So I’m dating again.
For anyone who knows my story, this is a pretty big deal. I told my therapist around September that I wanted to put myself out there but didn’t have the true courage to actually do it until February. It took me months to even consider downloading Tinder.
Part of my trepidation comes from a deep desire for my future dating experiences to be different than my past ones. My previous relationship started at a time when I was struggling to function and I can now see the lasting effects of that.
I’m thankfully in a much better place now and I’ve grown so much in the past year. That said, I don’t want to make the same mistakes again. Heartbreak isn’t fun and I don’t need a repeat of my previous breakup by any means.
With all of this on my mind, I knew I had to go into dating with a different mindset this time. I wanted to make self-care a priority throughout the process, and I’m currently taking numerous steps to prove that to myself as my newest relationship blooms.
Self-care should be a priority, but I think it’s very easy to let it slip to the wayside when dating comes into play. We simply get distracted when we are attracted to others. There’s nothing wrong with being caught up and enjoying the whirlwind. Practicing a little self-care while dating can help you feel your best though and may impact the quality of your experiences.
I believe my recent dating encounters have been more enjoyable because I’ve continued to take care of myself and give myself the attention I deserve. Read on for some self-care tips I’ve been using that could be helpful when you’re playing the dating game in-person or through apps:
1. Stick With Your Tempo
Some people like to message potential dates for a few weeks before meeting up. Some people like to get off an app and meet in person as soon as possible. Some people are comfortable sleeping with a date quickly and others will consider a kiss after numerous dates. All of these speeds are fine as long as all parties are consenting.
Be sure to figure out what speed you’re personally comfortable with and share that speed with your date so everyone is on the same page. Follow your intuition on this and don’t ignore any bad gut feelings just because you want to be accomodating or something. There’s nothing wrong with changing tempos as feelings bubble up, but consent is mandatory.
I knew I’d have to take things slowly when I started dating again due to my past relationship trauma. I made this very clear to my date mate from the start and my tempo has been respected. The transparency was appreciated and it’s made open and honest communication our baseline.
If someone you’re dating wants things to go faster/slower/different than what you’re comfortable with, then there’s a compatibility issue. Date someone who respects your boundaries. Prioritize your safety and keep your well-being in mind. Your wants and needs are worth it – YOU ARE WORTH IT!
2. Check-In With Yourself
Once you’ve gone on a few dates with someone, it’s typical to spend time thinking all about the other person, to worry about what that person thinks about you and so on. You want to know if they think you’re attractive/interesting/someone they could see themselves in a relationship with and so-on.
It is completely normal to want to be a mind-reader during this phase. Instead of wishing for powers you do not have, focus on being your own mind-reader.
It is more important to ask yourself what you think about this person. Checking in with your own personal thoughts and feelings is an act of self-care that is too-often pushed to the side when the butterflies are distracting us.
When someone has caught your attention in a significant way, be sure to dig deep within yourself and try to unpack those feelings. What is it you like about this person? Do they check your prerequisite boxes?
Ask yourself the hard-hitting questions to avoid the wrath of unprocessed chaos haunting you later. Once you know your own answers, you’ll feel more confident while talking to your date about theirs.
3. Make Time For Yourself
Dates can take a lot of time and energy. Swiping and matching takes a lot of brain space and in-person dates can get expensive. Going on multiple dates per week on top of work and life can be plain exhausting depending on your personality type.
Remember to carve out some alone time in the midst of dating life and do some nice things just for yourself. Reserve a night for yourself to sit on the couch and watch a movie while the laundry machine is running. Get a massage, explore a new neighborhood, or treat yourself to a fancy dinner. Turn off your phone for a day and don’t feel bad about it.
You may want to spend all your time talking to a special someone if they’re on your mind, but we all know that clingy lifestyle can get real toxic quickly. Don’t let text conversations with your dates distract you from enjoying what’s beyond the screen. Limit the amount of time you spend swiping to avoid burning out. Maintaining your independent identity and doing things exclusively for yourself while dating is healthy.
I happened to go on a solo vacation to Disney World the week after I started dating again. It was incredibly fulfilling to do my own thing. I kept in contact with my current date mate only as much as I wanted to and that was understood and respected from both sides. I had a blast and have no plans to stop solo traveling just because I’m dating again.
Bottom line: Make time for yourself regardless of your relationship status. Remember that self-care doesn’t have to be costly as a Disney vacation either!
4. Accept the Rejections and Move On
Rejection is practically a constant in online dating. Someone you think is cute didn’t match with you or ignores your message. Someone you meet in person ghosts you after a few dates that you thought went well. It sucks to feel like you’re not good enough.
Rejection might be the hardest part of dating, but you cannot let it determine your happiness or self-worth! It’s essential to remember that rejection is simply part of dating as it is a part of life. There are billions of people on this planet and not all of them can be attracted to you. It would be weird if all of them were, wouldn’t it?
You might not be what another person is looking for, and that’s okay. Do your best to not take it too personally. Someone else’s opinion of you is strictly theirs and it just is what it is. Remember that you too have rejected people before for one reason or another. Take rejection as a learning experience, as a stepping stone for what’s to come, and keep on keeping on.
If you’re seriously struggling with dating rejection, it might be wise to delete the dating apps from your phone and take some time to reflect. Consider talking to a therapist about your confidence and self-worth. RuPaul’s famous episode-concluding phrase goes, “if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?” Take that quote to heart.
5. Be Present
Sometimes my anxiety gets the best of me and pushes me to focus on anything but the present when I’m dating. I can ruminate on past relationship woes and fixate on the future I want to have instead of simply enjoying the moment and the person in front of me.
Nerves are normal, but getting too wrapped up in your thoughts is unhelpful when it comes to dating. It closes you off and your date can and will notice that distracted energy. I honestly think it’s a waste of time to go on a date if your focus is seriously off. If something major, like a work or family emergency, is going to distract you, just reschedule the date for a calmer time.
When you are present during a date, you can have fun and be your most authentic self. You can delight in someone’s company and remember the nice moments. You can be a better listener and observe the little things. Let yourself have the experience!
Do whatever you have to do to make yourself as present as possible. Meditate in your living space or car to prepare yourself beforehand. Once you’re on the date, make eye contact and take note of the details. Ask thoughtful questions and give in-depth answers. Put your phone away and only check it in the bathroom if you must. Take deep breaths if you’re feeling nervous and feel free to share your nerves with your date instead of hiding them. There’s a good chance they’re feeling nervous too!
Being present is a true self-care gift to yourself. If you do not enjoy a date, your observant spirit will help you learn from it and inform your future dates. If you happen to go on the best date of your life, you’ll walk away with a fulfilling experience and lovely memory.
I hope these suggestions can help you as you experience the highs and lows of dating. Share your thoughts in the comments!