Maintaining Confidence Throughout the Dating Process
by Allison Abrams, LCSW-R
10 steps to a healthy relationship
Originally published on Psychology Today
In my last post, “The Psychology of Modern Dating,” I describe some of the challenges that come with dating in a digital age and their effects on fundamental interpersonal processes. Despite the potential pitfalls, it is possible to take the pain out of dating. Below are some steps you can take to preserve your sense of worth and emotional well-being as you embark on the journey to love.
1. Know your worth.
Self-worth refers to the value you attribute to yourself as a person, across situations and independent of what others think. In other words, it comes from within rather than without. By knowing your worth, you are less reliant on another’s approval, thus protecting yourself from the harsh blows of rejection. Yes, rejection may still sting, but it will not break you. By valuing yourself, you are subconsciously requesting that others do the same. And this is a highly attractive quality.
2. Shift your mindset from “Do they like me?” to “Do I like them?”
“So many daters obsess over making the other person like them back, they forget that it’s a two-way street,” says dating expert Yue Xu. She suggests instead to ask yourself, “How can we connect? Finding a connection on a date is much more productive than finding out the other person is equally as attracted to you. A connection is what makes humans human.” In the end, consider what is more important to you: feeling popular in a virtual dating world, or finding the person with whom you will share your life.
3. Take the initiative.
This is especially significant for women, who are socialized to take a more passive stance when it comes to dating. Despite the progress we have made, gender stereotypes continue to pervade our society and our psyches. “Many women feel that they have to be chosen, no matter how far we’ve come,” says Venus Nicolino, aka Dr. V., relationship expert and author of Bad Advice: How to Survive and Thrive in an Age of Bullsh*t. “No. You have the ability to choose. You don’t have to sit around . . . it’s about harnessing this level of confidence that punches generations, centuries, decades in the [face]. If your date is turned off by a woman who knows what she wants, they are not for you.” So, dare to defy all arbitrary and gender-confining “rules,” and go after what you want. The worst that can happen is that you will dodge a bullet and be one step closer to finding someone worthy of your love.
4. Eliminate the word “perfection” from your dating vernacular.
Or even better, delete it from your vernacular altogether. Perfectionism, or compulsive attempts to attain the unattainable, is a recipe for failure and a key to unhappiness. In the search for a partner, there is no such thing as perfect. So stop looking for it. As cliché as it may sound, our “flaws” are what make us beautiful. As Joanna Coles, author of Love Rules: How to Find a Real Relationship in a Digital World, advises, “Embrace imperfection and find a partner who embraces yours.”
5. Keep an open mind.
“Wait. Don’t swipe left yet!” urges Trish McDermott, dating coach and one of the founding members of Match.com. “You’re not shopping for a pair of jeans.” She advises daters to take a minute to look beyond physical characteristics and ask: Who are they? What do they believe, think, or want in life? How do they treat the people they love? She reminds us, “It’s never height or hair color that gets us through difficult times with a partner.”
6. Debunk the myth of playing “hard to get.”
Somehow the idea came to be that aloofness and playing “hard to get” will lead to a healthy, loving connection. In reality, all this does is create a relationship based on game-playing. “There is an attitude among young people that the person who cares less wins. Wrong!” says Nicolino. “The person who cares less, gets less. Would you apply caring less to any other area in your life? Your job? Your family? So why are we doing it in our relationships?” Nicolino suggests that instead we lean into love: “If the other person doesn’t know how to be loved, how to take in your care, then you know they aren’t for you, and you didn’t waste three weeks or three years or 30 years!”
7. Do not selectively listen.
When someone tells you something about themselves, listen. This may sound simple, but let’s face it, sometimes we hear what we want to hear. Especially when it comes to finding love. “If someone tells you all the reasons they can’t be in a serious relationship right now, from career to travel,” says Xu, “listen to what they’re saying. It’s not necessarily about you at all. They are telling you they’re unlikely to commit, and you need to accept that. Find someone who is on the same page you are.” And please avoid the trap of believing that you will be able to change someone.
8. Take a hint.
Do yourself a favor and take a hint when you see one. “Do not invent ridiculous reasons why they didn’t respond to that last text,” advises Coles. “If you were looking for a job, for example, you would return the call. You would not make vague excuses as to why it took you three days to answer. Assume they are not interested and move on.” If you do this, she says, you will save yourself time and heartache: “Nothing is more depressing than having to persuade someone to commit to you. Be brave and end it.” It is also important not to personalize. Rejection is part of the process.
9. Get offline.
There is nothing inherently wrong with swipe apps or online dating overall. It is one more avenue to meeting new people. But important to remember is that it is just that — one more avenue. It is not the only one. Dating and relationship coach Jonathan Bennett says that one of the best ways to have more dating success is to leave the house and make a genuine effort to meet new people. This could involve exploring new hobbies or interests, but can also be as simple as going to the grocery store — “Then, when you are out, make an effort to actually connect with new people. Even a smile or saying ‘hi’ can go a long way.” There are opportunities for connection everywhere. If we can look up from our phones long enough, we may even find one.
10. Live a first-class life.
Live your life as if you will never find “the one.” Or if that sounds too depressing, imagine someone read your future and told you that everything turns out okay in the end. In other words, assume that it is already in the cards for you. You can now sit back and enjoy the process without the desperation. By not resting all of your happiness on the hopes of meeting the person of your dreams, you will avoid disappointment, disillusionment, dating-induced depression, and desperation. Plus, it is a well-known phenomenon that the moment you stop looking for something — or in this case, someone — is usually when it shows up.
Above are just some of the “tips” of the iceberg in terms of dating smarter and increasing your chances of finding love — without compromising your emotional and psychological well-being. “Understand that dating is a process of failing your way to success,” says McDermott. “If you aren’t out there on awkward dates that go nowhere, sending emails that don’t get returned, or having to end things after a few dates because you realize this isn’t the right person for you, then you aren’t getting a step closer to finding love.” Let yourself fail, she advises, “Then dust yourself off and get right back in there. You have to be in it to win it!”
Coles, J. (2018). Love Rules: How to Find a Real Relationship in a Digital World. Harper.
Nicolino, V. (2018). Bad Advice: How to Survive and Thrive in an Age of Bullsh*t. HarperOne
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