Mistake number one was I started reading dating books - I devoured everything I could find to tell me what I was supposed to do to keep a good man in my life. There were so many rules, play hard to get, make him chase you, don't have sex too soon, don't tell him about your past relationships, don't seem insecure or needy, don't cook for him too soon, don't answer the phone every time they call, and most importantly never say I love you first. I wondered what was allowed besides standing in a corner acting aloof but they're the "experts" so they must be right.
The first rule I broke was cooking. I like to cook and I love to cook for other people. Its always been something I did for people in my life. I love a good meal at home with good company. I've always found men to be appreciative of a good home cooked meal and it just gives me a lot of pleasure when people enjoy what I have prepared. Guess what, he didn't run out the door screaming after our first meal. He in fact loved it and is excited every time I invite him to dinner. I've not only cooked for him, I've cooked for his kids and they love it even more than he does. I spend even more time with him now just because they all love me to come over and cook a good meal.
The next rule I broke I had to learn by almost loosing him. I tried to not always be available but what ended up happening is that he started to think I wasn't interested. He started asking me if I even wanted a relationship with him. Come to find out this man had feelings and also liked to know that the woman he cared about was excited to talk to him and wanted to spend time with him. That knocked out 1/2 the rules I've been given. I hated those rules anyway - life's too short to not talk to the people you care about.
The hardest rules were not sharing my past or my own insecurities. Come to find out, if a man knows nothing about you he also doesn't know how to treat you. How is he to know that a certain behavior really bothers you if you never let him see the weaker side of you? This one was the hardest because its the one I broke down on emotionally. I kept all my past and my insecurities locked down so deeply that one bad night after a couple of glasses of wine, they all just came spewing out. Luckily for me the man I care for took the time to listen to me and to understand. Emotions will eventually come out the trick is to find a way to let them out positively. For me if I hold them in they typically come out in a negative way.
One big lesson I learned is that because I didn't share much or tell him what I needed that he started to think I didn't really need anything. When it finally came out I found he thought I was the most low-maintenance woman he ever met. I acted so secure in myself and never expressed any needs, so he didn't think he needed to do the sweet romantic things he normally did for women. Talk about backfire - it goes without saying that if you want something you might need to let other people know or you might never get it.
As for the big rule of making them say I love you first, well that's just hogwash. I'm realizing now that men also fear rejection. They also don't want to say those words many times out of fear that they wont be returned. So why if we both feel the same way is it acceptable for the man to put his heart on the line but not the woman? For many women its easier to say these words then it is a man, so why should we feel that he has to go first. Could it merely be that the dating experts are selling more books to women then men? That the purpose behind these books is to empower women more than help someone have a healthy relationship?
So after all of this I'm realizing that the reason dating used to be so easy is that I was myself. I had fun when I was casually dating and didn't take it too seriously. Once I got to know someone I continued to be myself and acted the way I wanted to. Sometimes they worked out and sometimes they didn't but I was true to myself. I will never again listen to a "dating expert." I will talk, answer the phone when he calls, tell him my dreams and fears and I will cook till he cannot eat another bite. If he runs away from this then it wasn't meant to be. I will never again treat a man as a case study, I will understand that he has feelings too, that he needs to feel loved and that he sometimes just wants to be treated like a man. I will understand that not all men are going to be into me and its best to just let those go but when a man is very much into me I need to love him with my whole heart and treat him exactly the way I wish to be treated.
If it doesn't work out then I will deal with that but at least I know I'm being true to myself and living every moment the way I want to and not the way someone else says I should. So no more rules for this girl and I have to tell you it feels wonderful to be free.