If Dating Was a Sport, What Are the Rules?

Written by Wendy Reese

What happens when you find yourself at 40 having been in one relationship (or one after another) without ever really experiencing dating? You must learn how to date. What does one start?

Some of the wisest advice I ever found was to first, figure out what you want. All those years of Disney fairy tales should have brainwashed me into believing that I want Prince Charming. Does he exist? And what if I found the girl he was chasing just as attractive? Then what? When I sat to figure out what I wanted, it was such a difficult, daunting task that I found exploring what I did not want was far easier to articulate. From there, I was able to let myself dream and explore. What qualities would he/she have? What would he/she like to do? With time and with each first date, the list was easier to make specific. If I found something I was uncomfortable with or simply did not like, I looked for the opposite quality and added it to my list. I am a firm believer in putting the positive out to the Universe. My friends listened patiently, though completely perplexed, to my processing. Then one gave me a copy of The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt. That opened a whole new window of opportunity to explore.

As I started putting myself out into the world as a single woman looking to date, I found a very confusing message; women flirt and come across as “easy” and when we are comfortable with ourselves, confident even, we come across as “unapproachable.” I am supposed to be myself, right? How can I do that and try to fit into a mold, which I am completely unfamiliar with and that is created by a stranger? I have come to a place where authenticity is so important, that if someone does not like me for me, that is fine. It means I dodged a bullet. Eventually, our personalities would create friction in the relationship if we tried to be anything less than authentic with one another. I have seen this in so many relationships where one or both of the individuals try to overlook the red flags of each other’s personality, convinced that with enough love or support those qualities can be changed. I am not sure I have ever witnessed the success of that hypothesis.

Reading online dating profiles, half the guys want to get married while the other half wants their own sexual Barbie doll. The women weren’t much better. Where is the middle ground? I like the idea of some kind of personality test that elicits my dreams and goals, interests and the non-negotiable things. It allows me to say, “Here I am. If our test matches, let’s talk.” Otherwise, I am content with continuing down this solitary path. What is your match though? When it comes right down to it, what are the top three things you need and want in a relationship? Do you really want your partner to be your best friend? What happens when the two of you are fighting and you need someone to listen, maybe provide objective advice? Do you need communication, humor, sex, financial stability, physical attraction, an avid fellow sports fan? Knowing these things make the search so much easier because you can dive below the physical attraction and know that your ideal partner just might not come in the package you imagined.

I have a few single friends, all of whom share the same fears and tales of woe when it comes to dating. Everyone seems confused. What am I supposed to do, say, wear, and who pays for the date? Is it okay for the girl to ask the guy/girl out or is that too forward? Do you hold the door open for the woman or not? What happens if the person who shows up looks and acts nothing like the person you have been communicating with?

If dating was a sport, what the heck are the rules? They seem to change from player to player and from date to date. How can you possibly succeed without being on an even playing field? The worst is that no one can win at that game. Perhaps that’s why the divorce rate is so high. I am fairly content meeting new people and getting to know myself better. In the process, if Prince(ss) Charming appears, perhaps I will discover the rules quickly. Even better if I can just be me and he/she actually likes me for who I am. Now there is a fairy tale.

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