RIGHT PERSON

A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE

HOW TO FIND the
IN 90 DAYS
YEA RS OF M& MILLIO ATCH NS ES

10

BAS ED O N

BROUGHT TO YOU BY

INSPIRING MORE MARRIAGES THAN ANY OTHER SITE BY DAWN YANEK

INTRODUCTION

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here is someone wonderful out there right now, just hoping to find you. Yes, you. We know that may be difficult to believe, especially if you’ve been searching for a while with little luck or if you agree with the 52 percent of single people recently surveyed who think they’ll never find The One. Well, at Match.com, we know better. You can meet the perfect person for you sooner than you’d ever imagined with our 90-day guide to dating success. This three-month plan isn’t just for a narrowly defined set of single people. It’s for anyone who’s looking to get back in the game with a distinct advantage—whether you’ve never been married, you’re newly divorced, you’re a single parent, you’re straight or you’re gay, you’re over 50 and starting over, or whatever your situation may be. We know that the process may seem daunting, but don’t worry—you won’t be alone. We’ll be with you every step of the way to help you figure out what’s been holding you back and to show you how to take charge of your love life. You may be asking yourself if now is the right time, and the answer is absolutely, undeniably yes. Finding a happy relationship may be the most important thing you ever do, but it doesn’t have to be a long, painful process. We have the secrets for you to get exactly what you want quickly and productively. With our knowledge in your hands, you can unlock the door to your future happiness—after all, in just a few weeks, you’ll have the master key. So what are you waiting for?

Dawn Yanek, author of Women’s Best-Kept Secrets and the former sex-and-relationships columnist for Stuff magazine, currently works as a freelance writer and TV personality in New York City. Like Match.com, Dawn firmly believes there is someone for everyone finding 'the one' is just a matter of expanding your possibilities.

MONTH #3

MOVING AHEAD: IT’S TIME TO MEET YOUR MATCH

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ow, what an incredible ride you’ve taken so far: The past two months have been revealing—and exhilarating. And it’s all due to you and your hard work. By approaching dating from a different perspective, you’ve opened yourself up to a whole new world of possibilities and, we’re guessing, more than a few interesting prospects. Does one of them have the potential to be your life-long partner? Very possibly…and at Match.com we know that these early stages are critical to the development of a relationship, so we’ve boiled down the essentials for you. Know these rules of engagement, and you’ll be able to zero in on the right person, figure out whether you’re truly compatible and see if the object of your affection has what it takes to go the distance with you.

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WEEK 9:

DISCOVER YOUR TRUE COMPATIBILITY

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STEP 1:

hile excitement and lust are important components of a new relationship, so is some serious analysis. After all, “Why invest in a stock if it’s going to crash?” asks Jeffry Larson, Ph. D., author of Should We Stay Together? A Scientifically Proven Method for Evaluating Your Relationship and Improving Its Chances for Long-Term Success. “If you want a relationship that leads to something long-term, you need to be aware of your compatibility with someone. This way, you can avoid a lot of pain and anguish, because analyzing your relationship now will help you avoid dating someone for three years, only to break up.” This compatibility check doesn’t have to be an arduous process. A few quick but revealing steps can tell you if you’re either wasting your time or making a potentially amazing investment.
ZERO IN ON YOUR BEST PROSPECTS

These are the people who make your heart skip a beat, who get you everso-slightly tongue-tied and whose voice you hope you’ll hear when you answer the phone. But before you launch yourself headfirst into a relationship with that special someone, you need more information— namely, about this person’s core values, emotional development and views on love and life. What are you trying to uncover? Whether or not this person is trustworthy, truly ready for a relationship and, ultimately, good for you. So during your third to seventh dates, start injecting bits of more

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in-depth information about your own life and see how the other person responds. Psychologists say that a person will respond in kind with the same amount of disclosure. If you’re talking, say, about time spent with your family when you were a kid, whether or not you’ve ever really been in love or how you envision your life ten years from now, the other person will likely divulge similar pieces of information. Neat trick, huh? The key is to keep it light and fun and to not ask a lot of “why” questions. Genuine interest and dialogue will get you a lot further than interrogation tactics.
STEP 2: F I G U R E O U T I F T H I S P E R S O N I S T R U S T W O RT H Y

Giving your heart to someone is one of the biggest risks you can take in life—and one that’s well worth it if you choose wisely. You want to make sure that you’re emotionally safe with a love interest, and, believe it or not, figuring that out isn’t a random guessing game. There are a few key questions you need to ask yourself to get a clear answer, says Nina Atwood, M. Ed., a Dallas-based therapist and author of Soul Talk: Powerful, Positive Communication for a Loving Partnership. They are:

* Does this person keep his or her word? about larger issues. Small actions can speak thousands of words
So pay attention and see if this person calls when he said he would or brings you that book he said you’d love and promised to let you borrow. If he doesn’t, he may disappoint you in other ways down the line. “Somebody is trustworthy if they do what they say they’ll do— period,” says Atwood.

