Constantly Striving for a Better Relationship

vintage coupleFor those of you who are familiar with the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), I’m the INFJ. In the area of relationships, this type is often described as a perfectionist who is “constantly striving to achieve the Perfect Relationship. This can sometimes be frustrating to their mates, who may feel put upon by the INFJs demanding perfectionism. However, it may also be greatly appreciated, because it indicates a sincere commitment to the relationship, and a depth of caring which is not usually present in other types.”

I rarely see this quality as a weakness since I believe one of the main goals in life should be to grow and continually find ways of improving ourselves throughout the entire lifespan. I can tell you my weaknesses in a heartbeat, and it’s not necessarily because I’m overly critical or negative. I just know what I could work on to become closer to my ideal self. Even though I’m already in a good relationship, I also know what my partner and I could work on to make it an even more solid one.

The first step for a better relationship is good communication, so here’s one idea for those of you who are interested in building a better, closer relationship. Both you and your partner compose a list of maybe 10 characteristics (or however many you want) that you think a romantic partner should ideally possess. Determine whether or not your partner is fulfilling those expectations. Be sure to focus on what your partner is doing well as well as what areas need improvement. Share your evaluations with each other. You should both stay committed to working on some of your weaknesses, as long as it’s realistic and benefits the both of you. I’d recommend doing these evaluations many times throughout the relationship since perfection can never be attained.

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Online Dating: What is the ideal first date?

Let’s face it, meeting someone from the internet for the first time is usually awkward. You don’t know much about this person’s mannerisms, how well they carry a conversation, or even what their voice sounds like in person. I think what you choose to do on your first date can help in big ways to make the two of you feel a lot more relaxed around each other.

I’m not totally opposed to the dinner and movie date, but it’s a bit too conventional for me, and I don’t think it’s really the best choice for the first date. Imagine sitting down to dinner with someone you’ve just met and knowing within the first five minutes that you never want to see this person again. I imagine it could be painfully boring and awkward if you chose to sit through the entire meal, just waiting and waiting for it to end. I’ve kind of been in this situation before, and it’s not exactly pleasant. Instead of starting the date with dinner, I suggest choosing a fun, low-key activity to see if any chemistry is present between you and your date. If you immediately hit it off and want the date to continue, here’s your opportunity to suggest to your date that you’d like to go grab dinner. Also, I’d pretty much advise against seeing a movie or going to a music venue on the first date for obvious reasons. Your ability to converse will be limited, you may end up shouting at each other and asking fifty million times, “Huh? What’d you say?!”, and it’s much harder to read your date’s interest level if the two of you aren’t interacting much.

Obviously, first dates should allow you and your date to spend a lot of time engaged in conversation, but I think there needs to be enough activity to help ease nervousness and/or mask the moments of awkward silence that may pop up. Basically, my best first dates usually involved lots of walking and talking. The other bonus about most of these date ideas is that they’re pretty inexpensive. And if you’re just not feeling it halfway through the date, it’s quite easy to excuse yourself without leaving your date sitting alone at the dinner table.

I don’t intend for this to be a comprehensive list of all the things you can do. These are only a handful of suggestions that I consider ideal for the first date.

1. Go shopping. This was always one of my favorites, and it’s not just because I LOVE to shop. No matter what store you go into, you’re bound to find something ridiculous and silly that you and your date can make fun of. On my last first date, we initially met at a thrift store (it was my idea), and we had a blast. I’m sure some people probably don’t see the appeal of meeting in secondhand shops, but I am all for being silly on a first date. The mall can be a fun place, too.

2. Walk along the beach or a hiking trail. Just be sure it’s a public setting where other people will be present.

3. Go to the local fair or an arcade. Be like kids again. It’s a great way to let loose and have fun together.

4. Wander around downtown. Visit some shops you’ve never been in before. Go look at the historic houses. Grab ice-cream or a snack and take a stroll as you get to know each other.

5. Go bowling or shoot pool. You don’t have to be any good at either. It’s just all about having fun.

6. Go to a museum or aquarium. Not only can you have fun and get to know your date, but you might learn something educational, too.

7. Visit the local park. Have a picnic there. Picnics are very sweet and romantic. Feed the ducks. Take a walk. Sneak onto the playground equipment when you think no one is looking.

8. Create a silly challenge for each other. This can be a good way to break the ice. Before you meet, think of something that each of you can do during the beginning of your date that’s funny and maybe a little bit ridiculous. If your date has a good sense of humor, see how far they’re willing to go to make you laugh. Before our first date, I somehow got my boyfriend to agree to try on women’s shoes in a store. I laughed to tears and still have an awesome memory of our first few minutes together.

Again, this list could go on. There are endless ways of having fun and exciting first dates that can relieve the tension and don’t require much money. Next time you’re wondering what to do for a first date, do something different from dinner and a movie. Consider some of these suggestions or try coming up with something on your own that’s fun and creative. After all, having fun and getting to know your date should be your two biggest priorities in the beginning.

Finding Success with Online Dating

Whether you think it’s a great thing, a terrible thing, or something that only freaks and geeks use, online dating has become much more popular in the past decade. For anyone who is contemplating whether they should try online dating, I encourage you to give it a shot. I’ve had a decent amount of experience with online dating, and some experiences were a lot better than others. I think there’s too much of a negative stigma associated with online dating. Yes, there are a number of douchebags, nut jobs, liars, cheaters, and overall unpleasant characters to be found on a dating site, but don’t you encounter these people in the real world, too? For anyone who’s using good judgment, I’d expect them to have a mix of positive, negative, and perhaps neutral experiences with online dating. I took it as a great learning experience! After a couple lousy dates, you can pretty quickly catch onto some warning signs and things to avoid (because there’s definitely a lot to avoid on a dating site!) I’ll try to throw in some warning signs and advice of my own that might lead to more success in your dating endeavors.

