With the holidays and New Year celebrations far behind us and the pace of daily life back to full speed, there’s a good chance this fresh start has bought with it the strong desire for change and the opening of a new chapter of your life. For many of us, that’s going to include joining or re-joining the dating game in an effort to finding the safe and secure love each and every one of us desires and, importantly, deserves.
If you spend enough years as a relationship coach like me and you will see the patterns of human behaviour. Our drives and motivations are shared ones which means this is a busy and exciting time for me as I work with singles who are keen to hit the romance accelerator.
But a word of caution. Years of good quality research have developed our understanding of falling in love-experiences are both psychological and biological. As a result, our bodies influence our decisions and this has both benefits and risks. You have probably heard of the love and attachment hormones like oxytocin and neurotransmitters and dopamine and serotonin that are released when we are potential partners. These powerful chemicals have potent effects on the body, sometimes dramatically affecting our thoughts, feelings and our behaviours so it’s important to be aware of this and to be mindful not to get too caught up with what you are feeling. Using good sense and the “thinking” part of the brain to focus that little bit harder on your current love interest or date is always recommended. Simply put, its always useful to take a couple of steps back from your feelings and think as well as feel.
Reflecting on my coaching work with people from all walks of life over the last year I have distilled three key considerations for those who want to fine tune their dating plan for 2016.
1. Centre yourself – It’s normal to be carrying a high level of anxiety when dating. There are all sorts of reasons but one is the worry about what the other person thinks of you. Try to arrive for a new meeting with someone in a state of calm centeredness. Use meditation (mindfulness phone apps are useful for this), use positive self-talk or even better, have an appointment with your therapist just before a date. Anxiety and our efforts to manage it in stressful situations distracts us from really seeing the person in front of us and it also limits our capacity to read the positive (or negative) cues and signals that tell you if he or she is the right fit for you.
2. Don’t stay “virtual” for too long – When we start with digital dating our feelings for someone develop before we have even met but we haven’t been able to fully ‘read’ them face-to-face. You need to meet and see your potential love interest in person fairly soon to be able to read them to see if you are both a good fit, and of course if it feels right. Don’t let online chat or back and forward text exchanges go on for weeks before you meet.
3. Check in with what you are feeling - ask yourself often, does this feel safe and secure? Does this love interest or date ask questions about me? Do they look at me in a way that is pleasing? Are they curious about who I am? Do I feel trust? Does how they look or smell appeal to me? Do they look comfortable in their own skin? Does this person speak about their past positively and if it’s not positive have they made sense of it and how it has shaped them in relationship today?
All these questions need to be considered as they provide the kind information you need to form a mature choice about the person you may want to spend your life with.
Enjoy it, dating can be so much fun. Put on your seat belt, strap yourself in tight and keep your wits about you but above all...take in the ride!
Melissa Ferrari is a Relational Psychotherapist, Relationship Therapist and Dating Coach in Sydney. She has been a specialist in the field for over 18 years and has worked with many people to help them live more fulfilling, passionate and happy lives. She helps transform people by working with them individually in a private practice and in her one or two day workshops. Melissa works with both individuals and couples. She has a great passion in working with people who are looking for love with authenticity and mindfulness. Melissa’s curiosity, while asking way too many questions is often part of the mix that helps create change in the people she works with!