Today, I opened up an old email thread I’d had with a friend circa 2009. Apparently, I was pretty bitter back then. As I re-read my own story through this conversation, I saw a woman so jaded by her dating experience that she had decided that there were no good men out there. She was trying to be flippant. But she was angry. And terrified. She was convinced she was doomed to a never-ending ride on some merry-go-round of dating horrors.
This woman is a stranger to me now.
Though I see iterations of her all the time in others. During recent conversations with some of my single friends, I've found myself coming face-to-face with my old bitterness.
And even though I'm no longer in this place, I get it. These men and women are hurting, like I was, and don’t trust that their ideal partner is out there. They are tired of first dates that go nowhere and have become more and more convinced that it’s never going to happen.
Unfortunately, most people struggling with dating get stuck in this place, weighed down by the fog of fear — the terrible first date, the disappointing second date, the eventual failure of some future relationship. And some give up all together, convincing themselves that they’re better off alone than being “out there.”
But there is a different way to date. There is an approach that can prevent you from becoming jaded about the admittedly exhausting journey of putting yourself out there. Ultimately, losing faith in the existence of a great partner is not going to help you out if you're looking for connection. In fact, an open heart is necessary for manifesting real love in our lives.
1. Don't close up because of a "bad" first date.
For those who date a lot, particularly those who are online dating, the first date can feel like a make-it-or-break-it moment. We often decide right away whether or not the person is right for us based on the “chemistry.” And of course, that almost-inexplicable feeling of connection is important to share with a romantic partner. But it is also something that can grow with time.
If you decide right away that the person in front of you isn’t your ideal match because you’re not feeling sparks, then you might shut yourself off from an enjoyable night, in the least, or from a powerful love, at the greatest.
So it's essential to be aware of your thoughts. If you find yourself shutting down because you’re not feeling chemistry, catch yourself and experiment with opening up. Some of the most beautiful relationships I’ve had were with men that I didn’t feel immediate chemistry with. Instead, the chemistry grew as I got to know them and saw their beauty.
2. Focus on looking for the good in the other person.
Our minds are perception-machines. We see what we focus on, sometimes consciously and sometimes unconsciously. If we enter a date filled with fear or bitterness, we will view our date through the lens of scrutiny, looking for any ever-so-slight indication that our fear or bitterness is justified.
On your next first date, make a decision to look for the good in the other person. Perhaps it’s the way they treat you with kindness or the way you can tell they love their career. Allow them to reveal themselves. Know that they’re nervous, just like you.
3. Practice optimism (because yes, it's a practice).
When you feel the negativity monsters chattering in your head while you’re on a date, catch them. You don’t have to try to stop them (they are an unavoidable part of this human existence), but just see that they’re arising and call them out on it.
In those moments when you’re in awareness, you have the power to make a different choice. In that moment that you capture the thought, take a breath and remind yourself that this is an opportunity to learn about another person who just might end up being your person. If you are grounded in the faith that your relationship is coming, then dating with hope and optimism is easier.
4. Use dating as a tool for clarity about what you want.
Sometimes we look for love on autopilot. We will meet someone who checks the boxes of certain characteristics we are looking for, or are reminiscent of others we’ve been with. So we jump right in, assuming the person will be our “type” before we really even get to know them.
But let's play devil's advocate here: what if your type may not be a good type for you? That is, if things aren’t working out with the people who fit your type, then maybe it's time to see this round of your dating experience as an opportunity to redefine what you really want in a partner. It’s a great time to get clear about what you want your future connection to feel like.
Let’s face it, for most, slipping into cynicism sometimes feels easier than remaining positive. But it is entirely possible to date with hope and optimism. Remember, during all of it, you deserve a beautiful love ... And, for most, dating is a a prerequisite to finding that love.