I get many letters like this from readers (both male and female):
"I met this guy, and he took me to dinner, and it was really romantic, but he did/didn't try to kiss me, then he called/didn't call back, then he asked/didn't ask me out again, and what does it all mean is he interested what should I do help help help."
Now, many of you think I have magical powers. And it's absolutely true. For example, I can make whole plates of pasta vanish in seconds and order beer in 12 languages.
However, reading the minds of your dates whom I have never seen nor met is not one of those powers. I missed that boat of psychic ability.
Additionally, trying to parse each individual situation for an ultimate answer doesn't work so well, because there are millions of situations and often no ultimate answer.
However, just a few reliable principles can solve a whole bunch of problems. I've found the following five principles pretty handy. They form the backbone of the Tao of Dating book for women and men, and here they are:
1. Abundance, or wealth-consciousness.
Anaїs Nin once said, "We do not see the world as it is; we see the world as we are." Thus you have the choice to see the world with a lens of wealth-consciousness or poverty-consciousness. Do you see scarcity, lack and limitation around you, or wealth, possibility and abundance?
The mindset you choose bears directly upon the success of your love life (and your success in general). Scarcity-consciousness - e.g. "all the good ones are taken" - begets neediness, and neediness is not attractive.
Big-heartedness and self-sufficiency, on the other hand, work much better. Even the Bible has something to say about that: "For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath."
Seems kind of mean, but it's just the way of the world: wealth begets wealth. So even if you don't have a companion, act as if there is an unlimited supply of what you want available to you already.
And you know what? There is. Because even if only one thousandth of one percent of the 6.5 billion people in this world are cool enough to be eligible for your companionship, that's, oh, 65,000 folks. That's enough dates to tide you over for a whole month.
2. Enlightened self-interest.
This one has three words in it. 'Enlightened' means that you make decisions by considering the long-term consequences of your actions. Short-sighted decisions - e.g. "I know he's a bad boy, but it'll be so much fun" - usually end in tears and/or heartbreak.
'Self' means that your welfare takes priority, just like in the pre-flight announcement where they say put on your own oxygen mask first, then help others in the case of an emergency. To be able to take care of anyone else, you need to take care of you first. Simple, totally non-negotiable, and often neglected.
'Interest' means that you're signing up for your fulfillment and joy, not your pain. If a relationship is making you miserable and unhappy - like that of my friend Holly who was being put down and punched up by the man she was supporting financially - consider ending it. Because fulfillment is a feeling, not a person. So if you're not getting fulfilling feelings in a relationship, chances are you're with the wrong person.
3. The Be-Do-Have paradigm (vs. Have-Do-Be).
Many people think like this: "If I have a great partner, then I can do the things that people with partners do, and then I can be happy." That's actually the tail wagging the dog. The proper sequence is: "If I am a happy, self-sufficient, generous and charming person, then I will have a great life and do things that feel good and make me attractive, and then, as a pleasant side-effect, will have fabulous companions who are naturally attracted to my life."
Successful change begins at the level of identity and belief, so first, be the kind of person you want to be. From the right beliefs will flow the right actions, or te (the middle word from Tao Te Ching) naturally and effortlessly, from which will come right results.
4. Yin-Yang (Feminine-Masculine) Polarity
The Taoists say that two poles are necessary for energy to flow: the receptive or feminine yin and the projecting or masculine yang. We see this in nature: water runs from high to low; electricity flows between cathode and anode; magnetic force goes between north and south poles.
This is especially true of human relations. Without polarity, relationships fall flat, whether in heterosexual or same-sex couples: someone has to wear the pants.
As a man, if you take on too much yin, you risk turning into an indecisive wimp, which is not necessarily appealing to women. Having an open heart is great; just remember to keep your spine also.
As a woman, if you take on too much yang, you risk turning into a facsimile of a guy, which may be admirable but not necessarily attractive. Strength is great, but remember that femininity is what draws in the masculine.
5. Get out of your own way.
Recently a very intelligent woman wrote to tell me she couldn't date guys who were less smart than her, because they bored her. And when she finally found a guy who was smarter than her, she found herself competing with him and putting him down out of insecurity, thereby driving him away. Basically, she could not win.
So much pain in dating is self-inflicted and has to do with upholding our own importance or appeasing the ego.
Therefore I will state here without proof that there is no greater waste of your energy than upholding your own importance. Get used to the idea that it just doesn't matter.
The Buddhists have this nifty concept called anatta, or no-self. It basically means that nothing in the universe has a fixed identity - especially you. If you're breathing and have a heartbeat and just read this phrase, billions of things changed in your mind and body right now. So you're fundamentally not the same you were five seconds ago, let alone five years ago. So quit trying to defend something that essentially isn't there.
Whether or not you fully buy into this concept, it's a handy notion: with no ego to be rejected, insulted or hurt, you're much more likely to have an open heart and take risks in love. You're also more likely to be kind, compassionate, and fun to be around.
When you practice anatta, all the energy that was used for judgment, competition and defensiveness can now be used for a better purpose: practicing the loving.
Waiting for the world to arrange its circumstances perfectly to allow you to start loving, to paraphrase Ramana Maharshi, is like wanting to cover the world in leather so you can walk barefoot. It is much simpler to wear shoes. The time to love is always now.
So if your best thinking got you here, perhaps it's time to start something new: practice abundance; take the long view; be the change you want to see; and open into even greater loving.
Join me in Los Angeles for a reading of The Tao of Dating for Women: The Smart Woman's Guide to Being Absolutely Irresistible on Wed 15 July at 7pm at Book Soup.
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