I should start this blog by saying that what I'm about to discuss is by no means a reflection of my own life, nor any current choices that I am making. Neither is it a declaration of my own relationship status. As a psychotherapist, I help individuals navigate issues that can be relatable (or not relatable at all) and I tend to form opinions that I feel would be useful solutions for people. I say this to prevent any inferences from being drawn.
So as a shrink, if you call it, I tend to specialise more so in career counselling and goal setting. It's certainly a passion of mine to see people flourish and achieve all that they set out to. Recently, I started some advanced studies in relationship counselling. Mainly because there wasn't another elective I found fascinating enough, but also because relationships play a fundamental role in our greater life satisfaction. Choose a bad one and it can effectively damage your career prospects. It's that serious.
I was also fascinated because we are actually holistic beings. When we focus on one aspect of life, we inevitably have to look at other aspects too. Our social world and inner being are inextricably linked like that. So dating and relationships are a key aspect of helping someone reach self-fulfilment in life. We are also relational beings, looking to meet that one, after all.
So, what's this got to do with dating?
We are all looking for our perfect match. Most of us want a life partner. It's simply the way we are wired. And....it's totally OK to say that too. It certainly doesn't make you any less of a woman (or man) to state that. And because most of us desire a partner to navigate the ups and downs of life with, focusing on how to find one is a big deal. Like a REALLY BIG DEAL. So here are some tips:
1. Date around. Yes, that's right! It's OK to date multiple people sequentially or simultaneously. Unless you get that flash of lightening that states "this person is the one!" and you. just. know. It's fine to have coffee with a few people to ascertain how well you get on. Totally OK. Just be open. And be pragmatic. In the old days this method was called courting and it prevented women from getting too emotionally attached until they knew a person's character. It was also a simple catch up, with strict boundaries, and lasted a very short time. Two weeks to a month tops is a good time frame to decide whether you wish to progress into an exclusive relationship beyond a casual coffee hangout.
2. Be honest. Tell the person that you're looking to meet someone to spend the rest of your life with. Keep things cordial and friendly, and don't get emotionally intimate until you know that you will embark on a close and exclusive relationship with that person. At that moment, cease meeting other people.
3. You can say no. If the coffee date just sucks, there's simply no connection or chemistry, and you know your values are so different, then it's OK to say no. I used to feel like I had to give a person another chance. Because, well, I'm nice like that. I'd have all manner of excuses for how bad the date was. I'd want to give the person a chance in case nerves got in the way or out of pity. But there was one occasion that I realised that my nice nature was affecting my own personal boundaries and that it would have been a waste of time for both of us to meet again. We were simply in two very different stages of life. I was kind and gracious, but I had to politely decline another invitation. You can let people down with respect.
4. You won't be attracted to everyone. Some people are just meant to be friends. And that's OK. Don't let anyone tell you differently. You're not a bad person because you're simply not feeling it. You're not being picky, stuck up, or any other manner of negative label. You're you. You are an autonomous being and can make your own mind up on who and how you develop a relationship.
5. Seek out someone that will build you up, not tear you down. This goes without saying, but sometimes you have to state the obvious. A relationship has to be uplifting and be a teamwork. One person cannot carry the burden on their own. You simply strive to work together to encourage EACH OTHER to be the best versions of themselves.
So, what should you avoid?
There are a few dating pitfalls that people can avoid. I'm a firm believer in happy healthy relationships. When you're in a good relationship, it's life changing. You feel like you can achieve anything. You feel protected, encouraged, and supported. When it's bad, well, all sense of security comes crashing down. It has the ability to impact on your self-esteem, your work, and other relationships. Choose wisely. So here are my tips:
1. Avoid the I want, I want, I want person. Yes, we've all met them. They're almost 90 and still single. No one ever meeting their ever increasing list of expectations. It's best to avoid this person like the plague if you value a lifetime of happiness. They will drain you. You'll be a shrivelled wreck of a human that is forever trying to please a person that can never be pleased. The very fact is that this person's internal schema is built on fear; they're simply not happy enough to give to another human being.
2. The I'm just too picky person. Similar to the person above, but on a less demanding scale, the picky person is also not easily pleased. Whenever I hear the term picky on a date, I cringe. The term narcissism is an overly used concept by the general public (we all know that one person who literally describes everyone as narcissistic), it can be applied in small cases here. Very few people really fit the clinical diagnosis for narcissism. You'd really know about it if you met someone with this diagnosis as you'd be walking on sheer egg shells. I digress. Anyway, the picky person sees themselves as elevated above that of others. But, very rarely has an objective and realistic view of themselves. They want so much, but can offer very little in return.
3. People's judgements. So what if you've dated a few men or women. You're looking to meet the right person to spend the rest of your life with. You aint gonna do that by sitting in your PJs eating tacos on a Friday night. You meet your life partner by meeting people. By spending time talking to people. By finding out about people. By dating people. It really is that simple.
So go forth, my feathered friends. Go prosper and multiply.
This blog is the first in the relationship series.