As a social media photographer, many of my clients come to me for natural portraits for their online dating profiles. This always comes with questions because these San Francisco professionals are looking for love but don’t have time or energy to waste.
But, I am a photographer not a professional matchmaker. And when it comes to online dating -or relationship advice in general- I prefer to leave the answers to the experts. So I recently asked Joy Nordenstrom, a Bay Area relationship coach and certified matchmaker to explain how my clients can improve their chances of finding “the one”. The following are the great tips she shared.
“When we are young we learn how to pick a great college, a career that suits us, a reliable car and most likely even how to choose a fabulous glass of wine. But most of us never learn how to become a good picker when it comes to love. The process often feels like a crap-shoot, based mostly on shear initial chemistry rather than any sort of logical, scientific or heartfelt methodology. We take little time to investigate if this individual is truly a great match for us for our life’s journey before giving our hearts and minds over to the idea. Most of us think that relationship skills are supposed to be innate. Although studies show that marriage education reduces a couples chance of divorce by one-third, very few individuals actually seek instruction on the skills needed to thrive. An autopilot mindset when it comes to choosing your life’s partner and proceeding into marriage is bound to lead you down a rocky road. From intense study combined with life experience, I know that this whole process requires introspection.
The following are my top tips on how to become a quick, and better, picker.
1) Find a good example.
Ask yourself: Who in my world has a good relationship? Even if it’s not perfect, what components of their marriage do you admire and hope to someday emulate? Get clear on what matters most to you in a partnership then check in with yourself to make sure it isn’t a fairy tale version but one that is based in reality. If you are lacking in good role models, find a few new ones and ask them if you can pick their brains on why their marriage works so well. If need be, research great partnerships online and in books to broaden your perspective.
2) Get to know yourself.
Ask yourself: What patterns do I have in relationships? What did you pick up from your parents, your past relationships and how do those patterns play into how you react to another individual’s patterns? This knowledge is key to becoming your best in your relationship. When you are aware of how your specific attachment, biological, chemical and communication patterns influence you, it will assist you in no longer being blindly piloted by them. Instead you will be able to better chart your own course to choosing someone who’s relationship patterns will work best in conjunction with yours.
3) Put others at ease.
Ask yourself: How can I help this person to feel comfortable enough to be themselves? We want to be liked and therefore usually put our best foot forward when we first meet someone new. To a certain extent, that means we have some masks and walls up. That is natural and you can assume most people do the same. Unfortunately these masks can make it difficult to get to know the real person for several weeks, months and maybe even years. Your key to long-term success is determinant of your choosing a good match early on and it stems from your ability to be tuned into your intuition –using your heart, head and gut as a gauge—during the first three months of dating. By initially being able to “put someone at ease,” you encourage them to more fully show their true selves and in turn they will bring down their protective layers more quickly.
4) Tune in to the answers.
Ask yourself: How can I ask better questions? To effectively and efficiently gauge whether we have found a good potential match, we have to take on a role that combines the skills of an investigative reporter and an undercover detective. So put down your smart phone and become conscious and fully present when you are with someone. Cultivate your skills of being able to ask good open-ended questions. Be an active listener and stay tuned into your gut and heart following up with more questions around anything they say or do that makes you feel a bit uneasy. Remember to not make assumptions but instead allow someone to explain with more precision what they mean by their words or actions around a certain issue.
5) Express your future vision.
Ask yourself: Do our views of the future line up? Once you have found an individual with whom you have chemistry and begin dating them, use your time wisely. Don’t waste your energy going to things like movies or other events where you are not directly spending quality time getting to know one another. Remember over the first three dates, you DON’T need to determine if this is “the one”. Your goal should strictly be to have fun with this person, find things you have in common and watch how they react in different environments. After five or six solid dates, it’s important to have the self-confidence to share with this person your core values and your vision of what you want in a relationship. After you paint the picture of what you are looking for, ask them what they have imagined for their future relationship. Continue to ask good open-ended questions around what you both envisioned for your future – again assume and judge not. If something they tell you seems significantly off from your vision, ask on a scale of zero to ten (zero being not important at all and ten being essential) where they lie on that issue.
These five steps for becoming a good picker are intended for someone who is ready to be in a committed relationship. When the time is right for you, I wish you the best of luck in creating a conscious path toward choosing your next partner.”