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When dating becomes an emotional battlefield

I hadn’t realized it, but my dates were becoming a job interview. I was on rapid fire with interrogating questions, evaluating whether the person across from me at the dinner table was an “asset” or a “liability.” Had I worked all these years to hook up with someone who was lazy and would live off my career earnings? Did he want kids, or should we just end dinner early and both be on our way? My dating life had become an emotional battlefield, and like most battlefields, it was war-torn and there was emotional wreckage. I was on edge, leading with a distrustful tone, and there was certainly nothing sexy or attractive about interrogation.

In reality, I was letting fear creep into the driver’s seat of my emotional world. My inner biological time clock was screaming; I wanted the kids, the house, the family, and all I could hear was the tick-tock of time. As a result, I logically ran mathematical formulas in my mind around how a year would go by while dating this person, and if we settled into marriage and started having babies, then another year would be gone—trying to become pregnant and dealing with pregnancy—so the emotional timeline in my head was growing further into a distance. The problem was that the person before me had barely said hello and taken his first bite of food, and I was sizing him up as a potential husband and future father to my babies.

After my dating life started drying up, I eventually ran out of dates to push away on an emotional level, and I had to look at myself in the mirror. I was on edge; fear was ruling my life, and I was a control freak trying to control an area of life I could not control. Yes, in the career world I could manage a project, but I was unsuccessful at managing my emotional world.

As I kicked fear to the curb of life and found fun again in the dating world, I learned a few tips along the way. Then when I gave up all together and stopped trying, I met my husband. Below are some tips on how to stop your dating life from becoming an emotional battlefield:

Tip 1: Getting to know new people is supposed to be fun

It’s likely you won’t meet the love of your life out the first gate of dating. If we relax and enjoy the process of meeting new people, we have fun. Furthermore, we look more attractive when we are having fun. Who knows: Maybe your date may have a great tip for you or share important information that is helpful. Even better, maybe your date is actually your future brother-in-law who introduces you to his brother? If we learn to go with the flow we open our emotional worlds to endless possibilities.

Tip 2: Don’t get too far ahead into the future

If you are planning a future with your date and who they “could” be, then you are wishing them into your fantasy world, which is dangerous on an emotional level because you may miss out on red flags as well as warning signs. Some people are crazy, and in the emotional honeymoon phase of dating, crazy looks like spontaneity as well as fun. With rose-colored glasses we can fall in love with the potential of who someone could be rather than examining the reality of who they are in life. Enjoy the process of getting to know people without getting too far into the future in your mind.

Tip 3: Focus on what people are and not what they are not

When we look at people through the lens of interrogation, we have a negative and reductionist focus as we “reduce” them to missing the mark. With this attitude, we see what they are not, and with a process of elimination, we miss out on seeing their strengths. Also, we may think we want a good-looking, successful career person who may be a workaholic, when what we really need is a best friend as well a life partner who is there for us on an emotional level. Furthermore, we may even have an inflated sense of our own worth, which is a turn-off. As we focus with worry about what other people are bringing to the emotional table of life, we may completely disregard the fact that we are not bringing as much as we think to that same table. When we make demands around taking without actually looking at what we are capable of giving, then we fall flat in the dating world.

If our expectations are too high, we can risk being alone, waiting for a perfect person who does not exist. On the other hand, if our expectations are too low, we can settle. The dance is that fine line between expectation and reality. Our “needs” serve as standards and our “wants” are qualities in people or situations that are not necessities. The key is to know the difference between “needs” and “wants” so that we can focus on what people are and see their strengths.

If you focus on letting God do the picking, have fun in the process, and enjoy the journey, then dating does not have to become an emotional battlefield.

This article was originally published on Single Matters on 6 March 2014
Photo Credit: zhengxu, Creative Commons

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