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Looking for a relationship: simpler than you think

Discussion in 'Family, Friends, and Relationships' started by Owen, Jan 16, 2012.

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  1. Owen

    In Loving Memory Full Member

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    (Owen, a former member of the staff, has contributed to Empty Closets many times with useful and detailed posts, such as this one)

    "I'm tired of being single! How do I get a relationship?"
    "Every gay guy around me just wants sex! How do I find guys who want more than sex?"
    "That girl in my class is so cute! How do I talk to her?"

    Sound familiar? In my years on this forum, I've seen many threads asking variations on these questions, so if you're wrestling with questions like those, you're in good company. I don't say that to try to minimize your difficulties; far from it. I say it only explain why I'm writing this post: I'm writing it because a lot of people (regardless of sexual orientation) have a general yearning for a meaningful relationship but don't know how to get one. If you fall in that category, this post is for you. If you've asked any of the questions above, this post is for you. Hell, if you're just curious to see what you can learn from this post, it's for you.

    Who am I to write this? I'm just another awkward kid like you. I'm not dating expert, but I think that makes me even more qualified to write something like this; I know what advice works, what advice doesn't work, and what you need to hear, because it's stuff I myself am still figuring out. To quote The Wonder Years, "I'm not a self-help book; I’m just a fucked up kid. I had to take my own advice, and I did." And now I hope to impart some of that advice to you.

    Now, if you're a suave-ish type who can approach members of your sex(es) of interest without too much hesitation and you have a few relationships under your belt, this post probably isn't for you. If you looked at those questions at the head of the post and thought they were kinda silly, you're probably beyond the point where the advice in this post will be useful to you. You can already run, and this post is for people still learning how to walk. But hey, if you think you have something to gain from it, be my guest. :slight_smile:

    Because this post is quite long, I'll be breaking it up into pieces and putting those pieces in spoiler blocks to make it easier to navigate. Just click the "Show" button on the spoiler block to open up the test. If you don't want to open all the individual blocks of text, just open the first one and you'll see the whole post.

    Finally, I'll be using the term "courtship" to refer to the period starting from looking for potential mates up to that first date. It's not the most accurate use of the term, but it'll serve our purposes.

    Open this one if you want to see the whole post without opening every individual spoiler block:
    Table of Contents: In which I summarize all of the points made in this post

    I know this is a long and possibly intimidating post; it has to be to thoroughly cover the myriad of topics that fall under this subject. (Plus I'm just a wordy person. :slight_smile:) But I also know that not everyone has the time or patience to read all of it, so here I shall outline our discussion before we get started. This section will serve two purposes: allowing you to get an idea of where we're headed on this magical journey of demystifying the process of getting a relationship, and giving you the short version of each section if you don't have the time and patience to read through the whole post itself.

    Now, I wouldn't expect you to read through the whole post in one sitting (though you can if you're up to the challenge). Feel free to just read the sections that apply to where you are in the process now, or read through this section and just read the sections you want elaboration on. If, however, you do want to read thought it all, don't feel like you have to do it all in one go. Read a section or two at a time. Mull it over after you read it. Reflect on how it applies to you. You can read through this particular section in one sitting, no doubt, but it just sets out the skeleton of what I aim to present here; the sections themselves will fill in the meat.

    The Basics Pt. 1: The wrong reasons to want a relationship
    If you just "want a relationship", you're in this for the wrong reasons. A relationship isn't a magical cure-all for your problems, whether your problems are low self-esteem, loneliness, horniness, whatever. Being in a relationship and being single are nothing more than two states of being; one isn't intrinsically better than another. Take advantage of the freedoms being single brings. Learn to love your own company and it'll be easier to find someone else who can do the same.

    The Basics Pt. 2 or: Why complaining on the internet about being single won't nab you a boyfriend/girlfriend
    Finding a relationship is a process; no one single tactic is going to drastically increase your odds. More importantly, you won't get different results by doing the same thing. You're going to have to change how you do things if you want to change your relationship status, and you're going to have to step outside of your comfort zone to do that. My goal is to demystify the process of finding a relationship so that stepping outside of your comfort zone becomes less intimidating.

    The Big Secret: There is no big secret
    There's no big secret to finding a relationship; this stuff isn't easy for anyone. This is good news, though, because it means that you're probably competent enough at social interactions to navigate courtship. You just have to find the courage to put yourself out there.

    The Road There: Why you should be their friend first
    You'll be most successful wooing someone you're interested in if you first get acquainted with them in a non-romantic way, so the best way to find people to date is to go out there and make friends. Don't go out hunting for a boyfriend/girlfriend; it opens you up to getting into a relationship for the wrong reasons, and you'll find many more eligible bachelors/bachelorettes if you go out looking to make friends than you will if you go out looking for a boyfriend/girlfriend.

    Networking: Finding boy/girlfriends by making friends
    Go to places where you can meet new people: clubs, student organizations, parties, etc. Be open to meeting your friends' friends. Your efforts may fall flat on their face, but that's how it is with all things (including courtship): 80% of your results will come from 20% of your efforts. While you're out there trying to make friends, don't act like you're looking for friends. Acting like you already have enough friends is, paradoxically, a good way to attract more, so wherever you go to make friends, be there because you're actually interested in whatever is going on.

    A word about those you admire from a distance
    If you want to date someone you've been admiring from a distance, don't get your hopes up. The probability of you two being compatible, emotionally and sexually, and of them being single and available, is beyond slim, and even if all those factors work out, you might have built up such a perfect ideal of what dating them would be like that they could never reach it, and it will be disappointing no matter what happens. It can happen, though, and if you want to make it happen, you should get acquainted with them in a non-romantic way first.

