The Dating Game: How to Attract the Right Partner

Suppose you want to catch a fish, any fish. You don’t have a particular species in mind, you just want to experience the thrill of a tug on your line and the battle of reeling in some creature that is trying to swim away. If you’re just in it for the thrill of the hunt, then you should bait your hook with something that is liked by many kinds of fish. It doesn’t matter what you catch, because once you conquer the thing, you’ll just chuck it aside, not caring in the least what happens to it.

But suppose you are only interested in catching a specific type of fish. When this is the case, you should be very selective about how you bait your hook. You’d be wise to choose a lure that strongly attracts the species you want, while repelling as many other species as you can. If you pick something too commonly liked, you’ll end up having a lot of unwanted fish nibbling at your bait, and then you’ll have the hassle of having to go through the whole reeling in process many times before you can get the fish you want.

Strategic baiting is an important concept for the serious fisherman. It’s an equally important concept for the serious dater, because in dating, the kind of lure you use to attract partners towards you will greatly impact who takes interest in you. If you use the most common and most popular lures, you will attract high numbers of partners, most of which will be very poor choices for a longterm relationship. To attract high quality partners, you need to put careful thought into the kind of lure you use. But before we can even continue talking about this, we need to sort out some basic issues.

Identifying the Goal

While dating is often promoted as “fun and exciting,” in real life, it’s often an activity that is riddled with stress and anxiety. It’s very easy to burn out on dating and end up feeling very jaded and bitter about the general human race after you’ve had enough failures. And yet dating is a critical tool for deciding if someone is a good choice for an intimate partner. Dating can’t be avoided, but it can be approached wisely.

Now what kind of advice you get on dating will vary widely depending on who you ask. When you ask me for dating advice, you’re asking someone who cares about pointing you in a direction that will be best for your overall well-being in the longterm. You have multiple elements to your being: mind, body, and soul. Each of those elements have specific needs, and the best partner for you will be someone who treats you in a way that will have a positive impact on all of your elements. Sexual flings can feel good to your body, but they can have very negative impacts on your mind and soul in the longterm. If you have certain psychological issues, physically abusive relationships can feel attractive to your mind, but they will have a detrimental effect on your body and soul. So you see, choosing a good partner is far more complicated than just going with someone who makes you feel good. When feeling good is our primary focus, we usually end up obsessing over partners who are currently making one or two parts of our being feel very excited while discounting the needs of our other elements. To choose wisely, you need to treat all three of your elements as equally important and look for a partner who will treat you well overall.

Three Basic Needs

To give you an idea of what you ought to be going for, here is a very simplified breakdown of the needs of your three elements:

Your BODY wants to feel good and be safe. The right partner for your body is someone who will treat your body with respect.

Your SOUL needs to respect you as a moral person. The right partner for your soul is someone who will encourage you to follow your own moral convictions without them trying to control what those convictions are. The closer your partner’s personal moral code is to yours, the less friction there will be between the two of you. Major differences in soul values leads to all kinds of distress.

Your MIND cares enormously about your safety. Safety is not just a physical issue. Safety is an emotional and psychological issue as well. All humans have weaknesses, fears, and wounds. A partner who is going to be good for your mind will be one who accepts that you are not perfect, and one who respects your wounds and puts effort into trying not to make them worse. At the same time, a good partner will encourage you to keep working on your issues instead of encouraging you to stagnate. Your mind is very adaptive and it is constantly revising its behaviors based on new information it receives. A partner who treats you respectfully and sensitively will cause your mind to start feeling safe. The safer your mind feels, the more resources it will feel it has to try to work on resolving its own pending fears and hurts.

