Four dating tips that really work

betty ming liu Relationships 13 Comments

There’s nothing like hitting bottom with a good cry because all the weeping will float you back up to the top. That’s what happened to me on a particularly depressing, long-ago morning in my shrink’s office. And I have been happier for it ever since.

On that day, I was still a very young-looking, 40-something divorcee. My daughter was just starting elementary school and I so desperate to remarry and bring a stepfather into her life. While I had two post-divorce relationships under my belt at that point, I still hadn’t met anyone who was husband material.

“I don’t want to be alone,” I wailed to my therapist.

Singlehood is a status I have feared my entire life. It kept me living at home with my parents until my early 20s. Then, I got married to my first real boyfriend. And then, 17 years later, I got divorced.

As I wept, my shrink launched into a chat about serial relationships. She pointed out how, even though the guys I was picking were very different in appearance, age and interests, they were still basically the same person: At first glance, they seemed affectionate but ultimately, they were emotionally withholding.

From there, she dropped the next bomb: These guys were all exactly like my mom. My jaw dropped to the floor as she noted that I keep picking guys who replicate what she gave — or rather, didn’t give — to me. This sort of patterning happens to a lot of us, to the point where many of us marry our mommies.

Yes, really.



From here, my shrink’s next move was a skillful segue that motivated me to change my life.

“You have to break the cycle or else your daughter will take this into the next generation,” she said.

But how, oh wise one, how?!

Grasshoppers, I am about to share some great advice…

“Look, you need to lighten up,” my shrink said. “All this pressure you’re putting on yourself and your dates! The only thing you want to do is go out there and have fun. You’re shopping. Shopping, shopping, shopping.”

She raised her arms and positioned her hands to push an imaginary shopping cart, all the while imperiously turning her head this way and that as she surveyed the imaginary products on imaginary shelves.

The whole idea of being a consumer in the romance market felt revolutionary, especially for an emotionally repressed nerd like me. I was still learning how to spell F-U-N; the word “flirting” was barely in my vocabulary. Now she was introducing a novel concept. You mean, I’m not stuck waiting around for a decent candidate to show up? This isn’t about holding my breath until an attractive prospect finally asks me out?

No, sweetheart, not any more. Thanks to that little talk, I have become a price-conscious consumer trying out new products. (And as we know, all relationships have a price!) If something interests me, I can hold it up for a second look and put it in my cart. If the item suddenly fails to please at the check-out counter, it will be left behind.

Oh, before I forget, there is more advice to share. As part of being a love consumer, you have to act like a true shopper.

“Don’t talk too much, don’t ask too much, don’t give too much,” my shrink also told me.

Brilliant suggestions!

So let’s go over this one more time…

Four dating tips that really work

Tip #1: Remember, you’re just shopping.

Tip #2: Don’t talk too much.

Tip #3: Don’t ask too much.

Tip #4: Don’t give too much.

While I haven’t been in a shopping mood lately, I am posting this now because I keep running into friends who are unhappily dating. I feel like it’s a good time to upload this for them, especially since we’re about to enter the craziest retail season of the year. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwaanza…hellloooo. Lots of parties and get-togethers to attend — either with something in the shopping cart, or, alone.

So as we march forward into the holidays, be a confident shopper. You can window shop, go home empty handed or try out a product. Remember, shopping is made much easier if you haven’t invested too much into talking, giving and taking. And if you shop enough, you just might find true love.

The choice is yours and that is empowering.  See you at the check-out line.    :)


Comments 13

  1. So basically Keeping your prospect at the arm length is the best way to go about it. As we normally say treat them mean and keep them keen. We all enjoy a bit mysteriousness, a bit challenge, a bit exhilaration, a bit want-but-can’t-get carnality at the beginning stage of relationship, but after the initial stage of chasing and courting, what holds down a real relationship is your inner qualities and personas which can’t be altered and game-played.

  2. VERY interesting! I wish I could pass this good advice on to my 31 year old son who is separated from the first mistake and dating a possible second! Very difficult situation for parents to have to watch.

  3. Post

    Tina, think shopping instead of dating. For instance, would you really walk into a store and describe the way that you’re walking around las keeping the merchandise at “arms’ length?” And if you don’t buy something, are you acting “mean?” Relax — it’s just shopping. Really. Take the pressure off. If you happen to go hot-and-heavy, that fits with shopping too — we all love a good shopping spree! Thanks for being so brave in starting our comments discussion!

