Advice for Single women

How Do I Let Him Know I Am NOT a Gold Digger?!?!?

I hate to use that phrase but it’s the big elephant in the room in the media regarding dating in Silicon Valley – and, unfortunately, we have to address it head-on because it has serious implications.  This is a somewhat nasty blog entry but it’s also a nasty problem.

As just one example, yesterday, I screened a female prospect for one of my male VIP clients, and she asked for my advice, as she’s met a couple of guys out there who clearly have a chip on their shoulders about this issue, assuming that all women are after for them for their money.

My first observation… let’s not be naive. As a relationship between two people grows, money will eventually become a practical consideration, and an important conversation to have, because it does affect lifestyle, planning, and all of the rest.

But… let’s not get ahead of ourselves.   It really should NOT be much of an issue at all in the early stages of dating.  You’re just getting comfortable, having fun, establishing chemistry and rapport, and all of the rest.   Frankly, you don’t know each other well enough to be broaching that subject and if money stuff is polluting things this soon, it’s almost certainly not the right person and you can cut bait if you are getting bad vibes.

Trust your intuition – if you are a well-intentioned woman dating a guy who has ANY emotional intelligence whatsoever, he will pick up on the fact that you are not only down to earth, but non-materialistic as well.  And if he doesn’t get it, well then…

That was the stock advice that I used to give to women on this topic.  And I still do believe it, for the the most part.

HOWEVER, let’s reverse roles, go a bit deeper and try to understand the guy’s point of view a bit.

Many of these dudes have had bad experiences with women who were with them for the wrong reasons – we all know women like that. The guys then build a bit of a calcified shell to protect themselves from being burned and that can be really unpleasant to deal with.

A lot of guys have a tough time, in social settings, picking the right girl.  “He” could be a good guy, but also be wildly attracted to someone, typically thinking with his ‘other’ brain.  But “she” could be precisely the type who quickly discovers he has deep pockets and is in it for the wrong reasons.

So… how can you tell if the guy is being an overly judgmental arrogant ass, or if he is really just a good guy who is a bit jaded with a protective shell, but who has a wonderful core?

Well, build trust and, over time, peel back your layers to be a little “raw” and even a bit vulnerable.  Allow him to see this more exposed side of you and hopefully he will feel comfortable opening up so that you all can get at what is causing him to feel this way, and then you go naturally on from there.

But understand that, by opening yourself up this way, you could get hurt.  That is always a risk when you are getting to know someone.   And so you MUST rely on every bit of emotional intelligence that you have.

Just the way some really good guys have a disturbing habit of being attracted to the wrong kind of women, some guys are also just general douche bags who lead with chauvinism and a strong materialistic overtone. They flaunt their wealth and peacock with their possessions to attract women and this has nothing to do with calcified shells to protect themselves.

This “shiny sports car” sort of guy typically ends up with the wrong women and keeps this pattern going through relationships, or sometimes even marriage after marriage. He does this to feel worthy, wanted, desirous, and like the big d**k in the room.

Those are the guys you obviously want to avoid.

So what do you do, net net?  I say don’t be scared to put yourself out there and to show your kind heart, should your intuition be telling you that you’ve found a good guy who happens to be somewhat impenetrable.  But you need to hone your asshole detector so that you don’t get your heart ripped to shreds by the coyotes who are looking for an easy dinner.

When Harry Met Sally

Couple cuddling affectionate on the beach in winter with the sea in the background

As a professional matchmaker, I experience more than my fair share of moments of serendipity, coincidence, and bizarre irony. If only I could share the details of all the crazy stories and situations from the last 12 years of running Linx Dating…

Today, I watched a very interesting situation unfold from within my network, and see a great opportunity to illustrate two very important points about dating.

The story goes like this. A former female client of mine (let’s call her “Sally”) moved last year from the Bay Area to Boston for grad school. I had worked closely with her when she lived here and had actually matched to her someone with whom she had had a significant relationship. She arrived in Boston, single, and has been dating there with mixed success. Though I am not regularly in touch with clients who have moved, I do keep them on my radar, in my database, and in my mind, should a tailor-made opportunity arise.

Separately, my husband has a friend who recently referred a prospective male client to me who is based in Boston (let’s call him “Harry”). After corresponding with the candidate, we both realized quickly that I am probably not the best day-to-day matchmaker for him, given his plan to stay in Boston. However, I offered to do whatever I could for him with my limited Boston network, including introducing him to friends who might have tips about being single in Boston.

It then occurred to me that “Harry” and “Sally” could be a great match and beyond this should no romantic connection transpire, “Sally” could help strategize about ways to date intelligently in Boston.

I immediately reached out to “Sally” to see if she was still single – delighted to hear from me, she said that she, in fact, was still single and would be open to an introduction. I provided a very high-level overview of the potential match – basic biographical information, age, etc. She almost immediately interrupted me and said, “this guy’s name isn’t ‘Harry’, is it?” I said, “well, yes, it is Harry… wow… you know him?” She went on to say that she had had a first date with “Harry” months and months ago, had been interested and attracted to him, but had never heard from him again, then figuring that he had no further interest in her. She asked me to find out from him if she had done “something wrong” that had subsequently “turned him off.” I agreed to ping him to conjure up any intel I could.

