I love any type of list. From a grocery one to my daily to-do, I love the process of thinking about and compiling things that I inevitably will get to check off with great accomplishment. What this all essentially means to me is: I am successful, I sought and conquered; I know what I’m doing.
But unlike a simple run to the market or picking up my dry cleaning, there is a list that I find most daunting and much more complex than most—and it’s one I catch myself making subconsciously and often too: the qualifier list of the man I need to date and thus, one day, maybe, marry.
This, I’m learning, is completely unfair—to both parties. Throughout this season (that is longer than most) of singleness, there has been great room for learning, understanding and perceiving. Sometimes the reality that unfolds from interactions with your friends who have the most outlandish dating stories, to the stories from your co-workers about how dating is too overwhelming and how everyone falls short of ideal, hits you like a ton of honesty bricks; no one is perfect, nor will be everything you’ll need.
All of these experiences and stories have led me to believe the truth that: I surely do not deserve everything. There are many, many relationships around me that I admire, respect, and sometimes covet—yet not one is perfect. So why do some of us wait for what is not there? We have expectations, we have hope, and these are good things, but these are also things that can keep us from experiencing good too. When we make a list of musts haves and must bes, we turn dating into a fantasy and easily redefine love into something of an illusion, rather than of common and purposeful experience. We turn the process of what is initially an opportunity to learn about others (and definitely about ourselves), into a tension that can bum us out and make us feel more alone and defeated than we were when we started out in the first place. When we date to a degree of immense particularity, we aren’t really dating, but are seeking perfection.
Whether you are single and not looking, single and sort of looking or single and adamantly looking, I want to challenge you to confidently date when the occasion rises. This means to reconsider your approach in how you decide whether someone is date-worthy or not. At the same time, I understand reasoning and preferences stem from either a moral upbringing or past experiences—and those are valid but should not build a wall that disables you to ever share any of your story and experiences. We have to be people who first and foremost value others. That starts potentially by entering dating with an open and all the while honest mind. This will require discernment. By no means do I suggest dating just anybody, to just date, but I do suggest to step into it with a boldness and confidence that may have not existed prior.
Maybe he will wear those sandals, maybe he will have that outrageously (and noticeable) loud laugh and maybe he’s had a darker than most past, but maybe he will be the best date you’ve ever had. We all have our stories that make us who we are today, and we all are worth encountering—not even as potential boyfriends and girlfriends or husbands and wives, but as people. We date to learn about others, and thus about ourselves. And it doesn’t matter if you are the kind of person who dates for fun, or dates to find your husband, when we date to date, we dare to learn, which sharpens and refines us and makes us not only better people to date, but better people.
Image via A Well Traveled Woman