People who know me, know that I am always thinking, dissecting, and analyzing. In the past few months, there has been a lot of time for introspection, and I have ruled out what to look for and not look for in a relationship. I really haven't been single since I was twenty-two, and I am not proud of this. The importance of getting to know yourself and have a sense of independence are important, and I am going to tell you that I have to work very hard on the independent part - believe it or not. I know, I know, you are thinking "You just up and moved 500 miles," but just read on, and read my rules. I am going to write this from a female's point of view, but this does apply to males, as well.
Again - I am NOT an expert on dating. I am sharing what I have learned. If you don't want to read this whole entry, please, read rule number eight, because I think it's the best rule.
1. Do not live in the same city as your significant other's parents. (Or yours, if you can help it - sorry, Mom and Dad)
The first month I lived in Madison, I joked that I needed a man whose parents are both deceased - but not when they were too young, and it couldn't be a tragic death, because I didn't want to deal with the baggage. Preferably a dude whose parents died of old age, and he dealt with it in a healthy manner.
I prefer to have a private relationship. What you and your boyfriend are up to at any given moment is none of his parent's business. I don't want them too involved. Period.
2. Don't date anyone who has been married before.
Now, this obviously applies to women of my generation. If you are forty-five, and looking for a dude, keep your options open. For women my age, there are enough problems to work on in a relationship, why add an ex into the mix? Enough said.
3. Don't date anyone who has children.
I am going to elaborate on this a little, because even though this is obvious, I have given advice on this topic before, and I don't want you to come crying to me about the kid issues, when I could have said, "I told you so." (And this has happened). Do you want to share your dude with his kids? How about when you don't agree with his child rearing, but it's not your job to say anything? Did you ever think that the kids could hurt his feelings, which in turn, hurt yours? I could probably write a twenty page essay on this rule, but you get the hint.
4. Friends are First!
I think a lot of us have made the mistake of putting a guy before your friends from time to time. I know it's very exciting in the beginning of a relationship, but your friends will be there for you always, and the dude may not. Do not cancel plans on your friends because you haven't heard from the new guy in three days, when he suddenly asks you on a Friday night to meet in an hour for drinks. He will still be there tomorrow, and he can wait. Play hard. You can always meet with him at the end of the night, anyway.
Especially if you are in a new place, it's very important to keep your friendships with your girlfriends strong. Do not rely on a guy for your social life. What if he breaks up with you? What if he travels a lot for work? It is so important to have that sisterhood, and I think a lot of people move to cities, meet someone, and rely on that one person for their entire social life. BIG mistake. Who are you going to have when he is gone? It is also healthy to have a life outside of the one you are forming in your dating life.
5. Do not rely on a guy all of the time.
When I used to have a car problem, or needed a picture hung, or got sick, my first thought was, "Call Boyfriend." Not anymore. Especially if you are just starting to see someone, BE INDEPENDENT! Don't even let him know you had a problem, unless he calls you. Again, I think it's unhealthy to start to become dependent on a guy. (Maybe Madison is getting to me). Because of my "independence," I have learned how to jump start a car!
6. Don't date any type of workaholic.
Do you want to be informed on November 5th that the next three weekends are out for your social life because he has to study? Forget it. Don't do it. If you want to wake up on a Saturday morning, and decide to go for a day trip which includes a trip to a winery, forget a workaholic.
Fortunately, our generation is more about working to live, not living to work, so if you are around my age, and dating someone around our age, you should be ok.
Spontaneity is key. This brings me to rule number seven......
7. Date someone your age!
I finally got it, you guys! After years of dating people in different "decades," I see the significance in dating someone my age, and I will never go back. You can remember the same movies, songs, cartoons, toys, technological advances, have the same goals, are in the same place in life, the energy level is the same, etc.
8. Ask them what their ideal day is.
This is the best thing I have done. I have asked the "What's your relationship with your parents," and all that other garbage, right off the bat. But, I have found the way to really know if you are compatible, is to find out what they want to do on their birthday, or what their "dream day" would be. For example, when asking this, I exchange my day, by saying,
"I go for a run, then take Scout to a state park, and hike for a few hours, then see an exhibit, or stop at some historical site on the way back (spontaneous, again), and then wine and a good meal are included."
If they are not interested in doing something outdoorsy like that, or being with my dog, or having a little wine, and doing some fine dining, we are not a match. Their ideal day has to match up with yours.
I hope you find these tips helpful. I had to work hard to condense this, as I have a lot I can say about the "dos" and "don'ts" of dating. Again, I am not an expert. I am a twenty-eight year old, never been married woman with a little "experience."
If you think you are "stuck" in a dried out, dull, relationship, please read my "Getting Unstuck" entry, and get out there, and date around.