“I’ve been cheating on Ken,” Sandra blurted out as we were having lunch. “For how long?” I asked. “One year,” she replied. Sandra and Ken had been dating since they were 23. They were now 25. Sandra would pepper me with stories about Ken’s lack of physical affection and verbal affirmation. About Sandra’s need for warmth and support. So, I wasn’t totally surprised when she told me that she had found these things in someone else. I was just about to take a bite of my salad, when she said, hesitantly, “For the past year, I have been cheating on Ken…with his mother.” I choked on a crouton.
I met Sandra during my first year of law school. She lived in my building. We were both new to Chicago and extremely grateful to find a friend in such a huge city. We had an instant bond. We’d brunch, explore the city and go out at nights to meet cute boys. Then, about 9 months later, she moved to Texas for work. That is where she met Ken. I hadn’t seen her since, until our lunch. But, we talked every day. Sometimes, multiple times a day. About everything. Or so I thought.
When “Date #10” asked me out, I almost turned him down. The point of the 35/35 project is to get outside of my comfort zone by meeting new people – and I have known Date #10 for almost 5 years. Not only do I know him, but I’d consider him to be a good friend. We’ve taken trips, celebrated our friends’ milestones and attended countless social events together. I mentioned to a co-worker that I felt like saying yes to Date #10 was “cheating” on the project. She asked me to tell her about him. So I did. Or at least, I tried. I could tell her what he looked like. How I met him. Who our common friends were. Where he was born. That he was a sweet guy. And then I was stuck. “You hang out with him and do all of these things together, surely, you know more about him than that!” she exclaimed.
The thing was, I didn’t. Although we did all of those things “together”, together really meant within the context of a larger group of friends. We had never been out one-on-one. Not the entire 5 years of knowing him! Then I thought back to the day of Sandra’s revelation and how upset I was to find that, someone I considered a great friend, I didn’t really know at all! So I immediately e-mailed Date #10 back and said that I would be happy to see him!
I arrived at his house and knocked on his door and was nervous. We made some small talk to break the ice (yes, apparently, a 5 year friendship does need icebreakers) and then headed on our way. The date was fun! Date #10 took me to Gravelly Point, a park in Arlington, VA that – I am sad to say – I did not know existed. Gravelly Point is a park that is only 400 feet away from National Airport’s runway. Planes take off and land so closely you feel as if you can reach out and touch them!! If you like things that are fast and loud, this is the spot for you! While the power of the planes definitely vibrates through your body, the park is calm with many grassy spots, picnic tables and a beautiful view of the DC Skyline.
Date #10 had even packed us a picnic brunch – including mimosas. (A touch that he’d knew I’d enjoy, given his personal knowledge. I just love “insider information”! ) We talked non-stop for 3 solid hours. I found out more about him in that 3 hour window than I knew from our entire 5 year friendship. We lamented on the fact that we hadn’t spent any time together, one-on-one, and both agreed that it had a lot to do with the mindset that many people who are single and in their 30s+ have. The “I have enough friends” mentality. You feel that your free time should be spent with your significant other, advancing your relationship, or, if you are single, that your free time should be focused on finding “the one”, not making new friends or cultivating the ones you have.
However, according to an Australian study that was conducted by Flinders Centre for Ageing Studies at Flinders University, those with a large network of friends outlived those with fewer friends by 22%!! Relationships with relatives and spouses, had NO effect on longevity. Simply put, friends help you live longer!
The lessons I’m learning from this 35/35 project, and from my dating coaches, Jess McCann and Dave Elliott, can apply to any other type of relationship. I’ve been on 11 dates as I write this post, and, each person who I have met so far has changed who I am. The changes on their own may be small but, already, collectively, they are large. And they are good. In addition to these 35 new friends, I have a fabulous group of existing friends who enhance my life. So, during this journey of personal growth and discovery, I’m going to take time to “date” my friends. To cultivate my friendships, creating deeper connections to ensure that our friendship remains for all our years to come.
“If a man does not make new acquaintances as he advances through life, he will soon find himself alone. A man should keep his friendships in constant repair.”