This article is in response to a friend of mine who can’t seem to catch a break. Through his numerous Facebook and blog posts, personal messages and one-on-one conversations with me, it’s apparent to me that he’s missing something essential in his dating persuits. This goes out to him, and he’ll remain unnamed, but I hope it helps him and anyone else who comes across this blog.
I’ve spent a lot of time giving good relationship advice, and I have written numerous articles on this subject. I’ve been published by FamilyShare.com with this advice, which has been republished across numerous sites, including radio and news sites across the United States.
I had a long and arduous, albeit good and fun, dating career through my teens and twenties. I had over 20 committed girlfriends, 5 or 6 who were quite serious, and was either fully or practically engaged twice before I met my wife. (The second engagement ended just three weeks before the wedding.) Needless to say, a large amount of girlfriends came from a large amount of dating. I guestimate I went on over 200 dates over the course of those years.
When I met my wife, Jessica, in 2014, I knew she was different. I knew if I played my cards right, built trust, worked to get to know her and her needs, wants, desires and preferences, I could have a good relationship with this girl. Thankfully, she still continues to love me and help build a happy marriage. We continue to date and to court, we talk late into the night, and we have meaningful experiences together both in and out of the home.We text throughout the day; very little is a surprise, regarding each others’ emotions.
This was something I could not push, and my dating history taught me that women will not do anything which they feel they aren’t ready. With Jessica, I took things slowly. I didn’t bring up marriage until I was absolutely sure, and while I did push her in that direction, and even fought for her a few times when she got scared, I never once insisted she do something before she was ready.
I didn’t do it perfectly; she still doesn’t love how I proposed to her. But she said yes, because I had spent time building her trust, and I continue to do that on a daily basis throughout our marriage.
Getting to the marriage point can be sticky, to say the least. Once you get down the dating thing, though, marraige is definitely visible. (You will be more emotionally vunerable at this point, just so you know.)
To get started let’s talk about what what I’ve written regarging what my sales career has taught me about dating. I’ll recap those here:
- Qualify everyone – not everyone is the perfect fit.
- Be persistent – keep inviting the same person to join you, if you’re interested in them.
- Play to win– go after what you want, don’t let up until it’s yours. In my case, that was a solid Latter-day Saint marriage in the holy temple.
- No doesn’t always mean no, but a firm no always means no.
- Relationships can sour if you don’t care for them constantly.
- For single people, prospect everywhere. Look for dates and friends anywhere you share similar values with people.
I would also now include this sage advice: don’t go for the “close” too early. In sales, when you close someone, they buy your product or service. This is what keeps us professional salespeople in this type of work: it feels good to know you’ve won the trust.
Sometimes, that trust can be won in just a cold phone call or two. Other situations require months, even years of courting the prospect, taking them to lunch, digging deep into their company and truly understanding what makes them tick.
Occasionally, someone you know could become your prospect, as well. This does require a great amount of care, though, because if you are seen as dishonest or simply putting your want to close and earn a commission.
I knew a couple in college (who later became my clients) who started dating pretty quickly after starting to date. They did know each other beforehand and had hung out and been in group situations together, so it was easy for them to move to the next level. They spent over a year together before they were engaged, developing a deeper relationship.
The point of the sales/dating analogy is that all prospects must be brought through a buying process. The buying process will go quickly for some, and slowly for others, but it’s always the same:
- Assess needs (ask questions, then shut up and listen, then ask follow-up questions).
- Present a solution.
- Handle objections (if any, but don’t create them!)
- Negotiate terms.
- Ask for the business.
- Manage the account.
This process absolutely must be followed, or you will very likely lose the sale. Put in dating terms, follow a similar process:
- Approach – ask the person on a date. If you’re marriage age, a one-on-one activity is preferable.
- Qualify – this can happen before you approach them, but the first date is usually the most important part of the qualifying process.
- Assess needs – figure out what makes this person tick. If it’s nothing too ridiculous, move forward, assuming there is a connection.
- Present a second date.
- Repeat the previous three steps as often as necessary.
- Ask for commitment- Once there’s been several dates, hangouts, communication is regular (including phone calls!) and the person is beginning to trust you and may, ask for exclusivity in the relationship.
- Handle objections, if any. Unlike a sale, though, objections will happen throughout the relationship. How you resolve them, together, will be the defining characteristic of your relationship with this person. There have been books written by many people about this concept, but the ones I would suggest the most are by John Gottman, a relationship scientist who has revolutionized how psychologists approach counseling married couples. I would also note that simply demanding the person accept you as you are, without you making any changes, will doom your relationship to failure. You may not need to change the essense who you are, but be willing to accept constructive correction, as it comes.
- Negotiate terms of your relationship and life together. Again, this is an ongoing process. Permanent relationships will always have differences. The average couple has eleven of these. Being able to negotiate your disagreements without making the other person feel belittled or controlled will bring peace to your relationship more quickly than almost any other skill.
- Tell the person that you love them. Once you begin doing this, do it often and with meaning. Don’t let them have any doubt about it.
- Ask for the enagement. If you want to marry this person, begin talking about this once you’ve learned their behavorial patterns and you know how they behave in both good and difficult situations.
- Close and sign- do it. Go get married.
- Continue to build the relationship, day in and day out.
Throughout this process, the focus must be on building trust. Being in sales has taught me that trust is the number one key to building any human relationship. To think otherwise is discarding the science of human psychology at its most basic form.
This is best illustrated by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The image below shows this hierarchy and it’s basic format:
Let me break this down:
First, a person to want to be with another, they have to know that this person will not get in the way of having food, water, warmth, rest, and probably will be even more responsive to knowing that you can contribute to these base, human needs.
Second, for women particularly, they need to know that the guy they’re interested in can provide safety, both physical and emotional. If you discard her emotions as silly, inane, pointless, etc., you will not get past this stage, ever. A woman must understand that you care about all of her safety.
For guys, they do need to know that their partner will not harm them emotionally, as well, even if they don’t admit it outright.
So please understand this, if you don’t grasp anything else in this post: only once these two needs will be obviously met by a potential suitor will a person (who is psycologically healthy) be willing to get into a relationship, much less even know if you’re relationship material.
Once you’re in the relationship, you must work together to provide these basic needs for each other. There will be times when one is better than the other at this, and that’s okay, and it’s what makes a relationship stronger. You also need to begin working up the pyramid and helping the other person feel belonging, have their esteem built, and realize that the relationship will help them meet their full potential, or you stand to lose that person later down the road.
Another strong analogy is that of argument writing. When seeking to set forth an argument, one must include logos, pathos, and ethos, or logic, emotion, and ethics, for it to be complete and be able to include all facets of the human mind’s way of processing information and having it stick.
In dating, convincing someone to be with you takes all three of these aspects of argument. It may be logical for the two of you to be together, but if you aren’t addressing the emotional and ethical sides of your date and their needs, you’ll likely lose the “argument” and ultimately a chance at the relationship.
Likewise, if you’re an emotional mess, and you only think with your feelings, it will drive any sane person away very quickly.
And if you’re a walking bag of ethics, concerned only about “what’s right” without meeting the emotional needs of someone, you can forget getting past a first date.