Dating on line brings up many questions about rules for dating, especially for singles over 50. These rules affirm assertiveness and taking action as the way for you to make your life happy and fulfilling. They are designed to increase the probability of finding your appropriate mate.

The rules for dating and mating in the 21st century are very different than in the 1950s.  We cannot look backward for antiquated ideas on how men and women relate to one another. We must look forward, creating our future. Just as those who do not become computer literate, Internet savvy, and social media hip, will find themselves at a significant disadvantage in business, so too will those who try to adopt rules for relationships that worked 100 years ago, find themselves without partners. Partnering in the 21st century requires creativity and forgoing gender-based roles.

Rule 1: Make Romance Happen

Portrait of happy senior couple embracing each otherIf you are going to have romance in your life, you cannot be passive. Relying upon chance meetings may make for fun romance reading or amusing romantic movies, but it is not realistic. Sure, some people do meet as “strangers across a crowded room,” and some people do win the lottery — but you wouldn’t want to quit your day job!

Just as in finding your dream house, you have to know what you are looking for, decide where is the best place to find it, look at many, do careful inspections, and then once the candidates all meet your requirements, you can fall in love with it. You don’t buy the first house that jumps in your face. In other words, if you want Mr. or Ms. Right, you have to develop a carefully thought out plan. Then take action.

Rule 2: Develop a List of What You’re Looking For

O.K., your motivated. You’ve got the idea. Now make a list of what you want in a mate. Try to come up with at least ten characteristics, such as sensitive, warm, loving, common interests, sense of humor, caring, adventuresome, intelligent, financially successful spiritual, sexual out-going, quiet, active, athletic, sedentary, etc. Once you get your list together, evaluate every potential candidate against the list. How does s/he measure up. Rate these people on a 1 – 10 scale, 10 being highest, on each of the characteristics. If s/he receives an overall score below 80 (assuming ten items on your list) and individual scores of under three, take a pass. It is very difficult for people to move from a 3 to an 8. Of course any score of zero on your top ten, is an immediate disqualifier. Also, you may have a few deal-breakers on your list. These are yes or no items that if answered in the wrong direction would be immediate grounds for disqualification. Such items as: married, perhaps smoking, alcohol or drug abuse, whether or not the person wants children, etc. Whatever you believe would place a person out of the running. Remember, never go into a relationship thinking that you will change a person. See Rule #12 below.

Rule 3: Distinguish Between Playmate and Permanent Mate

Once you have completed your list, take a good look at it and ask yourself the question, “is this a permanent mate or a playmate.” Many times we confuse the two. Playmates are folks with whom we have a good time. They are not supposed to be our best friend. We tend to do things with them rather than confide in them. We are not particularly concerned with whether a playmate has good work habits, keeps his/her apartment neat, has ambition, or wants children and family. They are playmates. They are not someone with whom you want to wake up with day after day, after day, after… Make certain that your list of characteristics describes the type of relationship you really want.

Rule 4: Make a Personal Inventory

Here’s a tough one. If you described your “ideal” mate as someone who’s an Olympic athlete and you’re a dedicated couch potato, you just may be in trouble. If you are looking for an intellectual but your idea of high level reading is The National Inquirer, you might be a bit unrealistic. Therefore, I suggest that before you head out into the world to search for Mr. or Ms. Right, you do a personal inventory. List all of your characteristics in the same way that you listed the characteristics you wanted in a mate.

Then rate yourself on each of those characteristics. And be honest with yourself.

Compare your list to the list you made in Rule #2. Is there a match? If not, re-think #2.

Rule 5: Do a Reality Check

Because we human beings are capable of self-deception, it’s a good idea to ask your friends to prepare a list describing you. Ask several. Tell them to be frank and honest, not to try to make you feel good. Once you have collected their rating lists, give them the list you prepared in #4 and ask them to rate you on a scale of I to 10 on each of your characteristics. Then compare your scores with theirs. If there is a discrepancy, then you must look into yourself to see why.

