When I met Boon a little over two years ago, I knew very quickly he was the one. He was caring, funny, had the same values, and saw the world the way I did. He also LOVED Nila, which was a non-negotiable for me. I felt, and still do feel, like I hit the jackpot, and can't believe I've managed to find someone so amazing.
But I'm not so far removed from the single life that I don't remember how difficult dating is.
Dating with the goal of finding a long term partner is even harder.
I remember trying to convince myself I wasn't interested in anything serious when scrolling on (insert dating app here) and just wanted to have fun, and then finding myself disappointed when dates didn't go well, because deep down I knew I wanted to find the person I'd spend the rest of my life with.
But I really don't think I was ready to meet someone like Boon throughout most of my dating years. There were some key things I had to experience, and mindset shifts I had to adopt in order to open myself up to the opportunity of real love and to better understand when someone was the real deal.
Keeping reading for my advice. As I'm a cis-straight woman, I'll be referring to men... but my belief is that this goes for any gendered future partner!
It's an A or an F
Wish I could take credit for this one, but I got this quote from School of Love NYC after hearing the founder on a podcast, I definitely recommend her content as a resource.
I will take credit for yelling "it's an A or an F motherf****r!" when encouraging my friends to think this way about the people they were dating.
In short, when it comes to dating or relationships, someone either shows up, knocks it out of the park, and gets an A grade or they get an F. There is no in-between. You don't date someone who rates as a B or C... you don't deserve B or C effort. This is a pass-fail kind of deal. If you have to wonder if someone is into you... It's an F.
If they're flaky, it's an F. If they say or do something that doesn't align with your core values, F.
If they show lukewarm interest and are inconsistent with making plans, F. Cut anyone who isn't getting an A. Not worth your phone data, emotional energy, or your time.
You shouldn't expect lavish dates, or over the top treatment, that's not realistic or important, nor does it automatically get an A. What is important is that someone makes you a priority & respects you and your time, even in the beginning stages. This goes both ways.
Rethink your Non-Negotiables
Non-negotiables are rarely important or helpful, and most people apply them incorrectly.
A lot of women tend to focus on what they think are key characteristics of their perfect partner, but are actually focusing on all the wrong things.
Do you have certain goals for your life materially (i.e frequent travel, buying a house, living comfortably)? There's no shame in that. But, this often translates to: I want someone successful or with a "good" job.
What if the man of your dreams is busting their ass to try to get build a career that they don't have right now? On the inverse, a lot of men who have "good jobs" may not be particularly driven, could have been given opportunities through privilege, etc, and don't have a strong work ethic. When when the chips are down... that drive is something you need.
So I would reframe this non-negotiable as: "I want someone who is driven and aspires to have the lifestyle I want."
Or in the words of Yeezy, "he gon make it to a Benz out of that Datsun."
Reframe your non-negotiables so that they are centered on values & qualities vs checkboxes. If you have a physical type, you can't change who you're attracted to, but to be so myopic that you pass on amazing people just because they're not tall dark handsome.
My fiance' is physically my type and has all the characteristics I want in a partner, but on paper, he's 11 years older, works in entertainment (which terrified me at first) & was raised in a different religion than I was. None of those are negatives, but if I was bullish on surface-level non-negotiables like age, job industry, or even religion etc... I would have missed out majorly.
Don't Wait Around
While you should flex on the surface stuff, don't flex on your values. If you love to travel and the person you date doesn't enjoy it or see value in it, thank you NEXT.
If marriage is important to you, don't waste your time with anyone who is undecided on it as an institution, or is unsure about long-term monogamy.
The case could be made that marriage isn't for everyone and you shouldn't miss out on someone just because they don't believe in it. I call bullshit.
This goes back to values, if you are looking for lifelong love, till death do us part security & stability in a partner, don't budge. Politely decline a second date with guy who says he doesn't know if he believes in marriage on your first date (if you do). If someone mentions they're not sure if they're interested in a long term relationship, believe them, and you guessed it, NEXT. As the old saying goes, people always tell you who they are, you just have to listen.
Make Sure you've Focused on your Own Story
I was in long term relationships from the time I was 19 to about 26. When I started really dating, it was a major WTF moment.
I was worried I wasn't interesting enough on my own to warrant love, and while I've always been very independent, was freaked out that I was almost 30 and hadn't spent any significant time on my own.
So, I doubled down on therapy, meditation, and booked a solo trip to Italy. I poured myself into my blog, spent more time with friends, read a ton of books, spent countless hours at Cost Plus buying things for my apartment, basically did whatever the F I wanted when wanted. You don't need to spend years doing this to get feel more confident ( I didn't) and I'm sure if you've been single for while this is something you've already done. The takeaway is that you need to devote time and energy to other things in your life besides finding a partner. You have to be the kind of person you want to date, which oftentimes means someone with varied interests, strong friendships & unique life experiences.
Sit Back & Observe
Boon will tell you I played it cool during the week or so we were texting before our first date. I was polite, responsive but not overly effusive. I was observing him. If he wanted to speak to me, he had to reach out. I was interested but wanted to make sure I wasn't overextending myself.
With online dating, so many women get caught up in these weeks-long text conversations with people that live a few blocks from them. Meet in person (at a distance) or don't. A text conversation means nothing in the end (most of the time), and it fosters a false sense of intimacy, that ends up getting you invested in something that may or may not be real.
On our first date, Boon said he was looking for something serious. Over our next few dates, his action & behavior re-reinforced this, but I definitely was watching intently. Oftentimes people say what you want to hear at the beginning of courtship but act in ways that are totally at odds with this.
The sit back & observe aspect of this is just that... as you're dating, try to remove yourself objectively assess if this person 1) is the type of person you'd truly like to spend a significant amount of time with and 2) they're genuinely interested. Don't overanalyze, don't try to push for more time together if they're not initiating, just let everything unfold. It always unfolds as it's meant to.
The pieces of advice I heard during my time dating from my married friends & others that really informed this are:
If you have to wonder if he's interested, he's not.
If someone wants to see you, they'll make the time.
When you meet the right person, the rest happens quickly.