Every feel like you’ve been programmed to have super-high expectations of dating and relationships? Beginning with the string of Disney princesses—each one of whom gets their man, by the way—and continuing with movies like The Notebook, Sleepless in Seattle and Titanic, we’re conditioned to seek strong, handsome partners and perfect romance. When reality hits, we’re quick to bail out. It’s no surprise our first relationships usually don’t last.
While meeting, dating and being in a relationship can certainly seem like graduate-level topics in the School of Life, here are a few words of advice that may help:
Give Yourself Time to Learn.
It’s no secret that our initial experiences in the dating world can be less than ideal, often leaving us feeling disillusioned and disappointed. And with nothing to compare our first relationship to, we’re far from knowing what we want in a partner. If it ends poorly, we leave feeling hurt and vowing to be more careful in the future. Some of us might allow the pain to discourage us from trying again for quite some time.
Be gentle with yourself as you learn about dating and being in a relationship. If you break up, try to be grateful for the opportunity and courage it took for you to experience it. Endings are never just one person’s fault, so focus on what you learned instead of blaming the other person or yourself. Later on, kindly and lovingly take a look at any behavior on your part you don’t want to bring to your next relationship. Taking appropriate responsibility helps you grow and gives you confidence as you meet new potential partners.
Don’t Force It.
Do all your friends have partners or spouses, leaving you feeling like the odd one out being single? Or perhaps based on your age or your stage in life, you feel internal or external pressure to have a significant other. Of course, you also might simply feel lonely and long to find a person to be intimate with.
Although you may intensely desire to be part of a couple, be wary of trying too hard to find someone or pushing a relationship forward too quickly. Cherish your time as a single person; this is time for complete freedom to learn about yourself. If you meet someone, allow yourself and the other person time to get to know each other, before deciding how you feel about being with them.
Keep Your Eyes Open.
Sometimes, we want a relationship so much that we accept unacceptable behavior from the person we’re with, or we lie to ourselves that undesirable aspects of that person don’t bother us. We might even think that we can change parts of them by letting them know of our disapproval. All these tendencies can really get us in trouble, hooking us into unhealthy relationships with the illusion that we can make that person into who we want them to be.
There are other people to date out there, so if you don’t like certain things someone says or does, quietly observe them until you know more about the whole person. Concentrate on being more thoughtful, patient and aware, without glossing over or justifying things about him or her that trouble you. It can also help to talk about your feelings with someone you trust. By allowing yourself space and time to seriously consider your feelings and needs, you’ll make better choices in relationships.
Ask Yourself What You Want in a Relationship.
If you’re single but have had previous romantic experiences, use what you’ve learned to identify what you want in a partner or relationship before you start dating again. Be honest. Are you looking for a lifelong marriage partner, or simply someone to have fun and spend time with? You might not be ready for commitment, or on the other hand might insist on exclusivity.
However you feel about dating, try to understand your motives more deeply. Then, bravely and clearly express them. Doing so will help you avoid misunderstandings and the inevitable disappointment if your needs don’t match someone else’s.
A Surprising Focus.
Whether you’re single, dating or married, remember that the only person you ultimately have any control over is yourself. When you keep your focus where it should be—on your own life, goals and self-care—you avoid making another person responsible for your happiness. You were created complete, with everything you need to lead a full and satisfying life. Once you learn to feel good just being with yourself, you’re ready to share that with someone else.
Seek Spiritual Growth.
Developing trust and deep belief that God wants the very best for you in life and love makes it easier it is to accept both romantic opportunities and disappointments. By asking for help and guidance, you tap into an infinite supply of strength and wisdom. When you put your relationship with God first, you become much clearer and more capable of surrounding yourself with supportive, loving people, including romantic partners.