You may know it’s not easy to meet someone new who romantically interests you, especially if you are older than 40. You also may know that it is difficult to connect, bond, deepen a relationship and fall in love — even when you do find a promising romantic partner.
So how do you go from a first date to falling in love? There is no fail-safe, reliable manual for how to do that, but I will offer some suggestions.
First, pay close attention to how you approach an initial encounter with someone. Are you looking for reasons to say “yes” or for reasons to say “no”? Do you tend to focus on what you’re attracted to, or what you’re not attracted to? You want to be careful so you don’t throw away someone who is promising because promising opportunities do not come along all that often. That being said, eliminate anyone who is currently in a serious relationship, who is on the rebound and wants to talk about their ex, and anyone who is not emotionally or physically available for a relationship at this time. You’re not looking for potential — you want someone who is available.
Second, be willing to open up and reveal yourself. Don’t be emotionally hidden, superficial or fearful of letting someone else in. It is far better to risk getting hurt or rejected then to play it too safe, and it is far better to risk your heart than not to. If you don’t do this, then you will not fall in love.
DO THE WORK
Third, be willing to do the hard work all successful relationships require: Identify when there’s a problem or an irritation in a timely manner, and do everything you can to work through the conflict in such a way that both of you feel valued and respected. Get comfortable with the skills needed to resolve conflicts effectively. You can’t have a good relationship without them.
Fourth, whenever you possibly can, make important to you what is important to your partner. It conveys openness and respect, and it will make him or her feel valued by you — and to refuse to do this is tantamount to telling your partner that she/he isn’t important to you, or that his/her wishes, needs and desires don’t matter to you.
Fifth, when someone becomes important to you, communicate how important she/he is to you through your words, your deeds and your touch.
Sixth, you must listen without interrupting, you must be able to hear even when your partner says something to you that you don’t like, and you must be able to hear everything, even criticism, without strong reaction or defensiveness. You also have to be able to tell how you feel even when you know your partner isn’t going to have a good response.
Seventh, make your partner a top priority. Don’t be so preoccupied that you treat other things as more important than your relationship, and don’t be so exhausted that you cannot consistently offer quality time and presence.
DON’T GIVE UP
Finally, you are more likely to get the relationship you want if you refuse to give up. You can’t hit a home run unless you’re in the game. Actively stay in the game. That means keeping your mental and emotional attitude hopeful and optimistic, and not letting yourself become cynical, jaded, mistrusting or negative.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. His column is in its 23rd year of publication and is syndicated around the world. You can reach him at 303-758-8777, or email him through his website: www.heart relationships.com. He is the author of the new book titled “Love, Sex and Staying Warm: Keeping the Flame Alive.”