Michael Norman

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.

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.

Text from NPR Marketplace Feature on Linx

by Shannon Service:

Online dating is a billion dollar industry, and one in three Americans met their match through websites or dating apps. But algorithms don’t always work for everyone, even in Silicon Valley.

Michael Ralston is a software designer and a client of Linx Dating, a boutique matchmaking service in Palo Alto. There’s a lot that he likes about online dating — the time to craft thoughtful responses, multitasking while chatting with someone — but he wasn’t having much luck.

So he tried Linx.

When Ralston joined the matchmaking service his wardrobe was the typical Silicon Valley uniform: jeans and T-shirts. Amy Andersen and Michael Norman of Linx dating took him shopping, got him a haircut and figured out what Michael needed to become more dateable. It is full service, top to bottom.

“Dinner reservations and recommendations, sedan bookings should they not want to drive for the date,” Andersen lists some of Linx’s many services. “Shopping for some proper hand towels, making sure the refrigerator is stocked with some decent wine.” Andersen takes clients ballroom dancing to work on rhythm and letting go.

Linx counter-intuitively brings “Fiddler on the Roof”-style matchmaking to the most connected Valley in the world, but business is booming. Andersen charges up to $100,000 for tailored matchmaking services.

Andersen hit on the idea for Linx one night during a dinner date. She is a strikingly beautiful and charming Stanford grad, yet her date kept looking over her shoulder.

“So I called him on it,” she says. “I said, ‘What are you doing?’ and he literally said ‘The BBD’. And I said ‘The whatah, whatah, huh?’ and he said ‘the Bigger Better Deal.’”

The “Bigger, Better Deal” is a Silicon Valley anxiety disorder in-which one can’t stop searching for the next hot start-up. Andersen realized that the sheer number of singles online creates a kind of dating BBD.

“The grass is always greener,” Andersen says, “there has to be someone else who’s just a little more interesting, or a little more of a better match.”

A third of Americans agree that online dating’s masses make it hard to pick just one. But if you do win the electronic love lottery, studies show online couples have higher satisfaction and lower divorce rates. So Linx offers a blend—a large enough pool to find deep matches, but not so many that clients get stuck in choice paralysis. Andersen also works with each client individually, zeroing in on their romantic pitfalls.

Her client Michael Ralston is smart, interesting and very sweet, but his weaknesses are confidence and real time communication with women. So Andersen gently hammers away at these challenges.

She runs Ralston through a mock version of the pre-date phone call.

“Ring,” Ralston says, holding his hand like a phone to his ear.

“Hello?,” Andersen replies.

“Hi Amy, this is Michael…. Amy from Linx gave me your number.”

“Oh hi Michael! How was your workday?”

“Um, pretty good. So…” Ralston stumbles, blushing.

“Tell me about it, tell me about your workday,” Andersen says.

Ralston gives up and breaks down laughing.

Andersen drops character and says, “What were you feeling right then when I said, ‘How was your day?’”

“I was like “Oh no!” to be honest,” Ralston says.

They practice the call several times until Ralston is able to go off script and be more spontaneous.

Life lessons, wardrobe make-overs, mock dates. All this costs Ralston over ten grand. But does he think it’s worth the price?

“I’ve always been socially awkward and I think I’m less so now,” he says. “It is expensive. But from one point of view, the answer to that question is—is it going to work?”

High-end matchmakers often say they successfully match up eighty to ninety percent of their clients. But what successful match means is harder to pin down.

Featured in: Marketplace for Monday September 29, 2014

Embrace Your Inner Teenager…Dating Advice for Women

iStock_000014270011SmallIf you’re like a lot of Linx members, you are (and probably always have been) a high achiever. You’ve placed an emphasis on your education and your career, and you’ve been very well rewarded for doing so. Your professional life is probably smooth and established, and you have no doubts about your value in the workforce or your place in the economic food chain. You might, however, be not quite so secure about your value on the dating market. And if you question where you stand in the social pecking order, then you probably also have doubts about if (and how) you can change that.

So many of our beliefs and notions about dating, attractiveness, and romance set in at a very early age, and unless you’re one of those rare dashing Stanford water polo players who was on an Olympic team before graduating from the GSB and starting a hedge fund, you probably – at some point – made a decision to invest more in either your Inner or Outer Self. If you were academically gifted, well supported at home, and praised by teachers, it would make sense that you followed the path that led to the most certain rewards. If, on the other hand, you were naturally athletic, attractive, and social, you might have simply chosen to develop your native talents and appeal by working out or taking dance classes, by being fastidious about your diet or learning how to wear makeup, and by extending your natural likeability through learning how to date… and to flirt.

