Take Control Of Your Love Life

5 simple steps for getting the love you want (and deserve).

By Erika Rasmusson Janes

ure, your single self is fabulous. But you’re ready for a real relationship—so why hasn’t the rest of the universe picked up on your mating signals? Finding love is never easy, but these five exercises will increase your odds of making a match. Think of them as a fitness routine for your relationship muscles. Stick to the workout, and you’ll love the results.

Exercise #1: Dig Into Your Past Relationships
How it works: Get ready to do some emotional excavating: “Sit down and think about all the people you’ve dated in the past,” says Dr. Rachna D. Jain, a licensed psychologist and professional success
Think of them as a fitness routine for your relationship muscles.
coach in Maryland. “Write down what happened, how you met, how long you dated, how it ended, and what you learned from it.” Your learning experiences might be positive—a past mate who introduced you to something new that you now love, like Japanese food or skiing—or negative, like a beau who belittled you.

Why it works: “The purpose of a relationship history is to notice if there are any [bad] patterns that you keep falling into, and to realize the patterns of good relationships so you can repeat them,” Jain says. “It sets you up, so you know better what you’re looking for and don’t repeat the same mistakes again.”

Exercise #2: Make a Wish List—Then Make It Come True Yourself
How it works: Consider this exercise your grown-up letter to Santa: Take a piece of paper and write down everything in the world that you want a relationship to be, says Rebecca Kiki Weingarten, a life coach and co-founder of Daily Life Consulting in New York. Don’t worry about making the list realistic—it can be as pie-in-the-sky as you want. “Maybe you want financial security, someone to travel with, or an extensive social life,” Weingarten says. Whatever your desires, put them on paper. Then, play Santa for yourself: Look at which of those items you actually already have in your life, or can achieve on your own without waiting for a partner to make it happen.

Why it works: This gets you in top relationship shape for two reasons. One, by taking responsibility for your own goals and desires, you become a happier person with a stronger sense of self—something that makes you infinitely more attractive to others. And two, you lessen the pressure that those unfulfilled desires put on your potential mate. “Imagine if someone came to you and said, ‘Here’s what I need you to fulfill in my life’,” Weingarten says. “Nobody can live up to that.”

Exercise #3: Help Others Help You
How it works: “Let everyone in your circle know that you’re single and looking,” says Steven Sacks, a relationship coach and author of The Mate Map: The Right Tool for Choosing the Right Mate. But he adds a twist: “Once someone agrees to keep their eyes and ears open for you, email them the criteria that are most important to you in a significant other.” List the five personality traits you desire most—maybe your ideal mate is optimistic, mature, high-energy, funny and ambitious. “Be as specific as possible,” Jain says. “Then ask at least three people a month if they know anyone with those traits.” (That’s right; you have to nudge a little to stay on their radar.) Sacks says the goal should be to go on at least one date a week, every week.

Why it works: You never know who might know your very own Mr. or Ms. Right, right? “What you’re saying is, ‘I know that you know some really cool people, and I’m interested in meeting someone,’” Jain says. “What you’re not saying is, ‘I’m so tired of being alone on Friday night that I’ll date anyone.’” Still, Jain stresses the importance of being open to meeting lots of different kinds of people and following through when friends start playing matchmaker. “Nothing will turn your friends and family off faster than if they keep trying to set you up with people and you don’t give it a try.”

Exercise # 4: Make Dating a Priority
How it works: It’s hard to meet someone new and exciting if you’re relying on the same old methods. So reevaluate if you’re truly making your social life a priority. Posting an online profile and asking a few friends for set-ups isn’t enough, Sacks says. “You should be trying at least five
Let everyone in your circle know that you’re single and looking.
different ways of meeting someone.” Answer personal ads, attend speed-dating events, join an online dating site, and try new activities that interest you—join a volleyball league or sign up for a wine-tasting seminar.

Why it works: “The key to meeting people is being proactive,” Sacks says. “Many singles believe that they shouldn’t have to make a major effort to find someone, because ideally, it should just happen naturally.” That’s nice in theory, but doesn’t work so well in practice. “Just as you would work at a job search if you were unemployed, you should exercise that same tenacity in your search for a mate,” Sacks says.

Exercise #5: Take a Break
How it works: Believe it or not, sometimes taking a break from the dating game is the best way to prepare yourself for a healthy, new relationship. If there are times during your hunt when you feel particularly burned out—like dating is too hard and no fun—then take a hiatus. “Decide that for one month you aren’t going to be proactive on the dating scene,” Sacks says. “You can still be friendly and open-minded when you’re out with friends, but don’t attend any singles events.” During that break, figure out why your dates aren’t going well. “It could be that you’re not selecting the best people to go out on dates with, in which case, refer back to your top-five list,” Jain says. “Or it could be that you’re feeling overly nervous, and you might need to remind yourself that this is just a date, after all.” Then make a plan to correct anything that can be fixed. Sacks also recommends using the break as a time to focus on your own well-being and personal growth. Recommit yourself to an exercise program if you’ve been slacking off at the gym, or sign up for that pottery class you’ve always wanted to take.

Why it works: Just as athletes need to take breaks to let their muscles recover, serial daters need to rest, too. “It’s good to take periodic breaks from dating,” Jain says. “People keep pushing themselves through it and it can become a negative. Taking breaks and then recommitting yourself can make it easier to find the right person, because you’re not coming at it from a stressed-out place where nothing goes well.” Better yet, Sacks says, if you’ve used your break to focus on your own interests, you won’t just be more fulfilled, you’ll have something new to talk about once you’re dating again.

Erika Rasmusson Janes is a freelance writer in New York City. She met her husband on a blind date.
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