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Singles Scene News
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8 dates to true love, or how to avoid wasting time on the wrong relationship
by Janet Jacobsen
Feb. 2003

At coffee after one of my singles classes, someone asked me to recommend some “test dates.” (A “test date” is any date that in some way forces you to get to know each other, as opposed to just killing time.) We got started on which ones made good first dates, which were better as second dates, etc. and before you know it we had collectively come up with a set of dates that we believed absolutely positively would guarantee you true love forever if you could just get through all eight dates with one person

Now that I’ve had a chance to consider the list by the light of day, I think we were wrong. This list will not guarantee true love.
What I think it will do, however, is weed out the wrong ones real quick. Follow this set of carefully and strategically planned dates, and the odds are very good that long before Date #8 you will have eliminated all the insinceres, totally incompatibles, only-interested-in-one-things (whatever that might be), and major game players.
You could, however, get through all eight dates and later discover that you are each wildly intolerant of your religious differences, or that one of you wants kids and the other doesn’t, or some other totally irreconcilable difference. But properly handled, these eight dates will get you way more information about the other person than any other eight dates you ever had (not counting the time you were stranded together at the lake for three days because the road washed out).

Keep in mind that for maximum effectiveness, dates should not be skipped or moved up in order. You may repeat lower order dates as often as you wish, however. Also, this is based on you inviting them on each of these dates. (Yes, ladies, you too.) If you get through Date Eight and they haven’t invited you out even once (and preferably more than that), dump them.

If they invite you on a date that doesn’t fit the order, it’s ok, provided it’s not too far out of order. But you still have to invite them, per plan.
Also, a word about timing. Packing all eight dates into eight days or less is probably cheating and lowers the “test effectiveness” of these dates. On the other hand, spreading them out over several years may be a bit much (but maybe not).

The Coffee Date.
This is the best first date, even if you’ve worked across the hall from each other for years. The coffee date (which could also be tea, soda, or ice cream, but absolutely not alcohol) must be at a public location, NOT either person’s home, and you should arrive separately - and leave separately. The date can last 20 minutes or several hours (depending on the patience of the restaurant staff).
The Cultural Event.
Go somewhere you like to go that has no built-in time frame, total opportunity for conversation, and plenty of things to talk about. Possibilities include the zoo, museums, the botanical garden. Do not pick a place that you aren’t particularly interested in but think they would like. Being in familiar territory will put you at ease and help keep the conversation going.
Dinner Out.
Ok, now you can go on the traditional dinner date, but nothing too elaborate (meaning expensive), please. Again, go some place you like to go, or have been wanting to try. The only requirement is that the place be quiet enough that it’s easy to talk.
The required conversational topic for Date Three: You tell me your life story and I’ll tell you mine. Keep repeating dates one through three until you have this conversation. It’s essential.
Personal Choice.
Introduce them to something important to you. If you live to golf, take them golfing. If opera is your passion, now’s the time. Whatever. The test is not whether they emerge from the experience as an opera lover too, but how they handle giving it a try, how supportive they are of your interest (even if they really would prefer NOT to go to a tractor pull ever again), and whether they are a good sport about it all.
Give a Party.
Next you need to give a party and invite them. Load this party with your friends and family, the more the better. This can be fancy or informal, a Halloween bash, a sit-down dinner, a picnic, whatever suits you best. For maximum test date effectiveness, include some kind of competitive team event: charades, volleyball, team Trivial Pursuit, whatever. It doesn’t matter whether you are on the same or competing teams.
The Home-cooked
Even if the party was a formal dinner, Date Six is still a home-cooked meal with just the two of you. Do not prompt them in any way to help with this meal, before, during, or after. Part of the test is to see how what they naturally volunteer fits with your expectations.
Cook things you like to cook; if you absolutely do not cook, it’s acceptable to have pizza, take-out chicken or Chinese, or something from the deli.
Go Canoeing.
Rent a canoe at a lake. Do not attempt this date on moving water if neither of you knows how to canoe, but park lakes are just fine. Actually, the less either of you knows about canoeing, the better. And you must both paddle; if only one of you paddles, it drastically reduces the test-effectiveness of this date, in which you can learn more about your compatibility in stress management, blaming, and sense of humor than is possible by any other method in as short a period of time (except maybe with small children and a car-sick dog on an afternoon drive).
The Overnight
In the best possible case, this would be a camping trip, because it requires the maximum mutual dependence and cooperation. A weekend in Las Vegas absolutely will NOT do, nor will any “overnight” in which room service is available, even if not used. Meal preparation, advance planning and provision of supplies (what do you mean, you forgot towels?) should be included. You can borrow a friend’s summer cottage, rent a cabin in the woods, or a houseboat, if camping is just not your thing. But remember, the more work it is, the better the test.
And that’s it.
I have “lost” relationships at every one of these stages. Thank God. I also have relationships that have settled in at a stage and never moved on, which is also fine, because neither of us has any illusions that the other is “the one.” The goal is to date with the maximum effectiveness, and a weeding out at any point is great because it saves both of you weeks of wasted movie dates, for instance.

(Nope, no movie dates on this list, unless that’s what you want as your Date Four. In general, movie dates have minimal test effectiveness unless you are a movie fiend; then definitely go to the movies for Date Four.)

It is not necessary that either of you go to the other’s house until Date Five, you will notice. You can “meet” at Dates One through Four, quite easily. If this has started as a blind date, you probably ought to “meet” out through Date Two at a minimum.

Also note that there is no presumption of sex anywhere in the list, not even Date Eight, which may afford the maximum opportunity but certainly allows for separate tents. If you have had a tendency to let your hormones be your guide in past relationships, then no sex until Date Three at least.

If you get through all eight dates together, you’re now either great friends, seriously interested in each other, or never speaking to each other again (which is much better to know after Date Eight than after two years of marriage).