When online dating, it’s easy to get so wrapped up in the experience that you lose sight of who you were before you logged on and started meeting new people. From forgoing your regular social activities or interests to make time for dates to becoming so wrapped up in the lives of the people you’re dating that you forget to live yours – either way, it’s a slippery slope.
We all want to meet someone special and feel loved, but that shouldn’t come at the cost of losing your identity in the process. If you’re going to find what you’re after – a loving, healthy relationship – maintaining a strong sense of self is key.
Here’s a few ways to maintain your individual identity so you can get the most out of dating.
Make sure you set aside time for yourself.
Most of us have been there – we get so excited about the prospect of meeting new people that we schedule a bunch of dates back to back throughout the week, only to realize once Friday rolls around that we’re completely exhausted, our DVR is packed to the gills and we’re now wearing a bathing suit for underwear because we haven’t done laundry in ten days. Sound familiar? I’ve done this more times than I can count. Keep in mind that dating isn’t a sprint – it’s a marathon. You need to learn to conserve your time and energy so that you can stay on point.
While it’s totally cool to schedule multiple dates throughout the week, make sure you’re also setting aside time for you. Whether it’s to unwind with your favorite shows, catch up on your podcast queue, go to the salon or barber shop or just chill, making sure you get enough “me time” while you’re online dating. Not only is it key for maintaining your energy, it also helps you set healthy boundaries. If spending time with your pet iguana is what makes you feel happy and grounded, you need to spend time with that iguana, no ifs, ands or buts. Dating should be a fun addition to your life, not your entire life.
Don’t change for anyone.
Like the Isley Brothers sang: don’t change, don’t change. In order to be successful at online dating, you shouldn’t have to completely change who you are as a person to attract a date. With that said, if you’re inviting dates back to your apartment that looks like a bio-hazard or you’re still using the same badly lit, blurry dating photos – those are things you might want to switch up in order to put your best foot forward. Relationships will change you, but you need to learn to recognize positive change versus the kind of change that isn’t healthy. Getting some more polished online dating photos and trying a green smoothie on a date for the first time = positive change. Completely altering your wardrobe, personality and values to suit someone else = not healthy.
While there are lots of small tweaks each of us can make to help put our best foot forward while online dating, at the end of the day, you are who you are – own the heck out of it. The right person is going to like you just the way you are.
Don’t ditch your friends.
You know what’s crappy? Bailing on your friends as soon as you start dating. Don’t be that person. Yes, dating can be time consuming and you may not have quite as much time for bottomless mimosas with your best buds, but it’s important that you set aside time to catch up with your friends. Friendships help ground us. These are the people who care about you and have seen you at your best and your worst. They’re your support network. When life and dating gets you down, they’re the people who will help lift you up. Don’t neglect them.
Prioritize your family.
Same goes for your family. Whether your family includes biological relatives, a close knit collection of friends or a combination of both- make sure that you’re taking the time out of your dating schedule to spend time with the people who matter most to you. They were around before you started this dating journey. Value them.
Be the kind of person you’d want to date.
It’s all about balance. Would you want to date someone who didn’t have any friends, family commitments or interests outside of online dating? Of course not. Independence is incredibly attractive. Most people want to date someone who is well-rounded, has lots of interests and hobbies and is able to maintain close relationships with other people. Set an example and be the kind of person you want to date.