Writing a book about dating is more exhibition than expertise. To be credible you have to show that you’ve been in the trenches. When I wrote my first book, Finding Mr. Righteous, I saw it as an exorcism of my past relationships so that I could move forward and find the true partnership with passion that I wanted.
Of course, when you write a book there is a ton of promotion and conversation that happen with those who (thankfully!) read it. Rather than a permanent exorcism it’s more like a museum you invite friends, family and strangers to visit. For the past year I’ve been a tour guide in this museum of relationships, the modern dating scene and my faith journey. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that I’m always learning.
In addition to the important lessons of Finding Mr. Righteous, there are some others I’ve learned over the past year.
1. Throw Away Your ‘Must Haves’ List
You’ve heard the saying that women dress for other women, not for men. In dating, it’s true that some women make a list of who their partner must be based on what’s desired by other women. For some, it might be the kind of car he drives, his job, how much he makes, or even how tall he is. Even if these are things you truly think are important to you, try dating outside your list. Also, don’t confuse things like short-term items like salary with long-term items like ambition or potential. In an early episode of Sex and the City, Charlotte’s three must-haves are “looks, manners and money.” Her eventual second husband, Harry, didn’t necessarily have all three, yet many women consider him the best man in the series.
One of the most frequent “must haves” I see on friends’ lists is “he should be at least 6 feet tall.” This has to be one of the dumbest because it has nothing to do with any characteristics that are important – values, ambition, goals in life, compatibility, etc. The most amazing guys I’ve ever met have been under 5’8”.
On second thought, keep looking for those six-footers. I’ll take the interesting short guys. As a friend recently told me, “A man is as tall as he acts.”
2. Don’t Rely on Online Dating Sites
Just like you shouldn’t rely only on online job listings, you shouldn’t rely only on online dating sites. Diversify! I’ve noticed that with some of my friends so much effort is put into online relationships before meeting that it can be easy to try to make a relationship work just because some algorithm or list of interests tells you that you’re made for one another.
It doesn’t matter how many of the same books you’ve both read or bands you both like, but rather whether you can be in the same room and have a conversation that makes you think time is passing too quickly. For modern women and men, the parade of first dates from online matches can be boring. It’s no replacement for meeting people outside your social circle, friends of friends or any number of random interactions you have during the day.
3. Use Texting for Convenience, Not Emotional Intimacy
A recent study from the Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy found that for men in particular texting may be in lieu of real intimacy. From Time:
When it came to the number of messages, however, men who texted more often in general reported lower relationship quality than those who didn’t ping their significant others as frequently. The researchers can only speculate about why, but suspect that as men disconnect from a relationship, or consider a break-up, they replace face-to-face interactions with less intimate communication in the form of increased texting.
Now that we have the ability to be in constant contact, we tend to think there’s something wrong if we’re not connected to one another 24/7. Certainly after two people are in a committed relationship any form of communication that’s most convenient for them is good. However, when getting to know someone texting should be used for convenience, not as a way to move a relationship forward.
4. Know That Your Troubles Are Universal
When I set out to write my book, my instinct told me that in order for other people to read it and identify with my struggles I needed to be completely honest. There were times I wanted to rewrite my dating history — write that I left when I really stayed, write a snappy comeback when I really said nothing. I think the book’s raw, sometimes funny, honesty made it more compelling. It also reminded a lot of readers that we all go through messy, awkward relationships. Our modern dating troubles are universal.
For instance, in Dancing with the Stars regular Karina Smirnoff’s new book We’re Just Not That Into You: Dating Disasters from the Trenches, she and her manager write about their own bizarre dating stories. At first glance you might think these gorgeous women who have plenty of opportunity to meet celebrities, business moguls and professional athletes should have no trouble finding their Mr. Right. However, we’re all dealing with the same issues.
Another window into the dating world is from comedian Joe DeVito. His comedy album (available on CD and in digital) First Date with Joe DeVito is hilarious and relatable. He talks about the ridiculous photos people post of themselves on dating websites, everything from climbing mountains to duck-face selfies in the mirror. For women in particular, it’s comforting to know that men have some of the same anxieties about dating and being single after certain age. As DeVito says, at 45 and single many think he puts the “harm” in eHarmony.
5. Your Plan Isn’t Necessarily God’s Plan
One constant theme in Finding Mr. Righteous is encountering men that I believe were put in my life for a reason. Most of the time I thought that reason was for a romantic relationship. I was usually wrong. God does have people cross our paths at certain times. As singles, we can be so focused on putting someone in that romantic role that we lose sight of God’s plan.
A few months ago I met a man (5’6”!) who emailed me about my book. A quote from Emily Bronte immediately came to mind after our first in-person conversation. I’ve never read Wuthering Heights, so I don’t know the full context, but the quote spoke to me. She wrote, “He’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”
However, now it’s clear that God may have a different role in mind for him and a bright future for both of us. When you let go of your expectations you’ll get more opportunities than you can even imagine.
image illustrations via shutterstock / snapgalleria