Updated: Jul 21, 2019
Dating with Intent:
I think it's something that we would all like to think that we're doing - or have done - but for the most part, we don't all practice this style of dating. For many of us, dating is this thing that you do because you're conditioned by society to do so. You don't really know what the rules are, but you have an idea about certain things, so you just go with it until you're forced to question what you know.
How do you navigate in a world of intention-less dating?
This may sound like a no brainer, but you start by defining what your intentions are. Not for your relationships with that person, but with yourself. What do you intend to do with and for yourself? If you don't know the answer to that question, perhaps you shouldn't be thinking about dating. Harsh I know, but hear me out. If you have a plan for yourself, you're more than likely going to have a much stronger foundation supporting you. You've been building that foundation for some time and it will be what keeps you grounded in self. If you know yourself, you will have a much easier time laying bricks with someone else. No matter what those bricks may be. The key is to make sure they too, know themselves. Part of what I believe is the downfall to so many failed relationships is one or both of the individuals not knowing who they are. Which, to me is understandably so, because, it takes time to figure yourself out. Couple that with the notion that you're supposed to have a partner to validate your inner most human experiences by the time you're 25, and lo and behold, there's the recipe for disaster. We put pressure on children to know who they want to be by the time they're 15. Tell them to start thinking about college and figure out a life and career path. Some of us have parents who pushed their dreams onto us, in hopes that we'll be the athlete or mathematician they never got to be. There are so many life experiences that take place that end up shaping how you view not just the world, but yourself as well. There's sometimes a disconnect from who you really are, and who you've been pushed to be.
So, if you are still navigating through figuring yourself out, how can you begin to navigate the world with someone else? This isn't to say it's not possible. There's a fair amount of us who meet our significant others at a young age, and we do both, navigate the world, and grow up with them. This however, is for the rest of the world - the people who are still figuring out who they are and where they feel they belong.
Take your time. Figure out who you are first. The rest will follow. A partner who is suitable for you will come along when the time is right. These are all phrases we've heard time and time again, and as cliche as they are, they still hold true. More often than not, we find ourselves rushing time, because we don't want to be missing out on life's "greatest milestones". Rushing into parts of our lives that we're not yet ready for, but have convinced ourselves otherwise. The reason I say we're not yet ready is because chances are, there's still some areas that need to be navigated. If you are rushing to find a partner, and not working on your relationship with yourself, you're going to find partners, that do not love you wholly. They cannot love you wholly, if you do not love yourself wholly. In addition, if you do not share with them all parts of you, including the bad, they're not capable of loving you wholly.
We often rush to mask our deficiencies and bad habits instead of addressing them head-on and truly tackling the root of the problem. This is something I've learned from experience. I used to suppress parts of myself when dating because I thought that was the key to getting my partner to fall in love with me. I learned the hard way that it's not. I'm not the girl that just nods her head and acquiesces to your every desire. I'm the annoying girl that's going to question you until I'm blue in the face and you want to scream. I'm that annoying little kid that's going through the "why" phase. If you cannot tell me why we should be doing something, and have it make sense with end results laid out, I'm not going for it. There was a point in my life where I thought I could suppress that part of my personality though, and I ended up significantly unhappier than I was in the beginning. My partner ended up miserable too. I had spent an awfully long time trying to force pieces into my puzzle that were the wrong shape and size. When I finally realized it wasn't the way I wanted to date anymore, it was sort of too late. Too late in the sense that my relationship with that person was beyond repair, but right on time in the sense that, my life was only just beginning. I'm only 25 years of age, so while I've had a lot of dating experience, (insh'ahallah) I have many more years ahead of me. Through my experiences I've learned it's much easier to have a partner when you know your intentions with yourself.
When you're not sure of who you are, and/or where you're going in life, you are a "dating project" to virtually anyone you date. While some projects are fun, dating projects, not so much. Dating Projects are fun, until you realize that the only one who benefited from the work, was the other person. You got the short end of the stick. You lost energy and effort, but didn't gain much in return. That is not the kind of investment habit that one wants to be in.
Your focus shouldn't be on dating fixer uppers, you're not Bob the Builder, or the Property Bros, or any other HGTV sensation. Nor should it be on helping others discover who they are. Again, you're not Sherlock Holmes, or the super smart dude from Criminal Minds. You cannot help someone figure out who they are, because they will not find themselves in you. They will continue to only find you.
I once dated a man who initially seemed great, but in the end it was clear he didn't know who he was, or even who he wanted to be, characteristically speaking. I think humans have the tendency to want to be someone else and can sometimes take on different characters to get what they think they want at the time. When that happens in a relationship, it's more than likely destined to fail. Why? Well if you believe that having a partner validates you, and instead you use their reality to discover your own truth, you're only discovering their truths. Eventually you'll realize that you still don't know yourself. Your partner will realize they don't know you either. You can only find out who you are, from yourself and your direct experiences. No one else's. When you're dating before you understand who you are as a person, there's a pattern of dating that takes place, that many of us don't recognize either by choice or by ignorance. There's an innate fear about the unknown, rather than a curiosity. There's also a pause when it comes to facing weaknesses and finding ways to strengthen them, for fear that it may not work. We fear the ways in which people may not like parts of our personalities and find ways to tweak it to their liking. Instead of being honest about those parts of us, and getting them to accept and love us despite whatever it may be. When it comes to addressing the things we don't like about our own personalities, I think there's an even bigger hesitation and fear.
For myself, the best thing that I ever did, was address all of the parts of my personality that didn't sit well with me all the time. My desire to be spiteful, mischievous, and vengeful, are all things I didn't like about myself. I had to ask myself over and over again, why was I doing these things? Why was I actively hurting myself in some of my dating situations? What did my partner give me, that made me feel like all of those things were gone? The answer at the time, was nothing. They did none of those things. In fact, time and time again, each partner only heightened those feelings. I had to address deeper issues that stemmed from my childhood before I could date someone again. My knee jerk reactions weren't okay and honestly, were quite childish. It was the hurt little girl inside of me, wanting to fix everyone else's problems before addressing my own, that reacted to the person who I was trying to fix. Only to make myself more upset in the end, because I had taken on someone else's baggage on top of my own unsorted mishegoss. I had to deal with my own emotional strifes before I could attempt to have an emotionally based relationship with someone else. If I wanted to have any relationship at all really, I would need to address these open wounds that were left. If I wanted to love myself fully and wholly, I would have to do so by acknowledging the parts of my character and spirit that were not where I wanted them to be. The parts that still drained me of my happiness because of the suppressed anger. Addressing the roots of my anger has lifted so much weight off of my spirit and soul. It has made it so much easier to understand decisions that I've made and their outcomes, and how I reacted to those outcomes. Which, has in turn made my decision making today, that much better and stronger.
We all say we love ourselves and we constantly preach about all of the things we do to promote self love, but are we truly spending enough time navigating the playing field of emotions before we go on to date someone? Your emotional health is something that tends to get left out of the mix and it's a practice I'd like to stop. I think it's really important for all people to not just view their emotional health, but to understand and find ways to better it. There's always room for improvement.
Remember, if you want a healthy relationship with your partner, you need to have a healthy relationship with yourself.
I'm still working on my emotional health. It's something I work at every day. If I want my partner and I to be successful, I have to actively work to continue to not just understand my emotions, but voice them in healthy and constructive ways as well.