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  • The goal can be stated simply enough: the overwhelming priority, when on a date with

  • someone we like, is to persuade them to like us back. But the simplicity of the mission

  • masks the complexity required to achieve it. Typically, the advice focuses on externals:

  • what to wear, when to unfurl a napkin, what to orderBut such counsel, however well-meaning,

  • is at odds with what we ourselves know about attraction: that it is profoundly focused

  • on psychology. However much we may deny it to friends, a date is ultimately a search

  • for a potential long term-partner. So what really renders someone attractive on dates

  • are signs that they are emotionally well-equipped for what good-enough long-term relationships

  • require. The capacity to find an ideal full-bodied Chianti on a menu may be impressive, but what

  • we're really alert for are signs that someone is going to be a decent companion twenty years

  • from now when we have received a difficult medical diagnosis or are feeling weepy and

  • ashamed at the progress of our careers. Here then are some of the things we might do to

  • prove attractive to another person on a date: i. Tell them that we are a bit mad. We might,

  • in the course of the conversation, light-heartedly drop in that we're not quite sane. Perhaps

  • we have great difficulty getting to sleep or get very anxious in social situations.

  • Maybe we are often deeply sad on Sunday evenings or have a painful rivalrous relationship with

  • a sibling. The key is that, as we reveal these vulnerabilities, we can suggest we have a

  • mature, compassionate, unruffled relationship to them. Yes, we may be a little mad, but

  • we are eminently sane enough to know about and be unfrightened of our follies; we have

  • mapped them, are able to warn others of them and can protect those we love from their worst

  • sides. What we require in a partner is not someone who is perfect, but someone with a

  • good handle on their manifold imperfectionswho can warn us of these in good time,

  • and not act them out in ways that will ruin our lives.

  • © Flickr/Quinn Dombrowski It is deeply reassuring to witness vulnerability

  • well-worn and madness confidently understood; to see someone mature enough to talk about

  • their immaturities in an undefended and serenely curious way. Over the long-term, every possible

  • partner will be revealed as rather crazy in some dimension of existence or another. So

  • what really counts is not whether or not they are psychologically complicated, but how they

  • relate to this complexity: the degree of insight, calm, perspective and humour they can bring

  • to bear upon it. Conversely, there should be nothing more terrifying on a date than

  • a person who sticks a little too aggressively to the idea that they are totally sane and

  • entirely normal. Anyone over the age of twenty possessed of the idea that they are 'easy

  • to live with' has evidently not begun to understand themselves or their impact on others.

  • We should probably skip desert and head home early. ii. Ask our partners how they are a

  • bit mad The enquiry should sound playful, natural and wholly compassionate. Having laid

  • out our flaws of character, we should take it as a given thatdespite their evident

  • strengths and accomplishmentsour date too will have a litany of their own madder

  • sides. We should create a safe space in which we imply that it is extremely unsurprising

  • that our date should be a bit 'broken' in certain areas; everyone is. We can gently

  • enquire into what makes them in particular anxious or depressed, what was untenably difficult

  • in their childhoods or what they in particular regret and are ashamed of. This can prove

  • charming because what we're ultimately looking for in love are not people who find us perfect,

  • but people who will not flinch from the sight of our wounds. We want to be seen for who

  • we really are and forgiven; not mistaken for someone else, idealisedand then one day

  • condemned. © Flickr/Steven Guzzardi

  • iii. Reveal we've been a bit lonely and sad lately We often assume that people want

  • to hear that things are going brilliantly for usand that we become winning for

  • others when we can show we're triumphing in the world. But what really warms us to

  • others is evidence that they share in some of the very difficulties and confusions that

  • we are beset by in our private selves. If love involves a desire for an end to loneliness,

  • then some of what we no longer want to be lonely with are our more melancholy dimensions

  • that most people have no time for or interest inand that we therefore have to take

  • care to hide from others in a bid to look competent and strong. How seductive, therefore,

  • to stumble on someone around whom we sense we will no longer have to be jolly in a brittle

  • way; someone who can give us room, through their own candour, to confessions of feelings

  • of loss and sorrow. There can be few things more charming on a date than to hear, from

  • someone who looks extremely self-possessed and competent, that they've been feeling

  • unusually isolated and very perplexed of late. They're showing us the fertilised soil in

  • which our love can grow. iv. Pay some compliments We can, understandably, get anxious at the

  • idea of having to pay our date some compliments. The approach can feel too direct, demanding,

  • almost sleazy. But there is an art to good compliments that starts from a different place:

  • a recognition that most of us struggle to maintain a basic grasp on what is decent and

  • good about us, and privately hunger to hear from someone else certain basic but psychologically-sustaining

  • things about our characters (that sound unbelievable when we try to say them to ourselves): that

  • we aren't wholly stupid, that we are sometimes

  • funny or perceptive and have a few qualities to contribute to the world. We can be so worried

  • by our own inadequacies that we forget that the person across the table will have an equally

  • large share of themwhich it lies within our power to calm.

  • These antics and more belong to a properly

  • rich sense of what we might need to talk about on the audition of our lives we call, with

  • touching modesty, a date.

  • To learn more about love try our book on how to find love, which explains why we have the types we do and how our early experiences shape how and whom we love.

The goal can be stated simply enough: the overwhelming priority, when on a date with

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How to Be Attractive on a Date

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    I Ping Yen posted on 2019/05/02
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