The other day I came across a Satisfaction Survey. People were asked to rate their level of happiness along with all the things that contributed to that rating. Money, it seems, was not a magic cure-all. After achieving a financial comfort zone, adding still more did little to increase their level of joy. Health was important but, like money, the more they had the less it mattered. Then there was freedom. This may seem odd because Americans supposedly live in a land of freedom. In fact, the average person works longer hours today than was common a generation ago. Having a passion in life was also mentioned. Some sort of meaningful work (as opposed to punching in and punching out) appeared to be important. But even with all of the above in hand, there was one essential element without which true contentment was unattainable. This last and for many people the most important of all was a fulfilling relationship.

So what gets in the way of finding a mate? One error people make is looking in all the wrong places. For example, if you don't like to drink, don't go to a bar. It's surprising how many singles will sip a coke at a Happy Hour hoping to meet Mr/Ms Right. If you love cats or books or antiques, go to a cat show, or a book fair or an antique market. Anyone you meet will already share an interest. And why must it be Mr/Ms Right? How about Mr/Ms Will Do? People seek the same traits in friends that they look for in mates - a sense of humor, dependability, emotional stability, physical appeal, consideration, etc. But when they go from finding a friend to finding a mate, they expected all those things in the same person. Looking for an ideal partner may become a long and lonely search. The perfect is the enemy of the good.

Keep in mind too that what's important at one stage of life can become far less important at another. This is why it's wise to match such things as age, appearance, education and life experience. It will help to insure that two people remain on the same page. The older male dating a much younger bit of eye candy is an all too common example of a couple on separate separate books.

The importance of first impressions cannot be overstated. People form good or bad feelings about each other within a minute of meeting. This may be unfair but it's human nature. You only get one chance at meeting for the first time so make the most of it. Women are typically better at this because they're brought up to be on parade. A woman reporter, who wanted to write about what it was like to be a man for a day, tucked her hair under a cap, pasted on a beard and went out into the world. She was amazed at how she suddenly became anonymous. People just don't pay attention to males. The downside of this is that men, meeting for a first date, will often naively assume that what they are will supersede how they appear. Love me for who I am not how I look may sound good but it may also kill any chance at a second date

One of the things women like in a man is a sense of humor. Laughing makes people feel good and puts them at ease. It also suggests confidence. On the other hand, a downer for most women is the man who talks about himself. One theory suggests that women fall in love with their therapists mostly because they listen. But then women get into trouble by turning a first date into a rant involving their last husband. "There but for the grace of God..." thinks the new guy.

Look At It This Way
While the value of a fulfilling relationship goes without saying, the means to that end can fill a book. Indeed, there's everything from magazine articles on body language during dating to workshops on role-playing during courtship. It may seem like a lot of effort but considering the quality of life a good match provides, it's effort well spent.

About the Author

Stephen Mason

Stephen B. Mason is a psychologist, a former university professor, syndicated newspaper columnist and radio talk-show host.

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