Updated: Feb 1, 2021
Yes, I’m old school, but it works, especially during the pandemic.
Look, I understand you might be “running out of time” , “what if I miss out someone good”“my friends are all married”, “Chinese New Year and Valentine’s day are approaching, my parents will drive me crazy”…
The reality is how much time, energy, money, emotional bandwidth you have to date new people everyday? When you date hastily, how many meaningful conversations can you actually have? How can you make informed decision just based on brief text exchange? How about covid safety measures? How do you know if this person shares same relationship values? How do you know if this person will support your dreams and goals?
And perhaps you’re already jaded, confused, lost or even resentful after months or even years of relationship failures. So here are some tips to be a more intentional dater.
Reflect on your relationship values
This is the most important part. Romantic relationship is not a separate project, it’s part of your own life project, it reflects who you are and help you to become who you want to be. I see so many relationship failed because they didn’t have clear understanding of what they wanted with their own life at the beginning. They hope their dates can answer the question for them. Then they find someone smart, someone cute, someone experienced or someone caring. Of course it didn’t go anywhere.
“Values are our heart’s deepest desires for the way we want to interaction with and related to the world, other people, and ourselves. They are leading principles that can guide us and motivate us as we move through life” -The happiness trap
What qualities would you like to develop with or without a life partner?
How do you define love?
What are you looking for and what’s important to you?
What sort of relationship would you like to build?
Think about why these are your values and where they came from
Perhaps you value monogamy, perhaps you value honesty and trust, or perhaps you value respect, women’s rights, social justice…
Set your relationship goals
Goals and values are different. Values guide us to decide what kind of person you want to be and who you choose to share your time and life with. Relationship goals are measurable outcomes. You can have more than one relationship goals, the options are endless. You might want a hookup, an exclusive relationship, an open relationship, a long-term relationship, a one night stand, children…Goals can be “crossed off” or “achieved”.
Know your boundaries
Now you’re aware of what you’re looking for. It’s time to set boundaries. If you’re seeking longer term and committed relationship, how would you set your boundary? If you’re only interested in casual dating, what will you write on your dating profile? Regardless of what you’re looking for, be sure to make it clear either on your dating profile or discuss it in-person. What are negotiable and what are non-negotiable.
And yes, you need an agreement for everything especially romantic relationships. It’s not a romance killer I promise. It actually helps to cultivate a positive dating culture. Look, it doesn’t have to be a legal contract, but it does require clear communication of values, goals and boundaries. Even if you share the same personal values and relationship values, you might not have the same understanding of how to accomplish your goals. You and your partner can both be monogamous, but you might have completely different definitions for “monogamy”. You may ask how can it be different, monogamy means I only have one partner. But honey, our grandparents probably had one partner for life, and we might have one partner at a time nowadays. And even if you both agree monogamy means one person at a time, one person for what? One person at a time for sex? If so, would you be ok if your partner flirts with attractive people at work or keep texting people on dating apps?
I know the bible goes “love is patient, love is kind…” but love is also exhausting and love can hurt..….A LOT!!!!The relationship agreement should also include an “exit plan” to end meaningless and painful relationships. Listen, no one would sign a contract with AT&T without knowing the termination clause. And the contract is usually only 2-3 years, a committed relationship can be…decades long…
Only enter a relationship when you know you have enough resources to exit safely
Pacing and pacing
Date slowly!!! I often compare therapeutic relationships with romantic relationships. I tell my clients all the time, it takes me at least 2 sessions to get to know someone, and decide if we can work together. And you know I’m direct. I’d explore all the wounded history of this person and also evaluate their strengths to see if I’m ready to accept the challenge—meeting one hour each week consistently. That given said, I only have emotional bandwidth to meet 1-2 new clients each month. If you’re choosing someone to spend hours each day for months, years or decades, how many new people can you meet at a time, and how long do you need to really know them and make the informed decision? And perhaps you’re also busy, you probably don’t want to lose your sense of self. You probably don’t want to slow down or pause your own life to find the Mx. right.
So enjoy your fabulous life, prioritize your own values and goals, keep connected with your friends and family, and set aside limited amount of time for intentional dating only.