Whether you met through a friend or an app, relationships are still challenging.
Sure, you can easily get a new date tomorrow. Does swiping on bring you closer to real love? How does this endless stream of potential new dates influence our willingness to work through each other's imperfections?
Therapist/Matchmaker/Relationship Coach, Lauren Korshak, shares 9 tips for navigating dating and new relationships with Well Connected Now's community, based on her and her clients' experiences dating in techie areas like San Francisco and Southern California. Lauren helps clients cultivate intimacy, trust, vulnerability, and self-expression both inside the therapy room and out.
"I know how much courage it takes to face ourselves and one another in relationships. I see relationships as mirrors for the best and worst aspects of ourselves, and believe that by embracing this, people can become their best selves with their partner's help."
9 Tips for Dating & New Relationships
1: Love Yourself First.
Know what you're bringing to the table in your relationships. Are you generous, caring, funny, and loyal? Remember that. What do you deserve in return? You don't have to settle for less.
Perhaps it’s because I’m a woman, but I’ve also felt this internal pressure from a young age to always give. I have more compassion for my own “no” now, especially when I am asked for something that I just don’t want to give. As a therapist, I’ve had to learn that I can only give what I have, and that has to come from a place of giving to myself first. I also consciously give myself permission to receive others' love.
You might not expect feeling loved to be difficult, but to accept someone's love means believing you are worthy of it. That's not always easy for people.
If your self-esteem may be shaky, then you might find yourself doubting others' love, no matter what they say or who they are. This is precisely why loving yourself comes first.
2: Focus. Set aside distractions.
Create space for yourself that is conducive to the outcome you want to create.
When beginning a new relationship or prioritizing an existing relationship, this might look like discontinuing phone calls to your ex, or that hottie you kinda have a “thing” with, but who never really seems to show up when you need them to (and always seems to show up when you don’t really want them to.)
It could also look like cutting back on work, especially if your life feels too cluttered with projects.
3: Figure out what you're looking for.
Visualize and talk about what you want. Sharpen that vision so you can develop clarity. I’m not saying write a list of things you want in a partner (sexy, tall, blonde, funny, good job, cute dimple, etc.)
I’m talking about what YOU want for yourself – a committed relationship? Casual sex? A slew of dates every week? You can start to visualize the qualities you want in your relationship as well, and share these with your partner to see where you both align.
As you visualize and get clear about what you want, take that fantasy monologue out of your head and bring it in to either writing or dialogue to further develop your vision. Talk to a friend, coach, therapist, or just write it down in a journal or a piece of paper.
4: Learn how to talk about what you want.
You have the right to your own preferences. If you share what you want with others, you could actually get what you want more often.
Easier said then done, but practice makes perfect. Try talking about what you want more often overall. Then, you can do so more freely in your new relationships.
As a bonus, learn to engage others on what they really want too. Develop your ability to listen to others. You can foster real intimacy by discussing and supporting each other's big dreams and relationship ideals.
Practice this skill on dates. Really listen to the other person, and you will get to know a lot about who they are, what they want, and if they are a good partner for you given what YOU want.
5: Cultivate an attitude of openness, experimentation, and learning.
Try approaching that person you like, or initiating the kiss, even when you're nervous. Try sending some winky face texts or read up on flirting. See how it goes. If it worked, great. If it didn’t, what can you learn about who you approach, how you approach them, or about things like persistence and tenacity?
If something's not working, remember you can always try something else. That goes for how you're expressing yourself as well. For example, maybe screaming your feelings is a sign this convo started too late.
6: Be discerning.
Go back to steps one and two. When you’re talking to someone you like, think about what you want and what you visualized. Is this person someone who fits what you're looking for? If yes, advance to step 3, and find out what this person is looking for too.
Believe them before you try to change them.
Are they looking for casual sex while you’re looking for a committed relationship? If so, thumbs up to them and thumbs up to you for noticing sooner than later. Now, you can move on to the next one, and save yourself some heartache.
7. Be persistent.
What do you do to get a job? Pursue all leads. Look in every corner and direction. Apply every day to jobs, and follow up.
This translates in dating as: don’t be a flake. If you are only showing up when you feel like it, you will meet a lot of singles who only show up when they feel like it too. If you show up fully, you will begin to sort out the flakes from the non-flakes, and meet more people ready to share their life wholeheartedly with someone else.
In relationships, this translates as: When things get hard, explore what's hard about them and address them with your partner.
8: Acknowledge your fears, but don’t be guided by them.
Be honest with yourself. You’re afraid of something? Congratulations – you’re a vulnerable and awesome human being. We are all scared of something, especially when it comes to relationships.
Don’t ignore your fears or they may lead you. People don't realize how often they may be revealing their insecurities. Instead, acknowledge your fear, and from there, make a clear choice about how willing you are to face it.
Let’s say you’re afraid of rejection. You’re at a bar and you see a guy/girl you’re into. Acknowledge your fear and ask yourself what you really want (see steps 2-4). Give yourself a pep-talk. Say “I know you’re scared. I know you can try this differently though, and aim for what you really want out of this situation.” If nothing else, you will at least give yourself the confidence to face your fears.
Or let’s say the situation is commitment. You notice that whenever a relationship gets to a certain point, you call it quits or get bored. Next time it happens, notice that it’s happening. Say to yourself “I know I'm scared. How can I do this differently this time though?” Make room for something different to happen by making new choices for yourself.
9: Learn the 5 Love Languages.
Lastly, this book on "The Five Languages of Love: The Secret to Love that Lasts" by Gary Chapman could completely change the way you perceive relationships. Even after I learned the names of these five languages, I realized people had been showing me love all along, but in ways I had been missing, because their natural love languages were different from mine.
What are your primary love languages?
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Quality Time
- Physical Touch
For example, I instantly realized the differences between my partner's primary love languages (Acts of Service, Gifts), and mine (Quality Time, Words of Affirmation). Now I understood why we kept missing each other, like ships in the night. I also got to see the places where we were similar (Physical Affection).
Now, when my partner cleans the kitchen or offers to pick something up for me, I realize that it's his "Acts of Service" way of saying "I love you". I also understand now why he's so appreciative of even the smallest knickknack I bring him ("Gifts").
I've also learned to have more compassion and less judgment when someone seems to be withholding something. I look instead for the other ways in which they may be giving, and become more aware of whether I'm expressing my love for them in the ways they can most appreciate them.
Lauren Korshak's 9 tips for dating & new relationships:
- Love yourself first
- Focus. Set aside distractions.
- Figure out what you're looking for
- Learn how to talk about what you want.
- Cultivate an attitude of openness, experimentation, and learning.
- Be Discerning
- Be Persistent
- Acknowledge your fears, but don't be guided by them.
- Learn the 5 Love Languages
Interested in learning more about love, dating, and relationships? Lauren Korshak is passionate about working with men, women, and couples to find greater ease in their love lives. Lauren also enjoys working with transitions, disordered eating, addiction, and spirituality.
WCN also recommends All About Love by Bell Hooks for further reading.
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