Cast a wide net or filter with care?
Dating is a lot like trawling for fish. You’re looking for a catch and want to use a net that will let the other fish pass right through. The portion of your profile devoted to describing the person you’re looking for is that net.
If your profile casts a wide net, you’ll waste time meeting people who aren’t well suited for you, but you’re less likely to scare off the right person by sounding too picky or making them feel like they don’t measure up. If you’re super-specific about what you want, you will sacrifice good dates and bad. Basically, if the net is too small you won’t catch anything and if it’s too big, you’ll have more than you handle.
“So what do I do,” you ask? Here’s how to find the right balance of open-mindedness and selectiveness for you.
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First, do some thinking about priorities. For our purposes here, it’s actually a good idea to write up your wish list in a partner—what are your must-haves? What are the core values you will definitely share with your future spouse? Chemistry is a delicate thing, so give that some thought, too. What kind of person do you click with? What qualities (personality traits, not physical attributes) do you find most attractive? Having a compatible sense of humor is really important, so define yours and theirs (there is a big difference between silly, dry and sarcastic, for example). Other key priorities for many singles are a commitment to giving back, compatible exercise habits, a healthy work-life balance, religion and willingness to have children. Or perhaps in your case, it’s really important that your partner shares your love of the outdoors, team sports, or movies. Whatever the case may be, come up with your short list of traits, interests or attitudes that are virtually non-negotiable for you.
Once that’s done, it’s time for one more list: your dealbreakers. Try to focus on things that aren’t necessarily bad, but are just not for you. (We know you don’t want a money-grubbing narcissist with a violent temper.) Do shy types turn you off? Do you clash with the hyper-opinionated? Did you used to date a big sports fan and vowed “never again?” Are you incompatible with anyone who has to check in twice a day, or with anyone who refuses to do so?
Put some thought into this stuff. It may help to think about what you liked and didn’t like about previous relationships, what you admire about successful couples you know, and imagine what being in love will be like when you get there (and what it won’t be like).
If you find that you have more than 10 must-haves and deal-breakers put together, your profile should be very specific to filter out unsuitable candidates. Otherwise, you’re only going to be disappointed by most of the people you date. Casting a wide net is not the right strategy for you—put quality ahead of quantity. If you have five or fewer items on your combined lists, you’re more open-minded about this than most. Go out on a lot of dates and meet different kinds of people. After a few months, sit down with your original list and see if your experiences have narrowed things down for you at all. You may find yourself adding must-haves and deal-breakers as you get a feel for what you want and what you don’t. Or maybe not. Perhaps you just haven’t me that special someone yet and it will feel right when you do. Honestly, there’s no right way or wrong way to do this, only your way.
Here’s how to calibrate your filter. In the part of your profile you devote to “the one I’m looking for,” reflect each of your priorities with specific examples of that quality in action. For example, if you need someone who is highly communicative when challenges arise, write something like “If there’s something on our minds, it won’t be long before it’s discussed and done with.” Don’t make demands or sound like an absolutist. Avoid phrases like “a commitment to charity is a must” when “My dream man considers volunteering at Habitats for Humanity a better date than dinner at a 5 star restaurant” doesn’t sound pushy and is more colorful. The idea is to gently discourage the wrong person and help the right match recognize themselves in your description.
With the dealbreakers, to avoid sounding negative strive for a light and humorous tone rather than being critical. If someone who brags about themselves turns your stomach, for example, go for something like this: “You’d never gloat about your ninth hole birdie or your Mercedes even if you’re proud of both.” Make a joke out of your aversion to women who take an hour and a half to get ready or your lack of chemistry with guys who can’t take charge or make up their minds.
Once your filters are set, get out there and date! Track your results—if you aren’t going out as much as you’d like, tone down the language in your profile or remove the line that excludes the most candidates. If you’re getting too much attention from the wrong people, punch up the language in your profile to make your filter points more clear or add criteria (for example, if you keep dating guys who have no interest in commitment, say point blank that’s what you’re looking for).
However you fashion your net, keep trying and remember there are always other fish in the sea!
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