Stretch Sex Coach Cara Kovacs on How to Mindfully Date You carefully consider what you put in your body, how you exercise, and the impact your actions have on the world. Why would dating be different? By Cara Kovacs Photo by Viktor Juric Have you ever fallen so hard for someone that you lose sight of yourself a little bit? Cool, me too. And, as a professional sex and love coach, it’s literally my business to establish healthy foundations for relationships. But let’s be real: Sometimes vibrant vibes sweep you off your feet, and suddenly you find yourself very open to trying foods you previously said you hated, or pretending to understand a hobby you never had any interest in before. Ah, the things we do for l’amour. But let’s be clear: There is a subtle difference between developing an interest in Nascar and compromising things that are truly important to you. And not that one necessarily leads to the other, but if you, like many, have a tendency to get wrapped up in a new partner and lose sight of what you want in a relationship, then this is the article for you. When we give our time and energy to one person, we block the possibility of finding someone else. That is, when we’re caught up in someone who cannot give us what us want, how can we attract someone who could? When we date people who do not align with our values—and we push and stretch those values to try to “make something work”—what we usually end up with is resentment and dissatisfaction. Deciding What You’re Looking For In modern dating we are just a swipe away from hundreds of options, making mindfulness a habit to practice in dating as much as any other aspect of your life. Doing so will help you narrow down what it is that you really want in a way that is empowering. When seeking a long-term partner, having a clear list of non-negotiables, and then sticking to it, is frankly a strategy that cannot steer you wrong. I’m not suggesting you be picky, but if you know that you want children and are not willing to compromise, do not embark on a two-year love affair with someone who is not aligned with that desire. Besides being tons of fun, the early stages of dating are golden nuggets of time to unearth whether or not you and your partner truly see a compatible future. It is also the time where we are most inclined to have extreme surges of dopamine and serotonin just from the smell of their t-shirt or a text message notification from them. These happy hormones—not to mention the tons of (hopefully) great sex you are having—can make it hard to see red flags. That’s why getting clear on your values and desires before you invite a partner into your life will help you stand your ground. Take some time to meditate on it. Visualize your ideal relationship. Does this person appreciate the nuances of spirituality that you do? Do you mind if they think that your penchant for writing intentions to the moon is hokey? Do you have any hard no’s around alcohol or drug usage and smoking? If you have certain dietary restrictions, are you open to someone who may not align with you there? All of our deal-breakers are going to be individual. And you can make this into a truly fun and exciting process for yourself. How to Determine Your Deal-Breakers Start with a couple of deep breaths and focus in on exactly how your ideal partner would make you feel. What kind of life would you live together? What values do you share? Write down everything from the biggest issues to the smallest details you can think of. This is a great practice for simply manifesting the partner that you want in the first place. You can fold your list, put it under your bed, and speak aloud,“To this or better.” This creates an energetic container by which you have stated into the physical reality what your wildest dreams are. In order to bring something into your life, you have to want it first. Now, looking at your list a second time, with a more critical eye, what are the things that you are absolutely unable to compromise? You may have written that your ideal mate has “the same obsessive and unashamed love of Star Wars,” but could see yourself with someone who didn’t share that trait (at least initially). Whereas, something like, “Did not vote for X political candidate,” may be a very solid deal-breaker for you. Keep those definitive traits in your phone. No need to interrogate your dates about them, but having them top of mind is a good reminder when you are feeling super into someone and start to falter. As a dating coach, one of the biggest dating mistakes I have seen people make is to completely and blatantly ignore red flags in favor of chemistry and a magical-seeming happenstance first meeting. (Not to throw stones at glass houses; I once embarked on a five month relationship with a recently-divorced man who spent most of our dates crying over his divorce because, “I wanted someone that devoted to marriage.” Cough, cough, the sex was excellent.) The Pitfalls of Chemistry With utmost compassion, I recognize that truly feeling in sync with a person can feel like a rare gem that should be treasured. And this is so true. Finding someone who ignites and inspires your desire should feel magical, but these types of bonds are not lasting. Usually, this intense attraction and desire is a byproduct of chemistry; the other person is a really good mirror for your own opportunities for growth. If you can grow in support of each other—this is the part that comes from having aligned values—that is the space where you can translate great chemistry into a long-term commitment. But when you try to shift the core of what you want for yourself to a person who inspired you but doesn’t match you, you set both of you up for arguments you can never win. This is one of the hardest things for people to come to terms with in dating, because it means you have to say goodbye to great people who you really like. It is also one of the quickest shifts you can make toward calling in and manifesting something real, lasting, and expansive. Because once you shift toward building relationships with a foundation of mindfulness, the way you date and the partners you attract with start to change. Would you prefer to have spent three years contemplating breaking up with that partner who was never going to move for you, or would you rather have spent six beautiful months having amazing sex with them, realized you weren’t aligned, and left them on good terms to find someone who was? It takes massive amounts of learned maturity and willpower to end a chemical connection to someone under those circumstances, but future you will thank you 1,000 times over for ending it with love and compassion and saving both parties the stress of arguing to meet in a middle that doesn’t exist. How do you incorporate mindfulness practices into your dating life? — Cara Kovacs is a third generation healer, second generation oracle, and Sex, Love & Relationship expert trained by Layla Martin. Named as 2019’s one of “35 People Under 35 To Watch In Wellness” by Wanderlust, she combines modern science with ancient healing and spiritual philosophy to help bring people to truth through love. Past featured events have included Bustle Rulebreakers ft. Janelle Monae & The Big Quiet, Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, Wanderlust Festival, partnerships with Employees Only, Root Mamma, Salt Witch Studios, Soho House, Freehand Hotels, LadyBoss Social Club, Alchemist Kitchen, and more. She is an official card reader for The Poetry Society of New York and has been featured in Time Out, Cosmopolitan, Bustle, and Elite Daily.