If you’re like me at all, you’re probably pretty good at taking care of yourself when you’re single. You do the things you love. You make time to see your friends, exercise, read, feed your curiosity, work hard, and sleep well. Your needs and wants are met.
Then you meet someone new, someone who makes you so happy that you forget any struggles of single life. All of a sudden, you find your needs and wants taking a backseat in the relationship. It’s not because you don’t care about yourself. But there’s only so much time in a day, and you’re just trying to be the best girlfriend you can be.
It can be easy to “lose yourself” in the excitement of dating. SoSheDid encourages you to make your own dating guide. Here are my guidelines to staying in the driver’s seat — think of it as a set of reminders you’d share with a younger sister who’s new to dating. What would be the best practices you’d pass onto her?
1. You have to be willing to be alone in order to find your best partner or else you’ll settle for whatever is there. Waiting can feel like the worst thing when everyone you know seems to be in a happy relationship bubble. But jumping into relationships to avoid being alone leads to more problems than it solves. Choosing to be single because you’re happier alone than with the wrong person is the healthiest state you can be in.
2. Be confident knowing that you deserve the best. And if it doesn’t work out, you’ll find something better. Not because you’re “better” than someone; rather, trust that you will find a better fit for you.
3. Be lucid. Take it slow. Watch carefully, see the guy for who he is, and how he is. Not who you’re hoping he’ll be. It takes time to know that the person is truly who you think and hope he is. You can smartly read and feel where he is at, and always give him just a little less than he’s ready for. This allows him to have a comfortable place to slowly adjust, and make necessary modifications. You can therefore see the potential of him, the stability he’s capable of, what he’s growing into, versus where he’s at now, breaking under pressure when things move too fast for him. Don’t give someone more than they can chew because they’ll just stop chewing (or choke!)
4. Wait to commit. The longer you wait to commit, the more sure you’ll be and the more he’ll appreciate you. This gives you time to assess and see him in different lights. Let him put his money where his mouth is, and show you with actions, not words (that can be like honey to your ears!) what he values. Does he follow through? Is he actually emotionally supportive of you and not intimidated by your success? Accept that you are worthwhile.
5. Focus on YOUR feelings, how are you feeling about him, not on what you think he’s thinking about you. It’s normal at the beginning to wonder if he’s into you, but who cares if he is until you’ve established that he’s worth your time getting to know. Looking outward is like looking at fun-house distorted mirrors, because it’s not a clean slate. You’re seeing other people’s own projections. Look inward to find your truth. Are you feeling your best: strong, happy, confident, grounded, and resilient?
6. Don’t change anything about you, your habits, daily activities unless you have thoroughly considered why it’s a healthy, grounded and sustainable decision to change. You may be in a relationship, but you are still an individual person. The best things happen when you’re just being you!
7. Don’t look for problems. Never project any negative thoughts into the universe. Doubt is self-fulfilling. You’ll always find what you’re looking for.
8. Stay true to your values. You’re worth it. If you allow your rhythm to be interrupted, you’ll create a void. Then, to replace what you give up, you’ll start to expect and need more from your partner. As you lose your firm footing in yourself, you’ll start to feel like you’re standing on one leg, and needing to lean on your partner to feel stable and grounded.
9. Don’t make your dreams smaller so that they fit into his life and dreams. If he’s right for you, he’ll fall for you while you’re going after your dreams. You’re a comet. Don’t let anyone put you in a jar, and especially do not put yourself in a jar. Shine brilliantly and radiantly always.
10. Allow each other space. This way, you can truly treasure every moment together, and breathe fresh ideas and experiences into the relationship when you come back together.
11. Do not lose yourself. Stay centered. Check in with yourself and make sure you’re still making time for the things you love. We do not know who he’s capable of becoming, but if you cheat yourself out of your own growth, you’ll cheat yourself out of your best version of you, and by extension the best partner you can have.
12. Release your agenda. Life will never be as organized as your calendar. Let things go where they may go. Do not become attached to an outcome. Enjoy the ride. Keep an open mind and heart. So long as you are true to your values and integrity, embrace the unknown. I promise you’ll learn so much from the relationship regardless of whether it lasts. By definition, all relationships are supposed to not work until one does
13. Don’t dwell on the past or future-tell. Live in the present. This is the most important moment as it’s the only thing that’s real. Your life is happening right now.
14. Bring out the best in one another. 1+1 = 3. Be value add to each other. The relationship is not right for you if you find yourself jumping through hoops. When something is right, it will feel easier and much more effortless. In healthy relationships, there is space for two individuals. One person’s mood does not dictate the mood of the room, and one person’s needs do not take priority over another’s.
15. Be sure that he deserves you. Is he 10X? Ask yourself the right question. Do you like him? Instead of “Does he like me?” Don’t undercut your own potential because you’re wondering, what if…
16. You’re looking for a true partner, not just someone who’s along for the ride. A partner is someone who you make compromises, tradeoffs with, and are stronger together as a team. Don’t settle for someone’s ‘company,’ that’s called being a pet.
17. Make sure you’re 100% comfortable with your relationship’s physical development. Be honest with each other. Don’t put yourself in a place you aren’t ready for in an effort to make somebody else happy. As a good rule of thumb, make sure your emotional development is two steps ahead of the physical, so that your heart is ready to feel attached and is not playing catch up.
18. Set clear boundaries around what you will and will not tolerate in a relationship and stand firm in them. If the choice is between your dignity and having a relationship, prioritize your dignity above all else.
19. It is your attitude about yourself that a man will adopt. Be an independent thinker at all times, and ignore someone who attempts to define you in a limiting way. Agreeing to meet his needs and wants gives the impression that you believe more in him than in yourself, and this is perceived by him as weakness, not kindness. It does not matter how pretty he thinks you are, looks alone will not sustain a man’s respect. It is your independence that will keep him engaged.
20. Sit in traffic together. Dating early on is about sharing a lot of new experiences, and talking about what you each find meaningful, which is fun and exciting. But most of life, and a relationship, is just a series of Wednesdays, so taking the time early and often to notice how it feels to have a normal day together, sit in traffic together, can tell you what this relationship will feel like longer term when it isn’t bundled with newness. If you can have fun together then, this relationship is rare and wonderful.
What are your guidelines?