Are You Trying to Win Someone Else’s Game?

In my late twenties–days long before marriage, babies and persistently creaky joints–my friends and I would go out on weekends to meet chicks.

Around that time, I had returned to school to finish my bachelor’s degree (in the very practical arts of English). I was working as a head waiter for a catering company–technically a “captain” in the self-important language of cater-ese.

When we went out, I dreaded the “what do you do?” question. I lived in New York City, and thought what I did was not very age-appropriate. 27 year-old’s did things like work at branding firms and develop iPhone apps.

When asked, I would say something like, “Well, I went back to school to finish my bachelor’s degree in English, because I want to be a writer. I dropped out when I was younger. It’s really cool because I appreciate the chance to learn so much more than when I first went to school. And I work as a head waiter–well, a ‘captain’–at a catering company. It allows me to go all over the city and see cool places and go to fascinating events.”

My voice must have acted as a diuretic because women instantly had to go to the bathroom after I started talking.

There were a couple reasons I was exciting bladders:

  1. I was selling myself. Implicit was that who I was had no self-evident value. If it did, I wouldn’t have to sell it.
  2. I was trying to win someone else’s game. I tried to create a compensatory value for who I was in relation to what I thought 27 year-old’s should be doing–making money, having a career, whatever. In other words, my life + lengthy explanation = lawyer.

These oft used-strategies keep us in the middle management of life–sucking up, hoping for a promotion from our boss, who is often someone we don’t want to be anyway.

After a good spell of swinging and missing at the bars, I realized I was losing hard. I realized that if I wanted to start winning, I’d have to play another game. So I picked the only game I was good at: mine. I looked at what was important to me: my personal evolution, relationships, spiritual life, health, etc. With these things, I was valuable. I was a winner.

When women asked what I did, I started talking about my games, inviting them to play. A funny thing happened: women started holding their bladders. They started selling themselves. They tried to get on my team–telling me how much they do yoga or something (of course, I found these things unattractive).

Sure, many women couldn’t give a shit about meditation or the healing I had done with my mom, but those weren’t the women I wanted to play with. I ended up marrying a chick whose values were aligned with mine–one who would have had nothing to do with the self-justifying loser I used to be.

With these thoughts in mind, consider:

  1. Pick an area of your life where you lack power that involves other people. It could be meeting a partner, your work, athletics, etc.
  2. Where do justify your existence in this situation? Where are your explaining your value rather than being valuable?
  3. Is this situation your, or someone else’s game? Where do you lack ownership of the your life? Keep in mind, even if we’re doing things that seem like someone else’s game, e.g. making a family or practicing medicine, we can make these things ours.
  4. For the day, stop justifying yourself. Stop explaining why you’re valuable. Look for and cut out the self-diminishing things you say to yourself and others. Be valuable, don’t explain it.
  5. Focus on winning your games, not others’. Decide what’s important to you and align your life with those things. Talk about and share those things. Look how it changes your interactions with others. Remember, if it’s not your game, you will fail.

Manhood 101

Understanding that I might court controversy, I feel obliged to spout a crazy theory about how–if you find yourself a man–you might optimize your manhood (from an emotional, not anatomical, perspective).

I give the disclaimer that I am not, nor have been to the best of my knowledge, a woman. My manly mandate may apply to women as well. To what extent, I can only report second hand.

But here it is, one of the most basics of basic manhood. Ready?

Men keep their word.

In the original “Godfather,” Vito Corleone talks to Michael about managing the Family and says, “Women and children can afford to be careless, but not men.” The Godfather might seem like a specious source of spiritual wisdom, but his remark has been borne out in countless situations in my life. A man has a special bond with his word that, if not treated with great care, has the capacity to unravel everything about him.

This is not to say that women are immune to the impact of not being word-as-bond. But it’s a different–not quite as hardcore–relationship. They can say things that, if said by a man, would be unforgivable. To illustrate: If a girlfriend says she hates her boyfriend, he’s expected to shrug it off. If he said that to her, the remark would never, ever, ever be forgotten or forgiven.

If a man is 2 hours late for an appointment, he won’t be forgiven because he looks nice in a sundress. He broke his bond. He’s a punk and a flake. Many women can glide through the same situation and be labeled “mysterious” and “ethereal,” rather than “weak” and “unreliable.”

