I asked H about a date she had been excited to go on. She said it had gone great for her but clearly not for him because he had not reached out for another.
Ugh, I responded. How do you feel?
Yeah, whatever. I mean, it’s just one date – I can’t really get upset about it.
This is the harsher side of positive thinking and moving forward. We step over the little tears in our heart – dragging them along with us as we forge through the daily activities that make up the rest of our lives. Not giving much room for pains we deem to be too small, irrelevant or unworthy of reflection.
H’s date was a lovely evening for her. She felt connected, seen and safe enough to relax and be vulnerable with her partner. Moreover she sensed from him that he felt the same way. Not being reciprocated wasn’t just disappointing for the possible potential that the relationship might have held, but also discomforting to think that perhaps her assessment and intuition was out of whack.
And often, this is where our pain comes from. Not the onslaught of something you knew was coming and braced yourself for – but the dawning realization that what you thought was true, is not. That who you thought someone to be, is not. That your judgement was off, your trust misplaced, your vulnerability mis-shared.
This loss isn’t limited to dating, of course. We make assessments in our relationships with new friends, colleagues, that person you met at the gym or the parent in your kid’s school. When it comes to people and relationships we bring everything we have to that moment – our defenses, our hopefulness, our yearnings, our intentions – along with all of our experience, so we can decide what to keep close to our hearts and what to reveal. “Social Poker” a fellow via rider named it, as we played a risk-free version of it ourselves, knowing we wouldn’t see each other again once our short shared ride was over.
And that’s why it’s OK to be devastated after a single date. Because it isn’t risk-free, because you bring your heart into it, because you’re playing a game with low odds. Because love is not for the faint of heart – and neither is any other relationship worth building. When you create trust and share vulnerably with another human being, you risk being rejected and left unreciprocated. And that’s going to hurt. Even after a single meeting.
Which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dust yourself off and go out on another date, or make another friend, or forge another partnership. But you may want to take a moment to tend to your wounds, savor the encounter, and smile tenderly to the part of yourself that shows up again and again, willing to risk it all.