When hearing the word “dating,” most people tense up.
This word is associated with a zero-sum, competitive game where you can either win or lose.
We could blame dating apps for accentuating the gamification aspect of dating, but deep down, this “win/lose” paradigm of mating is written into our DNA.
The truth is that we all crave a good shot in the arm of “Congrats! You got genetic advantage!” messaging—whether it’s from matching with a hot stranger on Tinder or getting attention from someone we view as an alpha male or female at work.
“Winning the game of dating” can mean you get such boosts from people: validation, sex, commitment to further dates, and perhaps a desire to escalate the relationship into new stages of closeness that demonstrate your worthiness.
“Losing the game” means you don’t get such reflections. Perhaps, the people you’re attracted to don’t want you back, and the people who want you, well…you don’t desire them. Rejection seems to be the norm. You feel deflated rather than boosted.
What’s the alternative?
Stepping off the hamster wheel of the zero-sum dating paradigm is a life-changing process that can permanently improve your relationship to yourself, others, and the higher powers that be.
You can’t change your DNA overnight, but you can choose to focus on new motivations. As much as our genetic code is programmed to “win,” our potential for altruism, empathy, and compassion is huge (ask primatologist Frans de Wall). It’s a muscle that can be exercised from what we focus on and the external influences (people, media, books, and so on) we expose ourselves to: these will reinforce different parts of our intrinsic potential.
Mindful dating is about:
1. Loving and caring for yourself unconditionally as you navigate the adventure of connection with others. Look at dating as a path of self-discovery and as a motivation to uncover your most authentic, loving, artful, and truthful expression.
Create a compassionate space within and around you for whatever emotions come up, so that they can be seen, welcomed, and loved. If you choose to date online, write a bold, authentic dating profile that truly honors the richness of who you are. Use the process of profile creation as an act of self-love. Have a friend or photographer take beautiful pictures of you, and practice genuine self-expression when composing the profile text.
2. Practicing loving-kindness. Loving-kindness is a Buddhist meditation focused on sending love to strangers. Its practitioners aim to cultivate inner peace, while also building a better society. You can practice it with folks you encounter (online and offline) by sending the following thought to them: “Just as I wish to, may you be safe, may you be healthy, may you live with ease and happiness.”
Feel into the truth of these words and send genuine goodwill to that person. Remember that every person is experiencing challenges, just like you—and providing more love in an interconnected world is ultimately how we can contribute to humanity’s healing and transformation.
3. Practicing acceptance of outcomes. Refine your faith in the inherent congruence of the universe, and bridge clear intentionality with an attitude of saying yes to outside circumstances, however challenging these may be. Trust that your most heart-centered relationships will be born not from control or egoism, but from magic, synchronicity, and genuine love.
I know this is not an easy path to take—but the process of integrating your highest spiritual values with your love life will pay off lifelong dividends and give the journey of dating a whole new meaning.