SALT LAKE CITY — Dating is supposed to be exciting and fun, but it's also a nerve-wracking experience, creating high-stress situations that can unfortunately bring out the worst in a person trying to display his best.
If dating is designed to provide opportunities for love to flourish, why, then, do dating parties continually bewilder, shock, offend and embarrass potential mates?
From rambling on about your ex or your weird hobby to forcing closeness and intimacy, certain behaviors are clearly off-putting. So what should you do when you come across one of them?
Love and relationship experts weigh in on what may be going on behind the scenes. Here are some tips on how to handle the situation, and what to do if you find yourself the perpetrator instead of the victim.
The behavior: Talking about an ex — a lot.
- "I once had a guy drop a Happenings book in my lap and then tell me to pick a place to eat from out of the book. First date."
- "I went out with this guy once (maybe twice) who liked to drive with the dome light on in the car so that he could see me while we were talking. Dangerous — and weird."
- "We went for a drive up Provo Canyon — in the winter, during evening hours. He decided to drive down to the boat dock for Deer Creek Reservoir. Got stuck and was sliding sideways closer and closer to the lake. He left me in the car and went to flag down help. The sheriff showed up and drove us home to Provo. He had the sheriff drop him off first, so that I would be alone with the sheriff in case he wanted to ask me out. Nice, huh?"
- "The best I heard was some guy was obsessed with the fact she had a cat. On the first (blind) date he brought her not flowers, but catnip. It continued like this for a few dates. When she finally saw the inside of his apartment it was covered in cat toys, cat stairs, scratching posts, etc. But she never saw (or heard about) a single cat."
- "My wife went out with a kid when she was 18 who took her ice skating and then at dinner proceeded to tell her that he felt in his big left toe that she was supposed to be his wife. He then took her home to meet her parents. It all happened so fast that she was literally stunned and didn't know what had really happened until she got home. Her dad's comment when he found out: 'I think that boy's ice skates were one way too tight!' Three days later, at someone else's wedding, the date's dad announced to the whole group that his son was getting married. She never returned his phone call after that."
It's inevitable that past relationships will become the topic of conversation between two potential mates at one point or another, but when that topic comes up early and frequently, it's a sign that a past relationship isn't fully in the past yet.
If your date does it: The dating website eHarmony offers this insight: "If they’re still not quite over a recent break-up, women — generally more so than men, but not exclusively — have a tendency to think their date for the night will want to hear about the man in question. Maybe it’s cathartic, or maybe she’s run out of friends to bore with the details." Either way, if it's all your date can talk about, it's a clear sign she's not mentally in the game with you and is probably not ready for a new relationship.
If you do it: It's normal to have some issues about a past relationship, but it's not healthy to carry them with you after a certain amount of time. Do what you need to do to make peace with the past and heal, but just be sure that you don't start dating again until you truly have moved on and are ready to welcome someone new into your life.
If you find yourself on a date and are asked about an ex, you don't have to avoid the topic, but be sure you keep your comments civil and brief. Dating coach David Wygant offers this advice: "When a man asks you about your ex, the only thing you should say is, 'We are no longer together. It was a great relationship while it lasted, and I learned a lot.' That’s it. ... Don’t talk negatively about your ex in any way."
The behavior: Obsessing about a strange hobby.
Having an unusual hobby can make you unique in a good way, or it can brand you as a weirdo, unfairly or not. Unless your date also shares your affinity for live-action role playing or collecting American Girl dolls, opening the floodgates on that topic could shut the date down in a hurry.
If your date does it: Try not to run for the door. You may learn something interesting about your date or their quirky hobby you might have passed over before. On the other hand, if it's something you just plain find off-putting or disturbing, don't feign interest to keep from hurting their feelings. It will only encourage your date to keep going on about it. Be honest but be polite about not sharing the interest, and don't feel guilty about (tactfully) turning down future dates. If your interests just don't match up, chances are you won't, either.
If you do it: "If you’re going to discuss a hobby early on in a relationship," eHarmony advises, "you should be confident that it doesn’t make you seem odd in a disquieting way." If it does, it may be time to objectively decide if your hobby and your interest in it are appropriate and healthy. If they are, there's no need to kick a favorite pasttime to the curb just because a date doesn't appreciate it. If it's that important to you, find someone who shares your passion instead of trying to convert the uninitiated.
The behavior: Forcing closeness and intimacy.
We've all heard the stories of couples who immediately felt like they knew each other for years or "fell in love at first sight." The truth is, building a close, loving relationship takes time. Though some may believe that rushing emotional intimacy will speed along the process, the opposite usually occurs, leaving one partner feeling drained and the other even more needy than before. You can't force closeness on another person, and it's never OK to be rushed into it yourself — especially where physical intimacy is involved.
If your date does it: People who exhibit clingy and possessive behavior are not confident in themselves or in your connection. It could stem from a deeper, unmet emotional need or simply a more superficial concern about the relationship and where they stand. In either case, a little conversation goes a long way. If you are uncomfortable, speak up. Ask to slow things down and have a little space. If the other partner gets offended or angry, it's a red flag that they're too insecure for a healthy relationship, controlling or, worse, could be abusive. Do not be bullied into staying in a potentially dangerous situation.
Feeling pressured into physical intimacy is not acceptable under any circumstances. "It's easy to rationalize that this is what adults do; however, not all adults sleep around. Many adults still hold sex as a sacred thing," writes author and matchmaker Samantha Daniels. "If you are this type of woman, you should hold out for a man that has similar beliefs to you;these men are still out there. Go find one."
If you do it: It's natural to want a closer relationship with someone you're crazy about, but if you try to force a connection, you'll only end up extinguishing it instead. "When you are clingy, we are going to want to get rid of you very quickly," Wygant says.
"Real intimacy isn’t forced or planned ahead. It’s what happens when you let go of the need to know where things are going and instead allow a relationship to unfold naturally," writes relationship expert Rori Raye. "Let yourself be surprised. ... Be fully present in the moment, otherwise you are missing a chance to build the kinds of moments that will make him crave being with you."