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Evolved Dating: Driven in the Non-linear World of Relationships

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Relationships don’t follow a straight path. As I have rejoined the single-and-seeking world of online dating, I am more conscious of what is working and what is broken in the modern maelstrom of online dating apps and sites. We need an evolutionary approach to finding and building a relationship. As a type-a, or driven, person I am often seeking the shortest and most efficient path towards any goal. Dating doesn’t work like that.

What’s great about online dating?

  • Lots of potential dates
  • Readily available information about their preferences and aspirations
  • Multiple contact points and opportunities to make connections with others
  • Photos and bios that tell part of the person’s story
  • Initial chemistry – primarily based on looks and first impressions – is a fairly reliable indicator of attraction
  • If dating is a numbers game (finding that 1% needle in the haystack of potentials) online dating offers a huge pool of candidates

And what’s hard about online dating, or dating in general?

  • First impressions based on photos and bios can be misleading
  • Attractiveness is often not the best indicator of relationship compatibility
  • An overwhelming process of swiping and selecting that feels impersonal and demeaning
  • The seemingly unlimited supply of redi-dates can cause us to be more superficial in our evaluations, leading to a lot of wide misses
  • The app/site world of dating often feels more like a business transaction than a romantic quest
  • There are a lot of scammers and players in the online dating world
  • Often people are not what the seem, or what they represent online (photos that are 10-years-old, bios that lie, profiles that are created by the dating sites to keep you interested and feeling wanted – but that are not real people or potential dates at all)

If Things Are So Bad/Good How Do We Date In An Evolved Way?


DATING EVOLUTION 2: Let both partners lead.

DATING EVOLUTION 3: Listen more than you speak.

DATING EVOLUTION 4: Let go of your expectations and see what happens.

DATING EVOLUTION 5: Kiss only one person at a time.

Slow Down

I know that when I rejoined the dating world after my divorce I was hot and heavy to get reconnected to the opposite sex. I wanted to score. I wanted to score a girlfriend. And I wanted to be in a relationship, rather than just a dating situation. I dove into several “ideas of dates” that had very little basis in reality. I made assumptions based on their profile photos and stories and I didn’t look closely or objectively enough at what they were presenting to see the upcoming miss. And I went on a number of dates where after 5-minutes I was kicking myself in my mind, “How did I not see this?”

Let both partners lead

As a driven person, I am looking to make progress towards my goal at every step, every encounter. At the end of a “first date,” I’d kind of like to know if we’re a fit. Does my potential partner think we should go on another date? And in this aspirational spirit, I go in for the close. “So, shall we do this again?” I am learning that I might be better served to listen for clues from the other person rather than trying to ferret out the potential by my sheer will and determination. In fact, in my one-to-one dating experience, it is when I get too driven that I overlook some of the red flags that later seem so obvious. Driven dating can lead to bad pairings and one-sided connections. If we pause and let the other person lead we might be able to hear if they are genuinely interested or if they are merely looking for more entertainment. We all want entertainment. Some of us want that in the form of a date, even if the relationship potential is very low. I do not want to date for entertainment. My goal in dating is to find a relationship, not to date. If I drive towards a next date I might be driving towards my fantasy of how well the connection is going. If I listen more than I lead I can often hear what my potential partner is saying, rather than what I want them, or imagine them, to be saying.

Listen more than you speak

Oh, how I love to tell my stories. And in my self-imagined charm, I can spin my own tales of valor and bravery with unending enthusiasm. AND, that’s often not the best approach. On a first date last week, I made a point of listening rather than telling. I wanted to know more about her, rather than project towards her what a great man I was. This was a positive shift for me. I was aware of how beautiful and together this woman was. And what my strategy became, even before the first date, was to share less about myself initially, and hear more about her. I’m not sure how it worked with this particular woman, but she initiated the future meeting at the end of the date. She also said how busy she was and how we might not get another coffee together for a while. Okay, I can hear that. And now, I’m listening for her next opening rather than pushing for the next opening. (Evolved? Or am I missing my opportunity with this amazing woman?)

Let go of your expectations and see what happens

As I parted company from this very attractive woman of potential, last week, I also had to separate some of my ego from the process of “what’s next for us.” The reality is, there is nothing next for us. The potential is there. The initial, mutual, expression of joy and interest was there. AND, I have to move along in order for me to not get too focused on “our outcome.” She said she was busy. If I take that at face value, I have to respect her boundary and move along with my own “busy” life until she finds the opportunity, and more importantly, the desire, to meet again. If I go around the next week longing for her, or her contact, I’m doing myself and her a disservice. Let go of who we might be and let her take ownership of her busy schedule. When she sees an opening that might involve me, she can let me know. She knows I’m interested. She knows I’m available. We both made that clear. So, let go. If they find the space for you and a “next step” they will let you know.

Kiss only one person at a time

I am a monogamous partner. And the tendency might be to plant a lot of potential seeds in the online dating field to see what bears fruit. And in the initial contact stage, and in the “hello date” stage this is fine. For me, however, when this “potential” moves into the “mutually expressed intention” I begin to shut down other distractions from my relationship strategy. If there is a woman who is attractive to me, and we decide we’d like to check out “where this might go,” I will stop asking for or accepting dates. I want to be 100% present for the experience of this potential relationship. It’s how I live my life. I am going to give this woman 100% of my attention when things move towards intimacy.

We have so much potential when we start dating again. And we are filled with ambition and longing to be back in the embrace of a connected relationship. By taking things more slowly, more deliberately, and asking for mutual signs along the way, even a driven-dater like me can make better choices and find my fit more efficiently. It might be a bit like golf: the more effortless the stroke, the better the power and accuracy. I’m getting more effortless in my dating strategy and more open to the potential from the other person’s perspective.


Always Love,

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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