How to date optimistically
Dating can be tricky at the best of times. We may struggle to meet compatible people or fledgling relationships may fail again and again, leaving us back at square one. Add in huge challenges such as the coronavirus, which has led to social distancing in many parts of the world, and we might be tempted to throw in the towel. So how do we hold on to hope?
Let’s remind ourselves first why it’s important to date with an optimistic mindset.
I remember the times when I wanted to give up dating altogether. The men I messaged online didn’t get back to me and, although I tried to be open to people who weren’t my usual type, the guys who got in touch with me weren’t suitable.
Apathy set in.
Why bother? What was the point?
My pessimistic mood was a slippery slope. I paid my fees for dating sites but rarely contacted anyone online and my profile sat languishing for months, no tweaks, no updates, no new pictures.
Looking back, I see that I was sabotaging my search for love.
I was dating with a fixed mindset, taking every knock-back as a confirmation of an unhealthy core belief that I’d carried around for years – that I would never meet anyone; that there was nobody out there for me. Instead, I needed to date with a growth mindset. This would enable me to see every interaction, date or relationship as a learning experience – a stepping stone that would lead me eventually to my husband.
Plus there was something deeper going on. I realise now that for many years, I didn’t actually want my online search for love to be fruitful because I was afraid of intimacy and commitment – afraid of risking my heart in case I got hurt. It was convenient to keep telling myself the story that I wouldn’t meet anyone online.
Check your mindset
To prevent falling into the same trap, check your mindset before you log on to your dating site or go on a date, virtual or otherwise. Are you feeling energetic and upbeat? Do you have a growth mindset? Are you ready for a new learning experience? Are you ready to have fun? Are you feeling interested in and curious about another person? Are you open to new opportunities?
On a deeper level, is your heart open? Are you open to intimacy, to commitment and to love?
It’s also important to check your expectations. When we put pressure on a first, second or third date by expecting it to turn into a marriage, we can come across as anxious and panicky on our dates. As I say to my coaching clients, at this early stage of the dating journey, we are simply gathering information. We keep things as light as possible and resist having conversations that are too deep or intense, as this can create a false sense of intimacy.
If you’re only able to date virtually right now, check out some of the virtual dating ideas in recent Christian Connection blogs – you can have fun with a dinner date, a book discussion, a movie night, a games night or a virtual walk together.
Trust in the timing
You’ll be able to keep your dates light, enjoyable and free from pressure if you’re able to trust in God’s timing, rather than trying to control outcomes to fit your own schedule.
I know from experience that this is easier said than done.
You may want a family and feel like you’re running out of time. You may feel impatient because you’ve been dating a number of years without success. You may worry that all the suitable people will be taken or that men or women will deem you to be too old.
But panic dating isn’t healthy and rarely leads to successful relationships. I know this because I’ve tried it. Potential partners may pick up on our panic and decide to walk away. We might put pressure on people to commit before they’re ready, causing the relationship to break. I’ve done this too.
If you feel that you’re panic dating or feeling a lot of pressure to make things happen quickly, pause for a moment and allow yourself to connect with your feelings. Beneath the anxiety and worry, you might connect with loneliness, grief, regret, sadness or fear.
Make space for these feelings – we have to feel them to process them and heal them. And then, when you’ve felt your feelings and done some healing, make an effort to bring more joy into your life, through social activities with friends, through hobbies, creative pursuits and so forth (as best as possible, of course, if you are restricted by social distancing).
Once you’re feeling joyful and lighter inside, reach out to potential dates again online. Who would you like to chat to? What would you like to find out about that person? What fun activities could you plan together?
Keep it light. Keep it enjoyable. And trust, as much as you can, that your romantic life will work out in the way it’s supposed to and that the timing is spot on.