* Does this personintake responsibility for the mistakes his or her own life?
If people have an “external locus of control,” they blame others for anything that goes awry in their life—and that goes for job, relationship and family problems. “You need to ask yourself, ‘What is the window through which this person is viewing other people?’” explains Atwood. “Because that is the same window through which they will look at you.” did this person’s last relationship end? * When and howtelling question that can reveal whether you’re the A surprisingly rebound relationship, an in-the-meantime date or someone who has real potential is by finding out this information and paying attention to how it’s conveyed. This way, you’ll get a sense of what really went wrong. You’ll also learn how that relationship affected your date’s thoughts about the opposite sex and relationships in general.

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of information about other * Does this person repeat confidential bits fun, but discretion revealspeople? Gossip about exes and others may be a great deal about someone’s character and the way in which this person will speak about you later on.

STEP 3:

TA K E T H E C O M PAT I B I L I T Y T E S T

Figuring out if you’re compatible is very much like playing detective, as you cleverly gather your information from clues in your date’s conversation. Know, however, that this is not an open-and-shut case. “When you first fall in love, you don’t think rationally—it’s hormones, ahoy,” explains Larson. “After a few months things calm down, but it really takes about a year to tell if you’re truly compatible. You get to see the person in a variety of situations, through all the four seasons, all the holidays, all the rituals.” Can’t wait that long, can you? The following test, created by Match.com with Larson, will help you figure out if you’re on the right track with the right person. Not every one of these answers will matter the same amount, but they will help you form a truer, clearer picture of the person you’re with—and what this relationship may be like in the long-term. Write your answers in a journal for each person you’re interested in, and then update them every three weeks for the first three months, if you’re still dating. 1. Do we, deep down, “get” each other and appreciate what makes the other person unique? 2. Do we value the same things in life? Rank the following items for yourself, and then rank them as you think your date would. Romance Sex Friendship Work Money Recreation Children Family Spirituality 3. Do we expect the same things from a partner and from a relationship? 4. Are we from similar backgrounds? 5. Are our personalities similar?

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6. Do we enjoy doing the same types of things for fun? 7. Are we sexually attracted to each other? 8. Do I find it easy to talk to this person?

STEP 4:

U N D E R S TA N D Y O U R A N S W E R S

These questions get to the root of the big issues—the ones that best predict long-term relationship success or failure. After all, while little things (like your partner’s taste in movies or his penchant for falling asleep on the couch) may be minor irritations, they generally don’t cause breakups. Core desires about how many children to have, what role spirituality will play in your life or how you view relationships in general, however, can cause deep rifts between you and your partner. The same holds true for deep personality differences. Here’s how you can identify a few big warning signs: “When you’re complaining about the other person’s personality—‘he’s too quiet’ or ‘she’s too shy’—you’re probably not compatible,” says Larson. “The same holds true if you get the feeling that the other person doesn’t understand you or that you’re not on the same wavelength.” While some differences can make a relationship spicier, serious disagreements about life and how you want to live it can cause problems down the line. But notice we used the word can, not will. While compatibility is certainly important, “what matters most is good communication skills—good speaking, listening and problem-solving skills,” says Larson. “Even if you have some incompatibilities, having good communication skills may help you work things out.” While similar backgrounds and personality traits can help you fall into a relationship more easily, these things aren’t necessarily prerequisites to relationship success. The following Match.com story illustrates how one woman from England found that she did share certain core similarities with her American Prince Charming, despite their outwardly different behavior and upbringing. “It was like Brendan was custom-fit for me: We have many similar interests as well as complementary qualities. He’s more grounded and passive; I am quite emotional and nervy. He became, in a short time, my rock, and I his spark.
K E E P B E I N G T H E FA B U L O U S P E R S O N T H AT Y O U A R E .

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Taking a Closer Look. What Counts as Compatibility? A Case Study
At first glance, it may seem as if you’re polar opposites, but as one woman on Match.com discovered, a little digging can yield a wealth of similarities. “Brian was one of the first people to wink at me on Match.com. He was a mechanic and a city councilman living in a small town about 120 miles away from me. He described himself as utterly self-reliant, someone who had made his own way in the world, but who was interested in meeting new people and seeing new places. At the time, I was separated from my husband of 12 years—the only person I’d ever dated seriously. I tried Match.com to learn how to talk to new people, maybe make a friend or pen pal, or perhaps even go on a few dates. I’m a professor with two small children, and I never dreamed I’d date anyone else seriously ever again, let alone fall in love. “We e-mailed each other for about a month, slowly talking about our work and home lives, politics (he’s a moderate Republican, and I’m a pretty left Democrat) and our families. We were amazed to find that despite the differences in our education and political leanings, we still had so much in common. We wanted the same kinds of things in our lives, we felt similarly about our friends and work, we loved lots of the same kinds of music, we both read a lot, and felt strongly about having and raising children. “About a month later Brian and I exchanged phone numbers. We were supposedly going to talk about our other adventures on Match.com, but after we talked for about 90 minutes that first night, we decided to talk again. And again. And finally, we met for lunch. “Well, we were supposed to have lunch, but we ended up just sitting at my kitchen table with big buckets of coffee in front of us, talking for about five hours! By the time we were saying our good-byes, we were shyly asking each other if we thought we could handle the distance (a two-and-a-half-hour drive). We both realized we were interested in each other, and we’ve been spending every weekend together ever since. We’ve also e-mailed each other daily and saved and archived all those messages—more than 300 now! “We love each other deeply and feel that Match.com was a safe, accessible way to learn a lot about each other and ourselves. We are so grateful.”

