Mark Horvath is not alone. He’s been laid off — twice — and has pretty much sidelined himself right out of the old dating game.

“I don’t feel comfortable asking women out,” admits Horvath, who lives in Los Angeles. “I have lots to offer, but I just don’t have money — and that slams the self-esteem. I simply don’t feel like the rest of ‘normal’ society. I see lots of women I’d like to ask out, but I pass on the opportunity because I don’t think it’s going to happen.”

Sound familiar? Lots of folks, especially men, just don’t feel as though dating is an option when they’re broke or unemployed. It’s all about that male ego. You want to be the provider, the protector. And we women love that about you. But most of us can provide for ourselves these days in terms of food, clothing and shelter. We’re looking to you men for something more.

“Many women have told me they’ve dated men with high-paying jobs, but they were frustrated with them,” says Elliott Katz, author of Being the Strong Man a Woman Wants. “They want a man who is emotionally strong, shows leadership and takes responsibility. Without that, a man with the best-paying job in the world still frustrates them. A man who shows leadership and makes decisions will be attractive — even if he is between jobs.”
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Step #1: Get motivated again by dumping your negative assumptions about what women want
That’s why Scot McKay, a dating coach based in San Antonio, TX, says you should stay in the game. “[That] assumption stems from a limiting belief that either dating has to be expensive or that women equate income with dateworthiness,” says McKay. “Assuming he’s not serially or permanently unemployed, I have found that women are fine with dating a guy who is actively conducting a job search. If he demonstrates ambition and motivation — especially with a track record of previous success — then only a shallow woman will summarily dismiss him.”

And no matter how hot she is, you know a shallow woman is trouble. So you don’t need to be dating her, anyway.

Step #2: Get out of your home and start meeting people
Hiding out in your man cave may feel safe, but it’s not going to be good for you in the long run. You still need to get up and face the world every day — job or no job. “Dating will keep you getting showered, shaved and out of the house — which is good for you on a lot of levels,” says Tina B. Tessina, a psychotherapist and author of The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again. “Don’t wallow in misery. Getting out to meet people will lift your spirits and keep you busy. Out of that may come the date of your dreams!”

Step #3: Get busy networking for jobs and dates
If you’re not totally comfortable dating, why not multitask? Instead of making everything a “date,” start meeting women for lunch or coffee with the purpose of networking. The upside is high: make a friend, expand your network, maybe get some leads! “There is always a chance she may know someone who is in your career field or someone who might even want to hire you,” says Marilyn Anderson, author of Never Kiss a Frog: A Girl’s Guide to Creatures from the Dating Swamp. “It is all about getting the word out that you are looking for a new position. Do it in an upbeat, positive way — and just mention it in passing, don’t make it the purpose or theme of your date. Many people get jobs through contacts and happenstance rather than through sending in résumés.”

So, guys, don’t take yourself out of the game just yet. Instead of looking at your job situation as a deterrent, consider it an opportunity to meet someone who’s interested in you, not your bank balance.

Margot Carmichael Lester, a freelance writer based in North Carolina, has contributed to the Los Angeles Business Journal, Go mazagine and other national publications.