If you are like most relationship seekers today, you may have already tried every possible way to find long-lasting love. But you’re still not quite ready to give up. I may not be able to find the perfect person for you, but I can help you be the best date you can be from the moment you meet a new person.
Most daters present a carefully chosen performance when meeting a new person. If they’re ultimately going to be rejected, they’d rather have that happen before they lose too much of their vulnerable selves in the process. “Nothing ventured, nothing lost.”
But there is better way to behave on a first date. It's not natural or easy for most, yet I’ve found that, time and time again, the people who learn to do it change the way they feel about themselves in a wonderfully positive way.
Instead of being careful and self-protective, can you imagine yourself being totally authentic from the moment you meet a new person?
I believe that the following seven steps will give you what you need to practice this behavior. When you complete them, you may find a new depth of comfort and confidence in yourself and what you honestly have, and want, to offer a partner.
1. Throwing Out the Old Ways
In the past, before relationship-seeking became a revolving-door spin-out, you may have had the time you needed to explore a new partner’s assets and liabilities. Before the date even took place, you most likely had some knowledge of who that person was from trusted others who clued you in.
If you decided to keep seeing each other, you could take the time to explore your feelings and think about what you wanted to do. You could leisurely make the decision to go forward, invest more time, or find a way to discreetly and respectfully disconnect.
Today, that is not often possible; you may not have the luxury of that timeless exploration. As a result, you may only have a short time to make the decision to either give up comfort, security, and caution or take the risk to embrace an unpredictable adventure. So, no matter how nervous you feel, you need to fully commit to being open, transparent, and authentic from the first moment you meet someone new.
2. Rigorous Self-Exploration
All of your past experiences have created who you now are. Before you can accurately evaluate the pros and cons of a total stranger, you need to comfortable with your own core values, know who you are, what you want, and what you have to offer.
Start by looking at yourself from a new perspective. Pretend you are standing atop a hypothetical and non-judgmental mountain top peering down upon yourself. From that emotional vantage point, observe the multi-faceted and multi-dimensional being you are.
First, ask trusted friends to honestly tell you what they feel you bring to a relationship and what you might do to knowingly or unknowingly sabotage them. Mentally and emotionally explore your personal relationship history, what social networks you’ve created, and your innate personality characteristics. Ask yourself what experiences in your life have given you the most joy and the deepest sorrows?
3. Letting Go of Defensive Filters
As you have lived through each of your past relationships, you’ve accumulated a huge amount of data about when, who, and how to trust. Those predictions of how others are likely to act become your filters, mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual barriers that screen for potential safety or harm.
These moats around your emotional castle can unconsciously re-emerge when you experience words, phrases, situations or actions that might trigger them. If you don’t recognize them, you may doom yourself to repeat reactive patterns from the past that keep you from seeing anything differently.
It is crucial that you are aware when your filters are activated, and where they originated. If you do not remember when and where they started, you might find yourself behaving only in those internalized ways and keep yourself from taking chances as an adult.
4. What Past Experiences Have Affected You the Most?
Most of us have experienced both functional and dysfunctional people and situations throughout our lives. No one I’ve ever known has escaped without painful interactions with others, or does not bear the scars of the sorrow or uncertainty they’ve caused.
Though your positive experiences may have helped to ameliorate those that caused the most damage, they will still have left an impact. To counteract that possibility, you must be aware of the footprints they’ve left in your mind. Otherwise, their continued, unexamined presence will limit your possibilities each time they are triggered.
The most impacting of unconscious triggers come from unresolved traumas. They are the conscious or unconscious drivers of your negative anxieties, self-protective behaviors, and resistances. Many people unconsciously bring these powerful filters into each new relationship, limiting what they can see, feel, hear, or understand.
Traumas can come from single events, or life-long erosions of self-worth and inherent uncertainty. A re-triggered trauma may drive you to feel suddenly self-protective, egocentric, or inflexible.
5. Attraction to Familiarity
Familiarity often plays a conscious or unconscious crucial role in who you select to be an intimate partner. Perhaps, for instance, you are the kind of person who had a highly dramatic and self-indulgent parent. You vowed early in your adult life that you would never form a relationship with someone anything like that person, so you pick people who are giving and passive. But then you find yourself bored with them, missing the drama. Or not being as comfortable being center stage as you thought you would.
Carefully examine your past relationships. Look for patterns where you are both attracted and put-off by the same person. Ask yourself if he or she is standing in for someone from your past.
6. Ethics, Values, and Biases
You must know your innate thoughts and feelings about what you believe to be “the right way to think and feel” so that you are able to present those that are still sacred as honestly as you can to another. Be certain to also question them if those attitudes no longer represent you.
Some of your beliefs may be shared by peers and therefore won’t present a conflict in those relationships, but might not be welcomed by others. Some of your social, religious, political, and relationship biases may be so ingrained that you might not even know how you came to feel them or why they are so important. Some may have been needed at other times in your life but are no longer even significant, yet you are living by them none the less.
The caveat is simple: Don’t hold on to beliefs that you learned from people you would never want to emulate in your current life.
Ask yourself what your biases may be and where they came from. You may need to start with self-questions like: How should a quality person conduct him or herself? Or, how do you expect to be treated by a lover? When are you afraid to express what you believe is right or wrong? Have you hidden prior behaviors that presented a conflict between who you were supposed to be and what you did?
7. Putting It All Together
You are inhabiting a dating world that offers you minimal data on the people you encounter. You know that in order to make rapid and accurate decisions, your own pre-set, unexamined reasons for being who you are need to become congruent, clear, and integrated. Once you’ve accomplished that task, you can present them in an honest and confident manner to a complete stranger.
Using these skills, your initial encounters might feel odd and a little scary, and prospective partners might not want to pick up the option. But,as you continue to shed filters and emerge as you truly are, you will find that most people will respond positively and deeply respect your courage and confidence to be who you truly are.