The most frequent problem I hear from single clients is that of how and where to search for a partner. Many of them have been searching for a long time, without success; others have been afraid to go out and search at all.
Most of the horror stories you have heard about dating occur when daters rush the process. Getting intimately involved with someone you don’t know, allowing strangers into your home, or being all alone with someone you just met is just asking for trouble.
Dating successfully is an organized process that will take some time. It begins with carefully looking for the right people in the right places. I like to use the metaphor of “Squirrel Hunting” when I talk to clients about how to date successfully.
If you think of what you’re doing as making friends or Squirrel Hunting instead of dating, it will sound a lot less intimidating, and be easier to change your old habit patterns.
Squirrel Hunting — How to Do it
There are two ways to catch squirrels. One way is to run around and try to grab them or pounce on them -- but in so doing you'll only scare them away, and they'll run faster than you do every time. In the end, you'll be very frustrated and exhausted, and you'll have no squirrels.
Or, you can go to where the squirrels are, offer them something attractive, like walnuts, and wait quietly, just enjoying the day and the place. It will take a while, but if you are very relaxed and quiet, they will begin to get curious, and soon they will begin to check you out. If you stay relaxed and let them get to know that get to know you are safe and you have goodies, and before too long they'll be all over you, and eating out of your hand. Then you have your choice of several squirrels. Success is guaranteed, if you have a little patience.
Finding the Right Hunting Grounds
Where you go is what you get. Bars are not good hunting grounds if you want a successful relationship. In a bar, the odds increase that you’ll find someone with a drinking problem and no life. Instead, find regularly scheduled activities where you can meet and talk to like-minded people, getting to know them a bit before you decide to date them. Classes, sports teams, lessons, hobby groups, community service organizations, discussion groups and church groups are all likely places. If you go to places with activities that interest you, then anyone else you find there will automatically have something in common with you – the activity. It gives you a great starting place for conversation. If you know the type of person you’re looking for, and go to the right places to meet them, you’ll be successful before you know it.
The area of your interests is like the forest where the squirrels are. Once you find it, the people you want to meet will be there.
Aside from finding a partner, what interests you? Are you a science or history buff? Do you like to play or watch golf, tennis, basketball or other sports? What about the theater, the arts, politics, photography, science, bridge, books, gardening, computers, crossword puzzles, model (or full-scale) airplanes or boating? The possibilities are endless. If you follow your own interests, you’ll automatically meet people you can have fun with, and who have something in common.
How you follow those interests makes the difference. For example, if you just buy a ticket and go to a baseball game, you are not too likely to meet anyone. (The love of your life could just happen to have the next seat to yours, or be standing in the hot dog line when you go, but the odds aren’t good.) However, if you get involved in a booster club, or find a group of people who enjoy playing or going to games, or even meet with a group to watch games on TV, as long as both genders are represented, you’ll have a great chance meeting some friends and eventually making a serious connection. If you just take photos, you’ll have nice photos. If you go to a photography class or group, you’ll have the photos, plus a chance to meet others you can “click” with.
To turn your interest into a dating opportunity, just find a way to meet other people who love the same things. Find a group or a class on the subject, and you’ll automatically find others who love it. Through them, you can meet more people, and learn about new resources for finding people who share your interest. If you are feeling tense, just think of all those squirrels, and you can chuckle to yourself, and relax and enjoy it, which is much easier if it’s about something you’re already interested in. The squirrels can check you out and see that you’re non-threatening.
In terms of dating, this means having a good time wherever you are, and making yourself comfortable. Relax, talk to some people who seem easy to meet (whether you’d like to date them isn’t important -- they can be the wrong age, the wrong gender, etc.) Focus on enjoying whatever is there to enjoy. If you’re attending a class, concentrate on the lesson or the activity, and don’t worry about dating for the moment.
* At a party, talk to anyone who seems easy to approach.
* If you’re playing or watching sports, concentrate on the game.
* At a committee meeting, the PTA or a volunteer group, get the work done.
* On a hike or camping trip, watch for the real squirrels, and enjoy nature.
Once you get to a function or event, you’ll have a lot more fun if you forget about the dating, and participate fully. You’ll enjoy what you’re doing, and because of that, you’ll be far more attractive to the squirrels.
To be a successful squirrel hunter, you need to have your life together as much as possible. The key to is to create a successful relationship with yourself, and then use that as your role model for a successful relationship. Start with your body and your health, to develop the energy you’ll need. When you’re well-rested and healthy, you’re at your most attractive. Dress for the hunt, by creating the appearance you think will attract the kind of person you’re looking for. Success in finding a relationship depends more on how you feel about yourself and your own life than on how rich or physically attractive you are. Looks and outer attributes fade in importance very quickly: your personality and self-esteem are what your partner really values. Like the successful squirrel hunter, you need to be able to relax and enjoy the day and place. Patience and a calm attitude not only are very attractive, they also promote thinking clearly and making good choices.
Preparing Your Lair
Set up a cozy place in your living room for conversation and relaxing, then , if you like, burn a candle or some incense there to concentrate your energy and focus your thoughts on what you want. Walk into your place and look around with a stranger’s eyes. Do you like what you see? If not, make some changes until your living space reflects who you are. Then, when an occasion arises to invite someone (or a small group) over, you’ll feel good about doing that.
What’s Fun about You?
Your fun qualities are the tempting bait you offer.
What do your friends like to do with you? What do they seek you out for? Do they like to come to your place for dinner? To go to the beach? To talk? To go walking or bike riding? To work on projects together? Would your friends say you have a good sense of humor?
The people who know you best want to do what they have the most fun doing with you. They think of you first when they want to do that activity, because you help make it enjoyable. Pay attention when your friends seek you out, or complement you, and remember what they like about you.
It’s also important to consider the personality qualities you like about yourself.
Knowing what people enjoy about you is valuable for two reasons: First, it’s good to remind yourself of those positive attributes when you’re feeling anxious or unattractive. Second, you will know what qualities to display when you’re meeting someone new.
Thinking of dating as squirrel hunting will give you the framework you need to change your unsuccessful dating patterns into fun, safe, and effective methods that will actually result in a healthy relationship. As the old song says, “I wish you love.”
© 2009 Tina B. Tessina adapted from: The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again (Wiley) ISBN#0-02-862454-8
Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. “Dr. Romance” http://www.tinatessina.com is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California, with over 30 years experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 13 books in 17 languages, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction (New Page); How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free (New Page); The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again (Wiley) and The Real 13th Step: Discovering Self-Confidence, Self-Reliance and Independence Beyond the Twelve Step Programs (New Page.) Her newest books, from Adams Press in 2008: Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage and Commuter Marriage. She publishes “Happiness Tips from Tina”, an e-mail newsletter, and the “Dr. Romance Blog” http://drromance.typepad.com/dr_romance_blog/ and has hosted "The Psyche Deli: delectable tidbits for the subconscious" a weekly hour long radio show. Online, she is “Dr. Romance” with columns at Divorce360.com, CougarCandyStore.com, and Yahoo!Personals, as well as a Redbook Love Network expert. Dr. Tessina guests frequently on radio, and such TV shows as “Oprah”, “Larry King Live” and ABC news. Follow her on www.twitter.com/tinatessina.