How to stand out of from the crowd on the dating scene

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The words of one of my favorite poets speaks the truth about what it is to risk in love:

"I loved you the same way that I learned how to ride a bike: Scared but reckless."  -Rudy Francisco

And all the heartbroken say "Amen." It hurts desperately to fall in love.  But in the same breath, it is also the only thing strong enough to heal us. Love wages a war between the primitive and logical sides of the brain, lodging our hearts unfairly in this battleground. Sometimes it feels like the best we can do is to navigate it without setting off landmines.

Dating can feel like a sharp left turn: we are scared to take it for the risks, or we are too reckless in it.

Love excites me but also scares the hell out of me.  It's thrilling and carries the delight of a clean slate. Inviting the magic of a new person into your heart means accepting the chance you'll fall off the bike and get hurt.  Some of these lessons are hard won. But there's no safer way to find out. And if you are like me, and you are cautiously excited to explore new avenues that challenge your long-held beliefs about love, you will do things like trying online dating for a year

Online dating has somewhat of a notorious reputation, especially when used by "dirty dirty cheats" as Taylor Swift would say, to fool honest people. This is me raising my hand to say that I've been there. However, I am also happy to report that the majority of men I've met online were well-adjusted, happy guys looking for love.

The cultural winds have shifted in dating, for better, or worse. A Pew Research Report that gathered data between the years 2005 to 2013 shares that "42% of all Americans know an online dater, and 29% know someone who has used online dating to find a spouse or other long-term relationship." 

So while the game has changed for how you meet someone, the rules haven't much. 

If you're like me, you might be thinking "How can I stand out in a landscape where personalities are profiles and beauty is reduced to a swipe-through of five, carefully curated photos?'"

If you are on this journey, remember that your heart is what makes this experience of finding love worth it. You bring the gifts that someone else will delight in. And your personality is one that the right person will unravel like a beautiful piece of ribbon on a gift, slowly, carefully, and with admiration. 

Remember these things as you make your grand entrance on the dating scene.

1. Consistency is hot. Don't just take my word for it. Simon Sinek thinks so too

I have asked some of my closest friends how they found love. Was it a spark? A chance meeting in the grocery store? Something he said? Something he did that made him exceptional in your eyes? The response I got almost every time wasn't specific things he did, but the intent with which he did things that made her realize that he treasured her. 

So what was this magical intent?

Consistency! Wow, well that's not sexy. Because consistency is boring and predictable right? We need spontaneity, unpredictability, fireworks, Disney-movie-worthy acts of extravagance from a potential love interest to capture our hearts, right?

Maybe not. 

I think women innately understand that despite the excitement of chasing a man down, it's not a sustainable or healthy pattern in a relationship. Consistency in actions is the glue that holds a relationship intact. You can't build much of a foundation for a relationship if consistent effort is not delivered on both ends.

There is a value exchange in a relationship when you give of your time, your heart, and emotions to someone else. If you feel as though you are investing in this value exchange without receiving either deeper trust, understanding, or security from another person, this a hint that this person either does not view relationships as a mutual value exchange, or simply isn't interested in one with you.

The key to a successful relationship is showing you are willing to be consistent, early on. It will speak volumes about your character, how you expect to be treated in the relationship, and how you will operate going forward. Flakiness is good for croissants. Bad for boyfriends.

 

2. Appearances, in the long run, are overrated. Show him your sparkly side, your playful spirit, and sense of humor. 

Anne Lamott, a brilliant and truthful writer has this paragraph of wisdom to share with us on how to have a big, juicy creative (and fulfilling) life. She says:

"Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen."

What Anne and I are trying to say to you is, don't disqualify yourself from living the life you want based on impossible, perfectionistic expectations. Don't live your life behind the thinly veiled terror of someone else judging you for how you look. Every woman in the room struggles with some facet of her beauty. That is a given. Focus on is less of the externals, and more on what makes you shine.

If marriage is a 50 year conversation like David Brooks says, think about the types of things you want to talk about with someone else. What pushes your buttons? What makes you double over with laughter? (People running with their backpacks on makes me laugh :) What subject are you endlessly passionate about?

 

3.  Have standards and don't be afraid to communicate them.

Disclaimer:  I don't say this without knowing the cost of letting go of a future with someone. It hurts. You will second guess what you've done, but just because your heart still feels pain, does not mean it was the wrong choice. 

Having standards is less about listing out what you desire in a man but more about knowing what behaviors you will not tolerate (from anyone). Here's how it works. In a healthy relationship, if we have a high view of our worth, we will only invite others into our trusted space who also treat us according to that worth. If we have a low view of our worth, we will invite people into our lives who view us in this same way.

This has taken me quite a while to understand in the context of relationships, when boyfriends or love interests would disrespect my time, flake on important events, or dodge communication on big issues.  The school of hard knocks taught me that I was treated this way mostly because I allowed it.

 

4. Say what you need to say.

People skills are rare but so beautiful. And probably one of the scariest things about dating is communicating about the important things in a relationship, especially if its new. I think it's ok to sneak in what you value into every day conversations. Share your likes, your dislikes, what's ok to joke about, and what makes you want to run and hide. Be transparent with who you really are and trust that it will attract the right person.

I can't count the number of women I've talked to that worry about coming off as "too needy" when they approach the topic of where a relationship is headed with a new guy. (As if people should act like they don't have needs!)  This is a crucial conversation, and its importance (and scariness) should not be underestimated.

If you are wondering where something is headed, I've found it's less effective to ask the question "Where are we going with this?" point blank, for a few reasons.

1. It puts the ball in his court about determining your future, when it should be a mutual decision.

2. It tends to make guys defensive, especially if they feel they don't have enough information to make a decision yet.

3. It can make you seem like you're in a hurry, and that makes some guys nervous.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with clear communication. However, it is a great people skill to understand how to make sensitive interactions with people we care about less confrontational. I've learned this the hard way.

Instead of  "So where is this going?" Consider making a statement when you reach a point at which you feel it's appropriate to bring up the future. 

Something like:

 "Look, taking things slow is totally fine. I'm okay with that. I just want to be honest with you in saying that I'm not the type of girl who gets close to people who aren't sure of what they want. I really like you, but I hope we can be on the same page in this." 

This takes the pressure off him, because you haven't asked him "Where is this going?" You've told him, "This is where I'm going, and I hope you're headed in the same direction' This expresses confidence, sets expectations and makes him recognize your value, and brings up a touchy subject without making him defensive.

 

5. Find your cheap thrills.

Find delight in small but lovely moments of your everyday life. Most of us want to be with someone who makes the simple, mundane events of every day life lighthearted and fun. 

Picture that scene from the movie The Holiday when Jack Black brings Kate Winslet a milkshake and says" I got you the best drink in town but I wasn't sure if you wanted a little dollop of whipped cream or a big dollop so I got you both......'Well hello, big dollop!'" 

Every woman, deep down, wants the kind of man who cares about the dollops of whipped cream. Because it is fun, and it does matter! Part of what makes you fun is in your approach to life. If someone can't get down with that, it's time to say "Boy bye."  Or if he does make you laugh, bring you big dollops of whipped cream on your coffee, and you share the right connection, hang on to him! But don't let him know it right away. Be kinda secretive about it.