A Stitch In Time (Saves On Legal Fees)
Five things I wish we’d just ask each other on the first date
I have a thing or two to say about dating.
Hey, I’ve earned the right. I’ve graduated from two marriages, had first dates, last dates, I-shaved-my-legs-for-that?! dates. In all the dates I’ve had before, between and after my marriages, I’ve experienced the whole deal, from the humorous to the horrifying. You might say I’ve done the research. I’ve put in the time.
And I think it was worth it. Because I finally figured out the formula. Hear me out. What I’ve discovered will save you immeasurable stress, angst, and shavers.
Ready? OK, here it is: We’ve been doing it wrong all this time. Not “IT,” I mean, at least I don’t know how you do “it” and I don’t want to know. I mean, our approach to dating. We photoshop and filter the f**k out of ourselves, and not just on social media. When there’s no pandemic to speak of, we go to great lengths to put our best foot forward. Hair, makeup, cologne, shoes… the best our closets and vanities have to offer. And then we show up and present the uber enhanced, glowy version of ourselves. Holding back on this little detail, pumping up that trait or feature. Suppressing ourselves, or at least our unvarnished selves.
What’s wrong with that? You might wonder. Shouldn’t everybody be on their best behaviour on a date? Look their best? Be careful what they say and do to make sure they don’t put the other person off?
It’s always good to represent yourself well. Cleaning up makes you feel good. Presenting yourself in a positive light can be a confidence builder. But if you’ve ever been stressed out before a first date (and if you haven’t, you’re lying, or you’re Taylor Swift), you know that it takes a lot of energy to keep up appearances. And you also know that at some point, as an ex’s mother used to say, the faces fall off the relationship. I love that expression. It conjures the image of these stiff, uncomfortable masks we’ve been sweating in for months finally peeling off our weary faces, revealing our true selves, warts and all. Then it’s real go-time. It’s a make-or-break moment in a relationship. Some examples: He learned that you fart in your sleep. She learned about your irritating insistence on always being right. He can no longer hide his mild hypochondria. Is it a deal breaker? If so, you part ways. If not, you accept this behaviour, and maybe even embrace the quirk.
So. What if we put the quirks, warts and farts on the table right off the top?
What if we could just ask each other a few pointed questions? What if we answered in the spirit of complete trust and transparency? What then?
Are you cah-razy?! You might well be asking. People get turned off if they get too much information too soon. Do they? Or is it the fear of that happening that stops us? If we level the playing field, and everyone comes to the table with a radical sort of frankness, we might find the experience kind of…refreshing. Call it my New Dating Manifesto. If we all agree to the new rules, we could shut down the angst and enjoy the moment. Authentically.
What would I ask? Here are five questions I believe could change the dating game, if asked on (or even before) Date #1:
What would your ex say is the worst thing about you? Get over the horror or having to answer it yourself and just step back for a sec. This is extremely valuable intel. In every one of my relationships, I’ve come to the conclusion that this one thing I can’t stand is something his ex knows all too well. Something it took that person weeks, months, or even years to discover. And if I’m honest, I know that husband #1 could have educated husband #2 on a LOT of things. Imagine knowing those things without having to do the dirty work. Priceless.
How do you feel about being wrong? This isn’t a trick question. It’s really very simple. It’ll tell you pretty much everything you need to know about how this person handles conflict (among many other things). And every relationship worth its salt has conflict. This is also an open ended enough question that it’ll produce a lot of insight. Do they hate to be wrong? Do they believe they’re almost never wrong? Or do they see it as a humbling experience, an opportunity for growth and connection? Their answer could endear them to you or enrage you. Either way, you’re in the know.
Are you friends with your exes? Yes, yes, I know that many of us are awesome humans who none the less have tenuous or no relationships with their exes. I get it. But by a certain age, most of us have had a few relationships. And if all of them went down in flames, I would see a red flag. How do you want things to end, if they do? And do the two answers match? If so, yay! If not, hmmmm….
What’s your one big deal breaker? This one is not so radical; I’ve seen it on Hinge. That’s because it’s a fabulous question. If my deal breaker is smoking, and my date has a pack in his glove compartment, who are we kidding? Ask, answer, and head home to watch Dateline. (What, just me?)
What is the worst thing that ever happened to you? Negative? Yes, on its face it is. But to me, this is a really effective way of gaining deep insight into a person. Is it something shallow, or something tragic? How do they speak about it? How does it seem to have affected them? Do they get defensive? Quiet? Do they spiral into self pity? OR, do they pivot into the positive? So much to gain by asking this question. And so much to ditch - as in, narcissists, negative nellies, and the emotionally unavailable.
As I write these questions, I judge myself (so it’s totally ok if you’re doing that too). But that’s actually a sweet bonus: coming up with your own list of radical questions will get you thinking a lot about how YOU would answer them. Which makes you introspective. Which makes you a human willing to examine his flaws, her quirks, their faults, and consider how that would impact a relationship.
A win-win, if you ask me.