The most common phrase I teach clients, and well, myself is "Be invested in the person (or process) but not attached to the outcome." While this has hints of the Buddhist teaching of impermanence, I truly believe it is the best mindset in which to approach dating and new relationships.
The most frequent complaint I hear as a dating coach is "Dating is SO much work!" I remind people that relationships are work, too, and the time, energy and effort we are willing to put into a relationship is the same time, energy and effort we should put into dating itself. This is "investing in the process." Once you've dated and found someone special, the question is can you invest yourself fully...emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically and still not be attached to the outcome of the relationship? I think it's possible, (although granted it more difficult for people who want children and don't have them yet) but in a post-divorce-middle-of-life situation, I believe it's the best way to start a relationship.
Can you imagine a new relationship without the constant need to know "where is this going?" If that sounds great to you but you don't know where to start, I'm here to share five tips with you on how you can "Be invested in the person but not attached to the outcome."
*Check out the table of contents without trying to read the final chapter
I have to hand it to men...they generally do this better on a first date than my female counterparts. I joke in my seminars and say "Women want to go through this impossible check list to try and read the final chapter...will my friends like him, what about my parents, will we retire here or move to Florida, what about a house? But Men, just want to check out the table of contents and simply find out...does she look like her picture and is she crazy?" Men are much better at being in the moment on those first dates because they are just happy we agreed to meet them, and we women could take a lesson from them!
*Timing is everything
I mean this in two ways. If you don't have time to date, then you can't invest yourself in the process of the search and get-to-know-you stage, let alone any one particular person. But if a relationship is what you want most right now, make sure your life reflects that...and clear that calendar. It's also wise to remember that timing itself, is everything. Many people have the exquisite experience of someone who is right for them in every way but one...one that you can't compromise on, like having more children. Not being attached to the outcome when you start a relationship helps keep this in perspective, even though timing is truly something we can't change. Robin from How I Met Your Mother said it best when she said "If you have chemistry, you only need one other thing. Timing. But timing's a bitch."
*Remind yourself that people are interesting
If you've dated at all, then you've had the experience of being three or four minutes into a date with the knowing that there is NO WAY there will be a second. It's not a good thing to shut down in that moment...still invest in the date as a person. Remember he or she is not a product and should be treated just as nicely as they would be if you had wanted that second date. People are interesting and you never know what you may learn about them, yourself or what kind of great story you will have to tell. I once had two first dates in the same day and realized midway through the second that they knew each other...you can read about my Sex in the City moment here...it's a good one!
*Take a load off
My friend Patrick told me once while I was getting over an ending, that "All relationships end until one doesn't." It's true and if you're currently single, no matter your age, you can look back and see this track record has been true for you. While we all need to be working on ourselves throughout life, the track record you have is more about how hard relationships are than anything you are doing wrong. But what if a psychic came up to you and told you that you would have four more great loves in your life? Wouldn't that take some pressure off for you to just enjoy every one of them and be present, instead of trying to make each one last forever? My current boyfriend and I went into our relationship knowing we met at a less-than-ideal time, and that it would affect our outcome. However, we knew we would be good for each other while it lasts and have lessons to learn from and teach to each other. Love doesn't have to be attached to high expectations or long-term commitments unless you say it does.
"So I'm gonna love you like I'm gonna lose you. I'm gonna hold you like I'm saying goodbye. Wherever we're standing I won't take you for granted 'cause we'll never know when we'll run out of time. So I'm gonna love you like I'm gonna lose you."
I encourage you try to adopt this mindshift as you approach your next dating search or new relationship and see what you learn about yourself in the process.