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Are you too worried about your finances to focus on meeting someone new? Here’s how to make the most out dating during these trying economic times.

By Bob Strauss

s we’ve all learned from the Great Economic Meltdown of 2009, when you’re facing foreclosure on your house, the impending loss of your job and tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt, half measures don’t have much of an impact. So if you happen to be one of the millions of Americans who’ve been (a) seriously considering filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and (b) looking for love in all the wrong places, well-meaning dating advice
Your date will pick up on your economic situation sooner rather than later.
like “find a nice, out-of-the way bistro where the entrees don’t cost more than $10” seems a bit like putting a Band-Aid on a severed, bleeding limb.

Well, think of me as a brutally honest, cut-to-the-chase, romantic-advice version of Dr. House. We’re in a fiscal emergency here, folks, and until those federal stimulus efforts start to work, your straitened circumstances will be like an 800-pound bear lurking in the corner of that adorable bistro, checking out your equally worried date. So what can you do?

Decide whether you really want to pursue a relationship.
If creditors are calling you every 10 minutes (have they gotten your cell number yet? Don’t worry, they will) and you’ve been reduced to eating chunk light tuna fish, this may not be the best time to show your sweet, sunny, carefree side to a prospective mate. For example, after I was suddenly laid off in the great Internet Disaster of 2001, I went out on three dates with a perfectly nice woman whose face, today, I simply can’t remember. That’s how preoccupied I was with paying my rent rather than pursuing my love life.

Be honest.
Unless you possess pathological, Bernard Madoff-scale reserves of guile, your date will pick up on your economic situation sooner rather than later — so it’s better to come clean and let her know just how bad things are, or how bad things are likely to get. Be honest about where you stand, but don’t dwell overmuch on the gloom and doom (a good rule of thumb: If you can’t work up even the slightest bit of optimism about your future economic prospects, put off the rendezvous until you’re feeling better).

Keep your sense of humor.
I don’t recommend showing up at that super-cheap bistro wearing a pickle barrel and suspenders (pickle barrels aren’t cheap, and very few people look good in suspenders), but maintaining
Nobody understands the newly unemployed like the newly unemployed.
a wry perspective on your plunging 401(k) and evaporating job prospects will go a long way toward disarming your date. Laughter is a better social lubricant than “oohs” and “aahs” of pity and empathy, and trust me, remaining lighthearted under trying economic circumstances is a valuable (and highly valued) relationship skill.

Date someone in the same circumstances.
Nobody understands the newly unemployed like the newly unemployed (which means there’s a lot of understanding out there right now). If you and your romantic prospect have both been trampled by the economy, you can swap work-related horror stories, buck up each other’s spirits and, best of all, schedule dates for weekday mornings or afternoons, which aren’t nearly as pressure-packed as the prototypical Saturday-night dinner date.

Remember: This, too, shall pass. I’m not a financial expert, so I don’t know whether the Great Recession will end next year or drag on for the better part of a decade (opinions among experts seem to be split about 50-50). In the best case, your economic worries will be only temporary, and you can get your romantic life back on track when the GNP starts to rise and the credit markets thaw. In the worst case, well, there’ll be a lot more financially stressed people in the dating pool, and you won’t feel so self-conscious. That’s small comfort, I know, but remember — I’m the dating equivalent of Dr. House, not that warm-and-fuzzy Marcus Welby, M.D.


Bob Strauss is a freelance writer and children’s book author who lives in New York City. He’s also written the Dinosaur guide on About.com, the online information network owned by the New York Times.
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