Have you ever thought about why we date? The purpose of dating is to get to know someone, and to develop a relationship if both parties are in agreement. That is it, in a nutshell. It’s not complicated–but we tend to complicate it.
Once you recognize what you need to do, dating becomes a lot more enjoyable and the chances of meeting the right person increase greatly..
Love, dating and relationships are the focal point of my business. Most of the calls I receive center on this subject. Colleagues often ask me about what I have experienced in my practice. Why do people struggle to find the right person? Why do relationships fail so often in this day and age? Together, we have come to some conclusions, which I will elaborate upon here.
Dating in 2020
Dating is a bit different in 2020, factoring in our experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdown, and all that goes along with it.
Getting to Know Someone
If you are looking for a relationship, and not simply casual sex, dating is a tool that you can use to find out all about the other person. Spending time with them, talking to them a lot, understanding them, observing their habits, moods and rhythms are all part of the ritual of dating. When you truly know the man or the woman, you will know how to positively nurture the relationship. If you do not know the man or the woman, if you throw tantrums and make demands, and if you ignore their psychological make-up and their love language, you will most likely find yourself ghosted or single. This is also a strong indication that you do not truly know yourself– that you have unresolved emotions around “needing to be loved” and behaviors that indicate that you are trying to fill a void. The idea of having a “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” is more important to you than the actual boyfriend or girlfriend.
We have discussed dating apathy (or, more precisely, dating app apathy) in a previous blog. The prevalence of dating apathy–the number of single people who cannot seem to meet the right person–is on the rise. Eligible, successful single people are coming up empty-handed in finding a mate. Is it due to their expectations or to their lack of expectations?
There’s no danger in dating, and even in going on hundreds of dates. The danger is not being sure of what you need in a mate. Need and want are two different things. Dating is a tool to help you narrow down what it is that you want in a mate. Initial attraction is great, but when you scratch the surface of the other person, are you really compatible? Is the relationship healthy? Do you understand and support each other?
I have a friend who is a very successful, attractive business woman. When she is choosing a potential mate online, she always picks men that look like they spend five hours a day in a gym working out. Once they start talking, she finds out that they typically do spend five hours a day on their physique. Being very focused on your body and outer appearance is great, but in truth, these guys are also focusing on her outward appearance, and this is not what she wants. She wants depth in a partner, a man who is focused on her needs and desires and who is devoted to her, but who also has a body like the guy on the cover of a romance novel. She complained that many of these men start out gushing all over her, yet, within a week or two, she finds that they have women falling all over them and have lined up three dates a day. They stop responding to her messages in a timely manner and do not put the appropriate amount of time into truly getting to know her.
What is the Dating Dilemma?
I can best explain the Dating Dilemma using the analogy of a bakery.
When you’re aren’t sure about what you need in a mate, you’re out there constantly testing the field, trying them all out. It’s like going to a bakery. If you don’t know exactly what you want, you will end up buying a few different pastries and sampling them all. Only after trying them all out can you determine what you like best.
Sure, the chocolate eclairs look pretty good, and you know you really like them, but you also like cinnamon rolls and donuts. By paying attention to how something tastes and how it makes you feel, you make choices and decide which one you like better, or best. Feeling is the key.
Let’s say that you walk into the bakery and you have a craving for a cinnamon roll. You find that they’re out of cinnamon rolls, but you’re still craving cinnamon. Instead, you ponder going for the cinnamon twist. But a cinnamon twist is a crispy delicacy. It’s not as soft, chewy, gooey or as sweet as the cinnamon roll. You reason with yourself that you can heat the cinnamon twist and melt butter on top of it, making it more like a cinnamon roll. So you decide to buy the cinnamon twist.
You walk out of the bakery, and you take a bite into the cinnamon twist, and that first bite tastes so good. By the third bite, however, you realize that it’s nothing like a cinnamon roll, but you finish it anyway. After all, you spent money on it, so you don’t want it to go to waste. You do like it, and it satisfied your craving and your need, but it wasn’t what you truly wanted, was it?
People typically date like this. What’s the problem with this? Nothing! Although the cinnamon twist wasn’t exactly what you set out to get at the bakery, you find that you like this offshoot of the cinnamon roll. It works just as well–heck, maybe it works better for your growth in the long run. Maybe the twist doesn’t have as many calories as the roll, and you will lose some weight! Maybe, just maybe, you will decide that you like the crispness better than the gooeyness. It’s lighter in texture and not so heavy!
These realizations can take some time. After a date with a crispy cinnamon twist you might think, “I like them…..they are really nice and interesting. I want to get to know them better.” Sometimes the person who you think isn’t quite right for you turns out to be the right person.
