It is the time of year where celebrations and indulgences are coming to an end. We are turning into the beginning of a new year faced with at least two months of dieting and exercising ads (read the following in a highly sarcastic voice: so we can become a better version of ourselves). I lament the loss of easy joy, indulging in food and parties, spending time with friends and family, and relaxing. I’m terrible with change and endings. I get snarky, cranky, and idealize events and happenings, giving them more importance or a shinier wrapping then they deserve. I see similar patterns in my work, where folks hold on to a lover because it is easier than facing the end of something. They idealize a person or situation rather than end something that isn’t working for anyone. I most often hear the “What’s next?” question and the tone is laced with trepidation. Re-entering the dating scene after a long hiatus, for whatever reason, can be overwhelming. Let me help!
I’m not going to gloss over or idealize it – dating is work. This doesn’t mean you can’t have fun while doing it! During this turn into a new year with its “make a better version of you” ads, I want to remind you all that there are more important things than physical appearance when dating.
HonestyBefore swiping left or right, giving out your number, or saying yes to a coffee, be sure you are honest with yourself. Where are you at in life? What do you want for and from your lovers? What do you need? Are you able to articulate these wants and needs to your potential lovers? Are you able to articulate them to yourself?
ValuesIt doesn’t matter if you fuck dozens of people or just one. How do you move through the world? Do you know what is most important to you? What are your core values? Kindness? Respect? Honesty? Humor? Stability? Reliability? Trustworthy? Thoughtful? Equality? Balance? Creativity? (You can find dozens of resources online, with hundreds of values that you take time to distill down to your core values.)
The first step is identifying the values you want to embody. The second step is to do everything you can, every day, to live those values. The purpose is not to create a list of values you expect others to follow. It is to be the best version of yourself by embracing your values. When you are living your best self through reflection and action, you will invite others who have similar values into your life.
Date yourselfGo on solo dates. Often!
What is it like to spend time with you? Solo dates are a great opportunity to try new things and do the things you love to do. Your solo date is all about pleasing yourself! This activity is not just for single folks, and is a perfect way for anyone in a committed relationship to reconnect with their needs and desires. Humans are social creatures for the most part, and it can feel daunting to venture into the world without a buddy. If this sounds like you, then I challenge you to add solo dates, solo vacations, and solo activities to your bucket list for 2020. Go! Do it now!
Work work workAs I mentioned earlier, relationships and dating are work. As much as it would be nice that a single glance across a crowded room lights all the fires, and bam! Instant relationship. Not likely, and bam! Doesn’t help lovers navigate consent, express desires, or grow a relationship. Whether you are dating for sex, dating for love, or dating for companionship, these all require you to put in work. Unfortunately, work has become a four-letter word and folks want easy. They want quick decisions, like swiping left or right, and instant connections. I think the work of building relationships is the fun part!
Getting to know a new person is like solving a mystery. Who are they? What do they like? Do we share common interests? Are they going to introduce me to something new? These questions are universal across the types of dating – sex, love, companionship – and in order to answer them you have to communicate. Shocker, I know.
My favorite topic: CoooommuuuunicaaaationThe hardest work in any relationship is communication, and if you’ve been reading any of my past columns, you know that I talk about talking all they time. You’ll never know if the person you are interested in wants to have sex on the kitchen counter if you don’t ask them. You’ll never know if they are looking to share finances and grow old with someone if you don’t ask them. You’ll never know if they want to share a life and have an open relationship if you don’t ask them. We have been conditioned into living in very small boxes determined by social constructs that we may not even understand. What I love about the younger generations is their disdain for social constructs. This is consistent throughout time, and each new generation forces change from the way their elders lived. Change and evolution is always coming and arguably can be done with respect and grace, but I don’t mind when it gets a little messy and loud because sometimes evolution needs a revolution.
You contribute to the revolution by asking yourself what you want and finding ways to meet those needs and desires. You practice using consent all the damn time, and you become your best self through respect, and sing it with me now – coooommuuuunicaaaation!
A beginningThe end of something brings in a forced reflection. The end of the year. The end of a job. The end of a relationship. Try answering some of the questions I’ve posed here and give yourself time to reflect before diving into the dating pool. I’m not opposed to hook-ups, one-night stands, relationships for the purpose of filling sexual needs – as long as you are honest with yourself and your lovers.
It is evident in this column that the end of this year is bringing a lot of personal reflection into my life, and rather than cover up that need to question and poke at this past year, or even the past decade, I am embracing the end. It is the joy of beginning that I am most excited about. Not new and fresh beginnings. Beginnings with my new perspectives, new knowledge, and new wisdom from living.
I hope you join me in celebrating revolution and the ending of things that no longer serve your best interests, or embracing the things that do!
Erin Brandt (she/her/hers) has been a sexologist for 15 years. When she’s not spreading sexual knowledge, Erin can be found learning from her child, hiking with her partner, cuddling with her pitbull, knitting with her cat, dancing with friends, and searching for the nearest hammock and ocean breeze. Want more? Visit www.positivesexed.com