Obviously, these are not mutually exclusive investments and skill sets. In my college class there was plenty of crossover: a future Yale law student from Calabasas who got regular blow outs and danced hip hop, a handsome UCSF-trained radiologist who studied Kafka at Oxford, played lacrosse, and worried (a lot) about his abs, and a very feminine mechanical engineer who could have been then much prettier sister of a very famous actress. But these individuals were exceptions rather than the rule. And in a sea of very talented people they stood out for being both gifted and exceptionally attractive. These were people who were setting the curve both inside and outside the classroom, which is beyond unusual. In fact, unless you’re successful because you’re sexy, sexiness and success rarely go hand-in hand.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Just because you’ve been invested in your education and achievements doesn’t mean you can’t also invest in your appearance. The good news is that a successful woman can work on becoming sexy a lot more quickly and more easily than a simply sexy woman can work on becoming successful. Men and women alike are looking for the total package – someone who is developed on both the inside and the outside. And when it comes to dating – just like in every other strategic endeavor in your life – it makes a lot of sense to work on shoring up your weakest position.

So how do you take the steps to finding your inner femme fatale? By acting like someone half your age, of course. It’s never too late to learn the lessons some people pick up in their youth; in fact, picking up some of those skills later in life could be one of the keys to seeming (and staying) youthful! So what are the secrets?

Get Sweaty
If you aren’t happy with your body, find a form of exercise that works for you, and learn to love it. Whether it’s yoga, bar method, rock climbing, dance, running, Pilates, swimming, or any combination thereof, there is an activity that’s right for everyone. And it’s ok if you’re new to it… in fact, that’s probably a bonus. Being new to a sport or activity allows you to find the fun in it, and requires that you allow yourself to make mistakes. A lot of us were forced into certain sports of activities by peers or parents at an early age, and never allowed ourselves to appreciate the appeal, but those limitations don’t exist in adulthood. It’s good to have a part of your life where you don’t demand perfection from yourself; it’s even better if that lack of perfection can still be accompanied by tremendous progress.

Get Glossy
Odds are that someone you knew spent a lot of time at makeup counters as a teenager, and that she (or he) got really, really good at applying eyeshadow and lipgloss. It’s not too late for you to do the same thing, but instead of aiming for Clinique, MAC, or Urban Decay, aim for Chantecaille, Armani, YSL, or even Lipstick Queen. Don’t be afraid to experiment a bit as you try to figure out what looks best on you, and don’t be shy about asking for advice. In fact, it’s both efficient and effective to call ahead and ask for consultation with a makeup artist at a specific counter. These are always free of charge, and if you plan properly you can show off your glammed up self that same night on a date! Also, don’t be afraid to treat yourself to a manicure, even if you work in a job that doesn’t encourage a particularly feminine presentation; pale or clear polish is a great way to assert your femininity without drawing too much attention to yourself. A little attention, however, is always a good thing. 😉

Get All Dressed Up
Have you ever noticed the way teenaged girls dress… the snug scoop-necked t-shirts, short shorts, and colorful jewelry? It’s hard not to notice, right? And that’s sort of the point. I’m not encouraging you to buy a ton of tiny t-shirts, dozens of bangles, and shorts with a one-inch inseam, but I am encouraging you to show a bit of skin and get noticed. If you don’t have a wardrobe meant for dating, you should fix that right away. And don’t be afraid to hire a stylist. A few hours with a professional can save you a lot of time – and even a lot of money – in the long run, and will leave you looking better than ever. You can even ask us for a recommendation! Inviting someone to look at you in the first step in inviting them into your lives. Visibility is essential. Do not be afraid to want to be seen; at heart, that’s the very thing that most of us crave, and it’s something younger people often invite into their lives quite naturally.

There’s a lot to be learned from observing people who are coming into their attractiveness, but don’t yet have professional responsibilities. They are focused on developing social capital, attracting the attention of the opposite sex, and learning how to communicate both verbally and non-verbally. Those of us who had our heads in books picked up an entirely different set of lessons, but it’s never too late complete your education. In case you haven’t noticed, school is back in session; so what lessons do you need to learn?