Sunday, August 9, 2009

Dating Advice From a Matchmaker

Matchmaking is coming back. And not just because people are so busy at work that they do not have the time to troll the local bars looking for mates.

People are turning to matchmakers because the dating scene is unmanageable. In a great cosmopolitan metropolis a young person can meet so many potential mates that sorting through them would be a full time job.

A matchmaker makes the selection process manageable. It is easier to choose among a dozen possible mates than it is to choose among a cast of thousands.

As economists have discovered, the more options you have the less likely you are to make any decision at all. You will be saying to yourself that you have not yet exhausted the possibilities, thus, that the perfect one might be just around the corner.

Unfortunately, this embarrassment of riches has turned some young people into serial daters. This is a problem. If you are too good at dating you will likely be less adept at conducting a relationship.

So says Patti Stanger, star of the television show "The Millionaire Matchmaker."

To her comment I would only add that people who serially date suffer serial disappointment and rejection. Serial daters have often been serially traumatized to the point where their priority is not how to find a mate, but how to avoid another trauma.

Given that most people want to form relationships, matchmaker Stanger has written an article apprising young women of their more common dating mistakes. While I would prefer that young people not think about avoiding mistakes-- because it is better to embrace good habits than to avoid bad habits-- Stanger makes some excellent points. Link here.

Among others she tells young women that they should not expect to meet men when they go out to dinner in packs. Few men will risk intruding on a group of a dozen women.

Men will simply not want to take the risk. A woman who is involved in a closed conversation with a bunch of her closest friends is saying that she has chosen to spend the evening with them.

Stanger recommends that a young woman go out by herself, sit down at a bar, and open a copy of "The Da Vinci Code."

It may be a good conversation starter, and it is certainly better than reading the latest issue of Marie Claire, but most men will find it strange that a woman would be reading an outdated book.

I also disagree because Stanger seems to be advising young women simply to go to the other extreme from going out in a large group. If the latter makes a woman too invulnerable, sitting alone at a bar will often make her feel too vulnerable.

It is better to find the mean between these extremes, and to amble through a museum, browse a bookstore, or better, attend a class or a wine tasting where you have an opportunity to meet other people naturally.

Next, Stanger offers some excellent advice. Too many women, she says, overshare. After a few drinks and an animated conversation they think they have found a soul mate and pour out their heart and soul to him.

Once a woman does that-- making herself too vulnerable, as it happens-- she will expect that her date will reciprocate. And there is some truth behind her expectation. Human relationships are based on reciprocity; we connect by exchanging gifts and reciprocating when people offer us hospitality.

But if you take things too far, if you offer too much of yourself to someone who is not inclined to share as much with you, then your confession is really a demand.

Once something is implicitly and imperiously demanded, it cannot be offered freely.

Turn the situation around. When a man overspends on a woman-- men are far less likely to overshare-- is he not trying to put her in a position where she will feel obligated to offer her favors in return?

Most women will reject men who are trying to buy them with extravagant gifts. The same applies when a man is faced with a woman who is giving out too much personal information. He will reject her.

That is the only way he can feel that he is not being bought.

Once you understand how reciprocity works in a relationship or on a date you can use your knowledge to keep the situations under control.

If you want to know the other person better, begin by making a small offering, a small piece of information about yourself. Then sit back and wait to see if it is reciprocated.

If you mention something about an incident with your pet snake you should expect your date to disclose something about his own experience with pets, even if it is his regret at never having had a gerbil.

If your disclosure is not reciprocated, you know that you have overstepped. Then you should shift the conversation away from childhood memories on to more neutral ground... sports, the weather, a good book, the financial crisis. Anything will do, as long as it is less personal and less direct.

One thing for sure: do not follow up your oversharing with the inquisition you believe you have just earned the right to inflict on him.

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