In today’s virtual world, it can be a battle to really connect with another human being. Maybe we have access to too many options at the click of a button. Maybe we overwork ourselves to the point of shuddering at the prospect of spending time going on romantic ventures. Perhaps we just expect too much of someone, and then find ourselves disappointed that the photos they upload—highlights of their most noted moments—are in no way accurate portrayals of the person sitting before us.
Whatever it may be, these factors leave one susceptible to self sabotage when it comes to finding the one. Lucky for our beloved Paste gang, we’ve assembled five love experts—professional matchmakers from the nationally acclaimed matchmaking service, Tawkify—and asked them give their best pieces of advice so we can open the doors to a new dating life.
1. Focus On What You Want, Not What You Don’t
When posed with the question: “What are you looking for in a mate?” most people will rattle off everything that they don’t want in their new partner, instead of focusing in on positive traits.
Monique Spence, Tawkify matchmaker and dating coach, has recognized that this negative tendency tends to stem from what love-seekers have disliked from previous relationships. “You create what you are putting your energy toward, thus using those specific thoughts and words lead you to creating more of what you do not want,” she says. “It appears we keep meeting new people in a different package with the same qualities we dislike.” Spence cites patterns in empirical dating data and in her own matchmaking experience.
“When we contrast those qualities and come up with a real and believable list of what we do want, now we are moving in the right direction to find a quality mate,” continues Spence. “It is key to only use thoughts and phrases about what we really do want from a mate; then and only then can we attract that.”
In order to fully embrace another human being for their positive attributes instead of inevitable reminders of past failures, begin the dating process with an open mind and, naturally, an open heart.
2. Let Go of the Past
Even professionals in the realm of love have had their share heartaches, which forced them, whether ready or not, to learn to let go in order to become vulnerable to love again. Margaret McCabe, Tawkify matchmaker and life coach, is no exception. “I was single for 3.5 years because I was completely in love, and borderline obsessed, with someone who was emotionally unavailable,” she explains. “While I was regularly dating new men and had a few great opportunities for relationships, I kept turning them down because my heart was set on getting this one person’s love.”
Though the process of “letting go” may not be natural (and may feel like the emotional equivalent to pulling a Bandaid off a wound), McCabe articulates that certain measures need to be enacted in order to facilitate the necessary physical and mental distance. “Block this person on social media and block their number. If letting go of this person feels scary, remind yourself that blocking doesn’t have to be permanent—and can in fact be entirely temporary! You just need take an energetic break. You can ‘unblock’ this person one day when you have fully moved on.” Otherwise, McCabe explains, you are sabotaging your chance of being in the right state of mind when Mr. or Ms. Right does come around.
3. Don’t Make Too Big of a Deal about the First Date
Now that you have followed the first two pieces of advice, you are finally in the right positive, present mindset to approach the dating world. And Tawkify matchmaker Cora Boyd has just the answer with how to approach that “first date”: by not approaching with anticipation at all.
In fact, Boyd believes the first interaction should be thought of as a meetup in lieu of of those two notorious, anxiety provoking words: “first date.” Take off the pressure from the venue, from your date, and from yourself. Do something casual and fun. “Save the flowers and the chocolates and the slow dancing to the Weeknd for later,” laughs Boyd. “The idea of a first date is always just to see if there’s enough intrigue to merit a second one. And to have fun getting to know a new person. That’s it.”
A first date isn’t supposed to reveal every intimate detail of your partner’s life and background—and nor should you be an entirely open book after only knowing a stranger for a few hours. “I always tell my clients that often the most compelling people take time to reveal the many facets of their personalities,” explains Boyd. She says that a first date is just the tip of the iceberg. “Expect nothing beyond a lighthearted evaluation of whether or not you enjoyed your experience thus far of what little you know of that iceberg, and whether or not you’re curious to learn more. When we expect profound connection and trust to be there instantly, we shortchange connection and trust from building.”
Recent research done by E. Jean Carroll, the mastermind behind Tawkify and love guru of Elle magazine, revealed the two optimal times for first dates—that lead to second dates—are Tuesday nights and Saturday afternoons. Why? Boyd answers: “There’s a reason for this: Way less ‘date’ pressure. Let a first date be a standing question, the answer comes later.”
4. Think Less Physical
We live in a visually saturated society, where the use of Photoshop or “the skinny arm” can be the difference between a swipe left or right, between meeting someone potentially compatible or losing them to the abyss of the internet. Tawkify Matchmaker Antonia Greco has a few things to say about this: “There is no doubt that physical attraction is essential in a relationship. After all, if you’re not physically attracted to someone in the least, the likelihood of that manifesting into something significant is unlikely. However, as humans, we are pretty shallow people. We prioritize looks over character and resumes over behavior. We rarely give a person a chance or let them into our cozy little worlds if they don’t meet our exact prerequisites. We seem to forget that attraction can grow just as easily at it can die.”
As imperative a physical attraction may be, Greco emphasizes on the need to look beyond…well…looking. “Always, always, always, focus on how the other person makes you feel and how strong your emotional connection is rather than how hot they are or how good your physical chemistry is,” she insists. “Because remember: Looks fade, hairlines recede, wrinkles appear and gravity eventually wins.”
5. Stop Giving a Shit About What Others Think
Tawkify matchmaker Alyssa Bunn insists that the most successful daters are ones that giving zero shits. “As a professional matchmaker, I see self-sabotage occur the most in love when one person places too much emphasis on others’ opinions,” she explains. “As long as you feel good with the people that you’ve allowed into your heart, you’ll win. If you don’t feel good, then find out why. If the answer is in your control, learn what you need to fix, fix it, and then get loud about loving who you are. If the answer isn’t in your control, move on. The solution is as simple—or difficult—as you believe it is.”
Experience is more important than being told, and Bunn insists it is vital to just get going. And along the way, don’t be afraid of polarizing people (if you still are, re-read Stop Giving a Shit about What People Think’). The secret, according to Bunn, for this state of mind? “Aim for most to like you, few to dislike you, and none to be disinterested.”
Tawkify matchmaker Candice Cain weighs in as well. “Folks, that is why you’re single. You’re waiting for something that is wonderful, but very rare. If your knee-jerk reaction isn’t ‘heck no’ on your first date, you should always go on a second date. If you go on that second date and there is still nothing there, then put it to bed. Otherwise, you might be missing out on something really great.”
Photo: Catnip Soup, CC-BY
Olivia Balsinger is a travel writer based in New York City. She is also a Paste Health columnist, deputy editor of About.com’s Sustainable Travel and OhThePeopleYouMeet.com