You have two weeks for the ultimate road trip. You know you want to end up in Santa Barbara, visiting your old college friend and soaking in the Southern California groove. You are starting from San Francisco, with a rental car, a cooler full of iced tea, Fig Newtons, and grapes, and a GPS. You’ve taken road trips before, but never in California. You have plenty of time, but on the other hand, you do have a flight out of LA in 15 days. So are you going to “wing it” or are you going to set your GPS for your destination?
Not everyone plans every moment of a trip. You may or may not make hotel reservations. You may or may not have a list of sites along the way you’d like to visit. But having a destination firmly in mind helps you get to where you want to be. If you are not the GPS type—use a map. But with a visual understanding of how and where you want to go and be, you will have a great trip—one for the memory books.
Now how does this relate to your dating experience? Let’s look at the scenario more closely.
We learn from past road-trip errors. I will never drive a long distance without my mini-cooler to keep a big jar of iced coffee and some cold fruit. I learned that on a long coffee-less and fruit-less trip and said, “Never again.” Make this relationship what you wish your last one could have been by approaching it with wisdom and intention.
Realize every road-trip has its own map. The hypothetical road-tripping has you driving thousands of miles with the music blaring and the top down… but not in California. Similarly, you’ve been in relationships before, but not with this person. Though you learn from the past, you still need that GPS. So why not set your dating GPS so it will take you from where you are to where you want to be, this time?
You don’t have to plan every move you make. No need to be a control freak. Sometimes it’s nice to go off-route and follow the signs to a lovely nature walk. Being prepared looks different for everyone, so do what feels right.
Decide where you want to end up. If you set out from the Avis Car Rental at the San Francisco airport and forget (somehow) where you need to be by April 14th, you won’t get there. By thinking at the start about where you want to end up, you will be successful in your goals. In your dating life, it means you’ll be able to define your dating boundaries and strategies, goals, wants, and needs.
Visualizing the journey AND the destination will help create the outcome you want. We know by now that our thoughts have enormous power to effect outcomes and realign our beliefs about ourselves. If you want to meet someone who is in sync with your core values and goals and who can meet your needs and requirements—visualize what that would look like. That will be your destination. Plug it into that dating GPS!
A quick trip-planning disclaimer. Every good plan includes an exit strategy. If your car breaks down, you may have to give up on this trip and try again later. In other words, with a good plan, you will be able to say no to someone who does not meet your criteria. Being prepared to exit those dating situations when they occur will make for a smoother journey.
Now…. How to plan your dating road-trip:
- Know what you want and need.
Mai tais on the beach or sky-diving in New England? Don’t go for the mai-tais if what you really want is sky-diving…. When you think about your dream relationship, can you envision a wonderful life in rich detail—one that feels strong, very real, and keeps you heading in the right direction? Keep that goal in mind!
It’s important to know what you want and need in a relationship, and to be able to identify when something is missing. Will you use failed relationships to help you figure out what you want next time? You bet. So if you have a relationship requirement of minimal drama, your healthy relationship is one in which you needn’t settle for anything less. (If you want that stocked cooler on your road trip, you must have it! You deserve to have what you want.)
Keep your requirements and needs in the forefront of your mind. If they are met, you feel happy, soothed, loved, safe, and valued. Perhaps your partner fulfills your need to feel loved for who you are. You both accept one another fully, allowing your relationship to flourish and fulfill you. Were you to compromise requirements and ignore your needs, you would find yourself leaving the relationship, no matter how committed you were or how much love you felt.
- Know the best route for you.
Your route may not be mine, or someone else’s—but it sure better be yours! Some people like the back roads—going slowly and seeing all the sights before ending up at a final destination. Others hit the thruway and go 10 miles over the speed limit. Most everyone wants to avoid detours, construction sites, and pot holes. Your dating GPS can help with that. Without some guidelines to help you, pot holes happen.
Are you an online dater? If so, know the best sites for the people you are looking for. Think about age, relationship goals (serious or casual), religious affiliation, etc.
Are you a meet-face-to-face/gotta-get-that-first-impression dater? Then you’ll want to go to places where you’ll meet like-minded people—book clubs, wine tastings, biking or hiking trails or clubs, dance classes, civic volunteer committees or groups.
Are you a matchmaker client? Find a matchmaker who is a good fit for you. Research matchmakers in your area and call for an interview. Remember, you are interviewing them. Ask about prices, procedures, database population, and for testimonials from previous clients.
Whatever your route—once you choose it, commit. Can you change course along the way? Sure! But being tentative is a poor strategy and can derail a good dating road-trip.
- Pack your bags!
Before you pack your bags, though, leave all your old baggage behind. Remember this is a forward journey filled with new adventures, hope, and love. Fill your suitcase with good communication skills, an open mind, a generous heart, patience, self-esteem, healthy boundaries, high expectations, and most of all excitement and happy anticipation.
- Reach your destination.
This is what it’s all been for. You’ve arrived, safe and sound. Sure, the journey had its hills and valleys, pit stops and maybe a speeding ticket, but it was well worth all of it because…you’ve met the one. You feel that you could be with this person for the rest of your life, grow old together, perhaps have kids or dogs or tropical fish, support each other’s pursuits, and become true life partners. “I do” should mean forever, not just for a while. If you can’t imagine a day without having this person in your life—you have reached your destination.