With research by dating service Badoo suggesting that British millennials spend 10 hours a week on their app, finding a compatible relationship partner to date can be time-consuming.
From my own experience, it can also feel demoralizing to downright depressing. A few years ago, my long-term partner and I realized we irreconcilably wanted different things in life, broke up, and went off on our own respective dating missions — trying to fill the emotional gap left by the loss of our close romantic connection.
I signed up to apps, met matchmakers, asked friends for introductions, revived old hobbies and joined new communities. There was also a journey of self discovery: becoming clearer about who I am, and so the type of romantic partner I actually want. I got real with negative patterns I was repeating; learned how to give myself the emotional self-care I needed; and even took myself on some awesome dates (more on that later)!
Appreciating my own value helped me to approach dating from a different viewpoint — to love from a place of fullness, rather than subconsciously giving so hard in order to receive love. I became more happy and fulfilled with my own company, actually enjoying the freedom being single can offer.
This guide is for you if you: feel ready to start dating; to get going with it again after a romantic hiatus; or to improve your chances of dating success, when your current dating life feels a bit aimless or hopeless.
Sometimes we decide to be single for a while to concentrate on our personal development, career, family etc; or we may not be ready to jump into dating. That is always perfectly OK — it’s good to be honest with ourselves and other people, rather than pretend or force anything that doesn’t feel right due to internal, or societal, pressures.
As it stands in 2021, I’m on great terms with my ex, and my current relationship is going strong with someone who feels compatible for me.
If you’re also feeling ready, here is a summary of what I learned — after researching relationship coaches, books and courses — about finding and attracting a compatible romantic partner:
It can seem counter-intuitive, but narrowing down your search for a compatible future partner can be a huge help in finding them. Otherwise it’s common to spend years of our lives in relationships that, if we are honest with ourselves, just don’t cut it for the long-term.
I truly believe that the people who come into our lives, are right for the period of time we spend together, whether that’s six months or a lifetime — particularly when we both learn lessons from the relationship.
But, when you want to date someone more compatible for you, it helps to first of all get clear on the characteristics of your “ideal” mate.
Studies have found that visualization makes us more likely to achieve our goals — it’s a technique used by successful athletes and business people. It also means that when we come across what we’re looking for, we’re more likely to notice and act on it, because we know what we want in the first place.
A partner who is chatty or quiet, intellectual or easy-going, tall or short, sporty or homey, is likely to seem ideal to different people. For more inspiration, it can help to think about the qualities you admire from previous partners, friends or other people you know, or the dynamics and characteristics you see in happy relationships around you. If you are inclined to do so, you can also make your answers into a vision board.
Go somewhere quiet and take a pen to paper, or open up a note file, and answer each of the following questions on a new page. Remember this is an exercise for your eyes only, so try to be as honest and specific as possible:
How tall are they? What do you their eyes look like? What kind of clothes do they wear? Are they slim, curvy or athletic? What age are they? How does it feel when you hug them, or run your fingers through their hair? Are they a physical mixture of people you know or celebrity crushes?
Sit quietly, and imagine your ideal partner is sitting right there in front of you; visualize their hair, eyes, face, clothes, body. Then, start a new page for:
Are they kind, successful, empathetic, easy-going, intellectual? How would you describe their personality? How do you feel around them? Are they introverted or extroverted? How is your communication? How do they behave around your friends? What makes them smile? How do they act around animals or children? Are they agnostic, atheist, spiritual or religious? What is their history with relationships? How do they treat their family and parents? How do they compliment your personality? Are they emotionally expressive? What is their favorite love language and how do they show their love to you?
Think about what has worked for you in previous relationships, and what wasn’t so great. Are there any patterns you need to break in being attracted to unsuitable partners? Start noticing the behaviors and characteristics you admire in those around you, which you’d like to experience in your partner.
How do they spend their evenings and weekends? What do they enjoy learning about? Which industry do they work in? What’s their job title and working environment? How do they feel about their work? Do they volunteer? What are their friends like? What kind of books and articles do they read? Which movies, music and shows do they like? Are they into sports and keeping fit? Do they work on their own personal development? Do they go to talks? What’s their diet like? How often do they like to party? What kind of vacations do they go on?
You may want to date someone you can do your favorite activities with, who can inspire you with their hobbies, or who has their own thing going on when you are busy with yours.
Do they want a committed relationship? What about marriage and kids? How important is sex in a relationship to them? Or monogamy? What kind of house do they want to live in? How tidy is it and how do they want to split domestic responsibilities? Do they prefer living in an urban environment or in nature? In which country or city? How do they feel about pets? What difference do they want to make in the world? How important are your extended families? How much do they care about their career or financial success? What are they working on to keep improving themselves?
Financial issues, a lack of sex, and having different views on domestic responsibilities or how to raise children are common reasons couples get divorced, so thinking about your ideal partner’s aspirations is important. Pinpoint what it is about other couples you see or know that you admire and would like for your own future relationship.
You can revisit your lists as you date, or meditate on or visualize this person regularly, updating it as you realize what’s most important to you. Make a note of the aspects that are “non-negotiables” and which are “nice-to-haves”.
With your detailed answers to those questions, and you’ve visualized how your ideal partner looks, acts, makes you feel, and what your everyday life and future together would ideally look like; it’s time to think about how you might stumble upon this kind of individual.
