I’d meet someone great.
The first few dates were amazing. I’d be excited to be dating someone I really liked after months of lackluster dates.
In this kind of situation, I so often fell into the trap of date-pleasing.
What is date-pleasing, and how did I realise it was a problem?
Date-pleasing is fitting in, going along, or bending over backwards to please a person you’re dating.
You may be thinking, “I really like them; why shouldn’t I fit in with what they want?” The problem is it lowers your value in a date’s eyes and kills off their interest without them even knowing why. They may even think they like it, but the more you try to please them, the less interested they are romantically.
If you regularly find yourself relegated to the friend zone or your relationships often fizzle out, this may be part of the reason. It was for me. I would slip into doing this without noticing or making excuses for what I’d started to sense was not useful behaviour.
So how do we avoid date-pleasing?
When I realised I was being too accommodating when I liked someone, I noticed there were three key behaviours that it really helped to avoid.
1. I stopped pretending to be someone I wasn’t to please a date.
It can be as simple as saying you like something because they do. They’d say, “I love Nirvana,” and I’d say, “Me too.” Then it would get embarrassing when I only knew “Teen Spirit.” I could see the interest fading in my date’s eyes. It would have been much better to say that I like their hits, but I’d love to hear some more.
The point of dating is getting to know another person and letting them get to know you.
One of the first things my partner and I remember about our first date is chatting about camping—which he loves, and I hate. He told me about his cool camping trip to Iceland, which made him adventurous and attractive to me. I made him laugh uncontrollably telling him about my camping experiences that have all been a disaster. Imagine if we’d just pretended—what an opportunity missed.
Being true to yourself is even more important with big stuff. If you’re looking for a serious relationship, then it’s not going to help to pretend you want something casual. I found that though some dates were put off, the right people were much more drawn to me.
2. I stopped doing things I didn’t feel comfortable with to please a date.
The obvious thing that springs to mind is rushing physical contact before you’re ready. We can feel we must fulfil someone’s desires, or they’ll move on. This is only true if someone is only interested in a physical relationship. It’s fine for someone to suggest physical contact. It’s also fine to say not yet.
Now, I didn’t struggle with this. My problem was agreeing to other activities I dislike, like bowling or camping!
If a date suggests activities you don’t enjoy, it’s great they’re asking, but it doesn’t mean you should do it. The way I learned to handle this was to thank them for the invitation and say that I felt great spending time with them, but this activity was not something I liked.
This would come up a lot less when I was initially upfront about who I was and what I genuinely liked.
This doesn’t mean never trying something or never doing something just because a date asks, but it should be the exception and it should never be something you really dislike. Always be gracious about any invitation—especially when saying no. And do sometimes suggest something else, don’t just say no all the time.
3. I stopped neglecting things I love doing and people I love seeing for a date.
Do you sometimes wait to get back to a friend because you’re waiting to see if you have a date? Do you ever skip your favourite exercise class because it clashes with a date? Have you ever started dating someone then realised it’s been three weeks since you had a friends’ night out?
I’ve done all those things.
It was a problem. When you do this, it’s a turnoff to great dates, and it jeopardised my own happiness and confidence.
I’d justify this to myself by saying, “I haven’t cancelled on a friend for them,” but suddenly I wasn’t planning nights out, I was waiting to see when they wanted to see me. When you meet a person you like, it is not the time to neglect the rest of your life.
At the start of getting to know someone, we assess how they work. The more we show we are a happy person without them, someone who loves their life and values their friends, the more attractive we become to a great person. It also weeds out control freaks who don’t want you to have your own life. I found they disappeared fast.
When I realised how important this was, I made sure that no matter who I was dating, I was leading a full life outside of them. That was the biggest game-changer for me.
If you recognise any of these behaviours in yourself, don’t be hard on yourself. They’re easy to fall into.
But I found avoiding these three date-pleasing traps meant I was more attractive to the right people and happier in myself.
It may well work for you too.