We all know of the problems that come with dating, but so few of us want to admit that the problem is, well, us. Who are these "people" we're talking about when we say that modern dating has taken a turn for the worst? We are quick to point out all the flaws and issues within society, yet we are society. Nobody is totally innocent, especially when it comes to love and loss and everything in-between. This isn't something to feel guilty about — it's largely normal — but it is something to take responsibility for. We cannot force everyone into decency (that applies to a lot of things, not just dating) but what we can control is whether or not we are the ones who take a good, hard look at how we treat other people and how we approach love (especially when we're quick to complain about it not working out).
To give you a little bit of background as to where we're all coming from: we started forming families way back when we evolved from hunters and gatherers to farmers and crop aggregators. We got big on this whole "monogamy" thing particularly when it became an issue of who would inherit said land. This is where the taboo of sex before marriage came from: before DNA tests, we had to make sure that the wealth was being fairly distributed. Anyway, long story short, somewhere along the line, our primary goal as a species shifted from "surviving" to "thriving," and happiness became our priority, rather than just getting by. This was largely facilitated by the industrial revolution and other advancements in medicine and what not. This is where the concept of "marry for love" came from, though we hadn't done enough work to teach people what love is exactly, or how to choose love wisely. Hence our current situation: everyone starving for something they were promised, and nobody totally clear on how to get it.
We may not have been designed to be monogamous creatures, but that doesn't mean lifelong partnership is impossible. It takes a major commitment to working on yourself, which few people are willing to do. They only think of it as working on your relationship to someone else (but that won't change unless you change yourself first!), So here, a guide to dating like a grown ass person, because you can totally do this.
When You're Only Looking For Love With Someone Who Fits Your "Type," Your Heart Is Closed To Real Love
The idea of a "type" is so '90s it makes my hair crimp. A "type" is usually some combination of a pattern you've detected in the people you've been attracted to, or your subconscious biases and fears manifesting themselves in the form of some idealized partner. Love is not a height or hair color or profession. Love is the way you connect with someone and care, respect, and coexist with them. Let yourself have that. Let go of the package you think it should come in.
Face Your Relationship Demons Head On
If you have parent issues, family issues, love issues, ex issues — whatever formula of mess you've been in — open the damn closet and look 'em in the eye. You will never have the relationship you want until you stop running from the relationships you didn't.
Be Honest With Yourself About Your Intentions
Do you want to get married? Do you want to date? Do you want to be single? You have to be clear about what you want first and foremost, because otherwise you'll spend your whole life seeking something that will never really fulfill you.
Be Honest About What You Want With Someone Else
Do not go on a dating site and say you're only looking for "casual dating" when you're looking for your soul mate. It's not fair to them, and ultimately, it's not fair to you.
If A Relationship Isn't Working Out, State So Explicitly
Ghosting is not for grown ass people. Grown ass people say: "Hey! I really enjoyed our time together and you seem like a super great person but I'm just not sure we're totally right for each other. Wish you the best!"
Focus On What You Can Give, Not What You Can Get
If you only want love for what it can do for you, you're not going to find it. Love is a constant exchange of giving and getting, but unless you are solid on your end with the whole "ready to be here for you and be with you and support you" thing, you'll only be leeching on someone else to give you something you ultimately have to give yourself.
Put Compatibility First
Sparks are important. Fireworks are the sprinkles of the romance sundae. They look nice, but they are the first thing to go. The meat (or rather, to continue with this metaphor, the ice cream) of the relationship is what matters. Basically, do you want to spend every day together, doing every day things, and supporting and taking care of one another through those every day things? That's compatibility. That's what builds real, lasting love.
Take Time To Learn About Yourself
You cannot really be in a relationship with someone unless you fully know yourself. You need to be able to articulate what you need, what's bothering you, how you're feeling, and so on. Of course, you don't have to be a perfectly healed and whole and flawless human to have love, but the more you know yourself, the better off you'll be.
Know That Just Feeling Something Doesn't Make It True
You can feel down to your core that you're "meant" to be with someone, and yet, that does not necessarily mean it will be true. You can completely feel that you don't have a special connection with someone, and then one day discover that you do! The point isn't to not trust yourself — it's to be open to change.
Don't Look For "Signs"
No message is going to come etched in the sky letting you know this is your person. You can't tally up ways you seem "destined" to be together and assume that your certainty will create a happy, functioning relationship. It is so much more than that. The answers are within the relationship, not in the signs that point at it.
Give It All You've Got
Seriously, try as much in love as you do at work, or at the gym, or wherever else you're motivated and energized and willing and determined. Open your heart and let it be vulnerable. The risk is worth the reward.
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