If you could build the love life you want from the ground up – what would it look like?
Would it involve dick pics from Tinder?
Cuties who pursue you and then ghost?
Constantly changing the settings on your online dating profile?
Oh, that’s not the romantic life of your dreams? Weird! It’s not mine, either!
Dating and hooking up and long, committed relationships are simultaneously awesome and horrible. More than just about anything else, they’re a source of joy and sadness.
Finding Your Person and then making a happy life with them is an art, not a science, but there are things you can do to the love life you want.
How to get the love life you want
Know who you are + what you want
Now, knowing who you are is easier said than done and that process really deserves a blog post onto itself (this one might help you get started.) Once you’ve got that figured out, life (and dating) gets about a million times easier. Before you dive headlong into dating, think about the sort of relationship you’re looking for at this point in your life.
Do you want to date a series of interesting people? Are you looking for something that’s exclusive but low-pressure? A summer fling? Your future spouse? All of these are perfectly acceptable!
Your romantic life will be a lot more enjoyable if you know what you want and then date accordingly. (re: don’t try to force a summer fling to be a life-long commitment and don’t pretend you’re interested in girlfriending when you really just want something fun and open.)
Be honest about who you are + what you want
I met my husband online, pulling him in with the very honest headline ‘I will go camping with you, but I’m totally not watching football.’ A lot of guys probably avoided me because I sounded like a bitchy, non-sports-watcher. My guy hates watching football and thinks I’m hilarious.
When you’re honest about who you are – online or off – you create a self-selecting group of suitors. When you water yourself down and try to appeal to everyone, you get lost in a sea of sameness and your perfect someone can’t find you.
It’s equally important to be really honest about what you’re looking for. I know it’s tempting to play yourself off as a Super Breezy Laid Back Girl Who’s Not Looking For Anything Serious (and if that’s who you really are – awesome! also: how do you do that?)
But if you’re looking for a boyfriend or you want to get married in the next few years, check those effing boxes in your online dating profile.
Be specific about what you’re looking for in a partner
Has anyone ever told you you’re ‘aiming too high’?
Dude, you are allowed to ask for more in a partner than ‘cute, nice, funny.’ You are allowed to want someone who has a job they like, takes care of themselves physically and emotionally, loves their family, has an active social life, isn’t saddled with five figure credit card debt and knows how to communicate.
At the risk of getting all rhyme-y and life-coach-y on you, you have to name it to claim it. It’s hard to find what you want if you don’t know what it looks like. Get out a notebook and give yourself over to fantasy. Make a list of alllll the qualities your perfect partner would have.
Go light on the superficial stuff (“blonde with a six pack”) and heavy on how this partner would make you feel (“would support my dreams of world travel and tell me I’m funny at least twice a week.”)
Respectfully, gently ending relationships that aren’t working
You know what’s The Actual Worst? The Slow Fade. Worse yet? When someone simply stops responding to your texts or emails after you’ve gone on multiple dates. Gross. We’re better than that, right?
When you realize someone isn’t Your Person, respect them enough to tell them so. Don’t drag it out for another three months while you try to convince yourself that you like them. Don’t act like a jerk till they dump you. Here’s a great post on how to end a relationship in a classy manner.
Figure out how you feel about monogamy + communicate those feelings
One of the hardest times in any relationship is around the third-fifth date when things are heading in the Bedroom Direction but have not yet headed in the What Are We Doing Direction. Like, are you officially dating? Is this person your boyfriend or girlfriend? Do they still have an dating profile up online?
If you’re someone who appreciates monogamy here’s a little speech you can give, pre-bedroom activity.
So we’ve been hanging out for a bit now and while I’m not looking for a super serious, Facebook-official thing, I’m not comfortable sleeping with more than one person and I’m not really comfortable sharing sexual partners. I like to limit myself to people I actually, you know, like. And I like you. If that doesn’t sound like something you’re into, no worries, I just wanted to be open with you about where I’m at.
(and then you need to actually not sleep with them if they’re sleeping with other people.)
Appreciate your solid, committed relationship + partner
I know how easy it is to take your partnership for granted. It’s so, so easy to only look cute when you have to be seen in public and to be your snippiest, least awesome self when you’re at home with your person. Let’s not.
Let’s schedule in those all-important date nights, find cuter versions of our hang-around-the-house clothes, sing our partner’s praises at dinner parties and make their coffee how they like. It matters and it makes a difference.
Maintain your friendships + hobbies
Those regular date nights you schedule with your partner? Make them with your friends, too. And all that cool stuff you did before you guys got serious? The dance classes, the road trips, the book club? Keep doing ’em. Your relationship should be the icing on the cake – not the whole cake.
Get the love life you want by: realizing that fashion, bodies, hobbies change. Intelligence, personality, ethics rarely do
It’s a forgone conclusion that we judge people by their looks and it’s incredibly easy to scroll through someone’s online dating profile, check out their favorite bands/books/movies, note their skinny jeans and mentally prepare to marry them. It’s also easy to think that because you both love traveling and snowboarding that you’re a match made in Boulder.
I’m not saying you’re wrong. I am saying that the likelihood that you’ll still be obsessed with Chuck Klosterman and carving the fresh powder when you’re 65 is pretty low.
Perhaps we should all give a bit more consideration to the person who remembers their sister’s birthday, listens when you tell them about your day, and stands up for their beliefs, even when it’s inconvenient.
Sometimes the best person for you doesn’t come wrapped in a perfectly chiseled, plaid-wearing bow. Sometimes they’re wearing athletic sandals. Maybe they have a goatee. And we’re adults so we can decide not to be hung up on silly things like that.
Give yourself a break from dating if you need it
Few of us make good decisions when we’re broken-hearted or overwhelmed and freshly single one night stands rarely end well.
When I’ve gone through bad breakups, I put myself on a three-month dating hiatus and the same can be said for dating overwhelm. Deactivate the account, delete the app, and go enjoy your friends and some fresh air. All those profiles will still be there when you come back.
But tell me, how’s your love life? What do you do to keep it happy and healthy?
P.S. If you have a habit of dating unsuitable people, this might help. And it’s free!