What's Your Love Label?
- Dating is funny
- I'm learning a lot: Where I am is exactly where I need to be
- I'm a great catch and attract great people
- I have faith: I know in my heart it will all work out
- Dating sucks
- I'm losing patience
- I'm unlucky in love
- I'm losing faith: No good guys are left
Last year, I worked with "Heather," who checked off every negative perspective I offered. "Yep!" she said when I read, "Dating sucks." "Very true!" she added when I got to "I'm losing patience." And when I ended with, "I'm losing faith: No good guys are left," she paused for a moment...and started to cry.
I asked Heather to justify the perspective to me. Why did dating suck? Why was she losing patience and faith? With tears streaming down her face, she admitted that she never imagined she'd still be single at 39. I asked her why, in her opinion, she was single, and she explained that she's "unlucky in love"—that things never work out with her dates and that the men she likes overlook her or cheat on her. I challenged her and asked if it was possible that her dating success was less about luck and more about her choices in men, but Heather insisted she was cursed in some way. "Unlucky in love" was Heather's love label, and she was sticking to it.
I instructed Heather to pick a more positive perspective from the list and justify it to me—even if she did not initially agree with it. She quickly chose "Dating is funny" and proceeded to tell me a hysterical story about a blind date she had had a few weeks prior. When the bill for their coffees arrived, her date mentioned that her portion was $4.82. She didn't have correct change so gave him a $10 bill, and he took it. "The guy made money on our date!" she laughed. Heather said she has an entire repertoire of bad dating tales and could do a comedy tour with her material.
Next, I asked Heather to try on the love label, "Where I am is exactly where I need to be," but this label did not stick. Heather insisted that it was not in her life plan to be without a partner at her age, and she resented the fact that she was still single. She admitted that she finds it hard to get motivated to participate in interesting activities because she does not have someone special to share great moments with. She told me about how hot she was in college and how many men liked her then. She painted a picture of the future she imagined she would have with a family of her own. She was frustrated that she was not closer to realizing this goal.
Try a new positive label
I challenged Heather and asked her to justify the positive perspective I offered, even if she did not agree with it. "Well, if I settled down years ago, I may not have realized my professional goals. Also, I'd like to thank some of the jerks I've dated since they taught me what to look for and what to avoid. What if I married and had kids with John? That would've been a disaster. Where I am is where I need to be. I'm much more open and ready now to find a healthy relationship."
Heather asserted this perspective with more confidence than her "unlucky in love" label. I could tell she believed it.
After justifying both sides, one that reinforced how difficult dating is and one that reaffirmed her faith in the process, I asked Heather which perspective she preferred. She chose "I'm learning a lot: Where I am is exactly where I need to be" because it would make dating more enjoyable and relieve some of the pressure she had been putting on herself. It would also make her appear less needy and negative to the men she hoped to attract.
The reality is that all of the love labels from the above list—from the very best vantage point of dating to the worst—can be true for you depending on the day (or the hour!). In dating, and in life for that matter, we settle on a perspective and then we collect evidence to support our outlook. If you believe that all men are jerks, you will inevitably spot all the jerks around town. You may even date a number of them. If you wear the label "Always the friend", I can assure you that most men won't see you as the sexy woman you are.
Like Heather, you may be so accustomed to the negative self-talk that you have forgotten you actually have a choice in the matter!
Perspective is a choice you make every day. With a little practice, you can teach yourself to reframe a situation to find the lesson, the blessing or at least the humor in dates or relationships that do not work out.
Does that mean you have to grin and bear it each time a guy who you would not even consider being with rejects you first? You are certainly entitled to days during which you vent and complain about bad dates, but if you are single and hoping to find a partner, you must commit to wearing a more permanent love label that embraces a positive perspective about yourself, the men around you and the process. Doing this is easier than you may realize because somewhere inside, you do have faith in the process or you would have already given up on dating completely.
My dating dare for you this month is to try on a new positive love label, justify why it's true and commit to saying it every day. Once you do this, notice who you attract and see who shows up. More importantly—see how you show up.
Andrea Syrtash is an author, advice columnist, and the host of 'On Dating', produced by NBC Digital Studios. Her advice has been featured on NBC's Today, USA Today and NPR, among others. She has contributed to over a dozen relationship-advice books. Her new book, "He's Just Not Your Type (And That's a Good Thing)", will be published in April 2010. Between 2007-2009 Andrea Syrtash was a Google 'hot trend', ranking in the top 100 things googled on particular days. She has no idea how that happened, but appreciates the (very post-modern) honor. For more, please visit AndreaSyrtash.com