When I first started dating after my second divorce, I had no idea what I was in for. Of course, everyone else did and they were quick to sit me down to give me a complete tutorial. I quickly became mortified.
Ghosting. Benching. Zombieing. Breadcrumbing.
This was not what I signed up for. I signed up for happy hour. I wanted happy hour. What I got was hours of trying to compartmentalize every action of my dates in order to decipher what was happening.
This became a puzzle I was hell-bent on figuring out. I thought that if I could recognize behaviors, I could try to plan out what to do next. It was an exercise in futility. It never made me better equipped to handle dating. It made me annoyed.
The poor behavior of your dates should have no bearing on you, your value as a person, or how you date. Your happiness as a single person depends on your ability to make this distinction.
Fortunately, there a few important things you can do to make that easier.
Keep your initial emotional investment in check.
Early on in my dating career I’d swipe, match and then get excited. This was especially true if my new interest and I spent a good few days before the first date talking a lot. I was the type of person who got attached really fast.
This kind of attachment is what leads us to replay dates in our heads trying to figure out why they aren’t calling. We care too much, too soon. It opens us up to feeling disappointed, angry, or depressed. No one should feel a devasting loss after one or two dates.
When we temper our emotional investment, whether it’s breadcrumbing or benching or whatever they are going to call it next, it doesn’t matter. We can remain minimally affected when we control our emotions.
Trust your gut.
Two years ago I went on several dates with a guy who was always busy. So busy that our dates were weeks apart. There was always something. Kids who were all full-grown. Work. Coaching. Had to help a friend move. Client in town last minute.
We know when something is not right. My gut was telling me I was being played. No one is that busy or comes down with a cold exactly two hours after a round of golf.
What I found out after a couple months of trying to get him to squeeze me in for a date here or there was that his busyness was actually him continuing to date other people and keeping me on the back burner. His last-minute cancellation was another date.
Trusting my gut would have saved me a lot of time. If you’re searching for a name for something that doesn’t feel comfortable, the name is meaningless. The feeling is what matters. Your intuition is your greatest tool. Use it.
Set boundaries early and hold them.
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of someone new. Dating mistakes are easy to make when a fledgling relationship moves way too fast. Often, we allow this to happen because we do a horrible job of knowing and communicating boundaries.
Take time before you’re even on a date to learn what you comfortable with. How much space do you need? How many dates a week or month is ideal? How soon is too soon for intimacy?
You can’t stop there. You need to make sure you communicate these boundaries. The right person will be open to the discussion and respectful of what you establish. The wrong person will blow right by them. If you ignore your own boundaries frequently, you’re letting others know it’s okay for them to do the same.
Establish standards that apply to everyone you date.
Everyone owes it to themselves to determine their required level of care. While each person’s standards may be very different, our own standards should not vary from date to date.
For me, I had to have communication standards for every single date. If a text conversation ended with me, it was his turn to text back. If I didn’t hear anything for two days, I’d send a check-in text. If there was no response in 24 hours, that conversation was deleted and so was the contact. Then, if I got a “Hey, what’s up?” text a few weeks later from a number with no name, I knew not to respond.
Who cares what this behavior is called. I called it unacceptable and I moved on. Knowing this is your game plan when you’re not treated as you have told yourself you should be removes a lot of the emotional reaction from the table. It lets you accept that it was just a matter of unmet expectations.
At the end of the day (date?), if you’re racking your brain trying to figure out if your date’s behavior fits the criteria of some newly named dating trend, what you have on your hand is games.
Games are indicative of one thing: someone is not ready to date. It’s either you or them. If it’s you, keep working at it growing and becoming ready. If it’s them, well, you dodged that bullet.
This article was originally published on PS I Love You. Relationships Now.