As a single woman in my late 30s navigating the dating waters (again), I want and am ready for “grown up” love.
I’m ready to be in a partnership, one in which we laugh until our stomachs hurt and unconditionally have each other’s backs.
One that weathers each storm, and lasts beyond measure.
One that aligns spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually, and as time goes on, continues to deepen—as raw and unpredictable and imperfect as it may sometimes be.
But, there’s a cultural pressure interfering with my dating game. And it’s becoming a problem.
The push to achieve that “happily ever after” love (as though it’s waiting right around the corner—if only you’d known where to look!) is in my newsfeed, and on the shelves of my local bookstore, and even on my recommended reading list on Amazon.
In fact, the media has given this expectation (and pressure) a name: soulmate dating.
Soulmate dating, soulmate love, twin flame love, or any variation of these terms are the new dating trend. I see it all over social media, with headlines like, “Clear the Clutter for your Soulmate to Arrive!” or, “How to Align yourself with your Soulmate and Manifest Him Now!” or, “The Secret to Finding your Soulmate.”
So what’s the problem?
This idea evokes a nagging pressure to find that kind of instant, and intense, love right off the bat—and it brings about feelings of shame as well: Why haven’t I found my soulmate when it seems like so many others have?
Then, one day, it arrived: an unsolicited email titled, “Your Soulmate Kit: Don’t Miss Out On The One!”
I clicked on the link.
I read the compelling pitch, and in a state of urgency to find my soulmate (because, ack—so many others already had!), I bought it.
I read through the set of “rules” I was supposed to use to determine if a potential partner may be The One.
I printed out the “soulmate checklist,” and for the next three months, I followed everything to a T.
I soulmate dated.
Some dates were good, some were bad, and some were really, really bizarre—like the guy who showed up in a Superman cape and shirt, and insisted I refer to him as Clark.
But ultimately, this soulmate dating experience prevented me from being honest, authentic, and present-minded because I was too busy trying to be the perfect soulmate match for another, and because I was too focused on searching for signs that he might be mine.
At the end of the three months, I didn’t find my soulmate. But I did learn a few important tools that I’ve carried with me, and that have made my current dating life the best it has ever been.
I’ve learned how to enjoy dating for the colorful, spontaneous, and life-enriching experience it’s meant to be.
I’ve learned to embrace the raw experience of dating, so I can grow, learn, and affirm what I do and don’t want in a relationship. (And in the case of Superman, have a few good laughs with a stranger, because how often do we get to have a margarita with a superhero?)
These days, I invest in the most basic concept of dating there is: dating is supposed to be fun.
Fun is the starting point for our “happily ever after.”
Who knows if we’ll fall in love with one another, but the bigger questions are:
Do we actually like each other?
Are we sharing openly with one another?
Are we laughing together?
Are we sharing a moment that feels good?
Do we genuinely enjoy each other on the most basic level, and if not as a new love interest, as a newfound friend?
Here are a few more tips that can make a first date a great date:
I enjoy it for what it’s worth, instead of piling the expectations on my date to be what I need him to be.
I share who I am and give my date a sneak peek into my life, instead of being guarded about it.
I let him know how much I’m enjoying getting to know him.
I give him a compliment like, “I’m having such a fun time tonight! Thank you for a great night out.” I find this goes a long way, and usually makes for a great second date, as well.
And the best part of my newfound dating practice is this: I go where the moment of that first date takes me, whether it’s a deep conversation that I didn’t see coming, or an unexpectedly loud laugh because his joke was off the charts and I simply couldn’t help myself.
It’s a blast at best, and an experience I’ll always remember at worst.
Either way, it’s a win-win.
I am no longer interested in the promise of “soulmate dating.” I’m interested in the wild, meaningful adventure that real dating brings to my life.
Soulmate or no soulmate, I’ve found these to be the only “rules” I really need to succeed and create my own happily ever after, whenever and however it comes.