So you’ve gotten better at dating, but you can’t seem to meet “the one”… Maybe you’re focusing too much on improving the outward details of your dating, and not enough on the inward ones.
I was having drinks with my friend April a few days ago as she was regaling me with her latest dating adventures. After having recently broken up with her boyfriend, she’d been venturing back on the market and was sharing with me her latest experiences in online dating. Her most recent date had been seemingly perfect on paper… until they met in person. “He’s nice enough and we had decent chemistry, but there was always this nagging feeling in the back of my head that I was missing some red flag. Like, he was nice enough, but he kept bringing up how be hadn’t had a date in five years but he finally got up and really underwent some self-improvement regimen and suddenly he’s ready to date. It kept feeling like he was waiting for me to be suitably impressed, like he wanted me to give him a prize for having worked so hard.”
I nodded. This was something I was used to seeing in guys who’d been working on improving their dating lives: they wanted credit for how far they’d come, as though it wasn’t real unless other people acknowledged it. Hell, I went through that stage, to the point that my friends started considering fitting me with voice-activated shock collar.
“It was when he said ‘I’m looking for a woman who’s going to call me up at 2 AM and say ‘let’s go on an adventure,’” that I realized what the problem was,” April concluded. “He’s not looking for me, he’s looking for his Manic Pixie pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.”
|Dating is a mix of skill and mindset working in tandem.|
And there it was. Like many guys, her prospective date had focused on the outward aspects of improving his dating life… but not the inward ones. Dating is a mix of skill and mindset working in tandem. It’s a balancing act; skill without the right attitude and outlook means that you’re going to find yourself able to get phone numbers, possibly even some first dates, but rarely any second ones. The right mindset but lacking the skills means you spend a lot of time with women who think you’re a nice guy (but hopefully not a Nice Guy) but aren’t necessarily interested in you sexually.
Part of getting better at dating means adjusting your attitudes and outlook on life – and it can be difficult. You’re essentially trying to unlearn everything you’ve believed about yourself and about women. It’s a period of painful adjustment. And I’m going to be bluntly honest with you: you’re not going to like some of what I’ve got to teach you. But it will make you a better person.
So it’s time to examine what it takes to push your dating success to the next level. Learning the basic skill-set is Dating 101. Now it’s time for Dating 201: fixing your outlook.
Stop Expecting A Cookie Just For Meeting Base-Line Expectations
This can be a tough one for guys who’ve had a hard time dating before. You’ve worked and you’ve struggled and you’ve put in the hours so that you’re not an awkward, stammering mess who can barely look a woman in the eye, never mind actually be able to charm her into giving you her number. Congratulations! That takes a lot of hard work and mental toughness. You’ve had to persevere, you’ve had to struggle and now you’re in a far better place than you’ve ever been before. You should be proud of how far you’ve come and how much it’s taken to get you there.
Just stop expecting other people to care or reward you for it. Because congratulations: you’ve managed to pull yourself up to the bare-minimum of expectations when it comes to dating.
Yes, I realize this is harsh… but it’s true. It feels like you’ve come a long way – and you have – but you’re now only starting to reach the beginning of what it takes to be a social magnet, a playboy, a lady’s man. Once you’ve polished up your social skills, you have to answer the question that everyone is going to ask when you come up to flirt with them: what do you have to offer? Are you a nice guy? Great… but that’s like anti-lock breaks on a car; it’s an expected part of the package, not some unexpected bonus. Are you a good listener? Ok, fine… so’s everyone else out there.
To quote one of the best speeches from modern film: “Nice guy? I don’t give a shit. Good father? Fuck you, go home and play with your kids. You want to work here, close.” You want a woman to be attracted to you? Give her a reason to be. If you’ve got qualities that make you a desirable catch – actual, demonstrable qualities, not just a list of faults that you’ve managed to avoid – then you need to be able to show them, not expect her to divine them through telepathy.
