To acknowledge Valentine's Day in the usual way, Queer Voices asked Wendy Newman, author of "121 First Dates" and Relationship Expert for Cupid.com and MatureDating.com, for both some advice to share with you and a bit about her new book.
Q: In your opinion, what is the most important aspect in a good first date if you're seriously looking for a long term relationship?
A: A key feature of online dating sites is the sorting filters. Those looking for a long-term relationship can chose that category in advance.
You'll make a good first impression by showing up and revealing a bit of your personality to your new date, not by latching onto compatibility questions, Dateline interviewer-style. As a dater, your entire job on a first a date is to show up on time, present yourself as who you truly are (vs who you think they want you to be), and you'll get extra points for being vulnerable if the moment calls for it.
Trying to ascertain whether or not you two have a shot at a long term partnership on the first date is as inappropriate as discussing the details of a prenuptial agreement on a first date. Leading with the end game in mind with a total stranger is weird. Trust me, I've been there, I've done it. Now, can you be hopeful? Of course! Excited about the potential? Uh huh. Even fantasize about a future life together? Most def. Just leave those daydreams in your inner world, not to be shared with the public at large -- not on a first date.
Q: Are there any tips that you find valuable to offer LGBTQIA+ couples that you've worked with?
A: The two tips I'll share are for every person regardless of sexual preference, however I am seeing them as top-of-the-stack issues for many same-sex and gender-universal couples. I'm working with a client I adore, her name is Janna. Janna's in her mid thirties and is wildly in love with her partner Gwen. Coincidentally, Gwen is equally crazy about Janna. They cocoon a lot, spend every waking, available moment together, they're inseparable. Sounds adorable, right? Until I see Gwen flinch ever so slightly when Janna comes to hang on her right shoulder. There's too much "oneness" to their relationship and I fear that soon there will either be a breaking point or a break-up (I'm rooting for the breaking point).
Two people fully collapsing into the oneness of a duo is the point when we "lose" ourselves as individuals in a partnership. The very thing that was initially attractive about us, our super-cute individuality, our self-confidence, our autonomy is gone or at least buried deep in the layers of that snuggly-warm union. To hold attraction for each other we need to have an individual in there -- standing upright.
My second tip: share the responsibility of initiating sex. Ever heard the term "lesbian bed death"? Yeah, me too, but I've experienced the death of sex in a past relationship with a man (showing us it affects more than just the lesbians) and I have a theory about it: I believe the death of sex in a relationship can happen when one person is in charge of initiating sexy time every time. It takes a great deal of emotional energy to instigate, which in the beginning with a little help from a lot of chemistry we have in abundance, but over time making the first move every time takes a toll and can be a real spirit killer. The initiator may not feel desirable or desired by their partner; add to that a handful of rejections and it's just not worth the effort. Voila, the death of a sexual relationship.
Q: Do you think that online dating sites have completely rendered irrelevant trying to meet people in person?
A: Of my 121 first dates, 108 were initiated online. Why? Because it's the place people go to meet people to date. Not once did I manage to meet someone in a restaurant lounge, at Whole Foods, at the farmer's market, at the movies, at the story-telling event, or at the gas station -- even when I initiated conversation like, "How do you like your Audi A3?" It wasn't for a lack of trying.
We can try to meet singles off-line in the real world. Just pick yours eyes up, smile at someone interesting or cute, say anything, give it a go! But if you are looking for people to date (and potentially have a relationship with) then be efficient. Go to the places where there are people looking to date you -- online dating sites like Cupid.com or MatureDating.com.
Q: What was the most difficult thing, for you, in bringing 121 First Dates to publication?
A: 121 First Dates was a long process. I wrote my first date vignette (date #54) in April of 2010. The most difficult part was finding (and walking) the path of traditional publishing. After I finished the book in early 2013, I thought, "well now what?" The next step was a book proposal (a year-long writing project), and with that I found a literary agent who would open the doors to the publishing houses. Acquiring a top-notch literary agent and waiting through a handful of rejections from publishing houses took tenacity, but hey, I'm the girl who went on 121 first dates, I knew it just took time to find the right one.
Q: What has been the most unanticipated, positive thing that publishing this book has brought you?
A: The most unanticipated, positive thing that publishing this book brought me is Dave, my partner, Mr. #121. When I finished my book in early 2013 it was called "101 First Dates" and it was more of a survival guide. It had all of the elements it does now only no personal happy ending, just a lot of victories and defeats from a girl still on her path to find her person. On the day I finished the book (on a writers retreat in Mexico) I received his call asking me out for a second date. The rest is history -- well -- not quite -- there was a lot of editing to do over the next two+ years to include him in. Writing the book has brought me a lot of opportunities, this interview, television, radio, etc. Now I also get to give relationship advice as expert for Cupid.com and MatureDating.com.
Q: If you could go back to your first first date, would you have done anything differently? If so, what?
A: Nope, we were together a year and a half, and I love him to this day. We were both newly separated and the timing was just off. There are three aspects to dating a new person: 1) Do you like them? 2) Do they like you? 3) How's the timing? And from time to time, even if the timing isn't optimal, there can be great success (just ask Mr. #121.)
Q: What do people often do that sabotages their chance of success?
A: We can come into the first date, or the first few dates so partner-focused we have tunnel vision. We present as the whole partner package and we're very serious about it. This can be too intense. We might hope that date is ready to lock on and commit. To remedy this, we all just need to take a deep breath, relax, bring a little ease and fun to the table, and see how things unfold naturally.
Q: What are your thoughts on searching social media to 'stalk' your date?
A: Sometimes I did it and felt exhilarated, sometimes I did it and felt dirty. Ultimately I learned not to snoop. A first date can be a simple one: Coffee, a quick drink, a walk around an urban setting. It really is okay to let this stranger be the first to introduce themselves to you in a way they'd like to be known, we don't need the Google for that. If I were dating today, I wouldn't do it, not before a first date anyway.
Q: Is there anything else that you'd like to add?
A: Yes. There are some people who succeed at online dating and find their partner. There are others who walk away from online dating with nothing but horror stories. Want to know the difference in those two kinds of people? The people who walk away with their partners don't do so because they had an easy time with online dating (okay, maybe some did). They walk away from it with their partner because they kept going through the process -- even when it sucked. I have nightmare stories, many of them, you can read all about them in my book, but I was tenacious and didn't give up. One bad experience didn't turn me off from online dating, hell, fifteen bad experiences didn't turn me off from online dating. Just like eating something distasteful doesn't turn me off from eating food. Keep going - online dating works if you let it. And for those of you who say, "there are no good options for me online" -- this is not absolute, new people join dating sites every single day.
This article originally appeared on Queer Voices: http://queer-voices.com/2016/02/dating-advice-from-relationship-expert-wendy-newman/.