Dating can often feel like a strange mystery, an overwhelming game, an exhausting interview, or a nerve-wracking test – but it doesn’t have to! By incorporating an empowered dating approach, you can gain the confidence and self-assurance necessary to help you make the most of your dating experiences.
I’ll discuss what empowered dating is and share nine specific tips for empowered dating, in order to make exploring new connections more entertaining and less straining.
Empowered dating honors the beauty of personal choice in dating.
Well, it emphasizes what you need and promotes the idea of sorting through who might be a good match for you – instead of striving to be liked by others, which can add undue pressure.
Understanding and incorporating empowered dating into your love life might help you meet people with more authenticity, positivity, curiosity, assertiveness, intentionality, and, perhaps most importantly, confidence.
Dating is like shopping. No, really, hear me out.
Some people don’t have a specific goal in mind, so they just browse through the store and spend more time sifting through items that could or could not be a good fit for them. That’s totally fine if you’re not looking for something serious.
But if you do want something more substantial, it’s helpful to have more tailored intentions behind your “shopping” trip, i.e., knowing what you’re actually looking for and what you desire.
It’s also crucial to distinguish between what you think you want (which can easily be influenced by societal constructs, the ideas you have about relationships or even just opinions from friends and family) VS what you really want.
Writing down what you want and then digging deeper by asking yourself why you want those things is a helpful start, as it challenges you to go beyond the surface and get to the heart of what you truly, authentically desire in a partner.
It’ll also help you uncover your true values regarding relationships. Healthy couples can have vastly different interests, but having similar values is key to a successful relationship.
Finally, this practice will help you communicate your intentions when dating and feel more self-assured about what you value, thus staying in alignment with what you deserve.
To feel fully empowered while dating, know that the standards you set are yours and yours alone.
Everyone might have an opinion on what kind of partner you should be on the lookout for, but it’s an invaluable skill to be able to ignore external pressures and expectations around dating.
Your friends might not think he’s as cute/smart/funny/interesting as you do. Or they may value one aspect of a potential partner more than you value it.
So be it.
Getting your friends’ opinions might seem like a smart thing to do (as you might do when you’re shopping – there’s the analogy again!). But we tend to overvalue their opinion, and this can prevent us from making a choice that’s true to ourselves.
You should also be aware of pressure coming from family or society at large. What’s considered the “right kind of partner” can vary across cultures, age groups, belief systems, etc. It’s crucial to be wary about considering other people’s judgment or societal standards over your own.
Knowing what you want and understanding your standards provides an excellent foundation for dating.
However, at the same time, empowered dating also calls for being open to changing your criteria and preferences as you go through the dating process.
Sure, you may want a partner who meets certain criteria — but keep in mind that a list of qualities can only tell you so much.
Sometimes, your heart may lead you in a different direction than what you initially expected. Be willing to also go with the flow and trust your instincts along the way, especially as you continue to deconstruct the idea of what a “good partner” is for you.
Many people think dating is about trying to impress someone else. I don’t see it that way at all.
Empowered dating is an inherently self-prioritizing process as you’re trying to find someone for you. That said, getting the answers you need to evaluate whether someone’s a good fit is important.
Many of the answers might naturally come about due to how this person treats you, their vibe, how easy it is to talk to this person, and their natural actions.
And the lighthearted, flirty conversation can surely help you figure out if there’s an initial spark.
But eventually, asking meaningful questions can help you gain insight into who this person really is. Questions like “What do you think is important in a relationship?” or “What are your thoughts on [insert relevant topic for you]?” can reveal a lot about someone’s values and their overall compatibility with you.
Of course, although dating is self-prioritizing, not everything is about you. There’s someone else involved, and they likely will have the same goal of assessing the connection.
That said, practicing radical honesty will help both parties make an informed decision about their compatibility.
Be upfront and honest from the beginning, and don’t be afraid to talk about your goals, values, interests, distastes, and more.
Having a higher level of confidence and self-assurance here is key. Expressing honest feelings, sharing open-hearted stories, and showing vulnerability are all ways to stay true to yourself and see how your date responds.
While many people feel a strong emotional pull to hide certain things about themselves to get someone to like them, the opposite is undoubtedly the more logical approach to dating: it’s a thousand times more satisfying when someone likes you for you, rather than for a made-up, contrived version of yourself that you’ll never be able to keep up.
Remember that the dating process is not a linear one. You might meet someone you like and develop feelings for them, only to discover that the feeling isn’t mutual.
This is a normal part of dating, so don’t take it too personally if someone rejects you.
In fact, take rejection as a gift of time – someone who isn’t into you is obviously not the right match, so you can choose to feel grateful that instead of being strung along for something that eventually won’t work, you can now save your time and be open to better opportunities in the future.
The same goes the other way around as well. People (especially self-described “people pleasers“) tend to feel obligated to stick something out or stay “loyal” to someone once they’ve expressed interest.
More time brings more information, and more information may lead to you realizing someone isn’t the person for you – and that’s okay!
