A lot of people want to know how to get a relationship. Very few ask what it takes to become the kind of person that others want to be in a relationship with. It’s a step that many people tend to want to skip, leaping ahead to the part where they learn the secret flirting techniques or things to text to that hottie on Tinder.
But none of that is going to matter if you’re not at a place in your life where people will want to date you. All the sizzle in the world is meaningless without the steak to go with it. If you want to date better in the new year, you have to devote the time to becoming someone who’s worth dating.
Over the course of the upcoming year, this site will be focusing intently on developing what it takes to become someone worth dating – the new Level Up series. Think of this column as an overview of the things we’ll be talking about that will take your dating life into the next level. We’ll be talking about mindsets, lifestyle changes and personal development that will help you become your best, most authentic self. These are the changes that will turbo-charge you for the new year… as long as you’re willing to put the effort in.
This is going to be hard. A lot of it will probably make you angry. But all of it will make you a better person when it’s over – the kind of person that people would love to be in a relationship with.
Ready to transform your life? Then let’s do this.
Get Your Shit Together
I want to share with you something I see from a lot of dudes… pretty much on a weekly basis.
I see this everywhere. I see it on Facebook. I see it on Twitter. It’s on Reddit. I even get variations of this sent to me – both in my email and posted in the comments section. Guys raging about how unfair it is that stuck-up hoes will spread their legs for everybody but them, a nice guy who’s just been pushed to the edge. Sometime’s the hate’s directed at women, sometimes at the guys they’re fucking, sometimes at people like me for “enabling” them or not demanding that sluts quit slutting around and fuck these guys who’re so clearly in need.
Pro Tip: If you’re referring to women as sluts, hoes or other colorful insults because they’re not fucking you, you’re pretty much giving up the right to call yourself a nice guy.
Strangely enough, women aren’t really that interested in fucking a simmering rage monster.
Not every example is quite that extreme, nor is it always as angry or violent. Sometimes it’s depressed resignation or shame turned inwards. Guys who are so dejected by the idea of dating that seeing happy couples makes them upset and sends them into a depression spiral.
Hey. I get it. You feel like you’ve been driven to this by the vagaries of life. It’s unfair. It’s cruel. If things were different, you wouldn’t be like this. I understand that. I’m sympathetic (well, to a point… see that winner above). But let me ask you something: how’s all that working out for ya?
You may think you’re hiding it. You may think that nobody could possibly tell how much resentment you’re carrying around or how much anger is currently simmering in your heart. You’d be wrong. Women aren’t stupid… or blind, for that matter. That anger – whether it’s directed inward or outward – seeps into everything you do. People will pick up on it very quickly and start quietly moving to the exits. It’s dating poison. Carrying these issues around is a very good way of ensuring that you’re going to be single for a very long time.
That’s why one of the first steps towards becoming someone worth dating is very simple: you want to get your shit together. If you’re carrying around a lot of anger at being single, then you need to learn to offload it. If being single is causing you to collapse inward like a singularity of self-loathing, then it’s time to learn to cope and break the cycle. You don’t need to be in perfect condition to date, but you do need to be in good working order, mentally and emotionally. This should be priority one, long before you start worrying about learning how to flirt or what to do to get someone to come home with you. If the foundation is rotten, nothing built on it is going to last.
And even if you take dating out of the picture, simply working on your mental health will do you a world of good. Imagine just how different you’ll feel if you weren’t carrying around that anger or that despair.
I fully realize that it can be hard to ask for help. I also realize that sometimes help can be hard to find. The great thing is: you have options. The always excellent Captain Awkward has a great post about where you can find low-cost mental health care. You can try self-guided options like MoodGym. There are apps that will connect you with therapists and counselors who can work with you through chats or Skype. But getting your shit together is a two-way street. You can’t just schedule some appointments and call it a day: you have to take ownership of how you feel. Women didn’t drive you to this. The universe didn’t force this upon you. This is all on you.
Yes, it sucks. Yes, it’s painful. But until you are willing to change and let go, you’re going to just be clinging to one more reason why dating success is going to elude you.
So start with your mental fitness.
That having been said…
Physical fitness is important too. One of the ways that you become someone worth dating is that you invest in your own body and get fit.
Please notice very carefully that I said “get fit“. Not “get thin”, not “get six-pack abs”. Get fit. Fitness is a far better goal than trying to reach an arbitrary number, whether it’s on the scale or pants size. Fitness is about your health, and what it does for you, not about your looks. Everybody’s physique is going to be different and fit is going to mean very different things to different people. Take a look at some of these Olympic athletes featured in Howard Schatz’ book Athlete:
Some look like models. Many don’t. But they’re all in the greatest shape of their lives. Fitness doesn’t mean looking like a Men’s Health cover model, it means being in good physical working order. It simply means that you’re not sitting around all day and letting your body fall to pieces. You’re investing in yourself and your future. You’re making a point of taking care of yourself and reaping the rewards. Cardiovascular fitness means more endurance and better blood flow, which leads to things like stronger erections and more powerful orgasms. Developing your core strength prevents injuries that plague people as they grow older. Fitness helps keeps the joints and bones strong, the lungs working, the heart pumping. Taking care of your physical fitness helps you sleep better and serves as a natural antidepressant and makes you feel better about yourself overall.
