It can be difficult to strike a good balance when dating. How do you appear interested without coming off as desperate or needy? How do you get to know someone without being nosy or rude? And how do you figure out how a person feels about you–or tell them how you feel about them–without either of you feeling uncomfortable? Dating is a tricky business, but here are some guidelines that’ll keep you in the mix.
Define your expectations. Why are you dating? What are you looking for? Do you want a lifetime commitment, or do you want to live completely in the moment? Whether or not you’re seeking a commitment can make a difference in how you approach dating. If you’re dating for fun and companionship, what matters most is how well you get along, right off the bat. If you’re seeking a partner, you should be more willing to overlook initial shyness and awkwardness so that you can get to know a person over more than one date. Most of us are looking for a mixture of fun and commitment, but it’s important to know where you stand so that you can figure out if your date is on the same page. Don’t go out looking for a one-nighter.
Put yourself out there. You don’t have to hit the bars or the clubs to meet new people (although you can, if that’s something you enjoy doing anyway). Pursue interests and activities that mean a lot to you. The Internet has made this a whole lot easier. Check forums, listings, classifieds, and Internet mailing lists (known as “listservs”) for local events or meetings that are likely to attract people with similar interests or passions. When you’re there, be bold. If approaching someone you’re interested in isn’t really your style, you can still be bold by making yourself look approachable and inviting. Make eye contact, smile, raise your eyebrows–make a connection from across the room. Body Language is very important and can make someone interested in you. Don’t cross your arms because that makes you look closed off.
Be selective. Don’t just date anyone who shows an inkling of interest in you. Despite what everyone says about not judging a book by its cover, people who are more discriminating tend to be seen as more desirable probably because having standards shows that you value yourself and aren’t going for a date with whoever crosses your path. At the same time, you don’t want to be too selective–if you keep holding out for the perfect person, you’re guaranteed to miss out. If you’re in a room full of people with similar interests, you should be able to pick out one or two people who you’d like to date–not 10, not 0. Make it a point to not leave the event without showing interest and making a connection with a few people. Trading phone numbers and meeting in person is often a sign that a person desires an actual relationship.
If someone asks you on a date and you’re not interested, avoid making excuses like “I’m busy” or “I’m not ready to date right now.” They’ll eventually see that you’re only too busy for them, and they’re the only one you’re not ready to date. This can be more hurtful and insulting than just saying “no”. Handle it gracefully. Smile and say “No thanks, but I appreciate the offer” and change the subject to ease any discomfort.
Make a good first impression. You want this person to enjoy the date, but you also want them to enjoy you as an individual, so be considerate and charming without looking or acting like someone you’re definitely not. People who do a very good job molding their behavior to other people’s expectations actually tend to have less satisfying relationships. It’s certainly possible–and beneficial for both you and your date–to make someone feel at ease without sacrificing your identity. Let them discover who you are (and don’t swing to the other extreme, babbling about your life story and overwhelming them with too much information).
- Have good manners. Turn off your phone (the only reason you should be checking or answering your phone is if you’re a doctor). Don’t act uninterested or frown. Gazing off into space while s/he is eating/talking isn’t good either, and makes it look like you want to get out as soon as possible. Concentrate on your date; don’t check out anyone else, no matter how slick you think you might be about it.
- Don’t talk about past relationships. This is a no-no and a sure turn-off. You will only project the impression that you are unable to let go. If your partner asks about your last relationship, just tell them that you realized the two of you weren’t as compatible as you initially thought, so you have moved on to look for someone with whom to discover greater mutual happiness. Keep it brief and don’t ask about their ex.
Be interested and interesting. Don’t exaggerate or boast about your credentials, successes, etc. Just tell them what you really enjoy in life, what gets you excited and what you want to leap out of bed to pursue. Ask them what they really love in life and what gets them excited. Feel the change in energy during this conversation and revel in it.
- Don’t forget to add a spark of humor to your conversations. Humor can create a stronger bond of friendship between you two. It is also great to crack romantic jokes, as it brings up the possibility of what might happen between the two of you.
- Be positive. If you have had a bad day, still greet them with pleasure and a big smile. Don’t show up for your date complaining about the traffic, your boss, or your job. If you must whine, whine a little during dinner and end that very short whine with a “glad I’m here with you now!” remark.
Avoid being smothering or obsessive. Never call, e-mail or text message more than once a day unless they reply. Continue with other activities and let them know you’ve got a life beyond dating. At the same time, don’t get carried away with the “hard to get” act–the idea is to overcome any feeling that you “need” to call them, or you “need” to see them again, or you “need” this to work out. The difference between “needing” and “wanting” is patience.
Don’t plan another date too quickly. Your partner (and you) need time to assess your feelings about the date and prepare to accept another one. Within a short time after (1-7 days) call your partner and express your feelings about where to go next in the relationship (like one date at a time, or more dating, or less, or more casual, or more formal, or to cut it off, become friends, or what have you…).
Be honest. If you are not ready to be in a committed relationship, let them know straight away so that you do not give them false hope. If you’re just not interested in a relationship with them anymore, tell them so. Don’t lead them on. Explain that you just don’t see it going anywhere. Don’t say that you want to be friends unless you actually want to be friends and spend time with this person on a regular basis. If you are interested in seeing this person more often, honesty is still a critical ingredient to a healthy relationship!
Don’t try too hard and allow spontaneity. Learn to relax and be original. If this relationship goes somewhere, leading to something deeper and more serious, your originality will hold great memories for the other half. We all appreciate the simple sweet gestures, or memories which are likely to bring warmth or a smile to our faces.