The power of positive thinking: Maybe you’re curious about it because of books like The Secret, or maybe you’re just sick of complaining about the aftermath of your last breakup and the bad dates you’ve had since then. Whatever the case, it’s time to look on the bright side. All types of experts agree that cultivating an upbeat mindset will improve your love life by bringing you better romantic prospects. “When you focus your thoughts like a laser beam on what you want in life, you unleash the power of your mind combined with the creative power of the universe,” says pyschologist Kirsten Harrell, Psy.D.
It may sound like New Age nonsense, but when it comes to love, it works: When you focus on and expect good behavior from others, you spend all of your dating energy on other worthy, wonderful singles. Here are seven simple, but effective steps to help you target your best possible matches — and then start dating them with marriage as your ultimate goal.
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Step 1: Envision your ideal mate
You’ve got to know what it is you want before you “put it out there to the universe,” so spend some time honestly evaluating your marriage, past relationships and any crushes you may have had along the way. This will help you figure out the must-have qualities in a good partner for you. “Writing those traits down helps keep you focused,” says Harrell. “State clearly what you do want (“He/She is loyal”), not what you don’t (“My partner won’t cheat”). Listing what you don’t want means your mind is still focusing on — and therefore attracting — unhealthy relationships.” Once you’re thinking about the type of person with whom you want to connect, you’ll naturally be more open to meeting him or her — and subconsciously put yourself in situations where you’re more likely to do so.
Step 2: Tackle your own insecurities about dating and relationships
If you try to meet someone great while you’re still grappling with self-doubt, any minor setback could be interpreted as further “proof” that you’re not cut out for dating. But by taking responsibility for whatever emotional work you still need to do after the end of a relationship, you’re able to experience each new person on his or her own merits. This is much better than unrealistically expecting a new partner to “fix” what’s missing in your life. “A death, breakup or divorce rocks your sense of stability, self-confidence and trust,” says Anthony Riche, Ph.D., author of Finally! How to Stop Dating Losers Forever. “You have to give yourself time to heal old wounds. Turn to a good friend or therapist to support you as you confront these issues.”
Being unencumbered also makes you more alluring to other singles, since wanting your partner is far sexier than needing someone by your side to function socially. “The more you accept yourself and your position in life, the easier it is for someone else to accept it,” adds Riche.
Step 3: Focus only on the good things after each date
Not every attempt at romance is going to work out, but you can put even the worst dates to work for you in a positive way. “At least 90% of the time, you can say at least one positive thing about a date… find something that you liked about it,” says Lori Gorshow, dating coach for Denver’s Dating Made Simple. “Maybe she had amazing eyes or you like how he really listened. Use that information to better know what you’re looking for in a long-term partner.”
One way this helps is by retraining you to identify the positive aspects of a situation so that when you do encounter a “good one,” you naturally notice the workable qualities this person has instead of nitpicking at every potential imperfection. And then, voila — you’ve got the momentum to pursue (instead of avoid) healthy relationships.
Step 4: Convince yourself that you’re worthy of lasting love
Of course, finding the right person won’t do much good if you don’t believe you’re worthy of having him or her as your eventual spouse. You can break those old self-doubting habits by creating a personal mantra worth repeating to yourself regularly. Your affirmation can be anything you say to yourself in the present tense that’s simple, concise, and positive (think: “I have a healthy, loving relationship,” or “I’m a beautiful person worth loving”). Even if it seems a little bit forced to you at first, over time, you’ll begin to absorb and internalize that message — and it’ll eventually become true. “The repetition of positive thoughts creates new neural circuits in the brain, making it easier to maintain a positive attitude and take positive actions,” says Harrell. Not convinced? Why not set aside your skepticism, try it, and see for yourself if it works before you judge?
Step 5: Be picky about the people whom you choose to date
Your list of “must-haves” may seem like it’s decimating your field of potential mates, but really, it’s only weeding out the misfires. “When people are hurt, they sometimes think they have to take advantage of any opportunity available,” says Gorshow. “But at a certain point, you’re just wasting your own time.” A dating checklist empowers you to screen for red flags and move on when you see them instead of spending more time on each person “just in case” there’s potential. “So many people adjust their personalities to fit what they think a particular date wants, but that’s a surefire method for rejection — having a list of relationship deal-breakers keeps you focused on what you want,” says Gorshow.
Step 6: Let your positive self-image shine through on dates
A good attitude isn’t just the key to finding more dates — demonstrating the right outlook can also ensure you keep other quality singles interested in taking things to the next level. “People are generally more attracted to someone with a positive attitude than a negative person,” says Harrell. So when you’re out with a new love interest, be sure to talk about the things you truly love and that make you light up (i.e., your favorite hobbies, a trip you took recently with friends) rather than dwelling on unpleasant subjects (like why you’re still single, or how rude your waiter is being to you both tonight). “Have some positive topics in mind before your date so that if you get nervous or are tempted to complain, you can use them in a pinch,” suggests Harrell.
Step 7: Have an outlet for dealing with day-to-day stress
You’ll stay more positive about dating when you are able to keep your life’s everyday stressors in perspective. “Have a routine that helps you deal with stress, whether it’s exercise, sports, spa treatments, or mantras,” advises Riche. “Find something that feeds your soul and quiets your mind and do it regularly, not just when there’s something stressful going on.” Without this ritual in place, you can easily lose sight of what you really want; otherwise, you end up wasting time on people and unnecessary drama that might keep you from achieving your goals. These sanity-savers will keep your head clear — which is exactly what you’ll need to start a healthy, loving relationship with the great partner you’re bound to meet and eventually marry.
Caitlin Ascolese is a freelance writer in New York City.