Dating can feel like trying to cross a jungle without a map. Whether you are new to dating or, hopping back into the scene after a break or leaving a relationship, it can be helpful to get some pointers on how to safely get through the thick jungle and make your way towards a meaningful connection with someone special. We reached out to some of our favorite dating experts to put together some helpful wisdom for you to keep in mind as you navigate uncharted territory.
Before we dive into dating, let’s take a second to appreciate the single life. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t want to date, but being single is a special time in someone’s life that can lead to all manners of self-discovery. Here are a few of the biggest benefits, in our opinion:
As a single person, you have total control and autonomy over your finances and how you spend your money. When you are dating someone, your money is still yours to do what you please with, but there is another person in the mix that might start costing you a bit of scratch on things like dates, dinners, Ubers to and from their place and more. When you are single, each dinner or bar tab is for one, movie tickets are half as expensive, and you only need one concert ticket to go see your favorite group.
Being single is a great way to stack some savings and build up your financial security.
Do you feel like taking a road trip? Like, right now? Work remote from some random city for a week or two? Feel like making a total career change and moving house? Do it! If you are single without dependants, you can do just about whatever it is you feel like without worrying about how it’s going to impact someone else.
Once you are partnered, doing something impulsive becomes a whole thing. “Why did you move across town without telling me? Why did you take the dog and head to Oregon without mentioning it first? Why did you stay out all night dancing?” All valid questions that you will probably need to answer once you’re partnered.
Some think of being single as a lonely way of life, but according to some studies, being single may actually increase social connections for many people. This may be due to the fact that a single person has more flexibility with their time, and more emotional bandwidth to focus on friends and family since they aren’t focusing that energy on building a meaningful and strong romantic relationship. Many people see this when a friend starts dating and suddenly is no longer available for social outings.
Being single means that you have a whole lot more time to think about who “you” really are and who you want to be without needing to think about how it blends with someone else. You can focus on your interests, your passions, and your curiosities without needing to worry about leaving emotional space for someone else who wants your time and attention. Once partnered, a lot of energy goes into learning how to mesh two different personalities through compromise and understanding — which, while beneficial and expansive, will take someone out of their own inner process by adding external influences.
If you’re single and reading this, you are probably thinking of specific times when you’ve had to listen to someone spout off some insane misunderstanding about your being single. Your Great Aunt Effie means well, but don’t you want to just scream when she lets you know how sorry she is that you’re on another family holiday without a partner? Sorry, you had to get married at 17 and never knew what it was like to eat pizza at 4 a.m. with your friends after a wild night out!
Here are some major misconceptions about being single that we wish more people would understand:
What? Single shaming is unfortunately common, but not for good reason. Being single is not a reflection of someone’s worth or desirability but is often either a matter of personal choice or circumstance. We already went over some of the major benefits of being single, and really, the only thing we think is shameful is how concerned some people get with others’ dating lives.
This is another misconception that is patently false. Being single is a great time in your life to focus on self-improvement, personal growth, and enjoying your independence. You can focus on your goals and hobbies without needing to think about anyone else and can follow your whims in your process of self-discovery. You don’t need to compromise with a partner, and that leaves the door open for so much more opportunity!
Our society places partnerships — particularly heteronormative marriages — on a pedestal that they don’t really deserve. At all. With so much pressure coming from older generations, messaging, and cultural expectations about getting shacked up with someone to avoid shame or pity causes a lot of people to rush past red flags and into a relationship that is ultimately detrimental and exhausting. Being single is not a predicament or plight — it’s a valid and fulfilling lifestyle that many are happy with.
Single life can be great, but so can pursuing a meaningful relationship! Here are some benefits of getting out into the dating world and seeing who is out there for you:
Partnering with someone means you have built-in emotional support during tough times. When you are in a meaningful relationship, you can take comfort in knowing that there is someone there who is ready to help you process difficult emotions.
New experiences and major milestones can be even more enjoyable when shared with someone you are romantically involved with.
Partnering with someone means that you can learn all about the way they perceive the world, helping you develop more empathy, understanding, and compassion. These qualities can make your life more enjoyable even beyond that relationship as you begin to see others’ perspectives more clearly. You can broaden your worldview, challenge your beliefs, and help you understand opposing views.
If you are ready to start looking for someone special to build a relationship with, here are a few tips for this challenging but rewarding journey.
Before you start talking with other people, whether on an online dating platform or in real life, it’s important that you make an inventory of your goals, your values, and your desires in a partner. Use these as a point of reference as you begin to consider the possibility of getting together with someone — and be honest with yourself while comparing your values to theirs.
It’s a big world out there, and a lot of the people you meet aren’t going to be a good fit. Finding the right person is going to take time and effort, and you will need to stay patient. Don’t rush into anything, and most importantly, NEVER settle for less than what you deserve. You don’t need a partner to be complete, and you can take all the time in the world to find someone who is going to build you up and make your life better.
Be completely open about who you are and what you want. If the person you are talking to doesn’t like what they hear or are intimidated by your expectations — so be it. It’s important that you lay out your non-negotiables early so you can focus on finding someone who is going to fit your lifestyle and needs without feeling like you need to hide parts of yourself to get their attention.
Don’t overmatch or connect with too many people at once. Swiping, scrolling, and matching can become an emotional vacuum if you let it, and you might get stuck in a routine that causes you to breeze by some people who might be perfectly suited to you. If you want to make meaningful connections and get the most out of online dating, be selective and thoughtful with how you engage with dating apps.
Many people think that therapy is reserved for those who need to actively work through trauma, disorders, or struggles, but that could not be further from the truth. Working with a therapist can give you deep insight into who you are and help you develop tools that will empower you to handle relationship challenges with healthy mechanisms and curiosity.
Setting personal boundaries with possible partners is an important early step to allow for a healthy relationship to grow into something important and special. Both people in a relationship must maintain their own boundaries and give themselves the emotional space to make sure that they don’t let their personal needs fall by the wayside.