There are men and women who have no interest in meeting someone to marry. They are content to be single. Most of this relatively small group do not date, but some do, finding the dating experience enjoyable.

On the other hand, there are others who do want to settle down with someone someday but who regard dating as an inherently miserable experience they have to put up with because that is the only way it is possible to meet someone. For some, the experience of dating is unspeakably awful. “They all climbed out of a sewer,” was the way one of my correspondents described the men she met on dating sites. This summed up a five-year experience of dating—which makes one wonder how someone so dissatisfied with these miserable experiences would persist for five years without giving up. It also suggests that any particular date she went on would not likely work out well since it started off with the idea that she was talking to someone who had just crawled out of a sewer. Her view of men, although at one extreme, is not very different from the way other women—and men,—regard the people they have met dating.

The dissatisfied men are likely to describe the women as “manipulative” and inclined right off the bat to reject them. Women may say that the men “are only interested in sex,” and that they are likely to lie about dating other women. These are men and women who date without really looking forward to meeting anyone with whom they will have a long-term relationship; indeed, starting off with these prejudices, such a relationship becomes hard to find. I agree that dating seriously requires meeting potential partners on the internet; but these experiences do not have to be miserable. 

A strategy for dating

Be realistic. Most dates do not even result in a second date, let alone a long-term relationship. Applicants sending off resumes in response to a job opening receive a positive response only about two to three percent of the time; and dating strangers with the view of getting married probably has no better success. But people do find jobs this way, and people do find long-term partners this way. So, it is important not to get discouraged by a long string of disappointments.  A successful marriage is like a peg of an irregular shape finding a matching hole. Not finding someone over a too-long period of time does not imply that there is anything wrong with the person who has been looking.

The first date should be brief, meeting for a cup of coffee or a drink. If the stranger—or relative stranger—you are with is not desirable to you, there is no reason to waste a lot of time.

A second date is often a dinner date; and that is fine. Certainly, a second date should allow the opportunity for talking (as opposed to going to the movies.) But a second or third date ideally should allow for having a good time even if it is apparent by then that no long-term relationship with ensue. It is possible to have fun walking through a park or a museum with someone destined to be only a friend. Do not start off with the idea that, if the other person is not suitable for a long-term relationship,  a short term relationship is not worth pursuing.

Most, but not all, serious relationships begin with a second and third date following closely after the first.

Do not start off assuming that your date is malicious or deceitful or intent on exploiting you. Communicating that sort of prejudice will put off any sensible person. Especially, do not start off angry because of bad dating experiences in the past. Start off being kind to your date. He or she is likely to have his or her own insecurities. Most people who are unsuccessful at dating find it hard to encourage the other person. Ordinary encouragement strikes them as coming across as being desperate. Everyone needs encouragement. Certainly, do not pretend to be cool or indifferent.

Do not decide in the first few minutes—if you can help it—that someone you meet is unsuitable. I ask all my patients what they liked about their spouses when they first met, and about 20% told me they did not like them initially.  Allow for the possibility of changing your mind.

When beginning to date, it is a good idea to be on a number of dating sites at the same time. Invariably you will have the experience of no one being interested in you, seemingly; and it is a good idea to have someone else in sight as a possibility.

There is reason to be optimistic. After all, most people marry sooner or later. The trick, in life in general, is to have a good time while you are waiting for something to happen. Be open to different people and different kinds of experiences. Remember John Lennon’s remark, “Life is what happens while you are making other plans.”

(c) Fredric Neuman, Author of "Some One, Come All."

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