Expert Q&A: Not Giving Up on Love
Q: I am a single professional, and I feel very discouraged about love. How can I get over my urge to give up on finding love?
A: Lately, in my practice I've had an increase in single professional men and women who have come to me for advice about finding love. Almost all of them feel inches away from giving up on love, and they are straining for one last ray of light to keep them optimistic.
Here are some of my up-to-the-minute, tested, tried and true tips to help you actually enjoy your search for a good partner. These suggestions come directly from my on-going research and work about intimate relationships.
The first thing to keep in mind is the acronym MAP. M is for the incredible emotional maturity required to find and sustain love. A is for the spirit of adventure and fun necessary, and P is for the persistence you will need to maintain your search and your maturity. So, let's begin with the easier part—the A for adventure and fun.
1. Get into the mindset that dating and mating can actually be a fun adventure.
Instead of making your dating goal to find Mr. or Ms. Right, make it your goal to test the union of your people-reading skills and intuition. One of the most troubling fall-outs of bad relationships is the drop in trust of your own judgment. You are left wondering: What went wrong—and why didn't I see it coming? When you use dating as the arena to challenge and improve your observations, over time you also boost your trust in yourself as well as your emotional strength to get out of a bad relationship more quickly. As one of my clients said, "Better to have a few months of pain than a lifetime."
You are probably wondering: Okay—just how do I actually test myself. One of the tips that proved most helpful to my clients is: make your dates resemble real life as much as possible. Save those romantic dinners for later. Instead, run errands, meet for coffee or a drink after work, hang out with each other's friends or go to one of your community's free weekend events or museums. Take your time, don't rush into bed, date lots of different people and different kinds of people.
Pay attention to how fidgety he or she gets. Observe whether the person gets angry when you drift slightly away to see a different display or talk to a friend. Does the person turn sour or grumpy if he or she is disappointed or bored? A lifetime love partner knows how to find joy. Life is tough enough without making it so.
Watch how the person acts with friends. People often let down their guard when they are with people they trust.
Ask smart questions. Key ones might be: What attracted you to your ex? What would you like to avoid in your next relationship? What would your ex say about you? Describe a typical week in your life—and don't pretty it up because I'll find out soon enough. Ask to see pictures of his or her place or family.
Use the photos as a way to start a more in-depth conversation. For example, one of my clients saw photos of the man's condo. Papers, wall fixtures, and pictures were propped against the wall. She made a comment about how much she hates moving and unpacking, and he laughed nervously. "Oh," she said, "you've been living there a long time." She made a mental note that he could be a procrastinator or maybe even depressed. On their next time together, she had him join her and her friends, and he just sat and moped.
Finally, don't put on your date-face. Be you with this person as though you are cousins who have known each other for years and can talk about anything.
If you decide to see this person again, write down your predictions about this person and test them.
2. Be persistent about going out on lots of dates and meeting new people.
Just like job-hunting, dating is a numbers game. You have to meet lots of people all the time. One of the exercises my clients have done in my single support groups is to make a "Self Pact" that they will not leave an event until they have had a conversation with at least three people at the event who interest them.
You don't need to be "cute" or "edgy." In fact, you can blame me. Just say you got some dating advice that said you have to go up to others who seem interesting. Say hello and have a conversation. People love to be flattered! You can ask why he or she attended the event. If you are in line for coffee or dessert, don't just stand there next to someone. Talk! Remember, the other person doesn't know how to talk to strangers either.
Set a goal on how many events or professional meetings you will attend a week. It's usually best if you go alone. One variation is to go with a friend of the opposite sex and "scout out" people for each other. And, oh yes, don't forget to have fun. See how brave you can get.
3. Get serious about becoming more emotionally mature.
Love is not for critics, perfectionists, screamers, partners who just need a warm body around the house, men who need their women to be arm candy or women who need their men to be meal tickets and white knights. And, of course, love is not for hitters, abusers, belittlers or deniers.
Mature love does not close its eyes to self-reckoning or disrespectful behavior of their partners. For instance, one of my clients said that he knew his girlfriend was a basket case who needed him to do everything. At first, he liked being so valued and in charge. But nine months into the relationship, he was downsized at work, and he turned to his partner for help and support. "All she did was fall apart, get mad, and criticize me," he said. "I'm embarrassed to admit it, but she was the most attractive woman I'd ever dated, and I hung in there too long. I had to face that deep inside I still felt insecure about myself."
Get tough and honest with you. Strong people can withstand—and often seek—self-examination. If you want love to work for you, take care of your own house first. Broken people find other broken people.
I know this guide is brief—but it is also deep. Life is short, but there are no short-cuts to getting serious about finding a partner. Yes, luck certainly does play a part, but you also have to strategize and make your own luck, too!
Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, Ed.D, MSS, MA, is a nationally recognized psychologist and licensed clinical social worker, specializing in women's issues in love, life, work, and family. Sign up on her website, http://www.lovevictory.com, to receive free advice, blog, cartoon, and information about her two upcoming research-based, self-help books for women: The Love Adventures of Almost Smart Cookie-a cartoon, self-help book and Smart Relationships. You can follow Dr. Wish on Twitter.
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