In the lead-up to Valentine’s Day, EL’s YIMIN HUANG has been researching the phenomenon of dating in Singapore, and questioning what might be the best approach to this all-important stage of a relationship. She attempts to condense her learnings into bite-sized dating/relationship advice, including how to navigate physical intimacy and more!
If you find dating in Singapore hard, you’re probably not alone. Modern dating has become quite the cesspool. More and more people, it seems, are getting into “situationships” with physical intimacy that can last for years, while still remaining single. It’s a phenomenon virtually unheard of decades ago.
To find out why so many dates seem to be a fail, I engaged the help of books and YouTube videos – even paid to do a “dating course”! The answer is harsh but straightforward: it isn’t actually about that jerk who refused to commit; it all goes back to ourselves. A quote often attributed to Albert Einstein says that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. So, if you’ve been getting the same unsavoury outcome, it may be a sign to make fundamental changes to how you date.
I’ve condensed my learnings into the following dating/relationship advice, How Not to Date, as a wake-up call for anyone in this situation (and for myself!). Take from it what you will, and decide what you want to change or not change about how you’re currently dating – at your own risk!
Do not: Engage in physical intimacy too early
This relationship advice may sound like the opposite of what is touted as “empowering”, but it’s useful to hear for anyone who is set on looking for a long-term partner.
Engaging in physical intimacy early on is not just potentially confusing for women – for one thing, it releases oxytocin, or the bonding hormone, that is often mistaken for romantic feelings – it can be draining for men too. Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as truly “casual” sex. Intimacy is an energy exchange. This is why it’s common for people to feel low after sleeping with someone they barely know.
By choosing not to engage in physical intimacy early on, you give yourself time to see who your date truly is, without wasting energy or getting caught up in hormonal overreactions.
Do not: Let him or her violate your non-negotiables
Dating requires knowing where you stand. Where do you draw the line? If you don’t, anyone would be able to enter your space, from regular jerks all the way up to scary sociopaths! Decide what your non-negotiables are. Is it punctuality? Being polite to service staff? Confirming the date on the day before?
Write down your list, and decide the consequences from the get-go. The catch is you have to be ready to walk away, regardless of whether you’re dating Christian Grey or the next President of the United States.
Do not: Make them your purpose
“I can’t live without you.” “You make my world go round.” From a young age, we are inundated with messages like this from multimedia platforms, suggesting our partner is the centre of our universe. What, then, can we do when they don’t answer our calls or, god forbid, disappear altogether?
Finding “the one” is not the be-all and end-all of your life. Always have a purpose outside a relationship. It can be as grand as building your own company and as small as improving on a skill every day. This provides a foundation from which all things can move forward.
Do not: Put your needs last
Are you a people pleaser who gives in to your partner’s desires in a relationship? Perhaps he asked you out for a movie date and you don’t like the movie he picked but said nothing? Or he asked to meet at his place and you didn’t want to but still cabbed there anyway? We all want someone to put us first, but how can they do it when we don’t prioritise our own needs?
Partners aren’t mind readers. Always voice your needs, and don’t ever do anything you don’t want to. When you put yourself first in a relationship, miraculously others do too. Or they fall away so better ones can fill the vacuum.
Do not: Stay in unfulfilling friendships
As the saying goes, we are the average of the five people we hang out with the most. If you find yourself surrounded with people who are unmotivated, struggle with addictions or have a lack of interest in what you care about, it’s time to revamp your social circle and find better companions.
Do not: Neglect your health
Exercising not only keeps us physically healthy; it releases endorphins that boost mental well-being too. Find a fitness routine that works for you. One trick is investing in exercises you enjoy, not just for the purpose of looking fit. Try Zumba, yoga, spin, rock climbing… and stick to what you like!
Do not: Focus on the unwanted
Do you find yourself lamenting “all men are assholes” or “all women are selfish”? Beware! We are wired to only spot what we focus on, so thinking this way will only cause us to encounter more of what we dislike! Instead, list the specific traits you like in a partner and only entertain people with these qualities when dating in Singapore or beyond.
Do not: Underestimate how amazing YOU are
Ever wondered why some “cocky” people have the best luck in dating and relationships? They fully recognise how awesome they are, so others can feel it too! While you don’t have to act arrogant, you have to know you are a catch. This is likely the most important “relationship advice” of all.
What do you love most about yourself? Is it your intelligence? Your sense of humour? Always remind yourself why they’re lucky to have you. What if you don’t have to kiss the toads by simply choosing not to? The search for love is ultimately a search for self-love. This Valentine’s Day, whether you are single or dating in Singapore, may you experience the best relationship of your life – with you.
This article first appeared in the February 2023 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy!
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