As a young girl, I dreamed of my ideal first date. The perfect guy would pick me up, with the perfect bouquet of flowers, and tell me about the date he had planned. We would go play a game of mini golf and be perfectly cute as we playfully talked smack and flirted with each other.
He would be the perfect gentleman the entire time, opening my car door, paying for me, and walking on the street side of the sidewalk. The whole time we would have great conversation and discover that we had everything in common. Maybe, we would end the night with an ice cream cone and then he would walk me to my front door, say goodnight and tell me what a great time he had. It would all be perfect.
This is what I imagined dating would be like from the movies I watched, the books I read, and the music I listened to. This is what I had in mind when a friend who I had a crush on asked me on a date to play mini golf.
I was so excited, it was my dream come true! Little did I know that the expectations about dating ingrained in my imagination would leave me disappointed in reality.
He picked me up, and—because my dad wasn’t there to sit on the porch cleaning his shotgun—my roommates jokingly grilled him with questions about when he would have me home and what his intentions were. He was nervous, so he didn’t play along like I imagined he would. As we started to leave, the torrential downpour that had been brewing all day let loose.
This ruined our plans for mini golf, and he had no back up plan. I had some ideas for fun alternatives, but in my perfect first date fantasy, the guy had to be the one to plan the date so instead of chiming in, I let him struggle to come up with a Plan B. We ended up going bowling and then out for ice cream.
By the time we were done with all of this, it was still early and we were having great conversation, so he suggested that we go back to my house to watch a movie. I panicked. This was not part of the plan at all, so I didn’t know what to do. I awkwardly agreed, and we headed back to my house to pick a movie. We had it narrowed down to Gladiator and 50 First Dates. I preferred Gladiator and I could tell he did too, but he commented that a rom-com would be more suited for a first date, so we watched 50 First Dates instead.
Even though we had a great time, I think we both left disappointed by the movie choice and the date overall. We tried to say and do the things we’d been told would be romantic. The problem was that none of these things reflected our unique personalities or the friendship we had already established prior to this date.
All of that being said, can you guess what I believe is the #1 first date mistake to avoid? You got it, unrealistic expectations! Don’t get me wrong, you should have high standards for the way you should be treated on a date and the character of the man or woman you are dating. But real life isn’t like the movies.
Dating is messy and complicated because it involves people who are wounded, imperfect, and unique in their strengths and weaknesses. And the rain isn’t going to stop just because you want it too. The way the media portrays dating is often far removed from this reality, because messy and imperfect doesn’t sell. Trying to align our friendships or dates or relationships with these expectations is not only impossible, but worse, it prevents us from loving the other person for who they are. Instead, we try to fit them in the box we have created for them.
Love is about accepting others for who they are, not who we want them to be. Next time you go on a date take some time to evaluate what expectations you are bringing to the table. Which ones are reasonable standards? Which ones are unrealistic? You should expect your date to respect you by showing up with a plan, but my expectations became unrealistic when an unforeseen thunderstorm left him flustered, and I stubbornly refused to offer any ideas for an alternative. Likewise, it is okay to have a high standard for your date in terms of how they get along with your friends, but that doesn’t mean they will get their sense of humor right off the bat.
If you can honestly evaluate your expectations before the date, it will give both you and your date the freedom to truly get to know each other and to evaluate your relationship based on reality, rather than on the unrealistic expectations the media and culture give us.
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