I’ve learned a lot about dating over the years –and not just from my own.
Through coaching single men and women in the dating process, and surviving a fairly lengthy one myself, it’s clear: There are some very good reasons why so many people hate dating. And while some of these reasons are unavoidable (they sort of come with the territory of an uncertain process), many others, I believe, can be circumvented. In most cases, a much better dating experience is within reach—if one knows how to grab it.
Although we rarely do it consciously, people often exercise their “right to date” in ways that inadvertently lead to feelings of disappointment—or even despair—for themselves and others. We may not be aware of our underlying motives at all times…but we should be. Checking in with ourselves, reflecting upon our experiences, and examining our real intentions with emotional honesty throughout the dating process are all great ways to up our chances of creating lasting love instead of the heartache that often accompanies whirlwind romances.
To reap the full benefits of the dating process, one needs to put the whole purpose of dating into perspective. And the reasons why we choose to date in the first place account for a large part of why so many suffer through the process. On that note, here’s a list of 5 things that dating should not be:
- A way to pass the time when you’re single. Addicted to swiping? Making a hobby out of breaking hearts? In order for your dating to be successful, it must be viewed a means to an end (commitment), and not an end in and of itself. If you are a single man or woman who enjoys your independence to the point of avoiding settling down—even if you were to meet an amazing match today—then try taking up a pastime that isn’t dating! Seriously. We all crave connection and intimacy, but adopting an aimless dating practice while you figure out your lifelong relationship goals just isn’t the way to go. It’s kind of like heading on a road trip without first plugging a location into your GPS, and then forcing your date to come along for the ride. Bad idea.
- A therapy session. While dating should always be a dignified process, it should never be used as a method to repair a damaged self-image. Getting into the pattern of breaking up with partners who don’t fulfill your every whim and desire, or who don’t meet every one of your emotional needs, is a sign that you may need to reassess your readiness to date seriously. Similarly, if you find yourself constantly venting about personal issues to your new girlfriend or boyfriend, that should be a cue to you that you may not be ready for a healthy relationship. Fishing for compliments? If you’re relying on your date to improve your view of yourself, or perhaps take some kind of quiet gratification in dumping people, well then, it’s time to turn elsewhere for this kind of pick-me-up. Partners should be supportive of one another, but in a healthy relationship, your partner should never be your source of self-worth.
- A cycle of repeated patterns. We all have emotional blind spots that unknowingly stop us from taking any relationship to the next level. Whatever yours are, if you’re serious about finding someone to share your life with, then put some time and effort into uncovering your “blind spots.” (Coaching, or sometimes therapy, if needed, can be a good way to go about doing this.) As Albert Einstein famously put it, the definition of insanity is “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Learn what your underlying fears and motivations are, and you may actually free yourself from the patterns that have kept you in a holding pattern until now.
- An intentional self-discovery exercise. Though learning about oneself is often a natural byproduct of the dating process, as it should be, to date in lieu of : introspection, a personal growth course, coaching, or professional therapy, etc. when needed, is a surefire way to sabotage your relationships. While you’re still unsure what you really want out of life, it’s unfair to use the person you’re dating as a self-discovery kit when all he or she really wants is a marriage partner. Stringing your date along for weeks, months or even years with the false hope that maybe it could work out shows a complete disregard for your date’s priorities, life goals and feelings. While you may lack a sense of urgency to get married, that sentiment may not be mutual. Bottom line: There are plenty of healthy and efficient ways to figure out your goals and values, but doing it at another person’s expense really is not a compassionate solution.
- A disempowering experience. After all is said and done, dating should actually feel pretty good. It should never be traumatic, offensive, or hurtful. If you find that it’s been any of those things, then you may have either been dating the wrong people who just aren’t ready for marriage, or dating with a self-sabotaging perspective, or both. Perhaps it’s time to change up your dating strategy and then dive back into the scene with a renewed sense of enthusiasm. Give yourself the opportunity to reignite the spark of hope within you that knows you deserve–and can actually have–the loving relationship you really want.
So, what should dating be? A focused process that encourages genuine connection; a means to an end; a safe space to be vulnerable; a chance to appreciate and be appreciated; a mutual discovery of another person’s world; a place where real giving occurs and real love can flourish. By becoming more conscious of the reasons why we date, we can shift our perspective to support a healthier outlook on dating. This in turn will help produce the good feelings—and positive results—that can and should emerge from the dating process. With G-d’s help, we’ll be on the path to the loving, lasting relationship that deep down each one of us is truly yearning for.
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