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Taking a Closer Look. Rejection Rx
So let’s say you’ve been shot down, and it stinks. But it’s actually a necessary step in your quest for love. The following step-by-step guide will help you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and adjust your attitude so you can get back on track. Step 1: Reframe your rejection in a positive light. “Instead of focusing on the rejection itself, focus on the risk you took,” says Carrie Blau, CSW, a therapist in Long Beach, New York. “You let yourself be vulnerable, and that’s a good thing. Everything in life that’s worth having involves a risk— getting a new job, buying a house, starting a new relationship. Whenever you put something on the line, the payoff can be so much more.” That’s an empowering bit of knowledge, and it can remind you that you have the strength to move on and find the greatest love of your life. Step 2: Compare your recently extinguished love to your former flames. It’s important to take this time to mourn the end of the relationship, refocus and reevaluate. “When you break up, it’s often all or nothing—the person goes from being God’s gift to the biggest jerk in the world—but the truth is, you did like some things about the person and the relationship,” says Blau. “The time in between relationships is when you learn the most.” So pull out your relationship scorecard from Month #1, figure out how this partner stacked up and see if you stayed on track and it just didn’t work out—or if you need to refocus some of your energy on breaking a bad dating habit. Step 3: Spoil yourself rotten. Treat yourself to an expensive dinner, buy front-row tickets to your favorite sports event, and watch the sunset. Instead of waiting to do something wonderful with someone else, lavish a little attention on you. Step 4: Adjust your attitude. The self-esteem boost above should help you get back to your confident self. Repeating a mantra can enhance that process. Blau suggests saying this to calm your anxiety and avoid a woeis-me attitude: “I’m exactly where I need to be right now.” As they say, everything happens for a reason—and when you solve your current relationship puzzle, a positive shift will follow. Step 5: Get back out there. You’ve learned, you’ve grown and now you are an even stronger force to be reckoned with. So call a friend, make plans for this weekend and watch out, world—here you come!

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W H AT Y O U L E A R N E D T H I S W E E K :

your prospects * To zero in onfigure best if you’re for love and out compatible

* To manage your expectations and open yourself up to possibilities
you hadn’t previously imagined relationship as * To look at a failed learn and grow an opportunity to

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WEEK 10:

SETTING THE PACE FOR A SUCCESSFUL RELATIONSHIP

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K, you’ve met someone you like, you think you’re compatible, and you’ve decided that you’d like to work toward building a relationship…now what? According to Sheenah Hankin, Ph. D., a New York City psychotherapist and the author of Complete Confidence: A Handbook, continuing to work toward that ideal relationship is key: “The biggest mistake people make at this early stage is starting to predict a future. There’s nothing wrong with hoping it’s going to go well, but you’ve got to move through another whole stage before you can be sure.” For the first 90 days of your new relationship, it’s essential to pace yourself and manage your expectations. And while that involves a certain amount of restraint upon occasion, it’ll be well worth the effort expended. “Romance is a wonderful feeling, but what’s far more important is turning romance into companionship,” says Hankin. “You don’t lose romance by building companionship—you get something even better.” The following rules can turn your blossoming romance into a lasting love affair.

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RULE #1:

K E E P B E I N G T H E FA B U L O U S P E R S O N T H AT Y O U A R E .

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, because it is the most common mistake people make in the first 90 days. You can get so overwhelmed by a new relationship that you develop selective amnesia: You forget you. Often when people get wrapped up in a new relationship, Hankin says, they put their lives and responsibilities on the back burner—they daydream at work, stop seeing friends or returning calls, don’t go to the gym, and even forget to pay the rent. Nothing seems as important as your new love, and that may ultimately be the case, but it’s still essential for you to maintain some perspective. She suggests the following exercise to make sure you’re “keeping your life alive.” Every Monday morning, ask yourself the following questions:

* * *

Am I taking care of myself physically by working out, eating well and doing whatever I normally do to stay healthy? Am I taking care of myself emotionally by keeping my family and friends around? And am I taking care of them and being there for them when they need me? Am I taking care of my life by paying my bills, continuing to focus on my job and putting myself first?

From there, make your to-do lists for each of these categories and get to your tasks at hand. “If you don’t do these things, you won’t feel good about yourself,” says Hankin. “And you won’t have anything to talk about with your new love interest.” All your varied interests and obligations, after all, make you the fascinating person that you are—and the one that your new partner met and may be falling in love with.

RULE #2:

KEEP YOUR OPTIONS OPEN.

Just because you like someone, it doesn’t mean that you can’t like other people, too. Comparison shopping (and dating), even when you think you might be crazy about someone, can clarify your feelings as well as slow you down so you don’t ignore negative aspects of your new partner. “I always fall into the same trap: getting too serious too soon,” admits 45-year-old Chrissy, a business manager in Los Angeles. “I’ve learned to slow myself down by mentally listing my motives and trying to figure them out.” Actually writing your motives down will draw things out further, as will accepting that other dinner date for the weekend or limiting your time spent with this new person to two or three dates a week for the first month.

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Once you are ready to commit, however, have an explicit conversation about it. After all, the other person might not be where you are emotionally. And that great No. 2 prospect that you got rid of after you had one good conversation with your first choice? He or she could be long gone by now.