Are you funny? Great, make her laugh. Are you talented? Demonstrate that talent. Don’t have one? Then go out and develop them. You have to be able to show her why she she should care about you.
This also means that you can’t expect extra credit for having been awkward or schlubby or whatever other factor made you undatable and having pulled yourself to your new, more attractive status-quo. Unless she personally knew you back in the bad old days, she’s not going to care; she’s just met you, she wants to know about who you are now. Later on, when she’s emotionally invested in you, she’ll be able to fully appreciate your origin story. Until then, it’s not appealing, its just trivia.
Don’t Expect Her To Improve You Or Fix Things
Women aren’t there to fix you. They’re not there to be your spirit guide, or to make you a more interesting person. They’re just people, same as you are, looking to make a connection in a world that often feels cold and lonely.
But guys – especially guys who’ve had relatively little dating experience – have a nasty tendency to want a woman who will change their lives in some way, shape or form.
Let’s go back to that early example: April’s date wanted to find a girlfriend who would call him up at 2 AM and say “Hey, let’s go on an adventure”. Ignoring the fact that if I get a call at 2 AM, then somebody better be fucking dying1, what he’s hoping for is for somebody to take him on an adventure. He knows his life is boring, so he wants somebody else to give it excitement. He’s hoping to find a woman who will drag him out of his life and bring him into a new and more thrilling one. He wants to find the quirky, offbeat girl to balance out his staid, repressed lifestyle.
In short… he’s looking for the Magic Pixie Dream Girl.
Guys who look for a woman to fix them or to change their lives know that they’re uncomfortable with some aspect of themselves. They’ve suppressed their emotions and want somebody to break through their wall and stimulate them. They’re dissatisfied with their lives but can’t bring themselves to give themselves permission to actually do something about it, so they look for somebody else to do it for them. They feel like they’ve missed out on some imagined part of life, so now they want somebody to help them make up for lost time.
This is an absurd amount of pressure to drop on a person. You’re basically asking somebody else to take responsibility for your life as well as her own when most of us are barely figuring out how to make it through our own lives and trying to find our own purpose and peace of mind. You want a woman who is a compliment to your life, not a catalyst to transform you into the person you wish you could be. It’s one thing to be inspired to be a better man because she makes you feel like you could achieve anything… it’s another entirely to saddle her with the responsibility of making it happen.
Moreover, this sort of outlook tends to leave you open to dating toxic individuals. When you’ve repressed your emotions to the point that you need somebody else to make you feel, then you’re going to end up with people who are over-expressive… that is, drama queens and users. When you’re waiting for somebody else to change your life, you’re giving someone else permission to reshape you how they see fit, not who you really are.
Don’t Play Games
One of the most common complaints I’ve heard from men about women is that men can never understand them – that women say one thing and do another and guys never know where they stand.
Now this tends to have one of two causes. The first is that one of you – or both of you – has a hard time expressing themselves openly and honestly. This in and of itself is a concern; open and direct communication is an important part of sex and relationships. The other is that one of you is playing games… and that’s a recipe for disaster.
The idea that you can’t be direct and open when it comes to how you feel has a long and storied place in dating lore. Pick-up artists have long lists of ways that you’re supposed to treat women in order to keep them off balance, the better to get them to invest in you emotionally. Similarly, women have books like The Rules, which advocates playing hard to get and giving the impression of artificial scarcity in order to maintain the upper hand in the relationship. “The one who cares less has the power,” goes the saying… and when you’re obsessed with trying to maintain the power, you’re just showing that you’re afraid to be open with somebody else. Either you’re so afraid of being hurt that you’re trying to control everything, or a manipulator and a user – which is worse. Relationships – even short-term ones – mean being willing to open up and make yourself vulnerable to another person; playing head games makes it impossible to have a genuine connection.
