Consciously or not, we all do a sort of binary inventory as we approach Valentine’s Day. I either have someone, or I don’t have someone in my life. For those of us who do, great; for those who don’t, not so great. Sure, we can comfort ourselves with some of the affirmations of modern wisdom, but after a while our words can often sound self-mocking: “...and gosh darn it, people like me!”
But not having the right partner is an opportunity, so let's start with a different sort of inventory: What have you learned about yourself and your needs from your past failed relationships? Let’s take a hypothetical example.
OK, it’s me.
From the spectacular failures of my past, I have learned a number of lessons; so based on these, here's your starter kit to successful romance:
1. I’m responsible for all of it. These were not arranged relationships swapped out over exchanges of camels and goats. I picked them — all of them! The sooner I take responsibility for those choices, the sooner I can learn the lessons life is trying to teach me.
2. What’s the rush? I know I’m emotionally needy but still! It’s essential to go slow enough to find out the most important fact of all: Do I really enjoy this person’s company? Best trick to avoid BS-ing yourself: Pretend they have the genitalia you’re not interested in and ask yourself (multiple times) if you still find them so captivating.
3. Date a lot of people. Would you buy the first house you ever looked at? We think of that as the biggest financial decision of our lives, but ask a divorcee, and they usually have a different answer. Do your research. And BTW, we’re talking dating as in “engaging in intentional romantic socializing.” If you’re going to have sex, have sex — but don’t call it dating.
4. Avoid commitment (at least for a while). People make mistakes. Dang it, I’ve made mistakes, big ones. The first three to four months following the actually falling in love are pretty much purely narcissistic in that what I love about the other person is what I love about myself. It’s a lot easier to move on than it is to break up, so wait until you find out about their very personal bad habits. And about the sex: Don't have it if you can't separate sex from commitment.
Last rule: Don't forget to have fun with even the bad dates. Take risks by telling the truth ("I really don't think I'm the right person for you.") and by telling people who you are and what you want. This is about being open and vulnerable — not obnoxious. Do this and you'll never have another boring date in your life.