I turned around and reached out to “Harry” and asked if he remembered “Sally,” explaining that apparently they already knew each other. “Harry” immediately remembered their date, described “Sally” to a tee, and said he had been interested in her, but had not followed up because he thought that she had no romantic interest in him. I couldn’t believe what I was reading right before my eyes!

After a few emails back and forth, both “Harry” and “Sally” were game to pick up the pieces where they left off. I proceeded then to “broker” a new meeting so that “Harry” could meet “Sally” again and now we’ll see what happens.

What lessons are here for those of you who are single and looking?

  1. COMMUNICATION, SIGNALS, AND GAMES

I live this every day through my clients. Most of you probably know that there is a whole school of dating thought out there around strategic game playing, veiled communication, pickup artist stuff, etc. At the end of the day, no one wants to be bored and find complete predictability in their romantic dating – and it can be very hard to be transparent, vulnerable or open about your feelings early on in dating because you put yourself at risk to be hurt, and you also might worry that revealing too much too soon could either scare off the other person, or make them feel it is too “easy” and not enough of a challenge.

I won’t deny that there can be truth to all of that. But you have to follow your instincts – if you are out with someone and you honestly believe that there is something there, you don’t have to let it ALL hang out, but give the other person a bone. Show them SOMETHING. Whether it’s a flirtatious comment, touch, look, or whatever… or maybe you just say something if you are comfortable. If you don’t, you run the risk of being in a situation that “Harry” and “Sally” were in. And you might never have known what could have been.   So be aware of how you are coming across, and if you are “feeling it”, don’t get too cute or play it too cool or you just might miss out on something special.

  1. THE POWER OF TRUE NETWORKS

Networking is a brutally abused term. It conjures up images of cheesy salespeople exchanging business cards over a superficial exchange of pleasantries and promises to follow up on whatever they might have been discussing.

But true networking is a long-term investment and I am reminded, on almost a daily basis, how hard anyone, whose career is based heavily on networks, has to work to expand, maintain, and nurture the network.   And I believe you have to build your network with TLC over time, with no regard as to how it might benefit you or anyone else in the future. In other words, it is often a selfless labor of love where you must enjoy the journey and know that it will bear fruit in the most unexpected ways.

The most successful real estate agents work hard over years and years to build meaningful relationships that result in repeat business and high-yield referrals. Moreover, they skillfully mine their specialized markets as arbitrageurs of even the smallest tidbits of information. And, in the process, they have hundreds of prospective deals that never happened, thousands of tidbits of advice they gave that netted them no money, and countless moments of frustration. But all of that work nets them a great reputation and plenty of wonderful deals to secure their business.

Linx Dating, in many ways, is no different. Had I not spend the last 12 years building my network this way, I would never have been in the position to allow my brain and my database to lead me to (unknowingly) reconnect “Harry” and “Sally.”

Everything else aside, it is the power of the Linx Network, that sets us apart in the matchmaking world.

Breaking up is hard to do

Written by: Marilyn Nagel in collaboration with Linx Dating

unhappy  couple in bedroom under stress

Yes, it may sound familiar because it was a song that Neil Sedaka released way back in 1972 that has had staying power, probably due, at least in part, to its title and very real subject matter that resonate with so many people.

When you start dating someone, the last thing you are thinking about is breaking it off. But when you know that it just isn’t the right relationship, you need to gracefully and tactfully end it – the question is… how to do it in the most respectful way possible?

Don’t Have Dessert First

If you know you are going to end it, don’t have sex first, then break up. It sends a very mixed signal since sex is something enjoyable for both parties and is an indicator of intimacy, not breaking up. Women feel closer to a man after sex… so, when a man breaks up with her after sex (and/or sex then a night spent together), it feels like he took advantage of the fun part, and that shows a lack of respect for her as a person. For women, breaking up after sex makes her seem like she wanted to give him one last treat and that does not show particularly strong character, either. Of course, breakup sex between two mutually informed parties is one thing, but bad juju otherwise.

A Private Place and in Person

Don’t break up over email, text, Facebook message, Instagram, Snapchat, or any other impersonal digital excuse. If you have been seeing one another for awhile (more then 3 dates) best to break up in person at a place that is easy to leave, and if one of you feels emotional, no one will be embarrassed. This probably should not be in someone’s home (and certainly not in the home of the person breaking it off because it makes it awkward to ask the other person to leave) but it could be at a park, or a booth at a restaurant/bar/coffee shop that is not one of your neighborhood hangouts. Ideally, meet there so you both have transportation home and you don’t have to be together afterwards in what can be a silent (or worse) car ride together.

Avoid Blame

Most importantly your goal is to break things off honestly but without assigning specific blame. Avoid using the cliché “it’s me, not you” while you are trying to take some responsibility – it is so non-specific and over-used that it is almost patronizing even if you mean it honestly. You can also end up getting a lot of push back and fall into the trap of highlighting and debating the specifics you don’t like about the person – and that means blaming them. The fewer details you provide (this is not a performance review, they will not be improving or changing based on your feedback), the better, because what does not work for you may be exactly the right thing for the next person.

