cow path is a trail created by cows that allows them to get their basic needs like water, food, and shelter met. Often these paths are not the most direct route. There might be a more efficient way to get there, but they’ve never walked it before. The cows continue to trudge along those same well-worn paths because it’s what they’ve always done in the past. Sometimes our romantic lives can feel like cow paths. We walk along with our heads down, attracting the same types of people and moving from one unfulfilling relationship to the next.

Fortunately, if you’re reading this, you’re not a cow. You have the consciousness to create a new path. It’s not always easy to modify conditioned behaviors, our cow paths, but we can make changes through awareness and intention.

FFirst, let’s talk about The Law of Attraction. The Law of Attraction is a book and a concept created by spiritual teachers Esther and Jerry Hicks (aka Abraham-Hicks). Their work explains that the energy we put out into the universe is the same energy we receive back. This interchange is especially true in dating.

When you have multiple dates lined up over the next several weeks, you’ll likely exude an air of confidence and friendliness. Most importantly, you let go of the outcome. You’re okay if it’s not a match. Your equanimity allows you to be your confident, authentic self on a date. Even if it’s not a match made in heaven, you’ll likely have a good enough time. In contrast, when you’ve only got one date on the horizon, and you’re desperate to find a significant other, you’ll likely be nervous and uncertain. This date probably won’t go as well.

For the most part, I’ve never had a problem attracting romance in my life. I truly appreciate and enjoy men. Men seem to sense this, and thus, there’s never been a shortage of candidates to date. However, while men have always been easy enough for me to attract, I haven’t always pursued the best partners — not the type of men I claimed to have wanted, at least.

For example, my first serious boyfriend after my divorce had a lot of the same qualities as my ex-husband. And not the good ones. These were the same traits that contributed to the demise of my marriage. My mom had even quipped, “Why not just go back with your ex, at least he’s the father of your children.” (Thanks, Mom.) Luckily, I began to become aware of my pattern of dating this type of man and started to make some changes. Sure, it took me about 25 years of dating to recognize — but better late than never.

Around this time, I came across this quote from self-help guru and author Wayne Dyer: “We do not attract what we want; we attract what we are.”

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I started to consider what it was about me that kept attracting the same type of man. While I could easily attract men, once I began to like someone, I became needy, insecure, and anxious. I wanted texts throughout the day so I could be sure he was thinking about me and verbal affirmations to let me know how much he cared. If I didn’t hear from him when I expected, I would feel fraught and abandoned.

In hindsight, it probably should have been a red flag if someone had time to text me 25 times throughout the day.

I found men who offered me all of the assurance that I desired. However, I would eventually realize that these men didn’t have other attributes that I wanted, arguably more essential character traits like confidence, emotional stability, and competence. I wanted someone who could support me in my endeavors without being threatened. I wanted a partner, not someone I needed to console and coddle.

In hindsight, it probably should have been a red flag if someone had time to text me 25 times throughout the day and tell me how important I was to them after dating for a couple of weeks. However, since getting my reassurance needs met was my top priority, I often ignored the bigger picture.

Because I was operating from a needy place, I was attracting needy men. We were two incomplete people coming together, hoping the union would fill a void. With this math, you don’t get a complete person, just a bigger void. Trust me; I’ve tried. That cow path was well worn.

LLike I emitted neediness, I can sense a lot of other people are broadcasting pessimism and even a little bit of anger. I’ve read quite a few stories from people bashing online dating, talking about how terrible men or women are these days, and lamenting the dating scene. I have no idea how you attract anyone with that kind of attitude. Remember, according to The Law of Attraction, you receive the same energy that you release. My advice to these people would be to spend less time judging everyone else’s character and spend more time managing the energy you are sending out.

Our energy will always be a work in progress. Like cleaning the house or going to the gym, it’s something we need to monitor and care for consistently. Fortunately, you don’t need to have your emotional life entirely in order before you begin to date or embark on a new relationship. Still, you do need to be aware of your patterns and have a desire and intention to change them.

