Best Date Ever!

Candlelight, Violins, and Champagne

Thinking about the best date ever might conjure up images of candlelight, violins, and sips of champagne. It may bring memories of some carefully orchestrated first date perfectly executed at a time when everything was still new and full of promise. It could bring you back to what you once thought of as your best date ever, but, looking back through the lens of all you have learned, you now see as a source of embarrassment or shame. But perhaps, as mine, your best date ever was the result of a mishap, miscalculation, or simply bad timing that led to a formative, deeply bonding experience.

My Best Date Ever

During my single years, I realized that something I missed was the time I spent in the woods as a younger man. The area I live in is not known for hiking, but I was able to find a few trails within a semi-reasonable driving distance. There is a lake about two hours from where I live with a hiking trail all the way around it. One morning before dawn I drove out and hiked for several hours enjoying the solitude, the scenery, and the mild temperature of the early Spring season.

From My Solo Hike Around The Lake

When I started dating Anita, knowing that she enjoys nature, I could not wait to share that experience with her. I had already shared with her some of the wonderful photographs and memories of my hike. We drove out, me recounting the beauty of the place the entire ride. (Important Tip: never build up a place or experience too much, this can lead to a letdown.)

The Further We Hiked The Worse It Got

When we got there, I noticed that the path seemed a little unkempt. This should not have been totally unexpected as this was not long after a major hurricane had passed through. (Important Tip: When planning outdoor activities, always take into account the effect of any recent major storms.) However, based on my earlier experience, I had optimized our route to see the prettiest part last, you know, build, build, built, crescendo.

The Trail: Before it Got So Bad That I Had To Stop Taking Pictures So I Could Whack a Path Through the Weeds
The Trail: Before it Got So Bad That I Had To Stop Taking Pictures So I Could Whack a Path Through the Weeds

The thing is, the further we hiked, the worse it got. First ankle-high grass. Then knee-high. Then waist-high. Then shoulder-high. Can’t turn around and admit defeat now, we’re over halfway and the prettiest part is coming up. Then eyeball-high. Then over our heads. I’m talking hacking through eight-foot tall marsh grass with a broken tree limb, which of course meant absolutely no view of the lake. After about an hour in the worst of it – slogging our way through tall grass, climbing over and crawling under wind-felled trees, steering around alligator nests and bear droppings, bone weary, and sweating profusely, we reached the end. We sat on a log, had crackers, Clif Bars, and water – laughed and bonded deeply.

We Learned a Lot About Each Other

We learned a lot about each other’s character and how each of us deals with stress and disappointment. What amazed me was her dogged determination, her grace under fire, and her kindly demeanor. She never blamed me for the conditions. She never got angry with me for putting her through that. She never said things like, “How could you do this to me?” or “I will never trust you again!” I knew then what kind of woman I was dating.

She learned about my determination, my temperament, and how I deal with adversity. It meant a lot to her that I did not go into a fit of rage, or curse, or get angry at the circumstance and take it out on her. She learned a lot about the kind of man she was dating.

It Is Time to Date Differently

Now, before you read too much into this, I am not saying that you should purposely subject any potential spouse to danger or harsh conditions. (Important Tip: Hours of whacking your way through overgrown trails inhabited by wild beasts does not necessarily lead to a great date.) But, what I am saying is this: maybe we have been led to believe a lie about what makes a date great. Maybe dating is more about getting to know what another person is really like in real life situations. Maybe we overly romanticize the dating process to where it gives us no clue as to who the other person actually is.

Thinking about it, just take the perhapses and maybes out of those last sentences. It is time to date differently.

We did have other dates that were less trying and yet very instructive. We never really had overly romantic dates, but we had great dates none-the-less. Some of our favorite “dates” were spent at IHOP eating breakfast for dinner and talking through the issues outlined in one of our favorite books – “100 Answers To 100 Questions To Ask Before You Say I Do”.

Romance Has Its Place

Romance has its place. To me, that place is inside of marriage. It seems that most couples get it backward. They are heavy on the romance while dating, which is not conducive to learning anything about each other. Then they lose their spark after they wed. They find it hard to get it back because they really don’t know each other. Or, they begin to get to know each other at that point and realize that they actually don’t like each other that much. They were just blinded by the romance of their cozy little dating world.

More on that in another post. For now, how about a little useful introspection? I suggest you reconsider everything about dating. Ask yourself a few probing questions. Why do I date? Who do I date? How do I date? Then, consider what you could do differently to get a different outcome in the future.

What was your best date ever? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

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