And one of the things about getting fit is that it can be as cheap as you need it to be. It doesn’t mean running out and getting a gym membership. You can work on your fitness just by taking walks as you listen to podcasts. You can start a couch-to-5k program or run from zombies. There are workouts on YouTube that you can follow instead of relying on expensive DVDs or website subscriptions. You can grab a jump rope and follow the same workout routines as world-class boxers.
Taking care of your physical fitness means that you care about yourself. It’s as much a mental outlook on life as it is about your body. You’re putting this time and care in because it’s worth doing. It becomes one of the cornerstones of building your self-confidence. You know you have value, which is why you put effort into developing and maintaining it.
And let’s be honest: if you don’t believe in your own value and self-worth… why should anyone else?
While we’re on the topic of taking care of yourself…
Work On Your Presentation
Want to know whether someone is worth dating or not? Watch how they present themselves to the world. This goes beyond just their attitude and into the care and attention they give to the face they present to others. Your physical appearance – not your physical features, but everything from your clothes to your hygiene – sends a message to the world about who you are. It’s a visual shorthand that tells people volumes about you, from your identity to your perceived self-worth. They’re symbols, and symbols have power in this world.
Some of it is cultural. A guy wearing a fedora and an unruly or patchy beard has adopted nature’s new way of saying “Do Not Touch”.
Other times, it’s an insight into somebody’s personality. We do, after all, frequently wear our tribal affiliations on our sleeves. And chests.
Guys have a tendency to see a certain carefree nobility in not giving a flying fuck about how they dress. Many take pride in the idea of “I just throw on whatever’s vaguely clean”, because it makes them more “authentic”. Their hair is cut for minimal fuss in the morning. They have more important things to worry about than looking good.
Not surprisingly, these also tend to be guys who have a hard time finding relationships. Why? Because that lack of care in their presentation tells the world a lot about them… and what they think about themselves.
It may feel like “it’s just clothes” or “it’s just hair”, but these all represent something. Clothes have power because they have symbolic meaning. Put somebody in a white coat and tell them it’s a doctor’s coat and they will actually perform better at tasks requiring concentration and attention. Tell them that it’s an artist’s smock and that performance disappears. Put somebody in a well-fitting suit and people will treat this person with greater deference because a power suit is a symbol of authority. Take that same guy and throw him into a ratty hoodie and jeans and now he’s the annoying person who’s screwing up your commute with his insane order at Starbucks.
Someone who puts no effort into how he looks is someone who’s hobbling himself when it comes to dating. How you present yourself is one of the first things people will notice about you, and that will be a cornerstone of their first impression… and first impressions are incredibly hard to shake. When someone sees you swimming in a too-large shirt you got for free at a convention and jeans that look like they’ve been crumpled in a ball for a week, they will form a distinct impression about you. When they see your unkempt hair and dandruff, they will make certain assumptions that you will not be able to shake. These will all be taken as marks against you, reasons why you’re just not going to be in that person’s dating pool.
You may be a wonderful guy with loads to offer… but everything about you is telling the world that you just couldn’t give a shit.
Changing your appearance is one of the fastest and easiest ways to make yourself instantly more attractive. You don’t even have to do that much. Spend some time at the mall or a busy street and look around. Notice the men around you – how many of them look like they rolled out of bed and into last night’s clothes? Observe how many of them wear clothes that don’t fit or who pay next to no attention to the message they’re sending with their outfits. It takes very little effort to stand out from this crowd, but that effort will make you immensely more appealing to others. Ten extra minutes in the morning can utterly transform you. Some basic hygiene, a little care for your hair and skin and you’ll be a prince among men.
Find What You Bring To The (Dating) Table
I’m not going to lie: this part is going to be harsh.
One of the greatest limitations that guys put on themselves is that they misunderstand what it takes to be dateable. This tends to come in one of two flavors.
The first is that they look at women and assume that only a certain kind of man can date. You need the right social status, the right face, the right body.
The second is that they tend to believe that it’s all about who you are inside.
None of that is true. Here’s what matters when it comes to dating: what do you bring to the table? What do you have going for you that people should be interested in? Let’s leave aside looks – even the prettiest people need more than just looking pretty; hot but empty is boring. Let’s also leave aside money. Money is good to have because of what it allows you to do, but it’s not an attractant. All money attracts is people who are attracted to money, not you.
