Single. Valentine’s Day.
A couple years ago I used to think this was the worst word combination in the English language. February used to be a month from hell for me. One filled with anxiety and panic to find a date for the first 13 days of the month, and depression and loneliness after that.
Maybe I got older and wiser, but I found as I began to truly love myself more, that Valentine’s Day became less of a stress for me, and more of an ordinary day. February no longer stressed me out, and forced me to lower my standards for the sake of not eating alone.
I found myself able to go on dates, and no matter the outcome of the date I could look myself in the mirror at the end of the day and smile brightly (or laugh hysterically). This newfound resilience became a superpower of sorts for me, which was handy because I had some truly awful (and humorous) dates that would follow.
So how do we maintain our sanity, our confidence and our belief that our Mr. Right is out there?
Here’s my secret to modern dating resilience and sanity:
1. Stay true to yourself
When it comes to relationships, I think the people we care about most in our lives can become so emotionally involved in the outcome that they forget about our needs. I remember when I broke up with my first long-term boyfriend, my brothers were devastated and begged me to reconsider because they had liked him so much.
More than once I’ve had a client admit to me that they stayed in a relationship because their family loved their partner, or they loved their partner’s family.
Connection and attachment are two things that we humans naturally seek and need in our lives. But at the end of the day, our family isn’t the one who has to go to bed with the guy, and we’re not going to bed with their family.
Ultimately, our friends and family want what’s best for us, yet that intention can sometimes be lost in translation. They may think they know what we need, but at the end of the day, the only person who truly knows what attributes we need in a partner, or what qualities we’re attracted to is us.
2. Keep an open mind
There have been a couple of times in my dating life when I have been pleasantly surprised.
I remember once, right after I finished university I found myself attracted to this guy. I thought at the time he was the hottest man I’d ever laid eyes on. Bright blue eyes, piercings and tattoo’s – he was everything I liked in a guy. We dated for about six months until one day he disappeared. He no longer answered my phone calls or messages. A couple weeks later when I received a half-assed message from him about how he couldn’t be in a relationship because he had some stuff going on, I was dumb-founded.
“But he’s exactly my type! Everything I want in a man.” I remember crying to a friend, to which she bluntly responded “Maybe that’s the problem. Your type hasn’t exactly worked for you in the past.”
And she was right. I had only ever dated the one type of guy – the bad boy. That didn’t seem to be working for me.
Then a couple years ago I met a guy online, he seemed sweet and attentive. It was only after we arranged our first date that he told me he was 5’7. We were the same height. This would never work. I loved my heel collection too much. I was going to have to end it before it even began.
From out of nowhere, those words my friend had said to me some eight years earlier rang out in my head. I gave the guy a chance.
While the relationship wasn’t meant to be, in the few short months we were together, I experienced a deeper connection with him then I had in any of the long-term relationships I had previously. And I learned so much about how I am as a woman and partner.
Keeping an open mind and dating outside of our “type” allows us to really and truly get to experience what attributes we truly want in a partner. After all, how can we know that a man with a sensitive side isn’t what we want until we experience it?
3. Differentiate fantasy from reality
All too often I have seen women (both friends and clients) start planning their wedding with a man because he ticks a few boxes on paper before they’ve shared a date, a kiss or a bed.
I’ve also watched women fall for a man who promises them the world, only to be heartbroken when his actions don’t match his words.
If there is one thing I’ve learned in the modern dating world it’s to take baby steps, to not let your imagination run away with you (good or bad) rather just to live in the moment and allow things to organically grow.
4. Allow yourself to have an experience without any expectations
Much like the point before, we need to simply allow ourselves to be. To enjoy the moment as it unfolds without any thought or worry of what should or is to come next.
This point always reminds me of the first date I went on after a 9-month dating hiatus. Before the date I reminded myself of this point – just allow the evening to be what it is and leave all expectation behind. The date went incredibly well, we had a lovely time. Yet as we were walking home I started to get nervous about whether or not he’d tried to kiss me, and if I’d even remember how to kiss someone (apparently that’s the kind of thing you can forget in 9 months!). I worked myself up so much around the expectation of a kiss, that when we got to my gate I awkwardly gave him a hug and a pat on the back (yes, I’m that girl!) and quickly walked (ran) into my house.
I can laugh about it now, yet it’s such a great reminder of how expectations can ruin a moment!
5. Take yourself on regular “me” dates
This is, arguably, the most important point on this list. I say this for two reasons.
The first is, how we treat ourselves teaches others how to treat us. If we don’t like spending time with ourselves, why would anyone else?
Secondly, we’re likely to take ourselves on dates we really enjoy (otherwise what would be the point?). This sets a baseline for dates with others. If I’m out on a date with someone else and the experience doesn’t stack up to the experience I have on my own, or (worse) if I wish I was on that date alone, I know I have some re-evaluating to do!
For better or for worse, technology has changed the dating world in which we live. The best thing we can do is to strap ourselves in, hold on and play the game by our rules.