Five Steps for Transforming Past Dating Experiences

We all have some “baggage” left over from past dating and relationship experiences.

Sometimes these experiences can leave us feeling weary and pessimistic, validating our negative beliefs about dating and even worse, about ourselves.

However, our transformation lies in our power to use our past experiences as guideposts to move forward in the dating world.  By understanding what we learned from the past, we grow to be wiser, better versions of ourselves.

Here are five steps on how to transform your past experiences. Spiritual teacher Ram Das called this kind of inner reflection “grist for the mill” — the alchemy that happens when every experience matters and is utilized for personal growth. Imagine approaching all of your dating and past relationships in this light.

  1. Make a thorough list of the gifts and lessons for each past significant dating relationship.

Every relationship offers a gift, even if it involved betrayal, hurt and anger.  Ask yourself what you learned and how you changed with each particular dating experience.

Example: Jon – taught me about my power to get out of a bad situation and voice my feelings and needs.

  1. After you have clarified the lessons from each relationship, write a “thank you” note in your journal to each significant person from the past.

By “wrapping” experiences with gratitude, there is a freedom to move forward.

Example: “Dear Jon, I realize that you were exactly what I needed at that time in my life when we were together to show me that I deserve more love than what you were able to bring to me.  I thank you for being exactly as you were with me to help me wake up to my sense of worthiness. You were my turning point and for this, I am grateful.”

  1. Write down what is now “Unacceptable” to you as well as what are the “Essentials” in dating.

As we gather information from our experiences, it becomes clearer what is “Unacceptable” and what is essential in the qualities of people we choose to spend time with. By naming it, we have guidelines for our future dating experience.

Example: Unacceptable – rage outbursts.  Essentials: Ability to deal with conflict

  1. Write a permission-giving list for what you want to experience in your dating life. Examples: fun, sensuality, laughter, dancing, eroticism, boundaries, directness, eye contact, affection.
  1. Visualize yourself living into your permission-giving list with another person. Be aware of the sensations in your body as you visualize your life blossoming.

By visualizing yourself enjoying the experience of dating and being in relationships, you bring it into the present moment. By imagining the experience of yourself that you want to have, you are now not just thinking about it but rather, your physiological state receives the benefits by the act of seeing and feeling into the experience as if it is truly happening right now. The more detail you can allow in your visualization, the deeper you will cultivate a sense of well-being and empowerment.

Take your time with each step. As you do this inner work with each step, notice what changes inside of you and know that you are moving forward. Grist for the Mill!

Deva Joy Gouss, LCSW, is a psychotherapist in private practice in Atlanta Georgia for over thirty years.  She and her husband give weekend couple retreat workshops called Nurturing Your Love. She also facilitates many other kinds of trainings and workshops including Council of All Beings, Tribe Time, Marrying Yourself, Yoga and Movement Celebration to name a few. She is author of Re-arranged, Never the same: The Nature of Grief and of Toolbox of Hope, For When Your Body Doesn’t Feel Good. Visit Deva Joy at



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.