Dating in the 21st century can be a mind-boggling experience. With the advent of the internet and social media, the days where courtship milestones are clearly defined are long gone. The spread of individualism and globalization have resulted in fast-evolving dating rules which makes defining a relationship challenging. Added to the complexity are the various lifestyle choices that modern life presents us with, which shapes the role romantic relationship plays in our lives.
How do you know your relationship is developing in the right direction and more importantly, is it right for you? Here is the 3-step process to help you gain more clarity in your dating journey:
Step 1: Be honest about what you feel
Every relationship is unique so there is no one-size-fits-all advice that will address every situation you encounter. It is important to bravely seek answers within yourself and ask what you want from spending time with this person. Which of your needs does he or she fulfill? Be honest. It is imperative that you express your thoughts and feelings freely to make this exercise meaningful to you. Once you have the list, look through it and decide if you are pursuing this relationship for healthy reasons.
Are you with him because you genuinely enjoy the time spent together or, are you staying on because you have no other options? Do you feel yourself growing as a person? Do you admire her? Do you see yourself planning your future with this person? These are some possible questions you can ask yourself and the relevance of the questions you ask depends heavily on the values that matter to you.
Step 2: Establish shared values and understand differences
Now that you have ascertained that you are in the relationship for the right reasons and feel ready to progress in your relationship, the next step is to understand whether your partner feels the same way about you and if he or she shares common relationship goals as you. This requires you to initiate a dialogue with your partner in a truthful and sensitive manner.
Ask yourselves, what is the foundation of your relationship? Is there any area of the partnership that still requires work and if so, how are the both of you going to overcome this together as a team? These deep sensing questions may take more than just one conversation to work through. Be prepared to face and acknowledge some uncomfortable realities and differences that come your way.
Step 3: Action Plan
There will be a need to take positive action to create the relationship that both of you want. The action plan will be developed together with your partner using good communication skills. That means being an excellent listener to really understand what each party needs and being committed to adapt to each other. Listening encompasses the ability to capture the factual content of what was shared, as well as the emotional or even unspoken messages put across to you. Most importantly, do not be defensive when things hit a rough spot as you dialogue with each other. Be patient and suspend all judgement as you hear your partner out.
The process described above is non-linear and cyclical. There will be a need to revisit each step from time to time to ensure that both of you are attuned to your needs before you can start working on your relationship as a team to navigate the changes and challenges that each stage of the relationship brings to you. Love is an action and not a feeling. As you work out the answers together, remember to cherish your partner and show appreciation for just being in each other's lives!