helped me truly internalized the concept that not everyone needs to like you. As a chronic people pleaser, this lesson was the hardest. The truth is, if we let every instance where we give off a negative first impression—due to our mood, our nerves, or just their perception—torture us, dating will be a misery. My failed first date doesn't define my date-ability; I just did something on his list of "no's," and even if I think he should have given me a second chance, it all turned out for the best. I am now happily dating someone who loves me, warts and all.

Don’t idealize anyone, but especially not your date.

It's important not to idealize a person before you really get to know them. It only took one date to reveal to Mike that I wasn't his dream girl, but it was harder for me to accept the fact that Mike wasn't my dream guy because I had built him up so much in my head. 

I was so wed to the idea that Mike was right for me, based on the recommendation of our mutual friend and the ease of our first interactions, that I failed to be a little more guarded with my feelings. I was positive we were going to date seriously—it all seemed too good to be true! I brought this lesson into my next relationship and made an effort to put the daydreams and fantasizing on hold until, at least, the first date. Part of intentional dating is starting off smart and slow; don't throw all your hopes and dreams at one person from the get-go. Be patient and eventually you will get a green light for the right guy.  

It’s never too soon to set boundaries.

Between the time of the first date and the "disappearance," Mike and I texted a fair bit. At one point I told him off the bat, that I liked him but if we were going to keep talking I wanted to take it slowly and see where it led us. He agreed. But, shortly after, his responses became fewer and far between, and eventually they stopped completely. I panicked, wondering if I had been too honest too soon.

My first instinct was to question my decision to tell Mike I wanted to take it slow, but looking back I see that being upfront with my desires was an action I could be proud of. At the end of the day, it wasn't my desire to take things slow that turned Mike off. The go-to for many of us is to dance around the subject of expectations, boundaries, and whether or not the interest is mutual, but I never regret admitting off the bat how I feel. The truth is, most guys really appreciate the helpful direction and, if the relationship pans out, a foundation based on honesty and truth will already be the norm. 

A lot of good lessons can be gleaned from a first date flop. My date with Mike, and the aftermath, has encouraged me to give people a little more mercy if they don't pass the "test" on our first encounter. Sometimes sh*t happens, especially when you are nervous, and it's best to give the person the benefit of the doubt.

Photo Credit: Clem Onojeghuo