I'm updating my book The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again. The new version will be called Dr. Romance's Guide to Dating in the Digital Age. The following article is excerpted from the new book (edited).
A lot of the problems that come up in Dating Again are generated by social expectations, (how other people think you should behave or things should happen), and myths, (common beliefs which are not based on fact). Having such expectations and myths can shape your behavior and reactions in ways that create dating problems. Here we will examine the most prevalent of these myths.
Myth #1: There Aren't Enough Eligible Partners to go Around
Our fears often cause us to imagine the worst possible problems, and often media comes up with pseudo-facts that corroborate those fears, as in news articles that temporarily electrify the country (especially women) by stating that there are not enough marriageable men to go around. The statistics shown in these articles were later disputed, but the myth persists, because it corroborates our fears.
You only need one at a time. One thing we have a tendency to worry about is whether there are enough suitable people out there. No matter how much you hear about how few eligible men or women there are for your age range, or that all the appropriate ones are already taken, take heart. You are an individual unlike any other, and you have an advantage if you are following a successful dating process.
Out of all the people in your town or city, you only need one, and if you go to the appropriate places where you can meet suitable people, as outlined in the following chapters, your chances of meeting a suitable partner are excellent, and making new friends is a sure thing.
You can have somebody to love. If your family history was difficult, and you don't know what healthy relationships are, you can feel that you're doomed and relationships will never work for you. While you may need to do some extra work to correct the damage, you can still enjoy the dating experience, make some friends and even find a suitable relationship. If you grew up in a problem family, you may worry that you don't know what a normal family interaction looks like. If there was an alcoholic, a depressed parent, a volatile or violent relationship, a missing parent, or even a foster situation, you may not have witnessed enough normal discussion, decision-making, problem-solving and affection to know how to do it in your own relationship.
Relationship difficulties caused by your lack of healthy role models might be one reason you are dating again. If your past relationship repeated your early family problems, you may fear you'll never be able to love or be loved. But if you follow the right steps, you can avoid repeating those old patterns. Keep focused on your goal of meeting someone with whom you can create a loving relationship. If your problem is difficult, learning to date successfully could cause you to seek counseling or therapy. If so, good for you. You'll learn what you need to know to date again successfully.
Beating the Odds
If you're worried that the odds are against you, and that you won't succeed because few people do, you need to re-direct your thinking. Remember: you have been through difficulties before, you have learned new things before, you will survive this, and it will be worth it.
Each of your life experiences has taught you something, which means you know more that you did the last time. You are following expert advice, which will increase your chances of success. The fact that you're reading this shows that you care about the result, you're thinking carefully, and you want to approach dating again from an organized, informed point of view, which will make you more effective and successful.
In my experience as a relationship counselor, I find that people who look for a relationship after losing one, if they do it thoughtfully and with a plan, almost always find someone who suits them better than the last person, because they've grown in wisdom and learned from experience.
If nothing else, you'll make new friends. The best way to guarantee a good outcome in the dating process is to seek to make friends. If you set a goal to meet new friends and have good times, you'll succeed. When you approach your search as a search for friends, you can relax the stringent requirements you would have for a lover/partner. Suddenly, you're free to notice everyone — because anyone could turn out to be a good friend. When you relax and open up your criteria in this way, you will be open to meeting more of the people you encounter, and to finding out about them. Who knows, one of them may have a sibling or a friend who could turn out to be your soul mate.
Remember that "birds of a feather flock together." In this context, that means if you find good quality people you enjoy, and make the effort to become friends them, you will meet their other friends — who will be "birds of a feather." Most of the people you meet and like will know other people who are quite similar. Thus, every new friend can bring a network of new people, as desirable as the original friend, into your life.
Myth #2: You Only Get to Love One Person in a Lifetime
In this day of a 50% divorce rate, it's getting harder to believe there can only be one person in the world for you, but the myth still persists. There are lots of songs, poems, and movies about the "one true love" you can't survive without.
Anyone who has loved someone for a long time and then lost them naturally feels that there's no way they can be replaced. Of course, no one who is dear to you and now gone can exactly be replaced. There are many ways to love people, and a number of people you can love. Just as you can love various members of your family differently, and just as you can care deeply about several dear friends, in different ways; so you can also find more than one person who are compatible enough to fall in love with and create a workable relationship.
As much as you loved your last partner, you may be surprised to find that a new person has attributes and qualities you really enjoy; things you never knew were missing before.
It's fortunate that we are able to love more than one person, because it's so easy to be attracted to someone with severe problems. The point of dating is to find several people who are attractive to you, so you can sort through their character traits and foibles, until you find someone who is not only attractive, but also healthy for you. For this reason, you need to understand how to choose a relationship 'from the neck up' as well as 'from the neck down' — that is, using your judgment as well as your sense of chemistry and attraction.
At the turn of the last millennium, when social mores were more restrictive, and people didn't move around as much as they do today, meeting a new partner was more difficult. Today, we have more personal freedom, and neither gender has to wait for the other to make a move, or for a proper introduction. Everyone has more mobility, and a bigger population and more social outlets, to make meeting new people a lot easier. So, today the big question is not "Can I find the one and only true love of my life," but "How, out of all these people, do I choose the one with whom I can really be successful this time?"
Myth #3: Dating is Only for the Young
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