5 WAYS NOT TO DATE

I’ve learned that there are some very good reasons why so many people hate dating. Some of these reasons are unavoidable, but we can spare ourselves and one another a lot of pain if we’d only take the time to clarify what our dating objectives are in the first place.

Here are five common ways that people often subconsciously use the dating process which can lead to negative results:

1. A way to pass the time when you’re single. Dating needs to be a means to an end (commitment), not an end in itself. If you’re a single man or woman who enjoys your independence to the point that you don’t think you could settle down – even if you were to meet a wonderful match today – or you don’t feel an urgent need to get married, then I humbly suggest you take up a hobby that isn’t dating.

We all crave connection and intimacy, but adopting an aimless dating practice in order to “keep your options open” while figuring out your lifelong relationship goals, just isn’t the way to go – and can hurt many people in the process. It’s kind of like heading on a road trip without first plugging a location into your GPS and then forcing your date to come along for the ride. Bad idea.

2. An attempt to bolster your confidence. While dating should always be a dignified process, it should never be used as a method to repair a damaged self-image. Getting into the pattern of breaking up with partners who don’t fulfill your every whim and desire, or who don’t meet every one of your emotional needs, is a sign that you may need to reassess your readiness to date.

Similarly, if you find that you’ve been subconsciously seeking out compliments from your date as a way of improving your view of yourself, or perhaps take some kind of quiet gratification in dumping someone, then it’s time to turn elsewhere for this kind of pick-me-up. Healthy people feel good about themselves regardless of their dating status. And in a healthy relationship, your partner should never be your source of self-worth.

3. A cycle of repeated patterns. We all have emotional blind spots that unknowingly stop us from taking a relationship to the next level. If you’re serious about finding someone to share the rest of your life with, then put some time and effort into uncovering your “blind spots.” (Coaching, or for some, therapy, can be good ways to go about doing this.) As Albert Einstein famously put it, the definition of insanity is “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Learn what your underlying fears and motivations are, and you can actually free yourself from the patterns that have been holding you back until now.

4. A self-discovery exercise. Though learning about oneself is often a natural byproduct of the dating process, to date in lieu ofintrospection, a personal growth course, coaching, or professional therapy when needed, is a surefire way to sabotage your relationships. While you’re still unsure what you really want out of life, it’s unfair to use the person you’re dating as a self-discovery kit when all they may want is a solid marriage partner. Stringing him or her along for weeks, months or even years with the false hope that just-maybe-it-could-work-out when you aren’t well aware of your own needs and objectives, actually shows a complete disregard for your date’s priorities and feelings. There are plenty of healthy and efficientways to figure out your goals and values – but doing it at another person’s expense is not the answer.

5. A disempowering experience. After all is said and done, dating should actually feel pretty good. It should never be traumatic, offensive, or hurtful. If you find that it’s been any of those things, then you may have either been dating the wrong people who just aren’t ready for marriage, or dating with a self-sabotaging perspective, or both. It may be time to take a fresh look at the dating process so you can dive back into it with a renewed sense of enthusiasm. Give yourself the opportunity to reignite the spark of hope within you that knows you deserve – and can actually have – the loving relationship you really want.

So, what should dating be? In short: A focused process that encourages genuine self-expression; a journey toward understanding each other's goals and values; a means to find a life-long partner; a safe space to be vulnerable; a chance to appreciate and be appreciated; a mutual discovery of another person’s world; a place where real giving occurs and real love can flourish.

Are you ready for the challenge?