Tough Love

Five reasons it's difficult to date in Denver—and what you can do about it.

February 2009

No. 1: Lack of Dating Know-How
Few things about dating are more apparent than this: We are just plain bad at it. It's not that we've learned the rules and tossed them out the window; it's more what we aren't learning in the formative years of relationship development. Hooking up? Yes—in the most literal of senses. Dating? Like good old-fashioned courtship? 'Fraid not. We've forgotten how to date in a traditional sense because we're instant gratification junkies (thank you, modern technology). We simply aren't acquiring the skills to successfully start and maintain adult relationships.

Cue Dr. Jennifer Oikle, a Denver psychologist and founder of the online dating-help site Mysoulmatesolution.com. Here, Dr. Oikle's four fundamentals to step up your dating game:

Train Your Date: Don't Be Shy With Preferences
From the beginning, teach your date how you like to be treated by accepting only great behavior. When the first warning signs crop up (off-color remark? Jekyll-Hyde syndrome around the friends?), voice your concerns.

Use Smart Tech-iquette: Stop Dating Your BlackBerry
Do not let cyber-chat become a substitute for face time or use it as an easy way out of hard discussions. Too much digi-talk sends mixed messages and causes unnecessary hurt feelings. And when you are out with someone, make sure your device isn't getting more attention than your date.

Be Self-Aware: Decide, Don't Slide
We tend to progress through relationships, daze-like, without making conscious decisions. (This may come as a revelation when you wake up one day and wonder how you share a house and a dog with someone to whom you just can't commit). Step back at major junctures and be honest with yourself; being unsure of the next step most likely means: Don't take it.

The Good-bye Sandwich: An Easy, Explicit Ending
When you want out, own up to your feelings; never just disappear. Try the good-bye sandwich: something positive ("I haven't laughed this much in a long time") + it's over (I get the feeling we just aren't the right fit") + well-wishing ("you'll make someone lucky really happy"). Voilá. Graceful exit, sans bad rep.