How to Find the Girl of Your Dreams

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Dr. NerdLove’s advice on finding someone amazing, who complements you and fulfills you in ways you could never imagine.

A question for you.

How many times have you been frustrated with the people you’ve been dating?

Seriously. How many times have you been this close to giving up on dating entirely because of bad relationships and worse dates? The toxic exes, the Ones That Got Away, the dates where there’s been no chemistry, the date you thought was amazing but ended up going nowhere. How many times have you despaired about finding someone you liked rather than someone you could tolerate? Or worse, someone who seemed awesome at the start but turned out to be a manipulative bag of evil?

What if I told you that you were going about finding women the wrong way? That the lessons you’ve absorbed through culture (or picked up from well-meaning people) are actually making it harder for you to find the relationship of your dreams?

After all, when you’ve put in all of that work learning how to be more attractivehow to dress betterbuilding your confidence and working on your banter, you don’t want to date just anyone; you want to date someone amazing. 

Here’s how to find them… as efficiently and smoothly as possible.


Know What You Want

This is a theme I come back to over and over again because, frankly, most guys don’t really think much about exactly what it is they want from a woman.

Oh sure, the obvious answer is “sex”… but that’s actually not helpful, nor is it always true. Some people want to be Hank Moody, getting laid at the drop of a hat, barely able to walk down the street without pussy falling from the skies and onto his crotch. Other people think they want the player lifestyle because… well, guys are supposed to want that. But when they actually experience it, they find that they hate it; it’s emotionally isolating, it’s draining, it’s expensive and, ultimately, they don’t find it satisfying. Others have the opposite problem; they think they want marriage, the house with the white picket fence and 2.5 kids, but they chafe under the restraint.

Why is this important? Because knowing what sort of life you want – really want – to live is going to affect the type of people you’re going to find in it… including the women you’re going to want to date and who are going to want to date you.

Knowing what you want – in detail – is important. Some people aim for the stars and insist they’ll only date someone who’s practically a supermodel, while others throw their hands up and say “I just want someone who looks halfway decent and gives me the time of day.”

All of these people are making dating harder on themselves and guaranteeing a life of dissatisfaction. They’re setting themselves up for disappointment; supermodel looks are nice and all, but looks don’t make up for an incompatible personality. Super-low standards aren’t any better; it says that you have absolutely nothing to offer other people, nor are you terribly concerned about them as individuals. By saying “I’ll take anything”, you’re telling people that you just want someone to fill a hole1 marked “girlfriend”.

I’m a firm believer in the power of words – in this case, writing down what non-physical qualities you want in a woman and in a relationship. No seriously: make a physical list. Write it out by hand. Not only does hand-writing engage an entirely different part of the brain than typing, but the act of actually writing that list down forces you to think in depth about just what you want from your relationships.

Are you looking for someone who’s outdoorsy? Someone who’s cultured? Someone who’s into sports? How about politics – do you want someone who’s not just politically active but is an actual activist, or do you prefer someone who’s less directly involved? Religion is important, too – for some people religion (or the lack thereof) is an absolute dealbreaker; if you can’t respect your partner’s religion (or they can’t respect yours), your long-term potential plummets.

It’s important to focus on non-physical aspects because personality and shared interests count for a lot more than looks in a relationship’s longevity. Most guys haven’t put much thought into just what makes a girl compatible with them; they assume that one area of compatibility (i.e. fetishizing geek girls) ensures that everything else will fall into place. As a result: you get a lot of frustrating relationships that seemed like a good idea at the start but turned into misery later on.

It also helps you identify problems that are holding you back.


This Is Why You’re Single

One of the reasons why I advocate writing everything down is because sometimes it’s a way of spotting issues that you wouldn’t notice otherwise.

There are two common problems that are often revealed when you write down a list of what you’re looking for in a woman.

The first is a case of fundamental lifestyle incompatibility, which happens when what you want is diametrically opposed to who you are. If you’re hoping for a bikini model who works out every day to keep herself in top shape and your only exercise comes from jumping to conclusions, you are going to have a very hard time finding someone willing to date you. Similarly, someone who is ambitious and motivated isn’t going to be interested in a slacker whose days are spent at a minimum-wage, minimum-responsibility job and whose nights consist of marathoning Supernatural reruns.

