The Secret to the “Dating Game”

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Let’s face it, dating is not easy. The purpose of dating has shifted dramatically even since just a generation ago. Dating used to be just about meeting someone in person or through a common connection. You would go on a few dates, but the ultimate goal was to settle down quickly and start a family. Nowadays, the intention of dating is completely different. People are searching for their soulmate, their lifelong companion, their perfect match. And this high level of expectation has made dating a never-ending and quite challenge game of sorts.

Luckily, the game has been simplified thanks to the modern social networks, websites, and dating apps. These take away the need to chance an encounter with that special someone, because you can literally scroll through an almost endless pool of candidates, searching for the most eligible bachelors and bachelorettes before you even have to chance an encounter.

But with so many choices comes the difficult task of trying to find the right match. It’s easy to strike up conversations with whomever and entertain a variety of potentials before ever committing to one.

And we’ve all been here before: joined a dating site or app, poured over as many dating profiles as possible, struck up a conversation with some, and went on several first dates that ended miserably, almost comically bad. So then we deleted our profile and swore off dating forever.

But what if there were a way to help narrow down the search?

To eliminate some of the candidates and simplify the search thereby saving precious time and energy?

I believe there is.

Now, before I continue with what I mean, let me preface this by saying that I am a happily married man. My husband found me on Facebook five years ago and struck up a conversation on a whim, but lo and behold things worked out and we got married six months ago.

So, there is hope for online dating and I believe that the right person is out there. That said, I’m not currently on any of these dating apps or sites. I’m writing this article because I have helped some of my friends through their terrible dating experiences and brief but disastrous relationships.

Recently, I was on my single friend’s phone playing what I like to call “the dating game.” That is what I like to call scrolling through dating candidates and filtering out the matches.

My friend had over 200 conversations going on in her inbox. I used my system below and in just ten minutes I eliminated all the options except ten. When I gave her her phone back, she looked at the new potential pool of candidates and was genuinely excited about these ten options. And think how much time she would save by investing in only these ten potential daters!

So what’s the secret to modern dating?

If you want to be successful at playing the modern dating game, you have to treat dating like businesses treat hiring potential employees. You have to define your ideal candidate and create a foolproof methodology for deciding which candidates to “interview” and which to turn away. Here’s how I helped my friend…

1. Define your ideal candidate

Write down a list of three must-have qualities and three cannot-tolerate qualities. Then, immediately eliminate anyone who does not qualify. These can be physical qualities, but I’d recommended sticking with personality traits, although attraction should definitely still play a role. But a potential candidate must have all three of the first qualities and cannot have any of the last three qualities. This is how hiring specialists narrow down the vast pool of potential employees and it’s how you should start your dating search. Why waste time talking to people if they aren’t qualified as your match?

For example, your must-haves might be: 1) generous 2) likes dogs 3) passionate about their career and your cannot-tolerates might be: 1) smokes 2) is messy 3) hates traveling.

Most profiles can give you enough basic information to weed out candidates before even digging deeper. I knew what my friend had to have and what she couldn’t live with so if I saw a red flag, I immediately rejected that person. No second-guessing. With just six simple criteria, you can already narrow down your search and save yourself from the stress of sacrificing your own needs in a potential future relationship.

2. Use a dating litmus test

Let’s say that someone passes the first test with flying colors. That are still too many potential candidates to go on a first date with. So, come up with another small but meaningful test to help you figure out if this person is right for you. Make sure the test can tease out some personality trait or behavior that matters to you, probably related to some activity you really enjoy. This test could also be used to find out if the person has a trait you particularly dislike. A good way to do this is to come up with a hypothetical situation, exactly like a question in a good interview process.

For example, let’s say that when you have free time your favorite activity is to travel and you want to spend your vacation time off work in another country exploring a new culture. Then your litmus test should be something like, “If you had one week free from work and could do anything you wanted, how would you spend it?”

My friend is obsessed with the outdoors: specifically hiking and visiting every national park. So, my litmus test for her was after I narrowed down the candidates from the criteria above, I would scroll through the person’s pictures. If the person had zero pictures of anything resembling having fun outdoors, then I booted him from the pool. The ones who remained all had shots of nature on their instagram or photos of them outdoors somewhere. This means they at least had something in common right away and would make a suitable match.

3. DO NOT settle

This is the key to simplifying your search strategy. It may seem tempting and you might even want to change your list or make sacrifices for when someone only fails one part of the tests. But don’t, I repeat, do not ever keep entertaining an unfit candidate. This sort of behavior leads to a slippery slope of maybes and what-ifs that never materialize. Instead, you’ll beat yourself up for falling into the same old trap, feeling gullible and stupid for wasting your time with some horribly wrong-for-you person.

4. Take breaks from the search

And this last step is very important as well. It’s easy to get sucked into the non-stop swipe-for-all game. It’s even addicting and it will drain you. This is one of the major downsides to social media in general — we all make comparisons and start to feel inadequate when compared to our peers. You’ll start to think that it’s somehow you’re fault that you can’t find a match, you’re being too picky, or you’re just doomed to be forever single. When this happens, it’s time to take a break. Don’t let yourself lose faith in the process. Take some time to focus on what makes you happy and remember that life is still wonderful, even without a partner. Go hang out with your best friends, do your favorite activity and get back to dating when you’re ready.

The dating game is hard. I was there once and I had some pretty terrible dating experiences, but I found a way to stop wasting so much time trying to filter through the vast pool of candidates. The key to success is to think of this process like hiring the next best employee. Businesses all have a selection process and you should do. If a future dater doesn’t possess your sought-after traits, then there’s no point wasting your time. And remember that dating isn’t everything, there’s no need to rush the process, and it’s okay to take breaks. In fact, I would argue it’s the only way to remain tried and true to your standards.

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