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Solutions for five common dating ruts


It happens to the best of us: there you are, going on date after date, but none of them seem to be panning out. Maybe you’re just having a string of bad luck. But then again, sometimes — just sometimes — there’s more out there for you than you’ve noticed. Just because you’re keeping your eyes peeled for love doesn’t mean your heart is entirely open. If you can’t put your finger on why you’re still looking, check our list of the most common dating ruts. If you’re in one of them now, you have the power to change your outlook. Then, when someone with potential crosses your path, you’ll recognize it immediately and be ready to pounce!

Problem #1: You aren’t feeling instant sparks

Solution: Forget romance for a second and use the “friend” filter

When we go on a date with someone, we’re usually looking for some hit-us-over-the-head romantic chemistry, and when we don’t feel it, we think the date is a waste of time. But that’s not true! “If you have a strong negative reaction to someone you meet, that’s one thing, but a neutral or unsure reaction to a person can turn into chemistry down the line — and those who shut the door right away won’t get to find that out,” says Laurie Helgoe, Ph.D., author of the Boomer’s Guide to Dating (Again) and creator of So how can you be sure you’re open to later-blooming chemistry? Instead of using the “romance” filter that measures that love-at-first-sight chemistry, use the “friend” filter on your next date. Think about it: when you talk to a new person at a party, you don’t use small talk to search out what the two of you don’t have in common; you look for the things you do have in common. Try doing that on your next date. Instead of casting off your date too quickly (as in “Oh, he’s not into music,” or “Oh, she’s far too quiet compared to me”), hone in on whether you both love Family Guy reruns, have similar views on immigration, or can’t stand cheese plates. “The pursuit of friendship takes the pressure off by making the goal of the date learning about the person,” says Dr. Helgoe. Which, let’s be honest, is what a first date should be anyway. Because the more common ground you discover, the more likely chemistry can develop later.

Problem #2: Your dates look great on paper… but that’s it

Solution: Pay attention to how you’re feeling vs. your date’s résumé

So this person has a ton of wonderful qualities. That’s fine, for a start. But amazing chemistry isn’t just about finding someone you admire or think would be a great life partner. It’s about how you feel when you’re with that person. For instance, if the date you had last night was friendly and gregarious, but you felt more meek or quiet than usual in his or her shadow, that doesn’t make for strong chemistry. “You want to really feel like yourself — your happiest, most excited self,” explains Rhonda Findling, author of The Dating Cure. So on your next rendezvous, don’t merely ask, “Do I like this person?” Also ask yourself, “Do I like myself when I’m around this person?” And with an attitude like that, you just may recognize something brilliant very soon.

Problem #3: You don’t think this person has long-term potential

Solution: Try the “Carpe date-’em” trick

We single people are so afraid of “settling” that we can’t help looking ahead to the future in the first few minutes on a date. In the movie Something’s Gotta Give, Jack Nicholson asks Diane Keaton if she wants to go for a walk along the beach. She stammers and wavers until finally he says, “It’s just a walk, not a marriage proposal!” Try to think of your dates the same way. It’s not a long-term commitment... it’s a latte. Take it one step at a time. You know that saying, “carpe diem” — in Latin, it means “seize the day?” Instead of carpe diem, carpe date-’em! Go one a date for what it is, and don’t start obsessing about whether this person wants the same number of kids as you do. Going slow is fine.

Problem #4: You swear all the good ones are taken already

Solution: Look again… at people you usually pass over

Thanks to all the adorably hopeful romantic comedy movies they keep making, it’s sometimes hard to shake the thought that someone, somewhere, someday, will sweep you off your feet and move with you to an old chateau in France. But what about your neighbor, who hits the same coffee shop in the morning 30 seconds after you do? Like traffic accidents, love run-ins often happen close to home. You may be looking for a fairy tale, but remember that sometimes, the real fairy tale is finding someone when you’re taking out the trash. “Think about the happy ending in Bridget Jones’s Diary,” says Dr. Helgoe. “She didn’t end up with her sexy boss… she ended up with the guy she met at the family party wearing a reindeer sweater!” So keep your antenna up 24/7 and the next time you wonder, “Where are all the good single men and women?” remind yourself they may be standing next to you in line at Old Navy or Whole Foods.

Problem #5: You feel down about yourself and not date-worthy

Solution: Give yourself a pre-date pep rally

After traveling a few miles on the road to nobody special, it’s easy to start blaming yourself. You wind up going out and socializing or turning up on a date with a sad-sack attitude. (Hint: This is not a turn-on.) Nobody wants to date a downer, so it’s time to corral the cheerleaders in your life to remind you why you’re such a catch. One hour before your next date, give one of your cheerleaders a call. Maybe it’s an older brother who says, “Dude, you are a fine specimen. Go get ’em!” When I’m having a down dating spell, I email my gay friend (the Will to my Grace) my latest dating sob story just so he’ll write back, “Are you kidding? You’re the prettiest girl in the world! If I liked girls, I would have wanted to marry you five years ago!” Is it hokey? Yes. Does it work every time? You betcha.

(Amy Spencer writes for Glamour, Maxim, Real Simple and other publications.)

By Amy Spencer

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