Sex & Sociability

Question and commentary on connections, both sexual and social

The Sweetie Search Part I

Get your acquaintances to join you in your treasure hunt.

There is this recurring myth that you can't look for love; it has to find you. Then does it also apply to work, and housing? There are those who mate with the kid next door, go into the family business and live out their lives in the house in which they were born. Most of us do not. At some point in life, and often at several points, we job hunt, apartment or house hunt, and (sigh) sweetie hunt too. No shame in any of it.

Networking is widely recommended when looking for a home or a job. The more people you ask, the wider you broadcast your availability and the specifications of that which you seek, the more likely you are to find a good match. Many people employ rental or real estate agents or employment bureaus and professional head hunters. The more allies you enlist the better you feel. Why is this seldom the case with the search for a sweetie?

Of course, sometimes love just does happen. You step into an elevator and there s/he is. Sometimes your co-worker or acquaintance suddenly develops a special glow and friendship catches fire. Usually, you look around at your life and realize that you would like a special someone in it and no one you know currently fills the bill.

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Time to start wishing if you are not pro-active. Time to begin the Sweetie Search if you are. If this is going to be a productive search there are several conversations that need to take place. The first of which is with yourself and it needs to be completely honest, sometimes painfully so. What has your pattern been? Some questions to ask yourself and put down on paper about the last several sweeties or would-be sweeties in your life:

1. Where and how did you meet?
2. Who initiated the relationship and how?
3. What was your first impression of him/her?
4. What features or quality first attracted you?
5. What was the best part of the relationship?
6. What didn't you like about him/her or the relationship?
7. How long did the good part last?
8. Who ended it and how?
9.Would you be willing to resume the relationship and is that possible?
10. If this was a relationship that never "happened" why do you think that is?

Having looked at your sheet of paper one or more patterns will emerge. The other person is the one who initiates, never you. Or you usually become disillusioned because this person is not who you imagined her or him to be. Whatever the pattern, is it one that you would like to change? Perhaps it's one you'd like to continue in that all the best sweeties are ones you met through friends. In any case, a look at your past may assist you in determining what you do next...or to be aware of not doing.

Furthering this honest conversation with yourself, be clear on the qualities that attract you and how you asses for them. If a keen sense of humor tops your list, there is really little you can find out in a setting where protracted conversation is impossible. In fact many of the qualities that men and women both usually put on their list (like kindness, reliability, honesty) require some time spent together before they can be determined. So you are shooting yourself in the foot by going to one event, looking around the room, and deciding "There's nobody here for me."

Knowing what appeals to you, including the superficial (or not so) things like height or political leanings, you have shared this information with your friends, right? "Do you know any unattached women?" is not as likely to strike a chord as "Do you know any African American women in their 30's or 40's who like to go dancing?" The more specific you can be the more likely your acquaintances will be to join you in your treasure hunt.

Having honed in on your target audience, figure out where they are likely to be and go there. Do outdoor things to meet outdoorsy types and literary events to meet fellow literature lovers. This should be obvious but it isn't to many people who wonder why they keep getting involved with heavy drinkers when the only new people they meet are at bars.

A further part of your conversation with yourself is to determine the circumstances that feel most comfortable to you when interacting with new people. If one on one, dates set up through friends or met via the Internet might be fun. If small groups speak to you look for congenial ones like book discussions or friends' dinners rather than forcing yourself to go to large anonymous parties. The process of meeting new people need not be a torture. If it is, you'll soon go back to your same old ways with the same people you already know.

So in conversation with yourself (and then with your friends) you have figured out who you want to meet, possibly how and where, the next step is having your conversation with potential Sweeties. I will speak in the next essay here about initiating contact and playing the grown up game of Show & Tell.

Isadora AlmanM.F.T., is a Board-certified sex, marriage, and family therapist, lecturer, author, and syndicated advice columnist of "Ask Isadora."

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