If you feel like you’re the only one who hasn’t found that near-perfect partner, you’re not alone. In fact, 64 percent of the millennial generation is in the same singles-only boat.
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And while there are plenty of benefits to being (and staying) solo, we understand the allure of finding that special someone. To help you out, we’ve rounded up 10 science-backed, expert-approved ways to boost your dating prospects, whether you’re dating online or IRL. Listen closely, and you may not be so single come next February 14th.
If You’re Dating Online:
1. Perfect your online presence.
Whatever dating service you choose, take time to polish your profile, says Lori Salkin, dating coach at Saw You at Sinai. Avoid swear words, as these can make some people wary, and use spellcheck to be sure you don’t come off as careless or… less than smart.
But don’t be afraid to be funny and show your sense of humor. This make you seem more approachable if someone appreciates your wit, Salkin says. Plus, if someone opts not to message you back because they don’t like your style of hamming it up, that’s fine—you probably wouldn’t get along with them anyway.
Finally, keep it simple. No one wants to read a 1,200-word essay on your childhood. Nor should you see a dating profile as a platform to outline your political agenda, pet peeves with humanity, or all the insights you’ve gained from therapy.
2. Be real.
Choose photos and details that best represent you, Salkin says. Uploading untruths attracts folks who don’t share your true interests and courts difficulty once you have to explain yourself.
If you’re not a partier, don’t post a shot of you out and about with a beer in each hand. If you prefer to sleep in on weekends, don’t lie about loving your 7 a.m. Saturday spin class. Same goes for images of you doing sports or activities you’d rather not try again, or listing hobbies you aren’t actually into but claim to be just to seem cool.
Be honest about what you’re looking for, but don’t get too “heavy” about it. Think: “Looking for someone who loves old movies / who reads The New York Times / who’s active and enjoys the outdoors.” Not: “Looking for someone to spend the rest of my life with, who supports me unconditionally, and loves me for all my flaws.” (We all want that, but shoving it in everyone’s face right off the bat can feel intimidating, oppressive, and desperate.)
3. Set yourself apart with specifics.
“There is nothing less informative than, ‘I am very close to my family and friends’ or ‘I love to go to dinner and hang out with my family and friends,’” Salkin says. Avoid generalizations and be specific to stand out from the rest of the online crowd: “Instead of ‘I love to travel,’ say where you’ve traveled, how often you travel, if you do it for work or for pleasure, or where you’d like to go in the future,” she suggests.
4. Stop swiping so much.
Having lots of options is great, but the more choices we have, the less likely we are to make a (satisfying) decision, studies confirm. Same goes for online dating: Research shows the more profiles we compare, the pickier we become.
Plus, swiping left too many times may cause us to devote more energy to vetting candidates who may be out of our league, connect with people who don’t actually match up with our personal preferences, or issue “no’s” to potentially good matches simply because we assume something better is just a click away. End result: We spend more time browsing than actually dating. Which kind of defeats the point.
This is where Nike’s slogan comes in, Salkin says: If you come across a profile full of similar interests to yours, and you’d like to meet in person, just do it.
5. Show your enthusiasm.
Once you’ve moved to the messaging stage, replace neutral words, such as “happy” or “fine,” with more upbeat ones, like “excited” and “wonderful.” Subtle lingo tweaks like these have been shown to boost our appeal to potential suitors.
Also, express interest in what the other person is saying: “Oh, that’s interesting you work in finance. How did you choose that career?” or “Very cool about your meditation practice—what do you like most about it?” And bring up topics that make you psyched—like your fave TV show, a great book you’re reading, or an upcoming trip you can’t wait for.
If You’re Taking It Offline:
1. Think outside the dinner-and-drinks box.
A typical first date might be grabbing a drink, coffee, or even a bite. If that’s your comfort zone, stay there. But as couples counselor Wyatt Fisher, Psy.D., points out, these set-ups can quickly get awkward, as they’re far more intense than a situation where the focus is on something other than yourselves.
That’s why Fisher recommends third-party activities—think: bowling, a concert, a group happy hour—in lieu of sitting across the table from a near-perfect stranger. Movies (in a theater and not at someone’s apartment), comedy shows, or any of these 29 unique first-date ideas would also work. If nothing else, you’ll have an alternative source of entertainment in case an awkward silence ensues.
2. Press pause on opening up.
Yes, getting intimate involves sharing deeper truths about who you are and what shaped you (incuding previous relationships). But it’s generally not a great idea to dive head first into deeply personal disclosures on date numero uno, Fisher says. Spilling too much about your life early on can drive others away, studies suggest.
That’s why it’s best to save opening up about tough issues—from exes to family issues to health problems—until we know a person’s ready to hear it. Too much too soon can be off-putting, creating the sense that we’re more of a burden than an exciting new prospect, Salkin says.
That’s not to say you should lie about these things, but try focusing on the upsides and positives in your life before launching into the real-er stuff. Then, assess if you feel you can trust the person before you “go there,” Fisher says, noting that a healthy level of closeness requires time (read: numerous dates) to develop. And if a new date makes an off-color joke, issues a hurtful remark or judgment, or withdraws from a tricky conversation, Fisher says, consider these harbingers of what’s to come if you get more serious.
One exception: Do talk about your job, but keep the focus on what you like about it and where you see yourself going, not on your salary or how miserable you are between the hours of nine to five.
3. Be a good listener.
Paying attention to your date (a.k.a. not talking about yourself the whole time or constantly checking your phone) can make you seem more physically attractive, research shows. Plus, demonstrating an interest in what another person’s saying and being mindful of their sensitivities before inserting your own opinion are desirable qualities anyone would want in a mate, says Samantha Joel, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas at Austin.
But these aren’t the only reasons you should listen to what a date’s saying. If you’re tuned out or otherwise disengaged during first encounters and beyond, you’ll derive as little satisfaction as the person you’re ignoring simply by failing to be present in the moment.
4. Wait to take off your clothes.
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Prioritize building closeness and security, Fisher says. (No matter how many dates this takes.) In addition to how you feel around a new potential lover one-on-one, pay attention to their family history and friendships for clues about their character. Tumultuous pasts, social isolation, or seedy acquaintances can be signs it’s unwise to continue your connection with them, he adds.
5. Remember, relationships take work.
“People sometimes think that as long as they find the ‘right’ partner, a relationship will be easy, there won’t be any disagreement, and no compromises or sacrifices will have to be made,” Joel says. “But even the highest quality relationships still require effort and maintenance.”
Perfection is a myth, and if you find yourself falling in love on the first date, chances are you’re deluded—if not setting yourself up for a major letdown. Take in the good stuff about this new person and pace yourself. If you don’t think there’s a spark, ask yourself whether what you’re looking for is attainable, or kind of… impossible (think: a new person who’ll whisk you off your feet, pay for dinner, and let you move in with them right off the bat while being drop dead gorgeous with no emotional baggage whatsoever). Letting go of this misconception that love should be “easy” can help you realize that what you truly want—connection—is within reach.
If you’re still disappointed by dating and find yourself always looking for something better, you may need to come back down to earth—and remember there’s no such thing as a perfect relationship. Wondering whether something is a red flag or more serious? Learn if your doubts are dealbreakers (or actually totally normal).
No, you won’t fall in love with everyone you meet—nor, despite your awesomeness, will everyone always love you. But keeping these tips in mind may just help accelerate your success in the dating world, on and offline. Be yourself, be present, and don’t forget to have fun.