How To Date In The Present

Do you fantasize about marriage on a first date? You may need to learn how to date in the present.

asian couple blowing bubbles outside

"Great dates seem hard to come by so if I'm on one, I can't help but think, could he be the one? I get lost in the romance, the fantasy of it all," says Melanie, 29, an account supervisor in Boston. Melanie needs to learn how to date in the present. Is It A Date Or Are We Just Friends?

Picture this: It's the second course of an exquisite meal on your second date with an exquisite guy. From his first wink you thought to yourself, "he seems too good to be true" but, lo and behold, the real-life version measured up to his digital one. 


As you take in every one of his charming words, mesmerized by the way his lips wrap around his wine glass, you drift into fantasyland, thinking, "Wow, he would make an amazing softball coach to our kids. I wonder if he's available the second weekend of June to go to my cousin's wedding. He's a guy I would give up my last name for."

But you know what he's thinking? He's thinking, "I wonder if my roommate is home. Man, her cleavage is hot. We should probably switch from wine to liquor so she doesn't get sleepy and pass out on my sofa." His thoughts are nothing like yours... and as much as we hate to admit it, given how well you know each other, his head is probably the one that's on straight. Here's why.


This guy is brand new. Sure, you know what his online profile says, and you know that he is kind to waiters, likes cologne and drives a Lexus. You're getting somewhere, but you've got a long way to go. Mark, 32, a marketer in Seattle, explains, "If a girl brings up exclusivity early on, it makes me think she wants someone, not necessarily me. It raises dependency and insecurity flags."

Men and women generally view the future and commitment a little bit differently. Ladies often picture a perma-date to weddings, a co-pilot, a figurative blankie. But guys see a depleting bank account, nights out with the boys turning into tear-jerker movie marathons, endless brunches with your parents. Sure, guys want girlfriends and wives too, but they're not in a hurry. If you vocalize how you see the future, you may drive away a guy who might have stayed if things had progressed at five miles an hour rather than 60. "On a first date, at my place after hooking up, this girl asked me to list the states I'd be willing to live in and if raising my kids Jewish was negotiable. I felt like it was an interview for her future," remembers Jeremy, a 27-year-old sports therapist in Chicago. "That was our first and last date." Advice: I Am Always Scaring Guys Away

Sometimes we have unrealistic expectations. So what happens when fantasy collides with reality, and reality doesn't meet the unreasonable fantasy? You become unreasonably disappointed… which could have been avoided had you refrained from fast-forwarding the relationship. Burying yourself in a pint of ice cream to get over a three-week fling is wasted heart and mind energy, not to mention calories. Breakups To Make You Laugh and... Cringe

So how do you keep your heart and mind in a calm, healthy, and present state?


Relax. Think of early dating as get-to-know-him time, not a deep, evaluative process to see if he is marriage material.

Menu Date. Keep your options open—sample the other offerings on the menu in order to keep yourself occupied and prevent yourself from fixating on one particular person.

Keep some distance. Avoid using "coupley" words ("we", "us", "our"), introducing him to family members or carving out space for him in your closet.

Read trashy romance novels. Instead of projecting your desires on some unsuspecting new guy, get lost in pages and pages of romance novels filled with fantasies.

Live in the moment. Don't forecast or map out the future (i.e. penciling him in as your date to your cousin's wedding in the fall).


Slow down. If you plan to go the distance with a guy, you need to be headed in the same direction at the same pace. Chances are if you slow down, he will soon meet you halfway.

Remember that if it's the real thing, it will still be there later. Typically, guys need more time to process how they are feeling. Give them time to decide that what they are feeling is real.