The only way to find love is to date with an open heart. But I know what you’ve been through.
You’re tired of investing time and energy in the wrong men, only to end up frustrated, hurt, and empty-handed again and again.
You’ve worked hard to finally find peace and a sense of happiness in your life. And there’s no way you’re going to let someone come into your life and mess it all up. And yet … you don’t want to give up on LOVE. You want to meet the RIGHT man — someone who makes you feel challenged, inspired and adored. But you’re scared.
After everything you’ve been through, you’re not sure how to date without getting played or wasting valuable time. How do you put yourself “out there” and open up to love, but also protect your heart and the peace you’ve worked so hard to cultivate in your life?
The answer? Openness coupled with boundaries. Yes, it’s possible!
Here are 9 things you can do to make sure it’s safe to open your heart when you’re dating:
1. Avoid guys with obviously low self-esteem
If he doesn’t love and value himself, he probably can’t love and value you in a healthy way.
Find someone with high self-esteem. This is so important.
2. Make sure his values regarding family and relationships match yours
Take a close look at the life he has created. Does he have healthy long-lasting relationships with friends and family? Does he have his finances and responsibilities in order?
Does he have a good relationship with the ex and kids? Make sure his life is running smoothly before you invite him into yours.
3. Don’t accept his bad behavior
Think about the behaviors that hurt you in past relationships, and write them down. Was your ex passive-aggressive, negative, critical, non-communicative, or cold?
If your current beau is repeating some of the same behaviors, ask him to stop. If he can’t (or won’t), move on. You deserve to be treated beautifully.
4. Pay attention to what he DOES (not what he SAYS)
His actions show that he cares about you, more so than his words.
Does he make time for you and stay connected when he’s not with you? Does he make promises and then follow through?
A boyfriend who’s thoughtful, caring, generous, consistent, and kind will someday be a husband who’s thoughtful, caring, generous, consistent, and kind.
5. Make sure he includes you in all aspects of his life
Over time, he should start to include you in every aspect of his life, without exception. He welcomes you in his home and office. He invites you to spend time with his friends and family. And he’s proud to show you off!
If he’s excited to have you in his life and wants to include you in every aspect of it, he’s a keeper.
6. Be very sure he’s INTO you
If a man’s into you, he’ll make you a priority. He’ll ask to spend time with you consistently, and he’ll tell you what he likes about you.
You won’t have to wonder how he feels or wait anxiously for his call.
Bottom line — if he’s into you, you’ll know it. And if he’s not, go find someone who is.
7. Advocate for yourself
If something is bothering you, tell him. If he dismisses your feelings or gets defensive, that’s a red flag.
Only date someone who’s able to assess his own behavior and make changes when necessary. Date a man who owns up to his mistakes and who values your feelings (and do the same for him).
8. Wait to have sex (the right one will wait!)
Sex is awesome, and I’m all for it. But when you’re serious about finding “the one”, it’s a good idea to wait. Waiting until you’re in a relationship gives the two of you time to create emotional intimacy first, which is a smart strategy.
If the man you’re dating is genuinely interested in you, he’ll wait until you’re ready. If he’s more concerned about sex and not you, then he doesn’t respect that boundary.
9. Make sure you feel relaxed and happy when you’re with him
If you feel stressed, anxious or have to walk on eggshells when you’re dating, something’s wrong. Trust your gut and keep track of how you feel. If there are more bad days than good ones, it might be time to move on.
When you’re in the RIGHT relationship, you’ll feel happy, relaxed and comfortable. I hear this from happy couples all the time!
With strong boundaries and high expectations, you’ll know when it’s safe to open your heart. And when you’re all in — when you’re authentic, generous, warm and loving — that’s when LOVE will show up. That’s when the magic will happen.
This post originally appeared at YourTango.