10 Ways I Got More Intentional About Dating—And You Should Too

When I ended my last relationship, I was completely devastated. In the time I’d been out of the dating scene, things had changed completely and I quickly learned how burned out on dating you could get if you didn’t set boundaries. After too many nights spent crying, I slowly started training myself to be more intentional and fight for myself in love—here’s how I did it so you can too.

  1. I got honest with myself about my past. When I decided to start dating after my last relationship, I recognized a pattern in my life of throwing caution to the wind and starting to sling attention at any man who showed me the slightest bit of interest and attention. I knew I didn’t want that cycle to continue. I wanted to form healthy habits moving forward, and being honest with myself about my past allowed me to sidestep bad choices and realize when I was slipping back into them.
  2. I learned to recognize the qualities I admired in partners and the ones I’d rather avoid in future. In many ways, my ex was a great match for me; in other ways, he was absolutely terrible. Identifying traits from previous relationships that worked and things that caused irreconcilable tension allowed me to quickly identify red flags when they pop up. Things like anger issues, gaslighting, or fear of commitment are immediate signs that I need to get out.
  3. I created a dating manifesto. After my breakup, I literally wrote out my goals for dating in this new chapter of my life. My manifesto is a list of dos, don’ts, and goals that help me remember what I want out of a relationship. Instead of getting super lonely and letting expectations fall by the wayside, I re-read this letter to myself often and it helps me to center my intentions (just like your yoga teacher always tells you).
  4. I shared my intentions with friends. After my manifesto was complete, I shared it with my best friend. This was both out of mutual commiseration since we’re both single and to help keep me accountable. She’s reminded me of those intentions a few times when I’ve relayed stories of my dating woes as a way to encourage me to keep going—and to remind me of who I am and am working to be.
  5. I utilized my network. Using your lady network isn’t just for nailing the perfect job, it can also be great for dating. Letting your friends know what you’re looking for enables them to really wingwoman for you when they meet a guy that might be the perfect match. Plus, no one knows you better than your friends, and you don’t have to meet a (totally) random internet stranger.
  6. I didn’t set limits on the stuff that doesn’t really matter. Many of my friends have extremely detailed ideas of their “type,” even filtering down to the person’s height, race, and profession. While there may be a particular kind of person you usually gravitate to, dictating those sorts of limits on a romantic partner can lower your chance of actually making a real connection with a living (and flawed) human being. I’ve stopped doing that and so long as a guy is kind, decent, and we gel well, I’m open to it.
  7. I kept the receipts. While sometimes guys will offer to pay for first dates, often going out with someone new means paying your own way at some bar or restaurant that you maybe haven’t even chosen. (Don’t get me started on people that pick expensive places and then want go dutch. So rude!) Unless you’re loaded, dating can get crazy expensive! Add in the Ubers or gas money used to get there and back and you could be looking at a major chunk of change on just meeting people. Now I put a line in my budget for dates, and when I’ve exceeded that limit, I decline.
  8. I put more time into my interests. Dating can be exhausting! Spending time out on a weekday (usually when first dates seem to occur) as well as all the texting and messaging with a possible paramour can be a major time suck, especially while you’re just casually dating. I found myself donating all my time I’d usually spend on my hobbies to the act of dating and then realized I was becoming super boring. Instead of wasting my time on men I frankly wasn’t passionate about, I cut loose some meh matches and instead started only giving the most promising leads my attention.
  9. I made sure to set boundaries. In my initial audit of “dumb things I do while dating,” I realized that I set basically no boundaries and then always end up wondering why I feel like an ex takes everything from me. Now I make boundaries from the get-go so that my life remains mine. I make sure to spend the same amount of time with my friends, not skip workouts for a date, and to make time for (gasp!) just me. These keep me from becoming dependent on another person and allows them to actually miss me while I’m out living my best life.
  10. I prioritized IRL encounters. I’m on about four dating sites and online dating is just so mindless sometimes. In the last year, though, I’ve tried to become more intentional about meeting people in real life. While this has sometimes backfired (like when I gave my number to a guy only to have him text me the next day that he has a girlfriend), it has also allowed me to practice interpersonal communication and flirting where it really matters: in person.