Goal for 2021: Be Intentional in Your Dating Relationships – Here’s How
New year, new you – and maybe new boo? That’s what over 40 million Americans want out of their new year, according to Finder. If a new or strengthened relationship is on your 2021 resolutions list, there are ways to help yourself be an amazing partner. It all starts with acting on your good intentions.
Here’s how to be intentional in your dating relationships this year:
Know What You Want
Whatever your motive for a relationship, it’s valid. And there’s probably an app for it.
Want casual sex? Swipe left or right to find your next hookup. Need a friend to have dinner or watch movies with? There’s an app for that, too. Or maybe you’re ready to settle down with someone and start a family together.
Dating is a lot easier when you know what you want out of a relationship. And we’re not talking about height and hobbies. Here are a few basic questions to ask yourself first:
“Am I looking for a committed relationship?”
“Do I want to get married? Have kids?”
“How do I want to feel?”
“What are my values?” (Religion, family, etc.)
“What is my ideal lifestyle?” (e.g. busy city living; traveling; laid back)
Starting with questions about what you want out of life can be a great guideline for seeking someone who will align with those ideals from the get-go.
Set Realistic Expectations
Okay, so you’ve got your perfect list of what you want. But what if you can’t find the lucky one who fits the mold? That’s where patience and realistic expectations come in.
Don’t hold out for love at first sight or a perfect, flawless soulmate (sorry Hallmark). It’s good news that we don’t have to meet every single person on earth to meet our person.
It may take a few dates to know if someone’s a good fit. You don’t know everything about a person from their dating profile. You might find things you thought were important before aren’t (like “I don’t date guys who can’t cook”).
The most important thing? Give yourself grace when things don’t workout. Having unrealistic expectations will make for a miserable dating life to which no one will live up to.
Love With Action
You may have heard before that “love isn’t an emotion, it’s a verb.” But what does it mean? You can love pizza and love your fiance. You can love skiing and love your daughter. No wonder the word is so confusing!
Loving with action is simply being intentional with your relationship. It looks like pursuing your partner whether you have that butterfly feeling. For example, you can clean the dishes after dinner to show your girlfriend you love her even if it doesn’t feel romantic to you.
Think of love as a way of communication, like a language. There are 5 love languages (gifts, acts of service, words of affirmation, quality time, and touch) that can help identify how you most feel loved. Practicing your partner’s love language can make for an improved dating relationship or marriage that you never thought possible.
Boundaries protect you and those around you from hurt or wasted energy. When you’re dating, know your boundaries and how to communicate them. For instance, if you have children, make it clear with your date when and if you plan to introduce them to your family:
“I have two young daughters and I care about them deeply. I’m looking for a partner who can not only love me, but love them. If things go well between us, I will introduce you to them in a comfortable, public setting when I’m ready.”
Keep the boundaries you set. If things change, articulate it clearly (e.g. “I know I said we’d do introductions in public, but I’d love for you to come to our family holiday party to meet the girls and my parents at the same time”).
Don’t forget to respect your date’s requests, too.
Follow Your Agenda
We know your grandmother may be itching to see you tie the knot, or your ex may have already moved on. Don’t follow anyone else’s agenda for you. Here’s what doesn’t define your dating life:
Timing after a breakup or divorce
Your ex’s love live
Your parents’ wishes (for grandchildren or a certain type of partner)
Your friends’ relationships
Social media trends
A church or religious organization
If something doesn’t feel right (like a blind date your coworker set for you), you aren’t obligated to follow through. Remember those boundaries? They can work to communicate with persistent friends and family, too.
Intentional dating isn’t easy, especially if you’ve been hurt in the past. There’s no shame in seeking professional resources. Counseling can help work through trauma, addictions, or lingering issues that are keeping you from your best love life.
Individual counseling or couples therapy is a great way to kick off your 2021 relationship goals. Explore what you want in a relationship (including your sexuality) and how to get there. You’ll learn communication techniques, how to set boundaries, and ways to mitigate and deal with problems. We want to see you succeed.
The best part of intentional relationships are the benefits. You’ll not only get to know yourself better, but find new ways to be truly happy. Finding a healthy balance of purpose and flexibility can lead to your best connections ever. Everyone deserves love and happiness this year!