High expectations for a date sometimes bring small returns...
After a six month dry spell, you have finally had a great date. The two of you seemed to click from the moment you met. You found so much to talk about that you could have gone on for hours! You laughed at the same jokes and liked the same music. Now, you can't wait for date number two! This could be "the one!"
What could be wrong with this? Nothing, and everything. Some great first dates are a prelude to a wonderful courtship that leads to marriage. Others build up to intense disappointment. How can you avoid the latter, and increase the likelihood that your terrific date will be the start of a great relationship?
The best advice that we can give is to take it slowly. The two of you should give yourselves time to gradually get to know each other better.
Its okay to get a little excited about a positive dating experience, but it's also a good idea to reign in your emotions a bit. Sometimes, when a first date goes extremely well, a person can actually sabotage themselves by developing unrealistic expectations about what will happen next. They may be disappointed if the second or third date is not as dynamic as the first, without realizing that everyone has good days and bad ones. Or, each successive date may reinforce their feeling that this could be "the one". It may take a while for their dating partner to feel the same way, and they may become anxious because the two of them are not "on the same wavelength." They're simply experiencing a normal phenomenon – each of us works through our emotions at a different pace.
Fools Rush In
Another reason why we encourage people to give themselves time to get to know their dating partner is that we've seen too many people who rush into a relationship that "feels right" and then belatedly discover that it isn't. Anytime someone tells us that the person they are dating is absolutely perfect, we know there's a problem. Nobody is perfect. The person you choose to spend your life with will have some imperfections, and when you make the decision to marry them it will be because you can accept the entire "package" – a normal human being with mostly good points and a few not-so-great qualities. However, if you're on an emotional high throughout your courtship, you may not be seeing your dating partner as a fallible human being.
When the high of infatuation fades, as it always does, you can find yourself facing two problems. The first is that a negative quality that you are first beginning to see in your dating partner may be something you really dislike. The second can be a bigger problem. Unfortunately, some people who find themselves "flying high" during their courtship neglect to build the degree of friendship, trust and emotional closeness that forms the foundation of an enduring relationship. They rely primarily on their attraction to each other and the good time they have together, and don't relate to each other on more than a superficial level.
They may disregard the fact that they don't have the same values or that their goals in life are very different, or they may not open up to each other enough to know each other well and develop a level of trust. When the intense feelings they have for each other fade, they feel empty or wonder what they ever saw in each other.
Of course, there are couples who feel great about each other from the start, and their courtships lead to long and happy marriages. These couples find that they have similar values and goals, and as they get to know each other better they are able to develop an emotionally close relationship even while they are having a great time together. Most of the time, these men and women don't even realize that the intense feelings they first felt are no longer present, because they've been replaced by different, enduring feelings. They are in rewarding relationships that make them feel secure and happy.
When Things Are Going Well
The truth is that many successful relationships get off to a slower start – many couples gradually develop a connection over the course of several dates. In the long term it doesn’t matter whether you liked each other instantly or if your feelings for each other developed over time. In either case, when you feel positively about each other and hope your relationship will continue to grow, try to resist the urge to see each other too often. We know this sounds a little bizarre, since it seems only natural that two people who get along well will want to see each other as often as possible. However, you may not realize that this can backfire. A budding courtship is an emotionally intense experience, even if it doesn’t seem that way on the surface.
Some people who are in a budding courtship feel very happy most of the time, while others also feel occasional anxiety. Both types of people are processing and internalizing what they are experiencing on both conscious and subconscious levels. Each person does this differently. A man may process his thoughts and feelings in real time. He wants to see the woman he cares about several times a week, because each date reinforces his feelings that she may be “the one”. Yet, the woman he is dating may feel overwhelmed if they see each other too often. She likes him and enjoys the time they spend with each other, but she needs a couple of days between dates for her processing and internalizing to take place. Another person may become anxious when she is so busy dating someone special that she doesn't have time to keep the rest of her life in order. She can suddenly feel overwhelmed by a whirlwind of dating. It's not unromantic to need the time to pay bills, buy groceries, do laundry and keep up with classes, work and projects.
We suggest that couples try to limit their dates to twice a week, on average, with telephone calls and e-mails in between. We also suggest that they vary what they do when they are together. Try a couple of long dates – a hike in the country or a day trip, as well as some activities that require a fair amount of interaction; shopping for a gift for some one, engaging in a sporting activity you both enjoy, or working together on a community chesed project.
We can't guarantee that if you follow this advice, that great first date will lead to a great future. However, if you concentrate on building your relationship rather than letting your expectations take over, you may gradually discover that this person is, indeed, "the one" for you.
By Rosie Einhorn, L.C.S.W. and Sherry Zimmerman, J.D., M. Sc.