My guide to setting yourself up for dating success in 2024.
Before you know it, the ball will be dropping in Times Square, Auld Lang Syne will be ringing through our sound systems, and you'll be raising a glass of champagne to 2024 - and to the sparkling possibilities that lie ahead.
The end of an old year, and the start of a new one, can be a powerful incentive for us to do a sort of "state of the union" in our lives in some major areas - and what better area for reflection than our love lives?
While we all know by this point that new year's resolutions tend not to stick, there has been some research indicating that changes we make that co-occur with a significant cultural and time-bound event (like the new year!) tend to stick better than changes made at other times of the year (1).
That means, that while I'm not going to encourage you to make intimidatingly large (and, as research has also shown - unattainable!) goals come January first, I am going to encourage using the year's end to do a little bit of reflection on the direction that you might like to see your love life take in 2024 (2).
Whether the 2023 version of your love life has been great, terrible, or somewhere in between, we can all benefit from a little bit of a love-life post-mortem.
Here's how to ensure that you're preparing yourself to show up intentionally and thoughtfully in your dating life in 2024.
1. What did I learn about myself in 2023?
Looking back over the year, what stands out? This is the time to take stock of what you learned over the year, and what felt significant.
What significant lessons did I learn this year? How did I grow this year, and how did I change? What can I be proud of myself for this year?
2. What 2023 relationships felt the best?
If you've been dating as much as I advise you to date (coughs discreetly), you should have a decent handful of dating experiences to look back on - with an attending mix of both positive and negative memories associated with them. While these experiences likely weren't lasting, there should be at least a few experiences that you can look back on with some fondness - or at the very least, a sense of regret that things didn't turn out differently. These are the relationships that can often teach us more about what we like and are looking for - not only in a future partner, but also out of our dating experiences more broadly.
What about these relationships felt good? How can I seek out more of that? What did I learn from these relationships about me and what I need?
3. What 2023 relationships felt misaligned?
What relationships didn't feel good? These relationships can often teach us about what we don't want - in future partners, certainly, and also in our future dating experiences.
What about these relationships felt off? What did I learn about who I am and what I need from them? What did I learn about what I need to look for in a partner? Do I need to learn to set better boundaries? How can I "have my own back" in future situations in a more air-tight way? What did I learn about my own residency and strength through these relationships, and did I learn anything about being able to meet my own needs?
4. Looking back over the year, how do I feel about the state of my dating life right now?
For many of us, New Year's Day can be a day that shines a spotlight on however it is that we already feel about our love lives - the good, the bad, and the ambivalent.
The event of a new year - with its attendant possibilities and new beginnings - also implies an ending - the death of the old year. This ending tends to be accompanied by reflection - a sort of reviewing - a "looking over," and a "checking in." This "checking in" can mean that we feel things that we may not be familiar with, or we may have been ignoring, and it can mean that we see things that we may have previously put from our minds - it's funny what a review can suddenly bring up.
For this reason, the start of a new year has a curiously vulnerable quality about it.
Sometimes the discomfort that lives in the gap between where we are and what we want can be helpful in nudging us to take action in the direction of our desires. And action is what's needed in order to move us from self-reflection into self-actualization; from self-awareness into making what it is that we desire into a new, integrated reality.
How have my feelings about dating shifted (or not shifted) over the past year? Does how I feel about my dating life have anything to teach me about what I want, need, value, or believe about my life in the bigger picture? What does this experience of a day that puts you face-to-face with your own relationship with your love life say about what you want (in your life and/or your existing relationship)? How might it be inviting you forward to take action?
5. How are my current dating strategies working?
We all know how I feel about having a dating strategy. If you don't already have one, the new year is your opportunity to get serious about your love life and invest some time into figuring out what it will take to turn your doomed dates into the relationship you've been dreaming about.
If you do have a dating strategy, the new year is a great time to evaluate what about it has been working for you and what hasn't. Even if you've had the most awful year for dating, it's likely that something that you're doing is working. Now is the time to take stock of what that is, and invest back in your winning dating strategies. Now can also be an excellent time to take stock of what isn't working, and to consider how you might do things differently in the new year.
What’s working well about how I currently approach dating? What might I need to re-evaluate or change?
6. How can I open myself to love this year?
Dating - and love - is inherently risky. Love involves uncertainty and emotional exposure - and increasing our capacity for risk also increases our capacity for dating resiliency.
How can I become more comfortable with risk? What small risks can I take? How can I take risks that feel vulnerable enough to be brave, but small enough to feel do-able?
7. Have I taken full ownership of my love life?
At the end of the day - our results in dating are our - and only our - responsibility. Blaming "dating apps" or "the state of modern dating" or "society today" are all ways of deflecting the responsibility that if something doesn't work for us - it's our responsibility to figure out why, and then to figure out something that does work.
This may take actual legwork, and it certainly requires more than just showing up. If we want success in dating - we're going to need to be willing to keep experimenting, learning, and trying new things until we figure out what works for us.
Am I assuming full responsibility for my love life, or am I blaming something external to me for my results in love? Do I really believe that I am fully responsible for the results I get from dating? How might it feel for me to consider adopting that belief? What actions might I take in my love life if I believed that?
8. What would dating on MY terms in the new year look like?
We can date on our own terms. We don't have to see people we don't want to see, agree to things that we don't want to agree to, or do things that we know don't work for us. We can date as often (or as little!) as we like. We have agency over our own dating plan.
What might dating on my terms look like? How would I allocate my time? My energy? My emotions? What boundaries might I set?
Change is an incremental process that happens gradually, in what James Clear, New York Times bestselling author of Atomic Habits, calls “atomic” moments and in baby steps - not when the clock strikes midnight.
I suggest using these reflection questions as journaling prompts - but reflecting on them with a coach or therapist is equally - if not more - useful for many people. (You don't have a coach or therapist? That's what I'm here for! Let's chat.)
Through reflection and intentionality, we can set our mental stage to allow us to make the kinds of incremental changes that, over time, yield new-year-sequin-worthy dazzling results.
PS. Finding love in the age of Tinder requires a littttle bit more than what your mom taught you about dating back in her day.
Dating in the modern era doesn't come with an instruction manual (but it should!).
There ARE things that work on the apps. And there are things that decidedly DON'T work. And we know exactly what they are through dating science.
Hi, it’s me. I’m your instruction manual, and I will teach you how to date by using science.
Sign up for my FREE workshop here, where I'll teach you the 3 things you need to get back in the driver's seat of your love life.
(1) Dai, Hengchen, Katherine L. Milkman and Jason Riis. “The Fresh Start Effect: Temporal Landmarks Motivate Aspirational Behavior.” Manag. Sci. 60 (2014): 2563-2582.
(2) Clear, James. 2018. Atomic habits: tiny changes, remarkable results : an easy & proven way to build good habits & break bad ones.