It’s different.

One possible explanation for the difference lies in the David Deida idea that masculine energy manifests as steadiness and integrity, while feminine energy manifests as flow and change. The caveat is that some men have feminine energies and vice-versa, but that’s the general idea.

The feminine works best when grounded by masculine integrity and direction; without that energy, her behavior is like one of those sprinklers with the spaghetti hoses, shooting and spraying everyone in sight. Alternately, she might take on the role of the man, protectively shutting down her emotions so she can enjoy the emotional constancy she longs for.

The masculine works best when it is charged with the feminine’s ability to connect with emotion and feeling; without that energy, he is dead to the world, an emotionless automaton doing shit for the sake of doing it. Alternately, he might be a hyper-sensitive wuss, a self-medicating strategy for treating his feminine energy deficiency.

In relationships, when the man–or the masculine partner if same-sex–is not careful with his word (i.e. his integrity), the feminine partner feels unsafe. She becomes anxious and/or erratic in her behavior. Rather than looking at his part in the situation, a man might say something like, “Women are nuts.” While it’s hard to argue that some women are nuts, most men don’t do much to improve that situation, demonstrating the reliability of the Greek stock exchange.

Men will perpetrate this same blame-shifting on other victims: their bosses, governments, etc. Rather than looking at their carelessness and lapsed agreements, they’ll declare the other party FUBAR.

Are you a guy or someone looking to be more manly? Having issues in your relationship, work, dealing with the Man? Consider:

  1. Where are you not keeping your word? Broken agreements, unkept promises, etc.
  2. Where are you not taking responsibility for your carelessness and lack of integrity? Are you blaming your woman, your guy, your boss, Mitt Romney, etc. for all of your woes?
  3. Write out a list of all your lapsed agreements and broken promises. It doesn’t matter how long the things are outstanding. Maybe it’s something you said you would do last year and never did. Late is better than never.
  4. Do one thing from the list immediately. It could be doing something for your woman, guy, pet, boss, standing up to the Man, etc.–something that you said you were going to do and didn’t do for some lame reason.
  5. Pay attention to how your perspective on that situation changes. You are responsible for your life and how it turns out.

Run! No One’s Stopping You

As my regular readers know, a little over a year ago, I was living in an unheated apartment, concluding my second, insanely frigid winter there. For “employment”, I was languorously managing a couple unpaid enterprises, subsisting on the last bit of dough from a once-plentiful savings account.

My life wasn’t bad in my Brooklyn igloo. I had friends, an amazing girlfriend, enviable relationships with my family, great health. But there were things that seemed like they would never change, and I had the premonition that those things would eventually thwart the natural progression of the other stuff–that not making money and flushing my toilet with collected rainwater would–to a prospective wife, for example–soon transition from quirky to pathetic.

A little over a year later, I have a wife, steady, rewarding employment, a replenished savings account, heat and–check this out–a child on the way! Right?

Things change. 

Here’s the bitch of it all: I was responsible for these changes. Of course, I had amazing collaborators. I may even have had divine intervention. But it’s my experience that divinity needs permission to work its magic. I gave it.

I say none of this to boast. I actually don’t want to take responsibility for any of it. As long as life is more accident than creation–something that happens to me–I’m off the hook. I can stay inert and afraid of the new things that seem like they’ll never change.

Personal responsibility is the greatest gift and burden one can possess. It shows us that we can transcend any situation. It also shows us that all our prisons–however real they seem–are self-made.

Today, consider:

  1. What if you were responsible for your life? You don’t have to believe it. Just consider.
  2. What story would you have to give up if this were true? That your parents, a shit economy, past relationships, poor health, etc. are preventing you from changing.
  3. What would be possible if you were responsible for your life? What unchanging things might you be able to change?
  4. Take one of those unchanging things and take an action to change it (preferably right now).  

Run Like an Antelope (Out of Control)

I apologize from the outset to readers who are not–or were not–Phish fans. This post might be hard to comprehend. It’s mostly directed at people who, at some point in time in their lives, let Phish into their hearts; who know what it feels like to have nothing outside of Phish matter.

