The hardest part about dating is the “dating game” which often creates more harm than good. There are the social norms of not harassing or abusing on dates which are really important. But other dating games can end up suppressing a person’s own intuition and desires, like when daters try to be the fantasy people they assume is idealized in the other’s mind. The dating rules that I have come across make me concerned for those loving souls just trying to connect while holding on to their authentic sense of self; so I thought, I would write guidelines for a win-win situation.
1) F&%# the dating game rules. Get rid of them! Woo Hoo!
Now, ask yourself: What do you really want to say and really want to do? So many times people don’t want to appear needy or judgmental, and so they act like someone they’re not. (P.S. We are all needy and judgmental, and if you’re not, then you won’t be in a real relationship.) Guess what? Eventually, inevitably, you will be found out; and then it really hurts to lose the person after they discover that you both don’t want the same thing. I say, ask for what you want without blaming. Use “I” statements. For example: I want _______ because _______ means _______ to me. OR…_______ is important to me because _______. For me, I experience _______ like_______ because_______ .
Worst thing you can do is blindly agree to be or do whatever the other person wants, just to avoid conflict. They need to like YOU, and NOT what you will DO or BE for them. Working through conflict, disagreement, and negotiating desires MAKES your relationship. It is how other people come to really understand you. It may feel vulnerable to put your needs, wants, and desires out there, but that’s intimacy. The more you hold back, the less you will get, the less of a REAL connection you will have, and more resentment and isolation you will feel. If they aren’t down with what you are putting out, MOVE ON, and wish them a happy life!
2) Don’t “wait” to be “rejected.”
That’s right, if you have a sexual fetish and want a partner with the same, let them know sooner than later. There is nothing wrong with what you want and who you are. Hiding who you are to ease the blow of someone being uninterested almost never works. It is not a bad idea to wait until date three to decide if this person is someone you want to share personal details with, but past that, you’re responsible for setting both of you up for authentic connection. So talk about your sexual preferences, your kids, your recently diagnosed disease, and your lottery winnings. Don’t wait for them to “find out naturally.” It is setting a trap for them. Why waste your time and energy? If you already date with authenticity it may be time to go talk to a Psychotherapist and see what holds you back. Why can’t you accept you? Shame? Fear of rejection?
3) Soulmates don’t exist.
I know that statement will piss a lot of people off, but can we at least entertain what it would feel like to be liberated from this belief in our dating lives? What if you could just enjoy the person who is sitting across from you instead of piling on the soulmate wish list. When you step out of needing the person to act a certain way or be a certain thing you are going to have less stress, anxiety, resentment, and sadness. You will enjoy the REAL them more often. MOST importantly, you will just agree to move on if there isn’t a match. Your real power comes from your ability to choose who you want to love instead of placing the fate of your love-life into the hands of some super power. Partnering well requires: a degree of luck in finding a compatible person, the maturity to know yourself and what you want and the willingness to relate honestly and the skill and motivation to work together to create connection and manage conflicts.
4) Relationships take work, but they should not be abusive and full of pain and suffering.
It is normal to feel some growing pains in our relationship because of our past or because getting close to someone new can feel a little scary for us all. But love is not suffering, self-sacrifice, and taking hard knocks constantly. This kind of relating is abusive. If you are finding yourself in this kind of relationship, get out if you can. Going to therapy is a good idea if you cannot get out or you keep repeating this pattern.
5) Ask, don’t guess. Test your assumptions about your partner.
Ask them questions. Why do you like to____? For example, why do they like to pick up the check? Ask your partner how they experience you. For example: Is there anything you want or need more or less of? So often we manage the relationship without much information about their needs or perspectives. That is almost never satisfying. We control relationships to please our partner and avoid pain, but no one likes to be controlled. Allow them to be authentic, have power, and take responsibility for their own desires and needs. Don’t assume other’s intentions, thoughts, feelings, or experiences. You both aren’t MIND READERS! You must communicate and share in the relating to have real intimacy!
6) Be CURIOUS about your partner.
By nature we are more obsessed about how our partner feels, thinks, and perceives US, and we forget to get interested and investigate their inner worlds.
7) Talk about your past without the trash.
You don’t need to talk “massive shit” about your Ex to let a person know what worked for you and what didn’t. Build up to your past. Let your date know you are not asking them to be or not be your Ex. You are bringing it up to share insight, like letting them know where you have traveled emotionally. For Example: I really liked when_______ , because_______ . What didn’t work for me was_______ , because I experienced it as_______ .
8) Stop trying to find “THE ONE.”
If you are polyamorous you probably already got the message that humans are designed to love MANY people. Whether that means you have multiple partners at once or throughout your life. This also means that NO ONE PERSON WILL FULFILL ALL YOUR NEEDS. You need friends, family (chosen or biological), community, etc. All these people help you grow and support you, while supporting the health of your relationship. We need to date, love, and lose people. All these experiences, both painful and pleasurable, contribute to us showing up more powerfully and authentically in the world. Actually not all marriages are meant to last; divorces and relationships that end in break-ups are not failures. Just like having a best friend in childhood, some relationships are only meant to be in our lives for a time.
These pseudo-rules are meant as guidelines for dating and loving. Know that one person’s way of showing up in the world can be VERY different for another. All those rules about acting or behaving in one way may have worked really well for a few people, but that is not YOU. Love and dating isn’t a formula. I hope you can learn to follow your own groin, gut, heart, and curiosity rather than a generic article in a magazine, so that you can open yourself up to much more authentic love and connection.