Now when your mind is stressed, it comes up with ways to cope with that stress. Many of the methods minds use to help themselves get through the day are very negative. When you’re caught up in negative coping methods, it’s easy to feel attracted to a partner who encourages you to keep using them. A classic example here is when a sadist hooks up with a masochist and they both settle into a dysfunctional pattern of abuse sessions. Both sadism and masochism are attempts to deal with unresolved psychological distress. In both cases, minds feel very unsafe in the world at large, and they are trying to cope with their intense feelings of vulnerability by seeking out situations in which they can either dish out or receive physical pain. To a stressed out sadist, finding a masochistic partner can bring real relief to his mind. But the act of constantly abusing another human being will have a very negative effect on the sadist’s soul. What the sadist really needs is a relationship in which he is safe and respected while also being pushed to work on his unresolved issues. The right partner for a sadist is going to be someone who refuses to put up with abuse, but at the same time has sympathy for why the sadist feels a desire to abuse. And if you’re thinking, “Good grief, not many people would fit that description,” you’re right. Good partners are far outnumbered by bad ones. But good partners are out there and you can attract them. But first, you have to genuinely want one.

So here’s a critical question: do you want to just grow old or do you also want to grow up? Do you want to stagnate in your current issues and watch them grow worse and worse or do you want to pursue maturity and try to become a better version of yourself? Until you sincerely want to mature, you won’t enjoy the right partner for you, because the right partner will push you to mature. Partners who push you to mature balance sincere compassion for your struggles with a refusal to let your personal issues run the whole show. For example, the right partner for a jealous woman is a man who refuses to let his wife control his social activities. Because the woman is insecure, she wants to personally monitor every social interaction her husband has, she wants to choose all of his friends for him, and she wants to keep him far away from other women. If the husband were to let his wife do all these things, he would only be encouraging her to regress in her personal development.

Real love is when you sincerely desire what is truly best for your fellow human–not just for one part of them, but for their entire being. This is why real love draws boundaries, initiates break ups, speaks tough truths, and pushes its targets to continuously mature. Real love causes you to care so much about the well-being of your partner that you would rather go through the pain of losing them than help them destroy themselves. The right partner for you is one who will give you real love, but that means you’ll also get a swift kick in the bum at times when you’re being a pill, and you’ll be expected to take responsibility for your part in arguments and problems. Real love cares deeply, but it refuses to grovel and it doesn’t dish out cheap flattery. Real love fights for the relationship and is willing to push through some ugly storms of conflict in order to get down to the root of problems. When you’re in a relationship that is centered on real love, conflicts are inevitable, but they will also be a lot more fruitful than the kind of fighting that goes on in other relationships. Relationships built on real love also require that both partners do a lot of introspection and face up to the reality of their own shortcomings and issues. Real love is not for those who want to stay in denial about their baggage or to have partners who will always accommodate their needs without making any demands.

So then, to mature or not mature: that is the question that you need to seriously ponder before you start or continue on in the dating game. Because until you know what you really want, you won’t be able to sort out the best way to go about finding it. And while it’s easy to say that you want to grow up, unless you actually do, you will not be attracted to the right partner for you, nor will they want to stay around you.

In the world of human relationships, maturity attracts maturity, and functionality attracts functionality. In both cases, the desire to mature and be functional is far more important than how good you currently are at those things. You might currently be a mess, but if you sincerely want to improve, then you and the right partner will both push each other forward in life. But if you don’t really want to mature, you’ll instinctively do things to try to drag the right partner backwards in their own development while you resist all of their attempts to help you. So you see, who you want to be is a very critical issue, and one that only you can sort out. Someone else can’t reach inside and set your priorities for you. Only you can decide what your personal goals will be in life, and growing up is the wisest goal you can choose.

Attracting the Right Partner

Let’s assume that you actually want to mature in life. How do you now go about attracting the right partner? These particular fish won’t be attracted by any random bait. In fact, you will actually repulse the right partners if you use the wrong kinds of bait. Notice I used a plural partners right there. That’s because there are many people in this world who would be fabulous choices for you. Forget this utter nonsense about there being only one true love out there. In real life, there are thousands upon thousands of humans spread all over this world who would be great choices for you. So it’s not like there’s no room for you to blow it by taking the wrong approach. There’s plenty of room for blundering, so don’t let anyone discourage you with guff about how “all the good ones are taken.” Not only are there countless “good ones” out there, but more are becoming available all the time as ones that were taken lose their partners through death or divorce or some other crummy turn of events.

