There are three delightful steps to be mindful of before starting a relationship. Approach your love life with a renewed sense of harmony, you deserve it.
I grew up old school—back when there were special dining room place settings for company, ‘good’ clothes for holidays, and plastic covers on the living room furniture to preserve it. We had guests often enough, but I never understood why we always wound up lingering over our ‘regular’ dishes around the kitchen table, or why we crowded in to talk for hours on the old TV room couch when we were supposed to be entertaining on the good stuff.
Decades later, I’d outgrown the holiday clothes without having worn them nearly enough, I’d never done more than look at those fancy place settings, and hadn’t ever felt the living room fabric beneath its plastic shroud. So much for the special company that never came.
In my adult life, I see the same game playing out in the ways we relate: we keep our ‘good stuff’—our tenderness, our deepest selves and passions—under wraps while we wait for amazing partners to appear as if by magic; we suffocate our love and best qualities in anticipation of The One; we overlook the great mates-in-the-making because they’re right in front of us, steady and unflinching, not striding in from the sun-dappled horizon.
We compromise our time and affection by wasting them on the undeserving. Remember Greg Behrendt of He’s Just Not Into You fame? He wrote that book as a rallying cry to women who chronically tolerated bad behavior from the men they dated. “Don’t waste the pretty,” he said, because if a man is interested in you, there’s nothing he won’t do to make his feelings known. Even if you didn’t appreciate his message or read the book (or watch the movie, or catch the talk show, or follow his social media), his was a solid reminder to become more conscious of how we connect in word and deed.
I use these examples to illustrate my point: what we do while we’re preparing for a romantic relationship is as important as what we do when we’re in one.
Relationships define us. The fact that we live is itself a series of inner and outer relationships, from our body’s chemical makeup to the schools we attend, to cultivating spiritual practice, to building friendships, to growing careers, to buying groceries—everything we do centers around the fact that we are dependent on all kinds of exchanges happening in and around us to make certain experiences possible. While there’s much we can’t control about those relationships, we can certainly impact them for better or worse when we have a mind to.
Speaking of mindfulness, let’s look at a few ways to consciously create the kind of loving experiences we seek.
1. Ditch the plastic.
Ever assumed an air of cool or composure around someone you were interested in because you didn’t want to appear interested? Ever want to peek out from behind a façade of perfection or playing small, but you were too fearful of being seen as anything other than the image you presented? Hiding who we really are while secretly hoping to be seen as our real selves doesn’t make much logical sense, but it’s what we humans do, a lot.
The next time you find yourself leaning on your credentials, your cool, or anything false to make you seem more acceptable or impressive to others, stop for a moment and notice yourself in the act. Gently explore what’s motivating your behavior, and breathe. Doing so will help to calm you, restore a sense of safety if you’re feeling threatened, and empower to interact from a place of authenticity.
2. Date nonstop.
When it comes to dating, we know the Herculean feat of pumping ourselves up to ‘get out there’ again if only to rake through more profiles in the hopes of finding new potentials to spend interview and date, all while keeping our expectations in check. From a cellular perspective, imagine the havoc we wreak on our adrenals and immunity every time we ‘gear up’ to go out. To ease this self-inflicted suffering, try dating everyone instead. Meaning, look at every interaction you have as though you’re in a budding relationship because, essentially, you are.
Whether man or woman, old or young, your boss, postal carrier, bff, cashier, colleague, or guru, seek ways to deepen your connections. Look for the best in them and praise it; listen deeply; extend compassion for their struggles; practice kindness; wish them well; share something real about you with them. Get comfortable being with other people, bearing in mind the truth that we are all connected and every relationship is sacred, no matter how fleeting.
3. Roll with it.
Now that you’ve peeled back your plastic and you’ve taken to dating everybody, you’re beginning to notice new aspects of yourself that might have been longing to breathe and surface in you for a long time. With that newness comes the invitation to embrace its challenge of change. Because that’s what relationships do: they grow us beyond our comfort zones and make us unrecognizable to our former selves.
When we’re connecting consciously with others, it means we’re showing up openly to what is. And the only agenda we’re pushing is to be present to it all. Relating in this way will tumble us like stones in the process of softening our edges and polishing us. To be sure, the process isn’t easy. It will require us to bump up against beliefs we previously held about ourselves and others. We may have to shed some old notions and offer up compassion for ourselves while we’re at it.
In order to experience the loving relationships we seek, it’s up to us to bring them about. It’s not about hiding away, eschewing real connection while we wait on princes and princesses to turn up one day. It’s about now.
Ask yourself how much you’re loving the relationships you’re already in. Look for opportunities to infuse everything you do with kindness, non-judgment, and sincerity. Romantic love is one thing, but freeing our true selves to engage more deeply in the world at hand is not to be overlooked. It’s hardly child’s play. Better yet, maybe it is. Because being consciously integrated in all we do holds no assumptions—it’s vital, it’s playful, and always seeks connection over fear and isolation. It loves love, but it doesn’t wait for romance to fall in love and neither should we.