It’s time: you’ve decided to get off the bench and put yourself back in the dating game.  That is fantastic news, right?  It is unless you’ve caught a massive case of the pregame jitters, in which case a piece of functional wisdom is available, and that is this:  luck favors the prepared. What does this mean? It means there are a few simple steps you can take that will, at best, make this entire process that much more enjoyable…and, at worst, make it suck that much less.  Like any skill, your “game” will only improve with practice, trial and error.  Bear in mind that the objective here is not to turn you into a professional dater; the objective is to turn you into a prepared dater.   And that, my friend, starts with you.

Step one: know thyself on the inside.  This may sound uncomfortable and, honestly, it certainly can be.   Your objective is to avoid making the same mistakes twice.  That means taking an introspective look at what went wrong in your last relationship.  Avoid the knee-jerk reaction to place blame; instea, ask yourself, what part did I play?  How could I have been a better partner? Take note and be aware so as not to repeat the same habits going into your next relationship.  The unexpected bonus to this step is that the question of what went wrong in your past relationship will inevitably come up, and women find it oodles more attractive when a man accepts responsibility for the role he played.

Operative cliché:  It takes two to tango.  

Step two: know thyself on the outside.  Take a look in the mirror.  For argument’s sake, let’s say you’ve been off the market for at least a year, maybe five.  You may have gotten comfortable with your significant other, while time (and fashion) marched on without you.  You may be feeling uneasy about putting yourself back on the market, and feel like dating is not your scene as a result.

But the solution is elementary: the fastest way to increase your confidence in this area is treat yourself with kindness.  Take heed from your female counterparts in this department and treat yourself to a spa day.  See a barber and get the full grooming package.  Update your look and indulge yourself with a shopping trip.  If you find yourself gravitating toward your old standard, find a personal shopper.  A personal shopper is a professional, not the 16 year old at the mall, who will elevate your personal style.   It will still be you, only better.  Put your best foot forward, literally.  When you’re finely groomed and feeling fresh in your new threads, that confidence will radiate.

Operative Cliché: You only have one chance to make a first impression.  

Step three: know thy audience on the outside.   It’s safe to say most men have a type.  Now that you’re single, have you considered stepping outside of your comfort zone in the looks department?  Have your tastes changed over the years?  Women are a beautiful species; have some fun and entertain the thought of what your next special someone might look like.  Used to dating short women?  Smile at someone eye level for a change.  Typically hold doors only for brunettes?  Lend a hand to a redhead and see what happens.  Taking yourself out a pigeonhole widens your prospects for happiness.

Operative Cliché:  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  

Step four: know thy audience on the inside.  Put yourself in her shoes for a moment: she’s just met you. Does she really want to spend her evening listening to you unload about your divorce? But how do you know what she wants to talk about?  Simple: you’re going to ask her.

The key here is to have at least 3 open-ended questions up your sleeve to get the conversation started.   Simple questions like “What’s the last good book you read (or movie you saw)?” or “ Where is your favorite place to go on vacation?” or the no-fail  “What do you hate the most about meeting someone on a first date?”   You will have mastered this step once you are able to listen, retain and return.  How will you know when you’ve succeeded?  When you remember what she said and you’re able to bring it back later in conversation.

Unexpected bonus: If you are at all nervous, letting her do the talking is a great way to put yourself at ease while building your confidence.

Operative Cliché:  We have two ears and one mouth for a reason, listen twice as much.  

Step five: be yourself.  It sounds incredible clichéd, but most clichés are not entirely without merit.   In order to find someone who is able to connect with you on a deeper level, they’ll have to know who you truly are.  Maybe you love UFC, but you also write poetry.  Maybe you have a book inside you that is dying to be written.  Maybe you alphabetize your canned goods.  So tell her that.

Operative Cliché:  Nobody is perfect; you just have to find the person perfect for you.     

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