Now one of the main things that go wrong for folks who get frustrated in their search for the right partner is that they give up too soon. As a counselor, I’m always apprehensive when people say they married their first love, because the first person someone develops serious feelings for is usually not the right choice but a major mistake which they settle for because they think no one else will ever take them. Flops are actually an important part of the dating experience, so if you’ve already struck out several times, you shouldn’t be viewing that as a terrible thing. It’s by meeting several wrong partners that you get much better at recognizing and appreciating the right one. The key is to learn from your failures.

How do you get good at driving a car or riding a bike or drawing faces? By practicing and making a bunch of mistakes. No one attempts a complex task and nails it the first time. This is why marrying the first person to ask you out simply because they are the first is a bad idea. When you go out on a date with a guy who talks your head off, you learn something useful: that you really don’t like one sided conversations. This is a good insight, because functional relationships balance the power between both partners, giving both a chance to express themselves. Sure, you knew before going on a date that you like to get a word in edgewise. But experiencing just how annoyed you feel when someone refuses to share the floor with you causes you to think more seriously about how important the issue of balancing power is to you. Now you probably won’t think of it in those terms if you’re not a counselor like me. But while you’re fuming over the hours you wasted as a captive audience, you’ll actually be getting in touch with how much you care about having a fair share of power in your relationships, and that is a good thing. When your next date gives you an equal chance to contribute to the conversation, you’ll suddenly appreciate that quality more than you did before you suffered through Mr. Blabbermouth. It is the bad dates that help you better define for yourself what a good date feels like.

Now with so many relationship advisers promoting the wrong priorities, it’s easy to get led astray by lousy dating advice. With books and movies doing such an abysmal job of portraying how functional relationships actually work, imitating techniques that you get from those sources will often blow up in your face. I’m now going to run through some of the common date baits, so you can get a better understanding of the effects these things have on the right partner.

Baiting with Sexual Seduction

The genders do not view sex the same way. Males have a biological need for far more sex than women do. This is mainly due to the way male and female reproductive systems work. While women drop a new egg once a month which is then reabsorbed into the body, men are constantly producing and storing sperm. When they reach maximum storage capacity (which can occur in a matter of days), they begin to experience a physiological need for sexual release.

Women are often quite familiar with the difference between eating for emotional reasons and eating to satisfy a physical need. For women, the desire for sex is often much closer to emotional eating than it is to the eating you’d do to satisfy physical hunger. For men, the reverse is true: sex is often far more of a physical need than it is an emotional one. This is not to say that there isn’t a strong emotional element to sex for men, because there is. But it is vital to understand this major difference in how the genders view sex because it will help you understand why using seduction as bait in the dating game is a bad idea.

Women are commonly taught that a smart way to attract men is to dress in ways that draw attention to their sexual organs and anatomical curves. It is very true that you will attract a ton of male attention if you wear skin tight pants and low cut or see through shirts. Males are designed to be far more visual than females, which means that they experience a “wow” factor around naked female bodies that females simply can’t dial into. A good way for ladies to understand this is to imagine going on a forest trek with a friend who is a passionate biologist. Your friend’s deep understanding of plants, animals, and many of the fascinating processes that go on in the natural world will cause him to get far more excited about mushrooms, spider’s webs, and lizards than you will. Sure, you can appreciate the pleasantness of the general forest scenery, but you don’t stop to marvel at the fabulous shape of the large twisty root that nearly tripped you. You don’t find it so cool how there are layers of rotting debris carpeting the forest floor. You don’t stand around pondering how many conversations trees are probably having with each other via their root systems. To you, the scenery is just nice. To your biologist friend, it’s a fascinating world of complex processes.

When men look at bouncing butts and breasts, they are seeing something women can’t see, and what they see is very appealing to them. Men feel automatically sexually aroused by certain aspects of female anatomy–not because they are lusty little perverts, but because they have a God-given ability to appreciate aspects of His design that women simply can’t. Women who don’t understand how men are wired read all kinds of dark and shady motivations into the automatic head turning that men do when their eyes start following the sight of a passing woman. But when men do this sort of thing, it’s no different than the way women automatically stop and stare at some striking bit of art or an amazing sunset.

