As a person who goes on maybe one date every two months let me just say this: dating is stupid and I hate it. But also let me say this: it’s very good and why the hell not. But what is for certain is this: it’s ridiculous and will definitely (OK not definitely) ruin your life unless you use your brain about it. If you’re someone who, like me, has been a massive tit about dating in the past: you have to read this. If you’re someone who keeps getting curved to absolute hell by people who seemed to like you: you gotta read this. If you’re someone who loves reading even very stupid words, well then hell, you really must read this. Because dating is hard, and with the festive season approaching you might be tempted to reach out to all sorts of toxic people. Being cautious when your heart is an enormous hopeful flesh bag is hard. It’s all hard, actually. So be smart. Be prepared not to put up with any old shit. Be very sure of what you deserve. Because you’re a shiny star and it’s time you started acting like it. So here’s how to stop making terrible dating mistakes.

STOP IGNORING RED FLAGS

Red flags include: acting indifferently, refusing to make room in their life for you, being kind of rude, or doing odd or unexplained behaviours at you. Basically, if you spot anything that in the past has signalled something bad: Don’t ignore it. Don’t make special allowances because you’re extremely love drunk and horny and because you reeeally want this one to work out. If they’re the real deal, they’ll hold up to scrutiny and they’ll listen when you ask what the hell’s up with how they’re being lately. If they’re not: goodbye. They’ve gone. They don’t exist anymore. They’re vapour. Farewell.

DON’T GET CARRIED AWAY

I don’t know you. I don’t know if who you just went on a date with is indeed the love of your life. I don’t know if you’ll get married and buy a Fiat Punto. I don’t know if you’ll be together when the inevitable robot war begins and you’ll get evaporated by lasers together. Maybe. But also maybe they’re the worst and they’re gonna hurt your feelings and steal your VCR. So practice slowing down, practice managing your expectations, and try to base your hopes on how they act in reality rather than in your most hopeful dreams.

STOP DATING THE SAME KIND OF PERSON

Mix it the fuck up. Stop dating all the exact same person what are just dressed up in slightly different skin bags. If you’ve only ever dated sad poem writing types, why not try dating a happy clam farmer or a folk singer? Anything. Who cares. Having a type is so tired. It’s over. Give up your type. Put your type on ice. Throw your type to the sharks. Try something different. Stop prioritising everything that isn’t kindness and emotional support and being a decent partner and just see what happens. Maybe nothing. I don’t know. I’m single. I don’t care. I do what I want. But I’m betting that giving less of a shit if they tick arbitrary boxes and focusing on how they treat you ends up being a really good move.

WHY ARE YOU IGNORING YOUR OWN ISSUES?

You’re fucked up. It’s fine though, because I am too. We all are. We all live in the swamp together and we have to do our best to survive it. One way to survive it is to look at patterns of behaviours and decisions that have led us into terrible places in the past and think “maybe let’s not do that this time’. Maybe it’s giving up on yourself and your own dreams whenever you get into a relationship. Maybe it’s letting insecurity interrupt your happiness, or pushing people away because you’re scared to be vulnerable. Maybe it’s that you keep eating ice cream even though you’re 90 per cent sure you’re lactose intolerant and you’ve had a rash on your tit since July. Maybe it’s something else. I don’t know. I’m not a doctor. I’m just beautiful and smart and you must listen to me.

DON’T MAKE PEOPLE INTO PROJECTS

Or at least people who don’t behave as though they like you. Which is actually essentially the same thing on account of how liking someone means wanting them to feel good and liked and fixing your behavior to demonstrate that. Obviously. Except not obviously because we all keep flipping putting up with it. Which is ridiculous and I’m tired of it. Be tired of it with me. Next time someone starts treating you like an old bag of milk, instead of making excuses for them, tell them “Hey, don’t do that”. And then withdraw your precious delicious time and energy and refocus it in places that actually produce returns and make you feel good. Wow. What a concept.

DON’T MAKE PEOPLE INTO PROJECTS

You can’t glue macaroni on a man and call him your boyfriend. Take my word for it. They just get mad and make you buy them a new t-shirt. Same goes for going out with people who aren’t even remotely ready for a relationship and trying to change them into someone who is. You are being ridiculous. Even if it was possible for you to change them into someone who’ll treat you well and return all the energy you’ve poured into them (it’s not but just imagine) I promise you that you don’t have time. Life is for doing a bunch of cool stuff and meeting people what make you happy and eating hotdogs in the bath. What it’s not for is acrimony and interpersonal struggles and constantly feeling let down. It’s not fair on you, it’s not fair on them, and it’s definitely not fair on me. Because I just want us all to get along and have a nice time and you’re ruining it.

STOP DECIDING THAT BEING SINGLE IS TERRIFYING AND THE WORST OPTION

Being single can be lonely and it can be depressing, yes. But being with a person who treats you like you’re a liability whilst you consistently show up for them is even worse. It’s just easy to forget that when it’s been 109 days since you last had sex and you did an audible moan this morning when the bus driver brushed your hand giving you your change. So buckle up, celebrate your singularity and make the best of it. Don’t romanticize romance, remember that it’s worth waiting for something extraordinary, and then do just that. Sure you can look forward to finding your person (or people) but enjoy being a person now. Enjoy becoming more of yourself, enjoy not having to share space with people you aren’t crazy about. Enjoy the whole delicious hideous mess of being alive. Cos it’s pretty cool.

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