Two 20-somethings catch each other’s eye. They exchange numbers. By the next week they are going on their first date. Sounds easy enough, right? But dating has changed rapidly over the past decade — it used to be simpler when people had a connection, acted on it and started their love journey. Nowadays, there are thousands of profile pics to click through and a lot of complicated titles in between “hanging out” and “in a relationship,” so dating has become more or less … a game. The outcome of the game often hinges on how well you do at the first level: Meeting. So here’s a cheat sheet to starting the game off right:
You swiped right (Tinder, Bumble, etc)
It can be difficult to get a meaningful relationship out of this first level. If you are trying to make a genuine connection, then start off this pursuit clean and slow. Some apps can gear their focus to superficial appeal and lust instead of long-term, compatible relationships, so make your intentions known in your bio and initial conversations with matches.
Extra Points: After you have been talking for a while, try exchanging numbers and focusing on one connection that you’ve made on the app. Fewer distractions will help you make a deeper connection.
You met at a bar
Be sure that you wait to get to know the sober person before you get too involved. This guy could whisper sweet nothings into your ear when you’re out on the town, but it might be the booze talkin’. Same goes for girls. This is an easy way to start to get to know someone because you’re in a fun environment and loosened up, but remember to hold fast to your relationship goals.
Extra Points: When you read your drunk texts, make sure you continue the convo in the morning and put in some effort to get to know his/her more serious side. Ask questions like, “What are your plans today?” and find out what their occupation is or what their hobbies are.
You know each other from…
Sometimes the best shot you have at a love life is staring you in the face … literally someone you see every day. A comfortable way to start dating is to express interest in someone you already spend tons of time with. Sharing the same major, having the same gym schedule or even working together can gain you access to this first level of dating. A common interest will bring you together. Now let the rest fall into place.
Extra Points: You have to be careful with this level because if the flames die out or you two don’t really click, it can be pretty awkward. Take it slow and consider the other person’s feelings. If you don’t, it can get messy down the road.
You were paired up by your best friends
Some people find it fun to set up their single friends. This can be a very comfortable start because you have your friends there to ease your nerves, so take advantage of the convenient icebreaker and loosen up. If you like this set-up, then it’s your job to branch out into your own relationship.
Extra Points: Make sure that the focus stays on your relationship with Mr./Ms. Set-Up and not on that of your friends. If the friend who brought you two together begins having drama, that doesn’t mean that your relationship can’t continue and flourish.
You used a matchmaker (online dating service)
This first level of dating has revolutionized dating in Generation Y and older. Thanks to sites like eHarmony and Match.com, people from all over the world have found love. This level can be used to get to know someone you might not come across in your daily life; in this world distance doesn’t matter and you have millions of opportunities to find a genuine connection. Nowadays, online dating is a smart way to start playing the game, especially if you have a busy schedule and need to make the most out of your time.
Extra Points: Make sure to be 100% honest when filling out surveys so you can find your best match. Be open to meeting someone out of your area or who doesn’t necessarily fit your perfect criteria. Remember, you can’t help who you fall in love with!
You throw each other likes
What’s the next big trend? Relationships and love sparked by social media. Many guys and girls might consistently like and comment on your posts (especially on Instagram) to show their interest.This can be a great way to meet someone new, but it can also set you up for disappointment. Beware of catfish … that hottie you met on Instagram may very well be someone completely different in real life.
Extra Points: When it comes to meeting on social media, don’t fall in love with a profile — make sure that you really get to know the person and communicate on another level before dating. Call, text and research before you go meeting up with the guy/girl of your dream offline.
Playing the game right in the beginning can score you the ultimate prize — a successful relationship. Remember to use these hints to navigate the dating world in a more thoughtful way. Now put your skills to the test and get past that first level!