Once you understand the natural male ability to see a “wow” factor in basic female anatomy, you can appreciate how meaningless it is that you can get a bunch of male eyes to latch onto your body if you intentionally wear clothes that cup and/or enhance your natural curves. When women “dress to impress” they are trying to do more than just stir up a basic instinct that is common to all men, and yet that is all you are accomplishing when you try to up your sex appeal. Due to the way God wired men, you simply don’t have to put enormous effort into looking “sexy.” Males are already programmed to find females sexually appealing. Sure, each man has his personal preferences in physical features, just as women have theirs. But such preferences end up being quite meaningless as a relationship progresses. You might generally prefer blondes over brunettes, but when you meet a brunette who treats you well, you will find her character to be far more important than her external features. You might think you could only feel attracted to taller men until you meet a shorter man who treats you very well and suddenly you’ll find that you stop caring about the whole issue of height.

When you flip through photographs of strangers, you’ll gravitate towards certain features that you like better than others. But if I were to show you the face of someone who is your definition of “very attractive” yet the person has done very wounding things to you in the past, your response to their picture will be quite negative. In the same way, I can show you the image of your best friend who happens to be your idea of “unattractive”, yet you’ll feel more positively towards that person than you do the face of an “attractive” stranger. The point is that physical preferences do exist, but they are easily overshadowed by other factors. If I give you the choice of eating your favorite food in a hostage situation or eating a food that is nice but not amazing in a setting among friends, which are you going to choose? Your food preferences haven’t changed–you still love spaghetti best, but the taste of your food isn’t the most important factor to you. In fact, you really won’t enjoy the best spaghetti in the world when there is a gun pointed at your head because other factors about your situation will cause the importance of taste to feel drastically reduced.

It’s quite true that some degree of sexual attraction must exist for an intimate relationship to go well. Some people simply leave you feeling sexually flat or cause you to feel sexually repulsed. Trying to force yourself to engage in sexual relations with someone who strikes you in those ways is a bad idea. But giving up on a relationship just because you don’t instantly feel sparks is also foolish. Sexual attraction is heavily influenced by psychological factors. The mind’s influence over the sex drive is so great that it can even override the natural male need for frequent sexual release and any influence your culture has had on teaching you what handsome and beautiful look like. Because the mind plays such a powerful role in shaping your sex drive, your sexual attraction to someone can drastically change as the relationship progresses. This is what happens in cases where someone who you always viewed as just a friend suddenly starts to attract you sexually. This kind of shift is also quite common in dating, with one person often feeling unattracted to the other until more information is exchanged. As the dating partners discover that they share many interests and passions, the person who didn’t feel any sparks of sexual attraction begins to feel that kind of attraction developing. In other words, how comfortable your mind is with someone has a lot to do with how excited your body is by them.

Now it’s vital to realize that fear can also trigger sexual arousal, which is why you cannot use your sex drive as a measure for someone’s character. The fact that you are strongly sexually aroused by someone does not mean that they are a good, safe, or functional person. It simply means your that sex drive is getting triggered by something, and that something could be good or bad. Pedophiles get strongly aroused by certain groups of children due to surges of internal panic. Serial rapists get strongly aroused by individuals who make them feel scared and vulnerable. Sex addicts get strongly aroused by specific traits or characteristics which they are attaching all kinds of symbolic meanings too. These kinds of arousal are not indications of healthy relationships, but signs of unprocessed psychological distress. So it is quite foolish to say “The fact that I’m so turned on by him must mean he’s a good person” or “I couldn’t be this attracted to a woman who was bad.”

The goal of sexual seduction is to get your date to hyperfocus on how sexually aroused they feel. In other words, you’re trying to get them to focus on the most fickle, changeable element of their perspective of you. And while you’re getting them to focus on their feelings of arousal, you’re making it impossible for them to think seriously about the things that actually matter–things like character, common values, and common interests.