It’s better – both in the short-term and the long-term to be secure enough in yourself to be open about how you feel and what you want, without shame or embarrassment. Playing games means that you’re afraid that you can’t measure up just as yourself; it ultimately tells the world that you believe deep down that you have something to hide, because women won’t accept the real you and thus you have to resort to trickery. Being willing to be open and vulnerable tells the world that you’re confident and secure enough in yourself that you don’t fear the judgement or rejection of others – a far more attractive trait in a person.
Part of not playing games isn’t about your being afraid of vulnerability and openness, it means not tolerating games in other people. It does, after all, take two to play – one to manipulate and one to agree to be manipulated. If the person you’re interested in is always leaving you feeling confused or uncertain about how she feels, if she says or promises one thing and does another, then she’s toying with you. Her ability to play head games is contingent on your willingness to let her, and you have the ability to make it all stop… by walking away and finding somebody else.
Test Your Limits
We all like to think that we’re bundles of perfect self-awareness; that we know exactly what we’re capable of, what we’re not and just how much we can do to change things.
And more often than not, we’re wrong. In fact, much of what we think is defined by the limitations we allow rather than the ones we have. In fact, you should have already realized this, just by putting in the effort to improve your dating life. Even little things like being able to approach a stranger to start a conversation can be a milestone that you might think you could never reach. But many of those old self-limiting beliefs can hang on even in the face of the glaringly obvious. Most of our lives are made up of habits – including our beliefs; we grow accustomed to what we think we want because we were told that’s what we were supposed to want or because that’s the way it’s always been. It’s more comfortable, even if it makes us miserable, because it’s what we know.
Sometimes those limits are real – there will always be an upper ceiling to what we can do – but many times, they’re completely self-imposed. We believe that we’re stuck a certain way because it’s easier that way. We don’t have to struggle, we don’t have to take responsibility, we can just throw our hands up and say “that’s it, that’s as far as I can go.” There’s a very real fear of having to change because acknowledging that need makes us feel bad about ourselves and we don’t like feeling that way. Trying to change and failing – and ending back where you were – is in many ways even worse because that failure becomes a judgement on you, like the universe is telling you “Nice try, asshole.”
But if you want to get better at dating – or anything in life, then you have to be willing to push yourself. You have to be willing to challenge yourself and trying things that you never believed you were capable of, trying things you thought were simply off-limits to you. This means approaching that woman who’s completely out of your league. It means being pursuing the relationships you want, not just the ones you think you can achieve. It means not avoiding taking your shot because you’re afraid of rejection or failure.
And speaking of…
Be Willing To Forgive Yourself
You’re going to fuck up. You’re going to get rejected. It’s inevitable. There will be many, manytimes when you will have what seems like a sure-thing and you will trip over your dick, do something stupid and obvious and manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
And that’s all fine. It’s part of the process. It’s part of being human. Everyone fucks up. I’ve watched famous PUAs get shot down so many times they ended up giving up and leaving the club. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve been rejected, only that it’s more than I can conveniently count. Being good with women doesn’t meant that you never fail, it just means you know how to roll with the punches and how to handle things when you do screw up.
And so you have to be willing to forgive yourself.
It’s easy to be angry with yourself, to blame yourself and want to just dwell on all the ways you did things wrong… but it doesn’t do you any good. And if there’s anything I hope that you’ve taken from all my writings, is that you need to be willing to discard that which is not useful. And hanging on to all of your previous rejections, failures and fuck-ups is the literal opposite of useful.
So forgive yourself for not having been the man you wanted to be back in your bad old days. It sucked, but it’s over, and now you’re able to work towards your ideal self. Forgive yourself for all the newbie mistakes you made as you were learning; it’s part of the process of how we get better at anything we set ourselves to. Forgive yourself for the times you let yourself be played. Forgive yourself for times when you were the player. Forgive yourself for the times when you loved unwisely, or when you loved in vain.
It happened, it’s over, and it’s put you on the path to where you are now… and following that path is going to be what helps you find the happiness you’re looking for.
Originally appeared at Paging Dr. NerdLove
Photo: Flickr/Timothy Tolle