Writer’s note (31 March 2019): This piece was written when I was targeting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) women who were having dating troubles. Now I help all women who feel anxious and insecure in their relationships find peace. Learn more.
Many of you can agree with me when I say the great outdoors can be a wonderful classroom for racking up some dating skills. However, if you’re a skeptical millennial STEM woman, then let me make my case with a personal story.
At the time of writing this, I’ve been a SCUBA diver for over a year. Despite its costliness, it was one of the best decisions I’d ever made (kind of like investing in a dating coach). I wanted to improve my quality of life by learning a new skill and going on an adventure unda the sea.
After learning to breathe underwater and exploring a world vastly different from the one we know on land–with brightly colored fish, beautiful kelp forests, and boisterous blue water–I felt free and knew, just knew, that I had to convince my boyfriend and fellow adventurer Phillip to get certified.
After some pushing, he got certified, and we were able to embark on our first dive together as a couple. And it was somewhat disastrous.
Losing Each Other Underwater
We had a rough plan for where we were going to go once we were in the water. After jumping off the charter boat, we first snorkeled to a remote location away from the boat. Then, before I knew it, Phillip, an excited SCUBA fledgling, descended into the water without me. (You’re supposed to wait till you’ve both communicated you’re ready.)
I scrambled to descend and reach the sea floor with him. Once I reached the bottom, he started heading off into the poorly visible Santa Catalina Island waters. The visibility was bad enough that we could see only about 10 to 15 feet in front of us, so I was in a haste to keep up with him, using more air in my tank than if we had been swimming at a steadier pace. I tried signaling him to slow down, but he was too excited to pay attention.
At some point, I lost him in the distance. I was all alone in the current, looking for any trace of blue fins on the silhouette of a 6’3” man.
Well, when you lose your dive buddy, you’re supposed to look around for a minute and then reunite at the surface. So, I looked around with no luck. I had to ascend.
Floating at the surface like a human buoy, I waited and waited and waited for Phillip to reappear. Several minutes had gone by, and nothing. The foamy water moved up and down and the boat floated behind me, ready to take action if we lost a diver.
I was visibly calm, but I couldn’t help but wonder: “What is he doing down there? Did he notice that I wasn’t behind him anymore? Is he okay? Is he looking for me? Is he too busy chasing fish like a dog chases squirrels?”
Just when I started to really worry, he materialized.
“What happened?” I asked him.
“I thought you were still behind me,” he said.
So, what did I learn in this intense episode? Well, as it is for just about anything with a learning curve, no matter what dating stage you’re in, sometimes you need to return to the basics after figuring out what the actual fuck just happened and how you can minimize the chances of it happening again.
Here’s a refresher course:
Lesson 1: Communicate & manage expectations
No longer was a “rough” diving plan enough, as that could leave too many things open in a setting where sign language is the best way to communicate. No longer was I to shrug off what just happened and hope it’d get better during our next diving trip, expecting Phillip would read my mind. No, I needed to communicate what I needed out of that situation, which included a solid plan, being on the same page about everything, and looking out for each other. I used “I” statements (“I felt…when you…”) when I explained this to him. Had I decided not to speak up, I would have had to expect a similar outcome. Better out than in!
Lesson 2: Figure out what works for you & your partner
This part is cheesy. After remembering that we swim at vastly different speeds, and knowing that divers need to breathe steadily to maintain their air supply, we decided to hold hands to stick together. This helped him slow down, helped us both conserve our air, and allowed us to notice the little things, like marine worms and plant patterns. We enjoyed diving together all over again. (Dating is supposed to be fun, after all!)
Lesson 3: Trust your gut
If something feels off, trust that feeling and run with it. I felt uncomfortably rushed and could have said nothing afterward, but it also didn’t feel right to ignore an opportunity to make things better between us. By trusting my gut and communicating my feelings without blaming him for anything, we uncovered new truths about each other and developed a system for exploring together.
Bonus: Look at problems as opportunities
As I wrote in a previous blog post, according to a unique attitudinal assessment that I’m certified to administer for your dating needs, I measure strongly as an opportunist. This can mean that I’m easily able to make lemonade out of a seemingly “bad” situation. When Phillip and I went SCUBA diving, I was able to work with him to turn a diving nightmare into a relationship boost.
I encourage you to tap into your inner opportunist and make tons and tons of delicious dating lemonade when the going gets seemingly rough.
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