Although I escaped it quite a few years ago, my single friends tell me that the dating world can be quite a task to navigate. Rife with plenty of pitfalls from never hearing back from someone you were interested in being practically or literally stalked by someone you are not interested in, it’s quite hard to strike the right balance. Not to mention the existential quandary of whether that special soul, with whom you can share unique chemistry and relationship, will ever find their way to you or you to them.
It’s true, our human nature dictates us to crave connection, intimacy, and love. Yet many people go about it blindly and with little self-awareness or clear intention. Conscious dating is a philosophy, you could say, in which you bring the same mindfulness you cultivate in meditation, yoga, self-healing, or other spiritual practices, and weave it into your dating life.
By showing up prepared with self-awareness and some important interpersonal skills, dating can be an experience of exploration and discovery and can result in wonderful relationships.
Just like learning to drive a car or cook, dating and relationship skills may require a little bit of learning and practice. While we grow up witnessing the relationships of parents, caregivers and other adults around us, what we see isn’t always healthy and we more often than not saw relationships that were already established as opposed to being able to watch the dating and becoming a relationship part.
Here are some time-tested strategies to help you go into the dating scene with awareness and to help prepare you to really make conscious choices that lead to respectful, well-founded relationships:
1) List of Requirements
It sounds heavy, but don’t let it feel like a homework assignment. Knowing what factors you are and are not willing to negotiate is a valuable process of self-exploration. It will not only reveal to you some of your own core values but will start to make it clear to you what kind of partner you need and what values and priorities will need to be a part of that person in order for them to make a good partner for you.
Non-negotiable items aren’t meant to suggest you make a list of preferred ideal colors or favorite ice cream flavor. We’re talking about real life-shaping issues like whether or not you want children, if you are willing to live elsewhere than your current location, whether you believe in fully joint or separate finances, must your partner practice the same religion or have the same beliefs as you? Are you willing to begin a relationship with someone who is previously married or has children from a previous relationship?
All of these considerations are serious, yes, but by facing them head-on before committing you can save yourself an awful lot of heartbreak in the long run.
This is what is meant by conscious dating. If you haven’t taken time to identify your requirements it could possibly happen that you fall in love with someone and become connected or committed and then months or years down the line you realize you are incompatible with this person on some serious issues.
By bringing consciousness to what you expect from a partner, you can screen individuals early on choose to move forward only with people who you know could be a realistic partner.
2) Express Your Requirements at the Right Time
No one wants to sit down for a first date and hear a list of requirements rolled off by someone they hardly know. Early in a dating relationship, the focus is on exploring compatibility and chemistry as well as attempting to enjoy your date’s company.
Once you have at least felt into the other person enough to know if you’d like to get to know them further, it’s ok to start gradually and respectfully communicating your list of non-negotiables. This doesn’t have to come off as interrogation or forcing the other person into a relationship. Be willing to ask open questions and also be willing to listen. The entire conversation doesn’t have to be centered on overly serious or personal topics but perhaps weave in a few issues of importance each date.
While those first few dates are light-hearted and flirtatious, it’s never really too early to know whether the two of you have compatible priorities and values as people. Honesty and open discussion is a strong foundation for any relationship.
3) Put Your Best Self Forward
Most of us have been rejected at some point in the dating game whether never getting a call back from someone we found very attractive or having a partner end their relationship with us. When this happens, it’s typical for our friends to comfort us saying, “it was his/her loss!” or “you deserve better!”
But have you ever considered that this may not actually be the whole truth? If we’re talking about consciousness, let’s remember that what we are, we attract. What we put out, we get back. By focusing on self-improvement and being the best version of yourself possible, you may notice that you get better results in dating and find yourself connecting with people better suited to you. High quality attracts high quality.
Are you willing to look in the mirror and take an honest account of what your strengths and weaknesses are and where you’d like to improve and grow? Seeing the truth of your imperfection is never an easy task, but if you are really willing to do the work to learn, improve, and grow, the payoff will be monumental.
Not only do you have the power to improve or reinvent yourself, just seeing that you had the courage and willpower to do so will improve your confidence and feeling of self-value. After all, everyone wants a partner who will continue to build, improve, and maintain themselves over the years.
4) Don’t Lean on Blame
Whose fault is it that you are single or that dating isn’t going well for you? Take a listen to the
the automatic response that pops up in your head. It is because ‘all men are dogs?’ or ‘all women are in it for the money?’ or is it because there are no more quality partners to come by these days? All successful and attractive options are already taken? If you are feeding into any of these beliefs, you are giving away the responsibility for why your life is going the way that it is. You are placing the blame entirely on factors outside of yourself and therefore giving up your power. This is a weakness and a fallacy.
Flowing from the previous point, you must learn to accept accountability for the reality you are in. Sure, we cannot control or change the cards we were dealt, but once we accept those factors, there is a great degree of potential in the world for us to shape our lives, experiences, and relationships. If you pay close attention, you will notice that people who take responsibility for their lives tend to accomplish more, feel happier, and make gains toward their goals more regularly. Be willing to accept the control you have over your life and you may find the floodgates open to more fulfilling dating connections and opportunities.
5) Have an Open Mind
Do you have a dating ‘type’? Are your friends and family confused when trying to distinguish between your exes because they all look so similar? This is an extreme and comical example, but the point is, how willing are you to branch out? We started our discussion by looking at the required absolute non- negotiable qualities and values a prospective partner must-have for you to consider entering a relationship. Now, you must also find balance by being able to bend a little where appropriate.
To be flexible and open-minded in dating does not mean to relinquish your non-negotiable items, it can simply mean widening the parameters of the type of person you are willing to explore perhaps in terms of age range, ethnic or cultural background, body type or appearance, or the type of career path or lifestyle a person engages in.
It’s perfectly normal to ‘be attracted to what you are attracted to’ as in the case of many people having a ‘type’ but sometimes branching out from that type can be extremely exciting and mind-opening. I, too, had a type and all my friends could have picked out the men I’d find attractive from a mile away.
Then one day I met a man who didn’t fit that mold in the least. No one could figure it out, but the person he was inside was so deeply intriguing and uplifting that I found him attractive in a whole new way. You never know the wonderful person you may find on the other side of your comfort zone.
In the end, meeting and connecting to a variety of people in our attempts to find a genuine connection will always be exciting, challenging, and full of the unexpected. Being willing to honestly define what you want and what is absolutely the most important can help gain clarity while showing up as your best self every day not only benefits your dating life but your experience of life in general.
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