Do’s and Don’t When Dating

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!

eComm 101

Written by: Linx staff Michael Normangay-feature

The past week has involved a lot of conversations about how people communicate while dating, and nearly all of those conversations have been about some form of frustration with hearing – and not hearing – from a date. Amy and I have heard complaints about frequency (both too much and too little) concerns about content (both too formal and too familiar) and timing (as in “Isn’t this a little too soon?” and also “Who sends a text at that hour?”) A good friend of mine insists that if you’re seeing someone who’s really into you, there’s no wrong way or bad time to contact a love interest, but given my own recent frustrations with a Poor Communicator, I’d have to disagree. Since the object of my affection is currently bedridden on the East coast in a fin de siècle-style typhoon of influenza, salmonella, and some other viral/bacterial pestilence that is likely the result of too much time spent in airplanes and not enough time spent asleep, I’m letting him off the hook for now. But for everyone else, here’s a refresher on communicating in a mobile and hyperconnected age… sometimes it’s still hard for me to believe that as a teenager, I actually had to be in my bedroom in order for someone to call me.

Control Your Text Drive….

Text is, by far, the easiest form of communication to abuse. It is also, unfortunately, one of the most dangerous. No matter how many emoticons you throw at your date, text messages are meant to be brief, and that brevity tends to make it very hard to understand any suggestion of tone or nuance contained therein. So don’t assume any particular tone or nuance was properly conveyed. Between people who hardly know each other (in other words, with someone you’re newly dating) texts should really only be used to convey facts. You should only use a text to send an address, to let someone know you’re running late, to convey a change in plans, etc. You should use a text to tell someone you’re standing outside, to tell him you’ve claimed a table at the bar, or to let her know your flight just landed. But use text messages sparingly when dating, and only use them to convey information that cannot be misunderstood. If you absolutely must use texts to say something other than “I’m wearing a blue sweater, gray plaid pants, and Prada loafers,” limit yourself to “I had a really great time last night and I can’t wait to see you again.” A text to someone new shouldn’t include words like “sometime”, “possibly” or “maybe.” Ever.
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Know Your Audience…

Some people love attention; they crave daily texts and phone calls. Some women love it when a guy showers them with text messages, and calls them “Baby” or “Sweetie” after a first date, and some men consider any contact at all between dates to be unnecessary and superfluous… and never the twain shall meet. Most of us are right in the middle, but regardless of where we stand, we all tend to assume that our dates should feel the same way that we do; after all, how could our own stance be anything but reasonable, and assuming we are attracted to reasonable people, should they not feel exactly the same way about how to communicate? It turns that’s not always the case. i-didnt-text-you-jack-daniels-did

When I look at my own relationship, for example, I know that Mr. Poor Communicator literally buries his head in work, spends more than 100 hours a week on his company, and often falls asleep on his couch in positions that are doing permanently bad things to his neck. When we see each other, he is fully focused on being with me, and does an excellent job of blocking out the rest of the world. But when we’re not together, I become a victim of that very same focus. For him, taking the time to call or even text me is just a distraction from the work he needs to finish in order for us to actually be together in person. What he doesn’t understand (because really, when do you bring something like this up?) is that I’m an only child, and my mother used to punish me with days on end of silent treatment, so when I don’t hear from someone I care about – no matter how well I might be able to grasp the underlying intellectual rationale for that silence – I eventually start to feel like I’ve done something wrong or disappointed them. Obviously, it’s important that I figure out a way to convey to him some portion of this.

If you’re in a new relationship or feel like there’s a disconnect in the communication style in your current one, this can be a really important thing to address. And it’s really critical to focus on how you feel, rather than to try to place blame or cast yourself as a victim. For example, I can explain to my guy that “When I don’t hear from someone I care about for a long period of time, I start to worry that I have offended or disappointed that person,” or I can say, “When you ignore me, you make me feel bad about myself.” One of those is likely to elicit an empathetic response and lead to a compromise that deepens the relationship, while the other could just as easily lead to a breakup. Since I don’t want a breakup, it’s really important that I focus on my feelings and my experience and that I give him the chance to be empathetic. If you would also like a compromise and a healthy change in your relationship, then you should give your companion the chance to understand your experience, too.

