Dating is awkward
You are not alone if you hate dating but want a relationship. I’ve actually never met any person who absolutely loves the initial stages of dating. Often, going on dates in the beginning can be anxiety inducing, uncomfortable, or even boring. After all, not many of us love small talk. It’s completely understandable if it’s not a process you enjoy.
However, no matter how cringey dating feels sometimes, it still is a necessary step to finding a lasting, healthy relationship. Therefore, learning to reframe how we think about dating is valuable.
Dating to get a relationship
It’s valuable to consider the early stages of dating as an assessment phase. During those early dates, it’s too soon to tell if you and another person will be a good long-term match. That’s why you take some time early on to assess if they can successfully fit into your life long-term.
On these first 3 to 5 dates, you are discovering if you and this other person are compatible. You are assessing if you will be satisfied long-term with one another by asking such questions: Do your visions for the future align? Do you enjoy similar lifestyles? Are your life goals compatible?
For example, if you want to be a digital nomad and your date wants to settle in their hometown, you’re probably not a great long-term match. Or if you want children and they don’t, it’s not a viable partnership.
If you want to find your life partner, it’s valuable to take a different approach to dating. It’s wonderful to have chemistry and fun together but building a life with someone requires more than that. It requires that your inherent needs are satisfied to be happy long-term.
Related: Should I give up on dating?
What do you need?
The best assessment tool for dating in a way which guides you to the lasting relationship you desire is identifying your non-negotiables needs. Your non-negotiable needs are those things you need no matter what to feel like you truly found your person.
Getting clear on your non-negotiable needs allows you to identify what are true deal-breakers for you. While you may prefer a partner who is a certain height or has a certain income level, you may notice that these aren’t the most important things to you. The most important qualities to feel satisfied and safe in a relationship are your non-negotiables.
Your non-negotiable needs are authentic
These needs exist, deep down, whether you honor them or not. These are things you must experience in your partner to not feel like you settled or your denying aspects of yourself. Your non-negotiable needs may include things around life goals such as having a family or qualities such as kindness.
I’ve never met any two people whose non-negotiable needs are exactly the same. These are based on our personal histories, cultures, and unique perspectives in the world. Your non-negotiable needs are simply a part of your authentic self.
Related: Am I too picky?
For example, you may want someone who is “honest” while another person may want someone who is “trustworthy.” At the end of the day, we can see these are the same concept. However, finding the most accurate word for you is incredibly helpful. Deep down, you know what “honest” looks and sounds like while “trustworthy” may not resonate with you.
You may feel the impulse to judge your non-negotiable needs but it’s important to radically accept them. Your need is what it is. There are no “good” or “bad” needs. Acceptance of your needs is crucial because denying or judging them doesn’t make it actually go away. It just leads to inner conflict and externally, unhealthy or dissatisfying relationships.
For years, I denied my non-negotiable need for commitment in a relationship. I often dated emotionally unavailable men and would act like it was ok. I’d tell myself I wasn’t traditional and I was “cooler” than to want to get married. The reality is though, deep down, I wanted to experience true commitment and partnership.
When I dated these unavailable men, I would break down sometimes asking for more because that’s what I needed. However, shortly thereafter I would go back to “accepting” the lack of commitment in our relationship.
I spent my entire 20s and half of my 30s emotionally dissatisfied because I was so busy judging my need for commitment. Of course, it was only until I accepted this need that I could date in a new way by assessing if my dates wanted commitment. This led me to my husband finally.
After a decade of working as a relationship therapist, I have discovered we all have 3 non-negotiable needs we have in any relationship including our friendships and with family members to feel safe. These may be people who are supportive or spiritual, for example. Remember, only you can identify your non-negotiable needs as they come from your authentic self.
Next, we have 3 qualities we need in a romantic/sexual partnership to feel safe and satisfied. Personally, I needed a romantic partnership where there was mutual attraction but I absolutely don’t need that in my other relationships.
One way to identify your needs is to consider the areas in which you’ve been dissatisfied in other relationships. Maybe your dad was quick to anger so you realize you need a partner who values peace. Or maybe you had an ex who was critical so you need people who are supportive. Take some time to journal if needed about areas that have been upsetting in other relationships as this will reveal your needs.
To simplify this process, I’ve created a worksheet to help you identify your non-negotiable needs. I’ll send it free to you right to your inbox:
Dating in a new way
Moving forward, I encourage you to go on early dates with your assessment tool in mind. Is your date able to meet all of your non-negotiable needs or not? This may seem extreme but I have seen many couples break-up, or divorce, because they entered these relationships not being honest with themselves. The more fully you can be honest about your authentic needs and honor them, the more success you will have in finding the right person for you.
While you may be attracted to someone or have fun with someone, if you want to find your life partner, it’s valuable to assess your relationships from the place of your non-negotiable needs. This prevents you from feeling like you “settled” or are unhappy in the future.
Finally, to experience the dating success you desire, I encourage you to ask yourself if you embody these qualities that you need in someone else. For example, are you supportive if you want that? If not, it’s important to work on healing those parts of self to attract what you most desire since like attracts like.
About The Author
Krystal Mazzola Wood, LMFT is a practicing relationship therapist with over a decade of experience. Currently, Krystal sees clients at her private practice, The Healthy Relationship Foundation. She has dedicated her entire career to empowering people to heal from unhealthy relationship processes. She does this by teaching the skills and tools necessary to have a life filled with healthy and loving relationships.
This passion led her to write her best-selling books and create courses. Her books, The Codependency Recovery Plan: A 5-Step Guide to Understand, Accept, and Break Free from the Codependent Cycle and The Codependency Workbook: Simple Practices for Developing and Maintaining Your Independence have helped many people heal.
She is currently working on her book, Self-Love Made Possible: The 5-Step Guide to Stop Being Your Own Worst Enemy and Become Your Own Best Friend. To be notified of its release, please join the waitlist here.
If you have any personal dating or relationship questions, Krystal is happy to provide advice using her expertise and compassion. If you feel comfortable, feel free to leave any questions in the comments of this post. Otherwise, you may send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or DM her on Instagram.
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