“She sounds amazing - she’s intelligent, she’s gorgeous...but? There’s always a ‘but’!” My friend chastised me over a summer drink as we caught up on the latest episode of my so-called love life. The last three years has been marked by a series of dates that never materialized into the kind of depth and expansiveness I had hoped for. Despite meeting many wonderful and inspiring women along the way, I found myself moving from one experience to another...searching, growing, crashing, burning, and wondering: Where is she?
Knowing this background, my friend (who happens to be a psychologist), posed a challenge, “Do you think you can go 30 days without dating? Perhaps just enough time to figure out what it is you truly want for yourself?” I initially recoiled at the suggestion. But, in my heart I knew she was right. If I’m not attracting into my experience the kind of person I’d like to move forward with (or vice versa), then it probably has nothing to do with them; and everything to do with the signals I’m putting out. I would need to approach dating from a higher perspective. “Let’s do this,” I expressed with determination, curious to see what version of me would emerge at the end of the 30-day abstinence tunnel. She was supportive, and we set the rules:
The don’ts: No dating. No approaching women (with the intention to date). If I am approached by a woman, I will be open and engaging, but I will friend-zone myself. And, most importantly - no romantic or sensual activity. In short, I just volunteered myself into celibacy.
The do’s: Focus on myself. Love my self and my own company. Find out what makes me happy. Get in tune with my core values when it comes to identifying the right fit.
The first few weeks were tough. We are surrounded by, and conditioned to explore options: The one at the bar whose eyes briefly flirted with ours as they took a slow sip of their cocktail; the one with the cute dog we just matched with on that app; or the forever-faceless one who just whizzed by us on the sidewalk, intoxicating us with their fragrance...that lingering fragrance that just became our new favorite. Despite these sirens, after one-month of deep commitment to the plan, I noticed meaningful changes taking place in my life: The quality of my relationships with friends and family deepened; my redirected energy led to increased creative output professionally; and my thoughts on dating and love started to evolve. Was there something to this abstinence-thing, after all? I ended up extending this period from 30 to 100 days, during which time my vision of the kind of partner I’d like to enter my life became more clear. The result is this framework for Dating with Intention that I’ll share with you now, in case you or your loved ones find it helpful along your journeys.
The 10 Rules for Dating With Intention:
1. Set high standards, and never compromise on them: Are your standards too high? No. You standards are as they are because you demand greater from life, and those you share it with. If you find yourself making excuses for someone or their behavior, that’s a red flag. If you find yourself trying to “fix” someone, that’s another red flag. What does it say about you if you start to compromise your standards? As long as your standards are value-driven (i.e. qualities over materialities), you deserve someone who will meet them. Never sell yourself short on what you truly deserve. Never compromise on your standards.
2. Don’t impress, express!: When we get ready for those first few dates, there’s a part of us that’s looking to impress the other person. Sound familiar? If so, then consider a change in mindset. When we try to impress someone, we place them on a pedestal...high above ourselves. Rather than try to impress, we can make it our goal to express ourselves. By expressing the truth of who we are, we reveal our authentic self. If this honest expression finds resonance in the other, we will know it unmistakably by the feeling of our connection. You the know feeling. It’s always worth waiting for that feeling.
3. Confidence comes from knowing what you have to offer, and knowing what you want: When emotions get involved, it can feel like you’re putting everything on the line, with both happiness and hurt laid bare as equal possibilities. This is the gamble we take for having the courage to feel, and act. In order to lead with confidence into the unknown, know with certainty the quality of the gifts that you bring to the table. Equally important, know with certainty the qualities you are looking for in the other person. For example, how will you know when he or she appears? When you come across your desired qualities in another, be brave enough to place your best intentions and traits on a hook and throw out the line and sinker. If they take a bite, then excellent - explore the connection! If the bait remains, it remains for a reason: it wasn’t meant for them.
4. Your courtship is effortless: I know, that’s a bold statement. Let me explain: Many of us buy into the notion of the struggle. “If it’s not a struggle, then it must not be worth it,” we try to convince ourselves as we try our best to justify a crappy situation. With the right person, your connection will be effortless. Think of all the amazing people that have come into your life: Your best friends, your mentors, the people you love and admire most. Was there ever a struggle to make it click with them? Probably not. So why should there be when it comes to the person you’ll be investing most of your time, energy, and emotions in? The good that’s meant to come into your life ― just like all previous blessings in your life ― will hone in with ease, fluidity, and harmony.