The “cinnamon roll person” can be the person that you fall for way too soon that just isn’t right for you. Such a person can feel like home, though, in a convoluted, addictive way. They scratch that familiar itch. They drive us to seek and not find, triggering our hormones and making our lives spin out of control.
The danger of going on a date with your list of wants, needs, and desires is becoming attached too early to the IDEA of the person who fulfills those wants, needs and desires–not to the actual truth of who that person is.
Don’t let logic rule – check in with your gut. The brain in your head is intricately in tune with the brain in your gut. Listen to your gut. Trust your inner guidance system..
Don’t be afraid to walk away from the fabulous-looking feast in front of you for fear of missing out. You can bite into something that looks wonderful, only to find a well-presented, beautiful, yet rotten, worm-ridden fruit. Do not fear your power to walk away and say no! As Nina Simone said, “You’ve got to learn to leave the table when love’s no longer being served.”
Love at First Sight?
When you first lay eyes on a potential date, and listen to them talk, they tell your brain what you need to hear, and a feeling is created. Remember, our experiences are happening in our brains, within 100 billion neurons that are firing and wiring together. That feeling that has been created sends chemical messages to your brain, and WHAM! You are in love. The object of your affection is making you feel a certain way with their energy by inducing a chemical reaction within your body that tells your brain that you are attracted to this object of your affection. This can induce the feeling of “love at first sight.”
Your brain can only perceive what you see, however– the object of your affection–and therefore, you miss so much. Your brain is comparing and synapsing past experiences and trying to make sense of this information. It downloads the information based on what it knows and says, “wow, this person is the cat’s meow!”
The brain follows the energy of feeling. It makes sense out of energetic feeling and chaos based on your past experiences. You believe that having that person will fill a specific role, or void, and fulfill your needs and desires. When feelings send messages to your brain and those chemicals send those messages to you, before you even know what’s happening, you are experiencing a release of hormones that make you feel so damn good that’s all you realize. THIS, you think, is my soulmate.
However, in reality, this person isn’t a fit for you at all. You have projected onto them ideas from your dream fantasy world that you like them and that you feel so connected with them… but it’s not real. It’s happening inside your brain and body, chemically, not necessarily in the outer world.
Know What You Want and Need
Let’s begin with a time-tested formula: Know what you want and need. What resonates with you? What type of person will complement and add something positive to your life? If you are sure of exactly what it is that you want in a mate, you should be able to quickly decipher that within a few dates with someone. You will find that sometimes, you go out with someone who isn’t quite what you want, but is more of what you need. That will change your entire idea of a relationship.
When we date, we are seeking a connection with another person. If both people feel a connection, you have something to explore. The question you must ask yourself is, what exactly am I looking for in a connection? Once you know that, you can ask yourself during a date, am I truly feeling a connection? Trust your gut.
Dating is Not Casual Sex
Dating presents us with an opportunity to meet someone and get to know them. Finding out who someone really is takes time. Getting to know someone does not mean getting naked. Sex and intimacy are not mutually exclusive, especially during a pandemic when you find yourself feeling lonely, alone, isolated and stressed. Sex is sex. If you plan a “date” to meet up with someone and you both decide to get horizontal, this still isn’t a relationship and there should be no expectations of one. Just because you connected with someone and had a great sexual experience, don’t automatically expect a call back. Embrace this experience, and do not beat yourself up. You simply needed a physical connection with someone, but that, by no means, indicates that you will have a relationship.
The greatest litmus test for a new relationship is refraining from having sex with someone too soon. What is too soon? During the first three dates.
If someone is really interested in getting to know you, they will consistently contact you and want to meet up with you again, even if you don’t have sex with them after a first (or second, or third) date.
For the most part, when someone’s interested in you, they will make an effort to show you, not just tell you. Some people will hang out with you, get to know you, and make a connection with you, and you’ll think, “This is it! This is the one!” What he or she is really trying to do, however, is just to get to know you. Sometimes after months of getting to know someone, the other person will realize that they’re just not that interested in you, or that the connection isn’t there.
Pay attention to their behavior–not just to what they say.
When you go on a date, take your time to get to know someone. You don’t need to rush things. If someone ghosts you because you didn’t run into their arms and jump into bed with them, that’s not your “person.” Don’t compromise yourself. If you are just seeking pleasure, then go for it. If you do this, however, make sure that you realize what you are doing and that you know that they may not call you again. Even iIf they do call you again after this, you still must take the time to get to know the person to find the connection and balance.
Intimacy is developed. Trust is a by-product of a person being trustworthy. Making a connection with someone only occurs through understanding, communication, tolerance, and time. The real beauty of these treasures is that they cultivate true love. These things are what make a lasting relationship.