On any given Monday night during a season, somewhere between 6 and 8 million people will tune in to The Bachelor on ABC. That’s a lot of people. One might hope that, in addition to being entertained and titillated by this (admitted somewhat contrived) romantic “reality” show, watchers might take stock, and learn from the show’s participants, their choices, mistakes, and outcomes.
A few seasons back, Sharleen, a 29 year old opera singer from Ottawa, Canada, made a big decision. A smart one. She realized that Juan Pablo, the then bachelor “star” of the show, simply was not what she was looking for. Despite the social pressure and intense media hype about their potential relationship – all of which was aired for millions to see – she did not succumb. Despite the overwhelming endorphin rush that comes from being wooed and flattered by a good looking man, she was able to keep her head clear enough to know herself and what she wants.
She wanted a forever kind of love. Juan Pablo was not the right one to give that to her, and she was courageous enough to speak her truth, and say farewell. So what can we learn from Sharleen? We can learn to say no. before the invitations have gone out and the caterer has been booked.
How? Here are a few tips about how and when to speak your truth when dating.
There is no such thing as being “too picky”—and don’t let anyone tell you differently. You owe it to yourself to be as selective as possible. Sharleen knows what she wants in life and in a life partner. She knows what she needs to be fulfilled and happy in a relationship. Follow her lead and settle for nothing less than what you want and need.
Not barriers – those are created by fear and succeed only in keeping experience and life at bay. I’m talking about healthy boundaries, which are the result of healthy self-respect. Lack of self-respect prevents so many from setting any boundaries at all. The benefits of having boundaries and making them clear to the people in your life are many. Boundaries clarify how you want to be treated, help you define your sense of self, set limits on what you are willing to give (in terms of time, energy, even money), help you understand where you end and someone else begins, and protect you from having your physical and emotional limits violated. Sharleen, it seems clear, has a lot of self-respect and knows herself well. Juan Pablo made assumptions about her and failed to read her cues. She may well have felt that he did not respect her boundaries and, in fact, breached them.
Sharleen listened to her inner knowing. As she left the show, she reported that she “just knew” he wasn’t for her. And she trusted that feeling. You can know yourself well enough to make the right decision for you. Trust that you can and will say no to what you don’t want. Don’t mistake assertiveness for aggression. Being assertive means speaking your truth, just as Sharleen did. Assertiveness is honest and authentic. If you can follow Sharleen’s lead and be assertive, you will stop looking for affirmation from strangers (she did not care what people thought about her, she just did what was right). You will also find that your self-confidence will grow and your anxiety will lessen.
Know when done is done.
As soon as you recognize that the person you just met doesn’t meet your criteria, it’s time to disengage. This is where Sharleen had some regrets. She did not leave until episode 7, though she knew much earlier that she wasn’t feeling it with Juan Pablo. Her delay in leaving weighed on her, as she explained during her debriefing. As long as she stayed on the show knowing Juan Pablo was not for her, she was not living as her authentic self. But to give her credit, she figured it out and did the right thing in the end. It wasn’t only honest, it was also gutsy, and she had to do it on national television! Lucky for you that will not be necessary. Just realize that your exit from a relationship that does not and will not serve you is the kind thing to do for both of you. You don’t want to waste your time and energy, or theirs, on something that doesn’t fit. Meaning: do not pass GO, do not collect $200.00…act now. It takes courage to tell your personal truth that will allow both of you to move on and find your ideal match.
If your dating relationship exhibits any of the following, it’s time to say farewell:
- you don’t share values or life goals
- your relationship requirements and needs are not being met
- you do not communicate well with one another
- you do not enjoy good chemistry – both physical and emotional
- you cannot envision a future together
It is all too common for an eager seeker like you to lose sight of the fact that dating is not an end in itself – it is a process. As such, it has a beginning, middle, and end. We tend to think about the end (finding our ideal match) without remembering the beginning (meeting and getting to know many people) and the middle (dating for a while).
To reach that happy ending you will need to engage in the whole process. A vital part of that process is evaluating, assessing and deciding.
- Evaluate your connection with this person and whether you not only “click” but share common values, wants, and needs.
- Assess the potential for a fulfilling long term future with him or her.
- Decide to keep dating…or not. If the answer is “not,” it is time to use your exit strategy.