Springing into New Experiences: Values-Based Dating
By: Jen McWaters, Psy.D. | March 11, 2022
Spring is around the corner, a season representing growth, change, and renewal. As the weather warms up, it’s common to experience an increase in energy, creativity, and motivation. Spring cleaning anyone? You may find that you are more motivated to try new things, be in new environments, and for some, even date. If you’re curiously finding yourself more interested in dating, you can blame it on the spring-time dopamine boost. This article offers helpful tools to help you skillfully navigate relationships by making values-consistent choices rather than emotion-only based decisions.
Clarifying what you value in relationships helps you make wise decisions when you are experiencing the dopamine-highs of meeting someone new.
The following concepts are taken from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), an effective action-based therapeutic approach that helps people navigate decision making through a values-based lens.
Below is a list of questions that will help you explore and define your values. Consider them when you meet someone new or ask them of yourself now to prepare for dating in the future.
What are your relationship values?
1. What is vital and meaningful in my non-romantic relationships?
2. What kind of partner am I committed to being with, even when there are obstacles getting in the way?
3. If I imagine myself at my 20-year anniversary party with my significant other and they give a toast, how do I hope they will describe me as a partner?
Values are something we are always striving towards. They do not have an end point and can’t be checked off a list like a goal or an accomplishment. For example, if I value being faithful and honest, these are characteristics that I need to embody and keep practicing every day. If I realize that I want to be a partner who is honest, loving, and secure, then I must strive to embody these traits even in the face of challenges.
If you need help identifying your values or need more examples, I encourage you to talk with an ACT therapist or pick up an ACT book. To get you started, here are some free ACT resources from a reputable and well-known ACT therapist, Dr. Russ Harris: The Happiness Trap.
You can also find valuable resources on our Relationship Resources Page.
I’ve identified my values, now what?
Once you have clarified your values, write them down. Revisit your values list often, so that when you are dating you can refer to it.
It’s easy to think of what we want our future partner to be like. Challenge yourself by asking how YOU want to show up in the relationship.
If you value being confident and secure in your relationship, and you are not behaving in these ways, this is a signal to ask yourself why that might be. It could be that there is an unresolved trauma or family of origin issues that you might need to work on, and/or it could be that your partner is behaving inconsistently and therefore triggering feelings of insecurity in you.
If I find signals/red flags, what do I do?
Only you can decide if the signals are red flags and warrant an evaluation of whether the relationship is the right one for you. If you notice that you are consistently struggling to live out your identified values in the relationship, I encourage you to seek wise counsel from trusted friends and family, or seek additional support and guidance from a professional San Diego Psychologist. Ask your friends and family how they observe you behaving when you are with your partner and give them permission to be honest with you. A therapist can help you sift through the red flags, help you understand and heal from past trauma, and support you in determining if the problems in your relationship can, or should be addressed. This work can occur in individual therapy or in couples therapy.
What are some next steps if I want to dig deeper?
I hope that these tools are helpful and provided a compass for navigating one of the most difficult and important decisions we make: who we chose to invite into a relationship and be vulnerable with. There are some wonderful ACT-based books available as resources, such as ACT With Love, which is an amazing book for couples who want to strengthen their relationship. An ACT-trained therapist can also be a wonderful asset in helping you navigate these important decisions.
At Therapy Changes, we know it isn’t easy taking the first step to seek additional support during difficult times in your relationship. Our helpful and compassionate Client Care Coordinator will help match you with a skilled member of Our Team and answer your questions. Professional psychological services can help you feel empowered, secure, and able to enjoy a values-based relationship. Contact Us today to learn more about psychological services at Therapy Changes.