What have I learnt about dating in 2016?

In the last year, since becoming single after 20 years of marriage, I’ve had great fun dating 22 guys. 11 of them were just single dates. The others led to more dates, some lasting several months. I also set up my dating coaching business, running workshops and one to one sessions. Here are some of the things I’ve learnt personally from online dating.

what-have-i-learnt-from-online-dating

Smell is really important to me. About half my dates didn’t smell right. I warn them now (in a humorous way, obviously) so that they make an effort. Some wouldn’t even have brushed their teeth otherwise, they say. And clean your bathroom before your date comes over! A dirty bathroom is a big turn-off!

Don’t project. I was always surprised at the discrepancy between how I’d thought a date would be and how they actually were in real life. I noticed I was projecting my ideal man and voice onto their messages. Now I talk to them on the phone first and sometimes even Skype. (Skype first dates are the new thing, I’ve read.)

No Saturday night first dates. They’re not cool apparently. You shouldn’t be free then. You should be out with your exciting friends. Once I had a Saturday afternoon date that turned into an evening date and on the way home I overhead a guy say to his mate, nodding at us, “Saturday night date”. Not sure how they knew.

Don’t text too much and only send interesting/ funny texts. To start with, I wanted several texts a day. As the year has gone on, I’m now happy with no texts in between dates for a while and then one every other day is fine. It’s nice to have a bit of space to think about how you feel about your date and to live your own life. Misunderstandings by text can be common. Talk on the phone if possible when arranging things. Don’t over-analyse every text or comment on random changes of tone or mood. Be careful with your sense of humour not to offend or make jokes about sensitive topics by text.

Play it cool. At first, I got excited with each new person at having things in common and being attracted to each other. But there are always flaws that emerge eventually, and you don’t know if they are going to be deal-breakers or not. So it’s best to hold back on your feelings and on becoming intense too quickly.

Don’t criticize. It’s a dilemma when the thing you want to correct is a deal-breaker, like kissing too fast or using a term of endearment you hate. But try to hold back as much as possible. Whomever you date will have new ways of doing things that you’ll have to get used to. Try to be open-minded. And polite.

Don’t spend too long together on the first few dates. You need time to reflect on what it is you actually like about them. At one stage I was just so happy that my date was emotionally warm, kind and attentive for once, that I forgot about everything else. Then I was asked “So what is it you actually like about me?” and I struggled to answer. I needed time to write my diary and look at my list of what I’m looking for in a relationship to see how he matched up.

Most dates won’t work out. People keep asking me: If you’re a dating coach, how come you’re single? But I had to wait for the right guy for me. It doesn’t make me a failure when a date doesn’t work out …. We just weren’t right for each other.

Your deal-breakers will change as you get more experience of dating. You might think income or education are vital, but now I think emotional openness and warmth are much more important. Apparently most Alpha males don’t have this.

Don’t be a control freak. Don’t interfere when your date wants to plan food, an evening out etc. Let them make the decisions and don’t try to change them!

Positive feedback is always appreciated after each date. Don’t assume they will know how you feel about them or what you like about them.

Have something planned the next morning if you’re staying over. You need to leave and have a good reason. Even if it went really well.

Keep going out and doing interesting things even once you start sleeping with each other. You need to see each other in different contexts. You don’t want to get into a routine of eating, watching a film and going to bed too early in the dating process.

Don’t disagree or argue, try to listen and learn more about your date and how they see the world, rather than aiming to change their mind.

Don’t cut people off without explanation. If you don’t want to see someone again, text them gently, saying you’re sorry but you don’t think you’re right for each other and wish them the best. If someone doesn’t contact me for a few days after a date, I often tell them I am disappointed that they would treat me like that. Usually this provokes an apology and I am hopeful this means they are less likely to do it again. Let’s challenge the bad behavioural norms of online dating!

Endings can be positive. If you’ve recently emerged from a long-term relationship like I had, endings can be traumatic, bringing back memories. The first ending will be the hardest, but it gets easier. In most short-term relationships or dating experiences there will be good memories of meeting an interesting new person, and you’ll learn a lot about yourself and others. So celebrate the diversity of your dating experiences!

Rachel New is a dating coach, offering workshops and one to one sessions to improve your dating experiences. Her dates came from okcupid.com or meeting people as friends first through meetup.com.

Contact Rachel to find out more about how she can help you here.

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