Dating: A self-designed personal-growth workshop

Maybe you’re like me and have attended a lot of seminars. Perhaps some of these have been personal-growth workshops. After taking a bunch of them, you realize you can design a lot of the activities yourself. If you are a good student, you see that you don’t really need someone else to design the processes and led you through them. You can do this for yourself.

You become adept at making many life events learning experiences. Sometimes they are unpleasant episodes, but even those can produce valuable lessons.

Thus it is with dating. No matter what happens, there is a lesson for you. It could be affirming, “Great decision. Do that again.” Or it could be admonishing, “That was dumb. How could you let yourself get in that situation?” Either way, you’ve added to your wisdom arsenal, even if it was just reinforcing information you already knew.

Once you appreciate all the lessons you get from an experience after the fact, you become more emboldened to be pro-active about gaining the lessons. You plan activities that will force you to examine your feelings and behaviors. “Like what?” you ask.

kissingLet’s say in the past you’ve allowed intimacy to just unfold spontaneously, without thinking beforehand, “Do I want to have sex with this guy? If I do have sex with him, what will be my expectations of him afterward? I usually then become more attached to a guy, so will I be clingy? Or hurt if he doesn’t call the next day or act like we’re an item now?” One thing has always led to another, sometimes with the help of alcohol or loneliness or skin hunger. And afterward, if he didn’t call or step up his contact with you, you felt slutty, or used, or hurt.

So how could you be proactive about designing a process that would cause you to have a new lesson in this example? What if you decided you would talk to the guy you are dating about sex before you get too far into the activities to want to stop? What if after some extended smooching, you paused and said, “Can we talk about sex?” It’s not too early in the relationship to do so, and it appears he’s interested in you romantically. But your clothes (at least most of them) are still on, so you’re not at a place where you are promising something that you may not deliver.

The lesson for you would be that you learned you could have a serious discussion with the man you’re dating. If he poo-poos talking about it, gets upset that you’ve stopped the action, or gives you one-word responses while trying to remove your clothes, you know all you need about this man to not continue. If he’s able to stop and have a discussion about what sex means to each of you, what you need from him to have sex with him eventually (not tonight), and about STDs/safe sex/protection, you see that you are with someone who is emotionally mature.

But if the discussion is difficult for you to bring up, you then get to examine why. Is it that you are afraid of being rejected for stopping the action? He might get annoyed and leave, never to call again? What is it in you that finds this discussion so difficult that you’ve never brought it up with anyone before?

So no matter what happens, you get a chance to examine your thoughts and feelings which led to the actions. And you also get to examine how you felt about yourself afterwards. All of which makes for a very rich personal-growth seminar!

How have you found dating to be a personal-growth experience? What questions have you learned to ask yourself that squeeze learnings out of nearly every dating experience?

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3 responses to “Dating: A self-designed personal-growth workshop”

  1. Gatti Avatar

    When I started my most recent round of dating my self esteem had taken a bit of a battering in the previous few years. After about 5 months of Cognitive Behavourial Therapy I felt I wanted to explore how I was with other people, WHO I was with other people!

    And it worked. With each date (all of which were pleasant if not leading to anything), I got a clearer picture of who I was and who I wanted to be with. When I found him I recognized him right away, and he me. In fact he was using dating for exactly the same reason, to gain insight into who he was and what he wanted. Bingo!

  2. Sassy Avatar

    With each date and/or boyfriend, I always ask myself what I have learned and how can I use that lesson to find what I’m looking for (a bright, commited, sexy partner). I actually feel lucky that I have been placed with this situation (through my divorce) so that I can grow as a person. And it’s been a fun journey so far…..

  3. Susan Avatar

    Yes, it is an evolving learning experience and I’ve found myself narrowing things down to a smaller and smaller pool. Intelligence was always high on my list, but I’ve come to realize that I need a man who is sophisticated and intelligent. I’ve dated a couple of professorial types who were so narrowly focused, I simply could not relate to them.

    I’ve tried the other extreme of giving most guys at least one date and widening my options, but that always comes to an unsatisfactory end. A guy contacted me who shares my hobby of scuba diving and after reading his profile I decided that perhaps we could dive together as friends. We set up a date and he drove 250 miles to meet me. All he did was rag on his previous girlfriends and complain about other people he had met online. I can’t bring myself to even like him as a friend.

    I haven’t found a balace between too narrowly focused and too much shooting in the dark. It is a journey and I don’t have the requsite frequent flyer miles to feel comfortable with it yet.