My mother used to laugh about a family friend’s casual mantra for the men his daughter dated: “They come, they go; I don’t get attached.” Although he shared this flip remark at least 10 years ago, before online dating really took off, I think about those words a lot these days. Never has a single phrase so perfectly summarized a very common approach to modern dating. “They come, they go; I don’t get attached.”
However, you can increase your odds of meeting the right one by following a few simple steps.
1. Do not take rejections personally.
It’s very easy to get personally affected while dating — and by “dating,” I am referring to the process of getting to know a person (or persons) before an exclusive relationship is established. During this period, it is extremely important that you don’t take rejections or setbacks as a personal referendum on your viability as a partner.
To do this, it is important that dating never become all-consuming; make sure you spend just as much time on friends and family, your work, your hobbies and interests, and personal development. Dating should take up no more than, say, 25 percent of your free time. If that number creeps up, reduce it.
And if you ever need to put things in perspective after a sudden setback, remember: No one knows you well enough for a rejection to be truly personal after only a handful of dates. There are so many other things that can end a relationship early on, from too many time commitments to an ex with tons of history creeping back into the picture. Toast the end of a short-lived fling with your friends and get back on Bumble.
2. Put effort into dating; don’t wait for “it” to just “happen” to you (it won’t).
First and foremost, focus on having a well-rounded life that you truly enjoy living. When you’re relaxed and happy, you will be a better date; people are attracted to positive energy. So, if you don’t love your life, address that first. You can’t rely on someone else to fix your life for you. You have to do that yourself.
However, if you’re craving a real relationship, you’re going to need to put in the work. Figure out what you want to guide your search and refuse to waste time with those who aren’t compatible. You need to figure out what you have to offer to empower yourself in the process. You need to invest real time in looking for love — because it’s an old myth that it simply “shows up” when you least expect it. That may happen for some, but if you’re relying on it as a strategy, I wish you luck.
Increase your odds by putting in effort. Join dating services tailored to those (typically) looking for real relationships, like Match, Bumble, Coffee Meets Bagel, or Hinge. Mix dating with your other interests; don’t be afraid to suggest a post-cooking-class coffee with that cute guy you’ve been casually chatting up for weeks. Ask friends if they know anyone to set you up with; there’s absolutely no shame in saying you’re available, and, hey, your friends should know you best! Give them permission to matchmake.
3. Give people chances, but not too many.
The chaotic, fast-moving pace of our culture has created similar mania in the dating space. People fall off the map and return; they date multiple people at once until they’re “ready” to commit; they pursue both love and career at the same time; etc., etc., etc.
Couple our lightning-quick world with the idealism of millennials (who make up the largest piece of the dating pie), and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. We now expect relationships to be partnerships built on deep connection, which people often think means “entirely free of flaws.” Sooner or later, you learn this just isn’t possible — humans are flawed, and relationships will be too.
My best advice in this environment is to work with people. If they are being honest and forthright about where they are at in the commitment process, trust character more than an arbitrary rule that says you should be officially together within x months or after y dates. But don’t forget: You have agency. The moment you feel disrespected or unhappy, or you feel your prospect’s potential die out, you can walk away. If they’re deciding the timeline, you’re deciding whether or not to stick around.
4. Make sure your bar is your bar.
“We must go out at least once a week.” “I won’t go more than three days without contact.” “If he doesn’t call me, I won’t take him seriously.” “I need to hear from him the day before the date to confirm.” These are what I call expectations, which are just hoops we want prospective partners to jump through in order to prove themselves worthy.
I am all for tossing expectations out the window, but I want you to keep your standards firmly intact. What’s the difference, you say? I’m glad you asked. Expectations are set in insecurity, as a means of preventing vulnerability — the very essence of romantic relationships — while standards are formed from a place of confidence and knowing one’s worth.
What are some great standards to adhere to while you’re dating? Every prospect should treat you with respect, and should be kind, generous with their time and energy, communicative, accepting of your true self, should put your best interests first, and so on. I want you to make a list of your standards. Do it now, before you go on another first date. Then ask yourself with each new date: Does this person meet my standards?
Your bar is your bar; you don’t lower it because you’re really into someone, or raise it because you want the person to prove themselves. If you’re interested in potentially dating someone, that person needs to meet your standards.
And if they don’t? Yes, you can give them a few chances, as long as you’re also articulating your needs. But don’t ever forget what you’re worth, and that the end goal of your dating search should be to find a person who meets your standards — and you, theirs.
Jenna Birch is the author of The Love Gap: A Radical Plan to Win in Life and Love (Grand Central Life & Style). Her relationship column appears on Yahoo every Monday. To ask her a question, which may appear in an upcoming post, send an email to email@example.com with “Yahoo question” in the subject line.
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