Whether you are in the midst of dating and have always been single, or starting to date again after a breakup or leaving a long relationship, or just looking for opportunities to date, this entire space feels complex with the intersection of different needs, life stages, and expectations.
It doesn’t help that there has been an extensive line of dating coaches and articles that expound rules around dating – who should call first after the first date, who should pay on the first day, at which date do you have sex, do you introduce your kids (if you have kids from a previous relationship or previous marriage), etc., do we dress up or dress down for the first date, makeup or no makeup?
Add on the complexity of technology and how we communicate, increasingly so with a pandemic situation where we don’t easily meet people organically and often already communicate electronically, or if we even go a step further and venture into dating apps. People compare statistics, horror stories, or serendipitous romance stories and we gingerly navigate the dating space.
It’s no wonder clients and friends describe the space as jungle or desert to me. Jungle – with all its hidden dangers, unfriendly terrain, and challenging navigation.
Desert – for how barren it feels, devoid of lustre, occasional mirages, and potential danger of just getting lost in the vast amount of sand. I like to move with a different mindset, the introduction of the playground. Notice the wordplay does not equate to “player” in the dating realm.
The playground – where we explore, have fun, enjoy and use the tools around the space to swing, climb, roll or just play around in general. We are rejuvenated after we get to play, the dating process should feel the same. Dating should not be leaving us feeling cynical, frustrated, drained as if we fought a war hacking through the jungle or crawling through the hot sun and sand. Otherwise, why date?
Another note I make around dating is that this is different from the process of a relationship. These exist in different stages and sometimes we mix them up, causing us a lot of pain and frustration. So how can we graduate from jungle or desert voyager to playground joy?
Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash
1. Don’t Confuse Dating With A Relationship.
The dating stage is about courtship, getting to know the other person or people, exploration. Often, I see people commit quickly (to themselves) at the courtship stage. There is no right or wrong time to commit. However, I do often see people commit early too soon. Dating is a process we need to soften into, exploration takes time, and also seeing how we feel about the other person and our interactions. Chemistry is something that can’t be faked over time, so dating is the process to allow us to gain clarity, not decide commitment.
Dating will also reveal a lot of your triggers. This is normal. We feel insecure about certain parts of ourselves, maybe about some parts of our history, we are unsure because an exploration stage feels uncertain and we are geared to find definite answers. So when our triggers arise, it’s easy for us to want to zoom in on a definite outcome right away, just to let that uncomfortable feeling disappear. (newsflash: it doesn’t). And making a decision or rushing the dating process along from a place of fear pretty much always doesn’t work well for the long run.
Photo by Khamkéo Vilaysing on Unsplash
2. Ditching Outdating Dating Rules.
Remember the extensive list of dating rules mentioned earlier? Ditch it. Do be aware, that doesn’t mean that we have no boundaries, but we can’t put a set of rigid rules and evaluate a date or a person we are dating on those same set of “dating rules” across the board.
We have our own boundaries so that we can feel safe or know that what we can accept or not accept personally. Coming to an understanding of what our boundaries are, is also part of the process we need to do for ourselves before we start venturing into the dating realm. This process allows us to get clear about what we want out of dating. For instance, some want to just take things super slow and not settle down, some just want to find long-term commitment, some want to just practice getting comfortable interacting with new people again.
Yet rules around who calls first, what to wear, who pays, who initiates the next date etc. are rigid and work against us being authentic as we date. We want authenticity and integrity when we date, the same is demanded of us. This also allows us the best chances of compatible matches because our dates get to meet us where we are, rather than who we are pretending to be or what we are pretending to project.
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
3. Will You Date You? Yes, You Would, And Here’s Why…
You have definitely heard this – one of the recommendations is to also consider, will you date you? I mention this not from the viewpoint that we need to fix ourselves up because we are not up to par, but because we often don’t actively recognize our strengths and value.
So get clarity and journal lists regularly – “Yes, I would date me because I ….”. Some things you like about yourself are external, some are internal, some you might not even realise or acknowledge till you have it out on paper.
And here is the clincher – we want to be able to date from a space of meeting and getting to know someone to enjoy and spend time with (and for some a lifetime), not to have the other person validate our worth because we don’t feel deserving enough. Imagine the emotional and mental drain for someone having to constantly reaffirm our worth, and how dull that dating process must be.
4. Got To Have A Little Faith. Got To Have A Little Tenacity.
Dating is a process and hugely uncertain. Like Forrest Gump’s mother told him: “life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.” There are days where you got to lean in a little bit more into faith, so as to recognize the opportunities that are always around you; or so as to enjoy the process purely for what it is, a journey. And there are days where you need to rely a little bit more on your tenacity. Not as dramatic as Gloria Gaynor’s “I will survive” lyrics, but definitely something that may require to meet a lot of people and move on quickly if you recognize there is no chemistry. It feels tedious but if it’s not working out, the best is to move along and continue exploring.
One thing is for sure, if you are curious or searching, then don’t stand at the sidelines wondering how it will be like. Hopefully, these guidelines get you ready to dip your toes in, embrace new experiences or even change your jungle or desert to a playground.
Andrea is the founder and owner of Athena Rising, and is a certified Sex, Love and Relationship Coach, and works with individuals and couples around topics of love and sexual wellness. She uses a variety of coaching methodologies, mind-body rewiring, sexual embodiment practices, and jade yoni eggs.
Join her for the monthly online series “SlapTalk with Andrea”, workshops or work with her on 1:1 private coaching for women or couples, group coaching or hire her for private workshops.
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