By Shayna Hulkower
Having lived in Washington D.C. for a lengthy period of my life, I continue to occasionally read the Washington Post. One regular column I'm particularly fond of is 'Date Lab' - wherein the Post plays matchmaker and sends two people they think would get along well out on a date. Normally, I enjoy reading about the interactions, seeing first hand what the two thought were the reasons the Post set them up (and laughing in shared commiseration at the superficialities that lead others to say 'You should go out with so-and-so, you have so much in common!').
It's great fun for someone like me who enjoys observing relationships and what helps them to succeed or fail. Lately, reading Date Lab has become more of an exercise for my eyebrows than amusement. Week after week I find myself looking wide-eyed at my computer screen, yelling at the couples for their failure to launch (some people yell at the television when sports are on, I yell at newspaper columns, it happens). This is because, week after week I see two people set up for very valid reasons (shared backgrounds and life goals, as opposed to ultimately unimportant things such as favorite TV show or politician), who have a great time out together (often rating their dates 4 or more out of 5), and then never go out again. Why? Because they get busy. Check your eyebrows - they are probably raised in disbelief.
The Post always follows up on the dates to see how things progress, and time after time I read "We had a great time, but then the next week or two was so busy, by the time I thought of calling, the momentum had already been lost." This is where I start to get incredulous. These are people who have highly successful careers in competitive fields in a competitive city. If you asked any of them how they had achieved their success I'm sure it would include: persistence, hard work, knowing what they want, having a plan. These things are just as necessary for a successful marriage! Sorry to be a buzzkill, but the Disney movie scenario where a Prince Charming comes out of nowhere and sweeps you off your feet is not only highly unrealistic, but will probably result in this. A successful marriage requires effort and a plan. And the cornerstone for success begins with how you approach dating.
If you treat dating as a series of events that could, by happenstance, lead you to your 'forever roommate', then really you don't need to do any planning. If you follow the Hollywood script, then the right person will eventually fall into your lap, and it's happily ever after. I have a true story of something like this. A friend of a friend was nearing 40 and getting anxious to get married and start a family. He was at a college football game, when after too much to drink, a lady literally fell into his lap. It was
While I don't think you necessarily need to write out your 5 year plan for getting married, including milestones and due dates for deliverables, I do think we need to approach dating like anything else in life we think is important. It's not sexy, but it's necessary. If you go out with someone and you like them, make room in your schedule to see them again within a week. Sure, it might mean missing out on a dinner party or movie night - but FOMO with friends is nothing compared to FOMO when your clock is ticking like our unfortunate groom above, who decided to act fast and then consider the consequences later. If we can be proactive, rather than reactive, in life, we are much more likely to get what we want, whether it's our dream job or dream spouse.