4 Ways to Be Empowered in the Dating World

We have grown so accustomed to meeting others' standards that we may not know what we want in a relationship. But in learning to love ourselves, we look for partners who will love us in return, and write off those who will bring negativity and judgment into our lives.
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A few months ago, my friend Vera and I were dating guys who were both 30, employed and highly communicative in the first few weeks of dating. Then for reasons unbeknownst to us, these fellows stopped answering our calls. Shocker!

So when we went off skiing one afternoon, we vented our frustration to almost everyone in our path -- including Bill, the front desk guy at the ski-rental shop. It would seem unreasonable to divulge our personal stories so freely, but love is an emotional game, and sometimes it feels eerily safe to reveal your deep secrets to someone who knows little of your life.

My friend Vera began telling him our dilemma, "Both these guys just stopped talking. Like bam!" Vera said. "Can I get a heads up or something?" Bill just looked at her blankly, as she tried to then distract herself by toying with the bracelets on her wrist. Then he asked what she said to him before he stopped answering her calls.

"I apologized for answering his text one day late. I was too busy to respond right away so I apologized."

"That's the problem," Bill answered. "You apologized. Men hate that. If I had a girlfriend, I would lose interest in her if she apologized."

Here I began to regret our decision to divulge our dating issues to Bill. I thought it presumptuous of him to assume all men disproved of apologies from women. So I got confrontational.

"So you can speak for all men out there? You're 24 with no girlfriend."

"I know more than you. And I don't have a girlfriend because my ex-girlfriend was a whore who cheated on me with some guy in college."

"Well, I know you don't like apologies. But I imagine even the most apology-hating guy in the world would want a sorry after his beloved girlfriend banged another guy. Don't you think?"

Our conversation ended shortly after.

Looking back I would not have said this. It was mean. Plus it was presumptuous of me to assume that he would want an apology even after his girlfriend cheated. I was just reacting off a comment that angered me.

This brings me to a point of frustration because worth is not comparative. Yet people like Bill imply that our desirability is contingent on certain factors, and that we must adhere to these standards if we yearn to be loved by another.

"Guys don't like this" or "Girls hate this", are opinions made fact -- for the most part. I am sure there are some traits that men and women generally like or dislike in the opposite sex, but I imagine even the most seemingly unattractive trait in someone is loved by another person in the world.

Judgments are hurtful. But I imagine the pain would be more tolerable if these judgments were actually useful. We are constantly told what men and women want by friends, family, TV movies, etc., but do these "tidbits" really help us attract more compatible mates in the dating world?

Askmen.com, a reputable online men's forum, argues that men consider apologies to be over-appeasing, but then claims that men want respect from women in relationships.

I'm confused. Are apologies not a form of respect in certain situations? If I punch my boyfriend in the face for pissing me off, is it over appeasing to then apologize for my behavior? I understand that sorry can be unattractive to certain people...like Bill, but why not personalize the feeling to the individual instead of making the opinion a fact?

Therefore I think we must change our mindset in the dating world. The dating world is rough, but if we change our approach, I think we could attract more compatible mates and move past those who bring negativity into our lives. Check out these tips!

1. Prioritize Your Needs: When we are preoccupied with meeting our partners' needs, we use the relationship for self-validation. We want our partners to assure us we are worthy of their love. When we prioritize our own needs, we want to receive love and respect in a relationship, so we attract people who value this give and take dynamic, rather than people who are only concerned with getting their own needs met.

2. Regard Judgments as Opinions: It is hard to invalidate others' judgments, especially when we struggle with our self-esteem. But judgments are essentially opinions. While there are aspects of a person's character that are objective, those traits are still perceived differently by different people. A neurotic woman may seem crazy to one man and passionate to another. So if negative connotation is attached to someone's judgment of you (which is usually the connotation in our judgments of others), regard this as his/her opinion. This can help develop an otherwise loving relationship. If Bill is a loving partner and he spews out his frustration with apologies judgmentally, it would improve the relationship if his girlfriend personalized the judgment. She could then conceive how her behavior affected him, and communicate with him in a way that does not evoke that response. This mindset can also help us identify a toxic partner. If Bill's girlfriend personalizes his judgment, she can speculate that he may generalize his opinion to keep her fixated on meeting a certain standard. Then she is more apt to leave because she spots his manipulative behavior as the issue in the relationship, not her overly apologetic behavior.

3. Regard Rejection as Incompatibility: It is easy to feel inadequate when we are rejected. But rejection signals a lack of compatibility in relationships. If Vera's date disproved of her apology, then he is not the man for her. If we take these "rejections" too personal, we lose sight of how these experiences can help us find a more compatible mate. After being "rejected," Vera now knows she is best suited for someone who is accepting of her apologetic nature. Her partner may like or dislike these apologies, but if he does not love and accept her with this trait, she will always feel a sense of rejection in the relationship.

4.Give it Time: We can never know the quality of a relationship without giving it time. If a guy or girl doesn't answer the phone or text back, there are a multitude of reasons why. We cannot assume she is uninterested nor can we assume he is playing hard to get. We can only discern if this person will be a compatible mate if we give the relationship time and patience.

Most importantly, I think we must develop our sense of self-worth in the dating world. It becomes easier to prioritize our needs and invalidate others' harsh judgments when we are consciously aware of what we deserve as human beings.

This is hard. We have grown so accustomed to meeting others' standards that we may not know what we want in a relationship. But in learning to love ourselves, we look for partners who will love us in return, and write off those who will bring negativity and judgment into our lives.

So envision a dating experience that is peaceful. That is successful. That does not allow judgment and rejection to ruin our hopes of finding the perfect mate. A dating experience that is only possible if we change our mindset in this game we call love.

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