It’s a date
If you feel that you’re ready to find a new love, but the prospect of venturing out in the modern dating world scares you, this guide to dating in the new millennium can help you out.
Are you ready to start seriously looking for a long-term relationship, but don’t know where to start? Have you exhausted all possible leads from your friends and family? Do you ever feel like you’re never going to meet someone that you can like, love, and trust?
Nobody has ever said that meeting someone is easy — especially after a divorce. It’s hard to start dating after years without practice, and facing the dating scene today is especially challenging. But take heart: people just like you start relationships every day.
What are the best ways to find and meet potential partners? What are the expectations between couples these days? How do you venture out as a single — safely and successfully? What’s the first step?
Are you ready?
If you aren’t emotionally ready to start a new relationship, you won’t end up with the right person. Barbara De Angelis, relationship expert and the author of Are You the One for Me?: Knowing Who’s Right and Avoiding Who’s Wrong (Delacorte Press) recommends asking yourself these questions to determine whether you’re ready to have an intimate relationship.
- Are you still angry and resentful towards your ex?
- Do you dislike who you are? Do you feel lonely and desperate without a relationship?
- Are you still in love with your ex?
- Do you feel like you have nothing valuable to offer someone?
If you answered “yes” to even one of these questions, you probably aren’t ready for a new relationship. Perhaps you need more time to recover sufficiently from your relationship breakdown before you try again. If you suspect that you aren’t ready for love, work on improving your relationship with yourself first. When you can honestly answer “no” to each of these questions, you’ll be ready. Meeting strategy # 1: develop a hobby
The first thing to learn is there is no one right or wrong strategy for finding someone. If you think long and hard about it, you’ll realize that you actually have limitless opportunities to meet people. Try something you’ve never done before — or something you used to enjoy before your marriage. For instance, perhaps you loved hiking or biking, but stopped going because your ex didn’t enjoy those activities. Or maybe you loved to dance, but your ex had two left feet. Taking some dance lessons is a great way to meet new people with a similar interest, and boost your self-confidence. You’ll probably make some great new friends along the way as you become more involved with a variety of activities. After all, a person with interests is automatically interesting to others who share the same hobbies. Go places where the sort of people you’d like to meet might be — whether that’s a dance club, a wine tasting club or a scuba diving club. But remember that meeting someone is not a life-or-death mission: it should be fun. Lighten up, go out to a place or event you’ll enjoy, and take a friend with you the first time, if you feel nervous. Do whatever it takes to make yourself comfortable, and start today!
Introduction services are gaining in popularity as people find they need help to find Mr. or Ms. Right in these hectic times. There is a range of dating services available today: some do the matchmaking for you; others let you select from videos or from short bios. What they all have in common is a client-base of individuals who are looking for a relationship.
Matchmaking services will typically ask new members to fill in a detailed questionnaire about themselves, their likes and dislikes, and what kind of person they’re looking for as their ideal mate. Most will perform an in-depth personal interview with each member. You’ll work with a company consultant who will attempt to find close matches for your personality profile — which includes your attitude, emotional maturity, and social skills — and provide you with detailed information and phone numbers of appropriate matches. Both parties are usually notified of a potential match, so that either can initiate the first phone call. After the call and possibly first date, each member calls his or her consultant to provide feedback. Hopefully an on-going relationship will eventually develop between two members and no further referrals will be supplied unless the relationship breaks down, at which point the process starts over again.
A matchmaker may also help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, and tell you how you might be perceived by others. Since no two dating services are alike, call several to request information about their procedures, policies, and prices. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, and don’t be pressured into making a decision on the spot. Matchmaking services can be expensive, but they will save you the time and effort of attending socials or sorting through and responding to personal ads. Before signing with a matchmaker:
- Talk to at least three agencies to compare costs and services.
- Check the agencies with the Better Business Bureau or your state licensing board.
- Ask for testimonials or referrals to satisfied clients.
- Ask how long the agency has been in business.
- Ask how many people in your age range they have on their register of each sex.
- Know exactly what the services are, and what they will cost.
- Ask about methods of payment. Do they require all the money in advance of services, or can you pay in installments?
The personal approach
Personal ads are not for everyone, but many people have found love through this method. “Placing a personal ad is not only a cost-effective way to meet someone but it exposes you to a lot of people quickly,” says Emily Thornton Cavlo, co-author of 25 Words Or Less, (Contemporary Books, 1999) a new book on how to write an effective, personal ad. “Psychologically, placing an ad puts you into the dating mode, and it helps to know that there are lots of other people just like you who want to meet someone but don’t want to go through the club or bar scene.”
If you get bogged down in the process of writing an ad, start by letting your subconscious do all the work: just jot down all the things that come to mind when you think of a potential mate, and what you consider your best points to be. Once you’ve laid the groundwork, refining your ad is relatively easy.
