What I’ve learnt in 10 years as a dating and relationship coach
Three weeks earlier I had moved into a cushy, little flat for my first year of university. In the adjoining bedrooms were five comely females. Six more resided in the flat above and another six in the flat below. Yet here I was, hunched over my keyboard in a dimly lit room, frustrated to breaking point that despite my self-confessed fun and stimulating personality, I couldn’t attract this potential harem, let alone any other women at the university.
That evening back in October 2003 marked the beginning of an epic journey of research, discovery and perseverance. One of the first resources I found on that initial research session was a dating product called Double Your Dating, written by a now acquaintance of mine. Along with discovering other people on the internet with similar frustrations, it opened my eyes to the possibility of change. What followed were years of fervent practice, verging on an obsession. I was determined to learn without compromise how to master topics such as female psychology, social dynamics, attraction, seduction and relationships.
It was approximately three years before I was properly teaching others the intricacies of what I now call proactive dating and fulfilling relationships, but I still credit that lonely evening ten years ago as my starting point.
Here are some of the most important lessons I have learnt in ten years as a dating and relationship coach…
Social skills, dating skills and relationship skills are all learnable:
During childhood, I believed that social confidence and attractive personalities were something you were born with. I would look around the school playground and marvel at the handful of boys that all the girls seemed to be chasing. What did they have that I didn’t? It took me years to discover the answer.
Social skills and all the subsequent skills required for successful relationships are learnable, but it takes practice. The people that are naturally confident learnt those skills whilst they were growing up, predominantly from their parents and early experiences. If you didn’t learn those skills growing up, that’s no fault of yours. You absolutely CAN learn them at a later stage, as I am testament to.
What’s more, at that later stage you can be a lot more in control of your development in those areas, willing and able to make mature, adaptable and thorough changes. Some of the biggest and lasting transformations I have seen come from clients of mine that took their desire for change to another level, as I once did.
Think of learning dating and relationship skills like learning a sport or musical instrument. Knowing the theory is a good start but you only really advance by practicing and gaining real-life experience. With regards to relationships, that means meeting lots of new people, geared towards whatever dating goals you have at the time.
It took me about four years of dedicated effort to get my love life to where I wanted it to be, coming from a place of minimal dating experience. Now I know I’ll never have problems meeting and attracting women ever again.
The most important person is YOU:
Dating and relationships are of course dependent on the presence of other people. However, I wholly believe that you can only consistently attract others if you believe you are attractive, and you can only truly love someone if you truly love yourself.
Focusing on yourself as you make changes in your dating life does not make you selfish or egotistical. You may inadvertently upset or mislead a few people as you calibrate new behaviour patterns and that is something to be wary of. Learning from those mistakes and improving yourself based on your own morals and judgement is what is important.
I believe in being as selfless and giving as possible, which a later point will expand on. With that said, if helping someone else negatively affects your own integrity, you aren’t necessarily helping that person in the long run.
An example of this with regards to dating and relationships is whether you accept abusive or negative behaviour. Having genuine high standards means you will never settle for a relationship that is not exactly what you are looking for, or at least with real potential to become so.
Improving yourself helps others. Romantic relationships are one of the most interdependent bonds there is. By striving to become the best person you can possibly be, you are simultaneously making yourself the best romantic partner you can possibly be.
Learn to control negative reactions:
Learning to be more aware and in control of how you react is one of the most important skills in both dating and relationships. It was the biggest turning point in my own development of dating and relationship skills and is the determining factor for how fulfilling a relationship is from an outside perspective.
No one can make you feel angry or upset: you have simply learnt to react to negative stimuli in a certain way. As with most of the points in this article, childhood experiences and parenting play a big role in your default conditioning here.
I used to take criticism very personally when I was younger. If someone made a cutting remark about me, I would silently dwell on it for days. Now I understand that if someone displays unwarranted negativity towards me, it is a reflection of how they are feeling in the moment, not necessarily what I deserve.
In dating, this is the definition of true confidence. An attractive man or woman that you have just met might say something that is seemingly trying to put you down. What they are really doing in most cases is subconsciously testing to see if you are congruous with your behaviour. Is your confidence unwavering and unaffected when challenged?
