07/28/2014 02:37 pm ET Updated Sep 27, 2014

How to Find Play, Fun and Love... Maybe

Izabela Habur via Getty Images

This whole business of online dating has gotten too serious.
We're way too focused on type-A goals.

  • Find a date.
  • Arrange an in-person meeting.
  • Assess the "relationship" quality of the person.
  • Pass, Fail, Repeat.
But love, or looking for a real relationship, is not really a type-A task. In the driven mode of dating, we get this kind of criteria:
  • Has (or doesn't have) children.
  • Want's more (or doesn't want any) children.
  • Is Christian, or whatever "spiritual but not religious" means.
  • Would sleep with someone on the first date, given the right circumstances. Or wouldn't consider sleeping with someone until the 6 - 10th date.
  • Is successful in business and likes travel to exotic locations. Or still working for a living.
  • Partier (most pictures have drink in hand) or "social drinker" or "doesn't drink at all."
  • Has a rockin' bod. Or not.

And while these are some valid criteria, they are more for sorting through the cattle-call of online dating profiles, rather than looking for a relationship. In a word, they are a bit superficial.

So there are some other alternatives to online dating that are worth looking at, if you are seeking a mate. Or perhaps even a one-night-stand, if that's your thing.

  • Meetup groups
  • Activitity groups
  • Spiritually-related groups
  • Workout groups

When you think about the person you might like to be spending your Saturday afternoon and Saturday night with, where do you imagine you might be on any given Saturday afternoon? And then it's your opportunity/responsibility to get yourself there. She/he might already be there. If you know the types of activities you'd like to be doing with another person, then get yourself to those activities as a single person and see if there are any other singles there.

The first task of finding a partner is showing up.

For example if you were recently excited by the World Cup, you might have found a public place to go view the game. You might have stayed home and watched it on your computer. And even if that is what you would've liked to do with a "special friend," it's not very likely that you are going to be introduced to them while in your pj's in your living room. Get out there.

The second task of finding a partner is brightening up your presence.

You want to be the brightest spark in the room. If you are happy with yourself and confident in your mission, you can walk into a room full of drinking soccer fans and still hold your own torch. If your torch (your self-love, self-confidence) is sputtering, perhaps that's a good place to put your attention. Get your game in order before going out looking for game.

The third task of finding a partner is learning how to be charming.

Listening is an art. Often it is the most confident people who can listen better than others. The one's who are always needing to tell stories, be brilliant and obviously work to hard at being charming, are often the one's who are still trying to find their inner confidence. If you want to be heard, listen. It's the most powerful thing you can do in the opening "is there chemistry" moments of a face-to-face meeting.

The fourth task of finding a partner is showing your enthusiasm by actions and not just words.

If you want a second date, say it. If you don't want a second date, tell them too. And if you BOTH want a second date, you won't need to be emailing each other later to see if there was "chemistry." Believe me, if there's chemistry, you will both be asking "What's next?" And the answer will sound like this, "What are you doing for dinner?" or "What are you doing tomorrow night, I've got tickets to..." If you have to ask, there's probably not a connection. If there is a connection, and you are BOTH actually wanting a relationship, you will both be asking for the next meeting.

So much of this process is figuring out who is playing games, who is really ready for something and who are so damaged from their previous relationships that they are in no real position to be available.

The final task of finding a partner is being brutally honest.

You don't want games. You don't want new drama. You want clarity, well-stated intention and a clear communication style with this person you might actually be interested in. Anything less is a red flag.

If you feel it, say it. If you don't feel it, say that too. Then return to task one, LISTEN. The more you listen the more attractive you will seem to the other person.

And the final tip of romancing a potential mate: Say their name back to them, repeatedly, like a poem.

"The sweetest sound in the human language is one's own name." - John Brock

Good luck out there.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent [And check out the rest of the story on The Whole Parent.]

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