Process-Oriented Dating

By Amy Palatnick

Although I don’t get paid for it, I like to call myself a “professional dater,” because my approach is more of a martial art or a research project than a quest for love.  I focus on dating for personal growth, using each date to challenge myself in the realm of communication.  In my practice, the manifestation of love is a cherry-on-top, not a primary goal.

A unique perk of dating is getting to interact with a variety of people.  Different parts of me get evoked by each connection.  At an early stage of interaction, I have little skin in the game and can freely experiment in my communications without feeling limited by stagnant roles that crystallize in longer-term connections. 

Dating also has a built-in bonus of introspection: when it’s over, there is plenty of time to reflect on my experience. 

If you are ready to flex your communication muscles, dating is a perfect practice arena to usher you into the bountiful land of elevated relating.  Dates are filled with opportunities to develop and practice our communication skills, from first contact to sayonara.  All we need to know is how we want to grow!

How Do We Grow?  The Mandate of Personal Evolution

I believe that each person is on a unique evolutionary path, encountering specific, personally-tailored obstacles that inevitably result in personal growth.  When we navigate our journeys with awareness, we may experience a gentler ride: we can consciously manifest and monitor our progress (including our failures!).  My belief is, even when we resist or ignore spiritual growth prompts (which can manifest in the form of accidents, body symptoms, dreams, disturbances in our home, relationship, or work lives…) we still evolve!  We can’t avoid the lessons life has in store for us. 

Yet growth is often difficult and uncomfortable!  We have to be willing to shift belief systems, to stretch in new directions, and to behave in ways that feel foreign and uncomfortable.  It takes work to build new muscles.

The Concept of the Edge

Foundational to the Processwork paradigm is acceptance of the whole of who we are, including the unknown parts of us that desire expression.  We can help the process along if we have a sense of what those parts are. 

The threshold of our growth is called the edge; an inner boundary between the known and unknown parts of ourselves.  It is the gate to our emerging future, the portal to our untapped potential.  Most of us try to avoid edges, feeling safer when we rest in what is known. 

But emerging qualities actually need an outlet.  When blocked, these marginalized (not fully integrated) parts often find troubling means of expression, such as through addiction (an unconscious strategy that gets us over the edge), nightmares (which confront us with our edges), body symptoms (where our edges surface physically), and other difficulties.  By consciously choosing to grow, we can express these characteristics in ways that are more supportive and less sabotaging. 

An easy way to identify the parts of us that are trying to grow is to look at people we admire.  Who do we wish we could be like?  What is it about them that speaks to us?  Can we act like they do?  Can we integrate their unique characteristics, even a little bit?  Can we sit like them, talk like them, grab that trait they have and play with it?  If not, why not? 

If we are willing to take risks to act in new and unfamiliar ways and to dance with our edges, to welcome our unknown parts, we can embrace our emerging traits by taking risks and manifesting our growth.

What is Your Relationship Edge?

We have all kinds of edges: some are personal, others are interpersonal (between people) or even transpersonal (beyond personal).  “Relationship edges” are interpersonal, showing up in connection with others. 

My biggest edge in relationships is radical honesty (speaking my truth even when I’m afraid to).  My primary style is to accommodate, to say what I think the other person wants to hear.  In dating, this comes up a lot: I often am conscious that I am not interested in my date but I continue to “make nice” instead of ending the encounter. 

I have a personal hero named Janet.  My relationship edge is radical honesty, and Janet always says it like it is, for better or worse.  When I am on a date and know that I have something to say but am afraid to say it, I think about Janet, and pretend that I’m Janet! I sit up taller, and I feel like Janet.  I look through her eyes and put my hands on the table.  When I remember, I use this line that helps me get where I want to go, “Can I be honest with you?”  From there, I always know what to do. 

If you know your central edge in relationships, you can identify opportunities for growth, learn to recognize those opportunities and have a strategy for how to overcome the edge.  Other relationship edges indclude: vulnerability, sobriety, intellect, receptivity, interrupting, bigness, masculinity, femininity, freedom, surrender, trust, playfulness, detachment, and power.

To hone in on yours, you can ask yourself:  “What do I wish I could do in my relationships?”

You can openly work on your edges during dates.  You can say, “I’m practicing [insert personal edge] and I’m planning on practicing that with you tonight!”  Your date might be impressed and could even help you develop your new skills.  This can make for a playful, deep and unexpected experience.

Dating with the intention to cross our edges can help us learn to communicate the way we really want to in our relationships.  And when love finally does show up, we will have used our time wisely, becoming more of the people we want to be.


by Amy Palatnick, Dipl.PW

Amy Palatnick is a professional potter, a black belt Nia instructor, and a Processwork diplomate, therapist and coach living and loving in Eugene, Oregon.

Amy is passionate about personal growth, especially through relationships, and is preparing to release a book about process-oriented dating in 2020.

To stay in touch, send her an email at and follow her on Facebook!

Image credit: Alexas_Fotos at Pixabay: