People often compare dates to fish, as in “there are plenty of fish in the sea.” But what if you keep choosing the wrong fish?
In other words, what if you keep dating the wrong people, finding yourself in relationships that don’t progress very far, or settling for casual relationships because you can’t seem to find anyone you truly connect with?
In a world of dating apps, ghosting, and hookup culture, finding love can be frustrating. And it’s even more frustrating when you don’t really know who to match with and who to forget. But there is one easy way to stop wasting time on the wrong people.
Listen To Your Heart
For many people, dating is a game of the hearts, and how you feel emotionally is key to deciding who to date or not. And it’s true that our emotions can be a valuable tool in knowing who is safe. A gut feeling telling you someone is dangerous versus a feeling of comfort and calmness in someone’s presence, for example, can provide important information for who to trust and who to run away from.
But emotions in the early stages of dating can also be misleading. Emotions often come and go: first date nervousness eventually softens and makes way for the happiness felt when you find yourself laughing and hitting it off. But that happiness, too, will eventually ease. Especially when in a state of infatuation, the excitement and “spark” experienced when getting to know someone new can say little about the future of that relationship. In fact, the brain chemistry that drives those early feelings of infatuation (involving a mix of dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, among other hormones) typically only lasts for a few months before the excitement dies down. And not only this, but these chemicals can make us more likely to imagine the other person as who we want them to be and less likely to catch red flags.
Emotions, then, can be an important part of choosing a partner, but they don’t give us the full picture. And the excitement you feel at first may say nothing about your compatibility with another person. So what can you use to help make more rational and meaningful dating decisions?
Who Do You Want To Be?
Our emotional responses are constantly changing, but our values are not. Values, and character values in particular, influence and inspire who we want to be when we’re at our best. When you know your values, you know what is most meaningful to you, and decision-making becomes a breeze. And while values can be adjusted here and there as life changes, they are much more consistent than emotions.
It makes sense, then, to date people based on values. Choose partners based on who you strive to be when you’re reaching your full potential. Not who they want you to be, or who your family or even society taught you to be: who do you want to be in order to be your best self?
Finding a partner who respects your values and honors what is meaningful to you is key, not only in having a fulfilling love life, but a fulfilling life in general. And this kind of partnership is much more likely to last than a relationship based on ever-changing feelings.
How To Use Your Values in Dating
In order to start incorporating your values in your relationships, you must first know what your values are. Consider values that are based on character traits and qualities that you can embody in your actions and daily decisions. For example, gratitude, selflessness, authenticity, kindness, and independence are character values. Consider what you value about yourself in all aspects of your life, not just your love life. Do you value your independence? Are you proud of your ambitiousness and determination? Or maybe creativity and expressiveness are important to you. Think of up to five values that matter most to you.
Then, when having a first date or chatting with someone on a dating app, consider if you can embody these values with your match. The goal isn’t to find someone with the same exact list of values. Instead, choose people who don’t limit your ability to express your values.
Imagine that ambitiousness is one of your top values, yet you find yourself shying away from talking about career aspirations with a date. In this situation, it’s important to notice your discomfort in expressing your value of being ambitious and identifying where that discomfort comes from. If you are confident expressing this value with others, but you feel uncomfortable expressing it with your date, they may not be a compatible fit for you.
On the other hand, imagine that assertiveness is one of your top values. Imagine that you are able to communicate and behave assertively on a first date, and the other person seems comfortable with your assertiveness. This could be a good sign that they are worth getting to know more. You can even discuss your values directly in conversation with a date to make sure you’re on the same page. For example, if you value equality, don’t hesitate to discuss this value and how it affects your personal life and decisions with a potential partner.
In dating, it can be tempting to follow our emotions and get side-tracked on what is truly most important. And a huge part of what is most important has to do with who you want to be and what kind of mark you want to make in the world. Above temporary emotions, look for relationships that encourage you to continue growing and following your personal values.
Look for relationships that allow you to be who you want to be.