We could’ve had a great date if it weren’t for you
by Dr. Bruce Derman
Most every book that has been written to assist single people who are struggling with dating and relationships has two things in common. The first is to provide singles with the best way to find a relationship
with “The One.” As long as your clients are ready for a long-term committed relationship (LTCR) or are seeking that goal, then these books provide a framework for that pursuit. If your clients don’t fit that picture, then you are on your own.
The second commonality reflects an attitude which feeds into the dilemma that many of our single clients struggle with being in a LTCR is good and to not be in one is bad. The clients that come to me who have not accomplished this quest feel extremely frustrated, depressed, and express great hopelessness that they will ever reach this goal. Quite often they share a desire to give up dating all together and claim that “dating sucks.” Tina Tessina, Ph.D., who wrote The Unofficial Guide of Dating Again even suggests that we get rid of the word dating and replace it with one that is less emotionally feared.
In response to these cultural pressures, I believe that struggling single people need to have access to therapists who can offer them a completely different attitude and philosophy about dating which does not collude with the typical hierarchical thinking and emotional reactivity. The dating approach that I will be presenting asks you to make a paradigm shift and let go of all judgmental thinking about dating.
There are several perceptions which need to be integrated by anyone working with the single population in order to accomplish this shift. Some of them may prove difficult depending on your current attitude toward dating.
1. Rejection and judgment are an integral part of dating.
These two qualities are not problems like they are frequently referred to, but are considered important aspects as to the nature of dating. Dating is a selection process which demands the use of these behaviors. Those who can accept this truth are able to flow with the dating process. Those who fight it will consider dating dreadful.
2. All relationships are successful.
In this approach there are no relationship outcomes that are considered failures. Each dating relationship is respected for what it is and is not compared to anything that it isn’t. Thus three-month relationships are successful as three-month relationships. The same is true for people who date nobody or those who date addicts. They are all successful for what they are designed for.
3. There are no bad dates.
From this perspective there are just dates who behave in a variety of ways. If you hold on to seeing dates as bad or good, then you are right back into the typical hierarchical thinking which is pervasive in most dating. Again, each date offers something — even an obnoxious one — when you don’t succumb to comparing it with something it isn’t. Of course, I am not including here dates that violate your physical space.
4. There are no wrong people.
I’m sure you have all heard the lament from different single clients, “Why do I keep meeting the wrong men?” “Everyone I meet is married.” The position taken in this approach is that you can only meet who you are ready for, and that person is right for you at the particular time. In this case, a married man offers a client the opportunity to have safe intimacy, which is most likely reflective of their present capacity.
5. There are no surprises.
The attitude supported in this process is total accountability. Whoever the client selects to date is clearly their choice, and the clues as to the nature of that date are apparent from the beginning. Any of my clients who love rescuing could find an alcoholic in a crowded mall despite what they may say initially.
6. There is no dating drama.
When a person stops opposing the nature of dating and accepts the dance for what it is, the drama ends. Then rejection becomes rejection, and it is not used to inflate or deflate who one is.
7. Everyone has a dating plan.
When you leave the attitude of certain kinds of relationships being acceptable and others are not, then you are able to see that each single person has a dating plan that needs to be respected for its own rules, benefits, consequences and who to play with. In fact, I don’t regard any plan as greater than any other, so dating nobody is as highly regarded as a long-term committed relationship. All I look for is whether the plan a client chooses is congruent with who they are at this time.
A male client of mine, who was beginning to date again after a divorce, was puzzled that he wasn’t more interested in this sweet woman he had been dating, and he was feeling lost as to what he was doing. It became apparent that he didn’t want to commit his heart to anyone for fear of experiencing another loss. As a result, his current dating plan involves seeing only those women who wouldn’t expose him to any significant loss.
The relationship he was currently in was perfect for that because he didn’t regard her as anything more than a nice person. I supported him to really own his plan and stop hedging and judging his dominant truth.
8. The lovers you desire are not lost; you are.
Single individuals are constantly being seduced by different organizations into believing that they can help them find the lover they are seeking. All of this is based on the idea that the person’s prospective lover is lost and they need to search for them. In my approach, the premise is that the lover in question is not lost but is waiting for you to be available to them. Of course, this perspective asks for a much higher degree of accountability.
I also must put out a warning to any of you who might choose to adopt any of these concepts. When you share with someone, whether it is a professional or a lay person, that you believe there are no bad dates or wrong people, you will quite often not be greeted with applause or acceptance. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard comments such as “That’s ridiculous” or “You certainly haven’t witnessed my experiences.”
Despite these comments, when my clients can integrate these concepts which are far from easy given the cultural conditioning we are all subjected to, they no longer are so fearful and defensive about dating, and they begin to date in a much lighter way. They also speak from a much more accountable and powerful place.