I’ve spent the majority of my 20s single. Though I’ve never had a lack of option, opportunity, or dates, I often struggle with meeting someone I'd want a relationship with. There always seems to be something that doesn’t match, a timing that doesn’t pan out, a deal breaker that keep us apart, or countless other things that keep a relationship from really getting off the ground.
And though I often think I know just about everything there is to know about dating (considering I write about it for a living). I lead an active social life and I swipe online, I tend to date guys older than me because they're more mature, I'm honest, kind, and I'm relentless — trying my best not to get frustrated at the whole process of dating. I give people a chance (most of the time) and I try my best to stay happy and centered about the whole thing.
But the truth is, I still have a lot to learn from the experience of being single. Most of the time, I’m pretty optimistic about my love life — and tend to believe that great things come to those who wait f*cking forever — sometimes, I need an extra push to take my game to the next level. We’re all guilty of getting complacent and choosing binge-watching, wine and pajamas on a Friday night instead of putting ourselves out there how we should if we want to be in a happy, healthy relationship one day.
So for 2016, I decided to talk to some dating experts and coaches about how to date smarter, better and happier this year. Who knows, maybe my twenty-seventh year will be the one when I finally meet ‘The One’ — or at least, a boyfriend?
1. Keep Your Name Private
Though it’s something I’ve considered, Sarah Patt, Matchmaker and Dating Expert for It's Just Lunch Houston, reaffirmed my inclination that writing about my love life not be the most appealing quality for some. “Your success makes you an easy find on the internet– your entire professional life is online but you have the option of taking your personal life off,” she says. “Motivated, educated, successful men rarely want their business out in the public (unless they are already in the public eye), could this be attracting a different type of guy then you are looking for and possibly scaring away the ones you are looking for?
Treat your relationship differently than your work, make it private.” Even if you don’t write about who you date for a living, Patt is right: any social networks where someone could find out too much, too soon can be a turn off. I’ll be making more of an effort to keep my full name private until I’ve really gotten to know someone and can explain my personal policies about writing about love.
2. Be Present In Everyday Experiences
As much as I would love to randomly bump into an attractive, successful and kind guy at a coffee shop and we instantly fall in love a-la every romantic comedy plot ever, in my gut, I know the way I’ll actually find a meaningful relationship with someone when we have things in common. For me, those things are traveling, fitness, trying new foods and drinks, volunteering and well, snuggling.
“Places for you to meet eligible singles you want should be based on the things you are looking for and the things you’d like to share with someone,” Patt says. “If you want a meaningful relationship right now, you need to find someone who is also at a point in their life where they are ready for commitment. You won’t find [them] on a dating app or late night bar. Try looking for someone who you meet during the day or on an early morning run in Central Park; shift your focus to daytime instead of night! Use your outgoing personality to start casual conversations when you are at the places you believe your future partner would be and definitely when you see someone you find attractive. The conversation could be about the weather, just start the conversation and see where it goes.”
3. Don’t Let First Dates Be The End All Be All
As much as I like to think that I sincerely give people a fighting chance, within the first few minutes of a date, I basically know if I want to see them again. I may be looking for that elusive instant connection and I may be a little naive and wanting that to happen. Instead, Patt says to let go of the dating pressure I put on myself to find the right person because that’ll definitely translate into my dates. “On the first — even second date — you aren’t there to decide if you want to spend the rest of your life with this person, but rather decide if you enjoy spending time with this person enough to continue spending time with them,” she says. “Don’t create dating to be pressure. Pressure on a date creates stress or has the ability to rush a relationship. Let it happen on its own.”
4. Date Multiple People
“Try dating more than one person at a time, to enjoying getting to know people and see if both their wonderful attributes make you happy and their not-so-wonderful attributes (we all have them) are live-able for you,” Patt says. “When you stop trying so hard and just let things happen naturally, you’ll have a better chance at meeting a partner.” It might seem counterproductive to date multiple people (it always has for me, anyway), but instead of putting all of my eggs into one basket and riding out a could-be relationship until the (often bitter) end, I’m going to try the juggling act instead. Many experts agree that dating multiple people actually helps keep your priorities and expectations in check and lets you see what you really like in someone, and what you don’t.
5. Say ‘Hi’
Thomas Edwards, founder of the Professional Wingman says there are many reasons why men won’t approach women in a time when digital dating is often louder than the loudest bar — they’re either lazy, clueless or scared. And though it may not be the traditional way to meet someone, Edwards says that women starting the conversation for heterosexual relationships may be the new normal.“I’m confident that you are more proactive than the average woman, which is great but now, I push you to be even more overt with your intentions, if you want guys to take action. Stand closer to him at the bar. Show teeth when you smile at him,” Edwards says. “Make an offhanded comment just to see if or how he'll respond. Simply go up and say ‘hi’ (without feeling the need to lead the conversation). If he doesn't "get it together" at this point, then he likely may not have the kind of confidence you're looking for.”
6. Release The Fear That You'll Be Alone Forever
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m sometimes afraid that the whole happy-marriage-and-life-long-love thing just isn’t in the cards for me. I’d be lying even harder if that thought alone makes me very sad. Dr Kat Van Kirk, relationship expert says fear may be holding me back. “Focus more on being open to the possibilities and know that if you have friends or family members that found good mates that you can too,” she says. “Practice envisioning yourself being happy every time you see a happy couple. It can help you manifest what you want and to keep things positive.”
7. Get More Massages
In a city like New York, where people aren’t quite as friendly as they are in my hometown in North Carolina, I can often go weeks without hugging anyone, and frankly, the only ‘touch’ in my life is my yoga teacher adjusting my posture. Van Kirk says it’s time to change that. “Humans need regular physical touch. It causes a biochemical response that is related to your sense of health and wellness and can help you feel like you aren’t lacking anything,” she says. “This may mean everything from more hugs from friends and families to scheduling regular pedicures or massages.”
Want more of Bustle's Sex and Relationships coverage? Check out our new podcast, I Want It That Way, which delves into the difficult and downright dirty parts of a relationship, and find more on our Soundcloud page.