If you are on dating autopilot, your energy may be solely focused on getting dates and finding a relationship. You may be neglecting the part of the equation in which you hone in on what you are actually looking for. You may be so heavily invested in having potential partners pick you, pursue you, approve of you, or like you, that you neglect major components of dating, such as determining what you are looking for, accessing how you feel and making choices that are in line with the type of partner and relationship you seek. These aspects of dating are essential to selecting a partner who is right for you.
A great partner will feel right to your head and your heart. Balancing your emotions with logic will ensure you are not ignoring red flags and simply picking the first person you have feelings for or who falls for you. As you may know from experience, it is possible to develop attraction and loving feelings for someone who isn’t actually a healthy match. This reality can be challenging to sit with, but it is an important reminder. Therefore, when evaluating someone as a partner, it is useful to consider your feelings, plus what the rational part of your brain says.
Remember infatuation and love can make us pretty irrational! So can loneliness, desperation, sexual chemistry, and the need for companionship and belonging.
So, how can you take control of your dating life and choose a great partner and relationship for you? How can you tell if someone is right for you?
1. Access how you feel pre- and post-date. My clients know I am big on self-reflection. I like to make sure they are dating from a mindful, open place, and are not just going through the motions. Getting to know yourself and how you feel is essential, so I help train them to do internal check-ins before and after dates. This process involves asking yourself questions, such as “how do I feel around this person?,” “how connected did I feel to my date?,” “what do I like about this person?,” “what are my concerns at the moment?” and “how did I feel on the date?” to better understand if your date is a good match. Answering these types of questions will help you acknowledge your feelings and determine what about the person you connect to (or don’t connect to).
2. Use your feelings and answers to the above questions as information to make deliberate decisions about who to date. For example, if you leave a date feeling eager to see the person again, spend some time analyzing why. If you realize your feelings of connection come solely from physical attraction (and you actually have little in common and want different things), it is unlikely this person is the right match for you and you may want to reconsider getting together again. Or if you leave a date able to pinpoint some commonalities in your personalities, life history and values, this is a good sign that a connection is developing and this person may be a healthy partner for you.
3. Gain awareness and insight into your values, goals, interests, lifestyle, personality, preferences, deal-breakers, etc.Taking stock of the above will reveal the type of partner and relationship you are searching for. Tune into who you are while considering what’s important to you and anything that is not negotiable. Look for a partner who shares your values and relationship goals. Be willing to screen out people who exhibit red flags and deal-breakers.
4. Listen and believe people as they show you their true colors. When you like someone and want the relationship to go somewhere, you may be guilty of making excuses for their behavior or forcing something that isn’t there (remember how love can make us irrational?). For example, if a man cancels on you three times for “work,” it’s important to believe that work is his priority and not allow yourself to sit at home waiting and waiting for him to ask you out and follow through in the future. Don’t make excuses for him, such as “I think he really likes me, but he is really busy right now” if you barely see him or hear from him. This is giving your power away. You can be compassionate about what people have going on in their lives (and you should be kind and flexible) without making excuses for people who may not actually be ready or emotionally available.
5. Invest adequate time in getting to know someone without pushing yourself into premature decisions. Often my clients feel impatient and worried about wasting time on the wrong person, so they prematurely reject great potential partners if they don’t feel an automatic, enthusiastic “yes” or instant connection. They may also convince themselves that they should know if someone is “The One” after a couple of dates. Yes, there should be progress in a developing connection, but your feelings may not be as instant as you see in romantic comedies. The path to the right person involves being open to getting to know each other over time to better evaluate compatibility.
6. Use online communication and dates as opportunities to look for qualities of a healthy partner. Does the person you are talking to and meeting up with demonstrate the traits of your ideal partner? Without striving for perfection or being overly picky, consider if the person in front of you would be a healthy partner. Ideally you will be looking for someone who is kind, thoughtful, honest, trustworthy, generous (this is about how they treat others in relationships, not solely in terms of finances), and emotionally stable. A healthy partner will also exhibit respect, accountability, integrity, an ability to compromise, and shared values. Ask yourself: How does this person treat the waiter, cashier or barista? How does this person talk about friends and family? Does this person own their flaws, weaknesses and mistakes? How does this person manage anxiety, stress or anger? Is this person controlling, possessive or easily jealous? How does this person view relationships? You can learn so much about a person through dialogue, quality time and shared experiences.
Be sure to give both your heart and your head a say as you assess if and how a potential partner fits into your life. Remember not everyone you are attracted to is necessarily a good match, so value more than chemistry and physical attractiveness. Get in touch with your feelings and desires. Hold space for someone who makes your heart happy and who also exhibits the qualities and values you live by and appreciate.