First Date: Letting Go of the Controls

By Michelle Cove

first dateA lot of us feisty women are used to taking the reins. We have to exert control if we want to excel in our jobs (or just hold onto them in this rough economy) and negotiate the best deals for ourselves. But all this limit setting can be a problem when we apply it to our love lives. I’m talking about the self-imposed rules we create in order to protect ourselves from getting too hurt: “If he doesn’t call by Monday, it’s over,” “I’ll go on one date with him but that’s it,” “He has two days to respond to my email or it’s off.”

I know of what I speak.

I joined an online dating service with equal parts excitement and trepidation. I was ready to kick my dating life into a higher gear but worried about getting stuck in a treadmill of dating men that would end in disappointment. What if I had to deal with years of first dates? What if I wasn’t cut out for online dating? That’s why I came up with a plan:

I vowed to date 10 guys on the dating site before quitting. It felt like a perfectly reasonable and safe number for a trial period.

Plan in tow, I took a deep breath, filled out my profile as best as I could, and posted it. Before I knew it, I was receiving a flood of emails asking me out (I later learned that guys can’t resist a fresh new profile). The first fellow that I wrote back to was a sweet math teacher who was easy to chat with; when we met up, however, I couldn’t imagine holding hands with him, much less kissing. The next few dates were essentially the same—nice guys, no sparks–and I told myself that maybe chemistry blooms easier on a second or third date.

It didn’t. In full confession, there were a couple of guys that made me feel giddy but who didn’t have the hots for me. So on and on I went until, approximately one year after joining, I hit the 10th date. There were no dating fiascoes to report but, that said, I was relieved to end the journey. I’d met my limit and could check online dating off the list.

A few days later when I received an email from the 11th guy to contact me, I sent him an email with some made up a reason for why I was no longer available, and then took down my profile. But two days later, No. 11 sent another email that was so endearing and funny, I had to reconsider. What could one coffee with him hurt? Was I really so determined to be done that I couldn’t spare an hour out of my life? I called him up and we planned to meet for coffee the next Sunday. It was amazing. We sat for hours revealing our intimate stories and belly laughing at our most humbling moments; chemistry showed up right away. I’d forgotten how effortless dating could be. Two years later we married, and we now have a four-year-old daughter.

I remind myself on occasion that I easily could have missed meeting my husband had I kept my guard up and my self-imposed deadline “in check.” Falling in love (and, frankly, lots of life’s sweetest pleasures) are possible only when we keep ourselves open and trust that we can take care of ourselves if we do get hurt. We’re not nearly as fragile as we sometimes suspect.

Michelle Cove is the director of Seeking Happily Ever After, a feature-length documentary that explores why there are more single women than ever in the U.S. and whether women are redefining happily ever after. See Michelle is also a journalist and bestselling author, working currently on a self-help book based on her research from Seeking Happily Ever After.

Watch this “behind the scenes” clip for Michelle’s Seeking Happily Ever After

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