When I first started dating my boyfriend, I was a basket case. I wasn’t getting my mandatory 25 texts a day or promises of a life spent together in bliss. I wasn’t even getting promises of our next weekend together. In the first year, I was so anxious that I wanted to bail on the relationship. Luckily, I was seeing a therapist at the time who suggested I not make any decisions based on my anxiety. She encouraged me to learn how to manage my stress in this relationship, rather than quitting and bringing my issues with me to the next one. I began to realize that my anxiety was not indicative of the health of the relationship.

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We should spend less time judging everyone else’s character and more time managing the energy we are sending out.

I was also becoming more aware of my reactionary, conditioned behaviors. If I didn’t hear from my boyfriend when I expected, rather than texting, “Why haven’t I heard from you?” I would put my phone in a drawer and go for a hike with my dog. Not the most elegant solution I realize, but we need to crawl before we can walk.

Managing my reactions wasn’t always easy. I still struggle. But if we want to stop attracting the same people and playing out the same relationships, we need to stop putting out the same energy and engaging in the same behaviors. I’m happy to report that my boyfriend and I are going on three years now. I consider this the healthiest relationship of my life.

This approach to relationships has allowed me to learn how to reassure myself, rather than relying on outside affirmations. I’m not the only one working on self-improvement, either; my partner is also working on becoming more communicative about his feelings. This is one of the great things about relationships. Even though they can be uncomfortable at times, they provide two people who care about each other the space to identify areas they still need to work on, so they can come together to heal. While I still don’t get all the texts or verbal affirmations I would like, I realize there are more important qualities in a partner that I need. Instead, I receive love, support, and consistency.

Here are some ways you can change your energy and begin to attract a healthy relationship.

Go to therapy

It’s important to understand why we are initially attracted to some people. Often, we’re trying to resolve childhood issues. We keep repeating similar patterns, hoping to get a different result or closure. It is called “repetition compulsion.” Once you’re aware of that, you probably won’t want to continue the cycle any longer. Therapy can help you identify the past you’re trying to replay. Many of us have some mommy or daddy issues. It’s best to identify them and move on.

Meditate

A regular meditation practice helps us to create the space between triggers and responses. It gives us time to consider the most skillful path forward. So rather than send a snarky, “Why have you gone MIA?” text, you learn to wait. You can choose to do something interesting with your life and not worry about a text, or simply send a, “Hi, how’s your day going?” message instead. Meditation helps us become more aware of our conditioned behaviors, our cow paths, that are no longer serving us, and choose alternative ones.

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Work on your energy

According to The Law of Attraction, if you want to be loved, you need to be lovable. If you want passion in your life, be passionate. You don’t need to focus this energy on one person. You can create this energy through interactions with all the people and situations in your life. Passion isn’t contained to sexual energy. Get passionate about a creative project, or the dinner you plan to make tonight. Don’t just flirt with your love interest, flirt with everyone. Flirt with life.

Journal

What are the qualities you want in a partner? List them out and prioritize them. Consider if you have those qualities in yourself. If not, how can you begin to cultivate them? Be careful with your list. If you want someone with lots of money or someone who would make great arm candy, you’ll likely get it. But that’s all you get. The universe does its best to deliver, so be conscious of your desires.

Be a little uncomfortable

Date people who make you a little uncomfortable. Of course, not the creepy type of uncomfortable — don’t date those people at all! But, it’s healthy to be open to people you haven’t considered before. The reason we find some people so easy to date is because we’ve done it so many times before. (Repetition compulsion!)

If someone makes you feel really comfortable, or there is a strong initial chemistry, that may be a sign that you’ve done this rodeo. If you want to change patterns, date someone who feels a little awkward at first. That could be a sign that you’re charting a new path.

Lighten up

Try not to take everything so seriously. Give people the benefit of the doubt and assume goodwill. If things don’t work out, don’t take it personally. People act based on their genetics, conditioning, and past experiences. Most of the time, their behavior has nothing to do with you.

LLet dating and relationships be part of your spiritual practice. Intimate relationships are the perfect lens through which to observe unhealed wounds, as well as our conditioned behaviors. They also offer an excellent opportunity to practice non-attachment and self-acceptance. Rather than viewing dating as a necessary evil that needs to be endured, think of it as a guide on your journey to self-actualization.

And just remember, as Ram Dass says: “We’re all just walking each other home.”

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