This article first appeared on The Good Men Project and has been republished with permission.
If you’re attempting to date, especially online (because isn’t everyone,) you’re probably throwing your phone down, screaming into your pillow “There just HAS to be a better way!” I used to love online dating — I even created a business around teaching people to do it kindly and authentically. I’ll let you in on a little secret — I don’t love it anymore.
So, how can we make dating soul-filling, again?
As our society has become more polarized…conservation versus liberal, fanatical feminism versus MGTOW…dating has reflected the same behaviors. We see someone’s face–someone with a soul and a story behind their eyes, and we are immediately forced to make a polarizing decision — swipe right for yes and left for no. But dating, just like life, is not black and white…love is found in the grey. Ken Page talks about dating our “maybe’s” but that is hard to practice when you’re trapped in algorithms.
You Might Also Like: Feminist Survival Guide To Online Dating
All we really need to decide is if we want to have a conversation with someone or not. Think about how when we’re in line at Trader Joes and someone says hello, or complains about how hard it was to find parking, most of us (even the shy and introverted types) WOULD respond if spoken to, right? Unless someone looks angry or unsafe, we don’t start wondering how suitable they are for a simple conversation, or on the other hand, if they’re our next great love.
So, if you want to join me in bringing some humanity back to dating, here’s five simple ways to start.
1. Date from a Place of Yes
We have gotten accustomed to looking for the first no. When engaging with someone online or on a first date, how many times are you looking for exit strategy? Often, we don’t even know why we are rejecting someone. How about looking for ways to say YES? Instead of getting upset he/she can’t see you on Saturday because they will be tired from helping their friend move, say yes to the fact that they are the kind of person who helps their friends with such unpleasantness. Instead of being concerned about the great relationship they have with their ex-spouse, be grateful for the emotional intelligencethey show in putting their kids’ feelings first, because it took work to get to that place. If you find yourself constantly looking for a NO, are you really sure you WANT a relationship?
2. Swipe Right More than Left
Some apps allow a little bit of info beyond a photo–try swiping right unlessyou see something that doesn’t line up with your personal values. Swiping right doesn’t mean you owe them a first date, sex or happily-ever-after–you’re just saying yes to a hello. After that, cultivate better question-asking so your exchange can give you the info you need to know before moving on to a phone call or a date. Ask questions like “What was the best part of your day?” instead of “Did you have a good day (or) Hope you had a good day.” Create collaborative conversation and resist talking TO someone and talk WITH them instead.
3. Call a Date a Date
I have long been troubled by the dehumanizing practice many dating experts teach with their quickie meet and greet. I know why some people like it, but allow me to challenge your thinking here. Remember you’re meeting PEOPLE…people who need to be treated with kindness and respect…with souls that hold value. If you prefer to do a pre-date to see IF the person is worthy of a “real date,”’ ask yourself if this method feels honoring to your soul or theirs. People also complain they don’t want to be “STUCK with someone for two whole hours” or they don’t want to “WASTE” their time. If that’s you, ask yourself if you’re really looking for human connection, or bringing negative feelings of past dating interactions to new ones. Even if your date isn’t a match, you can always learn something from your time together. Let’s imagine the next person you take on a “pre-date” becomes your next great love–what are you going to call it years from now? Your “first date?” Thought so.
4. Connecting is the Goal
Earnestly listening to your date, creating collaborative conversation, maintaining eye contact and lightly touching the hand or arm during the conversation creates connection. Thomas Merton said “If we truly beheld each other, we would fall down and worship each other.” Are you beholding the person you’re trying to connect with or looking for ways to disconnect?
5. Be Grateful
Make it your goal to leave every date, with your soul and theirs, better than before you met. Start curating a habit of expressing one thing you appreciate about everyone you’re spending time with anywhere. Gratitude is soul-filling for both giver and receiver, as well as, the key to romance with those who captivate us—and, you’ll never get to a place of taking each other for granted.
The most important dating mantra I practice and teach is, “You have to be invested in the person and process without being attached to the outcome.” Putting humanity first is investing in people even if you don’t ever see them again. We might even make humanity trendy again, but in the process, we are sure to find soul-filling love and connection along the way.