Modern dating is unlike any other dating experience in human history. It moves fast and we have more choices than ever before. And with the rise of technology, we have the ability to communicate without having to actually talk to or look at the person.
This means it’s become easier to treat people with less respect and consideration. Lack of communication is so common that there is a new vocabulary arising in the dating scene. Phrases like “ghosting,” “benching,” and “icing” all refer to some level of being vague and non-committal.
It’s not that we do it on purpose. It’s hard to tell someone you are no longer interested and it may seem easier to let the relationship slowly fade away instead of facing the confrontation. However, people’s feelings are at stake and you are sure to someday be on the other end of that non-existent text message. No one is immune and, until we learn better strategies for relating, people will continue to get lost in a sea of confusion.
Deep down we want to be honest, we want to be compassionate, we want to connect. One of the problems is that there is no clear way to do this. No one has offered us guidelines saying: “This is the healthy way to start and stop a relationship.” We would like to offer you some suggestions on how to enter and exit a relationship with integrity so that both parties feel good and able to move forward.
Tip 1: Set the Intention.
Did you know you could have more control than you know the way a relationship goes? Even if it’s not a “forever” relationship you can still practice having a meaningful time together.
Setting an intention essentially means reflecting on what you would like out of the relationship. This doesn’t have to be anything major. It can be something as simple as “My intention is to have fun” or “My intention is to be present during our time together.” You can do this just for yourself, or, if your date is open to it, set the intention together.
Here is a sample intention setting ritual:
• Discuss the idea of intention setting with your date. Say that you are practicing conscious relating and would like to set a tone for your time together.
• If you both agree to set intentions, take a moment to sit across from each other and make eye contact. Reflect on your intention and then take turns to voice them out loud. “My intention is to enjoy our time together, for however long that may be.” Or, “My intention is to learn and grow from each other.” By saying these things out loud, you will get a sense of where each of you is coming from and will create a great start to your relationship.
Tip 2: Practice open communication.
Open and honest communication is perhaps one of the hardest things to do. Even in long term committed relationships, research has shown that two out of three couples live with an underlying sense of dishonesty. Fear is the main reason why we are not open – fear of not being loved, of getting hurt or of being rejected. Learning how to communicate in a healthy way takes practice and a willingness to be vulnerable despite our fear.
Here’s an example on how to practice open communication:
• Use “I” statements. If the person you are dating does something that irritates you, instead of saying “you always do that!” try saying “I feel frustrated when you act in that way.” Taking responsibility for our reactions is the first major step in open communication.
• Share your fears. It’s ok to say “I’m afraid of getting too close” or “I’m afraid of missing out on other people.” When you make yourself vulnerable you may be surprised to find that your date has many of the same fears. This will only bring you closer.
Tip 3: Creating a clear and respectful end.
Have you decided it is time to end a relationship? Fading into the background or totally cutting off communication may seem like the easiest thing to do but has long-term consequences. If you have been practicing open communication throughout your relationship, you will find it is easier to say goodbye to your partner knowing the reasons why. You will have already aired your concerns so that they will be easier to talk about at the end. Expressing gratitude for the other person is another great way to honor the end of the relationship.
Practice to end respectfully:
• Share what you’ve gained out of the relationship and the reasons why you enjoyed being with the other person.
• Make sure to end the relationship clearly so that you are not stringing the other person along.
Bonus Step: Learn to be ok with yourself.
A big reason why we drag relationships out is that we are afraid of being alone. This is a normal and natural fear, but learning to be with ourselves is the most empowering thing we can do. And, when we find that place of contentment within ourselves, we become more available to be with someone else. If you find yourself afraid to leave a relationship, or always dating to avoid being alone, try these practices to reconnect with yourself:
Here are mindfulness practices for you:
• Breathe into your belly. By breathing deeply we can calm down the incessant chatter in our mind and start to really listen to ourselves – our “true” selves.
• Practice self-love. Eat good food, soak in an Epsom salt bath, get a massage. Treating yourself well will be certain to reflect in your attitude towards others.
Following these tips will help you navigate the dating scene while practicing compassion for yourself and others. It may be scary at first but you will find that you will ultimately have more fun and freedom as you date. Good luck out there and keep practicing!