This is my most personal post yet. I wanted to share something about my experience with dating and being in a serious relationship, and reflect on what it has meant to me. My boyfriend and I are celebrating five years as an “item” this week, and that is a big milestone for me. Let me start from the beginning…
I was much more focused on academics during public school and high school than boys (most guys were either too immature for me or were already dating someone else, or I had a strictly platonic relationship with them). Every girl knows the ideal man is handsome, smart, funny and a good provider right? And I hadn’t met one of those yet… Before this relationship, I had only ever had two boyfriends – one for a few months in high school (a young “crush” shall we say) and a more serious relationship for five months during my second year in college (which I ended as I only felt platonic feelings for him and knew it was unfair to take from him what I could not give).
But during my second year in college, I was looking to explore my options and attempt dating. I had a free trial eHarmony account for a couple months and then created an OKCupid account (which I found much more interactive and offered more matches). I was very much inclined to chat with a match for at least a couple of weeks online before meeting in person. I felt feeling them out online first was a good way to determine if they were 1. A real person and who they said they were (consistency is key), 2. Not a creep or deranged (which was usually revealed within a few messages), 3. Actually interested in getting to know me (showing some interest in my personality, likes and hobbies and not just looks). Another key indicator that I kept in the back of my mind was how demanding the person on the other end was for an in-person meeting. If they didn’t respect that I expected to get to know them a little though chat first or if they came off pushy, they were immediately out.
I dated for a few months while trying out this new lifestyle of getting to know the opposite sex. And I had some nice evenings out with some very nice and interesting guys (and some very weird as well). I had one guy who literally stared into my eyes for nearly two hours (he didn’t look away once -- seriously), and I had another who laughed so loud and at such a girly high pitch while we were out at dinner that nearly the entire restaurant was looking at our table, shocked at the sound that had erupted from his mouth and not mine. Luckily my online screening methods sorted out the really strange ones, and I always left a name and contact details with someone I trusted before a date. But it’s all about learning experiences right?
P.S. It’s important to note that before I began this exploratory dating venture, I had it very clear in my mind that I was not seeking out my “soulmate”; I was going to see what fish were in the sea, have some fun but be smart about it, and not commit to anyone up front.
Now I met my current boyfriend on OKCupid and we had some very in-depth and personal chats before meeting over a month later (plus he was out of the country for several weeks during this time). He lived over an hour away, so to test the waters we planned a Skype date with hot beverages, which was a first for me. Following that positive interaction, we planned to meet for dinner “in the middle” between our two cities and that too, went well. From there things took off fast! I saw him two more times the following week and within two weeks of meeting face-to-face, he asked if we could be exclusive. Again…. I was not looking for that one person, but we clicked so well that I couldn’t say no – I had to see where this led.
A few things I can say that hit it off for me from the start were that this stranger clearly took his time to write me detailed and well thought-out replies through each and every message sent, and he got similar replies. He was upfront from the beginning and dove head first into this relationship, holding back nothing about his opinions, his past and showing lots of affection (intellectually and emotionally, not just physically). And over the first few months especially, he showed how much he cared for me by doing the little things that add up (including activities that he had little or no interest in, but that I liked) and also celebrating mini-milestones with a goal to always leave me smiling and pleasantly surprised wherever possible. He has always made an effort to make me happy and that’s what I value the most and try to reciprocate. And really, that’s all you can expect from your partner – someone who cares for you, is loyal and always tries to make sure you feel loved and appreciated.
I should emphasize that a healthy relationship is not a one-way street. Over the years, we have accepted that we are very different people (he’s an introverted tech geek and I’m an artsy extroverted nerd), but we have both made an effort to go outside of our comfort zones in the best interest of the other person. I can say that I now know way more about computers, gaming, electronics/phones and Google that I thought I ever would; and in spending time with him, I have been exposed to many new things including new foods, destinations, activities, and hobbies. Although we have very different mindsets, ways of thinking and priorities, we always try to put the other person first and consider how he/she will feel.
Of course it’s not always rainbows and sunshine. We’ve had fights and don’t see eye-to-eye in many cases, but we always recover by making an effort to address our feelings, acknowledging how we made each other feel by what was said or done, and by establishing next steps to address the concern. Together we read ‘Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus’ and it actually helped us to understand how the opposite sex thinks and why we behave in certain ways. We’ve adapted a few of the methods from this book in areas where we struggle (communication usually) and it has certainly helped! I’m sure you’ve heard that relationships are about give and take, and what this ultimately means for me is compromise.
Trust me when I say I am no dating or relationship expert – I’m just sharing my opinion on what relationships mean to me. For those of you who are out in the dating scene right now, keep an open mind. Recognize that when something (or someone) good comes your way, don’t let it go because it isn’t the right time. Priorities change and so will you (in a good way) if that person is right for you. And it doesn’t matter if he/she isn’t liked by all your friends and family. What’s important is that he/she treats you right and makes you happy (you’re called a couple for a reason – your relationship doesn’t include third parties). I’ve grown so much and in so many ways because I gave us a chance even when it wasn’t what I was looking for at the time. I can’t imagine my life without the man I chose five years ago. And for those of you in a relationship, my advice is to always make an effort to be there for your partner. Show them you appreciate them and surprise them once in a while by doing something that’s important to them (this rule applies for extending friendships into the elder years too). It’s a long road to a lifetime of happiness (and I know it won’t always be easy), but if you work together and not against each other, you’ll be able to go a lot further in life, love and overall well-being.
I'm a 20-something woman working my way through life in Canada, traveling when I can afford it and seeking out my passions one day at a time.