    Hello, Stranger: Building up the courage to talk to strangers
    If you want to go after someone you don't know all that well, your ticket in is a casual conversation. It'll give you an idea of how open they are to your company, and it'll allow you to get acquainted with them, the first step of courtship. It's a good first step in what can be an intimidating process.

    Talking to Strangers Pt. 1: Approaching those you don't know
    Sometimes you'll be given an obvious opportunity to strike up a conversation with that person you don't know; other times, you'll have to make that opportunity. But sometimes, you'll never have a good excuse to talk to someone, so if you want to get to know them, you're going to have to just go up and talk to them. Usually, the worst that can happen if you take that route is that they'll decline your company or cut the conversation short, in which case you'll be right back where you started, only now you won't be wondering it, "What if?" So go out on a limb and talk to them; just treat it like you any old conversation and you'll be fine.

    Talking to Strangers Pt. 2: Getting to know those you don't know
    Once you've made contact, find your commonality and discuss it. Boom; instant conversation. Don't force it; it's alright if you conversation doesn't last longer than 10 seconds, because, again, 80% of your results will come from 20% of your efforts. If it does go well, there's no harm in asking if they'd like to meet again to talk about whatever you talked about (generally, this will only work if you actually did have a good conversation). Repeat, and that mysteriously alluring stranger will become a friend, making the next part of the process less intimidating.

    The Day of Reckoning: When to ask them out
    You can generally ask someone out (i.e. ask them if they date the same sex and ask them if they'll go out with you) once you move beyond the acquaintance level of friendship and the conversation flows easily between you two. It's okay to ask someone out early on in the friendship. Don't take the dogged-nice-guy/girl approach; don't wait until you are so close as friends that a relationship is just the next logical step, because it usually won't go on to that step. There's no shame in making your intentions known early; it saves you a lot of stress, and it saves the other person the impression of being mislead.

    Popping the Question: Building up the courage to ask your potential mate out
    Choosing when to ask someone out can be key because it'll make it easier for you to blurt out the question and it'll make them more likely to answer honestly. I recommend after a relatively substantial conversation, either during a lull in the conversation or after it has come to an end. Ask them in a place where no one will be listening to your potential mate when they answer your question. It's okay to ask these questions out of the blue; it'll get you better results than dancing around the subject.

    "Are you gay?"
    Find a way to ask this question that makes it easiest for you to ask it. I usually go with, "Do you, by any chance, date guys?" Don't worry overmuch about the person being offended if they are straight; as long as you don't do anything inappropriate, there's a good chance they'll take your advances as a compliment. If they don't, say something like, "You're such an eligible bachelor, so I thought it was worth asking," and turn your advances into a compliment yourself. If they say yes, asking them to go out with you will be a lot easier if you do it immediately after; if they're perceptive, they'll realize that was your intention.

    "Will you go out with me?"
    When you've found someone whom you're compatible with, don't ask them for a relationship; ask them out on a date, because the only intrinsic difference between a hanging out and a date is that calling it a date makes it clear that you wouldn't mind things going farther than friendship. Warm them up with a comment like, "I enjoy your company," then ask them if they'd like to go on a date some time. It'll work in your favor if you propose something specific and drop the d-word as you're asking if they'd like to go with you (e.g., "How'd you like to go on a date to that new pizza place downtown?").

    And if they say yes...
    Then go forth and enjoy, because if you've gotten this far, you can do it. Just don't be hyper-relationship-focused, don't force it, and don't stick with the first person who says yes (or anyone, for that matter) if the relationship isn't working, just because you don't think you'll be able to find someone else. Also, remember that your date is a person with their own hesitations, desires, etc., so even if you do all the right things, it might not work out because or reservations or problems of theirs. But don't let that discourage you; just enjoy the ride, and don't forget to be awesome.

    The Most Important Points
    The most important pieces of advice in this post (you'll need to read the post, or at least the summary, to get their context and truly understand their weight, but once you have, they'll serve as nice review material).

    The Full Version

    The Basics Pt. 1: The wrong reasons to want a relationship

    First of all, let me ask you a question, and I implore you to answer honestly: why do you want a relationship? Take some time to really think about it. See, being in a relationship isn't intrinsically better than being single; it's just different. You already know the benefits of being in a relationship; they're probably what's keeping you so intently focused on this pursuit. But here's a newsflash: there are drawbacks, too--compromise, disillusionment (finding out the person you're dating isn't the person you thought they were), the drain on your time, the drain on your wallet (dates and gifts and such), the limits to your freedom, the needing to be there for them through their rough times. It's not nirvana, it's not heaven, and it's not a magic solution to any of your problems.

    That last point is very important, so let me elaborate on it: if you're sad, if you don't enjoy your own company (which is often the cause of loneliness), if you feel like your life is somehow inherently lacking in something that a relationship could add to it, if you feel like you have all of this love inside of you that you're ready to give to "the one", or whatever other complaints you have about being single, being in a relationship isn't magically going to fix them. A relationship isn't some magical blanket that settles on your life and makes everything peachy; it's a dynamic interaction between two unique individuals that, like any interaction (a friendship, a teacher-student relationship, a familial relationship) can be rewarding or disappointing (often both) depending on the two people involved. You shouldn't want to be in a relationship; you should want to be closer to a particular person who is a potential boyfriend/girlfriend for you. If you want the relationship more than you want a particular person, you're in this for the wrong reasons.