    Mamamiaheather, you could always send your son the link to this post. What’s the worst that could happen? He doesn’t have to read it. But then again, he might be interested. Thanks for the thought and good luck — with being a supportive mom. You’re brave too. :)

  4. Betty,

    I LOVE this post! Very engaging and fun. What a great metaphor for being the chooser in relationships. In my dating pre-marriage years, I remember wanting to shout, “Pick me, pick me!” to all the men I had crushes on. After my divorce, I learned so much about better dating practices (it really is a skill) and being in control of your love life (at least your half), that I became a dating coach.

    My friend Vivien Orbach-Smith sent me the link to your post, and I’m glad she did. I look forward to meeting in person some day soon…


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      Looking forward to meeting you too, Sandy! I think a lot of us discovered how to date during our divorce. Not a bad thing, either. And Viv is the best!

      Karen, how great that you’re shopping again! And yeah, I know exactly what you mean. I’ve always been someone who gave and talked too much, too soon. We are wiser now, which means better odds for having fun. Good luck. :)

  5. Great advice just when I need it! I’m taking tiny steps back into “shopping” after many years. In the past, I let myself get too serious, too early. Now I need to memorize the four great dating tips & live by them! Thank you, Betty!

  6. Betty,
    I can go along with the first but not the rest. As for the rest, that is presicely why a SCUBA instructor friend of mi9ne went back to Sweeden. After he broke up with is Girlfriend he did a little dating. What he really disliked was
    They woukld order all this food, and then not eat it. They wouldn’t say anyhing and ten go home and sleep with their boyfriend”
    In my own life it has been the case that most women seem to be following rule 2-4 so I don’t bopther with rule 1. All too often I feel that women aren’t interested and/or the whole envroment is so negative so I haven’t bothered especially with American women.
    Almost all of my relationships have been with women from outside the USA. I just don’t like to play silly games.

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      Hypergamma, you’re cracking me up! The advice to don’t talk too much” doesn’t mean we should sit on a date without conversation. It means to beware of blabbing too much about your personal life, your problems, going on at length about your favorite CD, etc. In other words, basic sensitivity to your own boundaries and consideration for others. That is not exactly a game, more like an approach to life.

      But your other examples about women dates ordering lots of good and not eating — I know women who do that. They also order the most expensive thing on the menu. Really, really rude. So that’s an example where a guy doesn’t need to give so much. Don’t take a new date to a fancy restaurant — just go to to a coffee shop or have a drink. If the electricity is there, you both can always decide to linger over appetizers, or even a spontaneous dinner.

  7. Barring the incessant chatterbox, I think it is more a matter of what is talked about than talking too much. Subjects to avoid are:
    1. Your ex
    2. Your struggle to achieve emotional stability and “find yourself.”
    3. Your recent course of STD treatments
    4. Your recent bankruptcy
    5. your hernia operation
    6. Your ex
    Always watch carefully for that glazed look appearing in the eyes of your date as you are really getting into the details of – say – the rise of left wing Catholicism in Albania or traffic patterns in Ulan Bator.

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    Toby, exactly! Thanks for explaining so clearly. When we get into those topics that should be avoided, we are talking too much!

    Jaimie, thank you for the good wishes. You’re making a point I never considered before….if we’re only shopping, there is no way to lose. Who ever heard of anyone failing at shopping?! And may your cart be full too. xo.

  9. Perhaps equally important is participation in the flow of your date’s conversation, even if you don’t have a clue what he/she is talking about. A few simple techniques will help. One is to occasionally say “yes, but not in the South.” This comment is appropriate to virtually any non-personal topic (try it, you’ll see what I mean) will give the impression you are familiar with the subject and will almost never elicit an argument (unless, of course, you are talking about “the South.”) Even easier is to repeat the last few words of whatever the other person has said and to do so with emphasis. For example: Date – “Romney just doesn’t have a clue about health care…” You – “Health care? Not a clue, not one.” That’s a very simple example of course but you get the idea. Prior to a second date you can look the topics up in Wikipedia and actually know a few things about them.

  10. Since we’re talking about thinking of dating like shopping, how do we know when we’re ready to ”buy” or if we can even to afford to? Maybe that’s a whole other post? (But please don’t think I am using the word buy in suggestion that people are property).

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