For me, this era lasted from 1993-1997, with its climax occurring during the Red Rocks shows in the summer of 1994.

For the show’s first night, I convinced my buddy Aaron to make the drive down to Morrison. We got a little buzzed on tequila and a couple bowls, and entered the largely empty amphitheater. The concert was mostly songs from their just-released album “Hoist”–an album that marked a steady transition into more conventional music-making. The night was great, but it wasn’t life-altering. That would be the duty of the second night.

The second show was an all day affair. I hooked up with a bunch of heads to tailgate. We had a keg of beer in the parking lot, then ate a bunch of liberty cap mushrooms shortly before the show.

It’s impossible to convey what happened that night. The band was in their experimental-tripped-out glory. The expanse of sky overhanging the prairies visible from the Red Rocks’ bleachers was punctuated by isolated thunderstorms; bolts of lightening seemed to crack on queue with Trey’s guitar. When “Tela” was played, huge gusts blew from beyond the mountains.

A bathroom stop turned into an epic journey in serendipity. In my incapacity, I lost my party and wandered into the upper seats, which were nearly vacant. A shirtless, dreadlocked dude was dancing his ass off with his old woman. Sensing my aimlessness, he said, “Welcome to our lair. Have some of our nectar.” He handed me a jug of fresh pulped strawberry nectar. I have never tasted anything as delicious before or since.

It was a time when anything seemed possible. When oneness with creation was a realistic goal. When 18 minute jams seemed too short. When I knew what they meant when they instructed “Run Like an Antelope, Out of Control.”

Subsequent “adult” experiences have dampened some of my wonder. I bottomed out on drugs and alcohol, oneness was not achieved in relationships, nothing seemed nearly fast enough for me, etc. But I don’t want to dismiss this era as meaningless. While I don’t eat mushrooms or dose anymore (or listen to Phish for that matter), I may have been closer to the truth then than I am now.

For Phishheads and non-Phishheads alike, consider:

  1. What beliefs have you discarded, believing them the products of youthful naivete? 
  2. What ‘adult’ experiences led you to dismiss these beliefs?
  3. Ask yourself: are the adult beliefs any more valid than the youthful ones? Remember, your experience is not an indication of the truth.
  4. Choose one of those beliefs to incorporate into your day.
  5. Take an action around that belief. 
  6. Run like an antelope, out of control.

 

 

What is Your Untended Blog?

Few things are sadder than untended blogs. Unlike unfinished manuscripts stashed in a drawer, the blogger’s defeat is public. You see the transition from inspiration to resignation. You see expanding intervals between posts, and finally one that starts like “sorry I haven’t written here a for a while.” It’s like the last wringing from a towel once loaded with inspiration and possibility.

Of course untended blogs are my thing. For you, it might be an unfinished canvas, screenplay, charity project, business plan, whatever. It’s that thing you started with rocket fuel in your veins and finished with lead in your shoes.

When we start things, we are usually driven by a combination of authentic inspiration and fantasized reward.

Authentic inspiration is about our gifts. I believe writing is the gift I have to give. It’s my calling. It’s an act that’s interchangeable with who I am. If that were the only reason I wrote, I would be in good shape.

Fantasized reward is where I get in trouble. When most of us do things, we fantasize our best-case-rewards. I fantasize my packed book tour appearances. Actors fantasize their acceptance speeches at the Oscars. Entrepreneurs fantasize their IPO. While inevitable, these fantasies are not very helpful; when they are not achieved in what we consider a suitable time-frame, we think ourselves failures. We begin asking ourselves, “Why bother? This isn’t going anywhere anyway.” We either stop writing, painting, networking, meditating, whatever, or do it so joylessly, we question why we started in the first place.

What if we were to do the things we wanted to do because they are extensions of who we are, not because they were the ticket to get to someplace we wanted to be? What if there was no place to get to, no reward to reap, no ceremony to attend? Would you still do this thing? I would. I write when no one is looking. If you are doing something only for the reward, or you don’t have a thing, I suggest finding something.

