Let’s say one day you’re a guy who happens to get into an elevator to find yourself standing next to a real cutie. Beyond intrigued, your insides instantly lock up as your mind races: “Do you say hi?” You look over to her and she gives you the slightest of inviting smiles (after all, she’s not that easy!). You smile back. The next thing you know, you’re picking her up for your first date.
You two are at “dating time zero” with a completely clean slate – no baggage or fun times together. All you have are first impressions and perhaps a Google search result. What next?
Let’s begin by acknowledge that dating is a process. We don’t live in fantasyland where two people meet, fall in love at first sight and live forever happily ever after.
No, we live in the real world. In the real world, once two people’s paths have crossed, they start getting to know each other. As we all know, this process may yield anything from a thanks-but-no thanks one-date stand to an eventual marriage commitment.
It’s important to recognize that dating is a process, because there are certain questions that are more important and relevant to ask at different steps in the dating process. On this first date, for instance, you’ll probably be much more focused on “Do you have chemistry together?” than on “How well do you communicate during difficult conversations?”
Likewise, each step in the dating process carries with it different obligations. For example, on this first date, you’re not obligated to be faithful, nor even to be dating exclusively. But when do these obligations start? After the third date? Tenth? Hundredth?
To help answer these questions, Relationship Workout segments the dating process into five fundamental steps: Preparing, Open Dating, Exclusive Dating, Relationship Checkup and Partners. These steps are designed to help remove ambiguity around where two people are in the dating process, as well as to help establish fundamental obligations.
Now, let’s take a closer look at each of the five dating steps in a bit more detail…
Step 0: Preparing
Before any major endeavor, you will probably do well to get prepared first. You don’t run a marathon without running quite a few miles of distance training. You wouldn’t take a major life-impacting exam without studying at least a bit. And if you don’t prepare, don’t be surprised if you fail miserably. So why would you consider getting into the (serious) dating game without some preparation?
Yes, of course, if all you’re out for is a 1 am bootie call, then okay perhaps all the preparation you need is to make sure you’re packing a condom and that it hasn’t been wedged in your wallet between credit cards for the past three plus months.
But if you’re really ready to try to find that special someone, then it’s time to wrap your mind around the idea that it would serve you well to do at least a little Dating Step 0: Preparing first.
Step 1: Open Dating
Once you two meet, the open dating step officially begins, as you start the process of getting to know each other. At this point, both of you may very well be playing the field, dating multiple people, casting a wide net in search of strong potential partner material. By definition, there’s no exclusivity required at this step.
Basically, you’re both doing due diligence on the initial dating nibbles that have crossed each of your paths. You’re both deciding which one (if any) of the current prospects to reel in for a much closer look, and which ones to throw back into the dating scene pool for someone else to catch.
Step 2: Exclusive Dating
If after dating for a bit you find you’re both definitely into each other, it may be time to transition to the next step: Exclusive Dating. At this step, you both decide there might be something special here, so it’s time to focus, narrow the net to one, get exclusive and see what happens.
The amount of time you two may have been dating before entering this step can vary. For some, this may happen after just a few dates; for other couples, years may go by. Ideally, you both come to this conclusion at around the same time. But don’t count on it, nor assume this.
The key point is you both have to agree that you’re now dating exclusively. If one person assumes the point of exclusivity has been reached, then that person may be set up for some major disappointment. You just don’t really know until you’ve had the conversation.
A second point to realize is just because you’re having sex doesn’t mean you’re dating exclusively, nor monogamous. Again, you just don’t know until you’ve had the conversation.
Step 3: Relationship Checkup
After dating exclusively (for perhaps quite some time), you may very well think she’s “the one.” Yes, there might have been some bumps along the road, but for the most part the results from each of your due diligence is blinking the green light. Emotionally, feelings are soaring. By now, even the coveted “L” word may be bouncing back and forth more often than a tennis ball at the US Open.
But before you go shopping for rings, do both of yourselves the favor of going through this Relationship Checkup step and do some validation that your relationship really is good enough to warrant your lifetime commitment.
Step 4: Partners
You two have dated exclusively and the Relationship Checkup has delivered the proverbial emoji two thumbs up. You have found each other and have voiced to each other that you’re both ready to take the next step to be committed partners. Whether you decide to get married or just live with each other indefinitely, the key takeaway in this step is to apply all the relationship skills you’ve learned doing the Core 12 relationship workout and remember that quitting is not an option. With this mindset, attitude and perspective as your ally, you’ll find that you can work through every issue that comes your way.
Mapping Dating Steps to Relationship Workout Steps
As is summarized in Figure 1-4, these five dating steps map to the five Relationship Workout steps. Now it’s time to dive one level deeper and explore briefly each of the twelve core exercises contained within the Relationship Workout Plan.