In less than 1 month, Valentine's Day is here. Commercials for dating sites clog my radio, news feed, and television. This annual reminder to celebrate loved ones has a dark side... loneliness. In 2018, studies showed that loneliness increases your risk of a premature death by 50%.
Adults of all ages experience this fundamental desire for connection with someone who "gets" you. People change and relationships end, leaving individuals in need. Many times, new relationships don't feel worth the hard work. Friendships, family, and romance are messy and complicated. Yet, humans need other humans, whether it's for companionship, support, or romance.
Dating... is hard work. Picking a life partner and allowing them to pick you involves time, effort, money, and emotional strength. So before you dive into the dating pool, here are some things to consider:
What kind of relationship do I want? Are you interested in something fun and temporary, serious and long-lasting, or a mix of both?
What kind of person are you looking for? What do you value in a partner? Think about the time they have to offer you, their lifestyle and habits, and their values and interests.
Where would you find this person and kind of relationship? Tinder and Plenty of Fish are not the places to be looking for long-lasting love. Friends or family setting you up may not work well for a fling.
How do you portray yourself? Consider your lifestyle, habits, interests, and values. Look at your social media, friend group, weekly activities. Do they attract the type of person and relationship you seek? What first impression might a potential partner have about you? What areas may you need to change to give the first impression you want?
How is your dating game? There's no shame in having a bad game. Dating is different now than it was 5, 10, and 20 years ago. You may need to brush up on some of your social skills, conversation starters, and how to get to know someone.
Once you get out there, here are a few things to remember:
Breathe. Once you get started, practice patience, presence, and peace. Understand that relationships take time. Stay in the moment rather than planning your life together after the first date. Remain peaceful, avoiding common pitfalls like jumping to conclusions, expecting the person to read your mind, clinging to baggage from past relationships, or rushing the experience. Take one day at a time, maybe even minute by minute.
Stay Safe. Always practice safety in meeting new people in public places, have tools to escape a problematic situation (like a cell phone, cash for a cab/ride), and let someone know where you are going to be and who you are meeting with. Be careful about the food and drinks you consume, including alcohol and other drugs. Practice safe sex, especially regarding consent. Take abuse seriously.
Be yourself. You deserve a happy healthy relationship, whether you are looking for a life partner or a partner for tonight. It's a lot of work trying to be something or someone you aren't. Let the person enjoy who you are.
You've got this!