The other day an acquaintance presented me with this scenario.
Whenever she found a man she was interested in, they would date for a while but the interest would eventually die out. She found there was always something wrong with the guy, something that stopped him from becoming a boyfriend, partner or eventual husband.
She acknowledged being in “decent” shape, was “attractive enough,” and knew enough about the “dating rules” to not scare a man off. The issue, she said, was always in connecting with her date long term. “They never seem to be really interested in me,” she said.
Was she looking in the wrong places and meeting the wrong people? Was she being too judgmental? She worried about “settling,” but wondered if she just needed to grab the next decent guy who came along before it was too late.
What was the problem?
Even though she spoke about her physical attributes with faint praise, this actually wasn’t an issue with her self esteem. In fact, she spoke as if she was actually looking for a compliment, hoping I’d say something like, “Stop saying that. You’re very attractive!” When people tell me they’re not connecting with a date, and it’s outwardly focused about the other person and his faults, I know the issue is really with the speaker.
You’ve heard this before, but it’s true: Relationships are a two-way street, and in this case the woman is not being vulnerable with the people she’s dating. She’s looking for the date to always reflect something positive about her, but she needs to be equally curious about him.
When a date says something about who he is, it’s absolutely necessary for the listener to reflect upon what that means to her, her past experiences, and what she feels physically and emotionally about the information that was revealed during the conversation. If this does not happen there will never be an emotional connection. And that’s what dating, having a boyfriend or girlfriend, and eventually settling down is all about—a long-term, sustainable, committed relationship.
Here’s an example, which sounds basic but will give you the idea of what I’m talking about.
Say you’re Cindy and you’re on a date with Tim. Tim reveals he had a hard day at work. At this moment, Cindy must respond from a thoughtful, feeling place, a reflective place inside of herself. She should say something like, “Wow, I want to hear more about that. I had a bad day three weeks ago, myself. Tell me what happened.”
Through that type of exchange, Cindy is telling Tim that she’s interested in what’s going on with him in a deeper way. Tim now will be open to exploring his feelings about his rough day at work with a sense of reassurance that Cindy is really interested. Cindy also gave Tim the message that after he’s done, they’ll probably talk about her situation. With that, we have the beginning of sharing experiences, emotions, and where the meaning is for each one of them. These are points for a deeper connection and building a vulnerable, trusting, intimate, and hot relationship.
Are you not being vulnerable on your dates? Ask yourself these questions.
- When a date makes a statement about himself, do you reflect upon it and ask him to go deeper? Are you truly curious?
- Do you dominate a conversation and make it mostly about you?
- Do you have expectations that the other person should be overly interested or centered on you?
In order to develop deeper conversations on first and second dates, you need to listen, reflect and respond to the person you’re with.
The best conversation starter on a date is, “Tell me more about you.” So be curious and empathetic on dates. The above questions can be your jumping off point. Only through deeper and meaningful conversations can a chance for commitment develop.
Margie Mirell, LMFT and life coach, has been working in private practice with singles and couples in Santa Monica, California for more than 20 years. She focuses on relationship issues, addictions, and co-dependency.
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