There are lots of reasons to date. Dating to find a partner is a common goal, and I talk a lot about that but what about dating to find yourself first? This is a great experience, especially if you’re newly divorced or just coming out of a serious relationship and can be key in eventually meeting that special someone. When you spend a significant portion of your life with someone, you end up sharing a lot with that person. Maybe you got into cycling because they’re into it. Or have taken to watching the Sunday game even though it wasn’t really your thing. Compromise is part of any relationship and it’s natural and even good that you worked to meet halfway and open yourself up to their interests. But when you find yourself single again, it’s time to get back to you. If you don’t really like sports, that’s fine! It’s always good to be open to compromise again but take this as an opportunity to rediscover yourself independently. What do you in your heart of hearts want and love? Take this opportunity to learn more about yourself. Taking the time to find yourself first allows you to truly know what you want and need before getting into another relationship. Coming into a relationship with this knowledge allows you to communicate your wants and needs more clearly and do a better job of screening your dates in the first place!
I’ve worked with a lot of clients who are at this place in their love lives. One that always stands out in my mind was Sarah. She found herself going for strong, assertive “guy’s guys” but she hadn’t found the right one for her yet and after several failed relationships after her marriage, she was getting discouraged. After doing some exploring and dating with the intent of finding herself, she realized while she found certain traits of a traditional manly man appealing, it was causing friction with her personality type in her relationships and ultimately, setting her up to fail. Dating to find herself allowed her to rediscover herself (she learned she loves to salsa and go hiking), but it also allowed her to discover what truly works for her in a man that she had been overlooking all those years.
Here is what Sarah did:
1) Go out with people you wouldn’t usually date. Really step outside of your comfort zone here and meet someone completely different from your ex. Into brunettes? Go out with blondes. Find yourself usually dating white collar guys? Try blue collar. Extroverts? Introverts. Whatever it is, the most important thing is that you step outside your comfort zone and approach the date looking to learn something new. If you find yourself dating people who tend to fit a certain “type” but you haven’t found the right one for you yet, it doesn’t hurt to change things up a little! Explore your other options. Worst case scenario? You know for sure that you work best with other opera-lovers. Or extroverts. Or attorneys. Best case? You open yourself up to other opportunities, and possibly meet someone who will be a better fit for you than you’ve ever expected. It never ceases to amaze me how often someone’s actual “perfect match” isn’t at all like what they originally thought they would be.
2) Do something new. Everyone has been on a dinner or coffee date. Try doing something different. Go on a hike, check out a museum, or if you must do dinner, try a new food! Whatever it is, make it something you don’t usually do. Dating is a great excuse to explore new things and step outside your comfort zone. Bonus points if it’s new for your date too. You can learn a lot about how they handle themselves outside their usual comfort zone.
In following this process, your goal should be experience-oriented. It’s not about wondering if this man or woman is the next big relationship in your life. It’s about enjoying yourself, focusing on you, and learning what you really want out of life. Plus, whether you want to see your date again or not, you’ll still come out of the experience learning something new about yourself and maybe even gaining a new passion!