In relationships, this is the key to avoiding arguments. Once you learn how to prevent yourself from getting angry or frustrated, you can amicably and maturely solve any issue that may arise.
Change begins outside your comfort zone:
If you grew up shy and introverted like I did, you will probably understand what I mean when I refer to comfort zones in social settings. If you remain in that comfort zone and resist taking action, your situation is unlikely to change.
The first time I approached a woman in a bar all those years ago whom I was not previously acquainted to was unbelievably scary for me. Likewise when I first started doing the following more freely: calling women I was interested in on the phone; physically escalating with women (from social physical contact right up to physical intimacy); dealing with unique scenarios, such as being able to approach large groups of women or women in the daytime.
Those scary moments were also the ones where I made the biggest leaps towards dating mastery. By repeating those actions just a few times each, it becomes immeasurably easier to do it again and again, eventually becoming a subconscious habit. It is at that point where the real progression starts. It is also a common point where some people revert back into their comfort zones and start settling for satisfactory yet unexceptional relationships, which depending on your priorities in life, isn’t necessarily bad.
Habits form through repetition and positive association. Everything you need to do in order to have a successful love life therefore comes from consistently expanding relevant comfort zones. There is an old saying that fits this mentality perfectly: “If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.”
Almost anything can be positively reframed:
Positive reframing is my favourite technique for both dating and relationships. What it means is that whenever something negative occurs – either an internal thought or verbally from someone else – you turn it into a positive. Successfully doing this one technique alone will reduce the amount of rejections you get from men or women to practically zero. It is also a key component for preventing arguments in a relationship.
An example in dating could be someone saying, “Your shirt looks weird.” Instead of becoming self-conscious and offended, you can simply reply with, “I’m glad you like it,” followed by a smile and a new conversational thread.
In relationships you can positively reframe any complaints or accusations. An example might be your partner in a restaurant saying, “The waiter is taking ages with our food.” You could reply with, “I know, but it’s great we have this time to relax and chat properly.” once again followed by a genuine smile.
Written down those examples may seem slightly contrived, but I hope you recognise and appreciate the premise. It is difficult for someone to destroy naturally positive confidence. In fact, it is difficult for them to even remain negative if you do it well.
All you have to do to make positive reframing work is ensure that it is both realistic and genuine, and promise to do it whenever possible.
Provide value as much as possible:
If you want to become amazing at attracting members of the opposite sex, providing value is the number one requisite. It is also what keeps a relationship fulfilling for years and years. Relationships stagnate when one or both people start becoming complacent or contemptuous: they stop providing the “value” they once did.
I dislike breaking down relationships and interactions into a transaction of value and social power but fundamentally that is what occurs. Attractive men and women generally have a lot of romantic options, and also get hit on frequently. Someone with an abundance of choice in dating has to decide quickly and decisively whether someone is going to be a friend, lover or neither. That subconscious decision is based on conveyed and reciprocal value.
One of the biggest turnoffs in dating and relationships is neediness. Neediness arises when you are looking to take (in the form of validation) rather than give (in the form of confidence).
I dated some wonderful women before Heidi but one of the biggest reasons those relationships didn’t last was due to a disproportionate level of attraction and desire. If a relationship is not progressing in a mutually fulfilling way – one person predominantly seeks validation whilst the other person predominantly provides validation – it is unlikely to last.
Provide value as much as possible and you will likely end up with someone who matches that philosophy on your own unique scale.
Respectful honesty is always the best policy:
Everyone knows that honesty is the best policy in a relationship, but people often find themselves in situations far beyond where the original honesty should have taken place.
The majority of couples that come to me for coaching and advice are doing so with issues related to trust, confusion and insecurity. All of those can be prevented with mutual and effective honesty.
Social conditioning is partly to blame. Monogamous relationships are portrayed in most cultures in such a way that being attracted to anyone else is seen as shameful. It is also neither innate knowledge nor taught knowledge to accurately know how fulfilling a relationship really is. Could yours be better, objectively speaking?
It is always best to be honest in the moment rather than retrospectively. That is why I primarily help couples to be more aware and communicative above all else. Being honest – in a self-assured, positive and respectful way – as your feelings or actions change means cheating is never an end result, nor the steps that lead to it.