With psychological factors being equal, it is much easier to seduce men than women because men have a greater physiological need for sex. This isn’t a slam on male character, it’s just one of those realities. Just as you’ll have a much easier time selling a hamburger to a hungry man than to a man who just ate a good meal, it’s much easier to hook a man with the offer of sex than it is to hook a woman who has a much less frequent need for that kind of release.

Now if we throw certain very common psychological issues into the mix, everything changes. A female sex addict can be far easier to lure with sex than a male who is not a sex addict. And while women are busy trying to seduce men by using visual factors, men are very good at seducing women using emotional factors.

I said earlier that sex for women is often more of an emotional need than a physiological one. Women tend to see sex as an expression of affirmation, value, and emotional commitment, while men can view it as a means of satisfying a physiological need. The value of sex depends on what impact it has on you. How sex impacts you is directly linked to what kinds of meaning you attach to it. At the end of the day, the physical release is the least important aspect of a sexual interaction. What meanings each partner attaches to the physical exposure, touching, and sensations are far more important.

In a healthy intimate relationship, partners will have had a chance to synchronize their view of sex during the stage of the relationship when they were getting to know each other. In a healthy intimate relationship, sex is only introduced after a strong emotional and psychological bond has been established and after each partner has had a chance to share their view of sex and what it ought to signify.

When two virtual strangers jump in the sack and go for it, no synchronizing has happened and no meaningful bond has been formed. In this kind of situation, there is often a vast difference in how the two partners are viewing the same sexual interaction. The major difference in perspectives often results in a difference in expectations. She thought it meant he was really into her, when he was just getting relief from sperm pressure. So when he doesn’t call and ask her out again, she is crushed, while he couldn’t care less. Or there’s the common scenario where she thinks she is paying the required price to keep him interested, while he is losing all respect for her because she is so cheap and easy. And there are countless scenarios in which psychological trauma is involved and suddenly she is symbolically trying to get the love daddy never gave her by getting some random male to touch her affectionately. Or he is trying to sort out his confusion over mom molesting him by feeling dominant and powerful in a sexual interaction. The list goes on and on, but because no one is talking, nothing good is being accomplished in the relationship. It’s just basic usury with no concern about the other person’s well-being.

When you use seduction, you’re pushing yourself and your partner to focus on the least important aspect of your relationship, and as a result, you’re not thinking about the important issues. You’ll never successfully attract the right partner using seduction, because the right partner will feel repulsed by you trying to control them by manipulating their sex drive. Functional people understand the value of things like common goals and interests, and they don’t appreciate you trying to distract them from these issues by bringing every topic back around to sex. When you try to seduce a functional person, you come across as shallow and evasive–two traits that are quite off-putting to someone who is looking for a deep, meaningful connection.

Baiting with Total Transparency

Another common lure that people use in dating is total transparency. This is when you bare heart and soul to your partner very early on in the relationship, telling them your deepest fears and secrets, and quickly downloading all of your sensitive information into their minds. As a result, you give a virtual stranger the power to massively harm you in just a few encounters, while they remain mostly unknown to you.

If you want to send functional people sprinting away from you in alarm or send a message that you are a high maintenance person with major hang-ups, this is the ideal lure. If you want to attract the right partner, then you need to learn to start treating sensitive information about yourself like the last precious ration of food when you’re trapped in a collapsed mine: slice it up into many tiny bits, and allow some time to pass before you bring out another piece.

The right partner for you is someone who will be willing to share the power in their relationship with you. Information is one of the main forms of power that humans have. When you share too much too fast in the name of being “totally honest,” you unintentionally throw the power way off balance. By sharing too much about yourself, you arm your partner with a ton of power. This forces them into a position of having to share a ton of personal information about themselves in order to bring the power back into balance. And yet it is a very bad idea to share highly sensitive information with someone you do not trust, and trust takes time to build. By dumping all of your secrets out into the open very fast, you are pressuring your partner into sharing all of their secrets before you have had a chance to prove you are trustworthy. A wise, functional person will refuse to give you a free pass on the trust issue. Trust is the foundation on which intimate relationships are built, so without trust, you have no solid ground to build on. This is why bypassing trust is a terrible idea, and yet you just made it impossible to get your relationship back into a healthy balance by dumping the truck so soon.

