Whether you’ve been alone for a while and just want to get yourself out there or are finally over an ended relationship, entering the dating scene can be tough.
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To make your re-entry into the dating pool as seamless as possible, make sure you consider these four things first.
1. You Must Know Your Goals
It’s can be hard to find what you want when you enter a store and have no clear idea of what you’re looking for, and the dating scene works just the same.
Without a clear idea of what you want from a relationship, you’ll end up chasing after something that just isn’t what you really want.
You may even fall into the common trap of trying to please everyone but yourself.
In this type of situation, you’re most likely seeking out the kind of relationship your friends have or what your parents want for you, but not the one that will make you the happiest.
Discover what you truly want by getting out a pen and paper. Write down your dating goals and be as honest as possible.
The chances are that your goals will center around one of the three themes below.
• I want to date many people and have casual hookups.
• I will go on a date with just about anyone, as I am tired of being alone.
• I want to find that special person, date seriously and eventually get married.
Once you’ve got some goals down, review your list and consider how your life would be if you actually achieved those goals.
Once you have really imagined what your life would look like, ask yourself whether it’s what you really want right now.
It’s entirely possible that your goals won’t lead you to picture a life you’d be happy in.
In fact, when you look at your goals achieved in reality, you may just end up horrified. If this is the case after you’ve written down your goals and imagined a life in which you’ve achieved them, then your goals are focused more on other people’s expectations than your own. You will need to redo your list.
Work on it until you have a list of goals that will truly make you happy if you reached them. Feel free to run the final list by your family, friends and even your therapist (if you have one) for more input.
The people who care about and know you and may have some ideas and perspective that you’ve never thought of, but keep in mind that you are still outlining your own dating goals and not theirs.
2. It’s Time To Set Boundaries
When you know what your true dating goals are, it’s time to set boundaries that define what isn’t and what is acceptable to you.
One easy way to do this is by using the “traffic signal plan,” which is a simple system that uses common traffic light colors and meanings to set some definite lines for your dating life.
• Red lights: Your red lights are issues or traits that you will not accept in someone you date. If a person you’re seeing has just one of these issues, you should stop dating them or avoid them to begin with.
For example, if you’re in the market for a long-term relationship that could lead to marriage, a red light would be someone who is already in a serious relationship or married.
• Yellow lights: Just like the yellow light on a traffic signal, yellow light traits or issues mean proceed with caution. No one is perfect, so you can continue to date a person with yellow lights, but you need to go into it with your eyes wide open.
Should you be looking for someone who respects you, for instance, a person who is constantly late to your dates and makes you wait may be a yellow light.
• Green lights: A green light is something that you are looking for in another person. When a person has a lot of the traits you consider green lights, you may have scored big.
So, if your goal is to date on a casual basis right now with an eye toward a long-term relationship, a person who has many green light traits could be someone with similar dating goals who is fun and supportive of you.
There may be times when you are tempted to look past red light issues because a person has quite a few green light traits too, but remember that your boundaries are set for a reason.
Eventually, those “no-date” issues or traits will creep up on you.
When it comes to yellow lights, just remember to pay close attention to the worrying traits or situations, so you don’t end up blindsided down the road.
3. You’ll Have To Stick It Out
Whatever your wish list is for a partner, chances are you’ll have to deal with a few duds along the way; that’s just the nature of dating.
Not everyone out there will be the right fit for you.
Of course, some people do get lucky and meet the right person for them on the first try, but that’s not a usual occurrence.
When you’re looking for a life partner, you are probably going to end up dating upwards of 20 people before you find your ideal match, and that’s common.
Don’t get discouraged even after you’ve said, “No thanks” to more people than you care to count.
The most difficult situation to handle when you’re dating is when you meet another person whom you really like, but your feelings are not mutual.
That can be painful emotionally and really ding your self-esteem if you let it, so don’t allow it to get you down.
Just keep in mind that even though you really liked this person, they just aren’t the one for you. Consider the fact that you’re not wasting any time on this person which will allow you to eventually find the right person, but the only way that can happen is if you don’t give up.
4. It’s Important To Enjoy It
While you need to have goals and set boundaries so you don’t waste your time or end up hurt, you shouldn’t become entirely fixated on them, either.
Remember to have fun and enjoy yourself.
When you try too hard, you miss out on some potentially great relationships and you’ll frustrate yourself to boot.
Having fun and keeping your eye on your goals at the same time can be a bit of a balancing act at times, but the results are well worth it.
Getting back into dating isn’t always easy. With a little thought and reflection beforehand, you can find a relationship that works for your life as it is today and maybe even in the future.
Keep the considerations above in mind and remember that practice can make perfect (or close to it)!