3 Secrets To Getting Exactly What You Want Out Of Dating

3 Secrets To Getting Exactly What You Want Out Of Dating Hero Image

So, it's a new year and you're still unattached. If this bothers you, then maybe it's time to change your approach. These dating tips can help you, whether you're looking for a long-term romance, a few casual hookups, or something in between.

1. Know your goals.

A lot of people think they're looking for one thing when they're really looking for another. That makes it really tricky to find what you want. You're chasing a relationship that doesn't really interest you. Most likely, you are going after the type of relationship that your mother thinks you should be in or that your friends seem to have, even though that's not the type of relationship that will make you happy at this point in your life.

To figure out what you really want, get out a pen and some paper and write down your goals for dating. Most likely your goals will center on one of three themes:

  • I want to go on a date—with anyone. Because I'm tired of sitting home alone every night.
  • I want to date several different people and have lots of sex.
  • I want to meet someone special, date seriously, and get married.

After you've written down a few goals, take a look at your list and think about how your life would look if you achieved those goals. Then ask yourself, "Is that really what I want at this point in my life?" It's entirely possible that it won't be. Picturing it as a reality may, in fact, make you want to vomit.

So, if you do this exercise and find that your goals are more about meeting someone else's expectations (those of your parents, your pals, your church, or society at large) and less about making yourself happy, you might want to revamp your list. When you do finally have a list that truly reflects where you are and what you want in life at this moment, feel free to run it past your friends, family, and therapist (if you have one) for input. These people know and care about you, and they may have some useful input. But remember—you're defining your dating goals, not theirs.

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2. Set your boundaries.

After you figure out your true goals for dating, set some boundaries that delineate what is and is not acceptable to you. Many people create a "traffic signals dating plan" to help with this.

  • Red lights are unacceptable in anyone you date. If someone has even one of these issues, you should not date them, or you should stop dating them. For example, if you're looking for a serious long-term relationship, a red light might be another person who is already married or in a committed relationship.
  • Yellow lights are cautionary traits. It's OK to date someone with yellow-light issues—after all, nobody is perfect—but you should proceed with your eyes open. For example, if your goal is to "date someone nice who treats me with respect," then habitual lateness might be a yellow-light issue.
  • Green lights are things you find desirable in another person. If someone displays a lot of your green-light traits, you may have found a winner. For example, if your goal is to date casually with an eye toward long-term romance, green-light traits might include a person who is fun to be with, has lots of different interests, and is consistently supportive of you.

3. Don't quit too soon.

Whatever you are looking for in your dating life, you're going to meet a few frogs as you travel the road to success. That's the nature of the game. Not every person out there is going to be right for you. Sure, some people seem to get lucky right away, and the first person they meet is a great fit. But that is not the norm. In fact, if you're looking for a life partner, you are likely to go on at least a coffee date with 20 or more people before you find a good match. That's normal. There's no need to get discouraged after you say, "No thanks" to the eighth runner-up (or even the 18th).

The toughest situation to overcome is when you meet someone you really like but the feeling is not mutual. That is emotionally painful, and it can really do a number on your self-esteem if you let it. So don't. Just realize that even though you really liked that person, he or she is not "the one." Then you can be grateful that you're not wasting time on that person, which will allow you to eventually meet the man or woman you're meant to be with. And that will happen if you don't give up.


This article is based on research conducted for the books Out of the Doghouse and Sex Addiction 101.

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