The Exceptions: If the person did something very specific i.e. cheat on you, berate you in public, lie to you, scream at you, force something you don’t like sexually, then give the specifics of your example and let them know that it is just unacceptable.

Breaking up is rejection – if after only 3 dates, or after 6 months, rejection brings up all the other rejections we have felt in our lives so best to stay away from specifics. Any particular shortcomings that you highlight will be relived over and over again and cause greater hurt then you want. You can say something like, “I can’t even tell you anything specific because there is nothing, I just know that I don’t want to move our relationship forward and feel it is only fair to break things off now before we go any further.” And then stick to your guns and try not to let it devolve into a deposition.

Apologize

It is good to say you are sorry that things did not work out and then wish the person well. If you have been dating for awhile, you can apologize that you did not let them know sooner and share that you had some wonderful times with them. You can say, “I’m so sorry, I did not want to hurt you and know that I am at this moment doing that” or “I am not an expert at this, and apologize for hurting you in any way, I am so sorry.” Then let the person retain their dignity, wish them well, get the check and get going.

Let’s Be Friends

Really? Be careful with that. Many people think they have to throw it out there that “I hope we can remain friends” and some even suggest getting together to do some shared activity. This is another mixed signal – I like you but not enough for a relationship, and that can be hurtful. I can tell you from years of coaching men and women, that if it doesn’t work out as a couple, it’s probably best to take a break and make it clean and cordial. If you both love biking, golf, or any shared activity, you may run into each other and want to be friendly but best to let some time pass and regroup with existing friends.

Preparation

Take some time, before you meet up, to think about the conversation, anticipate reactions, and to “put some meat on the bones” of what you might say, exactly. Maybe even develop some good graceful “sound bites” that include responses to potentially awkward moments. If you are really nervous, get a friend to role play with you. Think about it – if you were a manager and had to fire someone (a truly awful thing to have to do, in most cases), you would practice, right?

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

bigstock_Girl_Eating_Burger_4655356Advice of the day for the female readers is enjoy the ritual of breaking bread on your dates! What do I mean by that? Ladies arrive to your dates hungry and don’t be fussy when ordering.

Men are often hypersensitive to women not eating on dates. It signals to them that you might have body issues or insecurities that he probably faced in a previous relationship and likely does not find attractive. At some point in our lives, most of us have been “that girl” who orders a small side salad, skips out on the bread, and has an ice tea on her dinner date. It’s so cliche….Cher_Horowitz_Closet-022_2-376x323

Remember that classic line from one of my all time favorite movies Clueless where Cher feels out out control with her eating for the day? “I feel like such a heifer. I had two bowls of Special K, 3 pieces of turkey bacon, a handful of popcorn, 5 peanut butter M&M’s and, like, 3 pieces of licorice” Don’t come across as a high maintenance girl and announce what you ate, what you wish you ate, or how much weight you have to lose. This happens! I’ve heard it and I’ve seen it! Men think it’s sexy when a woman has an actual appetite. She’s not afraid to eat in front of him and not concerned with ordering what she actually wants to enjoy. 2014-03-18-PICKYEATING3

Linx guys expects to buy their dates dinner, so plan to actually eat dinner. Men often tell us they’re turned off by women who don’t eat. Also, you may think he’s never heard this, but saying “But I’m actually really full… this is the second dinner I’ve had today,” is not an original line. Every guy has heard that before. And no one likes hearing it.

Although my advice is to eat, drink, and be merry on your dates, the truth is many women do struggle with real eating disorders that plague their lives. I’m no expert on this topic and don’t have the knowledge to write about it but should you be someone who is reading this who does struggle with body image issues and any disorders, I strongly encourage you to seek professional help and not be afraid in doing so. The sooner you do this, the quicker you will be ready to date and date successfully….being that alluring and confident woman men love.

On a final note, try not to be too high maintenance when ordering. 😉

A Few Insider Tips | First Date Advice

iStock_000019428153SmallHappy New Years! We hope your New Year is off to an exceptional start and that you are starting to think about dating again after the holiday rush. Even the most seasoned daters among us can use a refresher course in the ins and outs of dating. Dating is a skill and preparation is key so you arrive confident, relaxed, and importantly enthusiastic! Here are a few key basic pieces of advice for men and women based on well over a decade of experience in matching thousands of Bay Area professionals.

For the Guys…

1. Call with a plan. When you call to schedule your date, have two or three restaurants in mind, as well as a few days/times that work for you. That way you don’t get caught up in the early planning stages. For those guys who are rusty at dating and get caught up with nerves when calling her, it’s fine to even script this out if you need to. Make a checklist. Whatever works best for you.

