Dating Interview: Why Many Women are Clueless and the Importance of Self Awareness with Neely Steinberg
Neely Steinberg is one of Boston’s premier dating coaches. She lends her expertise to the modern-day woman. In addition to offering coaching services through her site, NeelySteinberg.com, she writes for several publications including, the Huffington post, JDate, BettyConfidiential, and more. Today she shares how she helps women get what they want when it comes to dating and love.
The dating advice and coaching you provide is mainly targeted towards women. What common concerns do you hear from women when it comes to dating? What advice or approach do you give to help them with these concerns?
Concerns run the gamut, but frequently I’ll hear women lament they’re “having a really hard time meeting men” or that “all the good ones are taken.” The truth is there are plenty of single men, good men; it’s just that women need to do the work to get out there and move past their storybook and societal ideals of who can be a “good” partner and how they can/will meet them. I think, often times, behind these frustrations for women is a real lack of self-awareness and clarity about who and what they’re looking for in a man and relationship. I know this, because I was that woman, for several years.
Many women are clueless as to why they’re still single and they’re hell bent on not “settling.” They don’t associate being single with lack of self-awareness (or self-esteem) and lack of understanding when it comes to their values and true needs. I encourage women to engage in deep self-reflection about current and past experiences. Simultaneously, I ask them to be action-oriented in the dating world in order to work through the issues that they’re identifying and to practice their dating skills. I don’t want women to look at dating solely as a means to an end (marriage and babies); rather, it can also be about the journey, and by being conscious of this journey, they have a better chance of meeting a compatible, healthy partner. Looking at dating this way takes the pressure off. I also try to get women to think differently about this notion of settling.
We’ve interviewed dating coaches who coach men and often what we hear is in order to get dates it’s a numbers game where you just have to ask a lot of women out in order to get a date. Does this apply to women? What should women do to get dates?
We still have a society, for the most part, that operates under the assumption that men should be asking women out on dates, although we’re starting to see more group dating scenarios, women initiating dates and getting digits, and the like, but predominantly it’s still expected that men do the asking in the beginning. There’s no right or wrong, that’s just where we are in 2012. So, in today’s day and age, it’s less about women asking a ton of men out on dates (although they can try this strategy if they want to) and more about being receptive to going on lots of dates with all sorts of different men. Part of my dating coaching philosophy is about practicing dating. You can only practice by going out on lots of dates, even with men who you might not initially be attracted to or interested in. Dating is often a numbers game. A recent survey conducted by dating website UKDating.com found the average woman will date 24 different men before she finds “Mr. Right,” 7 percent of women will go on 41-60 dates before they found their life partner, and 1 percent will go on 61-80 dates before discovering the love of their life. I don’t have an exact number in my head, but given all my dating experiences since high school (I’m now 35), I’d probably put myself in the 1 percent range before I found my Mr. Right two years ago. So, yes, dating is partly a numbers game; that being said, I firmly believe unless you’re clear on who you are (your values, boundaries, needs, limiting beliefs, etc.) and what you’re looking for, you could date until you’re blue in the face and not meet anyone or continually attract unhealthy or the wrong partners. In my estimation, finding love takes a combination of resilience, perseverance, resourcefulness, self-awareness, experimentation, and action. I write about all of this in my upcoming book, which I hope to offer for sale in the next 6-9 months on my forthcoming website. Lots of cool stuff in the works!
With regards to dating can you share with us one of your clients success story? Where by making a few key changes provided noticeable results.
By getting better clarity on what obstacles were standing in her way and then taking action on removing those obstacles, through small, smart steps, a former client of mine felt she had better control of her dating and love life, that she was an active participant, not a silent observer or helpless victim. She found that her dating life started to feel lighter, freer, more positive. Most of my clients feel more empowered when they start clarifying for themselves what their obstacles are and how they can start removing them, who they are, and what they know about themselves and the world around them from their past and current experiences. I show clients how to do this and guide them to come to their own answers.