    Being in a relationship is just another state of being. But like any state of being (at least, any state that isn't detrimental to us), we learn to like it, and that's what makes it enjoyable. So if you want to be more prepared when that day comes that you find "the one", learn to love being single. It's clichéd, it's hard to hear, and it's paradoxical as all hell, but you'll be better prepared for a relationship and more likely to find a fulfilling one if you learn to enjoy being single. If you want someone to love you, you have to learn how to love yourself first. If you want someone to enjoy your company, you need to learn how to enjoy your own company. If you want someone to think you're worth it, you need to think you're worth it. And yes, if you want to enjoy sex with someone else, you need to learn how to enjoy sex with yourself.

    Of course, if enjoying being single were easy, you probably wouldn't be reading this guide, so let me quote Kat George's "The Greenness of Your Grass" (a good read if you're looking for a relationship for the wrong reasons): "Slow down. Spend as much time as you like with your friends. Spend your nights dancing with the girls or your days playing cricket with the boys. Make the decision to do these things unburdened by any other commitments. Your commitment is to you. Speaking of you—start spending more time with you. Laugh at your own jokes. Luxuriate in solitary silence. Walk. Read. Pamper yourself. Be as filthy and disgusting as you please. Learn the comfort of your own embrace. It’s a cliché but it’s true—you will love better once you’ve fallen in love with you. Sleep sprawled on the bed. Snore. When you wake up make eggs and bacon and eat them in bed on your own. Find things—big and small—that you love doing and do them everyday. Focus on your job. Find a hobby. Do whatever the hell you want." I'll add my own: take yourself out on the dates you would want to go on with someone else.

    So, if you're in this for the wrong reasons, spend some time learning to see the merits of being single. If you're still not convinced, skip ahead to the numbered list in the section "The Road There". Come back when you can honestly say one of the following two things: "Being single is nice, but I'd like to give a relationship a try, just to see what it's like," or "Being single is nice, but there's this guy/gal I like that I wouldn't mind 'getting to know better'." No rush; I'll be here waiting. :slight_smile:

    The Basics Pt. 2 or: Why complaining on the internet about being single won't nab you a boyfriend/girlfriend

    Back? Coolness. Here's the next important piece of information you need to understand to successfully navigate courtship: there is no magic bullet. There's no single action you can take that will significantly improve your chances of finding a potential mate. Wearing a gay pride accessory to "advertise yourself" won't make people ask you out. Going to a GLBT-related club or organization won't suddenly land you someone to date. And complaining on the internet about being single will CERTAINLY not change that fact. Finding "the one" is a many-stepped process, and no single step is going improve your odds.

    So what will increase your odds? This next bit is very important, so pay close attention: you won't get different results by doing the same thing. Whatever you've been doing so far in your life has resulted in you remaining single. Whether that's because doing things differently isn't an option for you or because you just haven't taken that option doesn't change the fact that doing the same thing isn't going to magically turn around and bring a relationship into your life. If you want different results, you're going to have to do things differently. How differently? That depends on each individual case, but here's what I can guarantee you:

    The path to a fulfilling relationship requires you to step outside of your comfort zone.

    If you're not still in the closet, there's a good chance that the reason you're still single is because one or more of the steps that will take you closer to a relationship is outside of your comfort zone. It's something unfamiliar, something intimidating, so you've dismissed the notion of being able to accomplish it.

    Look at me (well, imagine you're looking at me); you can do it. Yes, it can be terrifying in ways only profanity can sufficiently capture, but the people around you who are in relationships overcame those fears and did it, and there's no reason you can't, too.

    So what's the difference between regular nervousness (which everyone feels at some point in courtship) and paralyzing nervousness? Usually, it's unfamiliarity. That's where I come in. I'm here to narrate the process for you, to take you through the steps of courtship and show you that it really isn't that mysterious or intimidating or difficult. My hope is that by showing you what it takes to successfully traverse the path of courtship, you'll realize that you really do have what it takes, and that you're already capable finding a relationship, once you build up the courage to step outside of your comfort zone and do it. I can't take away the nervousness, but I can make it manageable. Take a deep breath. Take my hand. Let's go.

    The Big Secret: There is no big secret

    Relationships long seemed like a mystery to me. They seemed like something that came so naturally and easily to other people, and yet they confused me so much. It always seemed like there was some hidden secret to it, that there was some skill or piece of information that, if I only possessed it!, dating would suddenly come naturally to me. Like this "Big Secret" was the key to understanding courtship and relationships, and if only I knew it, a relationship would naturally follow. Well, the big secret is... there is no big secret.

    Courtship, relationships, and dating aren't some kind of arcane ritual, the methods of which are reserved only for those who are more "eligible" than you. It's just a regular-ol' social action, like having a conversation, or ordering something in a restaurant. There's nothing mysterious or intrinsically intimidating about it. If you're capable of making friends, you're capable of finding a relationship; dating and finding a relationship doesn't require any more social competence than you probably already have.

    This is good news and bad news for you. It's good news because it means that as long as you aren't completely maladroit at interacting with people, you have what it takes to successfully navigate courtship; in a word, you can do it! It's bad news because it means that nothing I say is going to suddenly make you a master at wooing potential mates, that nothing I can say will make a relationship suddenly fall in your lap.

    For the most part, it all comes down to you finding the courage to take that leap, to put yourself out there, to try and fail and try again. It all comes down to you working up the nerve to do the things you're too afraid to do now: talking to people, putting yourself out there, whatever. It can be terrifying, I know, especially if you've never done it before.

    But here's the closest thing there is to a big secret: that's how it is for everyone. No one is ever confident the first time they play the dating game. In all of human history there have probably been exactly three people who, with absolutely no experience with courtship under their belt, realized they liked someone, immediately wooed them confidently and without any self-doubts, and were suave and successful while doing so. And even with all the experience in the world, many people never reach that level of confidence at any point in their dating life.

