We’re all familiar with the downside of dating—the rejection, nervousness, dangers, misrepresentation, time-suck, expense, frustrations—need I go on? But being an optimist, I prefer focusing on dating’s plusses. Because once you get through all those other lemons, the lemonade is definitely there. And it sort of makes all the lemons worthwhile. And even improves us for other aspects of our lives. So, as a high five to that lemonade, here are my top ten ways dating makes you a better human being (in spite of what your mother says.)
If you’re the typical dater, then you know that most of your first-time dates do not work out. Either you find something objectionable about them, they find something objectionable about you, you both find something objectionable about each other, or the meeting is just kind of blah/okay without that special “zing!” you seek because you’ve experienced it before, seen it in the movies, or just feel that there simply has to be something more. And yet we approach each first date with optimism because it could be “The One”… and we are romantics. Expecting the best is an excellent way to move through life, be it in your quest for a job, the perfect pizzeria, or for your soul mate. And if your perfect job turns out be in a pizzeria working alongside your soul mate, win-win!
Often, articles about success offer that the number one quality one can have for achieving it is persistence. The old “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” I always find it amusing when I hear someone gave up online dating because he or she had one or two or three bad/uncomfortable/unsuccessful experiences. F. Scott Fitzgerald papered his walls with rejection letters before selling his first short story. Thomas Edison tried and failed with countless filament choices for the light bulb before finding the one that worked—and transformed modern life for everyone forever. My book is called 500 Dates. If the 501st date I go on turns out to be with my soul mate, will it have been worthwhile? And will I carry that persistence through all other aspects of my life, be they occupational, health, or creative? In the immortal words of philosopher Sarah Palin: “You betcha.”
The typical dater encounters a butt-load of rejection, on both the receiving and giving ends. This is excellent preparation for the rejection most of us face throughout our lives. And though it hurts, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger because we see that life goes on and invariably we end up meeting someone we like even better than the one who rejected us. Or, we get a job far better than the one that didn’t want us. Or we find an apartment or house we like even more than the one that fell through. Perhaps it’s a bit Pollyanna to never be crushed in the face of rejection because we know that something better will come along, but the fact is that something better usually does come along. And if it doesn’t, that’s why God created chocolate. And sex. Speaking of which…
We’ve all seen those lists of 50 Ways Sex is Good For You. As if we needed a list for that insight. It’s great when we find something that not only feels so good to experience, but also enhances our bodies, minds, spirits, and souls. And if all those systems are enhanced, we carry that on to all the other aspects of our life. And so, to whoever invented sex, I would like to offer a sincere and gratitude-filled thank you. You rock. And roll. All night long.
If you don’t actively listen to your date, if you’re just doing all the talking yourself, it’s not going to work. So, successful dating demands that we become excellent listeners. Developing that auditory radar muscle makes us better workers, better friends and neighbors and parents and brothers and sisters, allows us to hear the sweet sounds of nature, the cries of someone in trouble, the winning number in the Bingo game of life. Clean the wax out of those ears and realize that listening can be even more vital than speaking. I’m talking to you, Rush Limbaugh!
What’s one of the worst things you can say about someone? “He’s a taker. He’s a user. It’s all about him.” In an ideal dating relationship, it’s the complete opposite—you’re constantly giving: your body, mind, spirit, simple acts of opening the door for your date, presenting flowers, doing what he or she would like to do even though it may not have been your first choice. And the resulting satisfaction of seeing the pleasure and appreciation your acts of giving produce. In other aspects of life, givers are frequently rewarded, if not financially or occupationally, then through wonderful friendships, successful involvement with charities, or even just good karma. Let me know if I start sounding too much like Dr. Phil.
- KEEPING IT CLEAN
Getting ready for a date, we shave shower, wax, trim, manicure, pedicure, brush teeth, use mouthwash, wear new or freshly washed/ironed clothing, apply cologne, perfume, make-up, etc. In other words, we do a world of physical prep that wouldn’t get done if we were simply staying in by ourselves for the night. So, while dating may or may not make you a better human being, it definitely makes you a better looking, better dressed, better groomed, more fragrant one. And that’s nothing to sneeze at. And will most likely pay off in other areas since people do tend to judge a book by its cover.
Your dating relationship doesn’t generally last until year number two, month number two, or in many cases date number two if things appear ordinary and blah. The antidote to the blahs? Enthusiasm! You want to feel enthusiastic about being with each other because enthusiasm is life’s best spice. Employment experts recommend that you show enthusiasm for any job to which you apply, because employers often have several qualified candidates from which to choose and enthusiasm is the one key element that could make you stand out. Of course, I’m not saying you need to be enthusiastic about everything in life, such as your colonoscopy. Because that would be weird. But in general, don’t you prefer being around enthusiastic people? Allow me to respond for you—yes, you do.
- COMPLETING YOURSELF
Okay, it’s a little corny—that line in “Jerry McGuire,” where Tom Cruise tells Rene Zellwegger, “You complete me.” But isn’t that what happens in the best dating relationships, the ones where we truly feel we’ve found our soul mates? They provide something that we either don’t have at all, or don’t have enough of. And when we’re with them, we bring out those things in one another, creating a near perfect being—which, of course, pays off in other areas of life as that near perfect being’s qualities are recognized, enjoyed and rewarded.
As we get older and become faced with so many more pressures and responsibilities, it seems as though we have increasingly fewer opportunities for fun. But dating, once you get past the initial mutual approval stage, is all fun. Having fun makes us happy and at peace, and who doesn’t want to be around people who are happy and at peace? You’ll receive more invitations, more job offers, and simply be able to enjoy all aspects of your life more. And I felt this way even before the Pharrell Williams song, “Happy.”
Now, go out there and be optimistic with persistence, don’t mind the rejection, enjoy the sex and the giving, listen to your partner, keep it clean, stay enthusiastic, complete each other, and have fun. Yes, I insist. Let me know how it goes.
Mark Miller is a comedy writer who has performed stand-up comedy in nightclubs and on TV, written on numerous sit-com staffs, been a humor columnist for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate and is a current humor columnist for The Huffington Post. His first book, a collection of his humor essays on dating and romance, is: 500 Dates: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the Online Dating Wars. But he says he’d trade all his success away in a minute for immortality, inner peace and limitless wealth.