He Loves Me, I Love Me Not: How to Date Without Losing Yourself

Woman covering eyes with belt

I used to think I knew how to date – then, you know, I started dating.

Like most women, I’m independent, ambitious, and some might say I have feminist tendencies. Because of this, when I think about how to date and how the relationship will enhance my life, losing myself during the relationship never crosses my mind. Yet it happens. Every. Single. Time.

It’s a gradual progression: I make microscopic compromises here and there, not realizing the eventual impact they’re going to have on my big picture. In the moment, they’re “no big deal.” I draw a line, then I move it. Before I know it, I’m looking in the mirror and don’t have a clue who I’m seeing. I recognize myself physically, but not emotionally. It’s vile.

Many of us know how to date, yet when we’re actually dating someone we think like Samantha Jones and act like June Cleaver. Barf. So how do we bridge the gap?

Below are pointers on how to date while maintaining the amazing self you’ve worked so hard to build:

1. Don’t drown in the honeymoon phase
The beginning of a relationship is ah-mazing, isn’t it? You like him and he likes you (which is always a bonus). There are serious warm and fuzzies attached to everything he says and does. Neither of you have done anything to fu screw things up yet. It’s a great, floaty headspace to be in, but for many of us this is where things start to fall apart – in every aspect of our life besides the relationship. Enjoy the floaty, but use it as fuel to enhance everything else about your life (you know, like I didn’t).

2. Don’t drop everything
How to date 101: Don’t reply to his texts in 2.2 seconds. Don’t cancel plans because he happens to be free. Don’t break work commitments so you’ll be able to spend more time together. You don’t want to set the availability bar so high that later on in your relationship you lose sight of your self-respect and dignity. (I almost dumpster dived trying to find mine back in the day.)

3. Analyze before every compromise
Relationships are give-and-take, not give and give and give (and give). Yes, there will be times where compromise will be necessary, but make sure you’re not just handing it over because your mothering complex says you should. Before you bend to make the relationship work, always ask yourself: “Will this compromise cause me to lose a piece of myself?”

4. Don’t question your hobbies and interests
You wouldn’t think of uttering a peep about your extreme boredom during “the big game” – so why do you let him ruin America’s Next Top Model with macho commentary? If it comes down to it, kick him out for an hour and call it “me time.”

5. Don’t stay because leaving is uncomfortable
If it’s not working out, many of us sit on the proverbial fence. We wait just one more day, hoping things will change or maybe he’ll make the decision for you. This isn’t weakness so much as it’s refusing to admit defeat. Here’s what I wish I was told when it happened to me: Breaking up doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It means it’s time to set sail and adjust your course.

When you first learned how to date, how different was your single self from your dating self?

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Image: Karrie Nodalo

Krissy Brady

Krissy Brady is a women’s health + lifestyle writer who’s so out of shape, it’s like she has the innards of an 80-year-old. Instead of learning how to crochet, she decided to turn her emotional baggage into a writing career (genius, no?). You can follow her shenanigans on Twitter (you know, if you want).