From left: Bela Gandhi, Shanae Hall, Amy Dickinson and moderator Jeniffer Weigel
While Chicago might not have its very own Patti Stanger, it does have its own crop of relationship experts, including Chicago Tribune and nationally syndicated advice columnist Amy Dickinson, better known as “Ask Amy.” Amy, along with relationship expert and CNN Headline News Correspondent Shanea Hall and local matchmaker Bela Gandhi recently gathered to share their expertise at a panel discussion hosted by Trib Nation titled: “Finding and Keeping your Soulmate.” Seizing on the opportunity to learn from the real experts, some single friends and I decided to attend the at times hilarious and often cringe-worthy event. Focused mostly on the speakers own dating stories often affectionately referred to as a “dis-ate” and playing to a mostly female crowd of 30-40something women, the evening was an opportunity to learn, share advice and have fun.
The former wife of an NFL player, Shanea Hall spent 14 years in a rocky marriage worried about her husband cheating. When she left the marriage, she knew she needed a break from the dating scene to pick up the pieces of her life, so she went on a, “dating detox” (and I thought I’d coined the term!) She was celibate for two years as she rediscovered what, “made her happy.” She recommends that others going through similar breakups do the same, “make it plain in writing to you what it is about you that you like— what you bring to the table,” she says. “If you jump into a new relationship too fast, without getting over the last one, you risk entering another unhealthy situation where your self-esteem is centered on the man.”
Exercise of clarity.
Bela Gandhi, founder of the Smart Dating Academy, takes a similar approach with her new clients. She has them do an “exercise in clarity” to examine how their past relationships—all the way back to childhood—can influence or pattern their new ones. She says it’s as simple as making a list of, “five things you like and dislike about your past relationships and to use them as red flags to watch out for in new ones.”
Don’t be online-averse.
Once you’re ready to find that special someone, don’t be “online-adverse.” According to the panelists, more than 40 million Americans are dating online and “everybody is doing it.” But there’s a right way and a wrong way to online date. First, make sure that your profile photo is just of your face with a big, warm smile. Bela recommends shying completely away from “glamour shots’ because they can send the wrong message—you need to be rich to date me or I’m too good for you. She also recommends creating an “authentic profile,” which includes examples and stories and about five adjectives that describe you. Finally, she says to cast your net wide— even using tools like Facebook.
A well of people.
They all agreed that Facebook is a great tool to help your super connectors— married friends who know single people they should set you up with— get you dates. Look at your friends’ friend lists and scope out potential mates. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends for details about them— you might find your next boyfriend or girlfriend.
16 dates till you give it up.
Once you think you’ve found that special someone, don’t give it up quick…in fact, the experts agreed you should wait 16 dates. They say, “women develop emotional chemistry immediately, but men need time to build it and if you give it up too fast, they won’t have a chance to.” Now, I agree with them and I’ve openly admitted to my own prudish tendencies in the past, but 16 dates before you give it up is a little extreme, even for me. Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t think people should sleep around until they are in a 100% monogamous and committed relationship, but I’m not sure it takes 16 dates to get to that point. What do you think Oy!sters?
One thing the panelists and I could all agree on is that the most important thing you can do in a new relationship is to look at what the other person is doing, not just what they are saying. And trust your gut to catch those red flags. For example, if they are significantly late to a date, they might not be that invested in you because if they were, they’d figure out a way to get there on time.
And that in the end, everyone is just looking for someone nice who can be their best friend, so be nice to everyone you meet because you never know when you’ll find your next love.
TribU!, a part of Trib Nation, a new initiative of community outreach by the Chicago Tribune, hosts live gatherings on issues of importance to Chicagoans. To learn more about TribU!, and to see the schedule of future events, check out: www.chicagotribune.com/tribnation.