Every day, a new article pops up warning about the decline of love and marriage. As a dating expert, I see the ruins of relationships like a journalist in a post-warzone, and I wonder if we’re wrong to be cynical. Despite the damaged reputation of dating today, there is a saving grace: reality. The blame of failed relationships doesn’t lie in the time we live in; it is a product of what we continually get wrong about dating in general.
1. Dating is luck.
The thought of the lottery being your financial plan seems absurd, but finding love through luck makes sense? You have total control over your love life with the choices you make every day. You determine where you’ll go, how you’ll dress, whom you’ll smile at and how open you will be to new interactions. You dictate how you will interpret flirtations or ambivalence. You create your love life. Your actions determine the results you get. More importantly, you determine whether you will ever learn how to date.
Learning to date is no different than learning a new job or skill. There are practices and indicators you can follow for success, but most people rely on luck. If single men and women decided to be better partners and learned the subtle nuances of interpersonal relationships, dating would improve. We would no longer rely on trends or statistics to determine our success.
2. You don’t have to communicate.
Relationships suffer when the two parties involved fail to properly communicate. Many singles allow their limiting beliefs (or worse, their egos) to speak on their behalves, and they are too afraid to say what they really feel. Our inability to be honest in our daily conversations makes dating harder than it has to be.
Open communication in a relationship leads to problem solving, but we drift in ambiguity, never getting the answers to the questions we’re afraid to ask. Our fear of losing another person’s affection, the denial of our own needs and the shame of wanting anything at all from another person make it impossible to effectively ask for what we want in dating. Yet, people wonder why relationships don’t last. Most couples break up before ever talking through important issues.
3. Everyone will respect you
Respect is what you give yourself. If you don’t place a high value on who you are and respect yourself enough to set boundaries in your relationships, don’t expect others to. No one can love you more or treat you better than you treat yourself. When another person treats you poorly, it’s your job to walk away and set the standard for how you expect to be treated. Don’t assume respect will be given to you. Show respect for yourself by living with standards and conviction.
4. Relationships should last forever.
Throughout history, relationships have ended. Partners died in war from diseases and women died during childbirth. The Bible is littered with breakups and failed relationships yet somehow, Disney convinced us love lasts forever. Well, nothing actually lasts forever. Your relationship isn’t a failure if it doesn’t result in marriage. The success of a relationship is how happy you were every day you spent together, not in the “forever.” While we focus on the statistic of divorce, we don’t account for the many miserable years that led up to the divorce.
Many years of brave faces, cheating or lonely nights can occur within a relationship just because someone believes it should last. Well, bad relationships should end. It’s the fantasy of forever that makes them continue on longer than necessary.
5. No one dates anymore.
You date to the level you require. If you want a traditional partner who believes in customary dating rituals, then it’s your job to find him or her. Stop accepting dates with people who don’t date to your standards. If you accept less, you get it. The art of dating hasn’t been lost, we’ve just changed our requirements. There was a time when you had to follow the scripted rules in order to get a desired result. Men had to be gentlemen to get a kiss, and women had to seem demure to land husbands.
We have lost the belief of being able to barter with traditional currency and get the person we want. We’ve gained the fear of sending the wrong message, coming across too strongly and ending up alone. We don’t believe you can play “hard to get” and still get anything. This fear is so strong that we’ve abandoned past dating traditions because we believe they don’t work. We have too much doubt in traditional dating, so we lower our standards to accept less than what we want. If you want to date traditionally, require it.
6. It’s a means to an end.
The goal of dating isn’t always marriage, but thinking it should be keeps many people single. I believe we connect with the people we need at the time, based on who we are. As we grow and evolve, so do our needs. Dating is a great way to build connections and learn more about ourselves through relationships. It’s a great opportunity to stretch our vulnerability and communication muscles. Dating is fun, or at least it can be when you aren’t worried about where things are heading.
Even if relationships end, your time wasn’t wasted. You didn’t do it all for nothing. Every experience is an opportunity to grow, and dating is no different. Take dating as an experience instead of a means to an end (with that end being marriage). You can still enjoy the trip without knowing the destination.