Cavlo and her co-author, Laurence Minisky, recommend keeping three things in mind when writing and responding to a personals ad:
- What kind of person are you looking for? We all have a list of traits we want in a partner. These traits can be anything from “kind and sensitive” to a “non-smoker who likes children under the age of four.”
- What kind of person are you? Make a list of words that describe you, then select the words that really paint a picture about who you are — the ones that make a reader see, hear, smell, and taste who you are. By doing this, “generous” becomes “volunteer reader for the blind,” and “loves to cook,” becomes “you’ll love my sun-dried tomato lasagna.”
- What level of commitment are you looking for? If you clarify the level of commitment and intimacy you’re looking for, you’ll target the people who are looking for the same type of relationship. Being straightforward about what you want ensures you don’t get involved with someone with a different agenda than yours. And don’t respond to ads with an incompatible level of commitment, no matter how interesting the person sounds.
Once you’ve written your masterpiece, you must decide where to place it. “Opportunities as to where you should place your ad are growing daily,” says Minisky. “A way to choose where to best place your ad is to look at the publication’s target readership. If it’s important to you to date someone who lives close by, place an ad in the local newspaper, or on your supermarket bulletin board. If you’d like to date a single father, seek out a single-parent’s newsletter or website, and so on. If you place your ad in the wrong place, you’ll have a hard time finding the right person for you.”
The cost of placing a personal ad can range from free to hundreds of dollars. If your budget allows, place your ad in a publication you read or website you visit yourself.
Responding to an ad is a kind of advertisement in its own right. Use the same three criteria (above) to introduce yourself to the person who placed the ad. Refer to something about the ad you particularly liked, so the recipient knows that you’re responding to him or her specifically — that you’re not just sending form letters to everyone.
This form of meeting someone is fairly new but growing at a fast rate. Telephone personals services such as Chit Chat, New York’s #1 Talkline, and Telepersonals (see page__ for more information) allow you to record an ad, which other members can then listen to over the phone. If you pique someone’s interest, he or she will leave a message for you. Of course, you can listen to other members’ messages and respond to as many as you like. When you call in, an automated voice prompts you through a series of choices to route you to a specific part of overall system.
Many services are completely free for women, since there are usually more men than women using the service.
It’s also usually free for men to record their ad and listen to ads, but men usually have to pay to respond to ads and to pick up their messages. With many services, you would first select an age group, then what kind of relationship you are looking for (from friendship to marriage), and then the basic personality of the person you are hoping to meet.
Once you’ve hit it off and exchanged several messages with someone, take the time to have two or three long phone conversation before deciding to meet. This gives you the opportunity to explore whether your interests, attitudes, values, and relationship goals are compatible, and to judge the character of your prospective date. Taking the time to talk to each other not only helps you build a rapport, it also helps you better determine if the person is right for you.
“I decided to use a telephone personals company because it was fast, easy, and inexpensive,” says Shawn, a former member of a telephone personals service. “As a part-time single dad with a demanding career as a computer programmer, I didn’t have a lot of time to spend looking for the perfect mate. I joined from home, and listened to ads after the kids went to sleep. I never met anyone on the system that I didn’t like, and I dated two or three nice women before meeting Debbie. We talked for a couple of hours before we met (which is amazing because I hate phone conversations), so I knew we were intellectually compatible. As soon as she walked into the restaurant, I knew that she was the one. We got married last spring — three years from the day we met.”
The Internet connects over 25-million people from over 60 countries every day. More and more people are joining this cybersociety at a fantastic rate. It’s accessible 24 hours a day — come rain or shine, sleet or snow — from the comfort of your own home. All you need to launch yourself into cyberspace is a computer, a modem, some communications software, an internet provider (such as AOL) and a phone line or cable access to your provider.
Online matchmaking services, such as Match.com and Webpersonals, provide a user-friendly way to meet people.
A leader in online personals, Match.com (www.match.com) offers a fun and safe way to meet other singles. With more than 1.2-million members, this service offers a large member pool of quality singles, the majority of whom range in age from 25 to 45. Their “Super Search” allows you to quickly find profiles which fit your criteria, and will also send you new profiles that match your wants as they are posted. Match.com offers all users a free seven-day trial with unlimited access to browse through its member profile database.
Lavalife (http://www.lavalife.com, originally called “Webpersonals”), the online version of Telepersonals, has been around for the last 10 years. With more than 50,000 messages being posted everyday, Webpersonals offers three distinct destinations: one for men and women to connect; one for gay men (“manline”); and one for gay women (“womanline”). Once you’ve picked a destination, you can choose which community you’d like to join: “Dating,” Romance,” or “Intimate.” You can sign up in any or in all communities, then search each one for someone interesting. Their search engine allows you to be very specific about what kind of person you’re looking for; once you have your results, you can read any of the selected bios you wish.