    This stuff confuses everyone, not just you. But as the relationships around you should show you, that doesn't stop them, and it doesn't have to stop you. Yes, the onus is on you to make it happens, but I believe you can do it. Now let's work on making you believe it, too.

    The Road There: Why you should be their friend first

    There are many ways to enter a relationship. Some people hook up with someone just for sex, and when they later find out they have a lot in common, they decide to move beyond sex buddies or friends-with-benefits and pursue something deeper. Of course, that's just one option, and if you're reading this, I think I'm pretty safe in assuming you want to go the other route, that you want to develop a deep connection with someone, and only have sex after that, if at all (if you DO want to go the "sex first" route, your roadmap will be very different, so you won't glean much from this post). In other words, you probably want to take the "friends first" route to a relationship. You want to find someone you get along with, someone who you enjoy spending time with, and you want that friendship to develop into something more. It's a good choice (though it's not the right choice for everyone, so if you're a sex-first person who happened upon this paragraph, don't feel guilty; just do it safely and responsibly).

    So those are two ways to enter a relationship: friends-first and sex-first. If you're reading this and you aren't in the friends-first category, you might fall into the third one: the relationship-first category. People who obsess over being in a relationship, who talk about "how much they have to give", who see a relationship as some general nirvana, fall into this category. These are the people who enter a relationship because they are in love with the idea of being in a relationship, not because they are in love (or in lust) with the person they are dating. These are the people who talk about a relationship as if once they enter it, everything is going to be just dandy and easy and awesome. They want a boy/girlfriend more than they want a friend whom they like enough to date.

    That description of the relationship-first approach should sound suspiciously like my previous description of all the wrong reason to enter a relationship that I described in the section above. So it shouldn't be too surprising that I say what I'm about to say: Don't be a relationship-first person. Why not? Let's count the reasons:

    1. Desperation is a stinky cologne. When you look for a relationship, rather than looking for someone whom you get along with well enough that you could have a relationship with them, you will come off as desperate, and that will lower your chances of success.

    2. It opens you up to people who want to woo you for the wrong reasons. Abusers, manipulators, deceivers--they prey on people who will stay in a relationship for the sake of staying in a relationship. You'll be easy prey for someone like them if you take the relationship-first route.

    3. It could make you stay in a relationship for the wrong reasons. Even if the person you end up dating is a perfectly fine individual, at some point over the course of the relationship, the novelty of your attachment will wear off, and you'll be forced to examine whether you two really have enough in common to keep the relationship going. Maybe you'll get lucky and you will, but those are odds you don't want to play, because it can leave you living your life with someone you really don't like all that much just for the comfort of being in a relationship. And if you were only staying together to be in a relationship, when that relationship gets rocky (they all do if they last long enough), there'll be nothing to motivate you two to work it out.

    If you don't yet believe me that the friendship-first method is the way to go, maybe this will convince you: most people who are in relationships met their mate when they weren't specifically looking for someone to date. Let me draw from my own experience here. In my life, I have dated two men, and have made efforts (ranging from casual to concerted) to woo four others. Of the two I dated, one was a friend of a friend that I met through simple lunch-time socializing, and the other I met at a friend's graduation party. Of the four I wooed, one was also a friend of a friend that I met through simple socializing, one lived on my floor in my dorm, one I met through work, and one I met at my college's GLBTetc. club, which I did go to partially out of desire to find a mate. Now think about this: of the six men I've wooed or been wooed by, I only met one of them by making a concerted effort to go and find someone I could date.

    Here's the take-away from that: if you want to find potential mates, go out there and meet potential friends. Let's talk about doing that.

    Networking: Finding boy/girlfriends by making friends

    I've heard it said that dating in the gay world is like finding a job: you have to either do it on the internet or get referred. It falls squarely in the funny but true category, but it fails to account for the fact that there's one other option that can improve your odds while job-hunting: networking, i.e. the act of getting to know people who can be your connection in an organization you want to work for, or become someone who can refer you. And just like job-hunter, networking (i.e. making friends) is an important strategy in dating, too.

    If you want to take the friends-first approach to finding a relationship, successful courtship will depend on successful friendship. The better you are at being a friend, the better you'll be at finding a mate. That's what I'm going to focus on for this section: making friends with an eye for meeting new people. This section in particular is focused on how to meet new people; if getting to know people is still a challenge for you, you'll glean some good advice from the "Hello, Stranger" and "Talking to Strangers Pt. 2" sections.

    Let's talk generalities first. As I said, you're a lot more likely to find a potential mate if you go out there and make friends than you are if you go out there looking for someone to date. You'll meet a lot more people if you go out there trying to make friends than you will if you hone in on one person to try to date, so focus on expanding your social circle. When a friend of yours invites you to a party, go, and see who you meet. If you see a friend of yours eating lunch with a group of people, ask if you can join them. If you're in high school or college, go to student organizations and get to know the people there. Regardless of your age (though especially if you're beyond your school years), see what groups there are in your city that are relevant to your interests, and go. Like networking, you'll get to know people so that you can take advantage of these connections later.

    Now, there are a couple of important lessons this kind of social networking will teach you. One, it'll teach you how to handle disappointment. If you go and sit with your friend's friends, you might not like any of them. If you go to an organization, you might not click with any of the people there. If you go to a party, you might leave because the music is too loud or because you have nothing in common with the people there. This is a lesson in the 80-20 rule: 80% of your successes with come from 20% of your efforts. In other words, you'll make 80% of your friends from 20% of your efforts to socialize. You have to go out there and risk putting in efforts that won't lead to anything, because that's exactly what dating is going to be like, too. You're going to try to woo people who won't be interested, and one of the most important lessons to learn is to be able to live with that, to live with the knowledge that you tried and failed. Since friendships often feel a lot less consequential than relationships, trying and failing to make friends is a good way to learn this lesson.