Today is actually an appropriate day for this post because today is my 1 year and 4 month anniversary with my boyfriend whom I met on OkCupid. That’s right! I’m living proof that love can be found on a dating site. This is my first relationship ever, and his personality complements mine better than anyone I’ve ever known. I’m actually surprised sometimes that I’m really in a relationship with someone I love who loves and appreciates me in return. I thought I was doomed to be a lonely, crazy cat lady forever and ever! To be realistic, though, I don’t think most people who try online dating are so lucky. It seems like a lot of people quickly give up on online dating after meeting a few rotten apples. Others just keep making the same mistakes over and over and wonder why nothing good ever happens. Well, I’m here to tell you that online dating isn’t easy, but there’s the possibility that it can lead to something wonderful in the end if you’ve got the right attitude and are able to stick with it.

Here are a few bits of advice I can offer based on my experiences:

  1. Trust your intuition. Our intuition isn’t 100% accurate, but it’s helpful to be somewhat skeptical when dating, especially when it’s someone you’ve met from the internet. When you get the gut feeling that something doesn’t seem right or that this person isn’t right for you, you should seriously consider why you feel that way. I made this mistake of not trusting my intuition and judgment way too often and felt like an idiot in the end.
  2. Don’t wait too long to meet. Remember that as long as you’re chatting online with someone, you don’t truly know this person. If you begin liking this person before meeting, you’re susceptible to falling in love with a fantasy. This person could be intentionally lying to you, or it could be as simple as not having any chemistry at all in person. Save yourself the time and disappointment by arranging to meet early on.
  3. Meet in a public setting. This is an obvious one, but it’s a smart and safe idea. Unfortunately, too many men can get the wrong idea if you invite them to your home. Not all guys are the same of course, but invite them over only when you’ve established a decent amount of trust in this person.
  4. Let your true self shine through on both your dates and on your profile. Sure, it’s another obvious one, but don’t be guilty of false advertising. Admit your strengths and weaknesses so that the right person can come along and appreciate you for who you really are. If you expect honesty from your dates, then you better be willing to provide the same to them.
  5. How detailed is their profile? I’m not saying that this a surefire strategy to snatch up a great date, but it makes sense if someone has put some time and thought into their profile that they’re probably more serious about dating (and not that other activity that begins with a f and ends with a g). I found that men who provided lots of detail on their profile seemed to be the most interesting and sincere people to talk to on there. Again, a detailed profile doesn’t always equal dating material, but it might be an indicator of their real intentions.
  6. Stay away from anyone who’s still hung up on an ex. As soon as they mention their ex’s name and how they’re still good friends, be very wary. Dating should be about starting something new. Not dwelling on the past.
  7. Have fun and keep an open mind. Be willing to meet a wide variety of people. Stop focusing on the idea of finding your future bride/groom. A date doesn’t have to lead to anything at all. Take it as an opportunity to figure out what you do and do not want in a partner. You might make a new friend or learn something new!
  8. Don’t be too open-minded. Ok, now it sounds like I’m contradicting myself. I think it’s great to be open-minded, but never lower your standards. If someone just seems too weird or too crazy or too cocky or too whatever, it might be a good idea not to waste your time. This kind of goes along with using your judgment. Have an idea of what you want and try not to stray too far from it or you might end up on some awkward or nightmarish dates.
  9. Look at how they treat their family, friends, and pets. This might seem silly at first glance, but it’s important to consider how much respect and care this person gives to the people in his/her life. It’s probably a good indication of how you will be treated in a relationship with this person. People who can’t care for their pets and their own needs probably lack the capacity to meet your needs in the relationship.
  10. Avoid those with untreated mental illness. Some people might cope well with their illness without any form of treatment, but it’s very smart to be wary here. Too many people can appear normal and tolerable until an episode of some sort hits. And instead of trying to calm the effects of their illness, they let it run wild. It’s not always a hopeless situation, but it can be challenging to deal with if you meet the wrong person.
  11. Be patient. For anyone who’s found success through online dating, it likely didn’t happen overnight. It took me 2 years of online dating before I ever started a relationship. Be prepared to be disappointed before anyone ever sweeps you off your feet.
  12. Don’t become burnt-out with it. After enough letdowns and lackluster dates, any person is prone to giving up. I met enough jerks to become far too bitter and cynical towards men, especially those found on dating sites. The best strategy here is to take breaks from dating. Some sites allow you to disable your account until you want to come back. When you start feeling bitter, spend some time focusing on yourself and what makes you happy. You can’t expect success if you’re spending all your time being too negative and cynical. Once you’re feeling optimistic again about yourself and dating, give online dating another go! Put your best self out there.

I hope someone reads this and finds it useful or at least feels encouraged to keep trying after reading another success story. There are lots of websites out there offering good advice on online dating, but I wanted to compile my own list of tips that I used which ultimately led to my success. For those of you who’ve tried online dating, did you find any success with it? What’s been your longest relationship that was created through a dating site? Is there anything else you can contribute that might help someone who’s new to online dating?