2. Seek expert advice. If you don’t know how to order wine or aren’t even sure what seems like the best dish on the menu, ask for advice. Restaurants are full of “experts” so let the server or sommelier direct your choices if you’re not good at making them for yourself. Women like men who are willing to ask for directions. 😉

3. Stay out of quicksand. We all have topics we’d like to avoid in a first date conversation. All of us. Instead of completely deflecting them and sounding evasive or sharing too much and allowing the date conversation to take a difficult turn, develop a quick sound bite to address the topic and move on. For example, if you have a difficult custody situation with your ex-wife, simply say, “I actually spend as much time as I can with my kids currently, and we’re still negotiating what makes the most sense for everyone. I’m optimistic this will have a happy ending.” This is a clean and concise way to convey factual, relevant details that is also positive and encouraging. Don’t air your dirty laundry on a first date; you have nothing to gain by doing so.
Happy couple in the city

For the women…

1. Be responsive. This one is really, really important. If your date calls you, respond to him quickly if you don’t get his initial phone call. And don’t start counting or matching days between calls in some sort of quid pro quo. You both want to go on a date, so make that happen. I repeat, you both want to go on a date, so make that happen. And make it happen sooner rather than later. A lot of great matches stall out because people get stubborn about returning calls instead of getting serious about establishing communication. I am continually amazed at the lack of responsiveness amongst many people I see out there dating in the wild.

2. Change for the better. Even if you’re in the sort of job where your work wear transitions well to dates, make a wardrobe shift to remind yourself that this isn’t work and it isn’t an interview and you don’t do this every day. Frankly, it’s highly unlikely that your day looks are also great date looks, so don’t be afraid to slip into a colorful dress, throw on a great pair of heels, and let your hair down. If not now, when?

3. Be direct. If you’re out of practice with dating, you might have a tendency to make conditional statements about future dates like “I’d like to do this again if you would….” Don’t do that. Just be clear about it and say “I’d love to see you again. This has been a lot of fun.” The confidence will be incredibly attractive, and will make it easy for your date to ask you out again.

We have countless tips to share so if you’re someone who’s interested in hiring a date coach, inquire within amy@linxdating.com. As for matchmaking, we currently have so many successfully paired couples! In December alone, we celebrated engagements and learned about new Linx matches reaching exclusive status. Contact Amy today to learn more about our unique offline matchmaking services and how Linx can bring you multiple steps closer to finding “the one.” Our clients hire us and engage our service due to our gaining access to a pool of candidates they wouldn’t have access to otherwise. On top of this, our scrupulous vetting process allows Linx to reach new standards of excellence in the business.

Something Old, Something New…

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The end of the year is just a month away, which means that we’ll soon be celebrating the beginning of 2015!  Like many of you, I’ll be entering the New Year with a number of hopes and expectations.  I’ll also be armed with a handful of resolutions that I’ve decided are critical to making the most of the 2015, and the bulk of those resolutions are related to self-improvement and finding a healthy relationship.  For those of us who are single and don’t want to be, the promise of a new relationship in the New Year is really powerful; we tend to like the idea of starting off with a clean slate, and – ideally – forgetting whatever wasn’t right about the years and relationships that came before.

Instead of hoping for a new relationship, it might actually make more sense to focus on finding a better relationship.  It can be really easy to fall into the trap of thinking that a different relationship will be better by default, but that’s really not the case.  In fact, it’s important to remember that your “new” girlfriend or boyfriend is probably someone else’s old girlfriend or boyfriend, which means that he or she has been trained and programmed by the habits, expectations, and communication style of someone else.  Unless your new beau was just dumped by your identical twin – and the two of you have identical tastes and preferences – the new significant presence in your life is going to require some adjustments (for both of you) in order to make your relationship work just right.  Otherwise, we’re all stuck in a sort of “Goldilocks paradox” where we’re waiting for a complete stranger to behave and communicate in a way that’s tailor made just for us, even if we didn’t do any of the work to make that happen.  If you’re ever had clothing made to measure, you know the satisfaction of having just the right fit; you also know that getting the right fit takes time, effort, and a lot of patience.

It’s really important to keep this in mind, especially in the early stages of dating.  Amy and I often hear complaints like “he kisses me too aggressively,” or “she calls me too often,” or “he picks restaurants that don’t have anything on the menu that I like to eat.”  And people seem to think these complaints are truly valid reasons to end a relationship (or to keep one from getting off the ground).  The truth is that each of these is an opportunity for change and communication; none of these root behaviors is problematic (you want a guy to kiss you, a woman to call you, and a man to pick restaurants) but you have to communicate what does (and doesn’t) work for you.  You have to give people information if you want them to change.  If you want them to change AND stick around, then you also need to give them incentive.

A really common mistake people make when communicating their wants and wishes is to tell their dates that they’re doing something wrong.  The truth is that no adult likes being scolded, and very few behaviors are actually “wrong,” but that doesn’t stop women from saying “you kiss me the wrong way,” or “you grope me like a teenager.”  And men have no qualms about telling women they aren’t appreciative enough, that they send mixed signals, or expect too much communication too early.

When we don’t like someone’s behavior, we try to make it their problem, even if the problem is really ours.  If you want a positive outcome, you need to communicate positively by saying things like “I like it when you…” or “I’d love it if we could….”  People are generally happy to make changes that incite enthusiasm, but they’re unwilling to make those same changes when those requests are worded as criticisms or demands.  Words of encouragement and guidance lead to growth; words of criticism lead to resistance and avoidance.  If you want to establish something full of respect and love and potential, make sure you’re delivering the message you intend in the most positive and considerate way.

