Yes, that's my big question of the day. Is "dating" such an adolescent preoccupation that we are doomed to recapitulate our own spotty youth every time that phone rings or, worse, doesn't? Is there anything to be learned from the seemingly endless round of hopes raised/hopes dashed/hopes raised again?
It depends what you mean by "good" at dating. If it really is a skill, or rather a skill-set, then one ought to be able to acquire it. I asked some friends and correspondents if they thought you could learn how to date, and if so, how, and what would being could at such a thing even entail?
Louisa, who remarried latish long after a difficult divorce, writes relationship how-to books so is reliably good at summing these things up in a pithy sentence or two: "I would say getting "good at dating" means something along the lines of "comfortable in most social situations, knowledgeable about her own needs/goals, able to evaluate whether a given partner is likely to meet those needs/goals and gracefully move on if the answer is no." Louisa's version would undoubtedly be a good dater, I'd add, but then, she'd be a good everything-er.
My friend Elise, who married brilliantly a few years ago in her 30s, after dragging her (shapely, gingham-ruffle-free) butt through the punishing New York City singles scene, got "good" at it, she says, but... "One can get very adept at it, but in a way that involves a lot of defenses and exquisitely judged risk acceptance and walking the fine line between insouciance and caring, and the whole thing is really pretty battering over the long term. " She is madly grateful to be out of it.
Few of us can claim to have achieved Louisa's ideal dater's degree of self-knowledge and acceptance, and not everyone can walk the tightrope as gracefully as Elise managed it. I think that if we are going to approach dating (without wanting to cut one's own head off ) as a set of learned skills, we're going to have to get practical. You can't get good unless you know what bad is, so where can you go wrong?
- You can try to find a new serious relationship too soon after your last one blew up. Amy was still a mess and should have waited: "Dating after divorce was scary for me in a whole new way. I had good relationships before my marriage and I had never had a bad breakup. Going through the pain of the divorce made it that much harder to put myself out there. I trusted myself less than I did before I got married."
- You can put yourself out there without knowing what you're looking for, like Missy did: "I dated a lot of people in my 20's when I thought I wanted a LTR [long-term relationship] but I was stupid about it. I picked people for the wrong reasons. After I'd lived on my own for awhile it got easier for me to articulate what I was looking for. Anyone who wasn't at least on that track didn't get another date."
So, bad timing and lack of clarity of purpose are our first two Big Mistakes.
Next, what else do we do wrong, and how can we make it right?
Click on the following link for the Resource Directory on Sex and Dating Post-Divorce.