If you want to be in a relationship but can’t seem to meet the right person, there is nothing more frustrating than bad dating advice. Regardless of their age, experience, location or current romantic status, it seems like everyone—from your great aunt to your kid brother—are more than willing to throw in their two cents. Though bouncing off ideas people you trust and talking through any concerns can be a healthy ritual, it is important to be selective on what suggestions you put into practice. Truth be told, most people mean well with their dating advice, but some nuggets of so-called wisdom fall short. That’s why it is more strategic to follow instructions from psychologists, dating coaches and other experts who have studied the fine art of attraction. Not only have they assisted others on their quest for a meaningful relationship, but they are honest
Share who you are—but don’t be needy.
Psychotherapist and certified relationship therapist Sarah Mandel, RN, LCSW says while most people treat first dates like a job interview, they should actually focus less on improving your interrogation skills, and more on enjoying the drink. How come? When you riddle through a laundry list of questions, hoping to cut to the chase, you don’t do much to reveal your own personality. Since your date is—hopefully!—there to better understand who you are, what matters to you and if you are compatible, it’s vital to make every effort to be genuine. “Be yourself, and do your best to relax, be authentic, and have fun,” Mandel continues. “Share who you are and what you like, but don’t be needy. Knowing your values and what’s important to you helps you to recognize if your date has the qualities that you feel are essential.”
Forget the five-year plan.
When you were a child, your trusted dating advice geared around what you envisioned for your life. Marriage by this age, kiddos by this one, and wham-bam, you’re set. As you’ve blown out more candles on your birthday cake over the decade, you’ve likely realized life doesn’t always go according to plan. And as board-certified psychiatrist, professor and author Dion Metzger, MD puts it: that’s a good thing! “Ignore the calendar. People settle based on deadlines,” she explains. “The worst thing you can do is marry someone because you felt you were running out of time. Hold out for the right person because settling is a recipe for an unhappy destiny.” Sure, it might be difficult to wake up on your 30th birthday and wonder if you’re running out of time, take a deep breath, pour a stiff one and remember it is better to pursue happiness and trust someone will come along to match your vibe when—sorry, we know you hate it—the time is right.
“Start with open ended questions so that the person can respond any way they like. From there you can ask follow up questions to discover more”
Love yourself first.
And always. As executive editor and founder of CupidsPulse.com explains, before you can commit to someone else, the most effective dating advice is to come from a place of security within yourself. “Self-love is such an important step on the journey to find lasting love. For many people, finding a permanent partner often comes at a time when they are happiest and most comfortable with themselves,” she explains. Why is this? If you ask science or psychologists, they’ll say it’s almost an unspoken, natural energy you exude when you feel fulfilled with your life. Instead of a frantic, desperate impression, you are calm, confident and positive about every aspect of your life. And most importantly, it makes you a more genuine you. “At the end of the day, you want somebody to love you for who you are, not who you are pretending to be. Be secure about everything that makes you, you and sooner or later, someone you like will take notice,” she continues.
Learn to ask good questions.
Consider what prompts you to go out on a date: you want to meet someone. You find someone fascinating. You’re attracted to them. But more to the point: you’re curious. And part of the wonder of a first date is the process of learning new things about a potential new partner. That’s why marriage coach Matt Morgan says one helpful piece of dating advice to remember is great questions lead to great answers. If you’re merely sitting idly, waiting for the other person to guide you through a conversation, you aren’t actively attempting to understand who they are. “Start with open ended questions so that the person can respond any way they like. From there you can ask follow up questions to discover more,” he suggests. If you need a few icebreakers to get started, Morgan suggests these:
“What are you passionate about?”
“What has been a highlight and lowlight of your week?”
Morgan notes questions are powerful because every human wants to be known. While that might be scary because it requires vulnerability, it also happens to be the key to intimacy. “Questions allow a person to share as much information as they feel comfortable. Over time when trust and safety is there, you will find your partner opening up more and more,” he adds.
Focus on whether they impress you.
Part of the reason dating advice can feel monotonous after a while is due to continuous disappointments. If you are following all of the so-called rules and putting yourself out there, but still not stumbling across someone who could be the someone, it is normal to doubt yourself. This can be troublesome, according to Mandel, since you start focusing on if someone likes you, instead of the other way around. Here’s the deal: if your date doesn’t seem into you, they aren’t right for you. That doesn’t mean you aren’t attractive, interesting, intelligent or funny, rather, it’s just a strike out on compatibility. “Don’t waste valuable on someone who doesn’t appreciate you. The person you date is someone that you’ll be spending a significant amount of time and energy on, so make sure that you feel good about them and yourself when with them,” she explains. When you’re on your next could-be-something happy hour, ask yourself if you enjoy their company, if they are someone who makes you feel like your best self and frankly, if they are worth the hour of being squashed in a crowded bar.
At first, think of them as friends—not lovers.
Blame it on romantic comedies, expectations derived from love stories that are a bit far-fetched or a combination of both, but when seeking a partner, most people focus a tad too heavily on visions of butterflies and candlelight dinners. Though, sure, sexual attraction is a non-negotiable part of a relationship that makes it the long run, Mandel explains it is a strong friendship that often defines the success of a courtship. That in itself, is dating advice to follow. “A first date where you can relate to the person as a friend and is someone you are attracted to, has a much higher chance of developing into a successful romantic relationship,” she explains. This is why she recommends taking the time to recognize the qualities that you share with this person, since they will most likely be the stuff that you continue to share long-term as you develop the quality and strength of the relationship.
Maintain your identify.
Think back on a killer first date where everything seemed to be going swimmingly: the wine was flowing, the conversation was jiving, the connection was unquestionable. One of the main ingredients of a fun and enticing primal encounter is putting your most genuine self in the spotlight. Did you tease your date? Stand up for what you believed? Dazzled them with your charm? Mandel says while plenty of people are able to come across as confident and secure for a handful of meet-ups, too many get lost in a relationship once it becomes serious. This is a grave mistake since your could-be partner was falling for you—not a version of yourself that caters to his or her every whim. “Maintain your interests, your friendships, and your hobbies because those are some of the qualities that got them interested in you from the beginning,” Mandel continues. “Make him/her a part of your life, but don’t revolve your daily existence around them. They will just wind up feeling smothered and you’ll wind up losing your sense of self.”
Respect one another—and take it slow.
Repeat after us: standards exist for a reason! If you intend to be in a companionship that can withstand the everyday hurdles life will inevitably throw your way, you need to ensure you are putting your energy toward a person who fulfills you. That doesn’t require perfection, but rather, accepting and loving someone for who they are, not a dream vision of who you believe you can turn them into. “Being unrealistic and trying to change someone else or their ideals is likely to result in a person who is unsuitable in the long-run,” Mandel explains.
However, on the flip side, this also means whoever you date should also respect your boundaries and appreciate the unique qualities that make you tick. That brings Mandel to one of her most important points: go slow! “Do take some time to get to know the person and be realistic with yourself about whether this person is right for you. While trying to figure this out, don’t rush right into the exclusive stage right away,” she stresses. “Take the time to get to know the other person and what you’re getting into.”