If you fall into the inspiration-but-stalled-or-stopped camp, consider:

  1. What is that unfinished/untended thing in your life?
  2. What fantasized reward are you holding onto that is stalling or stopping your work? E.g. your book deal, first client, etc.–the external affirmation that this is what you’re supposed to be doing. Note: it’s not your lack of time, money, etc. If you knew you were receiving $1M for doing this thing, you would find a way to do it.
  3. Give up hope for a reward. It’s probably not going to happen anyway (or it won’t be the reward you anticipated).
  4. Take one action now around that thing. Do it because it’s who you are and what you do.

 

The Importance of Being Right

When I was 14 I had a huge crush on Michelle Pockock. She was 5’8″, had black hair down to her butt, dark, button eyes and a small mouth with thick braces. At the time, I had no experience with women and was pretty much a nonentity in my high school’s social hierarchy. Despite these handicaps, I managed to invite Michelle back to my house one afternoon. I got her into my bedroom. I remember sitting there at the edge of my bed, talking about nothing. It was the perfect setup for a makeout session. And yet…I did nothing. I did not kiss her, touch her or even hint at the depths of my passions.

Later, she joined the debate team right after I did. You could say she followed me. We had many the overnight trips that lent themselves to secreting away. Michelle and I did none of that. Perhaps frustrated by my lack of initiative, she ended up hooking up with this short, pudgy-faced douche named Kirk–a Junior who boasted that he plucked her virginity to anyone who cared to listen.

Sure, I was clueless in a way common to 14 year-olds (though this cluelessness had a long half-life). Perhaps Michelle didn’t actually like me and that’s why we never hooked up. But I believe there was another phenomenon at play; a phenomenon that thwarts plans and intentions to the present day. I was being right. In this case, I was right that she was not interested in me. Had I not been so certain about my unattractiveness, had I entertained the possibility that she liked me–a possibility affirmed by countless actions on her part–I would have made at least one move. Sure, I might have been wrong. I might have made an ass out of myself. But I wouldn’t have wondered what would have been.

I’m happy to report that I’ve come a long way in the last 21 years with my relationships to women. Though far from completely evolved in this area, I acknowledge a few possible reasons why, for instance, my wife finds me attractive.

Nonetheless, there are many areas where I cling to my righteousness. In fact, wherever I feel stuck or disempowered, wherever I fail to take action, wherever I suffer, somewhere underneath it is the determination to be right: I am being right that something is not possible; I am being right that a situation is untenable; I am being right that a person can’t change–a particularly malevolent influence when that person is me.

What if we could all be a little easier with our relation to being right? What if we could accept that all of our knowledge, the basis of righteousness, is inherently limited, and therefore an unreliable barometer for what is and is not possible? Often, this new relation doesn’t even necessitate action on our part, just a willingness to entertain possibilities outside the scope of our knowledge.

In the spirit of not being right, here are few things to think about today:

  1. Name an area where you are suffering or lack power.
  2. What do you know about this area that keeps you from taking action or finding peace?
  3. What would be possible if you were wrong about what you know?
  4. Practice being wrong. Take one action that corresponds with your newfound wrongness. Step outside the boundaries of your knowledge.

 

 

Send Me Your Dating and Relationship Questions

In an effort to find out what people are reading and writing, I have feeds on several personal development blogs:  Zen Habits, The Minimaliststs, EV Bogue, Jonathan Fields, Jonathan Mead at Illuminated Mind and even Tim Ferriss.

These guys (yes, they’re all guys) speak on a variety of topics like goal setting, overcoming obstacles, being happier, health, fitness.  Some, like Leo Babauta of Zen Habits espouse simplicity.  Others, like Ferriss, espouse over-the-top living.

I’ve been trying to figure out where I fit in the personal development blogosphere.  Here are some places where I don’t fit:

  • Money.  I’m running low on the shit and can’t seem to generate more.
  • Career.  I’m asking my readers for jobs, which kind of blows my credibility there (got one?).
  • Diet.  A couple months ago I was vegan, now I’m eating meat three times a day—I wouldn’t dare take my readers through my dietary vicissitudes.
  • Fitness.  I work out regularly, but I’m hardly organized enough about it to share it in a systematized way.
  • Happiness.  Though quite happy, I don’t want the burden of being an expert on the matter.
  • Time management. Do you know how long it took me to write this post?