In fact, we just casually date coached a 55+ year old client who felt frustrated by the lack of consistent communication coming from the leading man in her life. We told her to express to him encouraging words about how much she adores his company and with that comes a desire to want to hear from him more regularly. Instead of chastising him, she used this very subtle technique that worked wonders. We spoke to her yesterday and she said “It worked! He now checks in with me more regularly and when he’s out of town, he calls me which is great!” We love seeing something like this be so very simple yet so completely effective.

With a bit of luck, the New Year will indeed bring with it a new (and better) relationship.  And as you focus on communicating with someone new, you might also want to try out a bit of that strategy with someone old – yourself.  Try not to focus on what you see as flaws and failures, and put the emphasis instead on where you can grow and improve.  We can never undo the mistakes and missteps of our past, but we can work to avoid them in the future.  And we can be more positive people as a result.  Your relationships can only be as healthy as you are, so if you’re hoping to see big changes in your life (and your love life), don’t be afraid to ask yourself how much of that change should come from within; maybe the “better relationship” you’re looking for is simply a better relationship with yourself!

Are You Choosing to be Thankful?

By: Linx staff member, Michael Norman Quiz-Thanksgiving-Style-Header1

With the holidays just around the corner, this can be a great time to meet someone new, but it can also be an incredibly lonely time for those of us who aren’t surrounded by close friends and family.  As an unattached only child whose parents don’t live nearby, I was acutely aware of this kind of isolation just a few Christmases ago; I had very recently had a rather nasty surgery and both of my parents were sick, so it wasn’t wise for us to spend the holiday together.  I don’t think I’ve ever actually had a boyfriend of significant other during the holiday season, so that part I could handle – but being away from my parents was tough.

I thought I was going to spend the day alone (almost literally) licking my wounds and feeling sorry for myself until a good friend invited me to join her, her roommate, and one of her co-workers for an impromptu Christmas dinner.  While it certainly wasn’t the same as spending the day with my parents (which I’ve done three dozen times or so) it definitely proved to be one of the most memorable holiday dinners of my life.  (When an investment banking lesbian, a three-hundred-pound gay man on painkillers, a newly out gay lawyer who secretly wants to be a caterer, and a straight black project manager who was a collegiate swimmer consume 7 bottles of wine in 6 hours while talking about their families and their sex lives, it’s bound to be memorable.)  I learned a lot of things I never expected to learn that evening, and one of the most important is that being alone is often a choice.  Just because I wasn’t able to follow a family tradition, I assumed I had to spend a holiday alone.  I wasn’t allowing myself to consider other options, to embrace other types of family, to invest in other types of relationships, or even to invest in myself.

This year I expect to spend the holiday with my parents – just as I’ve done for years – but should that plan be somehow interrupted, I know that I’ll consider alternatives.  And I would enjoy those alternatives.  So even if you’re separated from your family – whether by distance or something harder to overcome – or if you’re new to your current hometown and don’t have an established social network, there’s no reason to spend the holidays alone.  In fact, if you take the initiative to invite new people into your world on a day when they would otherwise feel alone and possibly dejected, you might be incredibly surprised by the warmth and intensity of the connection that could result.

Here are some ideas for getting through the holiday season in good cheer, and maybe even building some relationships (romantic or otherwise) along the way.animated-thanksgiving-desktop-backgrounds-wide-photos-hd-wallpapers-free-thanksgiving-desktop-wallpapers-backgrounds

Host a “Misfit” Thanksgiving…

If you don’t already have plans for the holiday, ask around in your circle of friends or even post to Facebook; you’ll probably find that you’re not alone.  If you’re not a great cook, you have plenty of options that could still make you a great host or hostess.  Plenty of restaurants and grocers (like Draeger’s and Whole Foods) offer complete or a la carte solutions for Thanksgiving dinner.  You may find that one or more of your guests is a great home chef, so give them the opportunity to bring dishes (or just encourage them to bring wine or desserts) and fill your home with new friends and holiday cheer.  Speaking from personal experience, this can be a truly wonderful way to spend a holiday, and can be much more intimate and fulfilling than you might expect.

Take Yourself Out to Dinner…

If spending the day alone is inevitable, and you know you know that staying inside all day isn’t good for you, make a reservation for yourself at one of the many, many SF restaurants that will be serving dinner this Thanksgiving.  Some of the restaurants promising to give you reasons to be thankful this year include Michael Mina, Epic Roasthouse, Campton Place, and One Market, so odds are that you’ll be experiencing plain pilgrim fare taken to an entirely new level.  You might also want to stop into a great bar or lounge for an after dinner drink and some great conversation; you won’t be the only person spending the day without family, and you definitely won’t be the only person open to connecting with someone new.

