The best first date ever. What does that even mean? It’s a very tricky statement. And if true, it sets a pretty high bar to which any relationship is supposed to live up.
I touched on this topic in Love Lessons: Ghostbusters, but I think it deserves its own headline. I realized this when I saw Marc’s reaction to that post.
We have always joked about our first date being “adequate”, but I know that deep down it doesn’t entirely sit well with Marc. He knows we ended up together, which has to count for more than a little something! But as he says, it’s a bit hard for the ego to keep hearing that our first date was not my “best first date ever”.
But again, what does that even mean?
Okay, raise your hand if you’ve ever gotten home from a first date, immediately called a friend and declared that you had just had the“best first date ever”?
Oh, I have. A handful of times. And I’ve had many friends say the same thing. It’s usually followed by, “and I really, really like him”. Which for me meant I was already making a mental to-do list for our wedding planner.
After uttering that phrase, I would then not be able to stop thinking about the guy. I wouldn’t be able to sleep. I would lay in bed and just imagine all of the conversations we would have over the next few weeks, and all of the amazing dates on which we would go. I’d think about spending holidays with him, introducing him to my family, and meeting his favorite people in the world. Of course, they would love me. Because this was my imagination, and everything was perfect up in there.
I would think about how long the courtship would last, where he might choose to propose, and where we would have the wedding. Finally, my parents would be able to see their daughter say, “I do”. Finally, they would be able to make wedding toasts and have a father/daughter dance. I couldn’t wait to hear what they would say to all of our friends and family gathered for the wedding. Because I had attended enough weddings up to that point to know things could get emotional and heartwarming in an instant.
So, that “best first date ever” guy quickly became the man who could potentially make all of my dreams come true.
And do you want to know what happened after each of my “best first date ever” experiences? I never saw him again. Sometimes I never even actually heard from him again.
I was recently having a dating conversation with a guy friend who talked about how his challenge is that he is very prone to falling in love with an experience and not the actual person. And—wham! That’s when it hit me.
That is exactly what the “best first date ever” actually is. An experience. It’s the experience that I thought was the “best”, not the actual man. It was the experience that swept me off my feet. It was the experience that made me feel so giddy. And it was the experience that gave me so much hope and made me jump head first into planning my future.
But I was planning that future with an experience, not a person.
Here’s the thing about those experiences: all too often they’re made by "professionals". You know what I mean—the serial daters. These men (and women) go on lots of first dates. They meet lots of people. And they enjoy the game. They like to create an experience they know will hook this new person. Then they can decide later if they want to see them again, sleep with them, actually explore a relationship, or never speak to them again.
So, many times these experiences I was having were intentionally manufactured by my date and didn’t even reflect who he was or how he felt. It was a game. And he was always a few moves ahead of me.
When I met Marc, I left our date having no expectations about what would happen next. All I knew is that I really enjoyed talking to this man and I wanted to see him again. I didn’t remember many of the details that would typically be seared into my brain on those experience dates. I didn’t call my friends and declare, this is the one! I was very calm and very rational. I knew he made me feel comfortable and normal. Like he wasn’t trying too hard. It was real. And I wanted more.
That night, for the first time ever, I began falling for a person not an experience.
All my life what I really wanted was something real but I thought it had to come wrapped in a super shiny and bright experience. And by searching and searching for that experience I was setting myself up for disappointment and heartache.
Is it possible to have the “best first date ever” and then go on to live a long and happy life with that person? Hell yes, it is. The two are not mutually exclusive. But I would have saved myself a lot of energy and tears had I learned early on to differentiate between an experience and a person. To allow myself to get to know someone for who he is before putting that experience bus in drive and speeding off toward our future together.
Experiences are nice. But the right person is even better. And knowing the difference is gold.
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