Rule 6: Make a Plan

O.K., now you’re ready to develop a plan of action. With the same commitment you would muster for seeking a Chief Operating Officer or business partner for your company, you develop a plan for finding Mr. or Ms. You wouldn’t go to a bar to find the CEO for your company or even for an office manager. Yet many people go to Suck ‘Em Up Inn on a Friday night expecting to find their soul mate. Sure, it’s possible, and you may even know someone who did. And it is also possible to win the lottery! Use your brain. Where is it most likely that you will find your mate based on your list of criteria? What kind of advertising should you do? Online dating sites,  Head-hunters (dating services)? Personal ads (classified advertising)? Word of mouth (networking)? Professional conferences and meetings (seminars, lectures, classes)? Develop your plan, stick to it, and have patience. Someone as important as a business partner or CEO or life mate is worth taking the time.

The next set of rules is designed to help you connect with your prospects.

Rule 7: Make Eye Contact

If you notice someone of interest online, pursue it.  Don’t just wait for that person to somehow find you too.  Send a message, start a conversation, get to know the person a bit more.

Rule 8: Be Honest, Be Real

Just as there should be truth in advertising, there should be honesty in relating. It doesn’t make any sense to put out an image to the world of someone you are not.

Eventually, your cover will be pulled and you will be revealed. Deception is not an endearing trait. While you do not have tell someone everything about yourself on the first online chat, or say everything on your mind, you can be honest about what you do say.

Rule 9: Avoid Instant Intimacy

Sometimes when you meet someone you might feel instantly connected. You spend time with them and feel as though you have known them all your life; you feel as though it was “meant to be.” Be careful!! These relationships feel great for the moment. Often, however, they are based on need, lust, infatuation, or other psychological process and can disappear just as quickly as they started. Intimacy, as a relationship, develops over time. You might experience an intimate moment, but just as a single pearl does not make a necklace, a single moment of intimacy does not make a relationship.

Rule 10: Attend to Your Feelings, But Lead With Your Brain

A friend of mine once said that it was just as easy to fall in love with a rich person as a poor person. The only thing that was necessary was that you surround yourself with rich people first, and then, without deviating, you can fall in love with any one of them.

The trick is to let your brain do all of the pre-screening so that you then give free reign to your feelings. In romance, people often do things backwards. They fall in love first and then have to deal with all of the practical issues that should have been dealt with up front. Afterwards, you tend to engage in rationalizations in order to make what was a mistake work.

Rule 11: Attend to His/Her Track Record

When dating someone pay careful attention to her/his record. Inquire about past relationships. How did they end and why? The best indicator of future behavior is past behavior. Don’t think that you’re so special that whatever they did before couldn’t happen to you. If your prospect walked out on his previous relationship or was violent in the past, the chances are that this pattern will be repeated with you.

Rule 12: Don’t Expect Him/Her to Change

This is a biggie. Don’t think that you can change someone. What you see is what you get, must be your credo. If you find yourself saying, once we get married then s/he will be different, watch out! Unless there is some significant intervention in a person’s life — death of a loved one, serious illness, psychotherapy — the chances are that a person will behave in a constant manner. If they are explosive, violent, sloppy, mean-spirited, shy, passive, etc. when you meet them, expect that is the way they will be in the future. A word of caution: their true colors show up later. Sometimes people are able to put on a good show and they are good actors in the short run. In business terms, they give good interview but are short on follow through. So you should be careful to give yourself time and have the opportunity to see your prospective mate in a variety of settings with a variety of people.

Rule 13: People Are Human, Don’t Expect Perfection

Be realistic in your search. If you find yourself avoiding a potential relationship because of some minor idiosyncrasy you should question your commitment to finding a mate. Often focusing on small, inconsequential details of a person’s looks or personality characteristics is a sign that we are trying to avoid either commitment or intimacy. People are imperfect, but these imperfections are what makes us human. By the same token, it is not a good idea to settle for someone that does not meet your criteria just because you are determined to get married. Is it realistic to expect that your mate be flawless?

