Has this ever happened to you? You meet someone to whom you are attracted, they seem to be attracted to you, and so one of you asks the other out on a date? I’m hoping the answer is yes, otherwise what I am about to describe won’t be entirely relatable. How did you feel? Were you excited? A little nervous? Dreamy perhaps? Even overly critical? These emotions all come with the flood of hormones that douse your brain in the evolutionary response to the prospect of procreation. Let’s be honest, at the end of the day, all your DNA wants to do is replicate, so when you find someone that might want to replicate with you, your body is designed to tell you what you are doing is a good thing. What I want to talk about today is why biology is not always our best friend in these situations and how we can avoid mistakes.
When we meet a new potential love interest (we do this with potential new friends as well but to a lesser extent), we have a tendency to project our desires upon them. They may have a nice smile, so we hope they are kind. They may have soulful eyes, so we hope they are insightful or compassionate. They may have a great laugh, so we hope they are entertaining and funny. These are all attributes that we are projecting upon the person without knowing if they are attributes that they actually have. This is not a bad thing as it can give us valuable insight into what we are looking for, but it is important to be aware that we are doing it. What we do not want to do is presume the other person has these attributes without seeing them for ourselves.
If we presume the person is who we want them to be, two things happen. First, we make decisions and interact not with that person, but with the person we want them to be. This results in miscommunications at best, and horrible confrontations at worst. If you think Sally likes dogs because her smile reminds you of your aunt who loves dogs, and you take Sally to a dog park, you may be in for a world of hurt when she tells you that she is allergic or deathly afraid of the four legged furry creatures. This gets worse with personal preferences within the relationship regarding personal space and communication style. The second thing that happens is you miss out on the person as they actually are. When you spend so much time thinking the person you are dating is one thing, and they are something else entirely, you miss out on how your relationship could be different, even better, if you actually dated the person you need to discover and not the person you presume yourself to be with. This, of course, presumes the other person is not intentionally misleading you.
When you lie to yourself about the person you are in a relationship with, you are setting yourself up for failure. You are wasting your time as well as the other person’s, and you are missing out on the opportunity to appreciate another person for who they actually are. This happens because we want so badly to be happy and to find that person with whom we connect and truly appreciates us for who we are. This is an argument for authenticity within a relationship, but that is not where I am going with this. So, where am I going?
Do not place expectations on the person you are going on a date with. Instead, spend time getting to know them for who they are. Do not presume they are something they are not, and do not put the pressure on yourself of believing that the relationship has to work out, especially on the first date. It doesn’t matter if he is the cutest guy you have ever dated. If he cares more about his hair than why you cannot eat spaghetti because it makes you think of worms, chances are good it won’t work out in the long run. Certainly have standards, but don’t be too upset if those standards are not met. This is just one meal in which one stranger tries to get to know another for who they actually are while presenting their authentic self. If it works out, great! If not, you learned a little about yourself and about a perspective partner that you now know will not work out.