By Susan Finley, Ed.D., NCC
Google “online dating tips” and you will be inundated with article after article ranging from top ranking dating sites to online dating safety tips, to rules of dating, to how to set up a winning profile (or avoid a terrible one).
“The Dating Game”
There are many suggestions on the do’s and don’ts regarding dating behaviors in the early stages. While there are definitely positive tips on the “rules of dating,” be wary of a one-size-fits-all approach. Dating is difficult, and many first dates will never continue on to a second, so be patient with yourself and others.
Planning Your First Date
Plan your first date in a public setting that does not serve alcohol, i.e., meeting in coffee shops, engaging in outdoor activities, going to a museum, etc. Many dating sites have an option to state your drinking preference, i.e., heavy, moderate, or none. Keep in mind that even if your date has checked “does not drink,” it cannot be assumed that the person has also struggled with substance use in the past. There are a variety of reasons a person chooses not to drink, therefore plan your date accordingly.
To Share or Not to Share
Choosing not to share past addiction struggles with one’s date is not being untruthful. Would anyone argue that not disclosing the fact that they are diabetic on the first date is being dishonest? Certainly, it is a part of that person, but not the entirety. Though it may have consumed a large part of an individual’s life, no person should be defined by past struggles with substance use.
Too Much Too Soon
A good rule of thumb is to wait to get to know someone before diving into the past. If it is the right person, it will become apparent when is a good time to share vulnerable information. In other words, scaring the person off on the first date is never anyone’s intention, but sharing too much too soon may do just that. While honesty and straightforwardness are always best when getting to know someone new, it is also important to safeguard and steer clear of sharing in too much detail one’s past discretions. Think of it this way: we want to present ourselves to new people in the most positive light, ensuring that we are seen for who we really are, not the long list of past struggles we have endured
Let Your Light Shine Through
A more effective and healthy way to get to know and learn about someone new is to begin by sharing your own qualities and traits that make you most proud. Give yourself the credit you deserve. For example: I’m an excellent musician, I love nature and animals, I am a good friend, I love to take care of my body by staying active, etc.” Connecting with another person on shared positive qualities and interests is a great start. Keeping conversation upbeat makes us feel good, allowing for both parties to portray themselves in the most natural, relaxed, and organic state.
Stay Optimistic For Future Dates
Remember, you are scoping your date out as well. It is natural to be fearful of how we are perceived by others and want to give someone a “heads up” about less than glamorous past behaviors before they “find out.” It is also easy to forget that everyone else has a unique set of struggles too. Start a new relationship on the right note by learning about each other’s positive qualities first. Getting to know another person more intimately takes time, but the right person will accept all parts of what makes you unique, and that alone is worth the wait.
Susan Finley, Ed.D., NCC is an educator, published researcher, and social media consultant for therapists. She is a National Certified Counselor (NCC), Board Certified-TeleMental Health Provider (BC-TMH), and Suicide Prevention Instructor (QPR) under the National Board for Certified Counselors.
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