So let’s hear it. What have you got going for you besides looks or money? Are you nice? Cool. Doesn’t help. Great listener? Lovely. Still doesn’t help. These aren’t added value, they’re baseline expectations. They come standard. You don’t get points for meeting minimum requirements. This is why we have what’s known as The Grimes Test:
You need more going for you than not having faults that other people have. You need to have things in your life that make you someone worth dating. So let’s hear it. Are you smart? Are you creative? Do you have ambition and drive? Great. Now we’re getting somewhere. So what do you do with those qualities?
See, that’s the part that trips people up: it’s not just that you are something, it’s what you do that makes you worth dating. Somebody who’s smart and creative but never does anything with it isn’t that interesting. It’s all potential, but no action. Potential is great, but everybody can have potential. A guy who can do things, on the other hand, is someone showing that he’s willing to take action. That’s one of the reasons why musicians tend to be popular: they’ve put in effort and turned potential into action. They have something to show that demonstrates what they have to offer.
So I ask again: what do you have to offer?
This tends to be the point where guys throw up their hands and say “Fine! I have nothing to offer!” Maybe you’re one of them, yelling at this article. And hey: that’s fair. Sometimes that’s the case and there’s no shame in it. But it’s what you do next that will make the difference between being single and becoming someone worth dating. If you don’t currently have anything to bring to the table, then what are you willing to do to change that?
If you don’t bring anything to the table, then it’s time to start finding something. You have to start doing things – turning potential into action. This is what separates the men from the boys: that willingness to turn frustration into something you can use. If you love music, then it may be time to learn to play an instrument.
If you love books or comics, then perhaps you should start writing or drawing. You can volunteer your time to Habitat for Humanity and start building houses. You can restore cars and learn to work with your hands. Regardless of what it is, it has to be something that you do, not just something that you are.
Yes: it’s going to take time. Time and repetition are how you develop a skill. But the process itself is going to be part of what makes you more dateable. The process is more important than the goal, because the process is what makes you better overall. You don’t need to be The Best Like Noone Ever Was in order to be someone people will want to date. That shitty novel you have sitting in a file on your computer is infinitely more better than the masterpiece that other guy just keeps talking about writing some day. The fact that you produced something at all puts you miles ahead of the others. It shows that you don’t just talk about things, you do them.
It may take time to find your thing. That’s fine too. That means you’re investing in yourself. You’re growing and improving – and that shows you have ambition. It shows drive. You may not be where you want to be now, but you’re turning potential into action, not just sitting there and waiting for it to happen for you.
Saying you have qualities is nice, but not helpful. Having skills that let you demonstrate those qualities makes you someone worth dating.
But while we’re talking about action…
Get A Life
Straight talk: if your life isn’t enjoyable right now, then you’re going to have a much harder time dating. I’ve gone into this before but it’s worth repeating: relationships aren’t magic and women don’t exist to change your world. If you’re hoping that dating is going to make your life different, then you’re not looking for a person, you’re looking for a genie.
Having a girlfriend isn’t going to change you, or make you do things differently. If you’re not doing something now, it’s not going to be different once another person is involved. You’re not going to find hidden sides of yourself because you’re dating. You’re not going to suddenly develop a yen for walking in the woods or taking cooking classes just because you’re getting laid on the regular. If you would be doing this with a partner, you’d be doing it already, because it would be something that has meaning for you. Who you are now is exactly who you will be in a relationship.
This is especially true if you’re hoping that a girlfriend will make your otherwise unbearable life better. All that’s going to do is make someone else miserable too; misery shared is misery squared.
Part of dating is that you’re asking someone to share in part of your life. If you’re not happy with how your life is now, then the best thing you can do is focus on fixing that first. Treating a relationship as the permission slip for doing the things you want (or need) to do is a recipe for misery.
So if you want to be someone who’s worth dating, think of the things you’d be doing if you had partner… and start doing them now. Thinking about taking a wine-tasting class? Cool, get started; you don’t need OKCupid to make that happen. Have visions of travelling to exotic locales? Start looking into airfares and get your passport ready. Cooking delicious gourmet meals? Start taking cooking classes. Find these sides of yourself that you’ve been dreaming about and actually start making them real.
The great thing about taking these steps and building an actual life – instead of a “maybe someday” life – is that not only does it make your life more enjoyable, it makes it more desirable. People want to spend time with folks who have things going on beyond “wake up, work, go to bed”. These people are doers. They are open to possibilities and take steps to make them happen. This says good things about them – and about what life might be like if someone were to share that life. It’s part of how you become someone people will want to date.
And hey… this is a great way to meet people while you’re at it.
Now, I know all of this sounds like a lot to take in. And it can be. But if you’re committed to making this year the year that everything changes, I’m going to be here for you. We’ll be covering all of this and more over the coming year. There are going to be some pretty big developments here, and I’m excited to be bringing it all to you.
Strap in folks. It’s going to be one hell of a ride.
This article originally appeared on Doctor Nerd Love
Photo credit: Getty Images