RULE #3:

D O N ’ T G E T S W E P T I N T O B E D T O O Q U I C K LY.

Yes, we’re all adults here, and sex can be a wonderful thing—but no matter how liberated we think we are, having sex before we’re truly ready often comes with a price. The chemicals released during sex can cause a flood of emotional attachment (see below, “Are You In Love—Or Lust?”), and this can cloud your judgment early on. Instant intimacy can also start a relationship off on the wrong foot, explains Laura, a 29-year-old candymaker from Fort Lee, New Jersey: “When you sleep with someone too soon, you never develop as friends because you fall into the pattern of going to bed.” So with all that said, how long should you wait? Obviously, it’s a personal choice and expert opinion ranges widely, but three weeks seems to be the minimum. Steven Sacks, author of The Mate Map: The Right Tool For Choosing The Right Mate, recommends waiting at least three months. “If you’re meant to be together, you’ll have your whole lives together,” he says. “You want the level of physical intimacy to meet your level of relationship intimacy. After three months you really have a sense of what this person’s about and you have a higher level of connection.” As they say, good things come to those who wait.

RULE #4:

K E E P Y O U R R E L AT I O N S H I P F R E E F R O M FA M I LY I N P U T.

When you introduce your new partner to your parents and extended family, you’re also introducing additional opinions, attachments and resentments—all of which can extinguish a new flame. After all, how many times have you heard the following questions: So when are you two going to get married? Is he really your type? Don’t you think your ex was better marriage material? Sound familiar? Instead of letting family members shape your judgment in these early stages, form your own opinion and then let your family know what you think. Meeting your partner’s family can also catapult you into a separate relationship with them and guilt you into staying in a relationship that’s not right for you. For example, you might form a bond with their siblings or fall in love with their children—and that’s not what should keep you in a

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relationship. So those kinds of introductions are another step to take very slowly. And what if you’ve met right before a major holiday? Do you have to merge families as a show of holiday spirit? No, say the experts: Don’t treat this as the exception to the rule. Fulfill your respective obligations, and if you want to see each other, do so when the others have cleared out. Think of it this way: A late-night-drink date can be a great incentive to get you through an exhausting family dinner.

Taking a Closer Look. Are You in Love — or Lust?
In the beginning it may be hard to tell if your hormones have gotten the better of you or if you’re truly head over heels in love. Not anymore. According to anthropologist Helen Fisher, Ph. D., author of Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love, there are some very defining characteristics for each of the three stages of love. You can have one stage without the other, and they can occur in any order. But for a long-term romantic relationship, you need all three. Translation: If you and your partner are in lust, it may be fun, but you’ll need to slow yourself down and figure out if there’s more to your relationship than naughty thoughts. By identifying the telltale signs of love and lust (and, ultimately, attachment), you can figure out what those butterflies in your stomach really mean.

RULE #5:

I F Y O U H AV E K I D S , E X E R C I S E E V E N G R E AT E R C A U T I O N .

Introducing your new partner to your kids—or being introduced to your partner’s—is a definite no-no before 90 days or before you’re committed to working toward a future together. Don’t forget— you’re dealing with a whole other set of fragile emotions. When the time is right, Hankin suggests introducing your new love quickly and casually. Instead of spending a weekend away or even having an introductory dinner, invite your date along to a baseball game or a movie. “Have the person fit in with the plan rather than making him/her the focus,” she says. “And don’t put a lot of pressure on the kids by telling them, ‘You’ve gotta meet him, you’re gonna like him, he’s great.’ Don’t sell. Instead say, ‘I have a friend I really like a lot, and I want you to meet.’ Let them come around slowly.”

LUST The telltale signs: You have an intense craving for sex, but you lack a desire for emotional union. “It’s an intolerable neural itch, and you can feel it for a whole range of people or even by conjuring up a thought,” says Fisher. “But you don’t change your priorities to be with this person, and you’re not highly motivated to win them over in an emotional way.” In short, if your interest isn’t reciprocated by the object of your desire, you might not be happy but you won’t be heartbroken either and you’ll direct your lust elsewhere. The chemicals responsible: Your sex drive needs no introduction, but it’s spurred on by testosterone in both men and women. And as long as we’re on the topic… If your new partner tries to hook up on night No. 1 or calls you at 11 p.m. for a midnight rendezvous, be wary. Down the line, that kind of behavior can be spontaneous and fun; but in the beginning, it signifies a desire for sex and nothing more.

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If you happen to have a teenager at home, smooth the situation by introducing your new love interest on your teen’s terms. Hankin suggests, “Ask your teen what’s acceptable: ‘What would you like to do? Would you like him to come by for dessert or come for a walk with us? Let me know what would be comfortable for you.’” Try to think of this as an adult-to-adult proposition instead of an adult-tochild one. If you don’t talk down to your child, he or she won’t be as likely to act like one and you’ll have a better shot of easily integrating your date into your life—as well as your family’s.

