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Every time I hear someone describe dating as a game, I cringe. When I think of a game, I think of rigid rules, time limits, pressure and the idea of conquering or winning.

I picture players racing to score, trampling on the opposing team and cheering as they defeat others.  A game implies that there are winners and losers.

I like to think of dating and relationship-building as a dance- representing the flow of back and forth, moving forward together in the desired direction. Dating is a dance between two people feeling each other out with some possible toe stepping as they get into a groove. Ideally, there is a natural progression as the relationship develops without the pressure of a time line and rules about each little detail (When to call, when not to call, etc.).

Viewing forming a bond with someone new as a dance and less like a game takes out the calculated manipulation that is common to games. Dating is about uniting, connecting, engaging and emotionally coming together to see if you have long-term potential. Doesn’t that sound a lot more fun and inviting?

Below are some tips to make dating flow more naturally and feel less like a game.

1. Get out on the dance floor and jump out of your comfort zone.

It can be anxious-provoking and overwhelming to put yourself (and your feelings) out there, but take some risks anyway. Respond to an online dating message, ask out your crush or let your date know that you would like to see him or her again.  Be sure that you are sending clear signals about your interest and intentions.

2. Be able to dance solo and with a great partner.

Embrace your life while viewing your date/partner as an incredible addition.  Resist the idea of allowing this person or the success of forming a relationship dictate your whole existence. For healthy dating, affirm for yourself that the right partner will enrich your life. Make sure that you are actively taking care of your own needs and doing what you love through self-compassion, healthy daily living, relaxation, exercise and more.

3. Find your inner confidence.

Date from an empowered place versus a place of need.  Neediness can breed dependency and unrealistic beliefs, which ultimately get in the way of the rewarding, loving and stable relationship you are looking for. Toss out thoughts about your partner taking away your misery.  This keeps your expectations in check.

4. Notice the energy, be in your body and feel the rhythm.

Be present and in the moment to ensure that you really like this potential partner and that you are not missing any red flags or signals that you are not a match.  Many of my clients can relate to getting caught up in the potential of a life together or the fantasy of being with this person.  This easily distracts them from what is actually happening.  Listen closely instead of hearing what you want to hear, making excuses for your date or becoming wrapped up in changing this person to be “perfect” for you. The plans come later.

5. Take time to see how smoothly you move together.

There is bound to be some colliding at first, but ultimately, you and your partner will be in sync.  Make time to mutually get to know each other by creating a balance of listening, asking questions and sharing.  As important as it is to learn about your date, a date is not a one-sided interview.  Relationships develop when two people are learning and growing together and as in dancing, it is important to take turns leading and following.

Always remember you can exit gracefully!

Just like in dance, dating takes practice and patience. If you find that you are not connecting with your date, give yourself permission to sit this one out and get back on the dance floor with someone else.

Whether you are into hip hop, the cha-cha, a bit of jazz or ballroom, view your dating life and growing relationship as a flow of give and take while feeling confident in who you are and all you have to offer.

Are you down on your luck when it comes to dating? Have you had bad experiences that keep you from really putting yourself out there? Check out You Didn’t Want Him Anyway to learn how to move past those hard times and begin to trust and love again.

Rachel Dack

Rachel Dack is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (L.C.P.C.) and a Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC) who provides psychotherapy and relationship coaching to individuals and couples in her Bethesda, MD office and over the phone. Rachel specializes in dating and relationships, anxiety, self-esteem, mindfulness and personal growth.  Rachel helps her clients value themselves and find happiness within, leading to healthier relationships with others.  To connect with Rachel or to learn more about her psychotherapy and relationship coaching services, please visit www.RachelDack.com.  For daily inspiration, relationship guidance and mental health tips, follow her on Twitter (@DackCounseling).

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