If you’re one of those people prone to the five to ten dates “mini relationship” that inevitably ends shortly after it begins, I have a new dating strategy for you to try.
It’s one that will save you time and heartache in the long run and could even become a game-changer in the dating game.
Here it is: Put your worst foot forward. That’s right. You may recall the 2003 Kate Hudson film How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days – pretty much a classic in the rom-com world. In the film, of course, Andie (Kate Hudson) is a journalist assigned to write a story on how to lose a guy in 10 days and sets out to do just that, pushing boundaries in every way imaginable, attempting to push a potential love interest away in the process (played by a young and dreamy Matthew McConaughey), by making every classic dating mistake.
After coming off a mind-fuck of a breakup with a subsequent yearlong recovery process (that was fun), I was already on high alert when it came to dating (especially in a city as difficult to do so as Toronto is). My dating history has been dotted with men who can safely be categorized as “critical.” That walking-on-eggshell feeling in the pit of my stomach only turned to resentment that left no element of the relationship unaffected – from our sex life, to how often I would include them in my plans with friends. But, most damagingly, two situations in particular left some serious damage in my levels of confidence when it came to everything from my job, to how good of mother I would be.
I didn’t grow up with critical parents. I had no idea that the effects of such treatment could cut so deep and linger for so long – much longer than the duration of the relationship, in fact. I now see how those who did have critical parents can still carry a lot of that around, like my last , self-proclaimed perfectionist ex did (and subsequently treated me the exact same way). It seemed that as soon as the shine wore off me and “real life” set in (after a blissful honeymoon stage seen through rose-colored glasses and filters), the criticism rolled in. Granted, we had both (for the most part) been on our best behaviour during those first few months, with all of our insecurities, habits, weaknesses, and messiness neatly tucked away from plain sight. Whereas I embraced it when he started to crack and became more human, he picked me apart.
The moral of the story? I wasn’t going to let that happen again. Nope. The recovery was too long and I don’t have time to waste at this age. Not only would I stay far away from the critical set, I would stop pretending to be so flawless from the start.
So, from the very first date with my boyfriend, I was myself in all of my raw, unsexy, real, gritty glory. We sat in a trendy(ish) east end restaurant which was great – but narrow. Once the Friday night drinkers started to file in, there was no mistaking my immediate discomfort with the couple hovering about two inches next to our table (when there was room closer to the bar). “It just makes me really anxious when I’m sitting and people are standing right above me,” I explained to my date, before giving the unaware-of-the-concept-of-personal-space man above me a nudge with my elbow. I candidly told my date that, in addition to crowds, lineups, and slow walkers, feeling smothered when sitting by people standing above me also resulted in cases of mild anxiety and rage. Naturally, this information would ever have been exposed on first dates of times past, when I would have grinned and bared it, sitting perfectly poised and perfectly polished across from him.
For the next ten dozen dates that followed, in addition to making sure I didn’t let my guard down and fall too soon (a lesson I learned from my last relationship with Mr. Critical #2), I continued that first date trend. I was non-committal with plans, I lost my patience with an inept Uber driver in front of him, I showed up in a messy bun and with minimal makeup, got stressed about a work deadline, declined a favour he asked me (to carry a massive heavy headboard up two flights of stairs), got super drunk one night when he wasn’t drinking, and didn’t pretend to be interested in things I didn’t find interesting.
And he stayed. As it turns out, those things weren’t deal-breakers for him (admittedly, they could have been for someone else; but that someone else, I’m clearly not meant for).
We’re now (recently) together, and the only surprises he’ll experience when it comes to my character are pleasant ones – he’s already seen the worst of me. He’ll see how sweet, kind, and loyal I am as a girlfriend once those walls are a thing of the past. He’ll be slightly shocked by the unique little cute things I’ll do for him. He’ll feel reassured once he sees how great I am with kids. He’ll see my strength in times of really shitty – even tragic – circumstances (I’ve been through it all). He’ll find comfort in my unwavering support of all his professional endeavours. He’ll (hopefully) be impressed by my hidden athleticism.
In the meantime, I don’t have to worry about the whole rose-coloured glasses element – he’s seen it all. The problem with taking the common advice of “being on your best behaviour” (you know, until they fall in love with you; then you can crack), is that it only sets the stage for disappointment once the bad and ugly parts of you start to surface. Like jumping into a passion-fuelled insta-relationship, when you begin on such a “picture perfect” high, the only place you have to go is downhill once reality and its accompanying idiosyncrasies, bad moods, and daily balancing act set in.
Just don’t be too much of an asshole about it: There’s a fine line between being your gritty, raw self and downright rude.