Balancing multiple suitors on your dance card? While it may seem like an embarrassment of riches to anyone on the outside, having several really great dating prospects approach you simultaneously can, in reality, be quite stressful. How do you choose amongst them? Which one is possibly The One? Do you have to tell them you’re dating other people [that would be yes!]? What if you make the wrong choice? Surely 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 jerk that lives with his mother, and the choice is clear. But it’s a lot harder when both people 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 think you have to decide this instant
, take a deep breath and realize that the right information will come to you in time. To help you narrow the search down from too many options to The One, keep in mind these eight expert tips:
Tip #1: Think about how you’ve handled difficult decisions in the past
Sometimes making the right choice feels impossible, but chances are, you’ve had to make some pretty tough decisions before and survived… right? Take a step back and think about similar tricky situations you’ve dealt with successfully throughout your life. “Maybe when you were younger, you had to choose between two equally good universities — or between two equally good 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 that you didn’t. You just made a choice, you went with it, and you never looked back. Even if you did, the glance over your shoulder was fleeting at best. Life goes on.” In other words, you’re choosing between two “goods” here, so there really is nothing to fear. You’re not in a life-threatening situation. Keep things in perspective and give yourself time to make the decision that feels best for you!
Tip #2: Notice how you feel about yourself when you’re around each prospect
Different people bring out different parts of your personality when you’re around them. This gets amplified even more when you’re dating two people at once. 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 the following questions: 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 who also brings out your best qualities when you’re with each other before committing to dating that person exclusively.
Tip #3: Determine which person’s lifestyle is most similar to yours
Marital therapists compare couples in which both people share many similarities to having money in the bank. Dr. Karin Anderson, an Associate Professor of Psychology at Concordia University Chicago and author of It Just Hasn’t Happened Yet
, agrees: “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 suitors is more similar to you in terms of character, values and lifestyle.”
Tip #4: Compare your communication styles
It’s important for a couple to communicate clearly for things to work — and this includes both of you being able to ask for what you need in the 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 anything about your behavior? Was that request made in a way that was not hurtful?” The ability to listen is equally important, stresses Bowman: “When looking at your prospects, ask yourself if they hoard the conversation and make everything about them. Or, do they ask about you, sincerely listen to what you have to say, and respond to it in a thoughtful way?” The better match for you will be the one who communicates clearly, actively listens and keeps your needs in mind throughout the conversation.
Tip #5: Evaluate your potential social status as a couple
Most of us don’t live in a bubble; meaning, eventually, you two will have to go out in public together as a couple. And when you do, how you feel can indicate what kind of shape your relationship is in, according to Dr. Major: “Sure, we can say the social stuff and what others think shouldn’t matter as much… but if we’re being honest, it is
a big deal!” To assess which person might be your best public partner in crime, Dr. Major recommends asking yourself the following:
Tip #6: Weigh the baggage each potential partner carries
- 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?
Often, we get distracted by the baggage a potential partner brings into the relationship. So, which prospect would you choose if there weren’t anything in your way? For example: If Prospect #1 has been through a recent divorce and already has three kids, it might make Prospect #2 look a lot more appealing. However, if extraneous factors are influencing your decision between two possible love interests, try imagining whom you’d prefer if they both showed up sans
luggage. “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: Do you feel like you’re “cheating” with one of your dates?
“At some point, you may find that when you’re out 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, as no commitments have been made yet. But if you begin to feel like you’re being unfaithful to someone, that is actually important information which helps you recognize which match is the right one for you.” In other words, your conscience may have already made the decision for you.
Tip #8: Follow your heart
Finally, no matter how you answered all the previous questions, love is ultimately still a matter of following your heart. “This criterion is where the rubber meets the road and it’s called the ‘Love Factor,’” says Dr. Major. Listen to what your heart tells you when you ask yourself the following 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?
Remember, you don’t need to force a decision until you’re ready. The answers will eventually become clearer as you relax, get to know these potential partners better, gather additional information and let things unfold naturally. One day, you may realize that The One is simply the person that’s always on your mind.
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. A frequent online contributor for Match.com’s Happen magazine, she’s also the author of The Real Reasons Men Commit as well as the founder of www.DatingDivaDaily.com.