    The other important point about social networking is that you'll be a lot more successful in making friends if you don't come across like you're trying to make friends. Author Alex J. Packer put it well when he said that the best way to make friends is to act like you already have enough friends. Desperation is a stinky cologne both in and out of romance, and you'll make more friends if you don't look like you're trying to make friends. It's a cruel irony, but learning to accept it and work with it will teach you to accept and work with the crueler irony of relationships: you're more likely to find a mate if you don't act like you're looking for a mate. Keep that in mind as you're out there making friends. If you go to a student organization, don't go to make friends; go because you're legitimately enthusiastic about whatever it is the club is centered around. If you sit with a friend of yours who's sitting with their friends, do it to enjoy your friend's company, and only incidentally to get to know their friends. If you go to a party, don't go to meet people: go to have a good time, let loose, enjoy the music, and whatever else will being going on at that particular shindig. Again, if you act like you already have enough friends, people are much more likely to want to befriend you.

    Keep at this long enough and, eventually, you'll meet someone you'd like to ask out. Maybe you'll think they're cute, maybe you'll enjoy their company, or maybe you'll just suspect they are also gay and would like to see if you two get along. Now, because of the nature of socializing, when you develop interest in this person, you might already know each other pretty well, or you might have not even been introduced yet. If you two are already buddies, asking them out won't be too difficult, since it will just be a natural progression from where you already are, so you can probably skip ahead to the section "The Day of Reckoning", or even to "Popping the Question". But if you don't know each other that well, you'd do well to skip to "Hello, Stranger" and keep going from there.

    A word about those you admire from a distance

    Thus far, this guide might have left you wondering, "But what about the handsome guy I always see in the dining hall?" "But what about that cute girl who works at that café?" "But what about that hot guy in my class?" "But what about that cute customer I always see at work?" By now, you might have realized that this guide isn't exactly expressly intended to help you woo a specific guy or gal.

    Here's what I have to say about wooing those people you admire from a distance: don't get your hopes up.

    Notice that I didn't tell you to just give up those hopes, because it can happen. But here's what you need to keep in mind: the chances of any one person being compatible with you on a romanic level are beyond slim. There's the issue sexualities, first of all. If you're gay/lesbian, there's already at least a 90% chance they won't be capable of returning those feelings you feel for them. Even if you are sexually compatible, they might be in a relationship, or they might not be open to a relationship. Then there's the issue of you two being compatible as people. They might be boring. They might be into completely different things from you. You two might just plain not get along. All these things can keep a relationship from happening, which is why finding a mate isn't as easy as just looking outside of your window and picking someone, and which is why expanding your social circle is one of the best ways to find someone to date.

    But even if all of those things aren't a problem (which, again, is extremely unlikely), you aren't necessarily out of the clear yet. One of the risks of going after someone you've been admiring from a distance is that if you've been admiring them for a significant period of time, you might have built them up to this ideal they could never meet once you actually get to know them. If you've daydreamed about how things would be between you two, you might end up disappointed when they aren't exactly as you imagined them. Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal did a comic recently about that very issue, and it summed it up well: if you watch from a distance, they can go from a person to an archetype to an ideal, and no one can live up to an ideal. And to top it off, remember what I said about how unlikely it is that it will work out? That means that, at some point, you're probably going to hear a "no", and if you've put so much stock into this one person as a potential mate, getting a no will hurt a lot more than it would have if you had asked early on.

    Now, that guy I tried to woo who lived on my floor was someone I admired from a distance (though I admired him partially because I suspected he liked guys), and if it weren't for his probable asexuality/aromanticism that he didn't seem to be fully aware of (long story short), we probably would have ended up dating, so I can't tell you that going after someone you've been admiring from a distance won't work out. But before trying to woo him, I asked him if he'd like to hang out some time, play video games or something. I'd say my chances were a lot better because I did that first instead of starting off by asking him out. If you plan on going for that person you've been admiring from a distance, it'll be a lot more likely to work out if you change how you're thinking about it. You may be focusing on what being in a relationship with them (or just having sex with them) would be like, but if you want any chance at either, you should try to get to know them as a person, first.

    Hello, Stranger: Building up the courage to talk to strangers

    So suppose there's someone you don't know all that well, or don't know at all, but for whatever reason, you want to get to know them. Maybe you think they're cute, or maybe you know they're also into the same sex, or maybe they seem like an interesting person. Whatever the reason, you might find yourself interested in someone whom you wouldn't exactly call a friend. It might be that cute customer at work, or that hot guy in your class, or that witty girl who goes to the same club as you but whom you've never spoken to. Whoever it is, you're tired of asking, "What if?" and now you want to finally approach them.

    Navigating this kind of situation is a lot harder than navigating courtship if you already know someone through all that friendship-building you've been doing. If you've already talked to someone and you two hit it off, you can pretty reasonably ask them, "Want to hang out some time?" and not feel too awkward doing it. This section is dedicated to getting to that point with someone when you aren't already there, when you haven't already gotten to know each other a bit. It's basically concerned with getting to the point where it won't be awkward to ask them out. It won't be easy if this is still new stuff to you, but it can be done, so let's get to it.

    We all know the Golden Rule, right? Treat others as you would like to be treated. Take a page from that book and put yourself in the other person's shoes. Imagine you are that person you're so interested in going after, and some random stranger comes up to talk to you (of course, the random stranger in this hypothetical situation is you). Remember that, at most, you've seen this stranger around a few times, but it's also possible that you've never noticed them and never given them any thought. If you're going after someone you don't already know, it could very well be that way.