Despite what we’ve been told over and over again, opposites don’t actually attract; in fact, dating success correlates far more to shared interests. You don’t need to match up 100%, but the more you have in common – in interests and in lifestyle – the more likely you are to click.

This is something that comes up over and over again: guys (and women) who think dating is akin to the real-estate market; they’re hoping that there’s a magical unicorn out there who’s open to finding themselves a fixer-upper that could be awesome with a little work. A quick scan of OKCupid brings up many profiles where men are looking for women who can drag them out of their shells, add some excitement into their lives, or otherwise help them reach their full potential.

In short: they’re looking for a Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

The problem with this outlook is that women aren’t there to make you better a better person. Going into a relationship hoping to fill a hole in your life or otherwise change who you are is setting you and your partner up for heartbreak and misery. It’s incredibly unfair to expect someone to take responsibility for your life when they’re likely having a hard enough time handling their own. If you’re going into a relationship looking for someone to fix a problem in your life – whether it’s that you’re shy, you’re repressed and need to be loosened up, you want someone to help you make up for lost time or otherwise validate your existence – you’re not looking for a relationship, you’re looking for a caretaker.

You don’t want to go into dating looking for someone to complete you, you want someone who can compliment you.

One example I return to over and over again are extroverts who are dating introverts. The couples who make their relationship work aren’t the ones hoping the extroverted partner can drag the introverted partner out of their shell, they’re the ones who can balance each other out.

Solve your own issues and complete yourself. 


Looking For Love (In All The Right Places)

If you’re looking for a particular type of woman, you have to understand them. Having a list of qualities that you’re looking for in a potential partner makes it easier to find one.  In many ways, it’s like thinking like a hunter2: you can either blunder about the woods and hope to stumble upon a deer at random, or you can try to maximize your chances by finding their watering holes and food sources. When you’re looking for someone with specific qualities, then you want to go where they are more likely to gather. Bars and clubs, for example, aren’t the greatest of places to meet geeks – it’s certainly possible (especially if the bar has a pub quiz night) but the odds aren’t necessarily in your favor. By the same token however, they are the best place to meet women who might be interested in a one-night stand or hooking up that evening… something you’re less likely to find at your local Barnes and Noble.

The other thing to keep in mind: you are what you do, and like attracts like.  You are far more likely to have success in meeting the type of people you are looking for if you focus your attention on the aspects of your life that you enjoy. If you’re a reader, you’re more likely to find people you click with not just at bookstores but at author readings, book-release parties and lecture series. If you’re into movies, then you’re much more likely to meet people who’ll be into you at movie festivals. It may require some lateral thinking – where would an accountant best meet someone, for example – but your search for the girl of your dreams will be much more efficient if you’re concentrating on events that play into your lifestyle.


Screen For What You Want

Many guys have a hard time on dates because they treat it like an audition – they’re so scared of screwing things up that they can’t focus on getting to know the person sitting across from them. The whole point of a date is to make a connection with someone. At the same time, however, you want to make sure that you’re with someone who matches up with what you’re looking for – after all, if you’re looking for someone who’s intellectually curious, you don’t want to find out that your date hasn’t read a book that wasn’t required for class.

I’m a believer in efficiency when it comes to dating and spending the evening sifting through a rambling conversation for clues to whether my date matches up with my ideals like a prospector panning for gold isn’t terribly efficient. At the same time you don’t want to grill them like you’re trying to get them to confess that they stole the Maltese Falcon – it’s a date, not a police interrogation.

There’s a reason why she never got a second date with Superman…

You don’t want to force the conversation in the direction that you want; it’s boorish and obnoxious and a verygood way of ensuring your date won’t return your phone calls afterwards. Instead, I’m a fan of asking leading questions – open ended topics of discussion that help nudge things towards  what I’m really interested in finding out. I’m an obsessive reader, and I’m always looking for someone who shares my love of books, so I’m likely to ask my prospective dates “What are you reading lately?” It’s an expected getting-to-know-you question that can lead off into any number of directions – geeking out together over shared favorites, comparing favorite authors, discussing the merits of fiction and non-fiction – as well as letting me know just how much my date matches up with what I’m looking for in a relationship.

“What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?” is another good one – it’s a way of getting to know what sort of person you’re talking to on many levels; what she considers to be  ”adventurous”, whether she’s the sort of person who plays it safe or who likes to take risks, and it provides an insight into her hobbies and interests. If the most adventurous thing she’s done is going on a Peace Corps mission to build irrigation systems in the Sudan, I know she likes to travel, that she’s generous and caring and I am almost certainly more of a selfish asshole than she’s willing to put up with.

