This is my 10 year anniversary of dating.

The crushes, falling in love too quickly, all the firsts, and even the messy breakups. Everything I learned about being a better educator, self-love, good communication, time management, and leadership, I learned first from dating. 

It should be noted that my perspective and insights are inevitably limited. As a straight, cisgender Asian American womyn, my dating experiences are both privileged and oppressed in its own unique way. I also write this post as an educator and how being in student affairs shows up in my dating life, but many of these can be transferable for others : )

Student Affairs and Dating: Lessons Learned

1. What do you want?

What do you want
Do you want a relationship? Great. Do you want safe and consensual sex? Great. Do you want to meet two new people in your city every week? Great. Whatever your goal, set it.

Going into the dating scene with your goals helps to filter out the people who are looking for something different. The bridge between knowing what you want and getting what you want is communication. Let’s say you’re online dating– it’s totally okay (and a time saver!) to ask someone, “So what are you looking for on XYZ app?”

Remember SMART goals?

It’s totally applicable. Here’s an example:

Specific: I want to meet new people and go on dates to eventually meet my future partner.
Measurable: I will go on 2 dates a week with people I find attractive.
Attainable: The dates will be no longer than 45 minutes on my less stressful days.
Relevant: Totally relevant to my self-care and relationship building practices.
Time Based: 2 dates/week for one month.

2. Are you too busy… or do you actually just not want to date? 

“I’m too busy” is the most common excuse for pretty much anyone for anything.
If you don’t want to date, great! But let’s establish that everyone is busy. Okay. Now onward.

When I make the conscious decision to make time for dating, I learned a few time/heart management strategies along the way.

Here are two: First, I sandwich my dates in between my academic and work priorities. 45 minutes tops for first dates, usually during a meal time. If they are late, it will be clear to them that they can’t pull that on me because I’m still leaving in 45 minutes. If it goes well, there’s still excitement there for the next date.

Second, I am usually coming straight from work, class, or internship to a date, which means I dress in a multifunctional outfit– for example, tops that look work-ready with a blazer and then date-ready without it. You know how some people carry a resume on them, just in case? I pack a “date” shirt in my bag, just in case. When I put myself in the mindset to meet someone new, I’m ready both mentally and stylistically.

3. “So what grade do you teach?” 

I am not a teacher. I do not have a classroom. And even if I did, it’s not going to be your typical Algebra II. Our field has a hard time naming its people (Are we practioners? Professionals? College administrators?), but I absolutely do not “teach a grade.”

But it’s annoying at worst. Not everyone knows what student affairs is, and not everyone went to college. I realize that it will happen more often than not, so now it’s just navigating it.

My wingwomyn N shared the tip of having a quick elevator speech to share on dates, and even having a note saved in her phone to copy and paste while online dating. Efficiency is key to being less annoyed.

Real responses I’ve used:

– Actually, I work with college students. I don’t teach, but it’s more like the learning outside the classroom : )
– Mmmmm, not necessarily. Think of the learning outside the classroom, like leadership training!
– I’m actually learning about policy and development of college students outside the classroom. More like college administration.

4. Learnable Language vs Red Flags

Student affairs, like many other fields, uses many buzzwords. It’s like our own language. Dorms vs. residential halls, self-care, social justice, challenge and support, blah blah blah. Not everyone knows how to speak our language, but don’t you forget that you had to learn it, too. The difference when dating is differentiating what language is learnable and what language is a red flag. It’s different for everyone.

For example, when a date mixes up “Diwali” as an ethnicity rather than a holiday, for me, it’s teachable. But the moment a date “compliments” me with how much he loves Asian women and makes a joke about mail order brides (yes, this happened), I’m calling for the check and turning on my “Find My Friends” app.

You may not know it until it happens, but consider establishing what words or phrases you have the patience for and what you simply don’t. You may be an educator, but you also do not have to educate everyone on everything.

5. Are you still having fun? 

Dating is hard. Miscommunication can get messy, and hearts are sometimes involved. Is the texting communication causing you more anxiety than excitement? Is the dating experiencing bringing up unresolved trauma from your past?

Be mindful of your needs vs. wants. For me, I don’t need to date. I want to.

If you still have some major wounds to heal, take care of yourself and consult with your counselor, friends, or family as necessary.

The moment it stops being fun, take a break. But there is a difference between pain vs. inconvenience. Know the difference within yourself and put in the effort that you’re willing to put in. If this is new for you, be gentle with yourself if you ever feel like you “messed up” and remember that in a lot of ways, you’re practicing what it’s like to put yourself out there. Document the lessons learned.

And have fun.

T and N