When it comes to dating, it seems you can find hundreds of thousands of websites, books, and people offering their tips and advice. I've personally read and heard a lot of this advice, but what I think is the most helpful when it comes to dating isn't giving and getting prescriptions -- it's asking and answering questions.
To me, being self-aware is the first step in becoming a successful dater, and ultimately finding the right person. I think you'll be surprised by how much you learn about what you actually need and want out of a relationship when you first look inwardly rather than outwardly.
Here are some questions I think are good to ask yourself to make sure you're staying to true your identity, whether you're already in a dating relationship or interested in entering one (following six questions from Date or Soul Mate? by Neil Clark Warren):
1) Who is the most important person in your life, and why?
2) What is it like being you? More precisely, how do you feel about yourself -- physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually?
3) What is the most important thing in the world to you?
4) If you could accomplish only one thing during the rest of your life, what would it be?
5) What is the role of God in your life?
6) Do you think of yourself as an emotionally healthy person? In what ways are you especially healthy, and in what ways could you use improvement?
...simple enough, right? The key to being self-aware, though, is that you continue to do so! I think it's so unfortunate when people enter into a relationship (or even a friendship) and start to change who they truly are in order to please the other person or to make the relationship work.
Losing yourself in a relationship or another person isn't something that happens overnight. Usually it happens slowly and without you even noticing it. It's easy to become so caught up in the feelings you're having that you don't even realize you aren't fully being your true self.
So here are a few more questions -- this time about the actual relationship and how it may or may not be affecting you in a positive way:
7) Does the person you're dating support your passions/calling in life?
If not, I don't think I have to tell you that that's a huge red flag. Whether he/she "gets" it or not, having someone who supports you and is always on your team is a must-have, if you ask me.
8) Do they get along with your friends (and vice versa)?
Who people "do life" with says a lot about who they are, as it does in your own life. I understand that not everyone is always going to completely hit it off, but feeling like your friends and significant other don't mesh at all isn't something to be ignored.
9) Do you ever feel yourself needing to change (even just downplay) things about yourself?
This is one that you really need to pay attention to because it happens subtly. The moment you feel yourself wanting to make sure to "do this" or "look like this" -- really examine why you're feeling that way (it's not always a bad thing, but something you should reflect on). This is an area that it's good to talk to a friend about. A lot of times our friends can see these things in us better than we can see them ourselves.
10) If you do find yourself changing, are the changes positive?
Change isn't always a bad thing! When you get closer to another person, sometimes it's inevitable. The important thing is to make sure that the changes are for the better. For example: Are you being challenged to become a better person and/or grow in certain areas of your life? Are you learning how to communicate better? Becoming more spontaneous? Responsible?
Here's the bottom line -- the point of being self-aware before and within a relationship is that you should do your best to first know yourself as much as possible before partnering with another person.
From what I've witnessed, the most successful relationships are the ones where two people working towards personal wholeness come together, rather than two people looking to fulfill some sort of void. Not to mention that the more you know yourself and are confident in who you are, the more quickly you'll be able to tell if someone would be a good match for you.
For me, answering those questions really changed the way I think about relationships in general. I realized that not only do I want to be confident and secure in who I am, but that I want to be surrounded by people who are of themselves as well. It's not that we have to have it all figured out (who knows if we ever will!), but I think that at least a basic level of self-awareness is important in order to be in meaningful, fulfilling relationships with other people.
Which of these questions do you agree/disagree with most?