“You are strong when you know your weaknesses. You are beautiful when you appreciate your flaws. You are wise when you learn from your mistakes.” ~Unknown
Social discovery apps and online dating sites provide us with an incredible amount of dating options. It should be easier to find the right person. Ironically, having more options has led to increased impatience and high expectations among those of us searching for love.
We disregard potential friends and mates at the blink of an eye, often trading them in for the illusory search for the ideal person. I’m guilty of falling into this trap, although I never wanted to admit it. I thought I was above it but I was delusional.
I directly contributed to everything I couldn’t stand about dating in the 21st century and didn’t even realize it.
I wasn’t accountable, nor was I wise. I had no idea what I was doing, only because I never took the time to learn the art of dating and to master the art of love.
I initially read a bunch of self-help books, but that didn’t help me at all. Later, I assumed it was a numbers game and my time would come to get it right. That didn’t work either.
While at times I’ve held out, looking for the perfect partner, I’ve also rushed into relationships, only to end up in the same place after several months to several years: disillusioned, alone, and picking up the pieces of a relationship that didn’t fulfill me or add much value to my life.
Something within me needed to shift, and until I figured out what it was I would continue to repeat the same mistakes.
While learning to play the guitar, I had some powerful realizations about the romantic relationships in my life.
These realizations have completely transformed the way I now approach my dating life. No longer do I feel like the stakes are against me, nor do I feel the frustration I felt for years on end.
1. Enjoy the process.
When learning to play guitar, I wanted to play multiple songs right away. I couldn’t stand how much my fingers hurt, and everything just felt awkward. I was resisting the reality that learning an instrument takes time, and I’d get upset and impatient whenever I made a mistake.
Right then and there, I realized that I was preventing myself from having fun. I was far too serious and intense to enjoy myself.
We don’t need to get it all in one day. That’s not the point. Deepening our relationships is no different. We often equate having fun with having it all right away. We seek intensity and we often get too involved with the other person without knowing anything about them.
Not only are our expectations unrealistic, we often forget to enjoy the process of letting new connections unfold. Let things progress naturally instead of forcing things and you’ll have a lot more fun.
2. Take it slowly.
Oftentimes, the idea of the person is what hooks us, and the reality is what ultimately sends us running. When we move too quickly, we’re apt to overinvest ourselves before we get a chance to see that reality, and end up with hurt feelings.
In much the same way it takes time to discover how we feel about playing a specific instrument, it takes to discover how we feel about someone new we’re dating.
The emotional attachment we might feel after an immediate hookup is not the same as love that grows over time.
Not only is it okay to take the time to let your feelings develop before you get involved, it’ll also allow for a much clearer understanding of how the other person feels about you.
3. Take breaks.
Why is it that many of us get so hooked on someone, only to lose interest or see the other person’s true colors several months into the relationship? Why is it that playing an instrument too many hours in one day without any breaks results in burnout?
Balance is key. It’s important to take a break when we’re learning a new instrument. When it comes to dating, it’s important not to get immediately wrapped up in the other person, no matter how amazing that person seems.
Give yourself time to process the experience instead of overdosing on the person. Take a step back and to do your own thing so the new relationship doesn’t become your everything. Taking time to yourself is healthy—for you and your new relationship.
4. Remember, practice makes progress.
Putting aside time each day to learn the guitar is no different than devoting time each day to be fully present with your partner. If you don’t continue to work at it, neither your relationship nor your playing will progress.
Whether you’ve been dating for two months or together for two years, your relationship will suffer if you neglect it.
Check in with yourself to be sure you’re fully listening, not dwelling on what you want from the relationship or mentally rehashing the events of your day. Presence is the key to connection, and that’s what enables a relationship to grow.
5. Constant tuning is necessary.
Do the notes sound a bit off-key? What about your relationship? Listen. Both relationships and playing music require you to use your ears. If your guitar sounds out of tune, you address it. The song won’t sound good until it’s back in tune.
Relationships are no different. Issues can’t be resolved without effort. Listen to your instincts, recognize what isn’t working and why, and communicate so you can figure out what needs to be done to address the issue.
6. Know that our wounds are our strengths.
Calluses harden our fingers and allow us to play the guitar more easily. In much the same way, the wounds from our past relationships can help us give love more easily.
A lot of people use their past hurts as an excuse to shy away from relationships when they are, in fact, strengths. Without the lessons learned, we wouldn’t be able to be better partners than we were.
Dating doesn’t have to be painful and frustrating. We just need to put in the effort and change our perspective a bit.
Although wonderful relationships don’t happen overnight, we can still have an amazing time on our journey to love.
Couple image via Shutterstock
About Melodi Cowan
After completing her MA in Philosophy and Religion in 2013, Melodi spent a year living in Europe. She now lives and works in downtown Chicago. Melodi enjoys meditating, reading, writing, volunteering, birdwatching and learning guitar. Shortly after writing this post on dating, Melodi met an incredible guy. Her major bragging rights are that she’s alive and breathing. You can follow her on Twitter @Barefootmelodi.