Although many people hate “the game,” or the process of dating, the reality is that there are no shortcuts. If you are looking for love, companionship, or someone to fill your Saturday nights, you will have to go out there and find it—which means navigating the complex minefield of dating. Fortunately, while shortcuts don’t exist, you can vastly improve your chances for success by following a few simple tips.
1. Know Yourself- That’s part of our motto: Know Thy Brain, Know Thyself, Know Thy Partner
With millions of single people from which to choose, how can you possibly decide where to start? Before diving into the singles scene at your corner bar, take some time to genuinely get to know yourself. Try Helen Fisher’s Personality Quiz here on our website. Dating is ultimately a social contract, and the more closely you and your dates match up to what each other is looking for, the more likely you are to find a contract that works for both of you.
Never make a date out of desperation, clinging to the first person who will have you. Likewise, don’t make an impossibly specific list of the qualities that someone must have to date you. Instead, write down a few generalizations that would make a potential mate a good match with you.
For example, if sports are your life, it might be wise to seek a sports fan. If you love intellectual debates, you might prefer someone of above average intelligence. Are you a cuddler or do you like your space? Do you think talking every day is needy or necessary? Are you hoping to find a lifelong commitment, or someone to hang out and have fun with for a few weeks or months?
It is equally important to figure out what you have to offer. Make a general list of the qualities you can bring to a relationship. Your dates probably have their own lists of what they are looking for, so you need to know what you bring to the table.
2. Assess the Market
With your lists completed, get to know some people who match your general criteria. Find out what they are looking for, and see if it matches what you have to offer. Be prepared to negotiate, but never try to become something you aren’t. Do your wants and theirs seems to mesh? If not, you might need to rethink your list of desires or think about other ways to give a bit more.
3. Be Direct
If you are above middle-school age, there is no reason to play games. If you see someone who looks promising, start a conversation. If you want a date, ask for it. With a good sense of who you are, what you want, and what you will give, you do not need to fear rejection. Someone who rejects you clearly isn’t the right fit, so simply cross that person off your list and move on.
During dates, keep the social contract in mind. Don’t get so hung up on worrying about whether people like you that you forget to determine whether you like them. A date is nothing more than an obligation to spend a specific period of time with someone. If one or both of you don’t feel the chemistry, nothing was really lost.
4. Take it Slow
If you are physically attracted to a date, biochemical reactions in your brain can spark deep feelings of passion and romance. If the feelings are mutual, you might embark on a whirlwind relationship that feels too good to be true. There is nothing wrong with riding the wave, but it is wise to maintain a healthy distance and detachment during this time.
If you stay together, sooner or later you will fall headlong into what some people call the hangover phase. No matter how impossible it might seem at the moment, the day will come when you will look at each other in the harsh light of day and wonder what you were thinking. Arguments, annoyances, and even breakups are common at that point, but couples who persevere eventually reach the attachment phase, which is better suited to lifelong love.
Many people careen from relationship to relationship, riding the passionate highs of the early stage and then dramatically breaking up when that stage crashes and burns. If you want to be truly successful at the dating game, enjoy the passion but recognize it for what it is.
5. Make a Friend
If you are looking for love, you might consider any date without instant chemistry a failure. Some people go through dates like they were working through a checklist, discarding anyone with whom they do not immediately “click.” Yet this can be a huge mistake.
We all know people who were friends for years before finally deciding to couple up, and went on to completely fulfilled lifelong marriages. If you and your date have fun together and enjoy each other’s company, don’t be so quick to write him or her off. Continue having fun and develop the friendship.
Even if you are not destined to be together, keep in mind that people tend to have friends similar to themselves. Perhaps the girl who feels more like a sister has a best friend that is perfect for you, or the guy who isn’t looking for commitment has a cousin who hopes to marry and start a family within two years.
Dating does not come with any guarantees, and it can be challenging for even the most level-headed singles. But taking the time to slow down and get to know both yourself and your dates can vastly increase your chances for finding your heart’s desire.
To “Know Thyself,” try taking Helen Fisher’s Personality Quiz here on the website.
Looking for verifiable information on the science of attraction and relationships? We’re a neuroscientist and a biological anthropologist eager to help you put The Anatomy of Love to work in your own life.