Dating: it’s not hard to shine

A friend of mine recently embarked on a potential relationship journey. She has been single for eight years (as long as me!) and has carefully thought through the type of man she wants to be with, and the circumstances in which a potential relationship may blossom. She is a woman in her early thirties—fit, healthy and attractive. Self-assured. She owns her home (in partnership with a bank, as do most of us), has a secure job and an social active life outside of work. She loves her family, friends and her dog. For all intents and purposes, she is quite the catch.

In the last year or so, she thought she might like to share her life with a special other. After a couple of false starts, she asked friends and colleagues if they knew any decent, single men who were also looking for decent, single women and bingo! one surfaced. He was in his thirties, a professional and for all intents and purposes (yes, I know I’ve used that phrase already, but it gives this paragraph a nice kind of circularity) he was also interested in a potential relationship. He called when he said he would to set up the initial date, and they arranged to meet on a no-pressure Sunday afternoon, spending a pleasant couple of hours chatting. The man promised to call in the middle of the week to arrange a date for the next weekend.

Except he texted. And he kept on texting. Even when he said (promised!) he’d call, he texted. And when he texted, he provided lots of excuses why he was texting. Work commitments and food poisoning to name a few. What the…?!

Now, regular readers KNOW how anti-texting I am in the lead-up to a potential relationship. I’ll repeat what I said in a couple of posts last year (and the year before that):

I’m no fan of conducting the important, foundational dialogue of a relationship via text/email/Facebook PMing/Twitter DMing either. I think it’s lazy. I think it’s uncontact dressed as contact. I think it’s avoiding a proper, grown-up conversation in favour of the convenience of pseudo-intimacy whose sole purpose is really keeping people at arm’s length.

This man lost this girl before before the relationship even got off the ground. Why? Because he showed her he wasn’t a man of his word. And that he was lazy. And with all the excuses, weak. How does texting make anyone feel special? A phone call, though… a phone call—especially when ones says one is going to call and a call actually ensues—signals effort.

Around the same time, I had a conversation with another friend*. This friend is male, in his mid twenties and doesn’t seem to have any trouble pulling chicks (I have been out with him, and women line up to give this dude their phone number). While he’s not looking for a relationship, I told him that in the dating world it’s not hard to shine. Particularly in the Australian dating world (and I’m going to generalise here based on my experience, and that of my friends) where dating is mostly a “friends with benefits” arrangement that comprises hook-ups, sofa dates and casual meet-ups at the pub or similar. Any man who doesn’t do any of the former is already a step ahead of the competition.

So let me spell it out for you, guys: in the dating world, it’s not hard to shine. Just do this stuff:

1. Ask how the girl wants to be communicated with

I’ve made it clear that I want to be called, but some of my other gal pals like to be texted. That’s cool. Do whatever they want. If girls want to be called, call them. If they want to be texted, text them. Hell, if they want smoke signals or morse code, give ’em smoke signals or morse code. The point is: show them that you listen, and you will do what needs to be done.

2. Communicate when you say you will 

If you say you’ll call on Wednesday at 8 pm, call on Wednesday at 8 pm. Don’t text on Thursday at 8 am. Do what you say you’ll do. No surprises and no disappointments. No managing down expectations. Communicating when and how you say you will shows you are considerate and a man of your word. That’s how you build trust.

3. Arrange a proper date

Have a think about where you’d like to take the girl. Ask her what her interests are and do something aligned with that. Go somewhere where you can talk and find out more about each other. If she likes cats, go to a cat show (I don’t care if you are allergic or hate cats—suck it up, princess). If she likes shopping, take her to an open air market (or covered, if it’s raining). You get the picture. And a movie is not a date… it’s an undate. Don’t take her to a movie.

4. Eliminate uncertainty

If you like the girl, and you’re pretty sure she likes you, for the love of God tell her. There is nothing wrong with saying Hey, I like you. I want to see where this goes. Just make sure you back up your assertions with your actions or you’ll just end up looking like a psycho game player. No one wants that, especially you.

5. Show her you care

Small, kind gestures are money in the bank for potential relationships. I’m not talking flowers delivered to her workplace, although that’s nice. A picnic lunch during the working week, tickets to her favourite comedian or band, ordering her favorite wine over dinner. Do anything (non-sleazy) that makes her feel special.

6. Repeat previous steps

New relationships are exciting and scary. Your aim, at every step, is to build trust. If you don’t care that about the other person’s emotional safety, you shouldn’t be dating. Stick to vacuous, empty hook-ups. But if you are serious about dating and you do these six things, I guarantee you’ll be streets ahead of your competition, and you’ll stay ahead.

7. If she’s not for you

If it turns out—after spending time with that potential someone—that she’s not for you, let her down gently and early. The more a girl invests in you and your potential relationship, the more it will hurt when or if it turns out things aren’t going to progress. Don’t string her along because you don’t have the balls to have an honest conversation. It’s disrespectful and weak.

Last word

Girls, you have a part to play in all this as well. Read my Five Simple Dating Rules for a best practice approach to dating. Bottom line? Don’t get your libido get in the way of your ability to judge character, and stay classy.

*My friend trotted out the argument that he’s a feminist, and allowing women to “do the work” (my words) is actually a pro-feminist stance. And that him being proactive in the dating game is supporting a patriarchal society! Ah…no, dude. And here’s why.


Photo credit Erin Leigh McConnell. Used with permission.

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