ROMANTIC LOVE The telltale signs: Your palms are sweaty, your heart goes pitter-patter and your stomach does flips even an Olympic gymnast couldn’t handle. Aside from these physical sensations, your brain is flooded with obsessive thoughts about this person and a desire for emotional connection. “You become extremely possessive of this person and the relationship, and you don’t want them to be with or sleep with anybody else—this is called mate-guarding in animals,” says Fisher. “The emotions that go with romantic love run from very positive to very negative, but the actual core feeling is an obsession to win somebody else emotionally, whether they love you or don’t love you.” Your fear systems also shut down, so you do crazy things for love—the sort of things you don’t do just for sex. The chemicals responsible: Dopamine. The part of the brain that produces it also becomes activated when you eat chocolate or when you’re trying to win money. Dopamine produces a high, and it can lead you to the heights of euphoria and the depths of despair.

RULE #6:

L O O K AT T H E S E T H R E E K E Y ISSUES: ANGER, MONEY A N D FA M I LY R E L AT I O N S .

ATTACHMENT The telltale signs: Your feelings of lust and romantic love become more sporadic, and you settle into a calmer, more content relationship. You are connected to the other person and feel surges of lust and love, but the intensity is different and you are focused more on companionship. The chemicals responsible: Oxytocin and, in men, vasopressin—these are the calming chemicals that suppress testosterone and dopamine. Bonus tip! Be Careful With Whom You Fall in Love Sometimes we really don’t have a choice in the matter, but more often than you think, you do have control. Consider this: If you sleep with someone too soon, you can activate oxytocin, vasopressin and dopamine production in your brain, leading you straight into the romantic love and attachment phases. These chemicals can overshadow your better judgment, so be careful with whom you get intimate and when. “With orgasm, levels of oxytocin go up almost 500 percent in women and levels of vasopressin go way up in men; these are the attachment chemicals in the brain,” says Fisher. “So get to know the person before you make love to them, because otherwise you may fall in love with somebody who isn’t right for you at all.”

You generally start observing and discussing these topics at the five-to six-week point. The thing is, these hot-button issues are not localized—meaning, the way in which anger is expressed is “a habit and a style,” according to Hankin, and it can be the same for work, relationship and family issues. The same goes for opinions about money and family. Here are a few key questions to ask yourself:

* *

Do I like the way this person spends money? Is he or she generous or stingy?

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* *

Does this person have a close relationship with his family? How does this person react when faced with stress or adversity?

These key issues will come up time and again, and identifying the ways in which your potential partner deals with them will give you a better idea of what your future might be like together—for better or for worse.

RULE #7:

R E M E M B E R T O H AV E F U N !

More important than whether or not this is the right person for you on paper, you need to truly enjoy spending time together. “If you don’t have fun with someone, the relationship is going to be boring and it’s not going to last,” says Hankin. “It’s really important to continue to have fun, right through married life.” In the beginning, show your potential mate how you feel with small gestures and see if the object of your affection feels the same way about you. Bob, 32, an architect in Cleveland, offers these tips: “Go ahead and e-mail short little thinking-of-you notes if you didn’t get to call for a few days, bring her flowers from the yard, take her for a walk or a bike ride in the park, or call her for her opinion on something you’re doing. If you can embed positive images of yourself (within reason, of course!) in her mind that she can replay, you increase your chances for success.”

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W H AT Y O U L E A R N E D T H I S W E E K :

* To pace yourself in a new relationship * To distinguish love from lust—and figure out which one you’ve got
(or both)

Checkup Time: Your Progress So Far. Use this checklist to track your accomplishments:
So far I have…

* * * *

Zeroed in on at least two people I’ve been dating and figured out if I’m compatible with them Learned how to pace myself in a relationship Tempered my expectations and opened myself up to different possibilities Worked on cultivating the relationship that I want and know I deserve

If you haven’t found the right person yet, don’t get discouraged and don’t settle. This isn’t a race, and while it may be difficult to find The One, when you do find that person—and you absolutely will—you will experience a love that you may not have thought possible. If, however, you have found someone who has a real possibility of being the perfect person for you, it’s time to utilize the tools that will turn your dream into a reality. And that’s just what the next two weeks will be all about.

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WEEK 11:

SIDESTEPPING EARLY RELATIONSHIP TRAPS

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f you’re pacing your relationship as we’ve outlined above, you deserve a hearty dose of congratulations. By learning the new rules of the road, you’ve put yourself way ahead of the game. And at Match.com we know that this is key to your future happiness, as is avoiding certain common pitfalls at this incredibly important stage. “Within the first few months, you set the tone of the relationship and the operating parameters for respecting each other, communicating and compromising,” says Ian Kerner, Ph. D., couples counselor and author of Be Honest—You’re Not That Into Him Either: Raise Your Standards and Reach For The Love You Deserve. “Relationships can get lopsided very quickly, so it’s pivotal to establish the groundwork for giving and receiving.” But while you may encounter the following obstacles on your way to relationship nirvana, if you navigate your way past them successfully, your reward will be that much sweeter—and that much closer.

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TRAP #1:

You’re lukewarm about someone you’ve been seeing—until that person suddenly doesn’t return your calls. Now you’re pining for him. THE SOLUTION: Figure out if you let a good one get away or if your ego is simply bruised. The best way to do this? “Wait a week before picking up the phone or e-mailing the person to figure things out and to start things up again,” advises Kerner. “A week is a good litmus test because you’ll move on if you weren’t interested, rather than just feeding an obsession.” But this isn’t a week off from the plan. Kerner suggests gaining relationship insight by writing a mock letter to this person (and no, never sending it) that follows this format:

* * * *

Acknowledge the problem. For example: “You’re not calling me back, and maybe it didn’t seem like I was that into you, but….” List the things you liked about the person. List the things you liked about the two of you being together. List any problems that may have led to the no-calling situation.

