Why do we date?
Usually, it is because…
- We want to get to know someone
- We want a close or closer relationship with them
- It is our way of showing we are investing in someone
- We enjoy spending time with them, and
- We want to feel connected
So how come we usually stop dating each other once we are in a serious relationships?
And how come we don’t have dates with our kids?
We tend to stop dating our partners once things are stable because we SO want predictability and certainty, that we create it where it doesn’t exist. When we get just enough information about a person to feel we can anticipate and predict how they would react in most situations, we make assumptions about the rest and loose interest in dating.
The truth is that people are CHANGING ALL THE TIME, especially children!
So how come we keep assuming we know them? What about our best friends? We tend to fall into this trap with them too! In all of these examples, our interactions become about doing day-to-day activities, getting things done or doing side-by-side activities like watching Netflix or You Tube – activities that don’t require us to actually engage.
“Love is spelled TIME ” – Anonymous
So what do we do if we have fallen into this habit?
1. We SCHEDULE time with our loved ones, we DATE
- If we don’t make time for our kids or our partners to talk about the small stuff (even if it is things we have no interest in), they are less likely to come to us about the big stuff!
2. It is important that our dates are REGULARLY SCHEDULED
- If we are starving, we tolerate our hunger a lot better when we KNOW when our next meal is coming, than when we don’t
- It is similar with our relationships, if our partners or children don’t know when the next time they might get a moment of our time is, they will experience the waiting with a lot more distress and suffering (children become more likely to act out when they don’t know)
- With children in particular, I strongly recommend having WEEKLY, REGULARLY SCHEDULED DATES. Even if it is only for 30 min with each child of having 1:1 time with each parent. If that isn’t possible, make it 15 min or make it every other week, but then stick with it!
- Many families choose to allow free screen time or have special colouring of crafts to occupy any children who aren’t on a date. If there are two parents and two kids, then if it is done at the same time, both kids will always be occupied.
- TIPS: It is important that this is not something that can be taken away as a punishment, we want to send the message that they are worth getting to know and spending time with unconditionally.
- If dates have to be rescheduled, it should be discussed in advance and done as rarely as possible, as it is actually damaging to say you will prioritize someone and then repeatedly fail to do so. This is equally true if we are a child or adult.
3. We ACTIVELY TAKE AN IN INTEREST IN THEM
- I used to hate small talk, it irritated me. I wanted to talk to people about things that mattered to them. Then I discovered that small talk is how we the waters. It is our way of asking, “Are you willing to see me, engage with me on neutral topics?” If so, you are probably safe to talk to about the more important and vulnerable ones too.
- It comes down to ARE WE WILLING TO SEE and HEAR the people in our lives, and let them feel like what they say MATTERS, on their terms, not only when it is convenient or interesting to us.
- When we do this consistently, it fosters emotional safety, it models having good boundaries because it is a way of acknowledging that they are different people AND still deserving of our time and attention.It also sends the meta-message that they are someone who is worthy of time and attention, and whose opinions matter.
- For children in particular, dates with parents, especially CHILD-DIRECTED dates (where the child gets to choose the activity) can change confidence levels, the types of peer groups they engage with, how they expect to be treated by others (including how long they tolerate disrespect from others), and willingness to take social risks like speaking out. They are also more true to themselves, even when this requires straying from social norms, as they are less concerned about being a people pleaser.
- This means you may learn to play Pokemon, D & D, Magic the card game, or you may be playing horsie, basketball, barbies, or getting your hair done by an 8 yo or your nails painted. A small price to pay for the life-long benefits it imparts to our kids!
- In relationships, when we feel emotionally safe we are more likely to make positive assumptions when faced with uncertainty or ambiguity. There is less conflict when there are disagreements and we are more likely to resolve them constructively. We are more attentive to the other person’s needs. We are more considerate and thoughtful towards one-another. We problem solve together more effectively. We also take better care of ourselves and each other (eating less junk food, lower alcohol consumption, better sleep habits, better work-life balance). In short, dates can completely shift the emotional tone of a relationship!
4. We ACTIVELY SHARE our opinions, experiences and feelings
- People feel more comfortable sharing meaningful things about themselves when we share meaningful things about ourselves
- Intimacy is a two-way investment of being present with another person, seeing things from their perspective AND sharing our own.
- We can’t feel connected if we don’t share who we are
- If we are not sharing who WE are in our relationships, not only do our loved ones never get to know US, but we also DON’T GET TO FEEL SEEN, HEARD or like we MATTER
Enjoy Dating! Have a great week!
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