You’re not the only one who has invested months or even years into a relationship because you convinced yourself that you found “the one,” only to feel duped later on.
When you’re in the courtship phase, your brain produces chemicals, which act like a love potion — enhancing excitement, focus and attention. This leads to that giddy and happy feeling. If you throw sex into the mix, the bonding hormone makes you feel even more connected to your partner.
When you leave your new guy’s side, your brain then struggles with diminished serotonin, a chemical that calms anxiety and obsessive-thinking. This is usually when you start worrying when you’ll see that person again, if you should call, and you start questioning their feelings for you.
If you’re struggling to find someone that feels the same way about you as you feel about them, it’s time to start dating with intent.
Here’s how to separate those butterflies from lasting, worthwhile love:
1. Start by dating with a purpose.
This means to date with the intention of finding your perfect match. The mix of hormones and pheromones can make it really difficult to rationally evaluate whether this new guy is a long-term match, or if he has red flags flying all around him.
At the beginning, it’s easy to put someone new on a pedestal, become attached, and get too far ahead of yourself. Rein it in and use your head. It may save you from some heartache later.
2. Identify the love lessons you’ve learned from past relationships.
A love lesson is an opportunity to reflect on your experiences, whether it was just one date or a multi-year relationship. Thoughtfully reflect on your likes and dislikes, what you’re willing to compromise on in the future, and your new deal breakers.
Identify negative patterns in your dating behavior, and keep an eye out for these red flags as you meet new dates. It can be helpful to work with a therapist or dating coach, who can more objectively identify these behaviors.
3. Have a conversation that matters.
Picking someone to love isn’t about sharing a group of friends or enjoying the same music. Don’t get lost in the excitement of the first couple dates—you need to dig deeper at the beginning of your new relationship.
This means having conversations about what really matters in life.
—What is your work-life balance?
—How do you save and spend money?
—What are your family values?
—What are your sexual beliefs and preferences?
—What socio-economic status do you need in order to live the lifestyle that you want?
—Do you want children and what is your parenting style?
—Is religion important to you?
You don’t need to be able to answer all of these questions right away, but you should be discussing these topics on an emotionally intimate level in new relationships. You will gain clarity on these values and deal breakers as they are put into perspective by dating new people and learning about their beliefs and expectations.
Save yourself the heartache (and headache) by exploring these factors early on. It’s more difficult to break up after you’ve invested time, energy, love, commitment and finances into a relationship.
4. Be careful when you choose which dating apps to use (if any).
Online dating is a wonderful tool to help put you into contact with hundreds of people with whom your paths may have never crossed, especially when you’re stuck in your daily routine.
These days, the exact same singles who you may bump into at your local coffee shop are also the ones online — it’s the norm.
But if you’re using hookup apps instead of matchmaking sites, the quality of the people you’ll meet will be lower, and they won’t be looking for a long term relationship.
Make sure you’re careful about the sites and apps you are using so you don’t waste your time on someone who’s not interested in something serious.
5. Create as many windows of opportunity as possible.
A lot of people make blanket statements like, “I never meet anyone good.”
Challenge yourself and ask how many times in the past month did you go to an event and socialize with new people? Of these people, how many were you attracted to that were actually single? And then, were they interested in you too?
A few factors need to align for a potential match, so the more people with whom you come into contact, the better for a chance of making a connection.
Say yes to social opportunities and invitations. Join an intramural sports team (you don’t even have to be good), a gym with interactive classes, volunteer, go to professional networking events, sign up for a local class, volunteer, or check out meetup.com.
If you don’t hit it off with anyone, you can, at the very least, still make tons of friends. These new friends will expand your network and increase your opportunity to be introduced to more people.
6. Have a realistic view of dating.
It’s time to think about dating in a different way. Face it: the majority of relationships and dates you enter into are not going to work out. Ideally, only one relationship is going to last for the long run if you want marriage or a committed life partner.
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It’s about maintaining optimism and an open mind in the face of rejection and disappointment.
Not everyone is going to click on your profile, send you a message, or approach you in public. When you walk down the street and pass 100 people, are you attracted to all of them? Of course not!
They aren’t all going to like you either, and that’s okay, as long as you don’t let this bruise your ego every time attraction goes unreciprocated.
7. Be yourself.
It’s normal to be nervous and want to impress your date — we all want to be liked. But sometimes nerves get the best of you, and you wind up doing what I call “false advertising.”
This is when you’re not really demonstrating who you are, but rather trying to be the person you think your date wants you to be.
Don’t give in to this anxiety. Bring your personality to the table, and be confident in who you are. The right person is going to adore your quirks. Remember that this potential partner needs to fit comfortably into your life, too.
Tune out of your own self-talk and into what your date is saying so that you can better evaluate whether you even like him or her. Bring a positive attitude with you, and remind yourself that you are deserving and worthy of a loving relationship.
Samantha Burns is a millennial love expert and dating coach, she has been featured in Today, Women’s Health, Bustle, The Huffington Post, and more. Follow her on Twitter.
This article was originally published at Good Men Project. Reprinted with permission from the author.