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How to Make Better Romantic Choices

If you spend a lot of time wondering if you'll ever find that special relationship, stop. Instead, think about the millions of married people who wake up each day wishing they had made a different choice. Difficult as it may be, your longing beats their regret, especially if you use your time alone productively.

According to a recent survey, nearly 15 percent of Americans say their biggest regret in life involves a love relationship. Of those, more than half say they would choose a different mate or dump a former love sooner if they could change their past. More than a third of those who would have chosen a different mate are married, and half have children living at home.

The statistics are startling and point to bad romantic decision making on the part of both men and women. The reasons have become cliche: settling for the wrong person just because it's the right time; hoping to change someone into what you want them to be; not having the foresight to choose someone who can grow alongside you; believing that some magical, transformational person is waiting around the corner to whisk you to your exciting new life. The list is endless and at its core is the need to find someone -- anyone -- to be with, at least until someone better comes along.

Work on yourself

If you're alone right now, there's a healthier way of thinking that will better prepare you to make fulfilling romantic choices. It involves working on yourself and letting the rest take care of itself. It's based on four key principles:

Confront your fear of being alone. Do whatever it takes -- talk to friends, exercise, read self-help books, go to therapy, do volunteer work -- to know it's okay to be alone. Live your life doing the things you love and you'll find compatible love interests while you're doing those things. Forget "you complete me." It's a tear-jerking movie line that has no practical application in life. Besides, who do you want to be with -- half a person or someone with whom you share in common a sense of self-fulfillment and connection?

Believe you are the prize. Live as if a great relationship is coming your way and it will find you. Quality people are attracted to confidence, not neediness.

Improve your dumping skills. Do an inventory and get rid of all the negative influences in your life. Tops on your dumping list should be toxic friends. It's good practice for future dating so you don't waste time with people who aren't good for you.

Look at reality and not fantasy. Especially on a first date, listen carefully to what the other side of the table is saying. People are less defended on first dates because they're not sure yet what the other person is looking for and there's less at stake emotionally. Whether it's the first or fifth date, in their words and actions, the people you're with tell you exactly who they are all the time. All you have to do is watch, listen and accept what's being presented to you.

Next steps

If you've mastered these principles and are looking for a relationship, there are two ways to go: date a lot of people or wait for someone you think could be "the one." It can be painful, but frequent dating is your best choice for a host of reasons. Being out there keeps your skills sharp and helps you develop a more discerning eye toward who's right for you. It may also test and expand your concepts of who is right for you. Waiting around simply diminishes your opportunities and dulls your charm.

At the end of the day, finding the right relationship is all about you. The better you know and believe in yourself, the better prepared you will be to make smart choices in love and never settle.





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