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Just because the whole world seems to obsess about romance during one day in the middle of February, doesn't mean you have to. For happy singles, it's a good excuse to eat chocolate.
But if Valentine's Day has you thinking about finding love, the holiday could be a good motivation to start.
Our experts offered these 12 tips to boost your chances:
1. The ‘You’ll find love when you’re not looking’ approach may be wrong.
That’s like saying, “You’ll find a job when you’re least looking for it,” said Pepper Schwartz, a relationship expert and sociology professor at the University of Washington. It’s possible, but rarely happens.
“For the most part, people who wait for a job are unemployed,” she added. “For me, it’s just an excuse for being scared to go and put the effort in. Yes, it happens, but no, it’s not a good strategy.”
Schwartz does agree with the underlying sentiment of that saying: Don’t be desperate. Put the effort in to find someone, but don’t act like any breathing body will do.
2. Go where people like the same things you like.
You can skip singles events if you don’t like them, but you have to go where you can meet people, Schwartz advised. Join social groups or meet-ups; be a worker bee in a cause you believe in; get involved in political parties. At the very least, you’re doing something you like and at the very best, you'll meet somebody like-minded.
Bite the bullet and try online dating for a big pool of potential candidates, Schwartz added. If you’re already online, try a different dating site.
3. Look up from your phone.
Good men and good women are everywhere — if you’re looking, noted Bela Gandhi, a TODAY contributor and founder of the Smart Dating Academy in Chicago. She’s amazed people often complain they don’t meet anyone, but then go out and keep their heads down the entire time, staring at their devices.
Wherever you are, be present and look around the room to see who is looking at you. Make three seconds of eye contact with the cute stranger and smile — that’s an invitation for him to come over and talk to you, she advised.
4. Don’t seek romance, seek partnership.
Romance is for dates, and it’s fun to have on occasion in your marriage, but it’s partnership that will get you through the rough times, said Tina B. Tessina, a California psychotherapist also known as "Dr. Romance" and author of “How to be Happy Partners: Working it out Together.”
“Don’t look for someone who sweeps you off your feet. That indicates a control freak, and you won’t like what happens later,” she advised. “Look for someone who likes give-and-take, who seeks your opinion and considers it, who cares about what you want, too.”
5. Happy people attract people.
Maybe the biggest issue in not being able to find love is that you’re not feeling good about yourself. Like yourself and like your life — really work on that, Schwartz advised. You have to be the person that you’d want to meet.
“If you’re not a happy, positive, self-confident person, you cut your chances of being in the right space for the right kind of person,” she said.
Go to a therapist to see why you’re depressed; get a trainer if you haven’t been exercising, and visit a nutritionist to begin eating right. If you’re shy, realize you could be less shy.
“The idea is that you have to train for everything, and you have to train for love as well,” Schwartz said. “You can work on yourself. You’re not a finished product unless you’re dead.”
6. Take time to be by yourself.
It’s important after a divorce or any break-up after a long relationship to take some time to be alone, said Nicole Baras Feuer, a divorce coach with Start Over Smart in Westport, Connecticut.
“You will be in better shape to meet the ‘right’ person if you have time to heal, spend time alone to figure out who you are again, reflect on what went wrong,” Feuer said. “So you don't repeat the same mistakes over and over again.”
7. Instant sexual attraction often fades.
Most good love is a slow burn — it takes a while to develop, Gandhi said. She believes attraction is important, but you don’t have to feel it right away since that instant spark is more about lust and less about the stuff of real relationships.
Emotion can change and deepen over time so give people a fair shot, Feuer added.
8. Beware of the ‘opposites attract’ theory.
Opposites attract at first, but they’ll likely face major friction points down the road.
Like-minded people actually make for easier and healthy long-term relationships, said Dr. Gail Saltz, a New York psychiatrist. The more you see eye-to-eye on, the less there is to argue and compromise about.
9. Become a ‘psychotic optimist’.
“That means you believe at any cost that you’re going to find that love; love is meant for you and it will come to you so that you just have to date like hell until you find it,” Gandhi said.
You have to embrace the process of dating, so adopting a “psychotic optimist” mindset will make it more fun once you’re convinced true love is really out there for you. Gandhi recommends dating three to five people at the same time until you find one to be exclusive with. Dating means “casually getting to know,” not sleeping with someone. She advises not having sex until you’re in a committed, exclusive relationship.
10. Understand your own needs.
Do you need a lot of space? Desire lots of affection? Have to know what’s going on all the time?
“Whatever your style is, it’s OK, but you need to know it and be able to communicate it to your future spouse. You can train each other if you both know what you need,” Tessina said.
11. Know the difference between fooling around and building a real relationship.
“You can mess around with anyone if you’re careful and have safe sex,” Tessina noted. “But before you bring someone into your life, or share money or living space, remember they’re bringing baggage.”
The person you’re dating is on their best behavior in the beginning, she advised. It gets worse later, not better, so get to know what’s hidden before going too far.
12. Stop pining for someone who is unavailable.
Make yourself understand that holding on to somebody who isn’t interested or isn’t there for you is harmful, and move on.
“You have to see that as a big dark black pit that you have to climb out of or you’ll be buried in it,” Schwartz advised.