Dear Lori and Jeff,
I had been in a relationship longer than I should have been – mostly because I dreaded the idea of dating. When I first became single again, there was definitely a part of me that was excited about having the opportunity to meet attractive single women. But actually having to date has been really frustrating and disappointing. I hate the thought of having to sell myself, and dating apps and sites seem so superficial and fake. I’m also past the bar hopping phase in my life and I’m not looking for drunken one-night stands. I want a relationship. I’ve worked hard to establish a good life with a job I love and I’m ready to share my passions and adventures with someone special. Where do I start?
Signed, hate dating
Lori and Jeff: We both went there.
Jeff: One of the biggest challenges in moving forward after a relationship ends is taking the time to reevaluate where you are in your life as an individual. Often in a relationship, the focus is on the “we” aspect of our lives and not the “me” aspect. While this is important for the health of the bond, it can also stifle each partner’s personal growth and self-care. It’s important to reconnect with your authentic self—the parts of you that feel passion, believe strongly in things, and live with intention—and take care of those parts.
Lori: Many women are attracted to confidence, warmth, authenticity, and openness. The right woman is not someone you have to compete for, but someone you have to show up for. This means that the person who wants to be with you will be attracted to who you authentically are. You have to make yourself present and available for her to see you. It’s easy to get lost in your head about how you want others to perceive you, or who else in the room may seem more confident, attractive, or successful. When we compare ourselves to others (or even who we think we should be), we are no longer connected to the moment. We also appear less present and less engaging to those around us.
Lori and Jeff: Dating apps and sites can give you more visibility and allow you to see more leads. But if meeting through technology really isn’t your forte, then don’t. Stay true to who you are. If you decide to explore digital dating, be aware of some common pitfalls:
• Online daters often paint a seemingly flawless self-portrait on their profiles. There is a feeling of having to stand out from others in order to be noticed. You probably will to some extent too. Know how and when you are “filtering”. The more you talk about your life, your success and your personality, the more you will have to explain later.
• Allow flexibility and grace, knowing that everyone is human. Know in advance what is your list of 5 to 7 main traits in an ideal partner. The “perfect” woman (or man) will have flaws. If the defects are outside the list, accept and adapt.
• With the ease of jumping to the next prospect, singles are looking for instant fireworks in a hurry. Many great connections are made over time as individuals slowly allow themselves to deepen into their world. Allow time for curiosity and intrigue to build. Remember that no one really looks their best on a first date.
The search for love offline also still exists. Analog dating has worked for many singles we know, but again effort and intention must be invested in order to maximize the rewards.
• Look outside the box. Singles tend to limit themselves to who they want to date and where and how they want to meet them. They create distinctions in their daily activities between those in which they “search” and those in which they do not search. For example, going out for the afternoon, a show, or most nightlife social events is often in the realm of research—dressing, combing your hair, smelling good, and keeping your eyes peeled. But how many activities do you do every day without a tenth of an effort to look your best? The right girl could be at the dentist, the grocery store, or the gas station, so be open to the possibility of meeting a partner anywhere. Carry yourself with dignity, share a smile and be curious about others.
• Keep doing what you love to do — if you find someone while you’re doing it, you already have something in common. Get involved with community organizations, volunteer, say yes to service opportunities, and find groups that share your interests and passions.
Lori and Jeff are married, licensed psychotherapists and couples coaches at the Aspen Relationship Institute. Submit your relationship questions to [email protected] and your query may be selected for a future column.