Dating sucks. That’s a fact. But moreover, it can be monotonous: How often does it seem like we are going through the motions with some stranger that we—without more than three seconds of thought—decided to swipe right for?
First dates, specifically, can often feel rehearsed, with each party on the opposite sides of the table seemingly going through a checklist of questions in order to get to know the other person, or in the very least ease the tension wrought by the pervading awkwardness that comes with the vulnerability of “putting yourself out there” (What do you do? Any siblings? Do you, erm, like…music?). But what if there were some simple tricks that would not only ease the stress that comes with the dating territory, but also establish more meaningful experiences with the person lucky enough to score a date with you?
In our series “Heart Beats,” romance guru Olivia Balsinger fishes for answers for the Paste gang—in this article, we’ve assembled five love experts—professional matchmakers from the nationally acclaimed matchmaking service, Tawkify—and asked them give their best pieces of advice so we can open the doors to a new dating life.
1) Let Go of Your Dating Past
Remy Boyd is a Tawkify matchmaker who has noticed one pattern time and time again: Those who have trouble finding love in the present have trouble letting go of their dating pasts. “We’re all the sum total of our experiences and our dating lives leave lasting impressions,” explains Boyd.
“When you’ve made the decision to jump back in the dating pool, keep your past experiences in the past. While baggage is inevitable—and while you learned lessons and have horror stories to share, but they are not predictors of what possibilities await you in the future.”
So how does Boyd suggest putting energy into the present and away from past memories and experiences? “Focus on today and what will make you happy and let the past go.”
2) Do NOT Ignore Red Flags
Those clichéd red flags that we are always told to avoid? Sophy Singer, Tawkify matchmaker, strongly advises you do not ignore them. But when do they first surface, how can you identify them?
“Red flags are usually glaring in your face within one to two months of meeting someone new,” explains Singer. “Don’t ignore them. Be aware. Decide if these red flags are things you can live with forever, or not.”
Generally speaking, people do not change and these red flags will not disappear, she continues. “If you are alright with the red flags, keep at it with an open mind and an open heart. If not, then no matter how hot/sexy/fun/brilliant/amazing-in-bed/rich this person is, the red flags will never go away, so it’s probably a good idea to walk away. It’s not easy, but here’s what it boils down to: Most relationships (3 weeks, 3 months or 3 years) end for reasons that were there and apparent within one to two months of dating.” The earlier you can identify these red flags, the easier it will be in the long run, when emotions can (and most likely will) progress.
3) Get Comfortable with Uncomfortable Silences
While being comfortable with the uncomfortable sounds like a contradiction, Tawkify matchmaker Constance Karcher believes that overcoming those inevitable awkward moments during a first date is the key to dating success.
“There is always a dynamic on a date and most of us are not conscious of it because we don’t take control of our thoughts,” explains Karcher.
“We let them run in whatever direction they happen to go…which is typically what this person is thinking of us or, at the other extreme, picking them apart. Learn to really be in the moment and if a silence does show its ugly face… well…. sip your drink, make deliberate eye contact and smile. Silence doesn’t have to be awkward and, honestly, why is it? Sometimes a pause can be a good time to take it all in and process, even if just for a brief moment.”
Karcher also believes that the energy we bring to the situation has a large effect on how the date will transpire. “And I’ve learned that the less uncomfortable one party is the less uncomfortable the situation is,” she continues. “In some cases that move can secure you a second date out of sheer intrigue or worst case scenario, you have a MUCH better time because you’re not sweating bullets.”
4) Do Not Assume Exclusivity
Matchmaker Amy De Souza shares a tip that has given her great success in her own personal dating life: “Don’t assume it’s exclusive until you’ve had that conversation. And, until you do, keep on dating. You’ll be much less focused on hearing from ‘the one’ if there are a few.”
De Souza didn’t put all her eggs in one metaphorical basket when she first met her current fiancé -she was seeing other people and continued meeting potential matches until they discussed going exclusive. “I was so much more relaxed about the whole situation, unlike in the past where I was waiting for that one guy to call or text.”
Amy believed that her relaxed attitude made her more attractive to him. “When less focus was put on every solitary thought, I’m certain my relaxed attitude made me more attractive to him. I wasn’t as focused on him. I was going about my life and he gradually and naturally became a part of it, rather than shifting all of my focus onto him.”
“In fact,” muses De Souza, “Try and go on as many dates as you can. I aimed for three a week!”
5) There’s Plenty of Fish in the Sea—Go Fish
Cora Boyd, Tawkify matchmaker and love coach, also emphasizes that dating is a numbers game. “Yes we all know that one wallflower who met the love of her life the first day of college when he sat next to her in Psych 101 and they happened to have the same backpack and Green Day ringtone…”
But Boyd attributes that to luck. And, as Denzel Washington said, “Luck is when an opportunity comes along and you’re prepared for it.”
“To put the odds in your favor and have agency in your dating lives, you must not only be open to possibilities, but also put must put yourself in the way of opportunity, and actively create it. This means being open to meeting people,” explains Boyd. “This means remembering that, more often than not, dating is a numbers game.”
When it comes to our personal relationships, of course we want quality over quantity. “We find quality by filtering quantity. And in order to do that, we need options to filter through. So stay open, meet lots of people in various capacities (not just romantic!), and narrow down from there,” said Boyd. “It starts with opportunity, filters down to the opportunities that are right for us, and crystallizes in the opportunities that are both right for us and we are prepared to meet.”
The platitude is true: we miss 100% of the shots we do not take. “This is not about lowering our standards. This is about keeping a mindset of abundance rather than scarcity. There have never been this many people on the planet in the history of the world. There have never been this many fish in the sea.” Now, go fish!
Olivia Balsinger is a travel writer based in New York City. She is also a Paste Health columnist, deputy editor of About.com’s Sustainable Travel and OhThePeopleYouMeet.com