Dating in the 21st Century can seem overly complicated. There are “dating experts,” “online matchmakers,” and “relationship coaches” who give all kinds of advice on finding love. They share secrets to writing the perfect online profile, wardrobe tips for speed dating socials, and conversation topics to discuss and avoid on first dates. All this advice is just to land a first date!
Once the first date is set, there’s more advice for that. If a first date turns into a second, there’s yet another round of input by more experts, and even more advice once the relationship gets serious. Does it really need to be this complicated?
Dating really is all about going back to basics. Before school children can read or write, they have to learn their ABCs. So, what are the ABCs for creating a long-lasting and healthy dating relationship?
Attractiveness Goes Deeper than Physical Appearance
What’s the most important thing people look for in a spouse? It isn’t physical attraction. According to Drs. Bredow, Cate, and Huston (authors of the “Have We Met Before?” chapter in the Handbook of Relationship Initiation), the top 5 things people look for in a long-term relationship are:
1. Mutual attraction and/or love
2. Emotional stability and maturity
3. A dependable character
4. A pleasing disposition
5. Education and/or intelligence
Physical attraction does play a role in mutual attraction, but mutual attraction goes deeper than just surface level. People who are dependable and kind generate a special kind of attractiveness that is very powerful! But mutual attraction goes beyond personality too. It is one thing to be attracted to someone. It is something very different to realize the other person feels the same way. Think of Jack and Rose in Titanic, Noah and Allie in The Notebook, or Jim and Pam on The Office. These characters all portray the joy, excitement, and validation that comes from finding your feelings are returned.
Become a Whole Person Before Dating Seriously
Most chick flicks perpetuate the myth that you need to find someone to “complete you” or “make you whole.” In fact, the complete opposite is true. Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott, authors of Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts, say, “If you attempt to build intimacy with another person before you’ve done the hard work of becoming a healthy and whole person, every relationship will be an attempt to complete the wholeness that you lack, and will end in disaster.”
Every single adult should work on becoming confident in their own self-worth, without relying on someone else to make them feel complete. Before jumping into a serious relationship, make a serious attempt to know who you are and become secure in your own skin. This makes finding the right person easier because healthy and whole people attract healthy and whole people. People who are self-confident in themselves tend to have a happier and fuller life, and are more likely to have a more stable healthier relationship.
Courageous Action Must Be Taken
Look back at the attraction list again. Notice that at the very top of the list is mutual attraction. Something powerful happens to people when they discover someone they are interested in is interested in them too. But sometimes it’s not so easy to show interest in someone else. For someone who is shy or feels insecure, the more attractive they find someone else, the harder it can be to express their interest.
Singles need to take courage! It’s worth the risk. If Jordan likes Brittany, he should take a chance and let her know how he feels. Chances are she will be flattered by his interest, and is unlikely to be upset that he is interested in her, even if she’s not interested in him. If she is interested, she may not be brave enough to make a move herself. (Ladies, remember, this is the twenty-first century! Women are allowed to make the first move if they want to—this example could just as easily begin “If Brittany likes Jordan, she should take a chance…”) Someone has to get things started. What’s the worst case scenario? Jordan realizes his crush is a dead end, and needs to move on to find a better match. At best, his courage may lead to something incredible starting between the two of them.
Singles can show interest in simple and unscary ways, in order to test the waters. Consider starting with simple flirting and see what can be gauged from that. The big move is to go for it and ask your crush on a date, but keeping that casual can take off some pressure. Try meeting up for lunch, making it clear that it is a date. Asking someone on a date sends a clear signal of interest, and often results in a clear answer of “interested” or “not interested” in return.
The ABCs of Relationships Need to Be Learned Too
You can learn how to have a healthy, safe and meaningful relationship while you’re waiting for that special someone to come into your life. Relationship Education classes teach skills that prepare participants for creating successful and satisfying relationships in the future. These classes are not just for people in relationships! The skills taught in Relationship Education are vital for a healthy life as a single too—skills like communication, what to look for in a partner, and how to pace a relationship. A recent attendee to a Relationship Education class described his experience like this: “I really enjoyed this course. It has helped me open my eyes when I will make the decision to marry someone… I recommend it, because it will prevent many situations you would not want to go through.”
With new relationship-building skills in hand, when singles find themselves attracted to someone, they’ll find it easier to show interest, and they will be more confident in knowing what to do when that interest is returned. Maybe their dreams will come true!
Want to learn more?
Consider taking a Relationship Education class like PICK a Partner to learn more about what to look for in a significant other.
Read Ten Things People Do Wrong When Looking for a Date to learn how to fix some common mistakes in dating.
Read Ten Signs He or She is a Keeper to learn how to recognize a good catch.
Read The Quest for Wholeness to learn more about becoming healthy and whole before a relationship.
We want to hear from you! What is the most important trait you look for in a long-term partner? How have you gotten your courage up to ask out that special someone? What dating successes have you had as a result of taking a risk?
Written by Shelece McAllister– Copyright (C) 2012 Healthy Relationships California