It’s February and love is in the air! As the saying goes, love makes the world go ‘round. Just make sure the cell phone is on silent and you take in the ambiance of the night.
Initial meeting. First date jitters. Awkward silences. Curiosity. Attraction. Connection. And, maybe, just maybe, that relationship you have been waiting for this Valentine’s Day. While some of you may be looking to spice up your dating lives, others can only vaguely recall the glory days of dating. Dating is a double (or triple!) edged sword. Some dread it, some date because they’re single and feel they should, and others genuinely enjoy the dating scene. While that feeling of connecting to another person or having your heart skip a beat is an enjoyable part of the process, the rest of figuring it out can be laborious. For those looking for that perfect match, soulmate, or partner, don’t give up just yet.
The current dating scene is complicated. Should we go out again? Do we have anything in common? Is this a waste of my time? Add to these typical dating concerns additional factors that come into play in today’s culture. For most, dating either shut down during the pandemic, or eligible bachelors and bachelorettes became solely reliant on virtual dates, texting, and other online communication. Although we’ve mostly moved beyond those obstacles, dating is more time-consuming than ever. Dating apps make it easier to meet potential dates, but finding a fit is literally a part time job. Couple that with building time into your week to balance a busy work schedule, time for the people already in your life, and myriad other personal responsibilities. For those who then still prioritize dating, the dates better be worth the investment.
Whether single, dating, or married, most remember an in-depth conversation with a significant other. Think back to that one time you spent hours on the phone or talking after a date. It’s time for bed, but this conversation is worth the late night. You’re genuinely interested in one another. These types of conversations are what lead to a deeper connection and made you want to go back for more. Personal thoughts and stories were shared, and you were willing to sacrifice sleep. You learn a lot about one another, and something else you can’t quite pinpoint about the conversation made you excited to see this person again. Whether scenarios like this resulted in further casual dating or a serious relationship, the time invested and worthwhile communication at minimum resulted in a stronger bond where you better understood one another.
Unfortunately, in today’s dating climate, this type of conversation feels rare – if not altogether extinct. A 2020 Pew Research study finds that almost half of all adults surveyed, whether single or married, say dating has become more challenging over the last decade. Why has dating become so arduous when dating apps and social media have made finding a date easier? More options equals more dates – but not necessarily more meaningful dating. If you’re looking for the secret to building deeper connections at any stage of your relationship, try focusing on the way you communicate.
It’s important to keep in mind that communication isn’t just the words you speak (or text). It’s also what you say through your actions and your body language – and even how well you listen to your partner. These skills take intention and practice to implement. Here are a few ways you can improve your skills and become a more confident communicator.
BE PRESENT. With the amount of technological distractions at our fingertips at any given moment, remaining present may be the hardest thing to accomplish on this list. However, putting your devices away for the duration of your date not only allows you to be more present, enjoying the opportunity to have each other’s undivided attention, but also shows the person you’re with that you respect them and their time.
BE INTENTIONAL. While it’s important to go with the flow of the conversation at times, don’t underestimate the power of intentionality. Topics that are important to you deserve a seat at the table, and moving on past small talk is something almost everyone appreciates. Before your date, think about a few things you can discuss if there happens to be a lull in the conversation. Although I don’t suggest pulling a bulleted agenda from your pocket, having a few interesting questions or topics in mind can lead to thoughtful and more meaningful discussions.
BE VULNERABLE. Opening up is scary but essential for any healthy relationship. As your relationship progresses, you should more easily be able to share personal and intimate details with each other. The processes of tearing down the walls between you helps create a foundation of trust and support. If you’re hesitant to do this, you should ask yourself if it’s a relationship worth pursuing.
BE YOURSELF. Are you the type of person that would rather be in bed by 11pm so you can wake up early and seize the day – but your date has expressed they’re a night owl who loves to sleep in? Or maybe you love hiking and camping while they prefer resort vacations at the beach. It may be tempting to just go along with whatever the other person prefers in an attempt to create more common ground, especially when first meeting. However, in the long run this will only cause friction. Remember, you don’t have to be one hundred percent compatible with someone to have a great relationship; in fact, it’s often those things you differ on that bring you together because they help you learn new things from one another.
HAVE FUN. Getting to know another person is supposed to be fun! Laughing, having new experiences, and beginning to build memories together is what dating should ultimately be about. Although dating can sometimes feel like a job, make an effort to focus on the positive aspects. Not only will this help you both enjoy your time together, it also strengthens your bond and improves communication.
Strong, healthy, happy relationships don’t just happen; they require effort. Learning how to communicate effectively may not be the easiest thing – but it’s undoubtedly essential.