A couple weeks ago I wrote a series about dating and relationships.  They were my most popular posts to date.  So many of us struggle with these topics, and while I won’t claim mastery, I know a thing or two.  When I was single, I was able to meet women fairly easily.  Through past relationships, I acquired vast knowledge that prepped me for the great relationship I’m in now.

So I’m offering up my dating and relationship, um, expertise.  I would like to know what you’re dealing with—your situations, your questions, topics you’d like to see addressed.  More specifically, here are some things I can offer:

  • For women. I can offer a man’s-eye-view of your situation—whether you are seeking or are in a relationship.  Many women are pretty blind to some of the things they do when meeting men.  Same goes for relationships—you do things that set up lose-lose situations with your partners.  I believe I can cure your blindness…or at least get you some glasses.
  • For men.  For years, I unconsciously did things that destroyed my chances with women before I even met them.  I attracted either no one or the wrong one.  I also did things that consistently ruined my chances for being in or maintaining happy, healthy relationships.  I’ve come a long way and I’d love to share what I’ve learned.

Whether single, in a relationship, man or woman, gay or straight, please shoot me your questions or topic suggestions at df [at] davidfriedlander [dot] com.  All correspondences will be strictly anonymous.

Remember that your question might not only help you, but someone who is going through the same situation (the issues don’t vary that much).   I look forward to hearing from you.

How To Get Anything You Want

Answer:  Ask for it.

Before we get into how to ask, we should review what we want.  Last week I talked about how challenging that is for many of us.  We are so bogged down by our past experiences that we can’t even admit we want something, much less ask for it.

For example, my past experiences would have limited what I want from a romantic partner to someone I could screw and watch movies with (I wouldn’t even ask that we like similar movies).  I had previously not believed that healthy relationships were possible, so I never said I wanted one nor did I ask how to create one.

I have subsequently explored where my ideas about relationships came from, as well as surrounded myself with positive female role-models.  I started to believe that a healthy relationship was possible for me.  I then took actions and asked questions that corresponded with that belief.  Hence why I’m in a great relationship now.

If you don’t think something is possible, you will not say you want it and you won’t ask for it.  You will not fly to Chicago if you don’t believe Chicago exists, and you certainly won’t ask for a plane ticket.

The best way to ask is by making direct requests.  A request is, “will you please pass the salt?” Most of us say, “I would like the salt,” hoping someone will pick up on our desires.  Or some of us bully people with commands like, “pass the salt.”

A request can be answered one of 3 ways:  yes, no or maybe.  Yes is pretty clear.  No at least let’s us know where we stand.  Maybes can swing to yes, no or a negotiated settlement.  For example, “Will you give me your ice-cream cone?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Will you give me 3 licks of the cone?”

“Yes.”

Most of us avoid making requests because we fear any one of these 3 answers.  A yes might force us into the unknown territories of the next step or phase.  A no might affirm that we are the losers we think we are.  A maybe might leave us in limbo, neither here nor there.

Instead of making direct requests, we mutter plaintive cries into the ether.  We say “I wish I could meet someone,” instead of requesting of someone who is in a relationship, “will you share with me how you met your partner” or asking “will you go out with me” of a possible partner.

What if someone doesn’t give us straight answers?  We keep asking until we they do.  For example:

“Will you help me draw up a business plan?”

“Well I’m not sure if I can do that?”

“What are you not sure about?”

“I’m not sure if I have the time.”

“I would appreciate any time you can give.  What amount of time do you have to offer?”

“I can probably give you an hour a week.”

“Can you talk with me every Sunday afternoon at 2PM for that hour?”

“Yes [or other time].”

“Will you help me draw up a business plan” is a lot different than “I would really appreciate if you helped me with my business plan.”  The former empowers both the asker and asked, creating specific directives for each.  The latter leaves the asker at the mercy of the asked, who may be willing to help, but is not given a framework for how.

Some of our requests will not be answered affirmatively.  Let’s say I want a car.  I can request that a car dealership give me one for free, but it’s unlikely they will say yes.  If this be the case, perhaps I start making different requests of different people.  Maybe asking a car expert where’s he thinks the best place to buy is, or a loan officer how to secure a loan to buy one.