There are many ways to sabotage a relationship without meaning to, and sharing too much too soon is a classic example. If you think you tend to fall into this trap, I strongly recommend that you read my book on relationships, as I use many examples to help you understand how to balance relationships well. I simply can’t get into the necessary level of depth in a blog article, but the basic idea is that you need to learn to share one small bit of information at a time, and wait for the other person to reciprocate before you then share another bit. You also need to match the degree of sensitivity in these exchanges. For example, if you share the gut-wrenching story of how your baby sister drowned in a pool, you just shared a highly sensitive piece of information about yourself. Your own emotional reaction to the information determines how sensitive it is. Highly sensitive facts about yourself are things you can’t share without feeling emotionally upset. You shouldn’t even be getting into the highly sensitive stuff in the early stages of dating. Early on, you need to test your partner’s trustworthiness with less sensitive material. But now suppose you do sob your way through the story of your baby sister dying only to have your partner then say, “Wow, that’s terrible. By the way, I have a pet lizard.” Did they just reciprocate with a new fact about themselves? Yes, but it was not in the same category of sensitivity. You shared a highly sensitivity bit, while they shared a fact that they would be totally fine posting on the worldwide internet. The power is now swung in their favor, and it will not balance out again until they share a highly sensitive bit with you to balance out what you just shared. And yet if this is early on in the dating relationship and your partner is functional, they will probably refuse to share anything highly sensitive with you because, again, there is no trust. See how messy things get when the power swings out of balance from one-sided sharing? Now you’re sitting there feeling awkward and overexposed, while they’re thinking that you are an emotional train wreck.

Suppose you’re playing a card game in which the goal is to hide the fact that you have any royalty cards in your hands. Every time it’s your turn, you must put down one of your cards. If you put down a royalty card early on, won’t your partner logically conclude that your hand must be all royalty? Why else would you expose a royalty card so early on when the goal is to keep those cards hidden until the end? For you to share so early implies you were forced to because you had so many royalty cards that you had nothing else to put down.

Functional people instinctively understand how the sharing of sensitive information is supposed to work. When you share highly sensitive bits early on, it’s like you’re cuing the other person that all you have is highly sensitive stuff. You come across like an unprocessed mess who is going to have frequent emotional breakdowns and require an enormous amount of propping up. When your partner gets that message from you, they feel like you’re saying, “I plan to do most of the taking in this relationship while I’ll expect you to do most of the giving, sacrificing, and counseling.” Functional people will be repulsed by this offer, because it makes you sound like someone who is refusing to do your share of the work. Now this might not be who you are at all–you might be more than willing to step up and carry your weight. But by giving such a false impression of yourself, you send your date running to freedom before they have a chance to get to know you better.

Baiting with Moral Character

To attract the right partner, moral character is the lure you want to use. In this scenario, you encourage discussions that will bring out what people’s personal values, goals, and priorities are. You also look for opportunities to treat your partner with respect and compassion so that they can see hard evidence that you understand what those things are.

When you’re trying to attract someone using your inner character, you need to dial down the focus on sex appeal. Modest clothing is a very good strategy here. A man who is looking for a woman of good moral character will be attracted to a woman who keeps her chest out of his face so that he can focus on more important issues. A woman who is looking for a man of good character will feel respected by a man who comes across as valuing her inner character instead of focusing only on the externals she was handed at birth. After all, it’s not like any of us chose our genetics, so to be rewarded or rejected for things we had no say over gets tiresome very fast. The right partner will want you to value their inner person more than their externals, and they will do the same with you.