5. You can’t f**k it up: Ever worry about sending that awkwardly worded text? Or the way you nervously fumbled asking them out on that second date. It’s all good. With the right person we can’t mess up the connection in trivial ways. Our strengths are a source of admiration to them; and our weaknesses are endearing to them. When we’re free to be who we are ― strengths, flaws, and all― we let the truth of our selves shine. That’s the space of authenticity we want to grow and share from. Now, if you were authentic, and still managed to f**k it up with your awkward ways, then please pat yourself on the back, because you just dodged the bullet of incompatibility!
6. No one completes you. You complete yourself: Sorry Jerry Maguire, your classic line sounds romantic and all, but it misses the mark of a healthy relationship. Your partner ― no matter how amazing they are ― will never complete you. To expect them to do so is self-defeating in two ways: 1) It’s not fair to give them ownership over something that comes only from within you - they will inevitably fail; and 2) You’ll always be searching for happiness outside of yourself. You are a full and complete being. When you acknowledge your own completeness, and accept responsibility for your own happiness, you engage relationships from a higher perspective. No longer do you look to fill a void within yourself, but rather, look for ways to offer your completeness of love and presence to another. The coming together of two complete and healthy beings lends itself towards a powerful union that uplifts not only the pair, but all those around them.
7. There’s no rush, enjoy the process: The early stages of courtship is a beautiful thing, and each relationship, like a budding flower, takes its own pace to bloom. Take the time to demonstrate your intentions; your steadiness and thoughtfulness as a gentleman or woman; your clear and intentional communication abilities; your deep listening; and all the wonderful traits you have to offer one another. There’s no rush to reach labels ― there is only experiencing and observing to see if there is resonance in what you have to offer one another. To move forward without formal assurances can be scary, so how do we know it’s headed in the right direction? As long as it feels like the courtship is moving forward; and more importantly, that you are moving forward, go with it. If you have strong hesitations or feelings of stagnation, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate or have a conversation to get on the same page.
8. Your vulnerability is a strength: When you lead with the heart, vulnerability is the name of the game. Get comfortable with the feeling, in fact, make vulnerability your closest companion. Without it, your life will be void of greatness ― whether in romance, or otherwise. We celebrate courage as a pinnacle virtue, but no act of courage has ever taken place without first stepping into vulnerability. Take a moment to think about that one. In romance, expressing your vulnerability can open the gateway towards a deeper bond. Ask deep questions early on; take the lead in revealing yourself according to your level of trust and comfort; and create space where honest, revelatory, and expansive conversations can take place. When you lead with vulnerability, it’s an invitation to take your connection to the next level.
9. There’s no such thing as rejection: It’s hard not to take it personally, and we’ve all been there. When we express our best and it doesn’t work out, it can feel like a personal defeat — like you’re not good enough. But nothing could be further from the truth. Rest assured in the knowing that there is no such thing as rejection; it just wasn’t the right fit for you. Give yourself a moment to stand back up, and then celebrate the fact that you had the courage to explore what your heart desired. Trust that your courage and openness is leading you to exactly where you need to go. These qualities are in themselves extremely magnetic to the kind of person you will eventually attract into your life.
10. Follow the attraction that challenges you to grow: It is often said that we cannot help whom we are attracted to. While there is some truth to this, we ultimately get to choose which attraction is worth pursuing. There are different forms of attraction, and not all are created equal. There’s the one that plays it safe and keeps us within our comfort zone. There’s the notorious one that tempts us back into unhealthy relationship patterns that are best left behind. (You know the one I’m talking about: the one we should probably steer clear of because...we’ve been there, and know all too well how it ends). And finally, there’s the one that challenges us stretch our horizons, and rise to a higher version of ourselves. This is the one that invites us to grow and move forward. How will we know the difference? Pay close attention to the quality of your experiences with the person. The right fit will offer you clarity of purpose and direction. As a mentor (and founder) of the appropriately named, Foundation of Love once told me, “The feeling of the right fit is harmony. You don’t think about if there’s better, it doesn’t even enter your mind. It’s poetic. It’s effortless. It’s joyful.” It’s a beautiful thought, and one that’s worth manifesting.
I hope this guide has been helpful. Love and emotions are fluid and evolving experiences, so despite the title of this piece, there are no hard and fast rules. Take from this what works for you, and leave what doesn’t. The fact that you’ve read this far is already an indication that you are well on your way towards an intentional approach to dating. Best wishes out there!