I’ve been asked this many times as I’ve been dating. It’s an understandable question once people know that I am a psychotherapist. That is in essence what I do for a living. I analyze people.  I’ve learned to respond with “Yes! And I hope you’re doing the same thing too!”

But they’re not.

What I’ve learned in two years of dating is that people don’t know how to date  . . . at least not well. They know how to go on a date and go through the motions but analyzing, judging and discerning are skills that they don’t apply.

Most of us have been taught that “falling in love” is the way to go but the facts are the facts and they belie this reality.

According to the US Census Bureau from 2012 (5 years ago):

  • 41 percent of first marriages end in divorce.
  • 60 percent of second marriages end in divorce.
  • 73 percent of third marriages end in divorce.

These percentages do not, however, take into account how many of the 59% still married are not happy or are perhaps even miserable but stay together for the kids, financial stability, immigration status or just out of plain fear that being alone would be even worse than what they already have.

None of us want to be seen as lacking and inferior especially coming out of relationships where many of us spent months and months if not years and years feeling those very things in our ex’s presence. And even if we were miserable, at least we belonged with somebody, at least we weren’t alone.

But if we don’t approach dating from a conscious and deliberate mentality, where we reveal who we really are and what we really want much sooner, we are destined to repeat our pattern of choosing a partner that might start off with a bang and end with a thud.

One thing to do differently is know your destination. None of us take a trip and merely say we are heading north. We choose a specific city. A location. One with an actual GPS coordinate.

So in dating, we must do the same. Saying I want a partner is like saying I want to go north. It’s not specific enough. Make a list of what you want in a partner. Very similar to making a list of all the elements you want in choosing a new home.

For example, I choose a partner who  . . . takes care of themselves physically, is a spiritual seeker, enjoys the outdoors, loves kids, is more of an extrovert than an introvert, or at least an introvert with great social skills, invests in relationships, has long term friendships, is curious about life, enjoys dancing, has a great balance in life, etc.

This list cannot be too specific or too detailed. Have fun with it.

And just like choosing a new home or choosing a vacation destination there will be adjustments and allowances made along the way for the greater good but with a whole lot more success if there is a deliberate process and consciousness about the choosing of it.

Sometimes people don’t know how to get started on what they want so they spend time listing what they don’t want. For example: I never want to be lied to again. I never want someone who ignores me, or my feelings. I never want to be iced out of the bedroom again.

I encourage people to do this until they completely run out of steam and then ask them to simply write down the opposite of each of the things they listed they never want to experience again and then the list of what they DO want begins to manifest.

Here are some categories to consider as you make your list of what you choose in a partner:

  • Physical attributes (height, weight, tattoos, facial hair, athletic, non-athletic, etc.)
  • Education/Intelligence (these are not necessarily the same thing)
  • White collar/Blue collar
  • Children/Parenting (want them or not/share raising them/similar styles)
  • Age/Maturity (these are not necessarily the same thingJ)
  • Shared Interests
  • Addictions or Abuse of substances (alcohol, drugs, pills, sex, porn, gambling, food, etc.)
  • Sex (compatibility, frequency, importance)
  • Financial stability/Ambition
  • Religion/Spirituality
  • Communication skills
  • Health and Fitness
  • Friends and Family
  • Hobbies and Interests
  • Availability (physical and emotional ability to show up)
  • Integrity (actions match his or her words)

Let’s become better consumers of the dating process! Let’s get clear and comfortable with where we are going and what our final destination looks like.

How else will we know we’ve arrived if we don’t get a clear picture of where we are going? Let’s use our super power skills of analysis, judgment, and discernment to make our journey much more efficient and our final destination will inevitably be much more enjoyable and rewarding.

Let’s invest in a lot more clarity about what we choose up front in order to avoid a lot more pain and suffering on the back end.