Also, how do you boost your chance of them liking you back?
Your answers to the above questions (particularly “3. How do they spend their time?”) should give you the clues you need to increase your likelihood of bumping into someone like them.
For example, if you’d like to date someone who goes to spiritual talks, or political rallies, who volunteers at a care home or goes to festivals ; you’re likely to find them in those places! Want a partner who works out ? Start going to socials at your gym, or join a running club. If you’d like to date a professor— find out where they hang out after work. If you’d like a partner with a dog — go for walks in the park.
This part may require you to get out of your social comfort zone; but, when you want different results, you’ve got to do something different. Going alone to events, meetups or classes can make us more open to meeting new people and more approachable. Alternatively you can try recruiting a friend to start a new hobby or join a club with you.
One thing to note is that our level of openness will affect how likely we are to take advantage of chance opportunities that come up. Noticing who is around us; being open to eye contact; flashing a quick smile at strangers; or being able to say a simple “hi”, makes us much more likely to connect with new people. If you feel too shy, try doing something by yourself that helps get you out of your comfort zone and boosts your social bravery — like ecstatic dance, singing or improvisation classes. Richard Wiseman’s book “The Luck Factor” explains why some people seem to have more lucky chances than others; and how to emulate them.
It can also help to send a summary of the ideal partner description you put together to friends you trust. Ask them to stay on the look out for anyone single and eligible who matches it.
Not only will you meet someone who matches your “ideal” partner at places they hang out; you’re likely to be more attractive to such a person if you enjoy similar activities. If you want to date someone who helps homeless people; stays fit and healthy; or who is emotionally stable and loving, that person would likely want a partner like that too!
We all have three to five top things in our lives that we prioritize with our time, energy and other resources — whether that’s our family, friends, partner, health and wellness, personal development, career, a hobby, a cause, a business, financial security, travel, personal freedom or stability. If there is too much of a mismatch between what you and your partner prioritize, there will likely be compatibility issues.
Read through your description of them and notice where there might be an imbalance in qualities, and whether you make up for it elsewhere. The great thing is: personal development can boost your self-esteem; as well as helping you meet people who are also interested in those hobbies. None of us are “fixed” where we are — we can start a new activity, meet new people or behave in ways we admire in others, at any stage in life.
As I mentioned, taking myself on “dates” (like going to exhibitions or restaurants I would have gone to with a boyfriend) and acts of self-care (like buying yourself flowers, getting a massage or meditating) helped me realize I didn’t need a partner to do nice things, and built up my self-love. It sets us on a much stronger foundation when the cup of our own self love is already full. The overflow can then go to others, rather than looking for someone else to fill us up from empty. It boosted the standard for how I wanted to be treated in a relationship, as my base level for looking after myself was higher.
If you feel like you can’t be happy without your ex or a new partner; you’re repeating unhealthy patterns; or past trauma is affecting current relationships. Seeking professional help from a counselor, coach or psychotherapist can be key to becoming happy within yourself first. If speaking to one person doesn’t seem to help, keep searching — therapists work differently for each of us. Sometimes past hurts can affect us more that we realize, until we seek a professional perspective.
Personal development courses (I’ve benefitted from Landmark and iDiscover 360) and books can also help us to up-level different areas of our lives. The wholesome “How to Get a Date Worth Keeping” by Henry Cloud, and Tracy McMillan’s more cheeky “Why You’re Not Married Yet” are both great books for singletons looking to find a long-term partner.
To read up more on healthy relationship dynamics, try “Attached” by Amir Levine; Gary Chapman’s “The 5 Love Languages”; “Conscious Loving” by Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks; and David Deida’s “The Way of the Superior Man”. You can find summaries of these reads and more here.
Building meditation and yoga habits also helped me to stay present and healthy when I was going through a tough break-up and the subsequent ups and downs of dating.
Avoiding mood-changing substances like alcohol can be a good idea when you’re dating too, and particularly if you’d like to be with someone who is not socially reliant on them. This will help you stay level-headed when deciding about someone’s partner potential, and prevent unwise decisions that can happen when our inhibitions go out of the window! If you feel like you can’t date without it, it’s better to address the underlying issue of why that is by speaking to a friend, professional or support group about it, rather than numbing difficult feelings.
Taking the idea of “competition” out of your mind is also a useful thing to do. Try being the best and truest version of yourself to attract the best and most compatible partner to you – rather than comparing yourself to other single men or women. Someone you deeply click with isn’t going to care that you might not be a supermodel and, if they do, they’re not right for the long-term anyway. Feeling a deep connection is rare, and most people looking for a close relationship will value one you share together. Trust the process and that if you’re really being yourself and you’re open, you will attract people who want the kind of partner that you are.
Getting clear on what kind of partner you want, how you might find someone like them, and what you could work on to be the best version of you for yourself and your future partner, can help you become more proactive if you feel stuck in the heart-driven process of finding a compatible partner, which often doesn’t seem to have logical rules.
As with most things, if we take responsibility for guiding areas of our lives like our romantic relationships, we are much more likely to get to the place — or person — we want to be and to be with. As for me, I slightly smugly smiled when I realized my own ideal partner list from a couple of years back describes the person I’m dating now.
If you have any comments or questions on dating please drop them below or contact me directly.