In recent years I’ve essentially come to the conclusion that if I can’t see a potential future with the person I’m dating, then maybe I shouldn't be entertaining them for long. It’s not something I hold as a rule, but it's definitely something I’m aware of.
Whether you admit it or not, most of us have made a mental or physical list of the things we want in a mate, as well as the things we can’t tolerate. Past age 25, that list grows; you’re chatting with your girlfriends and magically you come up with more and more items to tack onto said list. For me, he can’t smoke cigarettes; he must be romantic; he has to have a steady income. You know, all the minor things.
But I'm not so far gone that I won’t give people a chance. For example, I was sitting across from a date at a local ice cream shop, but the only thing sweet about it was my tasty treat as it melted in my mouth. I was hoping my thoughts weren't exposed by the bored expression on my face. I tried to refocus, but his rambling nonsense in the background made it extremely difficult.
Was I being too hard on my date? That’s what I asked myself after he walked me to my stop and I rode the train back uptown. The reality: I couldn’t envision anything longer than a train ride with him. He had at least three things working against him: a lightweight drinking problem, a lightweight gambling problem, he was super-frugal, and how could I forget the fourth: his unplanned, unexpected, unruly child (with the mother on the sidelines).
I’m not here to play judge and jury by sentencing him to a life without me due to his actions or lifestyle. But when I’m entertaining someone and envisioning how things might develop, I don’t see myself taking on the responsibility of making my partner go to AA meetings while I babysit his child. Let’s be honest: I have to look out for numero uno -- me.
Now that I’ve uncovered the lifestyle or personality traits that don’t mesh well with me, it would be delusional to think I could stick around and make things work. Being past that age where everyone (dating-wise) is fair game, I should care enough to be realistic with myself and the man I'm seeing, right?
Some may call it picky, but I call it realistic. In my opinion, you have to know what you can’t tolerate to know what you can. There is nothing wrong with compromise, but for me, at least some of the key requirements have to be checked off my list. If I find myself dating a man with a fantastic career, who wants to be married, is super-caring, plus he has a dreamy smile, but the catch is that his apartment looks like a 15-year-old boy’s bedroom, do I run? Only if I've decided his slob tendencies are a dealbreaker for me. At least he has some of the key requirements I’m seeking, right?
That said, I do have to be realistic. There are some things people are willing to compromise on to make their partner happy, but I can’t walk into a situation thinking I can change someone. If he smokes cigarettes and I hate that habit, then I can’t date him thinking I can change him and make him stop. He might decide to stop one day, but it should not be because of my conditions. Either I stick around and keep kissing his stale, smoky lips or I determine that I’m beyond that phase and peace out.
It’s not always about habits, either. Sometimes it's frame of mind. I met this guy at a party of a mutual friend and he was gorge! Nice build, great smile, charming personality, and I started getting into the person he seemed to be. We would chat on the phone and text quite a bit initially. The message exchanges were cute and I was ready for the one-on-one interaction. The problem: He wasn’t taking the initiative to set a date and meet up. After finally getting tired of waiting for him to ask, I brought it up. I hope I didn’t sound like a kid begging for a piece of candy, but I wanted to know: “Why haven’t you asked me out on a date?”
His response was classic: “I don’t date. I just hang out.”
I wanted to take both of my manicured hands and wrap them around his freaking neck! What kind of childish answer was that? What are we, in high school? I kept my cool and politely told him that I date; I "hang out" with my girls. The younger version of me may have accepted his answer and thought nothing of it. But the over-25 woman interested in entertaining meaningful exchanges with men and building a relationship, politely dismissed him. It was downhill after that, because his answer let me know that he was only looking for something casual, and considering his age (at least eight years older than me), I knew there was no potential in a future love connection.
At a certain age -- past 25 -- I got better at paying attention to the signs. I also got to know myself a bit more. I know when a situation has potential and when it's possibly doomed from the start.
What about you?