Behavior is also a way of screening for the qualities you’re looking for in a partner. The way you interact with people – and the way they respond – acts as a way of screening. I’ve talked before about how I’m a fan of antagonistic flirting – bantering and teasing as a way of building interest and attraction. The women I’m most interested in are ones who respond to that sort of interaction; I’m looking for women who will banter and tease me right back. My friend John Rubio, for example, has an outgoing and edgy sense of humor, one that could be mistaken for negging if you don’t realize he makes fun of himself more than anyone else. Like my style of flirting, it’s a way of screening for the women who have the sort of personality he’s attracted to – someone who enjoys his style of humor and can give him shit right back in equal measure.

If you’re looking for a sexual relationship for example, you’re going to want to be more overtly sexual – having a sexual edge to your flirting, being more willing to touch, being direct about your interest (while being respectful, mind you). The people who are interested in a one-night stand will respond while those who aren’t will shoot you down. Whenever I’ve talked about sexualized flirting on the blog, there were many who said “This would never work on me, I’d walk away without a second glance,” which is the whole point; those are the people that being overtly sexual are meant to screen out.

This is exactly what screening is about – minimizing the time spent on people who aren’t what you’re looking for.

Don’t Waste Your Time

If there is one universal truth, it’s that life is short and time is valuable… and you don’t want to waste time on people who don’t match your needs or who just don’t like you.

Take the example of the readers who would dismiss a potential date who was looking for a same-night hook-up. Yes, he could mask his intentions and put in the time and effort it would take to build up enough attraction that his theoretical partner might be open to the idea of sex that evening… or he could move on and find someone who is already open to hooking up with someone new that night. Similarly, there is the fascination with so-called “bitch shields” – when a woman supposedly acts rude or dismissive in a way to fend off a prospective suitor. Much ink has been spilled in the PUA community on how to “break down” those defenses and get her to like you… and all of them are a waste of time. Either she is that rude, judgmental and unfriendly – in which case, why would you want to spend time with her in the first place? – or she’s signaling to you that she doesn’t want your attention. Could you convince her to change her mind and decide maybe, just maybe she likes you after all? Yes, in theory. In practice, it rarely happens… and when it does, it’s almost never worth the time and effort it took in the first place. You could spend all evening at a party trying to convince that one woman to maybe change her mind about you… or could move on to find someone who is interested in talking to you and wants to go home with you.

Not everyone is going to like you… and that’s OK. That’s inevitable. The sooner you accept this, the easier dating becomes… because it frees you to find those with whom you are compatibleThe desire to have everyone like you, to avoid rejection at all costs, is needy behavior; it’s a sign that you need constant validation from others instead of being secure in yourself.

Rejection, at its core, is a sign that you aren’t compatible with the person you were flirting with. You may not have been their type, which means you wouldn’t have worked out in the long run. You may have a physical feature they find unattractive, which is fine because you want someone who’s into you. If they don’t like geeks, then you’re better off being rejected; after all, you wouldn’t want to date someone who doesn’t respect your passion and interests.

You have to be willing to risk rejection – or to reject others – in order to find what you’re really after.

It can be a difficult process. It can be disheartening.

But in the end, when you find someone amazing, who compliments you and fulfills you in ways you could never imagine?

That’s when you know it was all worth it.


Originally appeared at Paging Dr. NerdLove


Photo: Flickr/DenisDenis

About Harris O'Malley

Harris O'Malley provides geek dating advice at his blog Paging Dr. NerdLove, as well as writing the occasional guest review for and appearing on the podcast The League of Extremely Ordinary Gentlemen. He can be found dispensing snark and advice on Facebook and Twitter (@DrNerdLove.)

Dr. NerdLove is not really a doctor.


  1. Outside of the usual man-bashing, I have to say that this is the first nerdlove article I agree with 100%. The screening part is key. I always get a kick out of hearing some girl tell me, “Do girls actually fall for any this nonsense you’re spouting?! That would never work on a girl like me.” Ummm… yeah, it just did. Any time I’ve toned down my act to land a girl, I always wind up bored out of my mind with them.

  2. Good article for women too! Practical sense.


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