How to Date Authentically: 4 LessonsI will have a loving, committed, and fulfilling romantic relationship.
I created this affirmation several months ago to remind myself that the type of relationship I want is possible.
But, to be honest, sometimes I wonder if I will ever find someone. I wonder if maybe I have too many issues or if my standards are too high. At times, I even question whether I am capable of having a healthy relationship.
Whenever I’m feeling particularly hopeless, I look back over the experiences I’ve had and remind myself that I have grown tremendously and have learned so much about myself through my dating experiences.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past year, it’s that ultimately, dating is about me: my behaviors, attitudes and beliefs about love. As I’ve learned more and more about myself, I have started to attract others who mirror the qualities I value most.
Often times, so much of our time and energy is spent considering the needs of other people. We want to be loved so we contort ourselves to fit other people.
However, in focusing outward, we miss the opportunity to connect authentically. True connection comes from fully embracing and accepting every single part of you and lovingly sharing yourself with another.
I’d like to share several lessons I’ve learned from my dating experiences. I hope they might help you become more intentional and authentic in how you approach your own dating process.
1. Discard Unrealistic Ideas About Relationships
When I look back at some of my past journal entries, I realize two things.
One, most of my writing is about love and relationships. This is not a surprise. I’ve been in love with the thought of love since childhood and consider myself to be a hopeful romantic.
Two, there is also a disturbing pattern that emerges. I realized that the need to be with someone has always been greatest when I was experiencing a period of transition, was uncertain about the direction of my life or was feeling bad about myself.
I understand now that these are horrible conditions for trying to create a fulfilling relationship. I was clingy, needy and desperate for the men in my life to “make it all better.” I believed that a romantic relationship and love would fulfill me.
I was waiting on Prince Charming to ride in on his white horse and give my life meaning and purpose. I had created a standard that no one could possibly meet and this unrealistic expectation ultimately pushed every guy I met away.
I encourage you to think about why you’re dating and be honest with yourself. Is it because you want someone to enjoy and share your already awesome and amazing life with or is it because you’re trying to fulfill a need?
Your reasons for dating will directly affect your experiences of dating. If you’re finding yourself consistently in unhealthy relationships, you might want to take some time to evaluate your motives.
2. Maintain Your Sense of Self
I’ll be honest; I have been guilty of dropping everything in my life to be with a man. I would even hesitate to make any other plans so I would be available if he called. Often times, I’d still find myself frustrated and alone.
This past year, I’ve made the conscious decision to focus on the things that matter to me most. I’ve learned that doing things that make me feel valued (like interacting with my students) boosts my self-esteem and improves my mood. These are moments when I feel great about myself and radiate confidence and beauty.
Within the past week, I’ve had three different guys tell me the fact that I am so committed to and passionate about the work I do is extremely attractive. Instead of feeling like I’m too busy to date, they feel honored when I am finally able to find time to spend with them.
Everybody likes interesting and multifaceted people. Being uniquely you is what makes you so attractive in the first place.
3. Be Honest With Yourself
Last night I went on the worst date ever. I knew immediately based on his personality that we probably wouldn’t “click” but wanted to be open-minded and give the date a try anyway. What proceeded was a series of events that make me cringe even writing about.
He rehashed the old argument about black girls being angry and said he preferred women of different races because they were “submissive.” He ended his tirade by saying, “You know what I mean?” Um no …. I don’t.
He wanted to “sit and talk” in an isolated area of the neighborhood we were in. When I told him I wanted to continue walking down the main street he accused me of “always wanting to be in control” and dismissed my feelings by telling me I was being too sensitive.
The final straw was when he insisted we buy books as gifts for each other. His choice? A comic book filled with different types of sperm. Gross!
“I’m going to end this date,” I told him and walked out of the bookstore.
If something about the date/guy/relationship doesn’t feel right, pay attention! Our intuition is effective if we use it. However, we tend to avoid that inner voice especially when it comes to dating and relationships.
We think that we are being overly sensitive, critical or unreasonable. The truth of the matter is, the red flags we ignore in the beginning often turn out to be the things that break our hearts in the future.
If you just met a guy and already you’re feeling uneasy about him, something is definitely up. Figure out what that is and if necessary, don’t be afraid to walk away.
4. Embrace Rejection
This is probably the hardest lesson I’ve had to learn from dating. I used to take it very personally when a guy I was into didn’t call back after what I thought was a really great first date.
I often thought I wasn’t attractive/funny/intellectual/sexy enough. After beating myself up in this way for far too long, I realized that this way of thinking was not getting me any closer to the relationship I wanted.
Instead, I started to look at rejection differently. I have come to view it is a natural part of dating (and life for that matter) and a tool for eliminating men who are not right for me.
I have made the commitment to myself only to date men who are completely and totally into me. As far as I’m concerned, men who are not interested are simply freeing up space for someone better to come along.
Dating can be fun and exhilarating. It can also be scary and frustrating. Instead of allowing yourself to become disillusioned, try to be open to learning the lessons of how to date through your dating experiences.
I’ve realized that becoming aware of what doesn’t work moves me that much closer to the type of relationship that will truly satisfy me.