Dating does not have to be awkward. For whatever reason, dating has become synonymous with “having a boy/girlfriend.” It does not have to be this way, and probably does more harm than good in the long run! Most of the stress and drama that comes from dating is the unnecessary commitment and complication that is now firmly associated with going out once.
We are given so much advice on what to do or what not to do on individual dates, but not enough is directed towards the process itself. In order to have a more effective and enjoyable time, follow these tried and true tips:
1) Be Clear
Are you interested in someone but don’t know if you would like to pursue a relationship? Perfect! Say, “Hey, would you like to get [insert coffee, ice cream, etc.] with me?” If they seem confused or taken aback (since the current social script dictates that this is more serious than it is) add on, “I’m not asking for a relationship, I just would like to go on a date and get to know you better.” Clarity makes everything better, and will allow you to preserve your friendship in the future.
2) Set Limits
Pacing yourself is a healthy way to give your relationship a sure foundation. In its early stages dating doesn’t have to be an all or nothing game. It’s okay to set limits on how much time you spend together. Being around one another all the time will either a) burn each of you out b) be unsustainable or c) cause the unnecessary commitment that we are trying to avoid (at this point). Remember, relationships should have an upward trajectory; don’t start big and spend eight hours on the phone after the first week. You need to build up to it.
Here are some limits that you can set explicitly or implicitly:
– For the first month or so, the only time you should text is when setting up plans.
– For the first few dates, spread them out a week apart.
– Don’t involve outside parties in the beginning. It’s not a big enough deal.
– Save the “I love you” for your mother (It’s just too early!)
Pacing the relationship allows you learn more about the person before you commit, as well as allowing you both to grow closer together at a healthy speed.
3) Be Respectful
If the other person is not interested, don’t feel too bad. Sometimes this is just how these things go. Look out for signs of disinterest, and respect the other person’s decision to move on if it just isn’t working for them. If you stick to this script, chances are it won’t feel awkward and you can continue your friendship where it left off. Remember, the purpose of a relationship is to grow together, so don’t feel bad if someone calls it off due to compatibility issues.
Dating is not rocket science. We just make it tougher than it needs to be.
Erik Massenzio is a junior at Princeton University where he studies philosophy.