Dating 101

You may have had enough advice on how to find love, but that’s just it: like you, the dating world in 2014 is complicated and time consuming. What’s more, your dating life may end up a lot messier if you have to deal with a whole bunch of different people in the time it takes you to choose one (we get it: it sucks having to juggle so many different romantic prospects, some of whom are actively involved in the relationship that you’re trying to find).

An ounce of prevention certainly is worth a pound of cure, so the first step in your new dating world is to plan out the steps you’ll take before you even start searching. The internet is full of terms that may help define your dating profile (let us help you figure out what’s appropriate), but here are some guidelines for how to keep your search from getting messy in the first place:

1. Set some ground rules up front

Basically: every guy is going to be a moron at some point in his life, so it’s good to lay down a few ground rules from the start. You can be open to dating anyone, but don’t accept calls after midnight; if you do find a fling is too good to be true, it probably is. If you were friendly with someone on Facebook you met at a networking event, but they clearly had no intention of taking things further, it’s best to just cut them loose. If you were into a guy, have him respond first and if he doesn’t, dump him. You want to be as specific as possible with yourself and your expectations.

2. Research your potential dates’ social media

Unless you know a guy in a band or an artist you want to date, his Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages are going to be the best way to get to know him. While all dating sites are hardly your friend, Facebook is an excellent place to start, as it’s probably the most engaging space for modern men and women. A good way to use this space for your search is to look for guys who share your interests. For example, if your music is what you’re looking for, narrow down a potential date’s Facebook profile by only seeing people who are on a playlist you listen to. In addition, if you find someone who lives in a city you’ve been wanting to visit, Google their real-world address to see if they’re around your next vacation.

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You’re not dating in a vacuum! Whether it’s friends, family, coworkers, the gym—whatever!—people are setting you up or meeting you at parties or events, at least in some fashion. Telling people you’re looking for a date is hard and completely normal, and it’s often easier than looking for a romantic interest yourself. (Of course there’s tons of other, more efficient ways to find someone, but that’s another post for another time.) While I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who have no idea where to go for a date, I’m here to help you fill that awkward middle space while you sort out what to do next.

This is just a general guide to things you can do to help yourself go on a date. Obviously, it’s not comprehensive, but I’m not going to lie and say I have all the answers. As I said before, I’ve been on plenty of dates, and I have some great tips to help you navigate the dating world. But this is just a general guideline. You’re going to have to make some adjustments based on your own situation.

Ask!

So, you’re looking for a date. Great! Maybe a date with a coworker at a networking event, or maybe you’re going on a blind date! Either way, don’t be afraid to ask. The worst that can happen is it doesn’t work out—and that’s worth it if you tried. I’ve been on a few blind dates, and in all honesty, it’s stressful. But it’s also really fun, and if you don’t ask, you may not have a great time. There’s nothing worse than going on a date and then not having a good time, so ask!

If you are already feeling comfortable around the person you’re looking for, you can just ask. You’re already comfortable enough to make a good impression, aren’t you? (You can fake it until you make it, and again, we’re talking about a blind date here, so it’s worth it.) If you’re nervous, then maybe it’s a good time to set boundaries. Do you want to go out to eat? Do you just want to hang out and watch TV or listen to music? It’s entirely up to you, but you can be very clear and upfront about what you want.

In addition, you can be flexible and open to the possibilities of the evening, but don’t let yourself get too excited or

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