You have probably heard the age-old theory that people with great grades or academic success often are great test takers far more than excellent at retaining information. If you recall taking the SAT to get into college, so much of the preparation for that test was understanding how to take the test well, far more than trying to recall specific pieces of information.
There are parallels in this theory that also relate to dating. With that same perspective, you may be able to take the pressure off yourself as you use some of the same tips and insights that you might use to effectively take a test to think about dating differently.
Focus on Different Information
You probably go into a date with some bias toward the type of person you would spend time with long-term. You likely have expectations or a mental checklist of things that must be true for you to proceed dating someone. Those things could include that your future partner must have a steady job, a nice car, an aligned vision for the future (such as a desire to one day have kids), or other “deal-breaker” type criteria. Those things can be correlated back to “information” making you a good test taker (or dater), but using information in this classic way doesn’t always lead to success.
Instead, try focusing on different information, collecting different “data” or tuning into things that you usually don’t pay attention to in early dates. Notice how you feel in the presence of the other person, both during your date, afterward, and even a day later. Do you feel more alive, calm, and peaceful? Does it just “feel easy” or maybe even “not quite right”? Or do you see red flags? Maybe notice how this person treats people around them, including the server at a restaurant you are visiting or even someone in the parking lot. Actions speak louder than words. Are they kind to others and do they behave in the same ways you would? Look for new insights to understand that you are on the right track, just like you learn new ways to ensure you pick the right answer on the SAT based on clues outside of having the perfect, correct answer.
Insights Through Practice
Especially on early dates, you haven’t set a lot of expectations around the ways you communicate or share information. Therefore, it’s a great time to practice communication skills with a new partner. If you know you have not succeeded in a previous relationship because of poor communication or a lack of vulnerability, this is a time to practice new skills. Those skills might include using compassionate communication or feel/felt/found framework or any other skills you think might work to open lines of communication early and often.
Pay attention to how your partner responds to these approaches to honest and open communication and ask yourself if their response is what you might expect or desire from a long-term partner. Notice how you feel when you receive their response to a concern you might have voiced with a specific communication tactic. Once again, this is a way to look at dating differently and use experiential clues rather than just relying on a mental checklist of the attributes they might have to make a decision about moving forward.
Instead of judging a date in the first few minutes because your partner doesn't meet your arbitrary wish list, and writing them off before you truly give them a chance, flex your muscles around your dating skills. Read between the lines, notice how you feel when you spend time together far more than the type of car they drive. Trust your intuition despite them not meeting some criteria on your checklist and look for peripheral signs that they are a good (or poor) fit, just like you would look for clues to the right answer on the SAT, in order to take the right next step.
At Center for Shared Insight in Denver, Colorado, we hear about dating challenges in our sessions, and often the lessons, like the one in this blog, are born out of guidance that has a positive effect on clients. If you feel like you aren’t getting anywhere with dating, or that no one is a good fit, consider whether you can use different information to make a decision about a date, just like you learned in an SAT prep course to rely on a different set of clues to choose the right answer. Continue to date creatively during this process.
If you need more support throughout your journey, our team is here to support. From exploring new days to date to turning into different information to inform your choices, our therapists are professionals who can guide your decisions and provide you new perspective.