Feeling nervous about rejecting someone is normal, but inaction will prevent you from finding the right person. Ultimately, it’s better that you’re honest and open about how you feel rather than lying to yourself or someone else.
The rule “when you see something, say something” isn’t just for public safety. It applies to the dating game too!
If you ever feel uncomfortable, bothered, confused, or concerned in any way about something your date says or does, there’s no benefit to letting it slide.
If you’re nervous about potentially rubbing someone the wrong way or coming off too “needy” or “picky” by asking them a direct question, remember that empowered dating is much less about whether someone likes you than it is about how you feel about them. So, ask away.
Of course, it’s okay to think about how you want to phrase things before you say them, and asking honest questions or bringing up your concerns isn’t the same as being mean or inconsiderate of someone else’s feelings.
But don’t let the fear of being judged for having certain standards or boundaries stop you from expressing your true feelings and speaking up.
It’s more important that you’re being honest with yourself about your concerns so you can discuss them at the forefront than letting them slide and realizing later that you’re not on the same page.
If you want to ask someone out – do it.
If you feel inclined to give a compliment – say it.
If you’re wondering, “is this the right thing to say?” – it is.
Part of empowered dating is feeling comfortable enough to take the initiative and bend “norms” simply based on how you authentically feel.
If you feel like saying something or doing something, don’t hold back based on some arbitrary societal rule or fear of coming off a “certain way.”
Do you, and if someone doesn’t like it, that’s A-okay. Someone else surely will!
If someone says they like you and is interested in getting to know you but then consistently flakes on plans or cancels last minute, they clearly don’t value your time at much as they might say they do.
Or if someone says very kind things to you and seems like a standup person on your dates but then proceeds to post sleazy comments on social media or talks about other people in a derogatory way – they’re probably not as kind as they want you to think.
Although dating should be fun, it’s important to watch out for red flags and take note of inconsistencies. Paying close attention to how someone actually behaves (despite what they say) and trusting your intuition can pay off in the long run.
As the old adage goes, “trust, but verify.” That way, you can address your worries head-on and determine whether this person’s actions are reconcilable or completely incompatible.
It’s natural to feel a little self-conscious when dating, but a high level of self-consciousness can lead to overanalyzing what someone thinks and feels about you when, again, the focus can be on what you think and feel about them.
Here are three ways people commonly prioritize someone else’s thoughts and feelings over their own that you may want to avoid:
Sometimes, when we don’t have the answers that we want from someone else, or we’re too early in the process to feel complete trust, our brains start to fill in the gaps with stories and theories that may or may not be true about what their “real” motives, likes, dislikes, and intentions are.
These thoughts might sound like this:
If you have a specific question for someone – ask it. But if all your attention is centered around how someone might feel or why they might be doing this or that, remember that all the speculation in the world won’t give you definitive answers.
These types of theories are futile at best and self-sabotaging at worst.
So instead of focusing on the other person’s potential thoughts and feelings, pay attention to your own. Trust how you feel and what you’re picking up about this person.
If you’re worried that they’re not that into you, focus your attention back on whether you’re even that into them.
That way, you can be transparent about who you are, how you’re feeling, and what works for you along the way instead of spending your time mulling over the unknown.
Some people try to figure out the ins and outs of someone else while hiding their own emotions from the other person to feel like they’re “winning” or have the “upper hand.”
That’s why trying to figure out how someone else feels about you before determining how you feel about them can be so tempting!
But these types of game-playing tactics do way more harm than good. They make dating feel exhausting because it becomes some big, mysterious puzzle.
Worse still, this approach prevents moments of true vulnerability, stifles genuine question-asking, and hinders honest connection.
Ultimately, if you gauge your thoughts and feelings and share them with your date along the way, you’ll have given the opportunity a fair shot.
And if it doesn’t work out – that’s okay.
You’ll still have learned a thing or two about yourself in the process and hopefully feel one step closer to figuring out what you want in your next relationship. That, my friend, is the power of empowered dating.
Another reason why focusing on someone else over yourself can feel appealing is because you might assume you can change their behavior or change their mind.
Say someone admits that they don’t have strong feelings for you yet. Or presents behaviors that rub you the wrong way.
If you focus on them, you might fall into the trap of trying to change their feelings or their behavior.
But when you focus on yourself and how you’re genuinely feeling about them, it’s easier to consider whether this person is even the right fit for you.
And if you need to have conversations with them in order better assess your feelings, the discussions will inherently be more centered around your standards and needs rather than on what they need to do to – or worse – changing yourself to fit more of what they’re looking for.
If someone is truly interested in continuing to explore the connection, they may be open to making those changes or giving the relationship more attention.
Otherwise, you can decide to move on.
Dating doesn’t have to be so calculated, contrived, frightening, or exhausting. With these tips in mind, you can approach it more confidently and feel empowered in your choices.
Empowered dating is ultimately about making conscious, aligned choices for yourself and advocating for your true desires and needs.
And at the end of the day, when you focus on yourself and what you’re looking for, your decisions will be rooted in self-love, which sets a lasting foundation for healthy relationships.