Getting back into the dating scene is one of the hardest challenges for the single person who hasn't been single since mom jeans were in style. It took a few decades but you finally became comfortable in coupled land, and then wham! Whether it was a divorce, a break-up or loss of a lover, a speed bump enters the road when life was riding on cruise control. When you're ready to re-enter the dating world and open your heart to the possibilities of finding love, here are a few pieces of advice to help with your journey:
1. Falling in love with love. First I would caution love-starved people to be careful not to fall in love with falling in love. Our needs to attach are profound and in the absence of a relationship, we can be so hungry for a relationship that we may be vulnerable to falling in love with the feeling of being in love. That is to say, there isn't enough attention paid to all the attributes of the person with whom you are getting involved. In addition, physical intimacy can lead us to be prematurely attached because of neurochemical phenomena. Sleeping with someone and developing intimate sexual feelings releases chemicals such as oxytocin that spur bonding and feelings of connection that can be unwise at an early juncture. That is not to say that there aren't instances wherein powerful chemistry leads to early sexual relations and then blossoms into a meaningful connection. The problem is that this is less common than we might want to believe.
2. Keep your eyes open. I caution people beginning to date to look for deal breakers early on in the relationship in order to avoid becoming blind to them during the subsequent months. You want to avoid tunnel vision designed to avoid seeing problems, but at the same time, you want to avoid being intolerant of even minor difficulties. It tends to be true, however, that bad behaviors tend to get worse over time, not better.
3. Get off the couch. I encourage my patients to get involved with the cyber-dating world. I believe it is a very valuable tool today. Too many people avoid getting out of their routines of watching movies by themselves at home and don't get out there in order to test the waters. Putting yourself out there and seeing what you're really looking for in a relationship can be a self-awareness promoting activity.
4. Choose well but choose. People often find that they are going on many more dates than they ever imagined they would be having. A myriad of dating sites can allow most people to have many different dates per week if they want to date that much. But problems can occur when you get too much data. With many dates per week with different people, you are vulnerable to letting your mind get in the way of your heart. Rather, allow your heart and mind to work together. And when someone seems like they might be the one, give them the chance to show themselves to you and see where it goes. Don't suspend your mind but don't let it get in your way either.
5. Gently move out of your comfort zone. It helps to get out of your habits. If you believe that you can only date a certain type of person, go out of your way to date someone who violates that criteria for you and try to be open about that person. It can be a very psychological enhancing activity for us to make ourselves over and get out of the habits that often got in the way of making our previous relationships work out.
There is a life out there for you and someone with whom you can share it. It will take you time, and it will take you effort, but I believe it will happen.
Getting Back to the Honeymoon Stage
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Dr. Alan Tepp is a Clinical Psychologist who received his doctoral training in Clinical Psychology at the Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago, IL and obtained Post-doctoral training in Child and Adolescent Psychology at the Yale University School of Medicine.