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Extreme Makeover… Your Love-Life Edition!

Are you stuck in a dating drought? Fret not: Here’s how to tell if you need a romantic life overhaul… and what steps to take if you do.

By Julie Taylor

e’ve all heard of the dreaded relationship rut—but did you know there are dating ruts, too? Even if you’re unattached, you could be stuck in a place that’s both detrimental to your happiness and your pair-up potential. Maybe you’ve hibernated at home one too many Saturday nights or you’re always hanging with high-maintenance types who drag you down. Whatever your issue, we’ve pinpointed the top six signs you need to revamp your on-the-prowl persona, and asked relationship experts to show you how to move forward.

1. You don’t go out enough
We’ve all heard that Mr. or Mrs. Right isn’t going to come knocking on
“Find a partner in crime to go out with.”
your door, but that doesn’t stop many people from staying in all weekend watching Real World marathons instead of actually diving into the real world. “Many single people convince themselves that by staying in, they won’t get hurt—but they’re really hurting themselves if they don’t allow others to get to know their wonderful selves,” says Elizabeth Hurchalla, author of Getting Over Him. If your social calendar is as wide open as the Sahara desert, it’s time to take action. “Find a partner in crime to go out with—even if it’s just for a quick drink,” she advises. Or make a date with yourself to go someplace where you’ll be surrounded by other people, but not in a dating environment (like a museum or a class). Another option: actually going out with every person who asks. That worked for Maria Dahvana Headly, author of the memoir The Year of Yes. After she vowed to accept every date invite for the next 365 days, Headly met her husband, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan. Hey, you never know.

2. You go out too much
On the flip side, there are those who can’t be home alone, and that turns out to be a rut, too. “People who can’t slow down sometimes miss opportunities because the rest of the world is a blur,” says Hurchalla. If you often triple-book your evening (happy hour, dinner, late-night café), you’ll never have a chance to enjoy where you are—or really see who’s there with you. Try paring down your plans for just a week to test it out. And vow to spend at least one night at home solo. “It might sound counterintuitive, but alone time can do wonders for your dating life,” Hurchalla continues. “When you really know yourself and are comfortable in your own skin, you’ll be a much better boyfriend or girlfriend in the future.”

3. You keep dating the same type
It’s been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. Yet many people find they date the same toxic types time and time again. “I could meet a hundred nice guys but not feel even one iota of a spark,” confesses Jackie Frazier, 32, of Los Angeles, CA. “But then I’ll meet a cute jerk
“Banish all bad-date talk on first dates.”
who doesn’t pay much attention to me, and I fall head over heels.” If your last five relationships fell into a bad pattern, it’s time to make a change. “Talking to a good therapist can help people identify unhealthy patterns and explore how they formed,” says Elizabeth Kuster, author of Exorcising Your Ex. If you’re not ready for therapy, vow to give someone who’s “so not your type” a chance. You may be surprised by who your type really is.

4. You surround yourself with toxic friends
Always going out with a girlfriend who thinks all men are cheaters? Every time you mention your new beau, does she say discouraging things like, “Are you sure he’s over his ex? Sounds like he’s still hung up on her!” It may be time to tune her out. “Surrounding yourself with negative, toxic friends can skew your view of relationships as well,” says Kuster. When you get together, avoid confiding in your negative pals about any budding bonds. “They’ll only poison your outlook about your prospects,” warns Kuster. You can still be friends, just steer clear of dating talk.

5. You don’t have a boyfriend/girlfriend, you have a “friend with benefits”
Hooking up this way is fine—if that’s what you both want. But if you find yourself desiring more, it’s time to reevaluate the relationship. “Once you’ve been sleeping with someone for a while, there usually comes a time when you would like that person to be there the next morning, the next week, the next month. You want to take things to the next level.” If you find yourself stuck in a “friends with benefits” rut, Hurchalla advises being upfront about your desires and expectations. If your sex buddy doesn’t want to get serious, move on. If you’re both open to a relationship, it’s time to foster and fuel your emotional connection. This means going on daytime dates that don’t end in the sack: Meet for lunch, brunch, a walk in the park. Go to romantic movies and intimate, candlelit restaurants. Act like boyfriend-girlfriend instead of sex buddies.

6. You’re stuck in the past.
The last thing a first date wants to hear about is how your ex is the biggest jerk on the planet, or how your last six dates ended in disaster. “The person you’re with will just end up feeling like your next dating horror story,” says Hurchalla. “Vow to banish all bad-date or ex talk on your first dates.” It’s fine to share those failed relationship woes once you’ve forged a bond—say, after your third or fourth outing. But before then, try not to dwell on the past. “You’ll just end up looking like you’re saddled with baggage, and nobody wants that.”


Julie Taylor is a sex and relationship writer based in L.A. She’s the co-author of How to Be a Dominant Diva.
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