Sparking a Loving Relationship in Early Adulthood
Here at iElevate, when asking our clients about their hopes and dreams, relationships are almost always included. In fact, sparking or maintaining a relationship is typically ranked at the top of the list in terms of importance. While we are not a dating service, we do believe that a loving and healthy relationship is an aspect of independent living and is a valuable occupation. Danielle Feerst, our company's coach, is an Occupational Therapist (OTR/L). An Occupational Therapist by definition works with the whole person to enable them to participate in meaningful activities and to fulfill roles in their daily lives. In this case, being a lifelong partner is a role nearly all of us yearn for. No matter your circumstance, everyone deserves to be in a healthy and loving relationship. Having or not having a disability is not a factor in determining if you are deserving of love.
The first step is determining what you want at this stage in your life.
Do you want something casual and short term?
Do you want a more serious and long term relationship?
It should be known that both of these options are normal and healthy. With this being said, before you begin your search for potential partners, you should be honest with yourself on what you are looking for. Once you are confident in your answer and you begin communicating with potential partners, you should express your expectations and intentions of the relationship to ensure that you both are on the same page. If you are on a dating app, you can ask this by sending, “What are you looking for on _dating app name_?” or send, “Before we meet up, I am going to be honest, I am looking for _something casusal__ or _a relationship_ . Does that match with what you were thinking?”
The next step is determining who you want to be with at this stage in your life. While it is important to keep an open mind when searching for a partner, everyone has deal breakers. Creating a list of deal breakers for potential partners is healthy and helps you create standards for your relationship(s). Sit down and ask yourself what are qualities in a person that would make it unbearable to date them. When we write “unbearable,” take that literally. Even if you always hoped that your life partner would enjoy the Marvel Superheroes as much as you do, it should not mean that it is a deal breaker if they like Pixar more. This is an example of a “bonus” quality and is explained later in the blog post. A reasonable deal breaker to have would be to ensure that your life partner holds the same spiritual or religious beliefs (if you find that important). In some cases, deal breakers in a potential partner are black and white but other times, they may take time to be uncovered or exposed. In addition, your list of deal breakers may grow or change. This evolution comes from trial and error in dating while learning what you liked and what you did not like. Below are some topics to get you started thinking about if it (and what exactly) is or is not a deal breaker quality in your future partner:
Religion/ Faith/ Spirituality
Life Style (Drinking, Drugs, Travel, Employment)
Future Family Goals (Do they want children?/ How many?)
One deal breaker that should be on everyone’s list, is that their life partner treats them with respect and dignity. In under no circumstances is it acceptable or excusable to allow your partner to talk down to or to hurt you (physically, emotionally, verbally or sexually). If you feel like you are currently in a relationship where this is happening, you can call the Domestic Violence Hotline (open 24/7) by dialing 1-800-799-7233 or by texting “start” to the number 88788.
While having a list of deal breakers is healthy, you should also have a list of qualities that would be a “bonus” to have. Physical/appearance qualities should always be “bonus qualities” but sometimes it is appropriate for there to be other (non-physical) qualities in the “bonus” category. For example, some people are more attracted to those with brown curly hair but brown curly hair should be a bonus rather than a deal breaker. An example of a “bonus” non-physical quality in a potential partner would be that they enjoy surfing. This may be a bonus because this is an activity the two of you can bond over. While you may want to share all of your hobbies with your partner this is not always realistic nor is it always healthy. Partners should be able to support one another’s interests without having to share a passion for them.
Once you have an idea and criteria on who/what type of relationship you are looking for, you are ready for the next step: Begin the actual search. It is important to be open and flexible while in the process of dating. Things will take time and you have to put yourself out of your comfort zone to meet people. Here are some ways and ideas to meet potential partners:
Tell your friends and family that you are looking for a partner: Give them a list of your “deal breakers” as well as your “bonus” list. Ask them if they know of any potential partners.
Download a dating app: Use updated photos and take your time to write clever captions or prompts that encourage someone to respond. You may also want to do some research on how to get more matches based on the apps you are using. You can learn about the apps and how to maximize your matches by searching google.
Get active in the community by volunteering or joining clubs: Put yourself out there and take risks by introducing yourself to people who catch your eye or interest. Learn about them by asking them questions. Asking them questions can give you insight on if they are single and if you are compatible with them.
Go to a bar or dance club and introduce yourself to potential partners: Spend some time talking to and dancing with them. If you have fun and are interested, ask for their phone number and follow up the next day.
The next step begins once you have a match or have begun a conversation. At this point in the process of sparking a relationship, it becomes very personal and individualized. It would be nearly impossible to write a blog post that would yield sufficient advice. If you find yourself at this stage or if you are having any difficulty with the above steps, please reach out to Danielle Feerst OTR/L by clicking here to book a FREE 30 minute consultation. She has years of experience working with young adults who are working towards a meaningful life. Along with her Peer Mentors, Danielle and the rest of iElevate have several other ideas, experience and expertise on working with young adults with social emotional learning differences to promote living a fully engaged life. In addition, you can connect with us on our Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. If you have any ideas for future blog posts, feel free to message us on any of our social media accounts or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Written by Madison Gies, Peer Mentor/Coach, OTDS