Modern online dating for an authentic, others-first feeler can quickly become an unpleasant place. Many of my clients find themselves questioning their needs and their enoughness when faced with confusing behaviors from the dating world. Many authentic folx tend to feel they’ve lost center while dating because of focusing intently–like you do– on the person in front of you instead of asking yourself what you want.
Here is my top advice from the therapy room if you’re watching dating life dig up your personal insecurities, leaving you worried whether you’ll get a reply, whether you’ll get a second date, and all the “whys” of why they: haven’t texted-yet/isn’t making time/said that one thing/isn’t interested anymore.
Clue more into being yourself and listening to your instincts:
1 FOCUS ON YOU
As an authentic, HSP, or caretaker, you might soak in your date’s behaviors to then question them later in an all-day marathon of what-ifs, rather than tapping into your own assessment of the connection. You can spend so much time subconsciously watching for hints of if your date is having a great time that you don’t notice whether or not you are. Focusing more on yourself let’s you see if you want a next date or a polite exit strategy.
While with your date, notice your physical sensations: butterflies, boredom, desire, smiling, praying they don’t touch your arm, neutrality. Any of these will help you assess what you think and want, rather than agonizing about whether someone you half care about will text you for date two.
2 RAISE THAT BAR
Because of past hurts– bad dates and even worse past relationships—you might approach dating from the place of just hoping for someone decent and an OK time. First of all (yes, loving side-eye here), let’s never start a search for someone special with “just,” “decent,” or “OK.” You deserve way more. Ask yourself honestly if you use this wording when talking dating life with friends or in your own mind. The deeper reasons for having a low bar can be low self-worth, past relationship hurts, fears of entering into a relationship, or not believing you deserve a fantastic match.
Coach yourself like you’d talk to a close friend who you know deserves more. Remind yourself what kind of connection you ideally want, what the biggest goals are here. Then write them down, and remind yourself every day of dating.
3 TRASH THE CHECKLIST
“Tech job, must love snowboarding, can’t be more/less than X-feet tall.” Yes shared interests are exciting and helpful in a relationship; yes a steady job is generally positive; and, well, let’s think bigger criteria than height or appearance. Any list that whittles a person down to a short-list of attributes or interests is not necessarily going to garner you a wonderful, healthy relationship. To have a healthy relationship, countless more real qualities are needed plus a focus on the connection of personalities and temperaments.
If at any point in your dating experience you notice including or excluding people solely off a mental checklist, you might want to imagine what feeling really connected with someone, being really interested in someone would look like, where surface interests or looks are off the table. Imagine how you’d feel sitting next to an incredible match over time: secure, appreciated, attended to, inspired, loved. Then try to picture what about that person could lead to that experience. You’ll find these types of inquiries matter a lot more than a surface list.
4 RE-CENTER THE MISSION
I frequently encourage my dating clients to “zoom out.” Zoom out from the nuances and nuisances of the daily dating foray to see things about yourself like:
- Is it break time? There’s a common course of online dating that typically runs: excitement at the shiny profiles and prospects > nervous-excitement on first dates > various lack of interest > waning interest > taking a break. Anywhere along your own route you can call for a dating break; it’ll allow you to reconnect with your friends and most importantly yourself.
- Are you surrounded by people playing “the game” or by your own anxieties? The unspoken rules and norms of modern dating of course don’t serve most people well. These norms implicitly say it’s fine to ghost, to breadcrumb, to zombie(or whatever this week’s term is) rather than to act thoughtfully and honestly. An authentic person in this dating world likely feels overrun by the lack of sensitivity from counterparts on apps or on dates, leading to jaded feelings. This system too creates anxieties about when to call vs text, what to say back, how to handle a second date conundrum, and sometimes misery of being left without closure answers.
So zoom out, name the stage you’re in and what your latest needs are. Feeling stifled– put down the app for a while; feeling defeated– consider raising the bar of who qualifies for your next date.
Zoom out when you feel constantly worried about whether someone will reply, whether you’ll get another date, and all the “whys” of why someone hasn’t (fill in the blank here). Remind yourself what you most want and that you can absolutely do this by your own rules.