Guidelines for Successful Dating

So many people ask me questions about dating that I thought I’d share some guidelines, do’s and don’t’s with you; to help you make dating fun, safe and successful. No matter how times change, what works in relationships remains surprisingly the same. Everyone seems to be in a hurry today, but if you rush into a relationship, you’ll create big problems for yourself. Starting off on the right note will make many things easier later.

Good Behavior
Although behaving badly seems to be a trend in movies and TV these days, rude and irresponsible behavior is deadly to relationships. Continuing to see someone who is rude, thoughtless or narcissistic is simply asking for a relationship problem. If you model good behavior and manners yourself, you’ll influence the person you’re dating in a positive way; or at least make his or her bad behavior stand out so you can see it clearly.

To get the best result out of your early dating experiences, try following these guidelines:

• Avoid Anxiety and Giddiness
Dating is exciting and energizing. Of course you should have fun and enjoy the moment, but if you get too excited, anxious and giddy, you might come on too strong. It’s important that your anxiety not mask the real you. Keep your thoughts on the reality that you don’t know what is going to happen to the relationship. Pay attention to what you are learning about your date, and allow the relationship to develop slowly over many dates like this.
• Use the Power of Charm
Remember how powerful your smile can be, and use your eye contact and ask questions to keep the conversation flowing. Think about what interests you about your date, and show interest in his or her opinions, experiences and activities. Be complementary whenever possible, and respond intelligently to whatever is said to you.
• Have Fun — Don’t Get Too Heavy
Keep your date light and easy, and have a good time. If you keep the focus of your attention on being pleasant, having fun, and not getting too far ahead of the relationship, you will be great company.
• Make Conversation Interesting and Easy, With No Deep Secrets
You can talk about anything, including your personal lives, past relationships and love in general, but don’t be the one who brings up the intimate topics first. Be careful not to pry too deeply into your date’s private life and secrets, unless the information is voluntarily offered. You’ll learn a lot more about your date if you are genuinely interested in hearing what he or she has to say; than if you conduct an interrogation.
• Don’t Talk Too Much about Yourself
Keep your focus on learning about your date and don’t get into talking too much about yourself. Dole out some information about you, especially if it relates to what your date is saying, but don’t let yourself talk endlessly about your own life, opinions, experiences or activities.
• Pay Attention!!! You Have Things to Learn Here!
The most important aspect of any date, in addition to having a good time, is to get to know each other better. No matter how excited, turned on or thrilled you may be about this date, listening to what your date says, watching what your date does and understanding how your date feels are still your primary objectives. Keep an objective viewpoint in the back of your mind and think about what your date is revealing to you.
• What Your Date Thinks of You Is Not Your Business — Focus on What You Think of Your Date.
One of the easiest ways to lose your objectivity and balance in this is to let yourself worry about what your date thinks about you. I call this “getting into your date’s head.” If you spend your time essentially trying to look at yourself through your date’s eyes, guessing what he or she is seeing when looking at you, or hearing when listening to you, you’ll miss what’s really happening. It’s a very self-involved thing to do, and it makes it impossible for you to relate intelligently to your date. What your date thinks of you is not really your business. You have a responsibility to pay attention so you know what YOU think of your date.

Hopefully, in all these considerations, because you’ve thought about the serious issues in advance, you’ll still be able to relax and have a good time—so good, that you decide to keep dating each other.

Keep in mind that you’re not looking for just sex or romance—if you want a long-term relationship, the character of the person that will determine whether your relationship will be a success, not his or her outward appearance. Here are some Dating Do's and Don'ts to help
you.

Dating Do’s and Don’ts
DO'S
• Do ‘shop around’—don't stay focused on one person until you've given yourself a choice.
• Do listen. Don't monopolize the conversation. You'll learn even more about your date, and be more relaxed.
*Do focus on friendship. When you’ve just met someone, you can't know where it might go, so concentrate on developing the friendship. You can have as many friends as you want.
• Do get feedback. Offer your comments on the event or the restaurant, and ask your date what he or she thought of it, for future reference.
• Do let your date know if you enjoyed his/her company. A compliment is always welcome. If you'd like to do it again, say so.
• If you promise to call, mean it. If you've decided not to continue the relationship but feel you can't say so, don't make empty promises.
• Do tell the truth—don't lie, but also don't share too much too soon. You don't need to tell your date about other dates if you two have no agreement about exclusivity. Wait until the relationship has progressed to exclusivity.
• Do pay attention to the clues about your date—you need to learn about this person's character, not just looks and charm.

DON'TS
• Don’t assume your date is exclusive with you if you've never talked about it.
• Don't be afraid of silence. Occasional silences allow a conversation to feel natural and unforced.
• Don't make sex the objective. Good reasons for going slowly into sexual activity include: reducing the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, avoiding the awkwardness of intimacy with a total stranger; averting codependent obsession; and having sex to look forward to. If and when sex is right, it will happen—there’s no advantage in rushing.
• Don't date beyond your budget. It doesn't impress your date if, in the long run, you have to make an embarrassing confession, and “buying” someone's company doesn’t work. A wide disparity in income calls for frank discussion early on. If your date spends a lot on you, reciprocating with a home-cooked meal, a hand-made gift, or needed repair work will even the
tally.
• Don't get too self-conscious. The media focus on youth and fitness these days can make anyone feel insecure and unattractive. Look your best, then forget about it. Instead of worrying what your date thinks of you, focus on what you think of your date.

© Tina B.Tessina, 2007 adapted from:The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again (Wiley) ISBN#0-02-862454-8

Author Bio:
Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California, with over 30 years experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 11 books, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction (New Page); How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free (New Page); The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again (Wiley) and The Real 13th Step: Discovering Self-Confidence, Self-Reliance and Independence Beyond the Twelve Step Programs (New Page.) Two new books will be out from Adams Press in 2007:Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage and Commuter Marriage. She publishes Happiness Tips from Tina, an e-mail newsletter, and the ADr. Romance Blog@ http://drromance.typepad.com/dr_romance_blog/ and has hosted "The Psyche Deli: delectable tidbits for the subconscious" a weekly hour long radio show. She is an online expert, answering relationship questions at www.CouplesCompany.com and Yahoo!Personals, as well as a Redbook Love Network expert and APsychology Smarts@ columnist for First for Women.Dr. Tessina guests frequently on radio, and on such TV shows as AOprah@, ALarry King Live@ and ABC news.

 
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