Dating and Mate Selection — 25 November 2007
How to make dating easier

There are people who find their mates early in life and proceed to commit and marry. There are others, who for various reasons, stay single much longer and struggle with mate selection. With the high divorce rate there are also more mature daters searching for a life partner for the second time some of whom find the selection process difficult and challenging.

Dating at any age is an emotionally trying experience. It demands courage to initiate contact with a stranger and courage to withstand rejection. Both of these discomforts are better handled by people who feel more self-confidants. However, since occasional rejection is inevitable in long-term dating, one’s self-regard may be reduced rather than increased with time.

In addition to courage, daters need: skills in finding places to meet other singles, funds, expertise in self-marketing, social skills associated with dating, tools for dealing with acceptance or rejection of interested parties, patience with the selection process, tools for early assessment of a potential mate and a positive hopeful disposition in face of frequent frustrating encounters.

Computers have facilitated some aspects of meeting and screening candidates. Those electing to use the online services can scan biographical statements and photos and reduce the dis-ease of “blind dates”. The self-promoting introductions may serve as a good screener and save people time, energy and discomfort in their personal search for the right mate.

Speed-dating events, where participants can talk for several minutes with each of a dozen or more mate seekers and then be matched with those also interested, became popular to afford greater exposure to a larger number of mate choices in the shortest time.

Yet, the abundance of candidates may have made the process of choosing a partner more difficult. Dr. Ariely states in his and colleagues’ article Romantic Desire: ”When you have all these criteria to consider, and so many people to choose from, you start striving for perfection, You don’t want to settle for someone who’s not ideal in height, age, religion and 45 other dimensions.”

So, perhaps the delay in mate selection is exacerbated not only by career development, adventure, and desire to avoid divorce, but also by greater options.

What seems to be perhaps the most salient factor in ease of selection is the feeling that one is truly desired by the other person.
All people are in love with being loved and thus are touched by having another person be enamored by them. We are flattered and drawn to those who exhibit sincere, warm and friendly interest in us.

Speed dating research by Paul Eastwick and Eli Finkel at Northwestern University found that students who showed “unselective romantic desire” (desire to go out with many people) were not popular as compared to those with “selective desire”, who showed a particular interest in a specific mate.

If you are in the process of mate selection:

• Realize that there is no perfect partner. There is a suitable and worthwhile one.
• Create a short list of desirable traits of your future mate. Be general (a kind and happy person) rather than specific about interests or likes (someone who is an avid sailing enthusiast).
• List a few (3-4) traits or behaviors that are unacceptable to you and thus disqualify, without judgment, the habit holder. Such as: a smoker or an angry person.
• Accept that mate selection is the most important choice you will make in creating the life you desire. Thus, it requires time, expenditure, energy and patience.
• Understand that ultimately the choice is going to be heavily influenced by your intuition, not necessarily only by logic – and yield to it.
• The better you feel about yourself- not arrogant- the more likely you are to attract healthier mate options.
• Deal with rejection not as a personal discount of you but as not being the right match for the other person. Remember that you, too, declined the interest of others without devaluing their merit.
• Disallow yourself to be swept away with the availability of so many mates and lose the one that is present for you.
• Assess for yourself your patterns in dating. Are you excessively critical? Not ready to commit? Satisfied with being single? Caving into the pressure of family members or friends? Insecure? Fearful? Seek professional help if you need it.
• Curb your fears and show genuine interest in others and the right one will respond to you.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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