Find The Commonalities
Relationships are based on three components: desire/attraction, connection and trust.
Now I’ve written fairly extensively about how to build attraction, about flirting and about how to have great conversations, but less about building that all important connection – the feeling that the two of you mesh perfectly, as though you were “meant to be”.
Now I’m not a believer in fate – there is no One True Love, after all – but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it feel as though there is.
It’s easy to say “opposites attract”, but the truth of the matter is, we like people who are similar to us. There’s a lot to be said for dating people outside of your experience or even your comfort zone – I recommend it, actually – but there comes a point where being too unalike will actually push people away.
Why? Because they feel as though they have nothing in common. Part of building the connection is all about finding those points of commonality: areas where you share similar or complimentary interests and mutually shared values.
One of the benefits of being a great conversationalist is that you have to learn to embrace the concept of active listening – taking an active part in what she’s saying by taking what she’s said, paraphrase it and expand on it to ensure that you’ve caught what she’s been saying. Why would you want to do this? Because part of what you’re doing is looking for opportunities to express those points of commonality; you want to relate something she likes or is passionate about with something you are passionate about.
The more commonalities the two of you have, the more you’re going to feel drawn to someone… because you have so much in common.
This doesn’t mean that you need to be a carbon copy of somebody in order to build a relationship, mind you. She may be into skydiving and you’re terrified of heights… but on the other hand, you’re into travelling to exotic places. Where’s the point of commonality here? You’re both adventurous, looking to live life to the fullest by doing things that other people might never do.
Worth noting: having things in common doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have your own interests as well. After all, having something to share with your partner – or for your partner to share with you – is part of what keeps the interest and spark in a relationship.
Let’s Do The Time Warp Again
I’m a huge fan of multi-venue dates, especially in the courtship phase of a relationship. In fact, my Standard First Date involves taking women to at least three different places, if not more. If I’m going to go on a date with someone, I don’t want just to go to a coffee shop or to dinner and a movie, I want to go to an art gallery, followed by a wine bar for a drink, then perhaps dinner at this great Ethiopian place and a walk through the park to this incredible food trailer that does the most amazing desserts.
Well, because of an effect known as time-dilation.
Switching venues during a date has an interesting effect on the brain: it makes us feel as though we’ve spent more time with our date than we actually have. This time dilation effect helps build the feeling that we’ve known the person we’re on the date with for longer, which in turn makes them feel more comfortable with you… helping to build that all important connection that is so important to relationships.
It’s worth noting that the time dilation effect works both ways. Just as much as venue hopping makes your date feel as though she’s spent more time with you than she has in reality, it’s having the exact same effect on you… which helps cement those connections; the last thing you want is a one-way relationship, after all.
See Her As She Wants To Be Seen
Just as we like people who are similar to us, we like people who see us the way we wish we were. It can be incredibly powerful when somebody seems to connect with us on a level that nobody else has – they see us as we “really” are. We are built, psychologically, to want to see the best in ourselves, so someone who validates this part of us can be incredibly attractive.
Part of how we do this is by connecting and confirming our date’s passion.
Now, presumably you have been seeing this person socially for a while, which means that you should know them relatively well, if not incredibly intimately. If you’ve gone on more than one date, you should have gotten past the standard “interview questions” and reached a place where you can be more honest with each other. Thus, you should have a pretty good idea of just what it is they are truly passionate about. They will give hints – if not outright tell you – what their ideal life would be, assuming that you’ve been practicing active listening rather than waiting for you chance to talk.
Once you know what her passion is, you want to bring it up in a positive way – that is, you want to encourage and cheer on her passion. Showing that you believe that she can be greater than she is and that she can achieve her passion – becoming a great marine biologist, founding a breakthrough business, writing an incredible novel – can be powerful. Explaining that you could see her succeeding at her passion and why – she has an incredible ear for dialogue and she’s an amazing story-teller for somebody whose passion is to become a novelist, for example – can help build that strong connection that you’re both looking for in a relationship.
Make a Strategic Show of Vulnerability
Trust, the final component of relationships takes time and effort to build. Looking for a relationship means deliberately putting yourself in a place where you could be hurt, physically and emotionally, which is why trust is so important. We don’t want to expose our most vulnerable sides to someone who is only going to turn around and use it against us; all of us have had bad relationships or moments where we’ve been fooled, hurt or abused. Trust has to be earned over time by showing that you are, in fact, trustworthy.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t jumpstart the process, however.
Just as with having our passions reflected back at us, we tend to trust the people who show that they trust us. And one of the best ways to show someone you’re dating that you trust them is with what I call a strategic show of vulnerability. That is: you let down your armor just a little and making yourself vulnerable – just for a second – to them. In fact – and damn you Carly Rae Jepson for making me do this – that’s part of what’s appealing about the song “Call Me, Maybe”; she’s used to being the pursuee rather than the pursuer and being the one to make the approach to somebody she’s found herself attracted to. But now she’s met somebody unlike anyone she’s ever known and now she’s deliberately making herself emotionally vulnerable – “I never do this and this is crazy” – to being rejected by this person… and that brief show of vulnerability makes her all the more appealing.
You want to let her see the part of you that you normally keep hidden from the world – a secret or a desire or a goal that you don’t share easily because it’s private or unusual… something that you wouldn’t talk about with somebody you just met. It’s something that makes you human.
For example, I might – to use a random, if not terribly private example – talk about how seeing The Last Unicorn at a young age inspired me to want to tell stories because at seven years old I couldn’t stand the fact that Amalthea and Prince Lír don’t end up together and ended up staying up all night to re-write the entire ending of the movie… followed up by a release that acknowledges what just happened. “Wait, why am I telling you this? Jeez, I’m sorry, I usually don’t get that deep this early on.” Showing that little weakspot in your armor then pulling it back carries the implication that you trust her enough that you’ve accidentally let your guard down… which in turn will help inspire her to put her trust in you…
…and put you on the path of levelling up your relationship.