Empowered dating starts with an empowered you. Don’t know where to start? Get clear and connected to these three things and you’ll be well on your way.
We all know there are self-care practices and understandings that prepare us for dating successfully. However, there seem to be many mixed messages and, in my opinion, un-useful clichés about personal self-care (what does it mean to “love yourself first?!”).
Some of my patients think of spa days or bubble baths when we talk about self-care or self-love. Self-love, however, is about an inner attitude towards your own emotional life. It’s having a relationship to your past, your emotional experience, and your decision-making process that is in alignment with your goals and dreams.
Spa days and bubble baths (or even your favorite run or yoga class) simply won’t help you feel cared about if your inner attitude is riddled with doubt, judgment, shame, or a lack of clarity.
So how do you cultivate an inner attitude that will leave you actually feeling loved and valued? Here are my top three practical, do-able tips to prepare for dating.
What we now know about human nature, bonding, and attachment throughout the lifespan clearly tells us that we are not born, nor do we grow and develop, in a vacuum. In fact, we require relationships to develop in a healthy way.
This sort of undoes the notion that you should simply “love yourself first” before having important relationships! We come to know who we are and how we are unique and what we have to offer through relationships!
You do not need to “wait” to date until you have yourself neatly wrapped up in a healed box. Yet it is true that we can do a lot of personal housekeeping to ensure our dating life is not inadvertently hung up by things we don’t know, understand, or haven’t dealt with.
Follow these steps to help make your dating life fun, rewarding, and empowering!
Clarify your self identity.
Identity is not a static entity—we know our selves through our varying relationships, activities, accomplishments, and challenges and will invariably have flexibility in our identity throughout our life. However, you should be able to have a good working model of your core identity.
Take out a sheet of paper and make two columns: the left column is assets and the right column is liabilities. Over the course of a few days, make a list of what you think are your strengths in the left column. Your strengths include what you have to offer the world, what you most enjoy, what people tend to value in you. In the right column, list your liabilities—what are your weakness, what do you tend to need help with, what are your core wounds or fears.
This outline should give you a clear sense of whether you have a balanced identity. Make sure you can represent this balanced version of yourself to others in a coherent manner.
Know your relational identity.
Our relational identity is how we experience ourselves in our most important relationships. This is fairly flexible, as different people with their own psychologies will relate to us differently and bring out different parts of us.
Make a list of the most important relationships in your life, including your parents, formative friends, and romantic partners. Ask yourself how these people saw you, and how you felt in their presence. What feelings came up? Insecurity, safety, valued, strong, capable, not good enough, scared?
Relational identity often needs to be healed through self-reflection and/or psychotherapy if you have a toxic model of yourself based on toxic relationships.
Know your value system.
Our values are a core feature of our identity. Knowing your values will strengthen your sense of self as well as inform all of the emotional decisions in your life, including who to date.
Can you name your five core values? Make sure you can! And never, ever, commit to a relationship with someone who contradicts these core values. Healthy relationships are built on respect and I can promise you that you will not retain respect for someone who contradicts any of your core values.
These practices are designed to develop a point of connection between your conscious self and your unconscious self, which is an enormous asset that will in and of itself increase your confidence and emotional stability. Your self-identity resides mostly in your conscious mind, but your relational identity bridges your conscious and unconscious mind by activating your awareness of your attachment blueprints (what you expect of others)! Aligning these parts of your identity with your value system will create a system of congruence and empowerment that guides your dating thoughts and choices.
Start with these three tips and, I assure you, your future partner will appreciate the work you’ve put in. You will feel more confident about the dating process, attract higher-quality dates, and be more able to successfully chose and navigate dating relationships when you have done this work.
About the Author
Dr. Elisha is a psychologist, psychoanalyst, author and teacher—this means she has the most in depth training available to get to the root of relational difficulties and truly heal your identity. Her deep understanding of how attachment relationships shape your feelings about yourself, the world, and your beliefs about relationships can help you succeed in intimate relationships. To learn more about Dr. Elisha’s work visit RelationshipsRewired.com and please download the free eBook How to Be an Extraordinary Partner