Oh My God, I Think I’m Ready To Date Again…

This morning, I received the following email…

“I’ve recently come out of a six year relationship. I fell out of love with my partner & things just fizzled. I feel like I’m almost ready to start dating again. However, my partner was the only man I’d ever slept with & before him, I’d never really had a serious boyfriend. I know things will be different & I’m excited about the prospect of meeting someone new, of flirting, of great first dates & even bad ones! But I’m also petrified. Getting back out there is going to be tough so I was wondering if you had any advice on getting back on the horse…”

Congratulations on deciding to “get back on the horse”! My sweet, you are in for an exciting time. Frustrating, challenging, perplexing? Well, of course, it can be that, too! But mostly, it’s exciting, fun & interesting — so get ready!

How do you know you’re actually ready to start seeing other people? Sometimes we think we are, but we’re wrong (or just delusional). Here are a few signs you might not be ready to take the plunge just yet.

You’re still involved in your ex’s life
Let’s face it, you’re not going to be able to really move forward & commit yourself to someone else if you’re still attached to your ex — especially if you think there’s a chance you might still get back together. If you’re still having lunches, calling, emailing, reading all their online output & hanging on to their belongings, you need to let that stuff go.

You’re still bitter
If you’re still going around telling everyone what a terrible boyfriend/father/artist/lay your ex was, then you need some time to chill the hell out before you get involved with someone else. Firstly, any prospective lovers will smell that stuff a mile away, & RUN! Secondly, if you’re still encumbered with that kind of baggage, you are obviously not ready to move on. You’ll just bring it with you to your next relationship, effectively poisoning it. Not cool, & not fair to your new lover victim!

You refuse to accept responsibility for the break-up
What is it they say? That “it takes two to tango”? Amen, baby. Your ex may have been a hideous wildebeest, but even if they were, that doesn’t mean the relationship was doomed. Why, some people love hideous wildebeests! While it’s not usually a 50/50 blame split, it shows maturity to be able to say that for your part, you could have done this or that, communicated your needs more clearly or been more tolerant.

Your mind is all messed up
Before you start searching for a new beau or belle, I think it’s important to take stock of your old relationships. This doesn’t mean obsess or fixate, but just run them through your mind & see if you can uncover any negative patterns. Maybe you always date guys with a substance abuse problem, girls who are cold to you or transsexuals who always steal your mascara (hey, it could happen!). I believe that knowledge is power, so if you are aware of your own patterns, you can start to break them. (My suggestions for breaking them would be EFT & therapy.) Otherwise, you’re pretty much trapped by your own subconscious, which is no fun for anyone!

You want a new relationship for the wrong reasons
…Including getting revenge on your ex, shutting up your parents or friends who keep asking if you’ve “met anyone nice yet”, you’re depressed & just want to be loved, or you’re looking for a distraction.

(Here are some more questions to check how you feel about your last relationship.)

Okay, so assuming that you can strike all those unfortunate situations from your list, it’s time to dive back into the dating pool! Come on in, the water’s fine…

Work out what you want
You don’t have to write a blueprint for the perfect man, & in fact, the less rigid you make your wishlist, the better — & the easier it is to fulfil. But you do need to have some kind of handle on what you’re looking for. Do you want a friend to kiss? A mother for your children? Someone to go to dinner with? A warm person in your bed? If you don’t know the answer, it’s likely that you’ll just spin in circles, attracting the wrong kind of people & confusing everyone you come in contact with.

Instead of writing the recipe for the perfect man (“6 foot 2, big blue eyes, owns his own business, no parents, private jet, a PhD from Oxford, no emotional baggage & a Maserati”), you might like to write down some important attributes of a desirable lover. These could be things like a sense of humour, an active lifestyle, being self-motivated, respectful, etc. Rank them in order of most to least important, & then keep it around. Look at it every so often. It’ll keep you on track!

What about deal-breakers? Is there anything that you absolutely will not tolerate, like meat-eating, bad spelling, an active dislike of cats or picking their toenails in bed?! If there is, you need to be aware of it so that if it’s something you encounter, you can avoid it or go the other way! Trust me, it will make your life easier, & much more relaxing!

Cast a wide net
The key to finding yourself someone smoochable is the same as the key to finding friends — you have to leave your house & meet people! Sorry, it’s unavoidable! Even if you first start talking online, there comes a time where you have to close your laptop & get face to face. So stop stalling, get out there & be charming!

Where have I met my lovers? All over the place, but mostly they are introduced to me by mutual friends. It makes sense to get involved with the people who are friends with your friends — you already have something in common & you’re probably like-minded. If you’re newly single, it’s possible that you haven’t been going out with your other single friends as much recently. That’s good news though, because it probably means they have a whole new social circle you haven’t been introduced to yet!

Other than flicking through your friend’s friends, you can also try online dating (OK Cupid is a goodie), speed dating (how efficient!), blind dating, the casual encounters section of Craigslist, joining a group or club, taking a class, walking your dog in busy places, picking up girls in the supermarket, spending lots of time in caf├ęs looking mysterious, flirting with your workmates (caution: only for the experienced!), placing a personals ad in the newspaper, trawling Flickr for good-lookin’ folks, going out dancing, making new friends at gigs & shows, taking up a new sport or just smiling at everyone you see!