    So, how to approach this situation? Well, let's run through the obvious options. How would you feel if that stranger walked up to you and asked you to be there boyfriend/girlfriend? Of if they asked you out on a date right there and then? Probably pretty awkward and creeped out, which wouldn't exactly make you want to say yes. So don't do that. What if they just came up to you and asked you to hang out? Less creepy, but still pretty awkward, and while they might say yes, depending on who they are, it's far from guaranteed. So you probably shouldn't do that.

    What should you do? Start up a conversation with them.

    That's your goal. That's your ticket in. Just a casual conversation, something to make you two go from strange to familiar, from strangers to acquaintances. It doesn't have to be a particularly long conversation; it might not last longer than a few sentences exchanged. A conversation might not seem like a particularly lofty goal, but if you were confident pursuing loftier goals (like confidently asking a stranger out on a date), you probably wouldn't be reading this guide. A whole lot less can go wrong with a conversation than can go wrong if you ask someone out out-of-the-blue, so by aiming to have a conversation, you'll make it easier for you to work up the courage to go and make that connection.

    What's the purpose of this conversation? Testing the waters. The benefit of using the social-networking strategy to look for potential mates is that when you find someone you're interested in asking out, you'll probably already know that you get two along decently enough that they at least like you as a friend. (After all, why would you ask them out if that weren't the case?) The reason talking to a stranger is so hard is because you can't know how the stranger is going to react to your company. If you talk to someone you already know, you can have a pretty good idea of how receptive they'll be to you talking to them. With a stranger, you just don't know. They might be totally open to a conversation with someone they've never met before, or they might be the type who make friends cautiously and consider you weird for approaching them. That kind of risk in inherent in trying to woo a stranger; it just comes with the territory.

    The main goal of having a conversation with them is to find out whether they'd be open to your company. If they aren't open to your conversational advances, there's a good chance they wouldn't be open to your romantic advances. Of course, them being open to conversational advances is in no way a guarantee they'd be open to romantic advances, but in that case, the worst that can happen is that you realize you don't have a lot in common and never converse again. On the other hand, you just might make a new friend. And if you do make a new friend, who knows where that can lead?

    So lets talk about doing that thing your parents always warned you against...

    Talking to Strangers Pt. 1: Approaching those you don't know

    Before I give advice about the conversation, let's talk about the part no one ever gives you advice on: actually approaching the person. Getting over that feeling of awkwardness that keeps you from just talking to them can be the hardest part of this process, and the advice many people give ("Just go talk it them!") shows just how little they appreciate how hard that is for some people, so let me spend a moment talking about that.

    How you start the conversation depends greatly on where you are and what your commonality is. If you see them at your or their place of work, you might already have the customer-server interaction going on, in which case the door is already open for you. If you're standing in line together, you could just make pleasant conversation; what else are you two going to do while waiting? If they're in your class, you could sit next to them; of course, if your school is the kind where people tend to stick with the seats they take on the first day, that might make you feel a bit weird, so do it early on. If you're in the same club, when they aren't talking with anyone else, approach them during the social time during the meeting. If you see them sitting alone in the cafeteria, find an excuse to sit with them ("I like your shirt. You listen to Agalloch, too?").

    Such easy opportunities might never present themselves to you, though. You might only realize you like the person after the seating pattern in the class is well-established. You might never see them outside of a group. You might never have that reasonable excuse to start talking to them. The tricky thing about this method of getting to know someone is that it carries the risk of being awkward no matter what you do, and sometimes you'll just never have a chance to minimize that awkwardness enough to get it in your comfort zone. When that happens, you just have to throw social convention to the wind and say, "Screw it, I'm going to go talk to them with no provocation." That can be terrifying if you don't normally do that, but remember how I said that this process would require you to step outside of your comfort zone? Would you rather live with the potential awkwardness between you two if the conversation doesn't work out, or the regret of wondering what would have happened if it did?

    When you're going up and initiating a conversation with someone with no evident reason to do so, or when you're doing anything that falls outside of your comfort zone, ask yourself this question and remind yourself of the answer if your courage waivers: what's the worst that could happen? If they're, say, sitting alone in the dining hall, the worst that could happens is they'll decline your offer to keep them company. Then things will go back to exactly how they would have been if you had never put yourself out there. So you really have nothing to lose by just going up and asking, "Mind if I join you?" Of course, your odds will be better if you can find some commonality to justify starting the conversation, but low odds are always better than the odds of something happening if you never go talk to them at all (which--spoiler alert--is 0%). The point is, generally, the worst that can happen isn't any worse than what'll happen if you just stand idly by and never go up and talk to them. There are exceptions, of course (like when that barista you like is busy with customers, or that person in the cafeteria is sitting with a large group of people and enthralled by their company), and in those times, it's not cowardly to tell yourself, "Next time,"; it's considerate.

    When all else fails, don't underestimate the power of a friendly, "Say... aren't we in the same class?" or "Say... have I seen you wearing an xkcd t-shirt around campus?" as one of you passes by the other. Such casual banter is the stuff life is made of. If you can work in a compliment-question like, "I like your hair. Do you dye it yourself?", all the better.

    Above all else, go into it with the same mentality you'd take toward any old conversation you would have with someone you weren't trying to woo. Don't pressure yourself to stay in the conversation after the other person has lost interest, but don't jump ship at the first sign of any awkwardness. Don't try to talk to just them if they'll already talking in a group (if you want to approach them in that case, show interest in the group at large, not just them). Don't ask them about topics (like, say, their sexuality) that you normally wouldn't ask a complete stranger about. Basically, act natural.

