We live in an age where dating is very different from what it used to be. We no longer need to rely on friends to provide introductions, or constantly go out to socialize in hopes of meeting a potential partner. The digital age has opened the doors to a new way of meeting and connecting with people, giving us endless options when it comes to the pool of potential partners.
When it comes to dating, I’ve noticed that most people fall under two categories; they either hate it or love it. Surprisingly, most people I know fall into the former category. They dread going on dates, they feel nervous about what to say, what to wear, whether there will be chemistry, and whether they’ll come across as smart/dumb, interesting/boring, etc. Then, there are some people who don’t overthink it. Regardless of what their intentions are, they go on dates because they enjoy meeting and connecting with new people, and they have fun doing it. To them, a date that doesn’t lead to a second date isn’t necessarily a bad date as long as they had a good time. I fall under the latter category.
I’ve been asked by several people to write about dating and give some advice. While I don’t consider myself to be better at dating than most people, below are several tips (based on my personal approach) which may help you simplify an experience that I believe should only be enjoyable.
Decide on what you’re looking for. This is an important question you must ask yourself when putting yourself out there. After all, how can you assess your compatibility with someone if you don’t know what you want. Are you looking to meet someone to potentially settle down and start a family with? Are you looking for something casual or a quick hookup? Or are you looking for something less conventional, like an open or consensual non-monogamous relationship? Whatever it is you’re hoping to find, it’s important to know what it is. This will help you avoid wasting time on people you aren’t compatible with. However, we are constantly evolving and it’s totally ok to want one thing today and a different thing tomorrow, as long as you’re not hurting anyone’s feelings. For example, there have been periods in my life when I wanted to find a serious committed relationship, and there have also been periods when I was not very interested in finding love, I just wanted something light and without expectations. I was honest with myself and with my dates about what it was that I wanted, and this helped me (and them) determine if we were a good fit. Forget about societal pressures or pressure from others (like your parents) to do certain things by a certain age. Stay true to who you are and what your heart desires.
Chemistry is not enough if you are looking for a relationship. They say love conquers all, and that keeping the spark alive is paramount. While I don’t disagree with that, I do think that neither love nor chemistry is enough to make a relationship last. There is so much more that goes into making a relationship succeed. The ability to make compromises, exercise patience, trust; being understanding, giving, confident; and sharing values, are just some of the ingredients necessary to make a relationship work. Keep this in mind if you’re looking for a relationship. While having chemistry with someone feels great, don’t get carried away by that initial chemistry and confuse that with a false sense of compatibility. It’s easy to allow chemistry, infatuation, and a strong attraction to drive our actions. It takes time to get to know someone.
Know your must-haves. Make a list of the characteristics you’d want your ideal partner to have. Whether you’re looking for a partner to be with for the rest of your life or for a few nights, it’s good to have standards. Start with a list of about 10-15 traits and then pick the top 3-5 that are most important to you. These top traits should be your must-haves / non-negotiables. These can change over time, but know what they are and keep them in the back of your mind so you don’t settle for less. The only caveat is to have realistic expectations and never expect perfection, because that doesn’t exist. Most importantly, stay true to yourself and your needs, and never compromise your core values.
Keep it simple and be yourself. Some of the main sources of anxiety that I hear my friends complain about revolve around the idea that dating is intimidating. My advice is always to keep it simple and just be yourself! Yes, we try to show our best side despite not knowing if it will lead to anything, that can feel intimidating. But when two people agree to see each other, that’s a clear sign that at least there’s already some level of mutual interest. What’s the worst that could happen? You don’t see them again and that’s it; you weren’t a good fit. Better to find out earlier than later, no? Just be yourself from the beginning and if there’s continued interest, then you’re off to a good start! Minimize your sources of stress by focusing on being yourself, having a good time, and being present. Oftentimes, we get so caught up on what will happen in the future, or preventing mistakes from the past from reoccurring, that we neglect to be present and we fail to bring an open mind and open heart. Be confident in who you are and accept the fact that you won’t be compatible with everyone, even the people you’re very attracted to, and that’s ok.
Have fun and be present. I can’t stress the fun part enough. Not everyone will share this view, but to me, if you’re not having fun getting to know someone, if you don’t have fun being in their company, then what’s the point? If you’re not genuinely excited to see someone and learn about them, then what makes you think it will be any different months or years down the line? One of the things I’ve tried to improve in my dating approach is that I tend to focus on looking for the red flags when I meet someone new. I want to avoid anything that will bring me drama or dissatisfaction later on. This may sound like a sound approach, however, it causes me to become so busy analyzing people that I sometimes forget to be present, which in turn causes me to overlook someone’s great qualities. While it’s important to recognize red flags and deal-breakers, it’s equally important to remain present and open to seeing the good in others. Sometimes we need to embrace the uncertainty and allow ourselves to be vulnerable.
Regardless of what it is that you’re looking for, whether you’re trying to find someone new or if you’re already in a situation but you’re not quite sure where it’s going, remember to have clarity surrounding your needs and desires, be yourself, be present, enjoy the experience. Minimize the unnecessary stressors and just have fun! and don’t forget that you can always grow and learn lessons from every situation.