There’s no question that the dating relationship has changed over the years.

From the formal days of courtship to the casual days of hook-ups, dating isn’t what it used to be, and in another few years will probably look different still. The dating relationship is probably one of the most versatile relationships – risky, scary, disappointing, unnerving, exciting, passionate, rewarding. You almost can’t help but love it and hate it all at the same time.

And yet, at some point we all find ourselves in a dating relationship or wishing we were.

So as we begin a new year, here are five tips to dating well in 2018.

  1. Date with Purpose

Dating feels nice. The companionship in dating someone meets a desire we all have to love and be loved. But a dating relationship isn’t your be all and end all; it doesn’t make your life any more meaningful or fulfilling than if you’re not in a relationship. And – let’s be honest – dating is demanding! A relationship demands your time, your energy, your resources, your emotions, your finances. A relationship asks and requires of you, and if you’re not in a place to give – whether because you’re not able to, willing to or otherwise – it’s ok to admit that. More than ok, actually! Avoid dating for convenience, fun or pressure in 2018 and date with purpose instead.

  1. Take Your Time

“Take your time,” “Take it slow,” “Don’t rush things.” Cautions like these can seem so trite and obnoxious when you’re in love. But there can be wisdom in warning. The people who tend to caution have typically made their own relational mistakes and genuinely want you to avoid making the same ones they did.

Rushed and rash relationships often have ruinous results.

Most of us probably know someone who got themselves into a relationship like that; it was obvious to everyone but them that it just wasn’t a good fit. And yet, we rarely the warning signs ourselves until it’s too late. It’s been said,

You don’t really get to know someone until you’ve seen them in every season.”

It’s easy to love someone at their best, but if you haven’t seen them at their worst you don’t really know someone. So take your time…for your own sake.

  1. Don’t Desert Yourself

It’s easy to strand yourself on a relational island once you enter into a dating relationship. After all, the only person you really want to spend time with is your SO. That’s natural. But keeping yourself surrounded by other people you care about and who care about you too is important. We all know someone who changed when they started dating; they weren’t available to hang out anymore, you heard from them and saw them less, and eventually a relationship that was once close becomes distant or even non-existent. Everybody loses when that happens. Don’t distance yourself from people who care about you; if a dating relationship doesn’t work out, they’ll be there for you, and if it does work out you’ve just increased your circle of people who love you.

  1. Know When to Update Your Status

The first time you change your status to “In a Relationship” can be really exciting. The attention and support that floods in is exhilarating and overwhelming. It feels good to know people are excited for you! Changing your status again to “Single,” “It’s Complicated” or just about anything else afterwards can be heart-breaking, disappointing and even embarrassing. Usually, people are gracious and understanding – mistakes happen, relationships don’t work out, and life moves on. But when a relationship status turns into a constant cycle of in and out of relationships, those same people who were at first excited and supportive eventually begin to lose their excitement, support and even empathy. For your own sake, know when to update your status with the intention of it remaining that way.

  1. Break Up Well

Sometimes you have to break up. You reach a point in the relationship when you recognize it’s not healthy or you realize that you’re not both moving in the same direction anymore. When that point comes, break it off well. Communicate in person – you’re less likely to be misunderstood. State clearly why you’re breaking up, listing the reason(s) and taking your share of responsibility. Hold your ground; a breakup is hard, and if they’re not prepared the other person may try to sway your decision or resolve. Mean what you say and stick to it. Be kind; break up the way you would want someone to break up with you.

This list certainly isn’t exhaustive and won’t necessarily lead to a successful dating relationship. But it is based on common real-world relationships, mistakes and lessons learned and could be the reminder or change you need for better dating in 2018.