The Counterintuitive Approach To Dating That Leads To Long-Lasting Love

Photo: Guille Faingold

Would you like to feel relieved and inspired in your dating life? Confident and true to yourself? I’ve got a simple model for you to experiment with.

A decade ago, I began a life-coaching business clueless about marketing. I discovered one tool that I held on to—not to grow my business but for its coaching value—especially for those who have promising beginnings in love but can’t seem to find the one that sticks. See, the more times you give your heart to someone only to discover they weren't the right person for you, the more discouraged and disheartened you become.

What many people don't realize is that this isn't their "fault." There's nothing wrong with them. Changing this pattern is simply a matter of protecting your heart while you get to know someone. It's about recognizing that you don't have to go all-in if you want to move forward. That's where this marketing tool comes in. We change the trajectory by changing the point of departure.

It's simple: Start with no.

Marketing expert Jim Camp teaches starting with no as a way to hold power in negotiations. With an instant yes, you lose your footing. The same thing is true of dating. There’s a reason they say romance sweeps you off your feet! As soon as the chemistry crackles and sparks, the face smiling back is pleasing, the hands intertwine with ease—yes! Oh, please, let this work out.

We become so attached to some imagined outcome that we forget that pursuing our highest and best sometimes means letting go of something or someone who doesn't serve that end. Don't convince yourself you need to keep someone around simply because they might be good for you. If they're right for you, that will become clear over time. Rushing into an emotional commitment serves neither of you. That's where starting with no comes in.

If, mentally, you go straight to long-term togetherness, you've signed without reading the small print.

After a first date, you might like everything about someone. They put their best foot forward, and so did you. That isn't to say anyone was being dishonest. You were just trying to impress. We all do it! But you haven't seen this person when they're thrown off by world affairs or bad customer service. You don’t know their triggers or their responses to yours. But if you’re saying "I love you" in the first three months (even mentally!), you’re saying it to their carefully curated, most presentable self—you're not addressing the whole person. How could you? You don't know them yet.

And red flags? As soon as your sights are set on that fairy-tale finish line, you lose perspective. You'll very likely miss them altogether. You already convinced yourself this person was "the one." Odds are, you'll keep letting yourself be deceived because you're already invested in one specific outcome.

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"Start with no" describes your point of departure—not your landing place.

It keeps you from jumping right to yes, ready or not. It means that, noticing something appealing and full of possibility, you proceed in a spirit of exploration, guarding your heart until you really, really know the person whose hands you're planning to put it in.

When you start with no in dating, your only job is to find the next yes. You remain open and curious without going all-in. So, maybe today you feel good about saying yes to coffee. After that, maybe it's yes to dinner, then yes to a kiss, then yes to the daylong hike. Give just one yes to whatever feels right and true in the moment, but stop short of projecting a whole far-flung future. Until further notice, you proceed one yes at a time. You're simply withholding the yes that means "Yes, you can have my whole heart" until you feel really sure you've found someone who deserves it.

Starting with no does not involve:

  • being negative or critical.
  • being shut down or standoffish.
  • saying no to everything.
  • or even saying no out loud!

Explore, enjoy; gather information as in a treasure hunt, not a research project. Be curious, delighted, and playful as you get present to each yes you consciously step into. Start with no, and dating gets more fun, more relaxed, and often more bold.

You'll also find that starting with no supports you in the following:

  • to show up for what's actually happening, not what you hoped would happen.
  • to check out red flags instead of ignoring them, eyes open for further sightings.
  • to keep telling the truth (including to yourself).
  • to let intimacy develop organically, over time.

As you proceed, either you'll find clarity that the platform of no is where you want to hold fast, or you'll gradually (one yes at a time) get to a super-solid yes—a yes that’s foundational for creating something truly sustainable.

I know you're looking for more yes in your love life—and you get to have that. A lasting yes can be yours when you proceed with solid footing and clarity of vision. I invite you to a grand experiment: Start with no.

Want more insight into your relationship? Find out the things you should always be selfish about in your partnerships and the questions that could keep your marriage from ending.

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