As little girls most of us have some hope or dream of finding our very own Prince Charming, and as we grow up it feels like we’re always looking for him: at school, in bars, online, at parties, at Whole Foods Market, at the gym and so on. In my search I kept looking and looking. I was 20 years old, in college and had recently lost a lot of weight, so I was feeling pretty confident. Guys were approaching me, but there was no one who I really liked all that much, and I never felt that magic spark or chemistry I had heard so much about.
For a long time I blamed the guy: either he wasn’t funny enough, smart enough, good looking enough, too good looking, had no ambition, didn’t give me enough attention, gave me too much attention and the list went on. Finally, there came a day when I was ready to give up. I thought maybe I should just have fun, sleep around like a lot of my friends were doing at the time, but I couldn’t bring myself to give up my principles and personal integrity like that. Instead, I started wondering about myself: could I be doing something wrong? am I looking in the wrong places? looking for the wrong person? I realized I didn’t even know the qualities I liked in a guy. I knew what I didn’t like, but I was so focused on the negatives that I was blind to any positive traits the poor guy may have had.
From then on I decided to try a new approach, sort of an experiment in self-exploration. Basically, I decided to go out with whoever asked me, even if I wasn’t necessarily physically attracted to him at first. Now of course this is within reason- I trusted my gut reaction and did not go with anyone who gave off a creepy vibe. Most of the guys I met through friends, at parties, on campus somewhere or at Starbucks. I made a conscious effort to be open minded. If the guy had the courage to ask me out, I gave him the benefit of the doubt.
Over a period of six months I went out on dates with seven or eight guys, mostly just first dates, but there were a couple second dates too. Overall I learned a lot about myself, even if I didn’t get a boyfriend out of it. I think one of the most important things I did was that I went into each date with a curious attitude, I wanted to know about the person and was interested in what I would like and wouldn’t like if I just tried to get to know him rather than going into the situation with the goal of finding the perfect boyfriend (or husband). As an added bonus, I found that if I went into the date with that open attitude, it was much easier to be myself, to talk and to laugh. Some element of pressure I had been putting on myself was removed. I didn’t care if it worked out or not. I hoped to meet someone interesting and attractive, but I didn’t attack or criticize myself or the guy if we weren’t a good fit.
A few months after this so-called experiment was over, a cute guy walked into the coffee shop where I worked. After a few weeks of taking his order and making his double short lattes, he asked me out. Some of the butterflies and nervousness came up again, probably because I was attracted to him and wanted things to work out, but, in general, I tried to apply what I had learned. I was open and tried not to be critical or judgmental. It turned out we were a good fit, and it’s lasted. I don’t think it would have worked out if I hadn’t learned what I did.
So here are a few recommendations when looking for your Mr. Right:
1. Be open to re-evaluating your expectations, and maybe even yourself. We can’t hold on to that dream of Prince Charming forever. It doesn’t exist. Don’t look for perfection. Be realistic, look at the whole package. There will be things you like and don’t like about anyone you meet. Try to find a balance, hopefully leaning more toward the side of things you do like.
2. Look for someone you already like as a person, not for someone you’re going to change. Sometimes we get into the mindset that we want to rescue someone, or change the “bad boy” into a good man. The truth is people have to want to change on their own.If you try to change a man, it’s likely he’ll end up resenting you for it, and that does not make for a healthy relationship.
3. Try to let your guard down. Let him know you like him, avoid playing hard to get because he might not want to play. Being yourself can be tough in new dating situations. There’s always the fear of being hurt or humiliated, but allowing yourself be vulnerable is the best way to take a relationship to the next level.