Perhaps you’ve recently been through a rough break up, or your marriage has ended and you’re finally ready to start dating again. Putting yourself back on the relationship market can be daunting. Well, it’s time to get out there, but not just because you’re looking for a mate. Rhonda Britten,
life coach and author
, suggests something entirely different: date so that you can practise being yourself. Britten's six suggestions will encourage you to be more true to yourself as well as more confident, joyous, loving and relaxed when it comes to dating again. The pressure's off—dating is as much about getting to know yourself as it is about getting to know someone else.
1. Choose five top qualities you seek in a mate and write them down.
Want a partner with a sense of humour, generous spirit and a love of adventure? Write down your five top qualities in a mate, and insist on them—no compromises. “Defining your top five traits not only clarifies what you yearn for, it also shines a light on your own qualities,” writes Britten. “Getting specific becomes a reality check.” Be honest with yourself and stay focused on those qualities when you go on dates with new people. If they don’t have your top five qualities, the new connection might be a friendship only.
2. When on a date, wear clothes you usually wear in everyday life.
Don’t dress to impress, or wear clothes that you would never wear ordinarily. Your attire should be comfortable, make you feel good and be in line with your usual style. Don’t wear clothes to fit someone else’s idea of what’s attractive. You might as well just be yourself from the outset.
3. When meeting someone new, tell personal stories or anecdotes on the subject of your five top qualities.
Your date’s responses will give you a window into his personality, and if he has the qualities you’re looking for. Foundational qualities like being ethical, respectful, generous and kind are characteristics he must have as well. If the basics aren't there during your first conversations, he’s definitely not the man for you.
4. Institute a three-date minimum.
For dates who may have your five top qualities, you’ll need to go on three dates to actually start to get to know each other. The first date should be short, perhaps coffee or lunch. The second date should last a couple of hours, maybe dinner. The third date should be three to four hours. To play it safe, all three dates should happen in a public place. That means no sex! Setting time limits prevents you from telling too much too soon. “When you spread out your introduction over three dates, you protect yourself from the illusion of instant intimacy.”
5. Choose a personal intention for each date.
Resist over-analyzing every word your date says while staying true to your essential nature by choosing a personal intention for each date. “Your intention will have nothing to do with gathering information about your date’s five qualities,” Britten writes. “Your intention will have everything to do with you.” Intentions like being truthful, not speaking ill of anyone, listening closely to your date and being more talkative are ones that will contribute to your own growth as an individual, regardless of who you're having coffee with.
6. Check in with yourself after the third date.
“How you feel about yourself matters the most.” If you feel happy, strong, content and excited after three dates, there may be potential for a new friendship, or even a relationship. Your own well-being is paramount. Writing from personal experience, Britten's summary rings true. “I use dating as an opportunity to practise being the person I want to be in my next marriage. I’m practising leaving my fears behind. I’m practising expressing my feelings but not being run by them. Because the bottom line is, a relationship does not define me. I do.”
Photo courtesy FlickrCC/Jamiesrabbits