People say love hurts, but it is not love that’s doing the hurting. It’s our humanness. Love is pure, patient, unconditional, and kind. What hurts is the way we treat each other and ourselves in the name of love or what we believe to be love.
We tend to put ourselves through misery and act as martyrs, believing that it is normal—even noble—to suffer for love. However, there is a powerful alternative to this fallacy: conscious dating.
To act consciously, as you probably know, begins with an awareness of what serves your highest and best and the highest and best of those with whom you interact. It is a commitment to act or participate only in situations or circumstances that support that highest and best outcome.
To date consciously means we stop trying to make our love lives look like the movies and instead devote ourselves to attracting that which serves us and whomever we love mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. This may be worlds away from your current dating style. But it is absolutely possible for you, and once you start, you won’t ever look back.
Here are five actionable keys to dating consciously for a healthier, happier, and more fulfilling life:
1. See breakups as learning experiences.
When a relationship ends, we tend to blame and villainize the other person. Many people refuse to speak highly of their exes at all and only reminisce about the unpleasantness of the relationship. However, this is detrimental to our personal growth and is a missed opportunity to better ourselves for our future relationships.
Regardless of how awful or loving our relationships are, a breakup is an opportunity to expand our awareness. Both parties in a relationship always contribute to the success or downfall of that relationship. A breakup is the perfect occasion to reflect on your contributions.
Instead of blaming our exes, we benefit by examining our weaknesses and then choosing to work on the issues that may be hindering us.
2. Recognize that the kind of partner you attract is always, in some way, a reflection of who you are and where you have room to grow.
When we continuously attract the same type of person, what’s the common denominator? It’s you. It’s not that your luck is bad or that someone is out to get you. If you are attracting people who are emotionally unavailable, abusive, greedy, selfish, or thoughtless, there is at least one mental/emotional pattern within yourself worth examining.
If we feel inferior, we will attract partners whose love we feel we always have to earn. If we feel lovable and powerful, we will attract people who are loving and supportive of our personal power. By perceiving with detachment the types of people we keep ending up with, we can begin to dig into the personal issues that contribute to that pattern.
3. A big part of conscious dating is being conscious of your feelings at all times.
We have so many external influences rolling around in our heads when we try to make decisions about potential partners that we often forget the most crucial piece—how you actually feel about someone.
We get stuck on the shoulds: "I should be married by 30," "I should find a guy who wants to have kids," "I shouldn’t have sex with this guy till the fifth date because that’s what this magazine told me." And we neglect to acknowledge—let alone honor—our feelings.
If you’re concerned about hitting some arbitrary deadline, you’re much more likely to ignore the red flags you see early on in a relationship, settling for someone who isn’t right for you and sacrificing happiness in the long run.
When we are not conscious of our own wants and needs, it’s easy to wake up one day and realize you’re married to someone who triggers all of your worst fears, doubts, and insecurities.
If someone you’re dating doesn’t call back and you start to feel anxious, not being aware of your own inherent abandonment issues will likely lead to you projecting your fear onto them and driving a wedge between you.
If you have developed awareness of your own triggers, however, you can turn inward and spend some time investing in the things that make you feel loved by yourself rather than demanding validation from a partner.
Feelings that go unacknowledged and unhealed fester over time and eventually pass the point of potential healing. Doing personal work before you enter a relationship helps to ensure you are setting yourself, and your relationship, up for success.
4. Know when to let go.
Letting go of someone who is not serving our highest good can be challenging. Not letting go of a relationship that is holding you back is one of the most self-destructive behaviors in dating. If someone is incapable of committing to serving their highest self, they will undoubtedly not be able to serve yours.
Dating is not charity. We cannot stay in a relationship because someone has had a rough life, feels bad about themselves, or because we are the only ones who see the goodness in them. Whether a partner is indulging in self-loathing behavior or has simply grown in a different direction, our commitment must always be to let go of that which no longer serves us, in the most loving way possible.
5. Know and love thyself.
We cannot have a loving, accepting, supportive, healthy relationship if we do not know or respect ourselves. A person who does not love or respect themselves is incapable of accepting and appreciating love and respect from others.
We tend to think of our partner as our other half, but we should not be looking for someone to complete us; we should be completing ourselves. Knowing ourselves, who we are, what we want, and what we are capable of allows us to bring our whole selves to our relationships.
Love is not about completing each other. True, healthy love is about loving ourselves so completely that when we fall in love with another person, we expect them to love us as much as we love ourselves. We become so full of self-love that they reflect it back to us and we reflect their self-love back to them.
We often perceive dating as two halves making a whole. The reality is that as long as you see yourself as lacking something, you will always look for completion in another person. Love, peace, and wholeness come from within. They are the result of internal work, not external circumstances.
When we begin to realize the power we have to create fulfilling relationships, we stop being victims of love. Practicing conscious dating is an empowering achievement that ripples into other facets of our lives. When we honor our highest and best self in one area, it naturally flows into other areas.
Conscious dating will draw attention to many previously unperceived habits and negative beliefs that have influenced us unfavorably. It gives us the opportunity to regain authority over our lives, from the inside out.
Knowing our triggers and taking responsibility for our own wholeness allows us to shed the things holding us back and to strengthen our most powerful attributes. If you continue to date unconsciously, you will continue to see your partners through the prism of your negative beliefs rather than as they truly are.
Instead, why not allow our partners to be themselves? It starts with loving and honoring your highest and best self.