If you want to experience a functional relationship, you need to make personal maturity one of your top priorities in life. Once this is where you are at, you will attract like minded partners by using your own desire for maturity to lure them towards you. There are many ways to cue people that you value moral character and personal growth. These things are often communicated by discussing what your life goals are, and what your moral assessments were of various situations. Listen to the difference in these statements:

“I just have one sister: Britney. She is such a selfish cow. I can’t stand being in the same room with her.”

“I just have one sister: Britney. She’s had a tough time of things, and she’s not a very happy person. We’ve never gotten on that well.”

The first response sounds childish and uncaring. The second response sounds honest yet gracious and suggests the speaker has grown up enough to appreciate that people’s personal struggles in life can greatly affect how pleasant they are to socialize with.

Now listen to the difference between these responses to the question “What’s most important to you in life?”

(baiting with seduction) “Wow, great question! You’re such a deep person. And you have such gorgeous ocean blue eyes. Mind if I ask how often you work out? I mean, you do work out, right? Because you look so strong and capable. I sure would feel safe wrapped up in those arms every night.”

(baiting with transparency) “Most important? To make something of myself. To press on through all of the sucking holes of suicidal despair, no matter how many more I have ahead of me. I don’t want my daughter to one day walk in and find me swinging from a rope like I saw my mom doing. That’s such a horrible experience for a child. It destroyed me, you know. And my father, who shot himself three months later. It’s just me and my manic-depressive brother now. I’m his anchor in the storm. Without me, he’d be lost.”

(baiting with moral character) “I want to keep growing personally. To keep learning from my experiences and try to make wise choices. I like the idea of making a positive difference in the world, but I think the biggest difference we can make is by setting a good example through our own choices. I think who we are internally is far more important than how much stuff we have or what we’ve accomplished.”

Which of these answers is most appealing to you? Which of these people would you want to keep talking to?

You have many aspects to yourself, and in the process of developing an intimate bond with someone else, all of those aspects will need to be discussed. But the goal of dating is to try to attract someone who you want to invest that kind of time in–someone who seems like they could be the right choice for you in the longterm. We all have problems and issues, but when we lead with these things, we push the right partners away from us. When we put our moral character out there first and lead with that instead of with our sex appeal or with our willingness to share every detail about ourselves, then we attract partners who respect the values we want to pursue.

First impressions matter. How you choose to summarize yourself to someone on a first date paints a picture of your priorities, self-esteem, and general functionality that will either attract or repulse the right partner. When you advertise your sex appeal, you attract partners who are only interested in that aspect of you. When you give away all the power by sharing too much too soon, you attract power hoarders who are looking for someone to abuse. But when you put the focus on your life goals, personal priorities, and moral code, you attract others who also enjoy focusing on these things. You also get to the important topics much faster than you do if you spend your whole time flirting, and you quickly drive the immature and dysfunctional people away from you.

The correct reason to date is to find a good choice for a longterm intimate partner. When that is your goal, it’s important to think about what topics you want to discuss during a date. In dating, we are interviewing each other, looking to see if we click or not. If we do seem to mutually like each other, we start roleplaying what we’d be like as a seriously committed partner. We start smoothing out communication problems, we give and receive various forms of respect, we practice listening, we offer support, we practice compromising, and we build trust as we share more and more insights about ourselves. Along the way, we test the claims the other person makes about themselves, we uncover challenges that we will have to work around, and we learn through experience how good we are at working together as a team. If all goes well, we get legally bound together and we finally bring sex into it. By then, sex will have a much different meaning than it could have had if we’d made it our main focus from day one.

Dating takes time. It is exhilarating and it is exhausting. But when you feel discouraged, stop to appreciate the massive thing that you’re trying to do. Intimate relationships are beautiful things. They have the greatest potential to satisfy and benefit both partners, but they also require the most work to maintain. It’s not reasonable to expect to land one of those complexities in the first few tries. But stick with it, because when you do end up finding one of those thousands of people living in the world today who would make a fabulous intimate partner for you, you will be so glad you didn’t give up. Human relationships can be utterly exasperating, but they are also the greatest blessings we have in this world. The good ones are definitely worth waiting for.

This post was written in response to a request.

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