The Chicago cold and COVID-19 may be keeping you indoors, but that doesn’t mean you need to stop searching for your soulmate. In fact, a new romance may be just what you need to muddle through the isolation of another pandemic winter.
“We’ve all experienced what it’s like to really be alone for an extended period of time,” said LGBTQ+ matchmaker Kara Laricks, whose company, Three Day Rule, sets up singles here and in other major U.S. cities. “People have wanted connection more than ever.”
With Valentine’s Day approaching, we asked the modern-day cupid for advice on how to find someone who keeps your heart warm. Here are a few of her tips and tricks.
1. Define your expectations
Before you dive into the local dating pool, Laricks recommends taking some time to figure out what you need in a partner. “Come up with your three must-haves, three core values that you can’t live without,” she said — traits like honesty, loyalty or a sense of humor. Then, draft up a similar list of deal breakers. Laricks’s clients often point to religion, politics, smoking and even cat allergies as serious complications to compatibility.
Once you’ve clarified those key qualities, feel free to add some “nice-to-haves” to your list. Attracted to a sharp jawline or drawn to a bright smile? Put them down as possible perks.
2. Expand your horizons
While it’s helpful to have your priorities in place before meeting a potential partner, Laricks said don’t immediately discount those who differ from the mold. Past experiences and societal pressures often influence what you think you should want from a relationship, but that’s not always what you need.
“Many of us cling so tightly to a list that we don’t allow ourselves to be surprised and delighted by what actually really feels good to us,” Laricks said. Case in point: More than 50% of her clients who end up dating one of their matches find the person has characteristics that fall outside their initial preferences.
3. Strengthen your dating muscle
In some ways, dating is a bit like exercise — it can wear you out, but it gets easier with practice.
“So many people have swiping fatigue and are so frustrated by the amount of time it takes to swipe and then message and then sometimes it goes somewhere, sometimes it doesn’t,” Laricks said. Matchmakers and other relationship experts can serve as personal trainers, coaching you to get back out there instead of calling it quits.
4. Avoid ghosting
If a date leaves something to be desired, resist the urge to disappear. Not only can ghosting leave the other person feeling hurt, it cuts off potential opportunities for growth.
“I always will check in with my client and their match and really get downloads … where we ask all kinds of questions and really figure out how everyone felt on the date,” Laricks said. Even if you’re not interested in round two, forcing yourself to reflect on the experience can help clarify what you are looking for in a partner. Plus, she adds, being honest about your feelings can prevent your date from making assumptions about what went wrong.
5. Give your dates some direction
Planning a meet-up with a match? Choose an activity that creates space for quality conversations — even if the Chicago cold keeps you cozied up indoors for a movie.
“Try to make what you watch [or] what you do have a discussion point so that you’re constantly learning something new about each other,” Laricks said. A documentary, for instance, could spark the other person’s sense of curiosity, prompting an interesting dialogue. Meanwhile, something more nostalgic could bring up memories from childhood, helping you better understand your partner’s past.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
In a world of swiping and super likes, modern dating can feel pretty impersonal. However, Laricks said it doesn’t have to be an isolating process.
“People aren’t able to normalize their experience because quite often when you’re doing this on your own, or you don’t have that village around you or that community around you,” she said, “there’s that tendency to think, ‘Oh, I’m the only one who’s waiting by my phone for a text for 10 minutes’ or ‘I’m the only one who thinks that she’s not interested in me, because two days have gone by and I haven’t heard from her.’ ”
Instead of spiraling solo, seek support. Sharing your fears and frustrations with someone you trust can take some of the weight off your shoulders, giving you the strength you need to bounce back.