Dating can be many things, but it's always complicated — and not necessarily in a bad way. Whether you view it as a fun way to pass the time or as a means to achieve your lifelong love goals, the dating process is nuanced and complex every step of the way.
Once you decide you're looking for something meaningful, it can be difficult to know where to start. Old patterns, too many options, and conflicting advice can make you feel more overwhelmed than inspired.
But don't despair — here's some good news for people looking for something real: According to Match's Singles In America study, more than three out of four US singles are open to dating, and only 10 percent are looking to date casually.
Which means that most other singles out there are also looking for a grown-up relationship. Those are some good odds!
So before you write off "happily ever after" as obsolete in the digital age, take a look at the stats and realize that things are looking up when it comes to the romantic landscape. All it takes is putting yourself first, sticking to your convictions, and dating smarter (not more).
Here are 5 steps to take if you're ready for a real, adult relationship.
1. Start living your best single life.
So you've decided to get serious about finding a ~grown up~ relationship. Fabulous! But whether this process takes a week, a month, or a year, first things first: Create the best version of your life so you can be your happiest single self in the meantime.
Make time for hobbies you love, put yourself in the ring for that promotion at the office, and work to achieve those goals that've been on your list forever, whether it's sticking to a gym routine or finally getting your finances straightened out.
2. Establish your non-negotiables.
After you've been dating for a while, you start to realize that there are certain qualities in a person that can make — or break — a potential relationship.
Once you've decided to double down on seeking out something real, lay out the things that you're not willing to compromise on when it comes to finding someone to partner with.
Whether that means your plans for kids (or lack thereof) or your desire to travel and eventually live abroad, stand strong in what you're looking for, and you won't end up wasting your (or anyone else's) time once you start putting yourself out there.
3. Explore all of your options (yes, ALL of them).
One of the great things about living in 2018 is that there are so many different avenues to meeting prospective partners these days. Being set up by well-meaning friends and meeting in a crowded bar are no longer your only options.
And if you're intent on finding a relationship, you owe it to yourself to give all of your options a try. So yes, that means being open to blind dates, hitting fun local spots, but also giving due time to other options like online dating.
On Match, over 95 percent of users are open to a relationship, so why not start somewhere where the odds are in your favor?
4. Swear off people who don't share your mindset.
This is a big one. It can be tempting to set aside your quest for a meaningful relationship if you find yourself having undeniable chemistry with someone looking for a more casual situation.
Stick to your guns and cut the romantic cord with anyone who isn't on your same page about what he or she is looking for.
It may feel like a waste of good chemistry at first, but you'll thank yourself for the time and emotional energy you end up saving in the long run.
5. Treat dating like any other resolution.
No matter how determined you are to find a successful relationship, dating should never consume you. Treat it like any other goal — dedicate a certain amount of time to it per week, but don't let it take over your life.
Think of it like working out — it's something that you set aside time to do on a regular basis, but you wouldn't go to the gym 7 days in a row and you don't constantly obsess over it when you're not there.
Give yourself healthy space from your dating life, and you'll be able to be fully present and engaged when the time comes.
This post is sponsored by Match.