    Talking to Strangers Pt. 2: Getting to know those you don't know

    Once you've made contact, the next issue is finding something to discuss. Let me give you Lexington's formula for conversation, because its simplicity and effectiveness is laudable:
    1. Find your commonality.
    2. Discuss your commonality.
    If you're in the same club, ask them something about whatever the club is based around ("What got you into Danish furniture collecting?"). If you see them at work or where they work, ask them something relating to the service being provided ("What makes your roast beef so good?" "What do you think of our hot chocolate?"). If you're in the same class, bring up something about the class ("Do you agree with the professor's interpretation of Dickens?" "What did you think of that test?"). If you're stuck for a topic, ask them about themselves; that's a topic most people have no trouble talking about, and it shows your interest early on. Err on the side of asking them about something you can observe ("I like your hairstyle. Where do you get it done?"), as opposed to something you can't observed ("What was high school like for you?").

    Now, remember how I said that 80% of your results will come from 20% of your efforts? The same applies here: 80% of your extended conversations will come from 20% of the people you try to talk to. Some people, for whatever reason, won't be open to you when you try to talk to them. They might be having a bad day, or they might think that someone coming up and talking to them is weird because they don't consider themselves all that interesting, or you might just flub it up. Don't beat yourself up over a conversation that doesn't go well, even when it's with someone you really wanted it to go well with. If nothing else, think of it as practice.

    So, what if it does go well? Converse again. If you started the conversation in a place where you see them regularly (class, a club, a dining hall), you could just wait until you see them again; you'll have the familiarity working to your advantage if you do. However, you are never guaranteed another chance to talk to them, so you might want to make sure it does happens again, especially if you had your conversation in a place where it's unlikely you'll see each other again by chance. But remember my previous advice: do it the same way you'd do it if you weren't interested in that romantically. You could say something like, "There aren't a lot of people here who also listen to black metal. It's nice to know someone who appreciates it. You come around here often?" The worst that could happen is they'll say no, which, again, will put you right back where you were before, so, again, nothing to lose. You don't need to make definite plans; if they say something like, "Yeah, I usually eat dinner here; maybe we'll see each other again," that's a victory right there. If you met somewhere where it's unlikely you'll see each other again, though, aim for more definite plans.

    Again, don't force it. If the conversation wasn't particularly interesting--if there wasn't any part of it that you could reference to say, "I liked talking about X; we should meet and talk about X again,"--then accept your loss. Of course, if you just generally enjoyed the conversation, you could just say that you enjoyed their company or that it was nice talking to them and end it with an innocent, "Maybe I'll see you around?", but if neither of those were the case, don't feel pressured to push it. If it didn't work, it didn't work, and they probably know it didn't work, so they won't exactly be keen on another conversation, either.

    If it did work, then you've gotten yourself into familiar territory; in other words, that mysteriously alluring stranger isn't really a stranger anymore. After a few conversations, they should seem less intimidating as a person, and so should the prospect of actually asking them out.

    The Day of Reckoning: When to ask them out

    So you've reached the point of familiarity. Through networking or targeting a specific person, you've found a person with whom you click. Now all that stands between you and a potential first date is two questions: "Are you gay?" and "Will you go out with me?". Make no mistake, they can be two of the hardest questions for you to ask. Sometimes you'll get the answer to the first one without any effort on your part, but you'll rarely be so lucky with the second one. If you have to ask the first one yourself, you'll probably ask it once you've decided you're ready to ask the second one. Since the first question generally precedes the second, rather than treating the two separately, I'll refer to the process of asking one or both questions as "asking someone out".

    One of the big things to consider about asking someone out is the question of timing. How early on in the friendship can you ask someone out on a date? If you do it too early, you might discourage them by jumping into things too quickly. If you wait too long, you might never get your chance to ask. So how do you know when it's okay to ask?

    As with many things, context is key. If the person you're interested in is someone you see on a fairly regular basis (classmate, member of the same club, coworker), there'll be many more chances for you to take is slow and build the friendship up before you ask them out than you'll have with someone you don't see as often (such as, perhaps, that person you admire from afar). But it's not about the quantity of your interactions; there isn't a hard and fast number of conversations you need to have before you're in the clear to ask them out. It's about the quality of those interactions. Talking with someone, getting to know them, is as much a means to an end as it is an end itself, for it can tell you when you're in the green to ask someone out.

    How is the conversation between you two? Does the other person ask you just as many questions as you ask them? Are they just as invested in it as you are? Are they asking you about yourself? Have you shared parts of yourselves, even if it's just grade-school anecdotes? Do they smile when you two talk? Do you smile when you two talk? The main thing to be on the look out for before asking is, do they seem interested in you as a person? These might not seem like major milestones, and that's because they aren't. You don't need to become close friends before you reach the point where you can ask them out. There's no shame in making your intentions known early on. The only difference between hanging out and going on a date is that calling your time together a date makes it clear that you wouldn't mind getting intimate with them.

    Some of you might suffer from the dogged nice guy/girl mentality, from the idea that if you want a relationship with someone, it has to grow naturally out of a close friendship after a long period of time. This idea says that it's gauche to ask someone out early on, that you should wait for you two to get so close that a relationship is just the natural next step. Bollocks! If you ask around, I'm sure most people will tell you that their relationships didn't start out that way, and yours doesn't have to, either. Both of mine started with one person asking the other out early on, and the one time I tried to dogged nice guy approach, it didn't lead to any dating.

    Think about it from the other person's side: if they think they have a great friend in you, only to later find out that you were trying to date them the whole time, they'll probably feel misled, like they thought they had this great friend but he/she really had ulterior motives the whole time. That can't be a good feeling.

