I knew instantly…

I’ve been having a lot of first dates lately, and I’ve been reflecting on something I read a while ago. I can’t remember the source or details, but the idea is that on a first date with someone we pick up on the thing – a character trait, a belief – that is likely to end the relationship.

But in the haze of excitement and hormones we willingly or blindly choose to ignore this. And if people get past the first date, this thing becomes less and less obvious as they fall in love , until it resurfaces and finally becomes too significant to be ignored any longer.

I don’t know how true this is in general, but remembering my first date with my ex I can pick up on two things at least that, with hindsight, could have alerted me to the subsequent problems. He mentioned his firm belief in birth horoscopes as predictors of personality – which I absolutely don’t believe in. And he exhibited a rather hyper-intense manner which he attributed to an “energy healing” he’d just had. At the time these things (particularly the hyperness) did make me wonder if I wanted to go on to a second date with him. But in the end I decided that these weren’t significant enough problems, and that they were outweighed by our quite striking compatibility in other areas.

And yet in the end, if I had to pick out the things that brought our relationship to its messy and painful end, I can see how there were signs of them in that first meeting. The instability. The overly confident belief in things for which he had no evidence. And the disruption to his personality brought about by his work with the energy healer and the organisation she belonged to.

Would it have been better if I had picked up on the warning signs and ended the relationship after the first date?

In the end, I think it was right to go ahead with the relationship. Because in doing so I learnt so much more about myself and where my boundaries lay. I went into that relationship with a lot of unresolved issues about what I believed – with both an attraction to and a repulsion from beliefs in things beyond the natural and evidence-based. And came out with a much clearer idea of what I am willing to accept as evidence, and the dangers of believing things without solid evidence.

It can seems strange that we tend to find relationships that teach us what we need to learn. But I don’t think it’s anything supernatural. Simply that, once we’ve thoroughly absorbed the lesson, we avoid getting into similar situations again. I think the uncertainty I felt about these things was the reason I didn’t see the danger signs. Now that I know more about myself, I think they would stand out as red flags.

I think one of the reasons why I’ve spent so much time single is that I’m quite good at picking up what will not work. And because I’m quite happy single I’d generally rather be in no relationship than in one I suspect won’t work. Perhaps I close things off too quickly, ending things that might work if given a chance. But I think I’d rather have a seemingly endless series of first dates with my eyes open than rush blindly into relationships.

Because once that dazzling cloud of hormones that we call romantic love descends on a relationship, it’s virtually impossible to see the partner with clear eyes. So much as I yearn to ride that rose-spectacled rollercoaster again and allow it to bind me closely to another person, I want to take a really good look at them first. To spot problems before I am blinded to them.

I know in the short term that will bring me lots of frustration. There’s always a sadness in realising that your search for a compatible partner has found another blind alley. But I hope it will, in the long run, save me heartbreak.

If what you’ve found is genuinely a blind alley, keeping trying to walk down it is only going to hurt you. And waste time and energy that could be spent looking for a better path.

(this post was set in motion by a prompt on “Sunday Scribblings” entitled “I knew instantly….”)

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14 responses to “I knew instantly…

  1. I envy the young people of today who can ‘experiment’ with relationships. I can remember a time when girls married their first and only boyfriend and just put-up with things!

  2. We all learn from our various experiences. As for me, I like being single.

    I knew instantly

  3. I often wish I had paid better attention to the clues on my first date with my ex. I would have walked, no make that run, away. Excellent post.

  4. hmm somehow dont think if one can really decide on a single date, atleast most of people are said to be either nervous, or all out to impress their partners..

    just loved your piece here

  5. Rinkly – I love the opportunity to learn from successive relationships. There’s a danger of running away too quickly and missing the message, which you might have got in a relationship you couldn’t move on from. But if approached the right way it adds so much richness to life.

    Which is why, although like Gautami, I’m happy single, I am actively looking to complicate my life again!

    B – interesting that you seem to have had a similar experience. I’m sure it’s one you’re much wiser for!

    Rambler, there’s definitely an element of artificialness in a first meeting and I’m always wary about judging too quickly. And yet it seems to me that nevertheless we can still see important things about the person.

    Indeed I think we can sometimes see them more clearly than on subsequent dates as we start to get emotionally invested in a relationship.

    Once we’ve noticed something, and acknowledged it, we can decide what to do about it. But if we never allow ourselves to notice it, we can’t do anything about it.

  6. I also think first date is not enough to decide about the person but I do believe there must be that special aura in other that will draw us towards the other one.

  7. Nicely said – thoughtful and wise.

  8. Definitely agree with your last paragraph, and with most of what you said in fact. I also tend to agree with your idea that once the hormones click in, we tend not to be able to see the other clearly anymore. Difference between loving and being in love, I guess. But – sigh! – I wish what you said about us learning from bad experiences and moving on were always true. I look around me and see countless people who are (chuckle! almost seems supernatural!) again and again getting into the same kind of situations with the same kind of bad relationships. Thank your lucky stars you have realised what was wrong and decided to move on!

  9. Sadly it’s not enough to just have the bad experience – if we don’t really absorb the lessons from the relationship we won’t be alert to the red flags and so will very likely continue choosing exactly the same sort of person again. Not supernatural in my view – but then you knew that! 😉

  10. What an interesting idea. Your comments take me back to my “first dates” and how I always felt my “radar” was on full blast, looking for those potential rifts. More than once, trusting my “intuition” about a person led me to close a possible relationship and to continue to push my understanding of the “real” person before I made a commitment. And then I did find my life partner. May you find your balance point.

  11. Thanks Bluebethley… glad it worked out for you as I hope it will for me!

  12. Agree this is a thoughtful post. Also agree that for me, first impressions are generally right on target. Although, I guess I can think of a few exceptions.

    With my husband, I knew him when I was a teenager. He was a friend, and later, in my mid-20s when I ran into him again, I always thought of him as being very sweet. Very kind. He is. I think my first impressions, which came back to me later, worked well in that case.

  13. I completely identify with “I Knew Instantly” …. there is so much to be learned at all times and as far as I can see, there is no wrong decision .. but self awareness is sweet … I wrote this poem some months ago …

    Love’s Emphatic End
    by Sue Turner

    In retrospect, I was rather cavalier about the whole thing.
    Love, I thought, would prevail, no matter what.
    As it turns out, the ‘what’ matters.
    Early on, love was convincing, if not sturdy.
    Two people are ultimately two people.
    I want this. You want that. He does this. She says that.
    In the chasm, there is a stormy sea, and love exists
    only because there is a desire to navigate the choppy waters.
    The glassy calm did not intend to deceive.
    As love twists and turns through the lazy days of romance, its truth is revealed.
    The lack of it is not a failure.
    Its durability is not a given.
    Its presence at any point in time is a miracle.
    Its ‘end’ is more of a beginning.

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