This article is currently published on Match.com's online dating and relationship advice magazine, Happen.com
Need help getting psyched for your search for The One? Try these smart strategies for a more positive mindset.
By Amy Spencer
Recently, I had a string of bad dates. One was with a man who couldn’t stop pointing out my flaws (specifically, “You have really short nails” and “Do you always laugh like that?”). Another was a smart, handsome man who turned out to be intolerably self-aggrandizing. The list goes on—but instead of getting bummed out that I was getting, well, nowhere in love that week, I laughed it off. You see, I am a dating optimist, and I know that some awful dates are par for the course. But why dwell on the bad stuff? The fact is, no one is going to meet the man or woman of their dreams with a negative outlook—which is why I talked to other dating optimists and found some top tips on how to bring out the brightest, best, happiest dater inside us all.
Commit to complimenting your date on three things
Making yourself search out the good (Hmm, maybe I’ll like his laugh!) rather than the bad (Uh-oh, she'll probably hate the loud atmosphere…) is the simplest way to flip the optimist switch. If you focus on finding the good in the person across the table, you will find it.
Remember: The worse the date, the better the story
Dating is like the opposite of the Olympic figure-skating judging: Instead of throwing out the highest scores and the lowest scores, a happy dater relishes both. And let’s be honest, we all have our entertaining horror stories to share. Tracy Allen, 29, recalls one date she had that always garners an appreciative audience at parties: “I was having a great ski weekend with my date, until every few hours he’d call the cat-sitter he hired to ask how his kitty was doing,” she says. “At one point, he even asked the sitter to put kitty’s ear up to the phone so he could say hello!” Personally, I fondly recall my shock of listening to a first date of mine casually mention the porn shop he opened with his uncle…but instead of being frustrated about another lost night, I grinned on the inside thinking about how funny it was going to be to tell the story later. (That was four years ago, and it’s still one of my favorites.)
Practice changing your negative buzzwords
If you don’t know what yours are, ask a friend. Maybe they often hear you say you “can’t,” you “hate” or you “won’t.” Or maybe you’re always talking about how people “never” do anything right. Once you know what to listen for, you’ll be more likely to catch and stop yourself. For added incentive, do what cursing-quitters often do: Put $1 in a jar every time you bring up a negative topic among your friends, to help train yourself out of bringing up negative topics on your date. Think about it. You wouldn’t want to hear your date say he or she “can’t understand people who like sushi” or “don’t feel like going to work.” You want to hear that they love surfing and will try anything on the menu. The same goes for you: Nobody likes that SNL character Debbie Downer, so do what you can to be the most positive version of yourself.
Give yourself the YNK speech before your next date
As in, You Never Know! You never know, he might be the date of your dreams. And if he’s not, you never know, he might be the roommate of the man of your dreams. Or, you never know, maybe she’ll tell you about some great new hangout that’s packed with cute singles, or know someone who wants to hire you to join Madonna’s concert tour—or merely tell you a story that prompts you to take off to Thailand for a month. The point is, even if dating doesn’t lead to true love, it leads to different, interesting, and sometimes wonderful experiences you might not have had otherwise. And that’s all good.
Put together a cheering squad
Whether a date bombs or exceeds your expectations, the very fact that you don’t know what’s going to happen is a large part of the fun. So many of my coupled-up friends say they envy how in my average night out, anything could happen. Being reminded of this fact made me appreciate my single status even more—which is why I decided to permanently draw them in with before-and-after reports. I went on a date recently after meeting some married friends of mine for a cocktail. Before I left, we worked out a code that I would text them through the night: “C” for Cute, “NC” for Not Cute, “SC” for Super Cute, SFO for “Still Figuring it Out,” etc. We had such laughs thinking about what I might find, that I walked away from them and toward my date with a giddy anticipation I hadn’t felt in a while. (Oh, and by the way, that date was super-cute and super-nice.)
Tell yourself, “I won’t settle for any old relationship, I want an amazing relationship”
If you’re ever feeling low about your unattached status, ask yourself this: If you really, truly wanted to be dating just anyone, you could be, right? The guy who e-mailed you for a second date. The girl who gave you her number at a party. That ex who still calls to “check in.” You just choose not to date them because they’re not right for you. And that’s a good sign, because it proves you won’t settle for just an average relationship. You want someone who’s really right for you. It makes any amount of waiting worthwhile.
Go on you-can’t-lose dates
Nothing seems like more of a waste than having an average, predictable evening with a boring date you know you’ll never see again. And that’s why you should try this can’t-lose strategy: Find something you’ve really wanted to do…and do that on your date. Take him or her to a driving range or the opera or play bridge together if you’ve been hankering to go. Because you can’t help being optimistic when you know that no matter what happens with the love connection, you still win! This also works if you’re looking for dates, too: “Instead of meeting men in bars, I started doing fun things to meet them,” says Stephanie Prepon, 36. So far she’s taken sailing lessons, golf lessons, and signed up as a member of the Guggenheim Museum—and met some great men in the process.
Remind yourself that it’s a numbers game
You don’t rent the first apartment you see, and you don’t buy the first bathing suit you try on. You sample them all, and the more you try, the closer you know you’re getting to what you want. Well, it’s the same with love. Remind yourself of that fact! Sometimes the restaurant is only average, sometimes the $160 jeans stretch too much in the butt, and sometimes your date will disappoint you. But getting the bad ones out of the way takes you that much closer to the good ones—and more importantly, makes you appreciate the crazy twists and turns on the road to real romance.
Amy Spencer writes for Glamour, Maxim, and Real Simple among other publications.
You can also link directly to this article on Happen.com, where you will find plenty more of my dating advice:
Happen Magazine: Be a Dating Optimist!