-Cue The Mood Music-
Close your eyes and envision the following scene: It is the first date for you and your current crush. Tonight holds the possibility of transforming each of you into the otherâ€™s significant. The air around the two of you lingers with an intoxicating mixture of random scents (perfume, cologne and lots of perspiration), lofty expectations and dim lighting, that is to say; it is the ideal environment to see what is not there and miss what is present.
At this point in your budding relationship you probably know the crucial basics about one another: Human? â€“Check; Approximate age/height? â€“Check, check; Occupation? â€“Check; Absence or Presence on FBIâ€™s Most Wanted? â€“Most Likely; Do you practice self-compassion in your life? ? -Uh, noâ€¦why on Earth would that matter? Â Well, Iâ€™m glad you asked.
-Why We Should Do It-
Practicing self-compassion might be a strong indicator of the presence or absence of empathy in an individual. Empathy is the ability to see the world through the eyes of another person. Empathy is what we are all seeking from our relationship partner: the space to be who we are without judgment.
Doesnâ€™t that sound alluring? The freedom to be who you are without fearâ€¦I know what you might be thinking: Sounds too good to be true. Guess what though? It is the singular truth when you are engaged in a relationship guided by self-compassion.
Take a mental â€śsnapshotâ€ť of your life at this moment. Who are you? What are you doing? What makes you smile? What makes you, you? Can you embrace each part of you without hesitation? I am not encouraging you to blissfully deny what â€śisâ€ť but instead to accept what â€śisâ€ť and who you are without exception. Acceptance is not condoning behavior. It is you â€śbeingâ€ť without the need to be anything else.Â Self-compassion encompasses gentleness of self via introspection, not judgment. It bids you to take a role guided by neutral observation rather than by critical analysis.
Now that you are an expert in all things self-compassionâ€¦ok, perhaps a pseudo-expert is more aproposâ€¦ Regardless of your ranking, letâ€™s explore the most important way to apply the principles of self-compassion to a first date experience.
-Psst, Donâ€™t Defend-
Remember how I emphasized practicing self-compassion by being the observer rather than the critic? Use that same intention with your date. If he or she poses a tough question to you or offers an â€śoffensiveâ€ť comment in response to something you shared, pause before doing or saying anything. Draw upon the self-compassion youâ€™ve been honing and extend compassion to your date.
The only reason we defend is if we feel we have been attacked. Do you really want to give your date the power to take away your peace of mind? I am not advocating quiet suffering, in fact, I suggest you being perfectly present and aware. No matter what, do not defend. You did nothing wrong.
Your date might not see it that way or might not agree with you, but you have options for how to respond. It is not your job to point out your date is wrong any more than it his or her job to judge or attack you.
If the â€śoffenseâ€ť was intentionally cruel, then choose an exit strategy that seems most in-line with who you are, but do not defend. Leave if you want, express your feelings are hurt if you choose, but do not defend. In my experience, these consciously cruel comments are rare, but do exist and do merit a response, but not a defense.
However, if your date is like the majority of people in the world and had a â€śslipâ€ť of the tongue unconsciously, due to first date jitters, foot-in-mouth syndrome or some other social awkwardness, do not defend and choose a response. You might employ a mixture of humor and sarcasm and quip, â€śI was not aware you had an evil twin.â€ť
Unless your date is completely obtuse or a psychopath, he or she will realize you are upset and will most likely seek to remedy it. We all get nervous on first dates. We all want to make a good impression. Extending your date the chance to start-over by not responding with defense allows you to see who is really in front of you. Wouldnâ€™t you want a second chance if you did the same as your date completely without intention?
-Play it Againâ€¦With Self-Compassion-
Revisiting our ideal first date scenario, Close your eyes once again and envision the following scene: It is the first date for you and your current crush. Tonight holds the possibility of transforming each of you into the otherâ€™s significant. The air around the two of you lingers with an intoxicating mixture of random scents (perfume, cologne and lots of perspiration), lofty expectations and dim lighting, that is to say; it is the ideal environment to see what is there and recognize what is present.
-Blissfully Ever After?-
The first question echoing from both of your lips simultaneously: â€śDo you practice self-compassion?â€ť Nodding tacitly in union with one another, eyes locked and smiling, you both know tonight might be the beginning of your Blissfully Everâ€¦ Hold your horses; there is no hurry to experience bliss. Stay present and donâ€™t defend. OK, back to the moment right after the pivotal questionâ€¦
Upon your ideal partnerâ€™s affirmative response, you will be entering into a relationship with an ability to look at each otherâ€™s actions with empathy and without judgmental interpretation. We all make mistakes and we all want second chances and second dates.
Resisting the temptation to take offense or defend during the first date might not guarantee a second date, but it will facilitate a self-compassionate experience regardless of the outcome. Each moment of a self-compassionate first date brings you one moment closer to finding your lasting soulmate bliss.
Beyond a first date, what are other settings to practice extending the lessons of self- compassion?