Most people loathe dating. You’re on your best behavior, putting on an Academy Awards performance. Usually underneath the polite chatter is a stream of self talk about whether this person you’ve met is a viable “candidate” for life partnership. It’s a giant size-up game, which is particularly nerve-racking for people who have gone through a divorce, and already often feel a bit bruised, discarded or unlovable. Some typical dilemmas center around the issues of:
- feeling objectified
- fear of getting hurt again
- whether it’s fair to move forward if you know this person isn’t your version of marriage material
- how much to share
- who takes initiative
- who pays
- when and if to have sex
- when and if to tell your kids
- when to introduce this person to your family
- fear of making the same mistakes
- what’s okay to put up with
In my therapy work with dating clients I tell them that there are four firm guidelines I suggest which can make the whole thing easier and more fun:
- Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and honor them. Stand by yourself.
- Keep your sense of humor. It helps you maintain perspective. If it goes badly, chances are that nobody will get killed.
- Insist upon reciprocity. Expect give and take. Share responsibility for making things happen or not.
- Don’t rush it. Pushing things prematurely can create pseudo intimacy, and more illusions. Let things unfold naturally without pressure. If it’s the right thing, force doesn’t make it happen.
Pay attention to these guidelines, and you’ll have a much better time, whether you meet your “life partner” or not.
Good night and good luck,