A dozen roses


‘Where two people who are attracted to each other spend time together to see if they can stand to be around each other most of the time, if this is successful they develop a relationship, although sometimes a relationship develops anyways…’

– Cowfeus, urbandictionary.com

As Sheldon Cooper says, ‘It’s funny because it’s true!’

In December of 2020 after diving head first into the English Channel so as NOT to lose our minds a friend and I settled into a conversation about getting out of ones comfort zone during lockdown. I’d been happy without dating for enough years to feel deep a seated comfort with the single life. Nevertheless, lots of nausea no vomiting and twelve months later I’m a dozen first dates down and here to share a dozen lessons (that I’ve squeezed out of the experience so I can pretend it was a social experiment all along).  

1. Hello

Date a person you can communicate with openly who openly communicates with you. 

As a doctor one of the key skills we develop is communication but even I find this one hard. Communication is a two way street and having to work solo to develop a healthy conversation is not sustainable. I’ve had to broach topics, present my case and offer up possible answers on a platter with a date before (not okay). 

You can develop a sense of how well you may be able to communicate with someone early on, listen to your intuition. If you’re on a date with a non-communicator no amount of coaxing is about to work. I really credit early and open communication to avoiding 99% of potential fights and ill-feelings.

2. This is my best friend, Boundaries

Boundaries are healthy guidelines for your relationships with other human folk that protect your own needs and limits. They can be negotiable or non negotiable and you can have boundaries pertaining to every aspect of your life from emotional wellbeing to sexual boundaries. 

Find your boundaries. Communicate them. Think of what would you would do if that boundary is crossed. Implement the above. 

For me boundaries first became evident when they were crossed but these days I find if I sit down before I meet someone and mentally note my boundaries I’m more likely to come home happy. 

Example boundary: Don’t drink on the first date.

3. Set intentions

I like to think of intentions as reverse boundaries that works symbiotically with them to help you develop your narrative. A dating intention would be what you hope to mindfully achieve by going on the date.

Example intention: I’m dating so I can have new experiences and get out of my comfort zone. 

4. Look at them withOUT rose tinted glasses

My friend, take off the rose tinted glasses. I can’t preach because I’ve been there so many times but that’s what makes this one is so important. 

Stop imagining what they’re like and stop hanging onto the only things that make them OK.  Look for the elephant in the room and ask yourself ‘Is that an elephant I can sit with or is it about to back up into me and crush me?’ 

Alternatively you could ask yourself ‘Would I ever introduce this person to my closest friends?’

5. I’m not here to make friends 

Just to clarify, if you don’t want to be friends with the X then X is not the one, but also, if all you want is to be friends with X then X is also not the one.

As she looked across the table she sucked on her gallon of wine feared the dinner ending. She feared it ending not because it would mean having to say bye but because she feared it would mean having to dodge a kiss goodbye

6. Needs

Every roller-coaster has a height threshold just like every person has some sort of list of minimum characteristics a partner would have to embody for possible compatibility. Some dates flirt with the line, a rare few exceed it but most get to the front of the queue and don’t quite make the cut. Don’t lower that threshold because it’s a health and safety hazard. 

Example needs list:

  • Working professional 
  • Active  (goes to the gym)
  • Likes to travel 

7. I don’t want to Netflix and chill 

No date in the world is more boring than the ‘ Netflix and chill’ and there’s no changing my mind about it. An occasional rearing of the N&C head after an exhausting day at work is acceptable but avoid getting too comfortable with it. Communicate availabilities and put some effort into PLANNING activities. Don’t get me wrong, I love spontaneity but we’re ambitious people with boundaries and intentions so a well planned date can go a long way. 

Perhaps this is one of my boundaries, if they’re not up to regularly trying something new AND planning the activity roughly 50% of the time then I’m just not that into it. 

8. Value your time

Dating means committing time to an additional person or thing so it’s really important to carve out that time but also limit it (let’s say 80% of the time). Perhaps like me at first you just want to experience the person and pay no attention to the ticking clock but life isn’t going to pause just for you to fall in love. 

A trick I use is to book something you really want to do for after the date/ early the next morning.

9. You’re in the way

Remember that thing you had before love and lust came into play? Ambition.  Hold on to that honey because ambition will take you places that love can’t.

Make a list. Write it down. Prioritise it.

Read it. Repeat it. Manifest it. Implement it. Go get it! 

10. Don’t lose yourself

There’s a running theme here but each point is slightly different to the last. 

Before this person came into your life you had friends to meet, yoga classes to attend and food to eat. Keep doing you and if X tags along sometimes (not all the time) that’s okay too. 

11. It’s not me, it’s you

Sometimes it’s really not you. It’s not about you. It’s got nothing to do with you. You just happen to be there. 

People are complex and they come with their own baggage. I’ve been on both the giving and receiving ends of this equation; I’ve treated beautiful people poorly because I wasn’t ready and I’ve been treated unfairly for reasons that had nothing to do with me.  

Breathe. It’s not (always) about you. 

12. Goodbye

Every encounter has a healthy timeline and being receptive to when it’s time to say goodbye is important. Use lessons 1 to 11 as an aid to this. 

To all the romantics out there looking for that big love, get out there and try meeting different people, be intentional about your love narrative and have some fun along the way.