Lend a Helping Hand…

For some people, volunteering on Thanksgiving is a tradition unto itself, and the Bay area is full of opportunities for helping out.  At Linx, we always think that volunteering is a great way to meet someone (who doesn’t like dating a man or woman with a heart of gold?) and the single person you’d meet volunteering on Thanksgiving will be just as impressed with you as you are with her or him.  Even if scoring a date isn’t the first thing on your mind that day, it’s not a bad consolation prize for being a good citizen. 😉  Good sources for finding volunteer opportunities include Glide Memorial, Hands On Bay Area, and Little Brothers.  You could also contact your local church or food bank or even a retirement center for more ideas; lots of people would love company this holiday season, and not all of them have the option of leaving their homes.People-volunteering-at-so-012

Relax and Reflect…

There’s nothing wrong with just taking the day to yourself and doing nothing at all.  You don’t have to leave the house.  You don’t have to eat turkey.  You certainly don’t have to eat pumpkin pie.  You could stay in, do laundry, sort piles of receipts, and downshift from everything going on in your life.  You could take the day to really think about your life, and examine all of the reasons you have to be thankful.  It would be very easy to focus on being alone, and to fixate on what you consider the missing pieces in your life, but it’s so much more valuable to take an inventory of what’s right in your world.  Most of us are drawn to positive, optimistic people, and the best way to be positive is to really be aware of the gifts in your life; you probably have many.  And you probably know what most of them are.  Don’t be afraid to make a list, and check it twice.  Christmas, after all, is just around the corner. 😉

Tell me a story…

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One of the questions Amy and I often get at Linx is that of when – and how – to bring up certain sensitive long-term relationship topics with someone you’re seeing.  If you’ve met someone through Linx, it’s likely we can provide you with those answers directly.  For example, we actually know how our members feel about having (more) children, how they feel about potentially relocating from the Bay area, what their ideal timelines for marriage and parenthood could look like, etc.  But if you’ve met someone on your own, found someone online or at work, or got set up by friends, the likelihood that you can get answers to any (or even one) of those questions is actually pretty slim.

When looking for dates, some of our clients tend to really focus on the timelines they have in mind for these milestones in their own lives, and are only interested in pursuing matches whose personal forecasts align with theirs.  While I can see how that might make sense initially, it can actually work against you in the end.  You can lose a lot of time looking for a man or woman who wants to share the same schedule you do; personal schedules can actually shift quite a bit as people get into relationships, learn what is important to their significant other, and realize what it might be like to be engaged, married, or even a parent with this particular person in their lives.  We can be deeply affected – and motivated – by the hopes and desires of the people we love.  We can change.

The lives we plan for ourselves as single people are the lives that make the most sense to us given the information we have at hand, but when the guy or girl of our dreams gets replaced by the man or woman who shares our vision for the future, sometimes our plans change radically.  Just this week, I met with a 31-year-old woman who said she wasn’t sure about having children.  But as we talked more, it became clear that really, what she didn’t want to do was make plans for her future that she thought should be made with someone else.  After all, whose kids would she be having?  Where and how would they be raised?  And what would they look like?  As a single woman, she could only have half of the answers, and so she was waiting until she had more information before making a decision; her Mr. Right can come in lots of different forms, so when she meets a man with whom she has incredible chemistry and the right kind of connection, the two of them can work out the answers together.

But what if you really do want a very specific kind of future?  And you really are only looking for a man or woman who shares certain values and goals?  How do you find out if a stranger is on the same page… or at least reading from the same chapter?  How do you ask those questions without seeming crazy, presumptive, or rude?

Believe it or not, one of the worst things you can do in this situation is be direct.  Asking someone a very specific question like “Do you want to be engaged in the next year?” or “Do you see yourself having kids with me before you’re 40?” can be a really excellent way to kill an otherwise budding romance.  Amy recommends that people try to suss out someone else’s views on big picture issues in the first 4-6 dates; you definitely want to make sure there’s a shared sense of chemistry before you start talking about bigger issues, but you also want to make sure you have common goals before you make a big investment, so get clarity after you establish a connection but before you discuss exclusivity.  After all, why take yourself off the market if the potential isn’t there for this relationship to make a significant run?

It turns out the best way to find out if the man or woman you’re dating shares your goals and values is by giving examples and sharing stories.  So if you’re checking for long term compatibility, here are some easy steps to draw him or her out in conversation, and get a real feel for how they think about relationships, and what they might want their next great one to look like.

1.     Start at home.  Hopefully, your parents or siblings have healthy relationships you can discuss with your date.  Talk about the things that you find enviable and admirable in those relationships.   Be positive and focus on what you’d like to emulate in your own future and household.  Stay away from timelines in this conversation, and even avoid talking about kids.  You really just want to get a sense of whether or not the two of you understand love and commitment in a similar way.  Parental relationships give you a sense of someone’s long view of relationships, and will also give you insight into what they fear.  Pay attention to words like “boredom, frustration, isolation, monotony,” and “codependence.”  Some people really do mean it as a joke.  Some people really do not.  You can usually tell the difference.

