Dating experiences provide a lot of data. Whether you are just gaining your first experiences or have been in multiple relationships, dating is complicated. Human relationships, in their complexity, make it more difficult to analyze the data that is right in front of you. This tip addresses the major dating task of managing the pull of urgency (to find out if you could be together forever) and the urge to just have fun in the moment, enjoying each other’s company. The idea behind “how to date for data” is that some people benefit from having a structured framework to be more successful at dating. Despite the many competing reasons for dating, there are some basic guidelines to help people become more efficient/successful in dating.
Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses across the facets of their lives. Some may find it easier to recognize their specific strengths and weaknesses at work, in friendships and even in connecting with family, but struggle to have the same awareness of their self within intimate relationships.
In your career, you may expect the learning curve of encountering failures along the way until you gain more experience. Dating does not come with as straight forward data as your education or career world did. Many jobs require an internship where you are able to gain the practice necessary to acquire more strengths as you get out into the real job. This allows you to make mistakes and adjust without as many consequences. While in dating there is not an internship equivalent to learn as much as you need to date and have successful relationships. Dating and sexual relationships also come with a harder, more personal recovery time after something you had hoped for did not work out when you were emotionally invested in the relationship.
Other people may also struggle with work. The issue may be the same as the dating world where you’ve had to be left to your own devices to sort out the data attempting to create a structure that works for you. Dating may resemble these tasks or feel like another game as well.
There is no formula for this process. Intelligent, successful people often manage their lives with straight forward processes where the data you gain impacts the decisions you make. However, dating can feel like a very confusing, nonsensical adventure. You try one approach with one person and you got rejected. You try a different approach with the same person and it worked. Then you try the same approach that had been successful with someone new and it didn’t go anywhere, cue rejection again. Repeat over and over until you want to give up on the entire process and remain alone forever. The trial and error of dating when you are a data collector at heart is exhaustingly confusing.
Humans are complex creatures with similar basic needs, variable emotional needs, and different expectations for relationships. The basic need in dating, being human connection and sexual needs. Emotional needs may depend on personality traits or attachment style.
However complicated, people still provide and collect data all the time. Most people are just not paying enough attention to the real data out there or within one’s self. Sometimes, daters struggle to test their gut and follow what they really want while dating. Instead, they get caught up in overanalyzing the entire process or unintentionally following the social scripts they have seen in movies or heard about from their friends. Follow these guidelines to become a more efficient dater.
Know Your Dating Goals
Expectations for one self and what they want out of relationships are always present, but often not expressed directly in the average couple’s dating game. Some people have an easier time than others clarifying their goals with potential partners. Reasons for this are not wanting to seem too needy. Attempting to be patient. Not wanting to be “that girl” or “that guy”. Really trying to avoid any toxic gender stereotypes deemed as turn offs by society and prove to your date that you are an exception to the rules.
The consequence of not clearly communicating your expectations within relationships is missing an opportunity to have your needs met and confront any assumptions made about what they want/need so you can be a better partner. If one person is looking for marriage and the other is looking for a weekend fling, it’s more likely to not end well. Communicating helps each person have realistic expectations from which to make decisions from.
Learning from Your Dating Woes
The things you didn’t like from previous relationships is essential data to help you know yourself better for dating others. Dating is all about learning what problems you are able and/or willing to deal in order to weed out the problems that you may not have the skill set or empathy for in a genuine, long-term relationship.
You owe it to yourself and potential partners to continually re-evaluate these deal breakers so you are not wasting your own or other’s time.
Not Wasting Time
Your time is valuable. You’re busy. It’s hard enough to make time to date, let alone date a few people and have it not work out. With the pressure of not wasting time, people try to make split decisions on whether or not you should give someone a chance to date and then if they think they could see themselves with them long term. This is a process, not a one-time question.
Imagine all the data you collect filters through a funnel. Everyone will have different expectations for where they put their priorities and at what pace of a relationship they feel like they need to assert these needs.
The things on top are the aspects about another person that one finds attractive.
- Similar interests
- Physical attractiveness
- Fun together
- Emotional congruence
- Intellectual stimulation
Talking about expectations. Whenever you start spending more time with someone, finding out where each of you stands currently and what you eventually want out of a relationship is important.
Deciding to be sexual
- Whenever you decide to be sexual, how will you protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy?
- What will you do if someone gets pregnant?
- Sexual preferences
- Communicating about pleasure and affection
How well do your lifestyles fit together?
- Level of work ethic
- Level of socializing
- Amount of time you’d like to spend together and what you enjoy doing
Deciding to be exclusive
- Creating boundaries with others outside of yourselves that you both are comfortable with
Integration with friends and family
Decision on next steps and what they would mean to you
- Moving in together
- Out of convenience?
- A major step before you start talking about marriage?
The tip of the funnel would be questions to ask yourself in premarital therapy, however, many people have success when they start imagining these aspects in earlier dating phases.
- How do you two handle money?
- Do you want children?
- How many kids do you want?
- How important is religion/spirituality in your life?
- Where do you want to live?
- What do you imagine for your work/life balance?
- How would you describe what a life worth living would be?
- How would you handle being attracted to other people outside your relationship?
- What are your long-term goals for your relationship?
Many other daters out there are struggling with similar issues. You don’t have to deal with it all alone. A therapist can help you collect data and date better while exploring more about yourself as a dater along the way. Visit the Center for Growth for more information.