Your journey is never complete:
Dating and relationships are so dynamic and unpredictable that you can never truly master the topic. You can learn how to deal with every conceivable outcome as well as become more intuitive in understanding others, but even then you can always further improve.
Even now, in a relationship with the woman of my dreams and barely a negative notch on our relationship, I still have a mentality of constant improvement. I am always thinking of new ways for Heidi and me to enjoy our relationship together. I am also always striving to improve myself on a personal level, in areas such as habits, beliefs and attitude.
One of the reasons our relationship continues to be so fulfilling and loving is because we share this mindset: we never get complacent or take each other for granted.
I’ve learnt a lot in the past ten years and finally feel I can call myself a real expert in the field of dating and relationships. Let’s see what the next decade has in store. 🙂
Reading this was very insightful and very eyeopening. Each heading made me think about times where I have not followed this advice and your journey you have made is inspirational to a lot of your other readers aswell I’m sure.
The heading that hit me the most was the one about making changes and not being ashamed about having to make changes. Ilike your musical instrument comparison because I have learned several musical instruments in my life and know how much time-effort it takes to improve. For some reason it is a lot harder to admit and seek help for relationships. I think its amazing what you do and trying to help get rid of the stigma.
Another heading that made me think was the one about learning to control negative reactions. I have found it hard at times to control my reactions but know it is something I can work on. What I find hardest is not an argument or quarrel but the men who have hurt me in the past on a big scale and getting over it once and for all. I find it very hard to put that behind me which I guess is part of dealing with my reactions and making changes.
100 percent agree honesty being the best policy even if what you say might hurt the other person. You are better off saying it and trying to move on than holding it in.
I hope you will be posting more articles. Just wanted to share some of my thoughts.Thanks. Fiona
Thanks for reading the article and for your kind words; I’m glad you got a lot out of reading it. 🙂
The reason people find it more difficult to change and improve their dating and relationship skills is due to personal attachment. Relationships are so deeply linked to one’s ego and sense of self that it takes a lot of courage and awareness to admit that you aren’t completely satisfied with your current success in those areas. Other skills such as musical instruments and other hobbies do not have that level of predetermined personal attachment. Most people do not judge themselves by their success in a new hobby until they reach a certain level of expertise. Taking that same attitude into learning better dating and relationship skills is what will help you to improve without any shame or fear.
Overcoming past hurt is a difficult thing to do, as it feels more personal and permanent than individual arguments. Other people emotionally hurting you or attempting to do so is sometimes beyond your control. What you can be in control of is any lingering resentment, confrontation, contempt or worst of all, revenge! The way to avoid all of those lingering feelings is to detach yourself from the negative aspects of that experience; accept that it happened in the past, make it less personal to how you are now and ultimately become indifferent towards what happened.
It is possible to be indifferent in a malicious or manipulative way, in which case the negative feelings are probably still present. What I mean is being indifferent in the sense that you are no longer affected by what happened. The section in the above article about you being the most important person in your own personal development relates to this mindset.
You make a great point about honesty. As long as you are careful about how and when you reveal personal truths – as mentioned in the article, always be honest in a self-assured, positive and respectful way – I agree that it is better to be honest and go from there with renewed understanding and empathy, rather than trying to overcome and hide a guilty conscience.
Thanks for reading and commenting, 🙂
This is just the sort of thing I needed to read right now thankyou. Glad I stumbled across this website.
Thanks a lot; I’m glad you liked it. 🙂 Sam
Hi Sam. I really liked this post and really it applies to people in all situations. Single, in relationships, married, etc. I have been in and out of a bunch of relationships over the last few years (some better than others) and all of this is good advice not just for relationships but about how to live generally. I’ll definitely keep it bookmarked to read again sometime. cheers
I’m glad you liked the article and you make a great point about how it relates to not only dating and relationships, but life in general. Relationships – be it romantic, social or family relationships – are so fundamental to functioning in modern society that improving any aspect of your social skills will improve your life, and improving any aspect of your life will likely improve your relationships! 🙂
Thanks for reading and commenting,
That’s a great point about how no one is completely unable to have a confident, outgoing personality. I always used to assume that the more gregarious people I knew were just born that way. It’s true that it does come more naturally to some people, but surrounded by the right company, everyone can develop their confidence. And everyone probably should.