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Making Sense of the Dating Process
by Jackie Black, Ph.D.

Dating is a process with a beginning, middle and end. Very importantly, the process is different depending on why you are dating.

If you are dating to find your ideal partner, be crystal clear; the more you know what you want the more likely you will be successful finding your ideal partner.

If you are dating for friendship or to create social opportunities, take the time to find the right words to let the people you are dating know that you are not ready for a committed relationship.

Be a good observer of your feelings and behavior. Let the people you date experience you in the places in which you are the most comfortable doing the things that you most love.

Stop Dead-end Dating
If your goal is to find your ideal partner, then stop dating the person you are dating as soon as you recognize that she/he is not your ideal match. Approach dating as a process of discovery, realizing that the end of the process is discovering your ideal match; it will save lots of wear and tear on your emotions.

Identifying Your Ideal Match
We create our life and our love life through our beliefs, intentions and the actions we take in the world. Vision, Needs/Values, Life Purpose and Mission are the four corners, the foundational pieces of your inner life.

Create an image of your life with your ideal partner that includes anything and everything you ever wanted, using as many rich details as you can.

Become an expert on BOTH you and your ideal partner by identifying major life areas that are important to you both. Then imagine how you might like your ideal match to express herself/himself in each area.

Bring a fresh curiosity to each new person you meet. Hear, see, and react to her/him—not to an old image of a previous experience. Appreciate yourself for your courage and trust that your efforts will be richly rewarded.

Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say
Most of us know how to speak. Many of us have never learned how to communicate.

To communicate clearly and effectively you must understand there are two sides to every communication—one who sends the communication and one who receives it. Likewise, there are two methods of communication—verbal and non-verbal communication. Just because you are not speaking, doesn’t mean you are not communicating.

“Iapostrophe-Message Feedback
Speaking from the “Iapostrophe position is very useful for assertively and accurately expressing scary or negative feelings or thoughts to someone else.

An “Iapostrophe message has three parts: a feeling or request; a factual description of the situation/event; and the impact, effect or result it has/had on you.

Listening With More Than Your Ears
Most of us know how to hear. Many of us have never learned how to listen.

Effective listening is the ability to receive, attend to, interpret and respond appropriately to the purpose of the sender. Pay attention to what isnapostrophet said—to feelings, facial expressions, gestures, posture and other nonverbal cues.

Respond to the speaker with verbal and nonverbal cues that confirm you are listening and understanding. The sender wants to be understood! Make eye contact, settle down, breathe deeply—become a receiver of information, thoughts and feelings being expressed by the sender.

Let go of your own agenda, opinions, advice and judgments while you are listening. Ask clarifying questions and invite the sender to say more. Offer your understanding by nodding, mirroring what you heard/understood, or gesturing in some subtle way that you get it!

Setting Boundaries, Making Commitments and Crafting Elegant Agreements
These are three essential life skills and absolute requirements of a loving, lasting relationship.

Setting personal boundaries requires that you have knowledge about your needs, values, attitudes, beliefs, likes, dislikes and preferences. As you choose to set and maintain your boundaries, do so with intention and with deliberate words/actions.

Making and keeping agreements and commitments comprise fundamental ingredients of any relationship. Not honoring the agreements or commitments you make with people is a betrayal of your relationship with that person.

Crafting elegant agreements is a process that includes three essential keys: (1) know who you are and what you need, want, value and believe; (2) become willing and able to honor who you are and ask for what you want; and, (3) find your courage and accurately articulate all that to another person.

Stop Criticizing: Start Complaining and Making Requests
Complaining is a healthy way to convey your grievances and objections when your desires and needs go unmet. Request a change after you have aired your complaint.

Giving Up / Giving In
These are signs that you feel powerless and undeserving. Settling for less is often the result of not recognizing that your thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, needs and wants are legitimate. Compromising and negotiating can only occur when you honor and respect your thoughts, attitudes, values, beliefs, needs and wants, hopes and dreams and deem them legitimate.

Remember, only YOU can make it happen!

About the author:

Jackie Black, Ph.D., is an internationally recognized relationship educator, author and coach who works with men and women who are single again, newly-married, new parents, divorced, widowed or in a committed relationship that is challenging! Dr. Jackie’s book, Meeting Your Match: Cracking the Code to Successful Relationships is the pre-eminent guide to “how- toapostrophe make a relationship work, and navigate the world of dating. Dr. Jackie is a frequent guest expert and a popular Internet syndicated columnist, and a veteran lecturer and educator. Dr. Jackie lives in Southern California. For more information visit