The Tao of Personals

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Each new year opens full of promise and possibilities. For many of us, our resolutions include finding a lover. Aside from living in a culture that embraces couples, our biological inclination is to mate. Even if we prefer being single, we long for friendly companionship and gratifying sex.

How do we go about finding a significant other?

There are many ways to meet new people, the Personals ads being one of the most direct and pragmatic. When I suggest this route to my unhappily single clients, they often respond that it’s “unromantic”. Let’s talk about that.

Personal ads are, let’s face it, ads. We are advertising ourselves and soliciting our perfect match. It is a business transaction. Many of us are quite unused to defining ourselves in terms of marketable attributes; in fact, we tend to put ourselves down, concentrating on our failures rather than our features. Composing a personals ad requires our taking inventory of our favourable aspects and listing them boldly. We need to morph our modesty into assertiveness and pride, so that we can sell ourselves well. It is a marvellous exercise in self-esteem!

Then there’s asking for what we want, another underdeveloped social skill, and an exercise in self-awareness and critical thinking. We believe (it’s that romance myth) that if you really, really love me, you’ll just know what I want. Mind reading is not a human skill. We need to hone our comfort about being truthful when expressing what we want, confident that our requests will be acknowledged and, hopefully, honoured. Direct requests make for so much less confusion and disappointment. Still, we sometimes feel anxious being candid, accustomed as we are to being socially coy when it comes to dating.

And just what is it we are seeking? What is important to you in a relationship? What are your primary values? How would you define your lifestyle? Are you looking for a date, a mate, or a tennis partner? Your ad will change, of course, depending on your target audience. If you are seeking a sexual partner, at what point do you identify your sexual preferences? How important are looks, education, class, race, age, temperament, hobbies and passions to you? Must you share everything, or are you the independent sort? Do you crave similarity or difference? How would you like your new lover to present to the world? What would really thrill and excite you? Answer these questions before penning your ad, and try to draw an accurate picture of the person you are looking for. If the readers of your ad recognize themselves in your description, they will be encouraged to reply, and your new suitor will have already passed through a number of your own chosen ‘filters’. A well-written ad will garner you the best response. It is really quite an efficient system.

When we meet, we evaluate our sexual attraction. That chemistry is the magic that either is there or is not. When we spark, we fill with anticipation and optimism. When we don’t, we sometimes try to pretend it doesn’t matter, that perhaps that part will grow in time. Possible, but uncommon. It takes care and attention to maintain the sexual heat in a relationship past the limerence phase (Kephra, link to this article, too, please). We need all the initial electricity we can get to establish our sexual rhythms firmly in our new relationship. Trust your sense of attraction; it is a biologically implanted tool that serves us well.

Then there’s that swoony, heady feeling we so love when we meet an attractive person and they reciprocate. Romance is the behaviour that follows. It is not romantic to play hard-to-get; it is self-defeating. Courtly behaviour thrills some of us and bores others. Determine your style, but be willing to experiment. The early days of an affair are filled with exuberance, experimentation, and adventure. Indulge in it! Play! But do not mistake this bliss for love, which takes far longer to develop. Assess and reassess the path this new alliance is taking. Be willing to say goodbye if your ‘must haves’ are not met. Moreover, be flexible about the inevitable differences you will discover. The exquisite attention romance delivers can turn our brains to mush. As long as we continue to check critically as we progress from casual to serious dating, we can fully embrace the heady delight of newfound ‘love’.

Personals ads provide a pond in which to fish. They encourage us to present ourselves in our best light and to define our goals. Many happy couples have met online. It’s a working system. Consider this medium to help move you along the courtship path.