Last week, I spoke at a singles event for women. There is such a high emphasis in our culture on finding a partner that it can be hard to recognize what a rich opportunity being single can offer us. It is a chance to learn more about who you are and your wants and needs as you discover how you experience different dates and potential partners.
I thought I would share with my blog readers my Five Dating Tips for Singles that I shared at the event last weekend:
1. Know yourself
Dating can often feel like one part clarity to two parts confusion. Learning more about your wants and needs can help turn that ratio around. Spend some time allowing yourself to dream and let go of previously held assumptions or the pictures other people have painted for you of what is ideal.
Do you want to date women, men, transfolk, any-or-all, or just whomever makes you feel happiest? Do you enjoy dating? Or would you prefer to focus on finding a serious relationship? Is dating even what you want to do right now? Don’t assume you should date just because you are single.
Do you like being monogamous or are you open to having multiple partners or romances? Are you seeking a traditional relationship or are you open to something less “standard,” such as living separately?
Allow yourself to think of what has worked for you in the past and what hasn’t worked so much. This will help you develop a clear picture of what you want now, and when that picture gets clear, it will be easier to communicate that vision to others who may want to be in it. You may be surprised to find that if you take some space and really think about it, the script you’ve followed before may not be the right dating script for you today.
2. Evaluate whether you are creating space for what you want
Getting clear on who you are and what you want is one thing. It’s another thing to take an honest look at whether you are allowing room in your life to find what you want. This can be a good thing to check in with your friends about. Are there things that keep you from connecting to others?
Some things that came up in my talk last week that can frequently get in the way of dating included kids, work, hobbies, exes or other relationships, and other passions which take up time and space. All of these things are good, but is there balance? You may want to see if you need to clear out some space to allow a new sexual intimacy or romance to bloom in your life. Re-evaluate periodically to be sure you’re dividing up your time the way you like. This could even mean noticing that you’re spending more time and energy on dates than you want to be, and you may need to adjust so that it feels more like pleasure than a mission.
3. Learn to understand your dating plan or style
Some people love using personal ads to meet people. Others prefer getting out to events and organized activities in order to meet new folks. Some people like physical activities like sports, dancing, or excursions while others like events focused on talking and conversation. Others may like just getting out in the world in less organized ways or going to bars or clubs. These preferences can depend a lot on such attributes such as shyness, introversion, or extraversion.
Think about how you have met friends and dates in the past. Now may be a time to shake up your routine and try something new or to fully embrace your style and recognize your preferences. Think about how you like to plan dates: do you prefer to take the lead or do you like another person to suggest activities or surprise you? Do you like to stay in your comfort zone on first dates or do something new to you?
This is also a good time to figure out how many dates a week you have the stamina for. One? Two? More? With how many different people? Do you need to make a decision about the potential of a new person quickly or does it take time for you to figure out if something can be more than a friendship? Are you comfortable with your pace and can you allow yourself to respect it? These are all important things to know about yourself before venturing into the dating waters.
4. Get clarity on what you can and can’t live without
Sit down and think about which qualities matter to you most in a date or a life partner. Make a list of things that you know you can’t do without. Make a similar list of things that are deal-breakers that would send you running in the other direction. There may also be things that you are more flexible about. What are they?
In your first drafts of these lists, allow yourself to be impulsive. You can re-evaluate later and some yes or no items may later move to the maybe zone. Think about whether chemistry or emotion ever leads you to ignore what you know you need or want. This may be a good question to ask some of your closest friends about too. They may have observations about your dating choices or style that are useful to hear. Friends can also help you keep your head and think about whether you discount people for superficial (or more “maybe” reasons) when they have a lot of the qualities on your “must have” list.
5. Check your responses
Are you finding that you are responding strongly to rejection or missed connections? Do you get disappointed often in dating? Are you having any fun? If you find that you are frequently in conflict with others on dates or that it feels like work or a bad time overall, it may be time to put things on pause and take more time to reflect on what’s blocking you. Remember that primal issues and emotions and even past traumas can get strongly tapped in in dating and relationships. If this seems to be a theme, you may want to consider therapy to help clarify what is in your way and help you get on track.
And remember that new relationships can also benefit from therapy! People do not need to wait until a relationship is in trouble to learn to develop healthy ways of communicating and handling conflict. New couples sometimes go to therapy to learn how to plant the seeds for a more fulfilling relationship. So if you find someone in your dating adventures who is worth hanging onto, be open to putting some work into the relationship in the beginning. I will offer Tips for New Couples in a future blog post!