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Keep your eye off the ‘prize’ when comes to dating

‘Take your eye off the prize.” I do realize this doesn’t have the same ring to it that the actual expression does, but for now, it’ll have to do.

In dating, many people see one goal their “prize.” Especially with my clients, who have come to me, both emotionally and financially, in the hopes of meeting someone, that “prize” is marriage, or at least a long-term relationship.

I like goals. It’s true. When I quit my job at Fannie Mae in 2011, my goal was to run a successful business. I set goals for going to bed before midnight every night. It’s currently 1:48 a.m. as I’m writing this, so clearly that goal was a bit unrealistic. What I forgot when setting both of these goals is that there is still room for success each incremental step of the way, and this is something I try to impart on my clients when it comes to their love lives.

I’m currently working with a wonderful woman in her mid-60s in New York.

She’s all of the things that someone might want in a partner — smart, professional, successful, beautiful, and the list goes on. When she came to me, she said she was sick and tired of spending Saturday nights alone. Fair enough.

So, after a few dates with different men, she met Keith. Keith asked her out on their second date for a Saturday night. Yes! Then, for the next three months’ worth of Saturday nights, this client had plans with Keith. I was thrilled. Especially since she hadn’t dated in many years since her divorce, her success felt really special to me, and I was proud to have been a part of it.

And then Keith unceremoniously broke up with my client — in a text message. Lovely.

She was sad. Though, as I noted, she seemed less sad about Keith himself and more sad about missing out on Saturday night plans. She sent me a series of texts saying she was “back to square one” and “Maybe she’ll never meet anyone” and “all of it was for nothing.”

If you set a goal of one thing — in this case, a long-term committed relationship — anything short of that will be viewed as a failure. And that is no way to live.

I expressed that Keith was an important part of her journey. It awakened a sexual desire she hadn’t accessed in a long, long time, and she wondered whether it even existed anymore. It gave her all of those weekend plans she so longed for. And it made her realize what type of communication, and its frequency, she wanted in a relationship.

All of this information seems really valuable to me and it makes her even more knowledgeable, both about herself and what she’s looking for, when she meets new people. But to her, all was lost.

Goals need to have incremental steps. Maybe that’s Saturday night plans, then a weekend trip, then something else.

That way, you can see each step is successful in its own way. Each part of the process means something, so there can’t just be one right answer or outcome.

I would say to this client, keep your eye off the prize. Thinking there’s only one acceptable result — and anything short of that means nothing — prevents you from seeing there is something to be gained from the path.

For myself, I think I’ll work on shifting my sleep up 10 minutes every night so I can see the value of moving things gradually … starting tomorrow.

Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating. Want to connect with Erika? Join her newsletter,

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