If you don’t come up with much that you liked—or if the things you come up with don’t mesh with what you ultimately want in a partner—it’s time to cut bait. If, however, you’re kicking yourself for messing up a good thing, make a single call or write an e-mail saying something to the effect of: “I haven’t heard from you in a few days, and I just wanted to see how you were doing. I’d like to get together again sometime soon.” You’re being direct and non-accusatory; don’t get angry or go into too much detail, and don’t go into silent-stalker mode (this is the era of caller ID, after all). Perhaps your date was just busy, and this will be the catalyst for that long-overdue call. If not, think of this as a good lesson learned and don’t take your maybe-mates for granted in the future.

TRAP #2:

You look for validation about your relationship and your new partner from family and friends. THE SOLUTION: Stop analyzing each and every part of your new relationship and recounting the details to everyone who’ll listen. There are a few things to consider here: First, everyone looks for and likes different qualities in a partner. The important thing is that you—not your mother, best friend or the cashier at the corner deli—are attracted to and stimulated by this person. The other thing you need to consider is where a person’s opinion is really coming from. Perhaps your parents want to be grandparents very soon, or your single friend is invested in having you stay single for just a little while longer. Other people’s opinions can be superficial, off base or

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plain old self-motivated. Of course, if a trusted friend sees you falling into a bad pattern or if you’re in an abusive situation, you need to listen. But if that’s not the case, says Kerner, “turn down the volume and let the relationship get out of its infancy before exposing it to potential criticism.”

TRAP #3:

You make excuses when the person you’re dating is emotionally unavailable. THE SOLUTION: Refuse to have a relationship unless it’s on mutually agreeable terms. Because if you’re just a booty call or a guy who pays for dinner when no one else is around, it’s not a relationship. It may sound harsh, but it’s the truth. You need to ask yourself, “Is this person doing everything in his or her power to have a real relationship with me?” Kerner explains: “You should feel that your relationship is growing, that you’re opening your worlds to each other. And frankly, when you’re in love, those are things you want to do. You don’t make excuses for not doing them.” In short, if your date seems eternally busy, waits until the last minute to make plans (read: there are no better options), only tries to see you once every few weeks, or doesn’t share more than one aspect of his or her life, you’ve got a problem and should find someone who actually appreciates you.

TRAP #4:

You want to spend all your time with your new love. THE SOLUTION: You need to respect boundaries—yours and your partner’s. Just as you wouldn’t want someone to tell you how to spend your free time and with whom, you shouldn’t do that to someone else. Hankin gives this example: “If he goes out with his guy friends every Tuesday during baseball season to watch the game, don’t try to get him to see you on those nights or call him when he’s out. You can’t always be the center of attention—it’s a killer at this point.” While you may guilt your partner into seeing you for one night, that’s not a pattern you want to set because jealousy will eventually strangle your relationship. The following exercise can help draw some guidelines:

* * *

List the activities and commitments that are important to you. List the activities and commitments that are important to your new partner. Repeat this statement to yourself: “I will not be jealous or possessive of my new partner’s life away from me.”

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The idea is to build a foundation based on love, respect and trust. If you’re missing any of these ingredients, the delicate relationship recipe can turn sour.
TRAP #5:

In your gut, you know that there’s something off about this relationship, but you ignore it and try to make the best of things. THE SOLUTION: Be honest about what you’re seeing and feeling—and write it down. Some of your worries may seem unfounded, but others may have some weight. Let’s say you suspect that your new flame is still involved with his ex or that he’s hiding something important. Do a little subtle (or not-so-subtle) digging by talking about your own past relationships or whatever the subject in question may be. If your date is evasive when it’s his or her turn to share or gets very uncomfortable—and this really is a make-or-break situation—ask a more direct question, get a more satisfactory answer and establish clear rules. Respect yourself by saying: “I won’t see you if you’re still seeing your ex” or “It makes me uncomfortable when you make off-color jokes, and I can’t be in a relationship with someone who does that.” You have every right to want certain things in a partner, and you shouldn’t settle for anything less. Be honest with yourself. If this relationship isn’t working or you learn that you’re really not as compatible as you originally thought, don’t waste any more of your precious time. If you’re concerned that speaking up will result in breaking up, you shouldn’t be in this relationship. Establishing a foundation of trust, respect and open communication is the only way you’ll ever achieve an ultimately fulfilling and successful relationship. “Accepting certain behavior sets up patterns of disrespect,” says Kerner. “It could be accepting that someone will call you once every three weeks to hook up or allowing them to throw a temper tantrum in front of you or yell at cab drivers. You can’t let someone get away with something you’re uncomfortable with. The longer you accept the bad habits, the harder they are to break.”

