The world we live in sometimes makes dating sound a lot easier and more straight-forward than it turns out to be.
Just about every online dating platform out there makes the whole process seem very simple. Just login to this app, make a profile, send a few messages, and boom, you're in a relationship. Even in-person dating advice can make it seem like if you just meet the person who checks the right boxes on your list, then everything should work out, after all, you have so much in common, right?
But by now, you've probably realized something isn't working, but you can't figure out what it is. You might feel like Ben, who shared this in a message to us a few weeks ago:
"I can't figure out what's going wrong in my dating life. I've tried getting to know several girls that I've found interesting or attractive, and it either fizzles out after a few dates, or never gets going in the dating direction. These girls seem like my type, but it never works over an extended period of time. Where am I messing up?"
If you feel this way right now, your frustration is totally understandable. It can be hard to know what to do if you feel like you've done everything you think you're supposed to. But there's something else you can try: dating outside the box.
Here are some ideas for how to think differently about dating decisions that might make it easier to move forward when getting to know someone new.
Re-Think Your Type
Sometimes it seems like everyone has "a type" when it comes to dating and relationships.
Maybe you like to date artists or musicians. Maybe you want to be with someone who shares your interest in a hobby or sport. Or maybe there are certain physical characteristics that catch your eye every time.
None of that is bad or wrong on its own. We all have preferences! But sometimes we get so hung up on what we think we want, or so stuck on a very specific set of “must-haves”, that we might be missing a wonderful person who doesn't have all the characteristics of "our type".
Here are two suggestions for rethinking "your type":
- If “your type” only has certain interests, think about why those interests are important to you and broaden your ideas based on that. For example, if you like the idea of dating an artist or musician, but it hasn't worked out in the past, think about expanding your horizons to dating someone creative. That could open more doors, while still helping you find someone you're interested in.
- If what defines your type is mainly physical traits, try focusing on character traits and moving those up the priority list. If you focus all your energy on whether someone is tall, or whether they have blue eyes, you may be missing red flags in their character or personality.
Rethink the "Friend Zone"
The "friend zone" is the idea that you can only ever be friends with someone. Because friendships feel safe, you may be tempted to force a relationship to stay in the friend zone out of fear that dating will mess things up.
But some of the strongest relationships out there, including many marriages, started as friendships. While there is no 100% guarantee that any relationship will work, relationships that begin as friendships can often work because:
- You know enough about each other to know how you respond to challenges and frustrations
- You enjoy being around one another and are comfortable enough to be yourself with each other
- You have common interests or enjoy many of the same things
- You've likely stuck with each other through difficult times and worked through conflicts
It's worth thinking about some of your strongest friendships. If you have a healthy friendship with someone you admire, it may be worth considering exploring a dating relationship with them.
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Think About Why You're Dating
People date for different reasons. Sure, it's fun to get to know people with whom we feel a sense of chemistry, connection, or attraction. But sometimes, our reasons for dating someone don't go deep enough, and the results are disappointing.
For example, if you find yourself dating for "casual" connections or hook-ups that are purely based on physical chemistry and attraction, you might have discovered that those connections only end up disappointing you in the end. They leave you feeling empty.
If you find that you get bored with people you date, even though you get along, it doesn’t mean there's anything unhealthy about the relationship. Rather there's likely something missing from the way you're thinking about dating.
That's because dating isn't about a temporary, fleeting happiness, or just about having fun. Those feelings of euphoria are hard to sustain anyway. When we go deeper, dating becomes about long-term partnership: finding someone you can get through the ups and downs of life with. Even if you're not ready to think about marriage, thinking about dating as a mutually-helpful partnership can be a meaningful way to go deeper and think differently about your dating prospects.
Don’t Give Up On Dating
It can be really hard to keep a sense of faith when you're dating, if things haven’t gone so well in the past. There are so many disappointments and frustrations, and there's a lot of heartbreak along the way. I know that can be painful and upsetting, but those experiences aren't the end-all-be-all. You have plenty of time to meet other people, learn from previous experiences, and get to know someone new.
Way back in the day when I was single, I learned that I didn't have to put so much pressure on myself to be perfect or to find the perfect person when it came to dating. I came to believe that I would find someone to get to know when I was ready for it mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. My faith in God helped me remember I am always loved and cared for, whether I am in a relationship or not. My faith also assured me that God had a good plan for my life and I could trust Him with my future relationships.
I’m not sure where you are in your spiritual journey right now. You may be struggling with having faith or with believing in God, and that’s okay. But if you’re able to open yourself up to the possibility of being loved by God, it could help when you’re feeling lonely or frustrated in your dating life.
Learn About Yourself
When relationships go south, a lot of intense feelings come to the surface for a while. That's a normal part of dating and breaking up, and it's important to find healthy ways to work through those feelings.
But once the strongest emotions calm down a bit, it could be really helpful to learn about yourself by asking yourself questions like:
- What strengths have I shown in my past and present friendships that would benefit a dating relationship?
- Do I have any hang-ups around "my type" that might be getting in the way of connecting with a great person?
- What are my goals for the future? How do I want to grow, and how can I get to know someone who will help me grow?
You can talk questions like these through with a close friend or family member, or someone else who knows you well.
If you're not sure who to talk to, or if you want a fresh perspective, we're here to help. Our HopeCoaches are here to talk through dating and relationship questions via chat or email, without judgment.
Talk to a HopeCoach today to learn how to stop making the same relationship mistakes and start dating "outside the box".
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Photo by Tim Mossholder