Is there a right way to date? Christina Bianchini thinks so, and for Valentine's Day the Prince George, B.C.-based counsellor is sharing her advice for singles looking for love.

"There's a set of skills that are required to be great at relationships and great at finding the right partner," Bianchini said.

"So [my] talk is all about how we can achieve that."

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Bianchini said it's important to feel love, but to balance that gut instinct with a set of criteria you're seeking in a partner. (Shutterstock)

Bianchini provides counselling for singles and couples, and over the years she said she's noticed some patterns people fall into that get in the way of good relationships.

"I believe if we could make better choices in relationships, we would have better outcomes," she said.

Bianchini spoke with CBC's Daybreak North in Prince George to share some of her advice.

Know who you are

"A lot of us don't know who we are and we also don't know what we're looking for," Bianchini said. "And so we're out there practising on other people's hearts."

Bianchini suggested people evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses before getting into a relationship, as well as what they want out of a relationship.

"We can sometimes pick the wrong person who doesn't connect to us in the way that we want to be connected to, and that really causes a lot of pain."

Understand the science of love

Bianchini said it's important for people to remember that love is a biological function, as well.

"We actually have chemicals within our bodies that our produced when we fall in love," she said. "It's intoxicating."

She said in the early days of a relationship, it's important to balance the desires of the heart and the head.

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Be sure you're open about what you're looking for, but don't make any long-term commitments until after you get to know each other, she advises. (SK Design/Shutterstock)

"We [should] sit down and create our non-negotiable requirements," she said. "And go slowly enough so that we can make sure that the people that we're dating... check those non-negotiable boxes."

She suggests holding off on moving to the physical stages of a relationship until after an intellectual connection is established.

Follow your heart 

Even so, Bianchini said it's vital that feelings of love be present, too.

"We also have to measure our heart," she said. "How do we feel when the other person is present? Do we have that gut instinct?"

Be open about what you're looking for

Finally, Bianchini said, looking for a long-term relationship is different than dating "recreationally."

"You have to make sure that you're actually available to the right person and make sure that you're the right fit," she said. 

Even if you've found the right person, building a relationship is an ongoing process that requires open communication and constant evaluation.

"There's skills to learn," she said. 

"Conscious dating is about being able to bring yourself with you as you connect to another person."

Bianchini is giving a talk on conscious dating at Cafe Voltaire in Prince George on Valentine's Day at 7:00 p.m. PT.

With files from Nicole Oud


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