Learning The Hard Way: 11 Insights You Gain From Bad Dating Experiences

If you’ve been dating for a long time, you’re bound to have some first-date horror stories. While sometimes it’s fun to laugh them off or to breathe a sigh of relief at a bullet dodged, you can learn some valuable lessons from dating. So, here are 11 things you might find yourself learning the hard way from bad dating experiences.

  1. You learn what your deal-breakers are. Compromise is a big part of dating, but everyone has a line and learning that line the hard way is a very big wake-up call. Going out and meeting new people will highlight some deal breakers you didn’t even know you had. For example, maybe you didn’t consider how much smoking bothered you until you went on a date with a heavy smoker. This saves you time in the future as you know when to pull the chord if a deal breaker pops up.
  2. You can spot red flags. When you’re new to dating, it’s easy to miss red flags because you’ve never been in certain situations before. Once you have more experience, they become glaringly obvious. In the past, I fell for the “all my exes are crazy” spiel and decided I was going to be so good to him to prove good women exist at the expense of boundaries and expecting basic human decency. Not anymore! In these cases, they’re the common denominator, so you learn to proceed with caution (if at all!). It would be so much better if you could avoid learning this the hard way, but we’ve all been there.
  3. You can discern first-date nerves from poor behavior. When dating, it can sometimes take a while for the other person’s personality to shine through because they’re nervous. This is endearing but do not excuse any poor behavior for nerves. Being quiet can be attributed to nerves, but not asking anything about you and only talking about themselves is not. Likewise, being a little late because they wanted to look perfect could be due to nerves, but being exceptionally late with a poor excuse is just because they don’t value your time. Bad dates teach you to be gracious, without giving anyone a free pass to walk all over you.
  4. You won’t take the good times for granted. You should expect more than the bare minimum, but nothing makes you appreciate a good date like having a few bad ones. It’s a good reminder that decent people are out there, and you don’t need to settle. Learning how to value your time, to make way for happiness instead of focusing on the negative, and to make a hard commitment to appreciate what’s right in front of you is such a gift.
  5. You realize you don’t need a partner to feel fulfilled. Dating and finding a partner is supposed to enhance your life, not make it much harder. So, if dating has brought you no joy, it’s time to learn you don’t need to date or have a partner to be happy and fulfilled. Life is what you make it.

More ways learning the hard way actually benefits you

learning the hard way

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  1. You learn about your flaws. One of the hardest lessons to learn the hard way is that sometimes you’re the reason things didn’t work out. If you go on multiple dates with different people and keep butting heads and having the same issues over and over, you might have to do some self-reflection to determine if you’re self-sabotaging or are unknowingly causing tension. If this is the case, it doesn’t mean you’re a terrible person or undeserving of love or relationships; no one’s perfect, so this is just an opportunity to grow into your best self.
  2. You get to know your attachment style. An attachment style is essentially how you behave in a relationship and what you expect from them. There are four kinds; secure, avoidant, anxious, and disorganized. People with a secure attachment style may find navigating relationships and dating easier because they’re confident and can ask for help. For example, I realized I’ve often struggled with making friends and dating because I have an avoidant attachment style. I want closeness and intimacy, but then unconsciously end up putting distance between us when we grow closer out of fear. So, becoming aware of how I respond to love and affection has helped me to work on this. Learning your attachment style and the way you love can illuminate the cold, hard truth about your approach to relationships to improve them moving forward.
  3. You learn your love language. A lot of people don’t consider love languages when dating, but it can really make or break a relationship. A love language is how you express love and how you like to receive it. Your love language might be physical affection, while your date shows affection through acts of service, so you might leave what you thought was a bad date thinking they weren’t into you because they were not physically affectionate. Something worth learning the hard way is determining how you like to receive love and communicating these things with partners so you can understand each other’s displays of affection.
  4. You get better at setting boundaries. It’s hard to say no, but we have to do it sometimes. If you’re someone who’s always learning the hard way, you’ll probably end up doing a million things you really didn’t want to do and that could have been avoided completely had you simply said “no.” Having to say no to a second date after a bad first date will at least help you get used to saying no and setting firm boundaries elsewhere in your life.
  5. You start prioritizing your time. If you feel like a few bad dates have cost you hours of your life you won’t get back, you’ll probably start taking more time to consider whether you actually want to go to things. Learning what’s worthy of your time and what should be moved out of the way to make room for what’s important is hard, but once you get it down, your life will be so much better.
  6. You know who your friends are. Learning this the hard way can really hurt. A good friend will be ready to call with some pre-rehearsed excuse if you signal that a date is going poorly. On a more serious note, a good friend will be on standby and ready to intervene should you actually start to feel unsafe and will validate uncomfortable experiences. Good friends will also check in to make sure you got home safely. Unfortunately, one of the lessons you learn the hard way when dating is not all of your friends are willing to try to understand how certain situations can become dangerous and will dismiss your concerns. If someone has no regard for your safety, you need to seriously evaluate the friendship to determine if they’re someone you should keep in your life.
Aisling is a 20-something year old Irish writer who is the life and relationship guru of her social circle. She loves music, movies, and coffee.
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