Lessons from a serial dater…

This is a really hot topic at the moment with my 1-1 clients, and yes excuse the pun! Whether you’re recently or long term single, dating can be terrifying or absolutely brilliant fun- depending on your mindset!

I remember being in my mid twenties, when a 6 year relationship ended and enough time had passed to allow me heal, I thought about meeting someone new. But it was a completely different ball game, totally new rules, new environment- everything had changed. It wasn’t a friend of a friend ‘will you meet/shift my mate?’ type scenario any more, I was an adult now and I had NO idea what to do!

So, one Spring evening with my girlfriends, Chinese food and wine- we put together  a profile of the type of guy I wanted to meet including values such as ‘family needs to be important to him’, ‘he needs to be respectful, fit, intelligent, be able to cook, clean, look after himself and be great in bed!’ (Yes, we were drinking!)

I decided that I was going to start an experiment in dating, like going out on dates and being proactive in meeting new people. I wondered if anyone would even want to date me in the first place – it was something I hadn’t done before and it was scary and exciting! The first approach was nights out in town with friends, going to a club, having a boogie and it was great fun! 80’s music, just the girls in Eamon Dorans, McGowans in Phibsboro and all different random clubs! Absolutely fantastic nights out with my girls! Did it work for dating…No! Yep, I met a few guys but all they wanted was someone to go home with that night.

Next adventure was speed dating in the Church bar, again, good fun, good few drinks, boogie afterwards, fun with my pal and we met 2 nice guys we chatted to for most of the night, but again it was more of a short term affair they had in mind!

After that, I decided to give online dating a try. Firstly, I found myself getting sucked into checking profiles almost constantly so I had learn to start setting limits. I responded to everyone who contacted me and felt it would be rude not to engage with someone. Again, that was another lesson. I made a lot of mistakes and learnt a lot of lessons which I’ll share with you below. I met a lot of guys that year, probably close to 20. Two or three guys, I dated for a few weeks- the rest I never saw again.

I grew up a lot and changed a lot during that whole period. Towards the beginning, I felt a ‘need’ to have these guys like me, I wanted them to want me and desire me so I was flirty, tipsy and a bit outrageous. But then, I had a wakeup call. I had driven almost 3 hours to the guy I was ‘kind of’ seeing, getting there quite late in the evening, only for the next day for him to announce he was going golfing with friends. I felt like an idiot, hugely disappointed and I spent the 3 hour drive home vowing to make major changes. During that drive, I realised that I was desperate to be loved. That was what was driving all this behaviour so I took a step back, took a deep breath and paid attention to myself.

For want of a better way to explain, I started dating myself.

I started getting to know myself, appreciating myself, admiring my strengths, stories and passions. I started owning them and falling in love with them. That was still scary but at the time, I had just started my accredited life coaching course, which encouraged me to start looking after myself properly and treating myself with more respect.

I was progressing in my life, in my career, in my relationship with myself and so I continued to date but I changed the rules to better serve me. I met Colm a few weeks later online, he had no profile picture but I found his description of himself interesting so I got in touch and we agreed to meet the following week at 10am in a coffee shop in my local area and the rest is history!

Paula’s top tips for dating!

  1. Be Proactive

Yep, I can hear it now, the cringe and the awkwardness but that is the way it is now. You need to be proactive if you are wanting to meet someone. The level of pro-activity is up to you. A baby step is to start engaging more with people around you. Make eye contact in shops and cafes, say thank you to your waitress/waiter, hold your head up high as you walk down the street and smile and nod at people. It’s a small step that can help us boost our confidence and sense of self as well as making us more aware or how many people there are around us! Another step above that could be actively dating, starting small and easy and building up from there.

  1. Make it work for you

If ‘dating’ is too freaky or would make you feel awkward, then change it so it works for you. This is the mindset piece. I knew that part of my coaching course would require me to work with pro-bono clients which meant I had to learn how to meet new people, break the ice, build rapport and allow people to feel comfortable with me. I had no idea how to do that, it scared me so that was part of the motivation to start ‘dating’- I was learning and developing new skills that would help me in my career. I looked at it as an experiment and a challenge. I learnt a lot along the way and changed my approach until I was comfortable.

  1. No alcohol

A big mistake I made at the beginning was meeting people at night and having a few drinks. I’m not a big drinker anyway but wanting to be seen as ‘cool’ and fit in made me drink more than I should have. Alcohol does impair your judgement and meeting at night often means there will be an initiation to go back to their place or your place.

I changed my approach and met people for a coffee during the day instead and I have to say, it was brilliant and made it much more fun! The guys I met were much nicer, they were really genuine and I started really looking forward to my coffee dates! We’d meet say in Bewleys on Grafton street on a Saturday and take a walk up to the park, sit on the grass and chat. They were nervous, I was nervous but we both knew each other was being real. Do not underestimate the light of day! It also then made it easier to transition to the evening dates and dinners etc because we’d already met and I knew we liked each other!

  1. Have boundaries in place

One big fear about online dating or any dating is safety. From speaking to hundreds of women on this topic- the main resistance tends to be 1. It’s not how I dreamed I would meet someone and 2. What if I meet an absolute nutcase. Fear can stop us, it has a job to do which is to keep us safe however that doesn’t mean you have to stay home and wait for your dream guy or girl to knock on your door. I’d encourage you to challenge the fear. What measures can you put in place to make you feel more secure? I’ll give you some examples of what I learnt to put in place. 1. I never gave out my number or address online- I would arrange to meet someone at a certain place and time through the online messenger on the dating website, if they asked for numbers/address I said no and explained why, if they were disrespectful or slagged me about it then it didn’t progress. 2. I’d normally have a time limit on how long we’d meet for – if you’re meeting during the day then most of the time, you’ll have somewhere else to be! 3. I told my sister where I was going, who I was meeting and when to expect me home.

I didn’t do any of this at the beginning but as I experienced more and became more respectful towards myself, these steps came into practice then.

  1. Come from a place of wholeness

This is the most important aspect of dating. You need to be ready and come from a place of wholeness. Initially, I was looking for someone who would make me feel better about me and the result was I gave the other person too much power. I wanted to be liked, loved, desired so often I would find myself behaving and speaking in ways that weren’t authentic to me. It was like I was trying to be whoever my date wanted me to be. Ultimately, all that does is make you feel lousy about yourself.

It took a lot of work and a good few months for me to shift away from that nervous, flirty, yes girl in the club who felt desperate to be liked to being a strong woman walking down the street at 10am on a Wednesday morning looking forward to meeting someone new for the sake of be curious about someone new. I distinctly remember that morning, I felt really strong and happy within myself, I was wearing a vest top, jeans and runners with my hair pulled in a pony and felt like I was more than enough by being myself. It was an amazing feeling and quite liberating.

I hope my sharing my experience and lessons with you is helpful in some way! As I said, it’s a hot topic at the moment!

If you want to nurture and develop the most important relationship in your life- the one you have with YOURSELF, then please check out my course ‘All You Need is Love’.

It is so incredibly important.  All of the rest of it — everything else you’re wanting in your life like meaningful work, finding your voice, standing up for yourself, asking for what you need and want, putting yourself out there, making new friends as an adult, cultivating new romantic relationships, committing to romantic relationships, making decisions on your future….. it all sits on the foundation of Self-Love.

Until next week,

Shine bright like a diamond!

Love,

P x