By: Michaela Josephson, Fitafy Dating Expert, Healthy Relationship Therapist, and Psychologist
We know a lot about healthy relationships, but what about healthy dating? Is this a thing? And how do you know if you’re a healthy dater? Our resident Healthy Relationship Therapist, Michaela Josephson provides her top tips for dating, the healthy way!
Dating generates the entire spectrum of emotions; we feel everything from the daunting to the exciting. From crushing disappointment when something doesn’t work out, to the total elation of meeting someone with ‘potential’. The risk is with anything that involves this gamut of emotions is not realizing when you’ve moved into something that isn’t healthy for you, or the other person. Especially in this day and age, where dating apps have really changed the playing field, and every person you date has the capability at any given time to connect with literally thousands of other potential dates, what exactly does healthy dating look like and how do you make sure you’re setting yourself up for a healthy dating experience?
Step one involves starting your day with a slice of lemon in warm water… I’m kidding; dating isn’t that simple! There is, however, a similarity to this bizarre and disproven advice on getting healthy. Say it with me: “Healthy dating starts from within.”
In my work as a relationship therapist, I see all kinds of singles and relationships and I’m here to tell you that healthy dating is so much about the mindset of an individual. The mindset that helps guide you to make emotionally intelligent decisions that lead to creating genuine, long-lasting relationships. And knowing when to walk away from something that isn’t good for you. Listed below are my top five tips to begin your healthy dating journey.
- Know yourself
I am a big believer in singles feeling and being the best version of themselves before embarking on a dating journey. A relationship is a beautiful space for people to grow and heal, but it can’t be the sole destination for this work.
Spend some time identifying what your weaknesses are and put in the time and effort to work on them before entering a relationship. Don’t carry your baggage from your last relationship into the next. Likewise, it’s just as important to know what your strengths are and to be proud of them! Knowing yourself as well as you can, obviously make it easier to help a potential partner to understand you better.
Shifting your focus to your character, rather than finding that elusive ‘perfect match’, can often open up the door to meeting up with people that you might not have considered before.
2. Know what you want
This might sound silly, but I honestly recommend this to my single clients looking for love. Spend some time identifying the top three things you want in a partner. Don’t set unrealistic expectations of someone meeting all of your needs, but be confident in three things that are truly important to you before entering the dating world.
In addition, write down what your core values are and keep those in mind when heading out on a date. I believe that people can have long term and fulfilling relationships with someone that has different interests to them; however, major conflict often stems from having counteractive core values.
3. Maintain your boundaries
Dating apps have opened us up to a vast pool of people who may be dating for difference reasons. Some people might be looking for a bunch of casual hook ups, while others are seeking a meaningful long-term relationship. There’s nothing wrong with either as long as two consenting adults are involved, but it’s important to be really clear on your profile about what you’re looking for and protect your boundaries when it becomes clear that a potential date has a different idea in mind. Don’t get sucked into repeatedly dating someone who has made it very clear that they’re not looking for anything serious when you are. Likewise, be honest with your dates about what you’re looking for from the get go.
This really comes back to points one and two about knowing yourself and knowing what you want. The more clear you are on these things, the easier it will be to make decisions on whether it’s worth giving someone a second date, or moving on to greener pastures.
4. Communicate honestly, and with kindness
On that note, I am a big believer in the mantra “always be honest even if it is a difficult thing you’re expressing”. Be authentically you, showing the real you minus any game. If you aren’t “vibing” someone (as the cool kids say), then let them know you’re not romantically interested in them and close the conversation. If you are interested in someone, then don’t allow space for assumptions and don’t make any yourself!
You want a prospective partner to choose you based on who you really are, and this only occurs if we communicate openly and honestly throughout the process. There are, of course, polite ways of expressing the truth without being rude. Make sure you’re mindful of this before unleashing what you’re about to say on someone. I like using the filter of “is this beneficial to both me and the other person and me if I say this?”
5. Ditch the booze
We live in a society that regularly uses alcohol as a crutch. I know a lot of people can’t even envisage a date without there being alcohol involved. It’s a social norm, and of course, it can help to ‘take the edge off’ your nerves. Of course, if you really want to be authentically yourself, and see someone for who they really are, it helps to take the beer goggles off!
While it may seem weird to go and sit in a bar or a restaurant without a drink, think outside the box with your date ideas. Go and try an activity neither of you have done before to break the ice, or take your date out to do something you love. Whether its indoor rock climbing, stand up paddling, hiking, taking your dog to the dog beach, or hitting a round of golf – get outside, get creative and use the opportunity to chat while sharing an experience and having a few laughs – no alcohol required!
6. If you’re not having fun, take a break
Dating and getting to know someone should be fun. The thing is, dating and the experiences that come with it will inherently come with good days and bad, so if you aren’t feeling it, don’t be afraid to reschedule. Overall the experience of finding the right person for you should be enjoyable. If you need to ask yourself “am I having fun?” the answer is probably no. If you aren’t in the right mindset, then take a little break from dates/dating until you are ready to enjoy the process. Spend that time hanging out with your buddies and working on tips number 1 through 3!
When we take the time to get to know ourselves others in a healthy way, then naturally, the hookup culture that has become synonymous with dating apps will fade out of the equation. Let’s make the focus on building healthy relationships, with not only those we are meeting and dating, but also ourselves. Happy dating everyone!