Rule 14: Know the Difference Between Impulsiveness and Spontaneity

To act spontaneously is wonderfully exciting and fun. To act impulsively is often destructive, either to oneself or someone else. Spontaneous behavior seldom leads to disaster. Spontaneity does not override common sense. The brain must make the final decision when your feelings urge you to act. Impulsively getting married on a whim like having sex with someone without protection, can lead to disaster.

Rule 15: Distinguish Between Sincerity and Commitment

Many folks are very sincere in what they say. They speak from the heart. We are very sincere about our desire to lose weight or to save money. However, sincerity alone does not affect the scales or increase the bank account. Only commitment does.

Commitment is what you do. I have often said, “sincerity is in the heart, commitment is in the feet.” When someone tells you that they are sincere about something, watch for the behavior to back up the sentiment. Listen to what folks say and then watch what they do.

Rule 16: Socialize With Others: The Double Date

Frequently when you meet someone you are attracted to, you want to spend all of your time alone with that person. Though understandable, it is dangerous. You are getting a biased perception of the person. When we are alone with someone we tend to see what we want to see, not necessarily what actually exists. Therefore, I urge folks to double date, see each other in different contexts. We behave differently when we are with friends, relatives, and other people in general. When we are with others we get a chance to step back and observe one another. If you are serious and not being governed by impulse or desperation or lust, you will take into account the perceptions of others.

You will not discount what you see of your prospect’s behavior in other contexts.

Rule 17: Don’t Date a Married Man or Woman

If you date a married person, you can be sure that you are not interested in a permanent relationship. If a person is fooling around on their spouse, they will probably fool around on you. Married folk make for playmates, not mates. The best you can say about a relationship with a person who is married is that you enjoy yourself with someone who is not 100% available for you.

Rule 18: Don’t Date on the Rebound — Yours or His/Hers

The rebound relationship is most frequently based on the need of the person who is suffering from the loss. The person on the rebound is hurting, sad, lonely, angry, and generally upset. Dating someone on the rebound puts you in the position of care-taker.

It pulls you into a one-sided relationship with a person more involved in their own healing and desire to reduce their own pain than they are interested in you. They would be responsive to anyone who is sensitive, comforting, and understanding. Once the healing takes place, the nature of the relationship changes. Gratitude is not a good foundation for a lasting relationship nor is one built on being a caretaker. Perception is clouded when one is on the rebound. More often than not, they are looking for something to take away the pain.

Rule 19: Only Date Those With Whom You Have Something In Common

In the beginning of a relationship when our heart is all aflutter and our palms are a bit sweaty, “all we need is love, sweet love.” But this quickly fades as the reality of life seeps into our romantic connection. You can only gaze dreamily into each other’s eyes for so long, and then you may want to talk or do something. One of the cornerstones of a lasting relationship is having something in common with one another. Friendships are based on common interests, values, or ideas. Friends enjoy each other’s company and conversation. If you and your prospect have nothing in common but a roll in the hay, you might want to think about being playmates rather than soul mates.

Rule 20: Re-define the meaning of Rejection

When setting about to find “someone right for you” be prepared for many false starts.

As the saying goes, “you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince(s).” Some of us are far too sensitive to the word “rejection.” Rejection is simply another way of saying “no.” And who among us is so arrogant as to assume that no one should say ‘no’ to us? However, many of us take the word no to mean that something is wrong with us. We take it to mean, not good enough, bad, unworthy, yukky, and phooey.

We take it personally. Just as you might say ‘no’ to the offer of a piece of chocolate cake with whipped cream without implying that the cake is bad, you can say ‘no’ to a prospective mate and have the mate say ‘no’ to you.

O.K., there you have it. You have just read the short course for finding an appropriate mate. If you follow these guidelines, you will be well on your way to changing your approach to the business of mate selection.

Ed Dreyfus

About Ed Dreyfus


After more than 50 years as a practicing clinical psychologist, Dr. Dreyfus has now turned his attention to full-time writing. He has published five novels - currently working on number six - along with five nonfiction books including Someone Right for You: 21st Century Strategies for Fining Your Perfect Someone.


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