I recently came across an article featuring dating tips from the Gottman’s. John and Julie Gottman have devoted their careers to the discovery of what makes relationships work, and what tears relationships apart. They are leading, empirical experts with the research pedigree to support their claims. I often recommend their work to my clients, and they inform my clinical approach when doing couples therapy. They have turned their expertise to offering advice to those who are entering or have been engaged in the world of dating. Here are their tips:
- Be prepared to try and try again: You may need to go on as many as 60 dates with as many different people before discovering that special person with whom you are compatible and can form a committed relationship. Do not expect every date, or even the next date, to be magical. You will likely kiss a lot of frogs, as the saying goes.
- Know the Science: The first stage of a relationship involves limerence, which is the “spark” and largely based on biochemicals. Dating, at first, glides on that energy, so don’t be fooled by the chemistry.
- Bring an inquisitiveness: You want to asks open-ended questions that allow you to discover more detail and depth about your date. Ask “What kind of music do you like?” rather than “Do you like music?”
- Are they into you: If you say something you think is funny and it falls repeatedly to the floor with a thud; it might not be a great match. If a person makes you feel attractive, but is not overly flattering; that is a great sign. It is also important if someone makes a lot of eye contact and is responsive to your responses, rather than just moving on to the next topic. You want to have a back and forth flow to the conversion, without one person carrying the weight of keeping dialogue going.
- Start Packing: If your date is only talking about himself or herself and not asking you questions, use this as a potential red flag, particularly if you try to steer the conversation to a more balanced back and forth exchage.
- They trash their Ex: A huge red flag is when someone gives you a litany of his or her ex’s flaws right out of the gate. This can be in indication that your date is still in rebound mode from their previous relationship, and is not yet past being bitter. If they remain bitter about an ex after years have passed, you may want to consider this as a red flag, too. It is one thing to acknowledge an ex’s flaws; it is another to dwell on them bitterly in a way that indicates a lack of personal growth as a result of the break-up. No relationship is completely futile if one has grown in some way. Look for people who prize learning something from past relationships vs. staying stuck in resentment at all they way their ex wronged them.
- Make a Graceful Exit: Be direct, as in “There just isn’t chemistry. No one really knows what it is about chemistry. Somehow I am just not feeling that spark and I wish you well.” If that fails, ask for the check.
- This Might be Going Somewhere: Conversation and time feels like it slows down. It feels like you have come home to a place that is really welcoming. There is a sense of ease, comfort and excitement with a person—like something wonderful is about to happen. If you have those feelings, you know a relationship has possibility. Be mindful, though, that this could be the biochemicals clouding your judgement. This is when it is a good idea to risk moving forward with a second or third date. Slowly begin to tease out if this person is a viable candidate to take it to the next level. This can only be clearly deciphered after enough time has passed to get a really good “take” on the compatibility. As a colleuge put it well, “long, slow courtship is a good thing.”
- Heed the Old Adage: As Dr. Gottman’s mother used to say, “Every pot has a lid. Just make sure that the lid fits.”
And as an extra dose, I just read that research shows that those who marry between the ages of 27 and 32 have the best odds of the marriage lasting past 7 years. Interesting. I am sure there are exceptions to this, but it makes a lot of sense to wait AT LEAST until one’s late 20’s before deciding to marry. Our brains are not even fully formed until our mid 20’s. Imagine making such an important decision without a fully formed brain. Please do not be offended if you are one of the few who met and married early in life and have gone on to have a happy, healthy, long marriage. Consider yourself lucky that you are the exception to the rule.
Until next time, peace.