Dating and Mate Selection — 20 March 2005
Learn a lot about a potential mate on the first date

The process of determining whether your date may ultimately become your life mate starts early. Getting to know someone and appraising his or her suitability, as a potential life partner, is not as difficult as it may appear. There is a wealth of information that can be garnered as early as the first date.

Most people who date know that the first few minutes with a new person provide the quick measure of physical appeal and attractiveness. Chemistry between couples is determined quickly, personality and deeper traits are not that easy to gauge. However, if you are attentive, you will learn a great deal about your date early on.

The first basic premise upon going on a date is that this individual is potentially applying for the most important job in the world, which is to be your life partner. You need to concentrate on assessing this ‘candidate’ with discerning scrutiny. It is not to say that you need to be formal, rigid, or reserved. Quite the contrary, be yourself. Instead of worrying about what the date is thinking of you, concentrate on getting to know him or her.

People are often very transparent. They tell you in verbal and nonverbal ways who they are. All you need to do is listen well and observe your date’s behavior to get early clues about his or her personality. Since every behavior is a clue to our being, here are some simple observations that may give you great information. Remember that this data is a basis for early hypothesis to be verified or rejected later. No one bit of conduct is directly associated with a certain trait, but it may serve as an initial guide for further exploration.

A person’s style manifests itself in many nonverbal ways.
The first physical contact with a new person is often the handshake. You may experience the grip as soft and tenuous, strong and solid or tight and overpowering. Note what you experience and record it for further substantiation. Pay attention to your date’s demeanor and carriage. Does he or she appear to be confident, shy, withdrawn, fearful, playful, arrogant, or secure? These traits are often suggested nonverbally through body language and gestures. Straight forward shoulders, frontal facing toward others and comfortable posture are likely to be read as confident, while inward turning of shoulders and lowering of eyes may appear to be fearful, insecure or mistrusting. A person’s gait may suggest physical and emotional comfort. The stride may be confident, arrogant, hesitant, seductive, or calm and solid? You may gain some information about how comfortable a person is within his body, which has future implication for physical intimacy. People who do not like their physique often anticipate rejection and may feel less at ease sensually and sexually.

How attentive one is to a partner is often an early indication of one’s capacity for sharing and intimacy. Does your date seem focused on you, making good eye contact with sincere interest or is he scanning the room while speaking with you? If you feel the center of your date’s attention you may have captured his or her interest and may get a sense of the date’s potential for emotional connectedness. Does your date seem concerned about your satisfaction with your food, physical comfort, and pleasure or does she concentrate solely on her own experience? Is he a food gobbler or a food-savoring eater? It is not always true, but for some may reflect his love making style. What percentage of the time does your date spend on talking about himself as compared to asking about you? Is he open and forthcoming or elusive and secretive? This may indicate your date’s degree of being self-absorbed or other-connected, free to share or withholding?

One’s aptitude for good relationships with others reveals itself in conversation and even through the treatment of the waitperson. When talking about other people, does your date depict them as pleasant, positive, kind and good or does he view them as difficult, controlling, negative and unfair? The described people may be parents, siblings, ex partners, bosses or peers, but his view of them will ultimately parallel his view of you. Does she view herself in relationship to others as an equal, superior or a victim? If this is fairly consistent, she will most likely adopt the same approach with you. Does your date treat the waitperson with respect, kindness and appreciation or with disregard and entitlement? With time, that treatment awaits you as well.

These early clues are important to note before you fall in love. Once you do, this data will be rationalized, ignored, or lost and will no longer serve to objectively guide you in identifying the potential assets and liabilities of your future life mate.

• View the first date with enthusiasm and joy about meeting a new friend.
• Concentrate on listening well and learning about your date, rather than being anxious about how you are being viewed.
• Gather the information you glean not as determining facts, but as insights to be either supported or rejected with further data.
• Use what you learn not in terms of judgment of your date, but as an acceptability assessment.
• Remember the early warning signs, if any, and consider them seriously. They may become magnified after the commitment.
• Dating can be a chore, or great fun. Use your early hunches as guides to whether or not to offer a next date.
• Since mate selection is often the most important choice of your life, trust your feelings and intuition to guide you in finding the best possible life partner.

March 20, 2005

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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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