Much like real-world dating, some people treat online dating as a fun way to pass time — a novelty. Others treat it as a genuine and meaningful way of socializing, hopefully leading towards a long-term relationship.
“Meeting online means you really have to work on your communication skills,” says Nina, a Toronto cosmetician who met Brian from Colarado. “It cuts through the superficial small talk, so you can immediately get to know someone. There’s no time to talk about the weather.” For the last two years, the two have gotten to know each other via the internet, and spent to two weeks vacationing together last summer. Now, the couple is making plans for Brian to move to Toronto to be with Nina. The discussions in cyberspace often cut through the small talk and superficiality of ordinary life. People can be intimate without being self-conscious, which can lead to deeper conversations (or cybersex, if you’re so inclined). It’s not without dirty spots, but cyberspace can be like the real world: it’s an exciting terrain to explore.
Wining and dining
Singles dances and parties are held on a weekly or monthly basis in every major city in North America. When you go to a function sponsored by a singles organization, the key is to make conversation with a number of different people and really listen to what they’re saying (both verbally and with body language).
Remember, it’s not enough to simply place yourself in a meeting environment: you need to maintain a positive attitude and give off inviting vibes (“inviting” does not mean promiscuous! Be appropriate). If you’re unfriendly, no one will take the time to get to know you. If you go with friends, don’t cling to them; approaching a pack of men or women can be too intimidating for someone who’d otherwise love to talk you.
Since we all have to eat, dinner groups can be an excellent way to meet someone and enjoy a great meal at the same time. The Single Gourmet offers events across North America — including New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. It has more than 1,000 members in each of these cities. The Single Gourmet attracts single professionals who have a love of fine food, conversation, and socializing with other interesting singles. This atmosphere offers singles the opportunity to meet while dining together at a wide variety of the cities’ restaurants on a weekly schedule.
One terrific way to meet a lot of eligible people at once is host a dinner party with seven or eight other friends, each of whom is asked to bring one or more attractive eligible people of the opposite sex with whom they are not personally involved. Roger, a business executive with little spare time for socializing, began to hold monthly parties where he invited male friends to bring the most fascinating women they knew as long as they were not romantically linked. When it became clear that many of the invitees were showing up alone, Roger enlisted the help of women who had been to past parties to invite their single female friends. Hosting single soirees, theme parties, and other events is a great way to expand your network quickly.
Get out and socialize
“I took a survey among my friends who are married or in a serious relationship,” says Diane, a single professional who works for an insurance association. “There are many ways to meet your soul mate, but none of them involve sitting at home doing nothing.”
Still have no idea where to find single people? No problem. These suggestions are sure to put you where you want to be — with other great singles! If you’re shy, try the approaches that scare you the least to start with.
- Bookstores. Select an interesting book, then approach someone and ask them if they’ve ever read it or know the author’s work.
- Single Parent Support Groups. If you’re a single parent, this is a great way to share your concerns, get helpful ideas, and meet other like-minded single parents.
- Coffee Houses. A casual and popular spot for singles these days. Sit down with a copy of Divorce Magazine (it’s a great conversation piece!) and enjoy the exotic blends. Some coffee houses offer poetry readings and live music as well.
- Parks. A great place to walk or picnic. Check with your local department of parks and recreation and get on their mailing list. They sponsor some great activities, like dancing in the park, arts, and craft shows. And walking a cute, friendly dog is a great way to meet people — they’ll come to you!
- Video stores. Are you into comedy? Or maybe you need a little drama in your life. Find someone interesting in the oldies section. Reminisce with him or her about how they just don’t make movies like that anymore, then discuss your favorite classics.
- Commuting. Taking the train or bus from work doesn’t have to be boring. Sit next to someone you find interesting, start up a conversation, and make the trip home an enjoyable one.
As you begin looking into one or more of these possibilities, you’ll discover more opportunities than you could have imagined to meet other single people in your area. Take a good look at the bulletin boards on the internet and listing section of your local newspapers and magazines for singles events that might interest you.
The opportunities for you to reach out and become involved in absorbing and enjoyable activities — to keep on learning and growing, to do some good, to make new friends, and perhaps even find new love — are all around you. All you have to do is seize them.
Dating safety rules
Caution is the keyword here. It doesn’t matter how or where you’ve met someone — whether it was through the personals, online, at a bar, or even though friends — don’t rush into too much intimacy too fast. Don’t be too quick to give your phone number, address, deeply personal information — or your body — to a virtual stranger. Some of life’s dangers are beyond your control, but you can protect yourself against others.
