[This is Part 1 of a two-part series on dating in the 21st century.]
The rules that follow are designed to empower you, to make you feel proud, and to increase your self-esteem. These rules affirm assertiveness and taking action as the way for you to make your life happy and fulfilling. They are designed to increase the probability of finding your appropriate mate.
The rules for dating and mating in the 21st century are very different than in the 1950s. We cannot look backward for antiquated ideas on how men and women relate to one another. We must look forward, creating our future. Just as those who do not become computer literate, Internet savvy, and social media hip, will find themselves at a significant disadvantage in business, so too will those who try to adopt rules for relationships that worked 100 years ago, find themselves without partners. Partnering in the 21st century requires creativity and forgoing gender based roles.
Rule 1: Make Romance Happen
If you are going to have romance in your life, you cannot be passive. Relying upon chance meetings may make for fun romance reading or amusing romantic movies, but it is not realistic. Sure, some people do meet as “strangers across a crowded room,” and some people do win the lottery — but you wouldn’t want to quit your day job!.
Just as in finding your dream house, you have to know what you are looking for, decide where is the best place to find it, look at many, do careful inspections, and then once the candidates all meet your requirements, you can fall in love with it. You don’t buy the first house that jumps in your face. In other words, if you want Mr. or Ms. Right, you have to develop a carefully thought out plan. Then take action.
Rule 2: Develop a List of What You’re Looking For
O.K., your motivated. You’ve got the idea. Now make a list of what you want in a mate. Try to come up with at least ten characteristics, such as sensitive, warm, loving, common interests, sense of humor, caring, adventuresome, intelligent, financially successful spiritual, sexual out-going, quiet, active, athletic, sedentary, etc. Once you get your list together, evaluate every potential candidate against the list. How does s/he measure up. Rate these people on a 1 – 10 scale, 10 being highest, on each of the characteristics. If s/he receives an overall score below 80 (assuming ten items on your list) and individual scores of under three, take a pass. It is very difficult for people to move from a 3 to an 8. Of course any score of zero on your top ten, is an immediate disqualifier. Also, you may have a few deal-breakers on your list. These are yes or no items that if answered in the wrong direction would be immediate grounds for disqualification. Such items as: married, perhaps smoking, alcohol or drug abuse, whether or not the person wants children, etc. Whatever you believe would place a person out of the running. Remember, never go into a relationship thinking that you will change a person. See Rule #12 below.
Rule 3: Distinguish Between Playmate and Permanent Mate
Once you have completed your list, take a good look at it and ask yourself the question, “is this a permanent mate or a playmate.” Many times we confuse the two. Playmates are folks with whom we have a good time. They are not supposed to be our best friend. We tend to do things with them rather than confide in them. We are not particularly concerned with whether a playmate has good work habits, keeps his/her apartment neat, has ambition, or wants children and family. They are playmates. They are not someone with whom you want to wake up with day after day, after day, after… Make certain that your list of characteristics describes the type of relationship you really want.
Rule 4: Make a Personal Inventory
Here’s a tough one. If you described your “ideal” mate as someone who’s an Olympic athlete and you’re a dedicated couch potato, you just may be in trouble. If you are looking for an intellectual but your idea of high level reading is The National Inquirer, you might be a bit unrealistic. Therefore, I suggest that before you head out into the world to search for Mr. or Ms. Right, you do a personal inventory. List all of your characteristics in the same way that you listed the characteristics you wanted in a mate.
Then rate yourself on each of those characteristics. And be honest with yourself.
Compare your list to the list you made in Rule #2. Is there a match? If not, re-think #2.
Rule 5: Do a Reality Check
Because we human beings are capable of self-deception, it’s a good idea to ask your friends to prepare a list describing you. Ask several. Tell them to be frank and honest, not to try to make you feel good. Once you have collected their rating lists, give them the list you prepared in #4 and ask them to rate you on a scale of I to 10 on each of your characteristics. Then compare your scores with theirs. If there is a discrepancy, then you must look into yourself to see why.
Rule 6: Make a Plan
O.K., now you’re ready to develop a plan of action. With the same commitment you would muster for seeking a Chief Operating Officer or business partner for your company, you develop a plan for finding Mr. or Ms. You wouldn’t go to a bar to find the CEO for your company or even for an office manager. Yet many people go to Suck ‘Em Up Inn on a Friday night expecting to find their soul mate. Sure, it’s possible, and you may even know someone who did. And it is also possible to win the lottery! Use your brain. Where is it most likely that you will find your mate based on your list of criteria? What kind of advertising should you do? Head-hunters (dating services)? Personal ads (classified advertising)? Word of mouth (networking)? Professional conferences and meetings (seminars, lectures, classes)? Develop your plan, stick to it, and have patience. Someone as important as a business partner or CEO or life mate is worth taking the time.
The next set of rules are designed to help you connect with your prospects.
Rule 7: Make Eye Contact
If you want to appear insecure, uncertain, or uninterested, look at your feet or your salad. If you want to be in charge as the Chair of Board of your company, then look your prospect right in the eye. It’s both disarming and empowering — disarming to your candidate and empowering to you. If someone holds your gaze, the chances are that there is at least some interest in maintaining contact.
Rule 8: Be Honest, Be Real
Just as there should be truth in advertising, there should be honesty in relating. It doesn’t make any sense to put out an image to the world of someone you are not.
Eventually your cover will be pulled and you will be revealed. Deception is not an endearing trait. While you do not have tell someone everything about yourself on the first meeting, or say everything on your mind, you can be honest about what you do say.
Rule 9: Avoid Instant Intimacy
Sometimes when you meet someone you might feel instantly connected. You spend time with them and feel as though you have known them all your life; you feel as though it was “meant to be.” Be careful!! These relationships feel great for the moment. Often, however, they are based on need, lust, infatuation, or other psychological process and can disappear just as quickly as they started. Intimacy, as a relationship, develops over time. You might experience an intimate moment, but just as a single pearl does not make a necklace, a single moment of intimacy does not make a relationship.
Rule 10: Attend to Your Feelings, But Lead With Your Brain
A friend of mine once said that it was just as easy to fall in love with a rich person as a poor person. The only thing that was necessary was that you surround yourself with rich people first, and then, without deviating, you can fall in love with any one of them.
The trick is to let your brain do all of the pre-screening so that you then give free reign to your feelings. In romance, people often do things backwards. They fall in love first and then have to deal with all of the practical issues that should have been dealt with up front. Afterwards, you tend to engage in rationalizations in order to make what was a mistake work.
[Dr. Dreyfus is a nationally recognized clinical psychologist, relationship counselor, sex therapist, and life coach in the Santa Monica – Los Angeles. The profits from his latest book, LIVING LIFE FROM THE INSIDE OUT along with his other five books, are being donated to charity through the website Book Royalties for Charity and can be purchased through Amazon.com. Please become a fan on his Facebook Fan Page by indicating “like” on the page by clicking here. You can also find more tools to help you experience a more fulfilling life by clicking here to visit his website.]