We all arrive there at some point. We had a little fun casually dating or hooking up, but eventually we want something more meaningful and with long-term potential.
I arrived at this place sort of ass-backwards. I’d been dating around, enjoying being single for the first time in ten years, when I stumbled upon a dude that was wowza great, bring-back-to-meet-the-folks great, name-a-pint-of-Ben-&-Jerry’s-after great, and I realized I was done with the single life. I deleted all the fuckboys out of my phone and dove straight in.
The thing about love is it’s unpredictable, and there are no guarantees. What it all comes back to is developing a you that you love and letting God/the universe/source energy/the hippo in the sky do its thing.
In the meantime though, try these steps to prepare you for your new mindset. I promise it can’t hurt!
1. Write a list of the characteristics you want in a partner.
This is always a good tool when you begin wanting to date seriously again. Do you want someone kind? Generous? With kids? Who regularly attends church?
Write up a list of about 10 aspects you’d want in your ideal partner.
Once you have that first draft, cross out anything that isn’t values-based. Like if you wrote “massive biceps,” cross that out. You aren’t likely to date someone long-term whom you don’t find attractive, so that’s not necessary. Instead focus on what values and goals you care about. Studies show that couples with shared values and goals have staying power, so that’s what you want to suss out first.
2. Evaluate yourself based on the list of the characteristics you wrote for your ideal partner.
This is the hard part. If you want someone who attends church regularly, do YOU attend church regularly? What about someone who has a core friend group? Do YOU have that?
We can’t go fishing for men or women who have qualities we don’t already have, so if that’s what you want in a partner, make sure you get it/are doing it yourself first.
3. Be clear upfront.
Once you’ve done the first two steps, it’s time to get out there. Wherever you meet someone, be clear about what you’re looking for and don’t accept dates from people who aren’t explicitly looking for the same thing.
It’s easy to get lost in someone’s beautiful eyes and think, “oh, they say they don’t know what they’re looking for, but I’m sure once we go out, they’ll want something more!” Nope. Then you may get stuck developing feelings for someone who may not be ready for a relationship.
Ditto for people in town for a short time. A lot of people use dating apps to pass the time while they’re traveling. You don’t, again, want to spend any of your precious time with someone where there’s little likelihood of something more developing. Not to say that long-distance relationships aren’t possible, but they’d be guaranteed to be difficult if they were long-distance from the very beginning and you’d have to be mindful if that’d even be a possibility for you.
4. Take it slow.
After you’ve been single for a while, it’s super easy to commit to something sooner than you really should. You may want to go on a couple of dates with a couple of different guys or gals at the same time (as long as you’re clear with all of them) to hinder you from focusing too much on just one.
Or if you pick one early to focus on, space out the times you see each other. Once or twice a week is a good rule of thumb as you’re starting out.
Also think about sex. Slut-shaming seems to happen less in the dating world these days, but you may want to evaluate how sex is for you. Can you do it and not have feelings or is sex really tied up with love for you? If it’s either, that should influence when you choose to have it. Maybe you’d want to wait until you’re sure it’s exclusive (which is a good idea anyway with STDs still on the rise) or it’s guaranteed you have feelings that are shared. There isn’t so much as a “number of dates” rule to follow since every relationship is different, and you will feel different about it in every relationship too. Just make sure to think about it as you get to know the person more.
5. Don’t give up.
It’s not likely you’re going to find your next spouse with the first person you develop something with after choosing to stop messing around, so keep at it regardless of what happens.
Whether you have a bad date or someone turns out not to be who you thought they were or you think it’s right and it’s oh so wrong, just remember that there’s hope. You may need to re-evaluate your first list. You may need to do some more work to make sure YOU match your list, or you may need to follow your gut more. Choose to make every experience a learning one, pick yourself up, and keep at it!
After being wild out there for a bit, it can feel a little like you’re a newborn horse trying to walk switching gears from casual to “I want a partner.” But the galactic muffin works in mysterious ways, and even if you go to bed with just a book for a while, at least you’re going to bed each night with someone you love (aka YOU).