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Dating From the Inside Out
by Susan S. Davis

Learning By Example

Once you’ve established good, honest, clear communication with someone, it is just as important in determining if a person is really a good choice for you, no matter what level of relationship you wish to have, to keep focused on: What makes a happy relationship for me? What is most important to me?

A solid relationship is more often based on shared values and common interests. But how do you determine whom is really a good choice and whom isn’t? What factors are truly mandatory in your relationship, and which aren't? It’s important to distill these aspects succinctly and weigh them honestly and thoroughly when evaluating personal relationships.

The “Mentor” Theory
If you’re still unsure of how to answer questions about the relationship best suited to you, or how to evaluate potential partners, perhaps another way to approach it is to ask people who have what appear to be the closest to the ideal situation as the one you can envision yourself in. Just as in business, personal relationships can be learned about and emulated, to a certain extent, in varying degrees.

The values of mentors in general are endless. Learning from experience is considered one of the very best ways to realize goals. On the social and emotional development front, mentoring has been proven to promote positive social attitudes and relationships, in general. Mentoring can also improve communication and foster a better level of emotional support that is conducive to reaching goals.

Society is a lot more complicated than it was a few generations ago, and a large percentage of single men and women don't see enough models of successful courtships to help them figure out how to go about finding suitable prospects, let alone, relationships.

There have been many research studies that have confirmed that mentoring can garner a number of positive benefits, including:

» Someone to use as a sounding board
» Easily (and painlessly) finding out about past experiences that may enlighten and inform
» Broadening horizons and experience more effortlessly
» Learning how to apply techniques that have worked in similar situations
» Increased motivation to use new knowledge
» Improved over-all self-confidence and self-esteem
» Raised achievements and aspirations; and, most importantly,
» Improved personal relationships that may result in a dating goal realized

Mentors Can Take Many Forms
A dating mentor can be a man or woman who is a combination friend/coach/advisor and sounding board for an unmarried person. Obviously, the best types of mentors are those who themselves, are experiencing the type of situation you are interested in having for yourself. Therefore, if you are marriage minded, it may be a good idea to seek advice from people who are or have been happily married.

If you are not ready for marriage or a relationship, perhaps it would be prudent to find those who are familiar with the issues that single men and women regularly confront, either through personal friendships or consultants. Many relationship counselors have articles to peruse through their websites, as well, that may be helpful in “spelling out” descriptions and the fine points of a great relationship. Learning what the particular ingredients to successful relationships are for actual people can help you more clearly discern and distill what you need to do as an individual to reach your goals.

Books may also provide many of the benefits that a personal mentor can. There are numerous books on the subject of relationships, from John Gray's Mars/Venus series, to Dr. Phil’s new “Love Smart.”

In addition to personal mentors and books, there are also various training workshops through a number of churches and other local organizations that can be useful to attend. The workshops tend to provide a one-on-one approach for a more traditional mentoring situation.

There are also many forms in which a mentor and a single person may work together. A person who has been dating unproductively for a long time and may finally have met someone who seems to fit all of the desired criteria, may want guidance and encouragement. Or, a mentor may be consulted because of an issue that has arisen within a courtship that needs to be resolved.

Dating mentors can also be useful as sounding boards for a plethora of situations that result in anxiety, as well as those who seem to be repeating one or more unproductive patterns with several dates, such as: getting suck at the second or third date, sabotaging the courtship just when it seems to be going somewhere, or gravitating to people who seem emotionally unavailable.

Some people may prefer to work with a mentor they already know; others like to develop friendships with new people.

Whatever route you decide to take, realize that when looking at other’s personal relationships, there may be elements that were not obvious at first, in the situation you are choosing to study. Appearances are often not as they seem. But you can still glean positive elements from any situation you feel is close to what you would like to have in your own life.

If you were to ask any successful couple that has stood the test of time from any age, who manage to make it into their elder years, how they did it, you will most likely hear that they either married a friend they fell in love with, or, became great friends with the person they fell in love with. They will probably tell you that they haven’t been friends every day and for all time, but for the long term, it's easier to live with or make up with someone you like very much and respect in the first place. The bottom line is that in order to survive the changes of a lifetime, it’s easier to weather the tides of life as lovers and friends, especially if you plan on having a lifetime, in whatever capacity, with someone.

It isn’t that you should endeavor to “duplicate” an entire situation, but it certainly can help to use what you consider to be a successful situation that you might like to have in your own life as a “model” to study. Some of the more desirously situated people have achieved what they have by learning about and applying the successful habits of others. Personal relationships are really no different, except that emotions and physicality play bigger roles in them. But if you approach the subject more analytically overall, you may find that it is much easier to make decisions about whom to spend your time with in ways that will allow you to reach your dating or relationship goals. And the next best thing (in some situations, even better) to learning from your own experience, is to learn from someone else’s.

Susan S. Davis is a published book author and writer, currently doing research for a romantic screenplay she is writing. Her Dating From The Inside Out column is published every Tuesday.

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