11/19/2013 06:38 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Dating IS For You

Recently, a piece titled "Marriage Isn't For You" by Seth Adam Smith went viral. In the aftermath, the inevitable backlash pieces began making the rounds. I suppose one sees what he or she wants to see from Smith's essay, based on their experiences and circumstances. Personally, I don't think Smith's piece was meant to be taken so literally (that you have to always be entirely selfless and you can't ever have a life or passions of your own apart from your spouse). As someone who is three weeks away from tying the knot and as someone who can often get wrapped up in my own little world, I appreciated the essay's general sentiment. It served as a reminder that a large part (though certainly not the only part) of happiness within a marriage comes from putting the other first in your thoughts and deeds.

But whatever camp your opinion on Smith's piece falls into, I think it would be difficult to find someone who could write a serious rebuttal to "Dating IS for you." (But perhaps there's someone out there who will rise to the occasion.)

As a dating coach, I could not be more adamant that dating is positively, absolutely a time for you.

Dating is...

A time to figure out who you are. At the core of, what I like to call, a person's entrepreneurial journey to find love is a deep understanding of their own identity.

By asking yourself the question "Who am I?", you are trying to find out the following: What kind of a person are you? What really matters to you? What makes you tick? What do you really value in life? Answering this question gives you a better sense of self (and self-worth), which helps you to better understand people who may and may not fit with you and people who do and don't deserve your time, energy, and heart. Once you know who you really are (and like who you are), you can find someone who matches that, someone who knows who he or she is and likes who he or she is.

Dating is the time to start wrestling with these questions and letting the answers unfold.

A time to ignore what others want for you and think you should want. Pressure to be with the type of person your friends and family think you should want or be with or pressure to conform to others' dating rules can sometimes lead you in the wrong direction.

That doesn't mean you should never listen to advice and feedback from those close to you when it comes to matters of the heart (there is certainly a time for that), but be careful not to let their desires be or overtake your desires. As you're out there dating, it's time to focus on fulfilling the role of you, time to push past pressures and expectations of family, friends, and even society. Dating is a time to take ownership of your dating and love life and make your own rules -- rules that work for you in your life.

A time to "fail" and go down the wrong paths... but also learn from your mistakes and build on them as you go. I like to say that failure in your dating life is your greatest asset (it's actually the title of chapter 8 in my forthcoming book about dating entrepreneurially); it teaches you valuable lessons and opens up new directions and possibilities that you might not have seen or considered had you not failed.

Many people aren't wired for failure in the dating world, because they associate it with pain, heartbreak, and emotional anguish. Sometimes they fear failure so much they run from it instead of facing it head-on. In order to avoid the kind of vulnerability that comes with failure, men and women erect walls, enact various defense mechanisms, self-sabotage in order to push others away before being pushed, or they might even shrink from dating entirely.

But if you can start de-educating yourself from this notion of "failure" and start seeing your mistakes and setbacks as iterations that have the power to teach and inform, you will be able to risk more freely in your dating life. Of course, embracing failure and its inevitability doesn't mean you won't experience pain or heartbreak or loneliness or emotional anguish when you do suffer dating disappointments, but it does mean you will no longer be a slave to your fears. You will take on risk despite your fears.

A time to solidify what you know about yourself and the dating world around you. As you date, spend time reflecting on the experiences that have helped shape and mold your world in the context of sex, intimacy, love, relationships, and the like.

How are past events, dating experiences, and relationships pertinent and relevant to your current-day thoughts, behaviors, and actions? What patterns do you exhibit and what can you learn from those patterns? What emotional payoff do you get from being stuck in your dating status quo? You can then use all of this knowledge to make more informed choices as you build and shape your love story.

A time to have fun! When I look back on my dating life, I had a helluva lot of fun. Of course, I also had a helluva lot of disappointments and teary nights. But at the end of the day, there is an opportunity for you to make dating and the process of dating (gasp!) fun, purposeful, and an adventure.

When I engaged in this mindshift during my single days, dating itself felt lighter, freer, less burdensome. Indeed, by not seeing dating as a burden but as an opportunity for self-growth and personal development, an opportunity to make new connections and meet new people, an opportunity to build and shape your path as you go, you may just start seeing it as a time in your life that can be enjoyed and, yes, even cherished.