Ah, the timeless art of dating. Not to be confused with the timeless art of seduction.
As a dating coach, I encourage women to perfect the art of dating through practice. My goal is not for them to become the perfect date who always gets a follow-up call for a second outing, because perfection in life is both undesirable and, of course, impossible (although this woman comes close to perfection). Rather, I want clients to perfect the art by seeing every date as a pleasurable experience, solely because every date is just that -- an experience - not a two-way audition for the next step in life: marriage and babies. Changing your attitude when it comes to dating can only be accomplished through practice.
Essentially, I am asking people to undergo a mindshift when it comes to dating. This mindshift can be broken down into two parts: action and reflection.
I encourage clients and women in general to date a lot, and to rarely say no to new suitors and new opportunities. By going on a lot of dates, you are actively practicing your dating skills. Use every date as an opportunity to practice your conversation skills, your ability to open up to others and to get them to open up to you, your listening skills, your ability to articulate your goals in life and who you're looking for, your compassion for others, and whatever else you deem important. Practice being patient and friendly and warm and open and generous. Sure, maybe there's no love connection, and maybe you know this within five minutes of meeting a date, but maybe instead of finding love you make a new professional contact, or just maybe you become platonic friends and your date invites you to a party where you end up meeting someone great.
By looking at dating through this lens you don't go into every dating experience with an extremist attitude -- that every date is a burden and exhausting or that, fingers crossed, this date is going to be The One. The former attitude is an energy sap and the latter creates unrealistic expectations.
By being action-oriented in the dating world, you are acting your way into thinking about your love life. You're not analyzing from your couch; you're not wishing things were different while drowning your sorrows in a pint of Ben and Jerry's. You're taking control. Every date you go on is an opportunity to engage in self-reflection and to figure out who is compatible, who is not, and what values are really important to you. You'll make mistakes and wrong turns along the way. That's okay. As the tagline for my dating coaching business goes: In the dating world, failure is your greatest asset. Of course, a cycle of failure that you can't seem to extricate yourself from is problematic, which is why consistent reflection is so important in the first place, so you can work to correct the thoughts, behaviors, and actions that aren't getting you where you want to be. Remember: If you do what you've always done, you're going to get what you've always gotten. Learn from every experience and move away from the things that don't feel good and right to you and closer to the ones that do.
Dating does not have to be a terrible, exhausting, deflating experience. It can be but only if you allow it to be. I'm not saying you shouldn't ever feel frustrated, confused, brokenhearted and lonely (allow yourself to experience those emotions -- they are all normal and have the power to be instructive), but by undergoing a mindshift about dating, you make it a little easier to see the dating experience as something that can be fun, pleasurable, eye-opening, and a catalyst to self-awareness.
Trust me: Ten years from now, when you're married and off in the suburbs raising a family, you'll look back on your dating years and wish you could have relaxed, enjoyed the process, and looked at the experience as an adventure in self-growth.