With this is mind, here are some practices:

  1. What do you want? Check out my last week’s post if you’re not sure what I’m talking about.
  2. Are you asking for what you want? Note where you use indirect communication, perhaps stating what you want rather than making specific requests to get it.
  3. Write out 3 specific requests that will lead to what you want. If you want a raise, write “Will you give me a raise,” not “I want a raise.”  If you are not clear on what you want, make a request to find out.  Ask a friend, “Will you tell me what you think I should do?”
  4. List the people you need to make the request to? If you want a raise, it’s probably your boss.  If you want to get married, it’s probably your girlfriend.  If you want the dishes cleaned, it’s probably your roommate.  And so on.
  5. Make one of those requests to one of those people now.

No Shit Dating and Relationship Advice (Part IV)

Photo by Jim Newberry

[This is going to be the final installment of this series.  It pretty much sums up my whole view of relationships, though the preceding installments are useful for more tactical approaches to dating and relationships.]

Be the person you want to attract and be in a relationship with

It’s never, ever, ever, ever about the other person.  Not even that one time.

This is the sad and good news.  Sad because accepting this holds us responsible for all of our failed relationships, courting nightmares and people we attract.  Good because nothing is wrong with the universe.  There is no shortage of good men or sane women.  Our childhoods did not irreparably damage us.  We are the problem and solution.  We hold the key to your pasts, presents and futures.

An easy way to demonstrate this is by looking at how we often seek qualities in a partner that we do not possess ourselves.  I know scores of fat, out-of-shape guys who deride women for not being pretty and thin enough.  I know scores of women who complain about men being irresolute and uncommitted yet engage in relationships with these same men, even though the women know they are not what they want; in other words, they are irresolute and uncommitted about what they want.

Focusing on other people’s faults always seems to make ours disappear.

If you want a fit partner, exercise.  If you want a more worldly partner, travel.  If you want a partner who listens, listen.  If want more mature partners, be mature.  If you want greater commitment, commit to what you want.

Perhaps you think you are the things you seek.  You think you are responsible, healthy, or whatever trait you’re looking for in a partner.  Yet you attract irresponsible, unhealthy, etc. partners—or none at all.  Instead of asking yourself if you might be the problem, conceding that you may have blind-spots about yourself, you blame the other party.  You sooner declare a global drought of suitable partners than look at what it is in you that continually attracts and creates what you seemingly don’t want.

I write “seemingly” because we always get what we want, even though it seems like we don’t.  The problem is what we want unconsciously trumps what we want consciously.  Our want to feel important, look good, be comfortable, be right, secure, not change, not be alone and so on, trumps and undermines our want to be happy, healthy, generous, etc.  Don’t believe me?  Look at your relationships and who you attract into your life.  They are the evidence that this is true.

Many of us will point to our families and friendships as evidence that we aren’t doing anything wrong.  Because they work so well, it shows that we know how to be in healthy relationships.  The only logical conclusion is that there is a good-man or sane-woman shortage.

Family, friends, co-workers and other non-romantic relationships show us who we are, but not in the way romantic ones do.  If relationships are like mirrors for who we are, then family, friends, etc. are like a mirror you pass in the hallway—useful for straightening up and checking yourself out.  Romantic relationships are like those cosmetic mirrors, where every pore and imperfection stands out.  Our romantic partners and prospects show us what we really think about ourselves, what we are really willing to accept out of our lives—not some intellectualized concept we talk about with friends.

This close-viewing is the promise romantic relationships hold.  It’s hard to find out so much about ourselves without this level of intimacy.  Living a life filled with only friends and family, it’s easier to stop short of full self-knowledge.  The level of closeness inherent in romantic relationships forces people to do one of three things:  confront themselves, impose an uneasy stalemate or abandon ship.  If you’re ready to take a deep look at yourself and really free yourself, few situations are more conducive to that than romantic relationships.

Also realize that just because our partners and prospects don’t match up with the misbegotten notions we have about ourselves, this inconsistency need not be a deal-breaker.  We need people to work our shit out with.  It’s preferable to do it with someone who’s more-or-less on the same page.  It’s delusional to think you’re going to find someone without problems.  The key is to find someone with complimentary problems and wants to work them out with you.  This is actually the best part of my present relationship:  we both have shit, but we use each other to work that shit out.