If you have the opposite problem of hearing from someone too frequently, you can take the approach of saying “I really like you. In the past, I had the tendency to move way too quickly in relationships, and it’s important for me to move slowly. I’m comfortable texting a couple of times a week at this point. That obviously will change as we get to know each other better.” Too often, we tell people what’s “wrong” with their behavior instead of simply expressing to them our needs, expectations, or boundaries. The truth is that there’s usually nothing “wrong” with their behavior; but that doesn’t mean it’s right for us. So have the conversation about what works best for you. Get to know your audience; I hope to be following my own advice as soon as he regains the 9 pounds he lost last week and can actually get on a plane again.

Work on Your Timing…

With travel and time zones playing such big roles in everyone’s lives, it’s really important to pay attention to where you are on the map… and to how far away your love interest happens to be. While you may be counting the days or hours until you can see him or her again, you should also really be counting the hours (on the clock) that separate you. If you leave the country, know what time it is before you text someone; there is nothing more frustrating that getting a 4am “Just saying hey from Seoul” text message, especially if your job requires that you leave your phone on overnight because someone’s life might depend on it. Be respectful of the life and career of the person you’re dating. We all know that traveling for work brings with it a tremendous amount of loneliness and boredom, but you want to be sure that you’re met by excitement – rather than frustration – when you return. An occasional mistake is bound to happen if you’re an avid texter, but if you do regular long haul travel for work, trade in your texts for emails. But if you’re somehow restricted to your phone and you still insist on texting, you can keep yourself out of trouble by sending all of those texts to… an email address.1C6005838-rosagolijan28FA413D-7FBA-FDD4-0A61-331979C22A42.blocks_desktop_medium

With so communication tools at our disposal, it can be hard to know the right tool to use in the right way with the right man or woman, so it’s important to use the oldest tools at our disposal – our mouths and ears – and actually ask about these topics in person when we have the chance. It turns out that in a wired (and increasingly wireless) world, that we’re all wired a little bit differently, so don’t assume that you and your date are automatically going to operate on the same wavelength. Dating is about getting to know someone, and that requires communicating, so you should actually be motivated to figure out the most efficient way to do it. In fact… the sooner you figure out the best way to communicate, the sooner you can start building a real relationship.

Modern Dating

Today I received an email from a new client who really appreciated the document that we attach to all Linx introductions, officially entitled “Linx Dating’s Hints For Successful Dates.”

The number one point I make in this guide is “When you receive your Linx introduction, throw the idea of Googling your match out the window!  Why do you think we stopped sharing last names after all?! There is something very appealing about creating some intrigue and mystery in building up to the first date. If you know too much, it can spoil the fun!”

In reading this document, the new client (a female) emailed me saying, “You are a genius–saving us from the post-feminist catastrophe one match at a time. I love your guidelines for dating! I’m sure everyone feels this way. I was concerned about Googling; since my name is unique, it’s very easy to find me.”   

While she appreciated the simplicity of my date etiquette, I just had a male client text me after he received his Linx introduction asking me what his date’s last name was. Even though this is a VIP client of Linx, I wrote back and said “you know I can’t give that information out, it is private.”

Why would he need to know? What’s the point of revealing something like that? Isn’t a completely customized bio of whom you are going out with enough, including an attached mobile number? I think, in this era, that so many of us feel the need for more. More data = more better?! More data = more comfort in knowing whom you are going out with? Or more data = I will finally find evidence that makes me not want to date this person? What is the point?

It begs the question. What did people do without the internet when dating?  Did you go to the library? Did you call a neighbor? Did you meet at a coffee shop to find out MORE information about your blind date from your friend setting you up? To expand on that, what did people do without mobile phones when dating?

Has the amount of information and technology available hurt the dating scene or enabled more opportunities, deeper resources, and aided in the quest of finding the one? What do you think?