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Taking a Closer Look. Dating 911
You’ve been following the plan but haven’t had the right results? Try these 10 emergency moves ASAP! If you’re having trouble meeting new people… 1. Have a friend analyze your technique. Maybe you think you’re doing all the right things, but you’re really missing one essential ingredient or unconsciously hindering your progress. An honest friend can evaluate, assess and discuss— then send you back out for another try. 2. Go on Match.com right now. But that’s not all: Wink at three people you find attractive and interesting, and then wink at three more who are slightly outside your criteria. By altering your requirements of location, looks, age, or profession, you might find a hidden gem. 3. Accept that crazy blind-date offer. Even pushy aunts and busybody manicurists could be the link to your soul mate. 4. Stop dating. You’ve earned a night off, so head out with your friends and have fun. Deactivating your “dating vibe” can relax you, yet still leave you with all your very attractive confidence. 5. Throw a party. Ask each of your friends to bring a single friend and turn your pad into party central. As host, you’re also in a unique position: You are the person who’s in charge, and as such, people will gravitate toward you. Each hello and thank-you-for-the-invite is an opportunity to meet someone new. If you’re having trouble taking things from date one to date three… 1. Do the opposite of what you’ve been doing on your dates. Remember that George Costanza rule of opposites that we mentioned in Month #1? It works here, too. So for one night, divulge more or less than you normally would, change up your first-date clothing and go on an unconventional date. You’re in a rut and need to break out of it! 2. Start a journal. When to write in it? You’ll be the most honest with yourself as soon as you get home from a date. By writing down your thoughts, you can remind yourself of how things really were instead of how you’ve distorted them the week after. 3. Practice on your friends. As they say, practice makes perfect, and running through a few conversations and potential questions ahead of time will boost your confidence and relax you in the moment. 4. Go on a double or group date. By diluting the pressure and taking the focus off the date, you’ll be able to relax and let your date get more of a glimpse of the real you. 5. Put your cards on the table. Admit that you’re nervous to your date, and suddenly the big pink elephant in the room is just a harmless little anxiety instead of crippling awkwardness or unintentional standoffishness.

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Just When You Least Expect It…
Sometimes the search for the right person seems endless, but if you give up now, you could be missing out on the best thing that could happen to you. This Match.com testimonial illustrates why it’s important to hang in there. “I was just about ready to quit online dating. There was one guy that I matched with, and I read his profile a dozen times. I never contacted him because his preference was to meet singles who were never married. But when I got back from a vacation, I had a contact from him! I wrote something in my profile about people being attracted to my intelligence, and his e-mail said, ‘I'd like to get to know your brain.’ It made me laugh, and I already thought he was cute, so I e-mailed him back. “We e-mailed back and forth and decided to meet for lunch. He acted a little nervous, and I loved that. I thought he was awfully cute, articulate and charming, and he said I was interesting and more attractive in person than in my picture. I went back to work that day a lot lighter in my shoes than when I’d left. “We started dated exclusively. We’ve lived kind of on the fast track, relationship-wise. We have the same outlook: Life’s too short to be unhappy, and there’s no time like the present! He felt like he’d been looking for something for a very long time; I felt I had defined exactly what I wanted and needed from a mate. We were both blessed to find what we had been looking for, and we don’t take it for granted a single day.”

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W H AT Y O U L E A R N E D T H I S W E E K :

* * *

To sidestep the five most common relationship traps To reinvigorate your dating life with a slightly different approach or to seal the deal on a date To realize that amazing things can happen when you least expect them to!

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WEEK 12:

5 STEPS TO LONG-TERM SUCCESS

F

inding love and working at having an enduring relationship are two of the most important things you’ll ever do in your life. But once you find someone you think you may love, the work doesn’t end there. After all, relationships are living, breathing organisms that need love and attention, just like people. “Your first three months of a relationship are like a big pink bubble,” explains Nina Atwood, author of Soul Talk: Powerful, Positive Communication for a Loving Partnership. “After that, the real world starts to set in, and issues about jobs, families, friends, commitments, and conflicts come up.” But don’t kid yourself—not everyone is innately good at relationships, but you can learn to be great at them. That’s what this week is all about. The following tips for happiness over the long haul can keep you on the right track whenever you’re in doubt—tomorrow or ten years from now.

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STEP 1:

B E H O N E S T A N D C O M M U N I C AT E .

It may sound obvious, but it’s surprising how people forget to do these two incredibly basic things. It’s so important not to avoid confrontation; instead focus on expressing your concerns or disagreements in an effective way. “Research shows that the No. 1 ingredient for long-term success is how couples handle conflict,” says Dennis Lowe, Ph. D., a psychology professor at Pepperdine University and director of the Center for the Family at Pepperdine. “If they attack each other’s character, it escalates conflict and can spell disaster.” Follow these three rules to have a constructive discussion instead of engaging in all-out war the next time you have a conflict. Don’t attack. Avoid all-encompassing and accusatory phrases, such as “You never…” and “You always….” Instead start off in a soft tone, and whatever you do, don’t go for the jugular. Just as it would in the literal sense of the phrase, that will inevitably lead to carnage and a big mess. Emphasize the positive and put the focus on yourself. Couching your discontent in something that’s good about your relationship will get you a lot further than harping on the bad. For example, suggests Lowe: “Instead of saying, ‘Why don’t you ever want to spend time with me anymore?’ you could say, ‘I love our time together, and I really miss it. I’d really like to find time this week to be together.’” Be willing to see the other side. It’s a basic fact of life: Sometimes you will be wrong. You might not intentionally try to hurt your partner, but you may accidentally do so. “The goal is to have a dialogue, not a monologue, and not to pontificate,” says Lowe. “Express your feelings, and listen to the other person’s perspective.”

