Many dating books focus on teaching us how to strengthen and polish our protective armor. This book teaches us a way to honor our most tender self beneath the armor and still remain strong, brave, and true to who we are. With this approach comes the acknowledgment and the recognition of the sensitivity we may have around our gifts, and the development of new skills to protect those gifts.
There is a formula that governs the architecture of our whole intimacy lives: to the degree that we neglect our gifts, we are actually committing an act of quiet violence against ourselves. By dishonoring our gifts, we create a vacuum within our being, in the very place where our gifts should reside. Nature abhors a vacuum.
Therefore, as we learn to live from our center, or our gifts, we need to evolve past the brittle and self-limiting defenses we relied on in the past
The Seven Skills of Deeper Dating: How to Lead with Your Gifts
- Be Kind, Generous, and Thoughtful
Most of us have been trained to be cool, not kind, when it comes to dating. “Next!” has become the modern dating call. If dating culture is anything, it’s unkind. And amazingly, we have become used to it. With the multitudes of people many of us meet online and in dating events, we’ve lost the basic codes of kindness that create the possibility for intimacy. This has dead-ended countless potential relationships, and has led to a singles culture filled with deep loneliness. When romance and dating are separated from the simple truths of kindness and human decency, they begin to turn toxic, and without our awareness or consent, they steer us toward pain and away from love.
Expressing an extra degree of kindness might leave us feeling exposed. When we give something extra, we’re vulnerable because we want it to be received with pleasure and appreciation. When we’re with someone who can’t do that for us, we begin to wonder if we’ve made a fool of ourselves. Our culture has eliminated so many opportunities for subtle acts of kindness as a result of the pace of our interactions and new technologies that allow less and less warm contact. Moreover, current dating advice tends to stress confidence and maintaining a carefully modulated distance to keep the other person guessing. Yet kindness, more than almost anything else, spawns healthy love.
- If You Like Him or Her, Let It Show
This may also seem like naive advice. You’re supposed to play it cool, not show your hand and risk frightening off your date. Play hard to get. Don’t act interested. In fact, research shows that letting someone know you like him is one of the strongest ways to turn a date into something more serious.2
Equally important, showing your affection is an act of bravery—it takes real self-acceptance to show your affection, to rest your hand on hers, take his hand in the movies, or make a comment that hints or shows that you find him or her attractive. These acts of warmth may make the difference between a date that goes nowhere and one that leads to something special.
Of course, it’s important to temper your displays of affection with an awareness that many people are cautious, perhaps even frightened, in early dating. If your gut tells you that your expression of affection is a spontaneous expression of your warmth, and if you sense that the other person might be ready, go for it. If it feels more like an inner plea or an outer ploy to get this person to like you, think twice before expressing it. You may well be feeling a sense of desperation because you’re picking up on your date’s essential unavailability. In other words, you may be sensing the first signs of an attraction of deprivation. Showing your interest shouldn’t scare someone off. If it does, there’s a good chance you’re “going to the hardware store for milk.” Keep using your sense of discrimination.
- Focus on the Quality of Your Connection
When we are on a date, it can be easy to devote too much attention to an inner scorecard we all use to decide whether the other person measures up to our standards. When we focus too much on that scorecard, we lose access to one of our greatest gifts: the ability to feel our connection with another person. According to the worldrenowned psychologist and author Daniel Goleman, “We are wired to connect. Neuroscience has discovered that our brain’s very design makes it sociable, inexorably drawn into an intimate brain-to-brain linkup whenever we engage with another person. That neural bridge lets us affect the brain—and so the body—of everyone we interact with, just as they do us. During these neural linkups, our brains engage in an emotional tango, a dance of feelings.”3
By staying in touch with the feelings in your body and your heart, you can engage this linking-up process—and in so doing, learn so much more about the possibilities for emotional connection with the person in front of you. So, next time see if you can drop down past that exhausting “scoring” tendency and notice how you actually feel when you’re with your date.
- Practice Bravery
Bravery is one of the great skills of dating. For many of us, the biggest dating fear of all is of approaching someone new or asking for a date. It takes bravery to get out there and try to meet people.
Letting someone know you are interested in her is like building a muscle. You get better at it the more you practice. We often feel as though we weaken ourselves by letting someone know we like them. Another way to look at it, though, is that we’re being generous. By showing our interest, we’re giving the other person a compliment, and the sensitivity and decency of her reaction will tell us much about who she is.
- Discover the Art of Squinting
If you’ve ever watched an artist working on a portrait, you may have noticed that he pauses to squint. Squinting helps the artist capture the essence of his subject without getting distracted by its harsh outlines. We need to do the same in our dating life. It’s so easy to get lost in the hard assessment of people’s imperfections, and of our own. Often we hyperfocus on externals and miss the qualities that matter most. Squinting helps us get around this. I’m not suggesting that you force yourself to date someone you’re not attracted to. But don’t lose sight of the whole person because you’re stuck on nagging external imperfections. Chances are, the person you will finally come to love will look different than the person you’ve fantasized about! Innumerable opportunities for real love have been lost because daters didn’t know the wise skill of squinting.
Squinting is a technique to use in relation to a person’s external attributes, not his or her important personality traits. For example, your date may have an unfortunate sense of style. Try to squint for now. Later, you can offer suggestions (which may or may not be followed!). Is your date nasty to the waiter? Don’t squint! In fact, keep your eyes wide open. Sooner or later, the chances are great that she will do the same thing to you or your loved ones.
- Share Things You’re Passionate about and Ask the Same of Your Date
On your next date give this a try. Talk about what you are passionate about. Speak from your enthusiasm; the right person will love this. The wrong person may not. And that is very good to know. And then be sure to ask for the same from your partner. Notice what makes her glow and ask more about it. Doing this is giving her a gift, and most people will feel closer to you as a result. “What do you like to do in your free time?” might not be enough to evoke the response you want.
People are trained not to reveal too much enthusiasm on an early date. If you’re watching for signs of passion and not getting any, you could even ask him what kind of things matter most to him or give him the greatest joy. What, really, do you have to lose? Some people may feel too shy to answer a question like that, but if it turns them off to you, then you have the information you need right up front.
- Become Fiercely Discriminating—About the Things That Matter Most
The dating world is challenging in so many ways. Yet you are now entering into it from a completely different perspective.
If you’re going to be brave enough to show your true self, then you must become fiercely discriminating about the people you choose to spend your time with. Is the person you’re dating kind? Is he or she emotionally generous (even if quietly so)? Are you inspired by the way this person lives his or her life, and by the kindness and acceptance he or she shows you? If so, celebrate what you found and do your best to nourish it. It’s a rare and precious thing.
But if you show your warmth, originality, power, vulnerability, or passion and he trounces on it, you have the information you need to make a decision. Or maybe you find that she is kind—and then coldly dismissive. Or thoughtful—and then almost nasty. If so, trust your gut. The key here is “eyes wide open.” If you really want love that lasts, it’s doubtful you’ll find it there.