“Get to know someone on the phone before planning to meet up with them,” says Cavlo. “Take your time and get to know their sense of humor, their interests, and hear about their lives, so you have a better idea of who you are meeting — or if you really want to meet them.”
Use common sense when you plan to meet face-to-face with someone new. Here are a few tips to help keep you safe:
- Never invite strangers to your home until they are no longer strangers. This means you don’t give your address to anyone until you feel reasonably sure he/she won’t hurt you when you are alone with him/her, or try to break into your home to carry off your precious possessions when you’re away.
- Meet in a public spot, preferably during the day. Coffee is quick, and if things are going well, you can always extend it into a meal. But if you arrange to meet for dinner and a movie, your evening may seem like an eternity if things are going badly.
- Use your own transportation. After you’ve met the person, if you have any doubts at all about him or her, don’t allow yourself to be driven to dinner or to the theater. Take your own car. If you have strong doubts, don’t go.
- If you don’t have a car, make sure you have some cash and a credit card so you can get home.
- Carry change for a telephone or bring a cellular phone.
- Leave a trail. If you’re going out with someone for the first time, let a friend or family member know where you’re going, when you’ll be back, and who you’re with. Tell them you’re going out with someone you don’t know very well and give them your date’s name, phone number, and any information that you may have about the person.
- Be on the lookout for inconsistency. “Does the information you’re received during your date agree with the facts you got over the phone, through e-mail, etc.?” says Minsky. “If the person is still very secretive about where they work or live even after several conversations, this can be a sign that there may be a hidden agenda that isn’t in your best interests.”
- Keep your financial situation to yourself. Be wary of too many questions about your assets. Don’t be persuaded to invest in anything without full investigation.
- At the end of a date, make sure you aren’t being followed home. If you are being followed, drive to a police station or a friend’s apartment where you can call the police.
- If you don’t like the person, don’t give him or her your home phone number. Give a phony number, if it will let you make your exit without creating a scene.
- Trust your gut. If you have a feeling that there’s something wrong, then there’s something wrong. And you should go with that feeling. All in all, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Also remember not to take your date’s reticence on certain matters personally. They may just be protecting themselves in case you turn out to be a psycho. For the first few weeks, if he doesn’t want you to see his car, or she doesn’t want to tell you where she lives, that’s smart. If it’s been six months, however, you should smell a rat.
What Happens Next?
You never know what can come from a date: it may be nothing, it may be a friendship, it may be a romance. Don’t set impossible standards for yourself or your date. You may certainly have a wish list, but you’re now mature enough to know that no one person can be expected to meet all your needs. Allow yourself and others to be human. That doesn’t mean accepting someone as partner if he or she doesn’t enrich and enhance your life in important ways, but it does mean getting rid of fantasies of the perfect mate.
Just be open to everyone you meet. Maybe you’ve found your next employer. A sister or brother-in-law. Or a new friend. Learn from your dates; even if they go badly, it can help you identify the qualities you don’t want in a mate. Have respect for yourself: you deserve to be treated well. Have respect for others: don’t be rude unless you have to. Above all, relax and enjoy yourself. Dating may seem very different this time around, but it’s still good fun and can be very rewarding.
How will you know?
You’ve meet someone you really like, but you’re wondering whether he or she is really right for you.
Take the time to see if you are compatible: physically, emotionally, socially, intellectually, sexually, professionally, and in your hobbies (add or subtract items from this list based on your own wants and needs).
In Are you the One for Me? Barbara De Angelis offers a “Sixty Second Compatibility Test” you can use to see how well matched you are with someone. She suggests you ask yourself the following four questions about your prospective or present partners:
- Would I want to have a child with this person?
- Would I want to have a child just like this person?
- Do I want to become more like this person?
- Would I be willing to spend my life with this person if he or she never changed from the way they are now?
If you answered “yes” to all four questions, you’re probably compatible with one another. If you answered “no,” ask yourself why.
Once you think you’ve found the partner of your dreams, what can you do to create a marriage in which you have the kind of intimacy you want but still retain your sense of self as an separate individual?
According to Victoria Jaycox, author of Single Again (W.W Norton Company, 1999), “One step is to make sure that you and your partner have the same kind of marriage in mind. Talk through what each of you expects from a partner and try to work out any differences before you marry. Discuss how you will handle differences, your own separate responsibilities, and how you will be there to support each other. What you want to achieve is an understanding about the nature of your marriage.”
The second step is to decide whether you’re willing to make those efforts and compromises required by this relationship. Those are the costs. For the benefits to outweigh them, your new partner must be someone who meets your needs for caring, intimacy and autonomy,” says relationship expert Barbara De Angelis. “Although finding that person is rare, it does happen. And if it has happened to you, you better than anyone will be able to recognize and grab hold of the miracle it represents.”
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