Former Bae Jake: Dating will never be the same
As you may know, I was one of the participants for the first round of Thirty Day Bae. I’m incredibly grateful to have been a part of it. If you are even thinking about applying to be a part of this experiment, stop thinking and go apply! Seriously. This was a month well spent. Thirty Day Bae didn’t even ask me to write this, I’m just doing it. And if you don’t want all the attention, or if you apply and don’t get selected, then go find some quality guy or gal (there are a lot of them out there) and do your own version of Thirty Day Bae.
Anyway, I’ve been meaning to write somewhat of a Thirty Day Bae retrospective. I felt now was as good as any time to do this with season 2 ramping up. Obviously, a lot of my experience and thoughts are posted in the Bae Watch logs, but I get it… that’s a lot of logs, and most of it was me just blabbering about whatever was on my mind that night while I was half asleep. So, for those of you who aren’t religious followers of Thirty Day Bae, you would get the best sample of my thoughts by checking out my logs on day 24 (here) and 30 (here). As far as this post goes, hopefully I can summarize my thoughts and offer some new insights on the whole experience.
I know the internet likes lists, so here it is. I put together a list of three big lessons learned from Thirty Day Bae and beyond. Without further ado…
You don’t have to be victim to your feelings
I have met many, many incredible women, who in my view, would make great life partners. But for whatever reason, the spark just wasn’t there. On the other hand, I have felt drawn to other girls with whom things probably never would have worked out. I have often felt my feelings were dictating my dating decisions. Why can’t I be in control of who I’m drawn to? Why can’t I choose who I like? I just want to go find someone who I really admire and then make myself like them. Romantic, huh?
Well, Thirty Day Bae gave me the opportunity to experiment on this idea. It turns out, to some extent, this is absolutely possible. There wasn’t an initial spark of chemistry when I was set up with Emily. We got along, but there wasn’t a romantic draw between us. However, when I committed to her and put in the effort, feelings came. This was a completely new idea for me. This would change dating forever.
Now, I don’t know what would have happened if we had met each outside of Thirty Day Bae, but on our second date I rated my chemistry with Emily at a 4 out of 10. She said 2. Doesn’t sound much like a budding relationship to me. If we just sat around and waited for our feelings to kick in, we probably never would have dated. But we did date, and we dated months after the experiment. How does that work?
What if you really could create feelings for someone. How would that change the way we date each other? For starters, the whole “I’m just not feeling it” excuse for pulling out of a relationship just wouldn’t fly. You would actually have to base your dating decisions on something more concrete and substantial than your infatuation level.
I believe now more than ever that you can create the spark where there wasn’t a spark before, especially when you act intentionally.
You don’t have to be a victim to your feelings.
You don’t find a great relationship, you create it
So now I’m back in the dating pool, and I’m back to dating the “normal” way again. I’m finding it quite frustrating in comparison to my Thirty Day Bae experience. In some way, I feel like I’m just wandering around, hoping to stumble upon someone great. But the irony of it all is that most of the women I’m going out with are great, and I’m passing them up just because we didn’t have an instantaneous connection.
Now as I’m going on dates, I’m thinking, man, if both of us just committed to each other, and worked together to build a relationship, I think we would do quite a good job at it. In fact, I believe you can do quite a good job at anything you really put your mind. And maybe you could be twice as successful if you teamed up with someone and both decided to set your minds on the same thing. Maybe you would surprise yourself. I’m constantly amazed at what people are capable of.
Emily and I were dating at first sight, but we certainly didn’t have a relationship at first sight. We built that relationship from scratch, and we did it intentionally. We sat down on day one and talked about what we hoped to get from the relationship; we started to plan out our month with fun activities that we could do to get to know each other. Then we went out and implemented that plan. This wasn’t just a hopeful wish or a roll of the dice. This relationship was happening one way or another; we were going to date for a month. I wasn’t asking myself, “Do I like her?” I was asking, “How are we going to make this work?” That’s a different way to approach dating.
If I was going to give one piece of advice to the future participants of Thirty Day Bae, that would be it. You have to approach the experiment with this mentality.
You don’t find a great relationship, you create it.
“The morrow shall take thought for the things of itself”
On day 24 I wrote about an incredible discovery I made. I often get anxious when a relationship with someone starts to progress. This happened near the beginning of my relationship with Emily. I started to have doubts about whether or not I would choose to be in this relationship outside of the experiment. When I reminded myself that I was in this relationship for 30 days regardless of how I felt, my anxieties went away.
In my experience, stress and anxiety come from constantly having unresolved concerns about the future sitting at the forefront of my mind. I think a little anxiety is good; it’s our body’s natural way of telling us to pay attention and plan for the future. The problem comes when we get those feelings and don’t act. Once we act, the future simplifies. You no longer have to worry about the potential consequences of every choice you could possibly make. You just have to worry about the consequences of the one choice that you did make. That’s unbelievably more manageable.
In dating we are constantly presented with the choice, “Should I continue to date this person, or should I stop?” You have to deal with this question from day one of meeting someone. Sometimes the answer is easy, sometimes it’s not, but that question is always there until you decide not to date or you decide to get married. And if that isn’t a breeding ground for anxious thoughts, I don’t know what is.
Maybe there is another way.
Maybe it’s possible to deal with the uncertainty of dating by committing, right now, here, in this moment. Maybe you could commit for a week or a month. If you don’t have enough information to make a decision about breaking things off or marrying someone, then commit to that person until you have more information. Put the question on the shelf and stop stressing about it. You can be 100% committed without being 100% sure. That’s okay. Someday you will have the information you need to make a decision you feel good about, and you can move forward from that point without regret.
Dating in this way is so much more enjoyable. My time with Emily was the least stressful and most pleasant dating experience of my life. Commitment fostered a way for us to focus on getting to know each other without the interference of dating games and with the knowledge that we were both going to keep trying even if things weren’t perfectly smooth.
This experience doesn’t come without a price. There will always be some element of sacrifice associated with commitment. Every hour you spend with someone comes at the sacrifice of every other thing you might have done with that hour. You owe it to yourself and your date to give that and every future interaction your very best. Live in the moment.
The morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.
My goal in sharing this is simply to encourage people to go out and try to date a little better, a little more intentionally. You may or may not find these ideas useful. This is simply my experience. But if you, like me, have ever felt stuck, then I say go out there and try something new. Go out and face the exact thing that you are most terrified of. The antidote to decision paralysis is decision making. The antidote to the fear of commitment is commitment.
What do you have to lose? Worst case scenario, you come out knowing a little bit more than when you started, and that’s never a bad thing.