Stay open-minded
First impressions are lasting, but don’t vote someone off the island if they don’t live up to your impeccable standards in the first five minutes. You’re not perfect, & they don’t have to be either. If you meet someone who is amazing but not very stylish, or who is very kind but not a genius, relax! Just because all your other lovers were stylish rocket scientists, this new person doesn’t have to be. & didn’t your other relationships end for a reason, anyway? Maybe something completely different is what you need!

My point is, try new things. Go out with someone with tattoos, start seeing an accountant, or seek out someone who is unusual in some other way. Try someone from another country or religion. Stop dating models & start dating mechanics. You never know! People are usually pretty delightful if you’ll just give them the opportunity to show it!

Look for friends first
Similar to the way new lovers will be able to sniff your bitter underbelly if you’re not over your break-up, people can smell desperation too — & it’s very unattractive. People don’t want to get involved with the needy, it’s just a drag, & then of course it begs the question, “Are you with me because you like me or just because you can’t bear to be alone?”. If you go out with the intention of making friends, that way you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you end up getting involved with one of them — rather than constantly searching in vain for the perfect lover. (You can never have too many friends, anyway!)

Get comfortable with yourself
One of the things I’ve noticed is that new love interests tend to come along when you’re not actually looking for it. You’re happy & living your life, feeling busy & fulfilled, when all of a sudden, you’re blind-sided by some gorgeous creature & everything changes. Of course, this kind of information is no good to anyone who is desperate to find someone to fall in love with, but my advice would be to pare back the desperation a bit! Get comfortable with yourself. Learn to enjoy spending time alone. Don’t let it freak you out — let me tell you a secret. Ultimately, you are all you have. Forever & ever, amen. So you better learn to love yourself, or it’s going to be a rocky road!

So you’ve found someone who cranks your handle (ooh la la!) — now what?

Don’t play games
Anyone who is worth their salt doesn’t — & will be put off if you do. It’s lame & manipulative & disingenuous. That means, if you say you’ll call someone, then do it! Don’t wait the prescribed three days or think that if you actually do what you say you’ll do, that it means you’re desperate. Would you really want to be involved with someone who was only interested in you if you played “hard to get”, anyway? What would that say about their own personal psychology? Think about it, toots!

Be proactive
Even today, lots of girls sit around waiting for a guy to make the first move. That’s ridiculous. You are just as capable of grabbing someone & dragging them to a dark corner for a smooch as they are! So stop waiting around for that saucy man to drop a hint, & drop some of your own!

Go Dutch
As awesome as it is when someone offers to buy you dinner or pay for you to go to a movie, after all you can start to feel a sense of obligation… & do you really want to feel like you should sleep with someone just because they bought you a meal? You can avoid all this awkwardness by offering to pay your own way. If they’re being all chivalrous & “No no no, allow me!” as they plonk down their platinum Visa card, throw some bills on top. Most people are pretty happy to accept money from others, but they feel like they shouldn’t because it’s not the done thing — or whatever. Side-step that nonsense & buy your own meal. If nothing else, it proves that you’re independent & awesome & not looking for someone to prop you up financially! (All the women who’re independent, throw your hands up at meeee! …You’re so Beyonce right now.) Later on, you can buy one another meals & whatnot, but at the beginning, going Dutch is easiest.

Communicate honestly
You’ve heard it a gazillion times, but it’s still true & it’s still important — & when I say communicate, I don’t just mean the words which fall from your mouth. Your behaviour has to be in accordance with what you say, or you’ll be the Monarch of Mixed Messages & no one wants to visit that kingdom. You need to tell the truth & not only that, you need to open up & tell them things they don’t ask to hear. Like, for example, what your expectations for the relationship are. Is this just a casual thing or something more? If you say it’s casual but then act like it isn’t, what are they going to think? Who knows?! Be straight up. If the relationship doesn’t seem to be working, say something! If you want more orgasms, talk about it! If you think you’re falling in love, spill the beans! Don’t let your fear of being vulnerable hold you back from something real.

Be interested in them
Don’t make it all about you, because if you do, they’ll get bored. Relationships require a bit of give & take, & it’s important to remember that the vast majority of people operate from the position of “What’s in it for me?”. If there’s nothing in it for them, other than grief & paying for your expensive tastes, they’ll walk. If you don’t want that to happen, try to make it worth their time to be there! Most people just want to be appreciated, so if you have to feign an interest in their model cars or collection of belly-button lint, then do so! Let them talk. Smile sweetly. They’ll love you for it.

Dating can be strange & rife with dysfunctional personalities, bad table manners & terrifying anecdotes… but nothing compares to the sweetness of a first kiss or the glee of holding hands with someone who makes you smile.

Good luck!

Extra For Experts:
How To Ask A Girl Out & Stop Hanging Out from The Art Of Manliness. (Yes, really!)
Coming soon… First date etiquette! Watch this space!