The most common questions I get asked about dating and relationships, centre around where to meet someone and what to do/where to go once you have met someone.
I wish I had an answer. #sigh
Ideally, there would be some blanket statement I could give ad nauseum, to universally work, so you can all meet your perfect match, find and fall in love and live happily ever after, the end. And yet, we are all so very different and our wants and needs, interests and budgets all lend themselves to various answers at various points in our lives. The key is doing what you love and putting yourself out there (basic, I know!) but like attracts like, and proximity and routine run-ins breed relationships.
In a past partnership, I dated someone who wasn’t working and therefore didn’t have budget to splurge on date nights, aside from a drink or two at a local bar. I often found myself having to cover our bills, based on his expectations that I make money and he doesn’t, and after a while, though I stayed in the relationship, I stopped going out with him because it always felt unbalanced.
Instead I’d go out with friends for after work drinks, dinners, concerts or to an event, and home to him at the end of the night. This ended up costing me a fortune in Lyft rides, but I didn’t want to depend on him to get me to and from places, because then I’d have to pay for it in other ways later (gas money or as an excuse to gaslight mebeing gaslighted, pick your poison.)
The thing is, when you stop spending time with your partner, your relationship suffers. And so, I started finding new ways for us to spend time together, where money wouldn’t be an issue.
We started going to various libraries in and around the city together. I’m an avid reader and he – who had never been to the library before – was impressed that he could take out new video games, movies, magazines and graphic novels and even got into reading (just call me #thebookcupid). We’d often make tea or a coffee, put them in to-go cups, and head to our local libraries to see what they had to offer, often hitting up a few in a day.
One day, when pulling out of Mississauga’s Central Library, we noticed that Square One Shopping Centre was opening up a food market called The Food District. I was intrigued. I ended up being invited to the grand opening of The Food District and brought him as my plus one, only to discover it as a new go-to spot.
For the first time in a long time, we were able to have an unexpected day-date, in a place close to his home with a bunch of variety so we could choose our own adventure, dependent on if and how much we wanted to spend. Since many of the places offer takeaway options, we could both go to our food counter of choice, order what we wanted, pay for it on our own without having an awkward splitting the bill situation, then meet up to eat at an open table.
There’s this hella memorable Sex and the City episode when Miranda first starts dating Steve, who at the time was working night shifts at a bar, while she was trying to make partner at her law firm. There was a disconnect with them where he felt less than, because she was offering to pay based on what she could afford and he didn’t feel comfortable or “manly” accepting her generousitygenerosity. It was important for him to treat her, so she chose a pizza place for him to take her for a slice – something within his budget, which made for a great date night.
I think when you love someone, you want them to feel like they are enough and there are so many things you can do that don’t involve spending much money, or any. That said, if you have the funds and call yourself a foodie, there are spots you can enjoy without trekking into Toronto.
When my now ex and I got to The Food District, we split taco’s at La Carnita, did a free cooking class with Julian Pancer (yes, that Pancer) – there’s a schedule of free events you can sign up for like Make Your Own Breakfast Jar, Coffee Cupping, Steak Cuts & Orgins 101 and so much more! – had the drink special and caught some of the game at Black Jack BBQ, I grabbed a cone at Sweet Jesus and we did a free tea tasting at Tao Tea Leaf.
Since there was no pressure to purchase anything if we didn’t want to and there was such ease in the day, I realized a lot of disconnects arise in relationships when you don’t manage your expectations. Before we left, I bought a fresh bouquet of all white florals at Blossom Moments – just a little something, a gesture for myself to put a smile on my face. Sure it would be nice to get flowers, but it’s all about doing what makes you happy.
At the end of the day, you win some and lose some when going on dates whether it’s for the first time or after many a year. But you always have yourself and as long as you’re happy, fulfilled and honouring where you’re at, then really, that’s all that matters.