If You Knew What You Were Looking For Maybe You Would Find It |
“I don’t get it. I’m going on more dates than ever before, I’m meeting new guys, I’m really putting myself out there, but it feels like it never goes anywhere. Or if I do wind up dating someone long-term, he ends up being a total loser and I don’t realize until it’s too late. I’m doing something wrong, obviously.”
“Well, what are you looking for?”
Crickets. Blank stare. Blink-blink.
As a coach, and just a person in the world talking to other people in the world, I partake in this kind of conversation far too often.
So many of us seem to struggle with a very simple "bigger than your dating life but also applies to your dating life" concept:
Knowing that you’re looking for makes finding what you're looking for a lot easier. (Also true for: keys, quarters, sunglasses, and your favorite lip gloss that always gets lost in your gigantic purse.)
We have some kind of inherent aversion to this obvious idea; some mild fear in identifying and declaring what we really want in a relationship and potential partner.
As if doing so will somehow lessen our odds in finding it…
BUT CAN'T YOU SEE THIS BELIEF IS SO BACKWARDS.
“Maybe...but listen, if I identify what I want, like really clearly, maybe no one will be able to fulfill those requirements and then I’ll be alone forever.”
Ah yes, the old, “I better not get my hopes up!” routine. I’m familiar, and I’m not a fan.
Because your hopes are already up; that ship has sailed.
You know what you want, you’re just not naming it.
You have preferences, but you refuse to own them.
At this point you’re just sorta screwing yourself over and semi-self-sabotaging.
Stop acting like numbing out and dating dumb is working for you.
If you don’t have any idea of what you want, if you don’t clearly understand what you’re looking for, how the hell are you supposed to spot it when it shows up? Or walk away from something that’s so clearly not a good match?
That’s like walking into a department store and going through racks upon racks of clothing, yanking things off of hangers with no knowledge of what size you are, what’s missing from your closet, what your style is, your price range, your favorite colors, what season or event you’re shopping for, NOTHIN’.
And then when you arrive in the dressing room, and begin to try things on, you’re thoroughly shocked when nothing fits.
“Why does this look so awful? Why won’t it zip? And why does this keep happening to me??”
Cause IT AIN’T YOUR SIZE, homes. Not even close!
You need to have some idea of what you’re looking for if you want a good fit.
And to do that, you need to have a decent amount of self-knowledge and awareness of what “a good fit” looks like and feels like to you.
So if you’re dating, and everyone you try on (yowza!) feels rather frumpy and ill-fitting, here are a few questions to get you started in considering and clarifying your ideal match:
1) What are my favorite qualities in my closest friends? What kinds of people do I feel most easily connected to?
Relationships are relationships are relationships. If your closest comrades could be described as open-minded, big-hearted, fun-loving, creative folks who don’t take themselves too seriously and aren’t big into partying, why wouldn’t that translate to a romantic relationship?
Very often we have a super specific idea of what our perfect partner should look like and be like.
“He has to be charming, hilarious, confident and self-assured. And highly ambitious. Oh! And handsome!”
But in reality, this idea of the “perfect someone” seems pretty out of sync with what we actually feel most connected to in others.
Sure he sounds dreamy, but would you describe anyone you’re very close to in those words? Maybe hilarious charm and confident ambition seem alluring, but that might not be what actually increases your sense of connection to someone.
Get clear on what helps you feel comfortable and connected to humans in general, not just in the over-idealized, starry-eyed romantic sense.
2) What didn't work with my ex’s? What’s the least appealing quality of my last date?
Having crappy dating experiences is one of the best (and only) ways to gain more clarity on what your ideal relationship will require.
Sick of immaturity and self-centeredness? Tired of someone who isn’t ready to commit? HELLO, you’re halfway there.
Identify the opposite of those qualities and now you know what you’re shooting for. Clear the way for Mr. Mature-n-Generous-n-Relationship-Ready!
This is very similar to the question I outlined in my “Getting Closer to What You Really Want” article. You can read more specifics on this how to implement this idea there.
3) What sorts of activities do you see yourself doing with your dream partner, and why are those activities important? (GET. SPECIFIC.)
There was a time in a past relationship where I was super fixated on my boyfriend coming to yoga with me. I thought it would be this huge bonding experience for both of us.
My then-guy agreed, but honestly? He had little interest in getting his Om on.
We went, we downward-dogged, we savasana’d. It was over. He had an okay time. Hated camel pose, but who doesn't?
It was fun and I so appreciated him joining me, but I didn't feel the intensified, close, connected bond I was expecting. I was sort of miffed…
He asked if I wanted him to join me in class regularly.
“Nah, it’s okay. But thank you for coming this time.”
I realized that it wasn’t about the yoga, it was about his willingness to explore my interests and my world. His openness to trying new things with me. His courage to step a tad outside his comfort zone.
When I’m out on dates now, I don’t grill guys about joining me for yoga, but I do look for those traits. Does this guy challenge himself? Try new things? Is he curious about me and my pursuits?
Cause fancy dinners, painting classes, hiking, bike rides, yoga…why does this stuff really matter?
It’s almost never about the specific activity, but more about what that activity represents. Why is it important to you?
Understanding our motives behind these dream dates is essential. Many of us are quick to rule someone out who doesn’t exhibit hobbies and interests that match ours.
“Oh, you don’t want to come to tango classes with me? That’s a deal-breaker.”
It’s not about the tango classes. If you know what it means to you, why it’s important, you won’t feel like you have to break any deals. Maybe you just want someone who isn’t scared to live a little and try something outside the box, and that can manifest in a number of different ways.
I can't promise that understanding what you’re seeking romantically will make your ideal match magically appear, but doing this kind of honest exploration with yourself is one of the best ways to pass the time (and empower yourself) until the two of you cross paths.
Because if knowledge is power, then this kind of integrated self-knowledge is a super power. So dig deep. Dive in. Discover. And re-enter the dating world with your new, shiny, lustrous findings.