Seeing more than one person lately? While it may seem like an embarrassment of riches, this situation can actually be quite stressful if nobody’s an obvious mismatch. How do you decide which one is possibly The One? Do you have to tell them you’re dating other people [hint: yes!]? What if you make the wrong choice? You can see where we’re headed with these “what if?” questions...
“Psychologists say that the hardest decisions are made between two positives. You ask someone to pick between a sensitive, hot, funny billionaire and a crass unemployed person that lives with his or her mother and the choice is clear. But it’s a lot harder when your dates have relatively similar pros and cons,” says Alisa Bowman, author of Project: Happily Ever After: Saving Your Marriage When the Fairytale Falters and founder of projecthappilyeverafter.com. “Suddenly, you worry that the choice you aren’t making just might be the biggest mistake of your life.” But before you panic and try to decide this instant, take a deep breath and know that the right information will reveal itself in time. To help you narrow down your options, follow the expert tips below.
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Tip #1: Think about how you’ve handled difficult decisions in the past
Sometimes making the right choice feels impossible, but you’ve done it before and survived… right? Take a moment to think about other tricky situations you’ve dealt with successfully before. “Maybe when you were younger, you had to choose between two equally good universities or job offers. Or, heck, sometimes it’s deciding between the crème brûlée and the molten chocolate cake for dessert. Did you regret the option you didn’t take in those situations?” offers Bowman. “Chances are, you didn’t; you just made a choice and never looked back. Even if you did, the glance over your shoulder was fleeting at best. Life goes on.” Remember: You’re choosing between two “goods” here, so there’s really nothing to fear. Keep things in perspective and take time to make the decision that feels right for you!
Tip #2: Notice how you feel about yourself around each person you’re dating
Different people bring out different aspects of your personality when you’re together, and this gets amplified even more when you’re dating. It’s striking to notice the changes in yourself when you’re around one person versus the other. “The first clue is to pay attention to those differences in how you feel about yourself when you’re around each person,” says Dr. Ish Major, a psychiatrist and author of Little White Whys: A Woman’s Guide Through the Lies Men Tell and Why. “Ask yourself: Which one makes me feel more alive? Which one makes me feel more comfortable? Which one makes me feel more my true self when we’re together? Which one do I feel more in tune with? Which one makes me feel like the person I believe myself to be?” Ultimately, you want to find someone who not only lets you be yourself, but also brings out your best qualities before committing to that person in a relationship.
Tip #3: Determine which person’s lifestyle is most in harmony with yours
Couples who share more in common will have a brighter future together, says Dr. Karin Anderson, an Associate Professor of Psychology at Concordia University Chicago and author of It Just Hasn’t Happened Yet: “Opposites may attract at first, but over the course of a lifetime, couples who have more in common have less to fight about. Their simpatico perspectives generate few areas of disagreement. If you’re thinking long-term, ask yourself if one of your dates is more similar to you in terms of character, values and lifestyle.”
Tip #4: Compare your individual communication styles
It’s important for any couple to communicate issues clearly — and this includes both of you being able to ask for what you need in your relationship. “Assertiveness is a skill that can be learned, but a partner who already has it is a great catch,” says Bowman. “Has this person asked you to change your behavior? Was that request made in a way that wasn’t hurtful?” The ability to listen is equally important, stresses Bowman: “When looking at your prospects, do any of them hog the conversation and make everything about them? Or do they ask about you, sincerely listen to what you have to say, and respond in a thoughtful way?” The better match for you will be the one who communicates clearly, actively listens when you speak, and keeps your needs in mind throughout the conversation.
Tip #5: Evaluate your potential social status as a couple
Eventually, you’ll have to go out in public together as an established couple. And when you do, how you feel indicates the shape that your relationship’s in, says Dr. Major: “Sure, we can say that social status and what others think shouldn’t matter as much… but to be honest, it is a big deal!” To assess your partnership potential, Dr. Major suggests asking yourself:
Are we into some of the same things?
Do I feel comfortable taking this person anywhere?
Do I feel comfortable introducing my date to friends and family [and do they like this person]?
Can I take him or her to a work-related function?
Am I proud to be with this person when we’re out and about?
When we’re together, does it look like a good fit?
Tip #6: Weigh the baggage each potential partner carries before you commit
The baggage a potential partner brings into the relationship can often be distracting. So, which prospect would you choose if nothing stood in your way? If extraneous factors influence your decision between possible partners, try imagining whom you’d prefer if they’d never been in relationships before. “Couples who are conscientious and committed can work through just about anything, so don’t let a few unexpected variables cloud your ability to see the person that’s in front of you,” says Dr. Anderson. “First, figure out which person you prefer — and then the two of you can figure out what to do with the carry-on.”
Tip #7: If you feel “guilty” around one of your dates, that person is not The One
“At some point, you may find that when you’re with one person, you feel guilty about it — almost as if you’re betraying the other prospect,” says Dr. Anderson. “Of course, you’re not really cheating if no commitments were made, but if you begin feeling like you’re being unfaithful to someone, that’s actually important information that helps you identify which match is the right one for you.” In other words, your conscience may have already made the right decision.
Tip #8: Follow your heart
Ultimately, love is still a matter of simply following your heart. “This criterion is where the rubber meets the road and it’s called the ‘Love Factor,’” says Dr. Major. Listen your heart while answering these questions:
Which one can I not wait to see?
Which one can I not stop thinking about?
Which one makes me smile at the very thought of him/her?
Which one makes me think up little things to do just to make this person happy?
Which one’s birthday do I actually remember?
Which one makes me feel giddy when we’re together?
Which one can I not imagine hurting?
Try not to force a decision until you’re ready, because the answer will become clearer as you relax, get to know each potential partner better, and let things unfold naturally.
Kimberly Dawn Neumann (www.KDNeumann.com) is a New York City-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Women’s Health, Marie Claire, Maxim and more. She’s also the author ofThe Real Reasons Men Commitand founder of www.DatingDivaDaily.com.