It’s a story that I can tell all too well: I’m sitting with a client, tissues in hand, listening her to complain about what went wrong with the last guy. She’s telling me all the gory details between sobs: “He didn’t text me back! He never introduced me to his family! He broke up with me in a text—boys suck!”
Let’s be real. If you want to have a mature relationship, you’re going to have to stop complaining, grow up, and frankly, approach dating like an adult. Think about it: almost everything you learned about dating was between the ages of 14 and 21. Now that you’re an adult, you probably feel secure and empowered in almost every other aspect of your life, except when it comes to dating. Going out on dates has a way of taking you back to a time in your life where you were deeply insecure and trying to figure out where you fit in. Isn’t dating fun?
If you’re like my clients, you might find yourself obsessing over text messages, agonizing over the meaning of something your date said, or playing mind games to get the upper hand. When something upsets us in dating, we tend to become overly emotional and reactive, just like when we were teenagers. I call this reactive part of our personality the Madolescent. Think mad + adolescent = Madolescent. Remember when you were a teenager and you tested your parents by pushing the boundaries to see what you could get away with? Now that you’re back out in the dating world, there’s a tendency for your Madolescent to revert to the same immature behavior when things don’t go your way. The time has come to say, “Game over!” In order to kick your Madolescent to the curb and stop sabotaging your love life, you need to learn to date like an adult.
The first step to dating like an adult is talking the talk. In my 12 years of coaching, I’ve listened to way too many grown men complain about how they can’t talk to “girls,” and I’ve heard 40-year-old women bemoan the fact that they can’t find any decent ‘guys”. I cringe when I hear my clients refer to each other as “chicks,” “dudes,” and “babes.” Trust me, you need to stop talking about your dates in the same way a fourteen-year-old would! I almost dropped the phone when one of my clients referred to women at the gym as “babe-alicious babes!” Really, how would you feel if you heard your parents refer to each other like that? You’d be embarrassed for them! Your dates would be similarly turned off to hear you talking about them like a nervous teen would.
Try saying “I was on a date with this amazing man/woman” and see how it feels. If you break the habit of talking like a teen, you’ll sound infinitely more confident, sexy, and intriguing. This may seem trivial, but it’s crucial to separating our adult relationships from our teenage ones. When you change the way you talk about the opposite sex, it will shift your behavior and attitude as well. Ultimately, you’ll find that it’s much sexier to think of yourself and your dates as men and women than as boys and girls!
The second step is to stop playing the blame game: children blame and adults take responsibility. Taking responsibility is very different from blaming. When you blame someone else because you feel upset, you’re not taking responsibility for how you’re feeling. As teens, we blamed our parents whenever we didn’t get what we wanted: “You just don’t understand me!” Half of the time, we’re saying the same things to blame the other person when things go wrong in the dating world. When you say things like, “I wouldn’t feel this way if you had just called me when you said you would…” or “I wouldn’t feel hurt if you hadn’t taken five days to text me after that date…” you’re putting responsibility on the other person for how you feel. Like a teenager, you’re emotionally checking out: running up to your room, burying your head in the pillow, and wishing that things would go your way. It’s time to grow up. In order to date like an adult, you need to look at what emotions are being triggered, take ownership, and learn express those feelings.
The final step in dating like an adult is to learn how to express your needs without pointing the finger and making the other person feel defensive. This goes hand-in-hand with taking responsibility. It isn’t easy to speak up in a non-blaming way. If your Madolescent is in control of your conversations, it will come across as needy, desperate, angry, or insecure. This is what prevents most of us from telling other people how we feel. The problem is that, if we don’t speak up, our feelings will simmer under the surface and cause us to play games. So, learning like an adult means using the dating process to practice sharing your authentic feeling with your dates. Instead of saying, “If you really were interested in going out with me, you would have asked me out a few days ago,” you might try saying something non-confrontational like, “I would love to go out with you, and it would be really nice if you could give me more advance notice next time. I tend to be more of a planner.” When you learn to ask for what you want in a loving, adult, and non-threatening way, people are going to be more likely to give it to you. And if they don’t, you will have your answer. Next!
Dating like an adult is all about the willingness to be mature and to take responsibility for your expectations, disappointments, and reactions. Once you own it, you’ll attract mature people like yourself who don’t play games. Perhaps they’ll even be hot chicks, cool dudes, or total babes…but you’ll be a grown up, and that’s the sexiest thing of all!