STEP 2:

K N O W W H E N I T ’ S T I M E T O S T O P TA L K I N G .

We’ve all been guilty of overanalyzing things or talking about them till we practically drop. The healthiest thing you can do is realize that sometimes you’ll agree and sometimes you won’t. It really can be that simple. The key is to figure out what matters most to you. “Control what you can and accept what you cannot,” says Lowe. “This is particularly important in the beginning of a relationship, when you start to see differences and want to change the other person or ‘correct’ them. When you can accept the person’s differences, it’s often a relief.” This exercise will help you figure out when you should let something go…

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* * * * *

List your top three disagreements. List the top three things about your partner that provoke a negative reaction from you. Next to each of these six items, rank them as either very important, important or not that important to your overall relationship satisfaction. In the third column, write down a way you can change the topic when it comes up. In the fourth column, write down what might be endearing about the other person in relation to it.

Hopefully, you will find that not every annoyance or disagreement is threatening to your relationship. For example, your partner’s preoccupation with golf may drive you a little crazy, but it doesn’t have to be the catalyst for a knock-down, drag-’em-out brawl. And when you think about it, the way he’s transfixed to a television screen and the way his head bobs to the swinging of a golf club can be kind of cute.

STEP 3:

TA K E R I S K S .

Change can be scary, but you also need to remember that it can be very good. After all, a new partner can expand your horizons and introduce you to new friends, new foods, new perspectives, new adventures—the possibilities are endless. Getting involved with someone is the ultimate risk, but as long as you’re committed to making that leap of faith together, you can have everything you’ve ever wanted and more. In doing so, it’s important to remember to grow together. “You can’t expect the life you had as a single person to stay exactly that way,” says Atwood. “You’ll need to compromise and let go of some things you used to do before you got involved. It’s about being flexible and knowing there are parts of life you’re going to be changing in order to accommodate your relationship.” Whether you go to a cooking class together, attempt to learn the basics of football, read a book that your new love recommended, or, down the line, consider moving halfway across the country because of a partner’s job offer, look at the situation in front of you and trust yourself and your relationship. By keeping that in mind, you will make the right decision and get much more than you’d ever bargained for.

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STEP 4:

A LWAY S H AV E Y O U R PA RT N E R ’ S B E S T I N T E R E S T S AT H E A R T.

Once you’re sure that your partner is trustworthy and you’re in the thick of a relationship together, focus on your partner’s happiness. A happy partner, after all, will make you even happier, and this mantra will also remind you that life is not all about you. “In addition to communication, you need to learn how to listen more than you speak,” explains Atwood. “There’s a reason we have two ears and one mouth. People will tell you what they want and what it is that makes them happy.” The other thing that will keep a protective shield of happiness around a relationship is something that Atwood calls “the behavior of love.” Even if you had an awful day at work, hug and kiss your partner when you meet up instead of scowling and launching into a diatribe about your boss. “First of all, you’ll feel better,” says Atwood. “Second, nobody wants to be greeted by someone with a sour look on their face: It has a very negative impact. A lot of couples get into fights because their evening starts in a negative way.” But if you have it in your mind that you will set the right tone from the get-go, no matter how difficult, you can drastically improve your chances for happiness—right now and forever.

It’s Time to Pass Go — and Win at the Relationships Game!
Well, almost. Before you receive your dating diploma, you need to make sure that you know all the ingredients that go into a healthy relationship and that you’re heading in the right direction with the right person. Check off your progress below, and if you’ve missed a step, go back and complete it now. Have you… to meet people, * Continuedget to know them? date and a closer look at your * Takenrelationship prospects best and honestly assessed your compatibility? slow during the first * Taken it with someone special 90 days and avoided the pitfalls common to new relationships? it takes to * Learned what happy and have an incredibly fulfilling relationship that has the power to endure? If so, congratulations! You will no longer feel like success is dangling right in front of you but just out of your reach—because now it’s fully within your grasp. You can and will attain the relationship you’ve always dreamed of. After all, at Match.com we know that what you’ve learned over the past three months has provided you with the essential tools you’ll need to truly embrace love, life and all the wonderful possibilities they both have to offer. And we’re confident you’ll do just that!

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STEP 5:

KEEP IT EXCITING.

There’s no doubt about it: Relationships are a lot of work, but they should also be a lot of fun. And the more good times you have together, the more comfortable you become. Of course, that’s a good thing. “But,” warns 23-year-old Negar, an office manager in Westlake Village, California, “you have to make sure you don’t get so comfortable that you feel you don’t have to do anything. You have to stay romantic and do things that aren’t expected.” If you don’t, your relationship may fall into a rut and your partner may feel taken for granted—and this is equally true for men and women. Anthropologist Helen Fisher, Ph. D., says that by occasionally doing novel things, you can create a surge in your body’s production of dopamine and testosterone, rekindling those romantic and naughty feelings you had early on. Some ideas: You could plan a date night, go on a tropical vacation or make love on the kitchen table. After all, the whole point of finding The One is to have a lover, a friend and a partner-in-crime—all in one. And in the end, there is nothing more wonderful or satisfying.

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