People seeking relationships have more options to meet people than they ever have before. But, more options have not seemed to yield more satisfaction. My patients who are actively navigating the dating world seem more discouraged as new potential relationships don't work out. Despite the fact that they are more sophisticated, more knowledgeable, more seasoned, and more aware, they are also more cynical. They want a wonderful, long-lasting, intimate relationship and wonder why all their efforts are not yielding the anticipated results.
Many ask me the same questions: should I wait longer in between relationships and take the time to reflect on all the reasons my last interaction went wrong? Do you think that I should just be willing to enter the next new relationship more cautiously? Perhaps I should just stop looking for the veritable needle in the romantic haystack and just accept that serial connections are going to be a way of life for me? Do you think that dating several people at the same time is the right way to go? Should I just plunge in to a new relationship whenever it presents itself and damn the consequences? Is everyone feeling the same way I am, or is it just me? Is there any way to tell soon into a relationship whether I should even date this person again?
The people asking these questions are relationship seekers of all ages and in all circumstances. They have also thoroughly searched every option possible. They realize that they will often have little or no capability to trust the information a potential partner tells them, and, understandably are reticent to share vulnerable information as well. The smorgasbords of possibilities more often result in superficial, time-limited experiences that don’t help people understand themselves or others any better.
With each consecutive disappointment, many people end up feeling powerless and adrift in a sea of uncontrollable variables outside of their control. As they re-experience relationships end, they may run the gamut of avoiding risking themselves at all on one end, or rushing pell-mell into new partnerships without maintaining their personal integrity or value.
We must also stay aware of the gender biases that still exist. Women who have had many sexual partners just don’t get the same respect as men who have as many experiences. There is literally no equivalent word in the English language for “slut” that describes men who have “slept around” a lot. “Players” can describe a man who doesn’t commit, but is not necessarily a person with questionable values.
That reality leads many women to either hold back the desire to sample impulsively or to hide prior experiences from new potential partners, while simultaneously accepting the fact that men do not have to feel equally undesirable. “Used goods” are not labels traditionally used to describe men. Hot, sexy women, who appear proud of their past conquests, can be very desirable to men initially, but they have often sadly confessed to me in private that they are not often seen as long-term choices. “Bad boys” are experienced by many women as sexier, but those who are wise don’t harbor the belief that they are likely to settle for one woman over time.
When there have been many relationship disillusionments and disappointments, it is natural for anyone to feel pre-defeated in finding “the one.” Careful, cautious beginnings would seem the best bet. Yet, just waiting and non-risking while giving up the fully living adventure of new love can actually make people less willing to risk as they stop practicing connecting and experiencing, wherever they may lead.
We become better at what we practice, both negative and positive. That means that we should ideally behave as the best person we are in the moment, no matter what present circumstances dictate, keeps us more valuable when the next possibility emerges. (See my article on Psychology Today, “Touch and Go Relationships – Do They Need to be Superficial?”)
So, what is the answer to whether or not it’s better to hang back or rush into your next opportunity to create an intimate relationship?
If you regularly practice how to be the best, most authentic, most self-respecting, and alive person you can be, no matter how many relationships you enter and leave, you will be the most likely to eventually end up in a quality relationship.
If you know who you are at your best, what you want, what you have to give, and what your odds are in the open marketplace, the timing of how soon you become intimate and connected is not the issue. Entering a new relationship with clarity and self-confidence, you will automatically be able to discern early-on whether a potential partner is worth your investment. When you and that new person are potential candidates for a long-term connection, you both are entering a new adventure that cannot have a pre-decided attachment to outcome. Your reasons for entering that unknown culture are the desire to fully experience, to learn, and to grow. You can’t do that if you are too concerned as to whether the relationship will be temporary or permanent. Instead, you’re committed to entering and leaving every relationship liking yourself better from what you’ve experienced.
Randi Gunther’s advice e-newsletter, Heroic Love, shows you how to avoid the common pitfalls that keep people from finding and keeping romantic love. Based on over 100,000 face-to-face hours counseling singles and couples over her 40-year career, you’ll learn how to zero in on the right partner, avoid the dreaded “honeymoon is over” phenomenon, and make sure your relationship never gets boring. heroiclove.com