Dating - Do's and Don'ts

We never live so intensely as when we love strongly. We never realize ourselves so vividly as when we are in the full glow of love for others.
- Walter Raushenbusch

With Valentine's Day less than a month away, I have been fielding questions left and right about dating. While I do not have the magic formula for finding the love of your life, I do have ten tips to get you started.

Be Open ~ if you are out of school, the dating scene narrows dramatically. Be open to finding dates through a variety of sources. Ask friends and family if they know of anyone who is single. If you are busy, hire a professional matchmaker, sign-up for an online dating board, join clubs, take an adult education class, go to the gym, or visit your place of worship. Most of all - get out of the house. Prince (or Princess) Charming does not make house calls.

Cast A Wide Net ~ when fishing in the daring waters of dating, do not be too picky too soon. Agree to meet a variety of people. And do not limit your choices. Once you truly have an idea of your options, then you can choose to see someone exclusively. Until then, enjoy the world of dating.

Start Small ~ since the magic attraction factor can be elusive over the telephone, do not waste valuable time talking for hours and hours before you have even met. Schedule a brief, low stress first date to meet before investing a lot of time. The best first dates usually involve a cup of coffee, an ice cream, or a drink and should last for between 30 minutes to an hour. If after you go home, you think you would like to get to know the person better, it is then time to move on to a second date.

Accessorize With Mystery ~ too many people feel a need to review the relationship resume in full during the first date. While clearly you should be honest, there is also no need to use the first date as a counseling session. Allow the conversation to remain light for the first two dates. See if you even enjoy spending time with this person before sharing the intimate details of your life.

Twice Is Nice ~ first dates are nerve wracking occasions. Most people are hard pressed to make a good first impression. Unless the person is absolutely horrid, give it at least two dates before making any final decisions. Remember, bad first date stories always make great wedding toast material.

Be A Prude ~ keeping in the same vein as mystery; decide whether or not you like this person as an individual before deciding if you want them as a romantic partner. As your grandmother would say "A little hand holding and cuddling can go a long way." Or as your grandfather would say "Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free." I am sure you get the picture.

Share The Wealth ~ so, ok, there was no love connection. Just because this was not your life-long partner does not mean either of you are destined for loneliness. Networking is not just for business anymore. Wrack your brain to see if there is anyone you can introduce this person to who might be a better match. Hey, you never know... your bad date's second cousin might be your dreamboat.

Take It To The Next Level ~ in high school it is fine to date for years and years. As an adult, there is a breaking point where the relationship either has to move to the next level or end. Know what your time frame is and stick to it. If you are not serious about this person, let them go so that they can find their match.

Best Behavior ~ I realize it should go without saying, but while dating you should be on your best behavior. Show your date your good qualities before adding your quirks into the mix. Arrive on time, dressed appropriately with a positive attitude. Ten minutes after the date was supposed to begin is too late to call and cancel!

Humor Required ~ dating is fraught with danger and disaster. It is best to arm yourself with your sense of humor. Keep things in perspective and know that even the worst dates make for great conversations later with friends.

Just because you have not found your soul mate by February 14th does not mean you are allowed to sit at home and mope. Call some of your single friends and schedule some fun. Have a Mafia party, rent the Godfather movies and eat pasta. Enjoy some spa treatments while sipping pear nectar. Plan a ski weekend... that cute ski instructor may be single too!

For more information on thank you notes, please read How to Ask Anyone Out for Any Occasion, Smug Marrieds Responsibility to The Singletons ~ The Modern Setup or Back to Basics - How to Meet and Greet 101.

Q: Dear Mannersmith ~ I know you suggest short first dates. What do you suggest for second dates? Perplexed

A: Dear Perplexed, Even for second dates, I recommend staying away from dinner at a fancy restaurant. There is just too much pressure. An activity date is best. Depending on your tastes, I recommend a walk though a museum discussing the art, a bike ride through a park, being a tourist in your own town, or even an afternoon of bowling. The activity helps to buffer the conversation. And if you are having fun, you can suggest adding a quick bite to eat.

Q: Dear Mannersmith ~ I have been dating for almost a decade now and can tell within minutes whether or not I like the guy. Do I still need to go on that second date? In The Know

A: Dear In The Know, I am presuming you would like to stop dating and be in a committed relationship at some point. If that is the case, yes, you do need to go on the second date. The fact that you have been dating for almost a decade without the desired results would indicate to me an issue with your screening process. I am not asking you to lower your standards. But I would recommend giving the guy more time to pass the test.

Q: Dear Mannersmith ~ I am very shy and the thought of getting to know someone for the first time on a date is way too much for me. Besides dating, how else can I meet women? The Quiet Guy

A: Since you are shy, you should try to get to know the woman before asking her out. For you, the best way to meet a prospective match would be through a volunteer activity (choose something you care about) or through an adult education class (choose something that interests you, such as wine tasting, or one that would attract a lot of women, knitting for beginners). Think of getting to know women as friends first before moving into the realm of romance.