2.     Talk about your friends and colleagues.  If you want to discuss timelines for relationships and engagements, you hopefully have a set of friends and colleagues who provide models for this.  Sometimes those models will be ideal.  And sometimes they will not, which can be just as useful.  Don’t be afraid to talk about a relationship that you find flawed or even unappealing. (We all know that couple who’s dated for more than ten years but still isn’t engaged, right?)  Your date might not agree, and that’s good for you to know early.  The great thing is that you’ll be talking about big issues, but you’ll also be talking about other people, so you can take in all of his or her thoughts and judgments, but you don’t have to take all of it personally.  Don’t be afraid to suggest alternatives you think could work.  Don’t be shy asking about why he or she might feel a certain way, and if anything could make him or her feel differently about an issue, and be sure to get your date talking about the relationships of the people in his or her life, too.

3.     Talk about the kids in your life.  These may be nieces and nephews.  These may be the kids of co-workers.  These could even be much younger siblings, in theory.  But feel free to talk about the kids in your world, and how you connect with them.  If there is a childcare model represented in that set of children that makes the most sense to you – and you want to be a parent – focus on it and see if your date gives you any thoughts or feedback on what he or she might one day want.  And ask about the kids in his or her life.  This is a really important thing to do even if you do not want children; either way, make it clear to your date that you have thought about this issue, you do have exposure and experience with kids, and you do have clarity on what role they could play in your future.  Hopefully he or she will be able to let you know what role kids might (or might not) play in theirs.

Staggered over a couple of dates, these conversations will tell you a lot about what someone else wants out of life.  Schedules change all the time in relationships, but goals and values tend to be static, so make sure that you and your match align in the ways that are truly important.  So often, we think that we can get people to change over time; the real truth is that time changes us, and it doesn’t give us a lot of choice in how that happens.

In a perfect world, we’d all find someone who’s in exactly the same life stage that we are – ready for all of the same things to come to us at the same speed.  But that could be awfully boring. 😉  We don’t really need someone ready to follow our timetable.  We don’t really need someone who’s on the same page, reading from the same script, expecting the same fairytale.   What we really need is someone who’s looking in the same direction, who’ll hold our hand through every unexpected twist and turn, and who’s determined that – in the end – we’ll both end up side by side, and in the same place. In remembering this, we are confident you will get closer and closer to finding the right match.

Are You… Available?

It goes without saying that everyone who choses to meet with the Linx team has expressed interest in finding a relationship, but that doesn’t mean everyone is actually prepared to be in one.  In fact, figuring out whether or not someone is ready for a relationship can be quite complicated.  And it’s interesting to see the ways in which we all get stuck in places and patterns that keep us from moving forward with our lives.

We often talk about helping people break free from their current dating inertia; for some clients, that involves helping them learn how to date for the very first time; for others, it involves reintroducing them to the dating world after divorce; and for an unfortunate few, it can mean helping them meet incredibly trustworthy, loyal individuals after an experience with infidelity.  These are all, obviously, very big stumbling blocks when it comes to getting into a relationship and they take a lot of work to overcome.  But smaller obstacles can be just as detrimental when it comes to letting another person into your life, and we it comes to find love, many of us are more guilty of standing in our own way than we realize.

Lately, Amy and I have seen a pattern of more and more first(!) dates not even happening because of poor communication and scheduling conflicts.  This is incredibly disheartening for us because we put so much work into each match behind the scenes.  But beyond that, it’s a huge missed opportunity for everyone involved.  And it’s often the result of unreasonable expectations, inflexibility, or not being honest about the amount of time you have to pursue a relationship.

It’s sometimes the case that people honestly do not realize how busy and overcommitted they are until presented with the option of an introduction.  If these are temporary social or charitable engagements that will clear from your schedule in some reasonable amount of time as you get to know someone, don’t sweat it; most of us actually find it attractive when some has a full and active life, and even look forward to eventually being part of it.  Be upfront about your commitments – give your date a roadmap to let him or her know how quickly those obligations might clear, and dating should pretty easily fall into place from there.

If, on the other hand, you find that you really can’t plan to get together because you constantly work late, are always traveling, are on call, or don’t know your schedule, this may not be the time for you to be dating.  And you should admit that.  If work is controlling your life, don’t expect a potential date to let it control his or her life, too.  This may not be your fault, but it’s also not fair to the person attempting to date you.  Let them go for now.  With some luck, he or she will circle back when timing is better on both sides.  But if you press forward when you really don’t have the availability to build a relationship, you’ll just end up engendering hard feelings and frustration.  No one wants that.

If, however, you can’t seem to find the time to meet because you’ll only have a first date on weekends (but don’t have any free time for the next three of them), can’t go out on Thursdays (because you have your fav yoga class on Friday mornings), don’t like Monday dates (because you’re too tired after work), refuse to have a weekend breakfast date because they aren’t romantic (even though you’ll only meet on weekends and don’t have any free weekend evening for the next month) then you may be standing in your own way.  And that is your fault.
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It is really, really important to be open and honest about what you need when you start dating someone.  But it is equally important to not be totally rigid and difficult when it comes to the things you want.  You need to be home by 10pm if it’s a weeknight?  Fine.  You need to meet in the city or in Silicon Valley because you don’t have a car or don’t have a ton or time?  Perfectly understandable.  You only want Saturday night first dates scheduled six weeks in advance with regular phone calls and texts beforehand, and you expect your date to be patient, excited, and agreeable because this is what works best for your social/exercise/shopping/travel calendar?  Absolutely not.  When you’re that limiting and specific with your date, you’re not just telling him or her that you’re busy – you’re telling your date that you expect to dictate all of the terms of your relationship, and no one wants to be on the receiving end of that message.  Ever.

