I recently started dating again, it’s been about a year since I last saw anyone and my last relationship did not end well. I have always fallen into relationships rather than pursued them, and now I’m trying to be more deliberate and choose a partner that is right for me. My problem is that I’m not sure how to tell if someone isn’t right for me, or if I’m being too picky. I understand that we shouldn’t compromise on some things, and that other things can sometimes be overlooked. However, I’m struggling to work out what things are important to me, what is reasonable, and how to identify them when I’m in the middle of it. How can I figure those things out, and how can I be more aware of them when actually navigating potential relationships?
Thank you for your letter.
First, let me commend you on diving into the dating pool again. I’m well aware of how nerve-wracking, confusing and, quite frankly, exhausting it can be to put yourself out there and navigate this uncharted territory; you should be proud of yourself for even taking the plunge. It sounds like you are very keen to take control of the wheel and master these choppy waters, with a thorough understanding of yourself serving as a compass. Although I admire your determination for self- growth and self-learning, I fear that you may be too preoccupied with the shoulds and shouldn’ts of love. Believe it or not, dating can also be quite fun! So how can we get you to take some of this pressure off whilst also being true to yourself? Let’s try and figure this out together.
You mentioned that you find it difficult to identify what your needs are in a relationship. A good place to start from would be to figure out what your values are. What do you value in life? Friendship, honesty, money, equality, faith, openness etc.? If this proves to be too difficult, think about your closest friends – which values do you think you have in common? Once you have the answer, ask yourself if you’d like to share those same values with a romantic partner. Now, in terms of needs, what are the things that you know you couldn’t give up on? I find that some of the most popular ones are empathy, financial stability, security, attractiveness, good listening skills, emotional support and having common interests. Identifying what your needs are is crucial for the healthy functioning of a relationship. By reflecting on your previous relationships, can you recall when you felt the happiest or the most fulfilled? Can you remember when you felt angry, upset or sad? What needs were being met and which ones weren’t? What could you absolutely not tolerate now? If you find yourself struggling to answer these questions, then I suggest that you refer to what is popularly discussed as the six core human needs:
- Importance or significance
- Love and connection
- Personal growth
- Contribution to the world
Rank them in order of importance based on previous experiences. Once you have determined which needs are in your top 4, consider how your future partner could meet them. For example: how can your partner ensure that you feel loved and valued? With touching, words of affirmation, acts of service? How could your partner honour your need for spontaneity? By letting you take the lead on dates?
It is okay to not have all the answers now. It is also okay to make mistakes and learn along the way. Love is beautiful yet complex. You may meet someone who ticks all your boxes, and yet feel indifferent towards them. Yes, knowing what your needs are is important, however there is so much more to love than what meets the eye. Chemistry, emotional intimacy and commitment are factors that also determine how successful your relationship will be.
Relax, date, and enjoy getting to know new people. And remember, you don’t necessarily have to date to marry – you can learn about yourself from any encounter, situationship or relationship you might have.
For more information/tips you may want to consider seeking out a mental health professional for additional guidance.
I wish you all the best.
Dear Dania is for informational purposes only, Always seek the advice of a mental-health professional, or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. We may edit your letter for length and/or clarity.
*The author’s identifying details have been changed in order to protect their privacy.