This is all a long-winded way of saying keep the attention on yourself.  Like everything, courtship, dating and relationships are inside jobs.  The perceiver and the perceived are the same thing.  You want to attract a great partner?  You want a great relationship?  Be a great person.

No Shit Dating and Relationship Advice (Part III)

Love makes you strong apparently.

[I’m still going and probably have a few more things to say.  I might just take out the “part” part.]

Focus on being happy and having a good time

Men and women act ridiculous when trying to attract a partner.  Men act serious and/or predatory.  Women act aloof and humorless.  If you want to attract someone and keep him or her attracted, stop fronting.  It’s unattractive.  Fun, happy people are attracted to fun, happy people.  Fronting, insecure people are attracted to fun, happy people too (but not vice versa).

Back in my single days, I was reasonably adept at meeting women.  My guy friends asked me how I did it and I said, “smile and give yourself reasons to smile all the time.”  It’s was a win-win.  I was happy, and I attracted people—men, women, happy and unhappy alike.  Humans want to be happy.  When someone seems to have that trait, we gravitate toward it.

There are some who are drawn toward darkness and sadness.  If that’s what these folks want their lives to look like, then they should move toward that moody dude or that sad-eyed girl.  Maybe their love will fix them.

The rest of us want to be happy.  And happy-loving people rarely see someone and think, “Man, who’s that anxious guy/girl over there?  I want to get to know him/her.”  Don’t be one of those anxious/fearful/angry/sad guys or girls.

Give yourself reasons to smile.  Hang out with fun friends.  Do things that interest you.  This principle holds true whether you’re single, dating or married.

If you really can’t create reasons to smile, you probably shouldn’t be concerned with dating and relationships.  Take yourself off the market until you address your needs.  Do yourself and the dating pool a favor.  Seriously.

Make your romantic intentions known

For men, this means taking risks.  The reason men don’t risk and let their romantic intentions be known is they fear being rejected.  They think that if they make their intentions known, it’ll scare women away before they know the great guys they are.  So these men act as though they are only interested in being friends, hoping the girls will come around.  These guys rarely get as far as friendship, having to content themselves with indifferent stares and fake phone numbers.  If they do make friendship inroads, it usually ends in bitterness because the woman shacked up with some guy who had the balls to be straight about how he feels.

Don’t be an asexual lump.  It’s better to go down swinging.  And relax, not every woman is going to think you’re hot.  You don’t find every woman hot, right?  Be bold.

It’s prudent to clarify what I mean by taking risks, letting your intentions be known and being bold.  It does not mean groping or harassing or any other form of forceful behavior.  It means clearly offering your intentions to the other party for consideration.  She can take or leave this offering—this part is out of the man’s control.

For women, this means taking risks too.  She has to be vulnerable enough to admit she is interested in a guy romantically.  Women do the “just friends” thing too, hanging on far too long with men they are attracted to in order to avoid what they probably already know:  that the attraction is not shared.  Most women know this from the get-go but are afraid of admitting it.  They’ll endure a purgatorial vagueness in the relationship rather than knowing one way or the other.

You might be thinking, “What if a woman is attracted to an asexual lump who doesn’t know how to make his intentions known?”  To which I answer, few woman are attracted to asexual lumps.

Men who have experience with women—men women are attracted to—tend to make their intentions clear from the outset, be they romantic or not.

Some men and women send mixed signals, making their intentions unclear.  If this is the case, at some point you will have to ask what their intentions are and deal with the consequences.  Whether the answer is that they are attracted, not or uncertain, you’ll have an answer (and yes, “uncertain” is an answer).  Better to know sooner than later.

I don’t have personal experience with how this plays out in gay relationships, though I imagine it’s much the same as straight ones.  Be clear about your intentions.  If they are not reciprocated, accept it or move on.

There is the chance that two people are just friends and romantic feeling develop over time.  This is ideal.  Romance combined with friendship endures.  Romance without friendship crashes.  Who I am speaking to are people who know how they feel but are afraid of expressing those feelings.