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If you’re single and looking for love, it’s important to bring an empowered approach to dating. Examining who you are and what you want while applying dating skills that are aligned with your values and goals will help you take ownership of your dating life.
Being proactive in dating is more than signing up for dating sites and going on dates. It’s about bringing intention to your behavior and not waiting around for things to happen (such as someone asking you out or picking you as a partner).
You have a huge role in the type of partner you attract as well as how individual dating situations play out. Yes, it’s true, you can’t control everything, including the likelihood of being rejected, but you can do your part to make dating successful and fun.
Here are seven tips to guide you in becoming a proactive dater:
Dating without a goal in mind will lead to a wide range of struggles. It may sound fun and exciting to date with zero expectations or goals, but how can you create the present and future you want if you haven’t given it much thought?
Reflect on what you’re looking for in a partner and the type of relationship you hope to achieve. Consider the important qualities you need in a partner as well as your values and relationship goals.
How would you describe the type of person and relationship you’re seeking? How do you want to feel in your ideal relationship? If you truly don’t know what you’re looking for, set the goal of learning about yourself and what you want by meeting a variety of potential partners.
Be open to discovering what you want through patience and dating practice. Exposing yourself to different types of people is a solid path forward if you need guidance around what you want. However, knowing what you want and acting in ways that go against your goals is counterproductive, so stay true to yourself as you determine what’s important to you. Let your choices match your hopes and dreams.
Regardless of whether you’re looking for a short fling, a friends-with-benefits arrangement, an open relationship, or a forever monogamous partner, it’s important to be clear about your expectations and have integrity throughout the dating process.
Leading someone on, making false guarantees, saying what you think your date wants to hear, or talking about future plans when you have no intention of seeing this person again are not smart actions. This behavior will likely result in your date feeling shocked, betrayed, and hurt.
Being direct will also help you avoid misunderstandings and uncomfortable conversations later. Don’t be shy to say “I am looking for a partner who [fill in the blank]” or “Right now I am focused on making new friends and going slow, but I would be happy if a friendship turned into a romantic partnership.”
While respecting the natural stages of getting to know someone, strive to be genuine, assertive, and transparent in sharing who you are and what you want and expect.
You may be dating on autopilot and falling into common dating behaviors that can sabotage potential relationships. Spend some time reflecting on common themes or behavior patterns that emerge from your interactions with romantic contenders.
For example, do your relationships seem to fizzle out after a couple of months? Are you always the one ending things? Or do you commonly lead with sex or use sex to connect with your dates early on?
Without judgement, be honest with yourself so you can learn and grow from your experiences and mistakes. Consider how some of your behavior patterns may be working against you and what you can do differently. This awareness is the first step toward change and accountability.
For instance, if you determine that you lead with sex, can you focus on building an emotional connection prior to jumping into bed? If your relationships fizzle after a couple of months, figure out what’s blocking them from going the distance. Maybe you’re putting up walls and are not as emotionally available as you think?
While it’s important to let go of the past, make a commitment to take helpful lessons into your present and future.
If you easily get discouraged and give up on dating despite really wanting a relationship, it’s likely you’re being avoidant and trying to escape uncomfortable feelings and situations.
Other signs of avoidance in dating include being online pen pals with someone but not actually initiating or saying yes to dates, being overly picky or indecisive, believing your special person will just appear without any effort, and ghosting your date when you feel insecure.
You may also be avoidant if you feel anxious about dating or question your worth and what you have to offer. It’s helpful to understand what’s underneath any avoidant tendencies because oftentimes avoidant behavior is a symptom of unresolved fear, anxiety, trauma, and/or self-esteem issues.
Work on reconciling anything in the way of an engaged, present, and open dating approach. This may include using anxiety management tools and healthy self-care practices and working on boosting your self-esteem. Understand that acting avoidant actually increases anxiety and continues the cycle of avoidance, leading to many missed life experiences. So be sure to say yes to dates, give partners a true chance to get to know you, and truly be present on each date.
If dating feels repetitive or like a game, your dating approach may need a makeover. You may also want to change things up if you tend to follow very specific guidelines or rules such as when to call, how long to wait in between communication, and how to time a first kiss or first sexual experience.
While it’s important to be deliberate (and not impulsive, manipulative, or reactive), simply following a script or old-school dating advice will disrupt the natural flow of building a connection.
Also, take your relationship goals into consideration as you make decisions about dating, but let go of any tendencies to overanalyze every last detail of a date or each tiny choice you make. You will create unnecessary anxiety and feel burnt out if you constantly obsess over things.
Set a goal to allow a connection to develop naturally. Tune into your date’s body language and social cues, and your own gut feelings as you make decisions and set the pace. These clues will provide you with better information than when you date with a script or a strict set of rules.
Don’t simply wait for someone to make the first move, ask you out, kiss you, or keep the conversation going. Take accountability for your role in picking a partner, and don’t rely on the other person to do all the work.
If you don’t appear engaged in the process, your date is likely to believe you don’t care or you’re not interested. Therefore, if you’re interested, let it be known.
If putting yourself out there and expressing interest makes you feel vulnerable or anxious, know your feelings are natural. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Experiment with making the first move, asking someone out, asking for another date, and showing interest.
Even if you get rejected, which is an unavoidable aspect of dating, showing interest will become more comfortable over time and hopefully lead to opportunities that would have otherwise been missed. You will also build confidence through practice and by exposing yourself to vulnerable situations. Learning you can survive rejection will be huge.
Ignoring warning signs, discrepancies in compatibility, and gut feelings suggesting you should cut things off is the opposite of being proactive. In fact, not taking potential issues seriously may lead to feeling stuck, confused, resentful, and bad about yourself. It may also lead you to proceed with an unhealthy relationship and then settle or overstay.
Treat the red flags you encounter seriously. Don’t make excuses for someone’s behavior or look the other way when a potential partner shows any true colors that are concerning. This tip can be challenging to implement, especially when you’re developing feelings, but it’s worth it to weed out partners who are not a good fit early in the relationship. This will open up space for a rewarding, healthy relationship with a compatible partner.
Despite the inevitable roller coaster of emotions commonly associated with dating, you can do a lot to ensure dating goes as smoothly as possible and that you’re well equipped to handle any uncomfortable situations. Regardless of your past dating and relationship experiences, take control of your dating life now by approaching dating with a proactive, hopeful, and resilient attitude. Don’t wait for things to happen for you. Create the path you want through your own actions and mindful choices.