Dating means encountering the unknown. And the unknown brings anxiety and insecurity for many. As a result, it is tempting to avoid dating altogether. Instead of telling yourself, I am going to actively date and get to know new people, you allow yourself to hang out, hook up, or just get to know whomever is out at the bar when you are out at the bar. Taking this approach may mean you get a reprieve on having to deal with the awkwardness of meeting new people. However, it also means you are never challenged to get out of your comfort zone. You rarely get to know people on a deeper level and they rarely get to know the real you. Or, alternatively, perhaps your fear of dating keeps you stuck with the same disappointing partner because you believe you are not capable of finding a better match. The only way out of this pattern is to take the plunge into the dating world. Actively dating will increase your self-awareness, help you to be a better version of yourself, and ultimately take you to the right match.
1. You see your flaws: If you have a very big personality, it’s sometimes helpful to hear from a new date “I can barely get a word in, you talk a lot.” Or, if you are a particularly controlling person to hear “Hey, you are really uptight.” Or if you are a lush to hear “You drink too much!” Sure it stings to get negative feedback, but by playing it safe and not exposing yourself to new people, you don’t get an opportunity to improve yourself. The good news is this new date isn’t really a part of your world yet. It doesn’t matter if you never see them again. What does matter is to know how you impact people and to work on growing and evolving as a person.
2. You realize you don’t have to settle: Actively dating and being open to meeting new people gives you access to many different personality types. As a result, you are no longer in a social famine willing to make any crumb a meal. And too, you don’t have to stay in a passive stance hoping to meet someone at a bar or through a chance encounter. The more people you push yourself to meet, the more choices you have and the more you can fine-tune what the ideal fit is for you.
3. You become comfortable with intimacy: Going out and spending a few hours one-on-one with someone is both a way for you to become more comfortable with yourself and also a way to better assess your romantic partners As a culture, we have become accustomed to exchanging information about ourselves in bite size texts or tweets. This makes it extremely difficult to be known or to get to know a new person. Instead of hiding from intimacy through technology, a real life, in person, one-on-one, official date, gives you an opportunity to really get to know someone. And too, dating forces you to become comfortable with letting your guard down, and that allows you to be known.
4. You learn to reject: It is surprising how often I hear people say they don’t actively date or get on dating apps because they fear having to reject potential partners. These folks worry that someone will be into them but their own feelings will not be reciprocal and they will have thus put themselves in an awkward no-win situation. Remember when you dive into the dating world, you will likely be rejected and you will also have to reject potential suitors from time to time. This is just standard dating world procedure. If you are not feeling it, it is okay to let a potential partner know. In fact, it is an important relationship skill to become adept at knowing your feelings and learning how to communicate them (even when they may hurt).
5. You learn to accept: As I describe in my workbook, Getting Close to Others 5 Steps, You also learn that we are all human. You will experience the comfort, wellbeing, and security that eventually come from being yourself with someone else. And you will experience the freedom that comes from letting go and accepting someone else—whether they are destined to become a love interest or not.
Jill Weber, Ph.D., is a psychologist in private practice in Washington, D.C. and the author of The Relationship Formula Workbook Series. Follow her on twitter @DrJillWeber or on Facebook, or visit drjillweber.com.