We live in a world today that moves fast. We seek fast and immediate results. We multi-task and believe in the power of efficiency. And this culture impacts how we date and pursue relationships. With just a quick swipe or tap of the finger, you can express interest in or eliminate a potential partner. You can breeze through a profile and get the “CliffsNotes” version of who a person “is” or make a decision blindly based on their pictures. You can do this while watching TV, “working,” or waiting in line. And this is just the browsing process!
And then there is the actual correspondence part—where you would typically message back and forth, maybe exchange numbers, and (probably less likely) talk over the phone. This is the stage where you get to know a person and then (based on a very brief back and forth) decide if this person is worth pursuing or meeting up with in real life. This part gets tricky, because you are also messaging or communicating with potentially 1, 8, or 17 other prospective partners at the same time and trying to discern who is who and coordinate different dates (often in the same week). Next, you are dating or talking to multiple singles, while still swiping, liking, and matching.
While this approach can and has been effective for some, there are so many aspects about this style of dating that can be a disservice—mostly because there is nothing mindful or intentional about any of this. When you date this hastily, how many meaningful conversations can you actually have? How can you truly make an informed opinion or decision based on a quick glimpse at a picture and brief text exchange? How do you know if this person is looking for the same thing or if you share the same values? When you date this compulsively, there is a good chance that 1) you will become jaded and resentful, and 2) you might miss out on a really good thing. So here are a few tips for dating more intentionally.
- Make a profile that truly reflects who you are—your hobbies, interests, quirks, personality. You can do this with your pictures, responses to prompts, and in your “bio.” Instead of trying to be what you might think other people want, be authentic. Own who you are. You will not be able to sustain a relationship long term if you pretending to be someone you are not. Who you are is good enough. Remind yourself of that.
- Write down or create a mental list of qualities you want in a partner and relationship. And be specific! Consider what is important for you in a relationship. Do you appreciate traditional gender roles or want to have a completely equitable relationship? What are some of your “nonnegotiables” or dealbreakers (and yes, you are allowed to have these, it doesn’t make you “too picky”)? Consider your values and which values do you need to share with a potential partner. Do you need to share similar political ideals or religious beliefs? Do you need someone that shares similar ambitions or life goals? By clarifying these things beforehand, it will help you filter out individuals that you may not gel with and help you know whom you should direct your time and energy (because your time and energy ARE are important).
- Ask questions! You have a right to be curious and ask questions that help you determine if a person or relationship is worth pursuing. Are they looking for a long term relationship or something more casual and noncommittal? Do they want kids or a family? Being direct and clarifying is always okay! We have been socialized to “play it cool” and “go with the flow” but if you know what you want and what it is important to you, be vocal! Anyone who challenges this or takes offense might not be on the same page or the right person for you.
- Set boundaries. If you aren’t comfortable meeting in person and prefer a phone call, make this known. If you are not ready to have sex or become intimate, assert this boundary! If you do not want to meet their family yet, let them know. The right person will be okay moving at the pace that feels most comfortable to you.
- Slow things down! It can be so easy to go full throttle when dating, especially when you meet someone you’re really into and have chemistry with. It can be so tempting to spend all your time with this person and commit right then and there, but why not take your time? Those first few dates are the most exciting because you are building connection and also exploring long term compatibility. So slow it down—enjoy and savor these moments. Additionally, you don’t want to lose yourself in the process of dating. You deserve to have some time to yourself to do things you love and fill you up, as well as to maintain the relationships you already have and find meaningful. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard someone feel like they lost their sense of self because they gave everything they had to their relationship. Long-term, healthy relationships typically last and sustain over time because each individual has their own identity and sense of self-worth outside of the relationship.
- Reflect! Take the time to reflect on your interactions with potential partners. Ask yourself if they reflect the qualities that you want and deserve in a partner. Are there any red flags? We are intuitive creatures, and it is important for us to take notice of what our gut is telling us.
- Live your life! Continue to live your life while you date and pursue new relationships. This is extremely important for your self-esteem and mental health. Make dating an activity that you occasionally or casually engage in and try to avoid replacing your passions and interests with the pursuit of finding a partner. Limit how much time you spend on a dating app and spend this time doing things that reaffirm what is important to you.
When it comes to dating, there are not any explicit rules or “have-to’s” but you can always develop a process that works for you and meets your needs. Finding a connection and person to share your life with (even in the short term) is a big deal, you deserve to take all the time in the world to find a relationship that is meaningful and right for you.