DATING... Again

By Dr. Patricia L. Bay, Psy.D.
Published in W Magazine, October 2009

Relationship break-ups can be challenging and bring up all kinds of emotions. One of the most terrifying aspects of being single is reentering the dating world. Even the most capable, confident and powerful woman can feel a bit freaked out by the prospect of "being out there" again. Dating does not have to be frightening. It can actually be fun if you follow a few simple rules.

BE YOURSELF — It is fine to take stock in your attributes and put your best foot forward. Maybe your confidence would be boosted by a new hairstyle, cosmetic update or dating outfit. The important thing is that you are being yourself. Feel confident that you are being honest about the true you.

DO NOT DO A "180" — This means do not automatically date people who are exactly the opposite of your former partner. That will not insure compatibility.

MAKE A "PERFECT PARTNER" LIST — Go on, list all the things you have always wanted in a mate. Do not compromise and do not forget really important things such as honesty, integrity, financial stability and "attractive to me." The list will be 25-50 items long if you do a complete inventory of your likes and dislikes. This is where you can put attributes you have always wanted but have never had in a partner. For example, if you were with an alcoholic in your prior relationship and have always longed for someone who is a minimal social drinker, like you, put that on your list. If you were with a "stick-in-the-mud" and long for someone more social, put it on the list. Remember the things on the list are not the items others want for you. They are the things you really want in a relationship.

TAKE IT SLOWLY — Learning how to trust is a key ingredient in this recipe for successful dating. If you look at dating as taking someone through the Trusting Levels*, then you start out with daytime, public, time-limited dates that allow you to get to know someone before you are in a more intimate situation. Examples of first dates might be meeting for coffee (no alcohol involved), or lunch when you have to get back to work, or walking the Sacramento River Trail (drive your own car).

You might need to kiss a few toads before you find a handsome prince. Don't get discouraged. Chalk it up to experience in finding the type of person that is interesting to you. Whether you decide to meet people through family, friends or internet dating, follow these simple rules to stay safe and have a great time rediscovering the people out there.

* For more complete information on learning to trust, read chapter two in my book, Therapy In A Nutshell — 10 Simple Lessons That Will Change Your Life. (Available at the Shasta County Library, A Charming Little Shoppe and Java or Amazon.com)