Being flexible isn’t just about dating someone who doesn’t look like the actor you fantasize about or the crush you had in college; it’s about stepping out of the box of your life and realizing that your future is going to look exactly like your present unless you start to make different choices.  Amy hates asking the question “Are you single?” because it’s both too vague and too specific at the same time.  She always prefers to ask people “Are you available?” because it’s important to know if they’re unattached, interested in finding commitment, and willing to do the work it takes to get there.  It’s like asking “Are you single? Are you looking for love?” and “Are you willing to invest in another person in order to find it?” all at the same time.  It’s important to be flexible in a lot of ways when you start dating someone, and that includes being flexible with your time, your attitude, your tastes, and your expectations.  In fact, flexibility is the difference between being single and being available — it’s a measure of how open you are to being surprised, and how willing you are to take a chance on trying to make something work.  It also happens to be attractive. 😉

So what about you?  Are you flexible or are you rigid?  Are you open or are you closed?  Are you just single and expecting a stranger to walk into your life, compliantly play by your rules, and make sure that you live happily ever after?  Or are you available – ready, willing, and able to meet someone else in the middle, prepared to no longer be the obstacle that stands in the way of your own success, and open to finding out what it’s like to let someone else co-star in your personal pursuit of happiness?  The question is yours to answer, but don’t forget that it’s an answer you’re constantly sharing with the world.

Why I stopped playing the numbers game

By: anonymous male, San Francisco VIPI_next_to_his_description

When I first rejoined the dating scene several years ago I followed the well-worn path of many other people my age and joined a handful of online dating sites. After a few false starts, a friend explained to me that I was completely doing online dating the wrong way. She said that it was a “numbers game”, and that I should try to go on multiple first dates a week, week after week, until I find “The One.” I didn’t realize at the time that this was how many people treated online dating in the Bay Area. I said, what the heck, and gave it a shot.

At the beginning I found it to be fun. I realized I was meeting people that I would have never met before, and this gave me a huge amount of confidence that I would run into the woman of my dreams. I also made two very good friends and met one woman with whom I had a multi-year relationship. Even though it didn’t work out, I am still grateful that she was in my life.

After some time of playing the numbers game, I became frustrated and disenchanted with the entire process. I started to realize I was going out on dates where nothing progressed beyond small talk and running through lists of shared hobbies and travel destinations. Even if we both felt there was the potential for something more, follow-on dates started becoming fewer and fewer, mostly due to scheduling conflicts, and that quickly became a lack of interest.

Worse, I realized that the disappearance of my date didn’t bother me, as I knew that there would be someone else who was, well, let’s just say a “swipe right” away. While intellectually I knew that this was the same thought process my date was going through, I still felt a bit icky about the whole experience. As a family-oriented guy that has been in long term relationships for the majority of my life, I felt that this isn’t the behavior of the man that I thought I was or wanted to be.

I could not understand how, with all of the opportunities to meet someone that were available to me, that it was so incredibly hard actually to meet someone. Recently an article appeared in the New York Times that spoke to how I felt. The author reaches the conclusion that all of the online dating technologies have caused us to think in terms of the “numbers game”, and that there was an infinite number of possible partners, and we should toss each aside until we find the perfect mate. If this is our dating mentality, why should we ever bother committing to a person, as a better option could be right around the corner?

I knew the numbers game didn’t work for me, and stopped playing some time ago. I started to pick up on when I was a participant in someone else’s rapid fire dating game, and was able to understand how it felt. When you are playing the numbers game, every person you date becomes a number and not a human being.

Whenever you go out on a date, you have to remember that the person sitting across from you is a person, like yourself, with their own hopes and dreams, anxieties and fears. They have felt both joy and hurt in relationships, and are very possibly hoping that the first date they are on, with you, right now, will be their last first date ever. I can’t think of a more disrespectful action than what most serial daters do, namely walk into the date with the intention of making a judgment in the first five minutes, then hopping back onto Tinder.

The numbers game causes you to focus on quickly observed superficial qualities, such as hobbies, material possessions, and clothing, rather than what really determines the suitability of a partner. The important stuff, like ability to communicate, shared values, empathy, and capacity to provide support in stressful situations, can’t be determined from only one date.

The numbers game relies upon the idea that not only there are an infinite number of partners, but also that you have an infinite amount of time. We don’t. As a guy in my mid 30’s, I for one don’t want to be an “old dad”, and want to be in good enough physical shape that, if I get to have children, I would not only play with my kids on the floor but also be able to walk any future daughters down the aisle when I am twice my current age.

Women, well, they have much more defined biological clocks, with 35 being the medically recognized fertility cliff. While the numbers game can go on forever, our bodies can’t.

There are some things I miss about rapid fire dating. I miss finding instant chemistry. I miss learning about someone’s way of viewing the world. I don’t think it works, however, and would much rather spend time getting to know a small number of quality people than get three cocktails a week with complete strangers.