Sometimes it’s the smallest pivot that can have the most far-reaching effects. Learn how to transform your dating with a conscious shift in thinking.
I’m convinced my love of love stories comes from my sister. I wouldn’t call it genetic, since our parents weren’t great models of softness and affection. On second thought, that’s probably how we arrived at loving love the way we did: we were hardwired for it. Whether we knew it or not, my sister and I hungered for examples of solid, enduring relationships that transcended what we’d seen as kids in our home and extended family.
For my sister, she spent much of her teen life in between the pages of Harlequin romances, much to our mother’s amazement. “You keep reading those things,” she warned, “and they’ll spoil you for real love.” It wasn’t that she’d hoped for a prince or a rock star to scoop her up into a perfect life, I think she just wanted a healthy relationship template to build on—one that looked nothing like the kind we’d been given. For myself, I fell in love with love much later, once I’d grown winded from chasing potential—instead of accepting the reality of my romantic relationships.
Here’s the disclaimer: you are not wrong.
Giving yourself permission to love and be loved deeply—despite your imperfect past or your imaginings of a loveless future—means there’s plenty you’ve done right already. Sometimes, the longing for love and relationship can throw us so far from our center, it can’t help but impact the way we see ourselves and everyone around us. Rather than feeling shamed or sad-faced about the steps you’ve taken toward love, let’s take a moment to lay them out and give credit where it’s due. Because for every attempt you made at love and you think you failed, there are countless people who can only wish they’d had half as much courage to take a similar risk themselves.
Feeling down about your dating and relationship prospects along with all of the efforts you’ve made for love’s sake? If so, it’s possible the experience is triggering old stories of hurt, self-worth, and disappointment. And while it’s important to allow those feelings to come, it’s equally key to examine them from a different perspective this time. Be willing to get curious about any information you get in the process. I’ve listed a few examples of common dating frustrations to show you a conscious shift in your thinking could make the difference that helps you refresh your loving nature.
“Online dating is brutal…and pointless.”
My friend Dana has been active on at least nine relationship sites in the past three years. Each time she registers, she swears it will be different, only to wind up disappointed at ‘the science’ behind their matching algorithms and ‘the caliber’ of her dates.
Where credit’s due: Dana gets props for widening her dating options by exploring the offerings of a variety of dating sites, and for being proactive. She didn’t let her efforts languish on just one or two sites that weren’t delivering good returns for her.
Finding the insight: Since Dana continues to be disappointed at the results she’s getting, I’d encourage her to take a second look at her profile, prompting her with questions like: Are the photos a current and accurate? Does the language go beyond the usual ‘I’m fun and active’ paragraph? Whose opinion do I trust enough—male and female—to ask them for feedback about my profile?
“Men don’t want to get serious.”
Gregg is a great guy. He prides himself of knowing what he wants and wastes no time in going for it. He’s ready for a husband, but feels like he’s the only man he knows who’s ready for serious commitment. When he’s feeling especially disappointed with his dating life, he often says, ‘Men only want one thing.’
Where credit’s due: Great job, Gregg. Knowing what you want is a crucial part of a relationship because it helps you clarify your goals and lets your partner know, in very certain terms, what you’re looking for. As the saying goes: If you don’t know where you’re going, that’s where you’ll end up.
Finding the insight: As important as it is to know your needs and to understand your thinking, it’s also wise not to cling too tightly to them. In Gregg’s case, he did himself a disservice by harboring the belief that all men were promiscuous and unwilling to settle down. Going in with that mindset not only compromised his chances of finding the right mate, it also continually landed him in scenarios that proved him right.
“Conscious dating? I can’t.”
After twelve years of marriage that ended in divorce, Tina is once again new to dating. The bar scene has long lost its appeal and she’s loathe to go on dates arranged by her friends. In theory, conscious dating appeals to her, but practical application is something else. ‘I don’t actually know what it means,’ she said. ‘And what if my version of being spiritual or conscious doesn’t match up with my date? It seems ego-driven and woo-woo and overwhelming to me.’
Where credit’s due: Tina is to be commended for her willingness to open to new relationship possibilities, despite her uncertainty about how to pursue them. To be sure, re-entry into the world of dating isn’t for the faint of heart, but it can be a welcome place for the open-hearted.
Finding the insight: Interestingly enough, acknowledging that she doesn’t know what to do is central to a spiritual or mindful dating approach. It’s akin to ‘beginner’s mind,’ the simplicity of ‘not knowing’ that allows us to be curious and open to learning about ourselves and each other as we go. Entering into an experience without our preconceptions can be a wholly satisfying aspect to any journey.
Even if you don’t see yourself reflected in these scenarios, you’re not alone in the desire to love and be loved by someone special. First off: let that someone special be you. After all, it’s your own capacity to love and honor yourself that sets the tone for every relationship you’ll ever have.
Second: remember there’s information in our feelings—all of them. Allow your disappointments, anxieties, and old notions to lend their wisdom to a new love story.