HOW TO MAKE WISER CHOICES WHEN DATING, AND OWNING THOSE DECISIONS.
Choosing a partner is a real challenge. I'm a firm believer that we should never settle for less than what we deserve but we must be realistic about it at the same time! It's handy if you're generally good at making decisions in your work environment and your day to day but picking one person to potentially spend your life with? Well that shit is confusing as f***. Navigating our dating lives can cause even the most rational, level-headed people to make questionable decisions. But don't worry... we've all been there!
Oh the possibility that a new relationship could be different, that it might have the potential to thrive — it's so exciting isn't it? Yet many singletons are hesitant, myself included. When you open the doors to others and place your trust in them, only to be rattled again and again, you begin to distrust your own ability to make a good assessment of prospective partners. Sometimes this happens without us even realising. If you quickly reflect on your past relationships, have you ever repeatedly chosen similar partners? Been blind to red flags? Or allowed people to step over your boundaries?
THERE'S NO "WRONG" DECISION. YOU CAN ONLY MAKE A DIFFERENT DECISION.
I believe every decision in life leads you to an experience. Some experiences might be more agreeable than others, but none are inherently "better". They just set you on different paths. When we specifically look at our romantic lives, many may feel like they've been dealt a bad hand, but one way of making more informed dating decisions is to become more conscious of what decisions we're actually making. Then as we go through the process it's worth reminding ourselves the importance behind our choices. As individuals there are so many facets to consider that add to our layers of human complexity. Understandably emotional baggage can make finding a suitable partner difficult, it's like an invisible obstacle that continuously gets in the way of your love life... you're so close yet so far! Perhaps you grew up with no role model of a solid, healthy relationship and you doubt that such a thing even exists. Maybe your dating history includes just a few brief flings and you're unsure how to maintain a relationship. It could be that you're not putting yourself in the best environments to meet the right person. Whatever the case may be I'd like to share a few ideas on how to gain clarity and hopefully encourage you to approach dating more mindfully.
GOOD VIBES ONLY
CLARIFY YOUR VALUES AND WHAT YOUR IDEAL LIFE LOOKS LIKE There are countless attractive and nice people out there in the dating world but not all of them are aligned in the life you want to live. The clearer you are about the life YOU desire, the easier it will be to identify the person who resonates and is supportive of you. Where do you want to live? Do you want to get married? Do you want children? Are you a jet setter? There are no right or wrong answers, only what makes sense to you and what works for you. Your goals will reflect your deeply held values so it's key to choose a partner based on those... however you'll need to know what they are first and foremost!
IDENTIFY YOUR DEAL-BREAKERS Deal-breakers are the things that will cause you to call it quits, even before a first date! They essentially help us set autonomy for our dating lives by establishing boundaries. We're able to define what's important to us in relationships so that we don't start dating blindly and finding ourselves in relationships that compromise our truth. Put some time aside and figure out what non-negotiables are most important to you. For example, mine include: lack of integrity, no ambition or drive, poor communication, not being financially stable and those with addictions (alcohol, drugs, gambling). Trust me when I say honouring your deal-breakers will give you more back-bone to say "no" to relationships that aren't good for you, even when they seem exciting.
TRANSFORM YOUR LIMITING/NEGATIVE BELIEFS If you're guilty of saying things like: "I’m not attractive enough.", "I'm going to be alone forever.", "I'm not smart enough." or "Men/Women are trash!"— please, please stop. Those limiting beliefs can run deep and the words become very powerful overtime. This negative mindset will significantly impact current relationships and your dating lives. Try and replace these thoughts with a more positive outlook, I mean... you don't have to be cheery every day! But try and start on the “inner work” to slowly eradicate the pessimism. Self-help/self-development books are an excellent starting point, but you might find it easier to accomplish with some skilled support as well.
DEVELOP YOUR RELATIONSHIP SKILLS We're all a work in progress especially when it comes to relationship skills and managing our emotions. For transparency I used to struggle saying "no" to people. I used to find it hard to end a relationship and would much rather let it continue until it (eventually) fizzled out. I used to be aggressive during disputes and throw my weight around until I got my own way. None of us are perfect and not all of us have developed the appropriate skills for relationships (I'm not solely referring to romantic relationships either). That being said, you don't have to wait until you're in a relationship to become more self-aware. Through our work peers, our families and friends, the more you can develop these skills in advance of a relationship, the more beneficial it'll be for a relationship to succeed. I'd also add that it's quite helpful to ask a close friend or family member to be brutally honest about how you carry yourself (the good and "bad" qualities)... you might be quite surprised at the responses! DON'T LOOK AT DECISIONS AS OUTCOMES There's a plethora of studies on an effect that Psychologists call "Outcome Bias". I won't go into the finer details but the key takeaway is that we all have a tendency to judge a person or a decision based on the result (as in we put too much weight on this aspect) rather than consider the full process that led to the outcome. Essentially every decision we make is a step along the process, and is often more important than the end. Learning to avoid the "outcome bias" can help improve the quality of our decision making process. DON'T JUDGE YOURSELF Finally don't beat yourself up if you're not happy with a decision you've made. Life really has a way of working out, even if it feels like the "worst" possible choice, we still have the freedom to make adjustments. Most times it's not so much about the decision we made but the actions we take afterwards.