In her book, “Love Rules,” former Cosmopolitan editor Joanna Coles uses the analogy of diet rules to dating. It raises the question: Do we have healthy dating habits or are we wolfing down the love version of Twinkies (which actually have a shelf life longer than many relationships)? It’s a valid point when we are consumed with reading ingredient labels and shopping organic and looking at plastic straws with horror, that we ingest a steady, toxic emotional diet while looking for “the one.”
Coles starts by encouraging realistic goals. She points out that if you are 152 pounds with a goal of 120 pounds, have you ever weighed that? Maybe 135 pounds is more realistic, and healthier for you. Both men and women are guilty of romantic idealism, hoping to find the gorgeous, intelligent, witty, selfless, successful, abs of steel, burning hunk of hot love. Maybe we can accept some imperfections when the most important qualities can be met. And oh yes, maybe we should all start with looking in the mirror, which is sayin,’ “The fairest of them all? Lordy, who you kiddin’?” We can all be attracted to snacks, but isn’t a wholesome, healthy meal much more satisfying?
Her next advice is to begin a dating detox to reset your metabolism. I have to admit I find this to be much more of a female process than male. I have seen women after break ups commit to therapy to dissect not only their partner’s behavior but their own patterns and areas for improvement. They order piles of books on Amazon from “My Muffin Top Ruined My Marriage,” to “Women Who Love Men Who Love Women Who Don’t Love Men,” while often men say, “Ok, next,” with barely a chance to wash their ex’s perfume off the pillow case. Or maybe it just seems this way because there are so many more available women than men.
This self-reflection also can involve some brutal honestly on both sides. Why are you single? Yes, it can be that your wonderful gloriousness is like Wonder Woman’s invisible plane, but are you prepared to ask honest feedback about how you present to the world around you? Are you indulging in a hook-up culture when you have Jane Austen on your nightstand? Ask friends about your strengths as well as ways you can improve and be your authentic self.
And just as the yoga mat you lay out on the living room floor which becomes a nice bed for Fluffy while you binge watch “The Great British Baking Show” won’t burn calories, it also won’t put you in front of available partners. All too often we are taking a flirty text exchange on a dating app as the dopamine high instead of actually meeting in person or at least as Coles suggests, picking up the phone. So many users of the various dating apps have the same complaint, that it is virtually impossible to move the relationship off line and the sense of immediate intimacy seems inappropriate for someone you’ve never even met.
This leads to another problem from this supposed vast universe — the game of keeping options open. Coles calls this ADDD: Attention Deficit Dating Disorder, a modern ailment triggered by the fact that you don’t need to commit because you can always find another match. I’ve talked to some successful men that are only attracted to the “specials” on the menu because a favorite meal, although satisfying, becomes boring. Yet brain research shows that with vast options, the brain experiences decision fatigue and, in the end, chooses none. Then you are the guy at the happy wedding with the absurdly inappropriate date.
A way around this dissatisfaction, Coles suggests, is to be a little hungry. Whatever the dating donut, an initial thrill which leaves you with a headache and sticky fingers, just skip it. It’s worth waiting for something that nourishes you. Coles says, “If I were to swap a food pyramid for a love pyramid, respect would be your fruit and vegetables.” Bring on the sensual smoothie!