Do you believe women should follow “dating rules”? Stuff like the man should always pay, never initiate contact with a man, wait until the third date to have sex, etc…
I have a tough time with rules, to be honest. Too many dating coaches and pundits have such subscribed ways of doing things: If you do a, b, and c you’ll get x, y, and z. But dating and relationships aren’t black and white; there are no magic answers or scientific equations that I can give a woman that will 100% guarantee her a boyfriend or a husband.
That being said, I do have a few rules of thumb that can be useful for many women, especially in those confusing, nerve-wracking early days of dating, one of which is about allowing the man to set the pace. As I mentioned earlier, even in today’s world of gender parity, I still think many men, when looking for a serious relationship, like to be the pursuer, and many women want the guy to be a bit more of the initiator. Whether that’s biology or culture talking, nobody can definitively say, but I still think this is the reality in 2012. Some women may want to do the pursuing or are comfortable being the initiator, but I think still for the majority, a woman appreciates the more traditional dance in the beginning. So, I would advise women who do want to be pursued a little to sit back and let the man set the pace of the relationship, especially in the early stages. Let him initiate the first few dates and phone calls. This can be tough for women nowadays, especially because they are used to pursuing everything in their lives, from career to school to hobbies. But I think if women sit back and receive a little, they make the man prove through his actions that he’s interested in getting to know her. When it comes to splitting the bill, I suppose the first couple of times a woman can let the guy pay (a “wallet-grab” is always a nice gesture), but if you think about it, in a society where many women are making just as much money as men, why should this outdated custom still be a “rule?” Some women prefer having the man pay, because it matches up with their value system, but for others, they have no problem splitting the bill. If a woman feels that a man paying for her on dates goes against her values, and I advised her to always let a man pay for the first several dates, then I’m essentially advising her to do something that runs counter to her core values. If this value is indeed crucially important to her, she should seek a man that respects going Dutch and her independence. This type of woman does not need to be taken care of in this way; having a man pay for her is not part of her value system. This is an example of why I think setting up blanket, generic “rules” for all women to follow can be problematic.
Ultimately, I think women are better served by paying attention to what feels right to them. You have to spend time really reflecting on that, developing better self-awareness, determining what your values are, and understanding what you’re really looking for in a man and a relationship. For instance, if a woman isn’t sure if she should sleep with a man she’s had three dates with, I would ask her to reflect on the reason why she’s having sex and her past experiences with casual sex, rather than have her follow some generic rule. If she’s the type of woman who is comfortable sleeping with someone before a establishing a deeper commitment and has an ability to keep her emotions compartmentalized, then I would say she has her answer. If, on the other hand, she’s had several experiences in which she’s slept with a guy on the third date because she thought it would bring them closer but the man always disappeared and she didn’t like the way this felt, or she finds herself getting emotionally attached too quickly because of sex, then I would advise her to wait. It’s about what sex means to her, not me, not her friends, not the media. She shouldn’t feel the need to be some feminist martyr, nor should she wait for an arbitrary 3-6 months and/or for an established commitment if she feels ready and her decision matches up with her value system and needs.
Boundaries? Yes. Rules? It’s a bit more nuanced.
For people who don’t want to do the online dating thing, what are some good ways or places for women to meet guys?
I’m a huge advocate of online dating. People who complain about not liking online dating but struggle to meet men for dates, in my opinion, should swallow their pride and give it a chance; in fact, they should give it multiple chances. Sometimes it takes years of trying online dating to meet someone. Aside from online dating, I encourage women to think strategically to identify opportunities to meet men and take advantage of their networks; there’s no shame in proactively strategizing in this way with regard to their dating and love lives. I also encourage women to actively make dating and meeting men a priority in their lives, because nobody else will. An example of strategizing might be the following: Let’s say a woman goes on three girlfriend vacations a year to remote spots, spending $1000 each time; well, maybe next year she goes on two vacations with her girlfriends, saving the money from a potential third trip and purchasing ten, $100 tickets to local charity galas instead – great places to meet men! This kind of approach may not be in line with the romantic fairytale of how she saw herself meeting someone, but the older women get the more they realize that there’s no such thing as the fairytale.