What is it that makes dating easy for some and challenging for others? What creates the difference in the individual dating experience between one person and the next? What ultimately creates the difference in the fulfillment and quality of your marital relationship? One of the questions I ask my clients who come to me when their marriage is struggling is “what was it that brought you together and want to marry?” While the responses vary greatly, the question is as potent in the dating phase as it is in a marriage. Simply stated, if two people can’t recall what it was that engendered their relationship, then how will they be able to reconnect and rebuild when the strength of their relationship is tested (as it often is)?
The strategies for successful dating and the strategies for successful relationships have considerable overlap and at the same time, they require substantially different strategies to be truly enjoyable, successful, and fulfilling. In general, the longer you do something the better you become at it. However, dating seems to be an exception; the more “experience” one has with dating, the more emotionally draining, un-enjoyable, and confusing it becomes. This article aims to focus on three proven dating tips, in which scores of clients have found success in making dating a smoother, more efficient, and more enjoyable process.
1. Get crystal clear on what you want. Say you want to buy a pen. You go online to Amazon and search for “pen.” Naturally, 3 million results show up. There are ballpoint, rollerball, fountain, gel, stylus, and pens of all shapes and colors. It seems searching for a “pen” is not efficient search criteria. You can spend the time and shop through the 3 million results, or you can do what most people do- narrow it down. In short, to find the pen you want you to need to get clear on how the right pen for you is different than the other 10,000 that meet most of your criteria.
The same is true for dating. It seems everyone wants a “nice guy,” an “attractive girl,” or someone who is “fun, sweet and has a sense of humor.” Ironically, in over 10 years of dating coaching, no one has ever said to me “I want a mean guy, downright unattractive, bitter and nasty with zero sense of humor, and entirely boring.” If you want to maximize your results with dating, then narrow your criteria. That does not mean get irrational and overly picky. It means to turn one word into a sentence to get clear on what you truly want. For instance, I want someone who can make me laugh and can see the humor in life challenges,” is more specific than “I want a nice guy who’s funny.” If you keep the same general search criteria you’ve used in the past, you’ll keep getting the same results. When you change your criteria and get more specific, you'll spend less time in the search. Even if your next date is not your "the one", you’ll at least have more fun dating since your dates are more in line with who you are looking to marry, assuming that's your goal.
A difficult but popular exercise I give my dating clients is to sit down and make 3 lists, outlining as much detail as possible. List #1 has all the absolute “must have’s.” List #2 has all the absolute deal-breakers, and List #3 consists of the desired feelings, descriptors, characteristics of the relationship, including the person you want for a mate. List #3 is essentially your ideal outcome of dating. Often this exercise requires coaching, discussion, and work. But, that sums up marriage; it requires those components as well. Assuming, you are serious about finding your soul mate and getting married, save yourself lots of time and heartbreak and create the 3-lists. This exercise is frequently a game changer, as is the incredibly valuable coaching and self-discovery involved with doing this exercise correctly.
2. Become the match for the person you want to attract. A common trend I encounter with my clients in the religious and a non-religious dating circle is that people want it all. While this is a complex topic requiring its’ own article, the descriptors are generally that my date should be a very attractive, high achiever in the religious, academic, and/or financial areas, sensitive, fun/funny, and a number of other positive characteristics. What is interesting is that this expected list leaves no room for this ideal person to have any flaws, any negative characteristics, or anything about him or her that need improvement or growth. But again, who looks for what they DO NOT WANT? The question I ask my clients at that point is simple: It’s great you want to date a person who is all you described, but "Are you the kind of person that your ideal mate would want to date?" Will an accomplished man or woman want to date you?
Often there is a mismatch between what we want in a partner, and being the person whom that partner would want. There is a famous saying: “People like people who are like themselves.” Mr. Perfect will likely want someone who is like him. Ms. Perfect will want someone equally as put together. If you are not what your ideal partner would want, you can either become that person or change your standards.
3. Date for you, not for your Mom or anyone else. It’s great if everyone else thinks that he/she is wonderful for you to date. However, after giving others a fair opportunity to get to know him/her, if he/she does not excite you, then reconsider how you would like to feel when dating the one who does excite you. Then, have an honest discussion with yourself and contemplate if you are feeling what you really want in a partner? I frequently hear from dating clients that they are told by someone “this guy is such a great catch.” Or, “she is such a perfect girl for you.” This can easily make things confusing. On the one hand, you want to consider your friend's advice. On the other, you have to decide what is best for you. Do that!
Now that you are clear on what you want, one approach is to inquire if this person fits your search criteria, not your friends, parents, or anyone else. If you are crystal clear on your reasonable criteria, and this person is not what you are looking for, you can explore the next option. Often times in dating, pressure from a third party can make things even more confusing, and it can be helpful to speak to an older, wiser, uninvolved party, who is unfamiliar with the other person and can be objective in guiding you. This person may be an experienced mentor, qualified therapist, or coach who has helped others get desired results. Or you can follow my advice in this article and make the best decision for you.