    Now think about it from your side. By asking early on, you'll save yourself a lot of agonizing over whether they like you and how much they like you. If you ask early on and they say no, you can still be friends, which is exactly what would have happened if you had tried the dogged nice guy/girl approach. The difference is, now you won't spend any time agonizing over whether they like you, because you'll have your answer.

    Popping the Question: Building up the courage to ask your potential mate out

    Once you've decided to ask someone out, the other issue is, in what circumstances should you ask them? Choosing the right moment can be crucial for this step in the process, not because it increases the odds of the person you're asking out saying yes, but because it'll make it easier for you to blurt it out.

    One of the best pieces of advice I ever got about asking someone if they're queer and asking them out is to do it after a fairly lengthy, substantial conversation. Talking about other things before you ask them is like conversational foreplay: it "warms them up" and makes them more receptive to a question like "Are you gay?" or "Will you go out with me?". Asking someone if they date the same sex without any conversation beforehand is like sex without foreplay: awkward, unpleasant, rough, and it might not even accomplish what you set out to do. The other benefit of this approach is that having a conversation beforehand reminds the person why the like your company so much, which increases the odds of you two staying friends if you don't end up dating. Of course, when you intend to ask someone out, that can make conversing naturally more difficult, so as I advised you to do when talking with strangers, act like this is no different from any conversation you usually have with that person. Once you've "warmed them up", if you will, and the conversation is flowing nicely, then you can go for the gold.

    Aside from asking after a conversation, the other piece of advice I would give is to try to ask them in a place where there are as few people as possible nearby who will overhear it. Failing that, whatever you do, don't ask them while you two are in a group with other people. If they aren't fully out of the closet, group pressure or the risk of someone overhearing them can make someone hesitant to admit they date the same sex, so don't put that pressure on them. And even if they are out, they might feel pressured to answer a certain way depending on the people around them. Remember, you're not after a "yes"; you're after an honest answer, and you're more likely to get that if it's just the two of you.

    How should you ask them? Ask out of the blue during a lull in the conversation. If you wait for the conversation to work to your advantage by making the topic relevant, you might be waiting for a very long time. You might get lucky: they might bring up a recent local news story that's GLBT-related, or they might make a pessimistic comment about their their lack of dating life. (Note: don't use these strategies yourself to fish for these question from the other person. Don't waste your time with hinting; you're better than that.) But opportunities like that are the exception, not the rule. So don't wait for an exception; bring it up when the conversation comes to a lull, or to an end, and make it happen.

    Now, let's talk about the questions themselves.

    "Are you gay?"

    One of the unfortunate realities of being queer is that, while our heterosexual friends can usually rest assured that sexual compatibility with their partner is almost guaranteed (as can our bisexual friends when they go for someone of the opposite sex), the same can't be said for those of us who take an interest in someone of the same sex. At some point, we have to learn how to ask someone whether they're sexually compatible with us (i.e. whether they also like the same sex) without make total asses of ourselves. But here's some encouragement for you: if you can work up the courage to ask this question and they say yes, asking the follow-up question, "Will you go out with me?", will be a lot easier.

    Before asking this question, it's a good idea to come out to your person of interest and see how they react. If they don't take kindly to finding out that you're gay, you can bet they won't take kindly to you asking them if they are, so coming out to them first allows you to test the waters and see whether asking them would be worth it. If they react with hostility or homophobia, you'll have dodged a bullet. If they react more positively, then it'll be much less likely that they'll react negatively if you ask them if they date the same sex. You don't have to do this (I've skipped this step before); if you live in an accepting area and you're close enough to the person as a friend that you don't think coming out will change your friendship, you can go right for the question. Generally, though, coming out first is a good idea, because if the person you're interested in knows that you date the same sex, they might be perceptive enough to figure out why you're asking them if they date the same sex, and not be weirded out by the question.

    For me, the hardest part of working up the courage to ask this question was figuring out how to word it. Chalk it up to my anxiety, but I get really worried about the connotation of the words I use. As such, I found little tricks to make the question easier to ask, and they were all in how I worded it.

    For starters, I preface the question with, "I hope you aren't offended if the answer is no..." (or yes, depending on how I choose to word the question). My preferred way of popping the question is, "Do you date guys?" It doesn't exclude certain sexualities the way a question like "Are you gay?" does, but the big reason I like it is that it makes the question less consequential than it would be if you asked about their orientation directly. Why? Because you're asking about something they do, not something they are. For some people, admitting that they're gay/bi/whatever is a difficult thing to do. They might not like the definitiveness of such a statement, or they might not have fully accepted themselves. But asking them whether they date the same sex is simply asking them whether they do something or not. You're not asking them to make any declarations about themselves; you're just asking them if they engage in a certain activity you'd like to do with them, like asking if they like video games.

    Considering the wording of the question at that level of detail may seem pedantic, and it probably is. No matter how you word it, you're going to get your answer. But like I said, the issue isn't improving your odds or improving how the other person will react. The issue is making it easier for you to ask the question, and for someone like me, figuring out the best way to word the question did just that.

    Of course, the other issue that can make a person hesitate to ask this question is, what if they're straight? Won't they be offended? This was something that worried me, too, but when I actually worked up the courage to ask, most guys were just flattered that someone was interested in them/thought they were attractive. (Since I don't fit gay stereotypes, I also got a lot of "I never would have thought..." reactions.) Of course, that might be because I live in a liberal area, but I'd like to think it's a generational thing. So, if weirding your potential mate out is what you're worried about, just be ready to turn your advance into a compliment if they don't do that themselves. "You're such an eligible bachelor, I figured it was worth it to ask." "I enjoy your company, so I thought we'd make a good couple if you dated girls." "Hey, be flattered that a someone thought you were so good-looking that they put themselves out on a line like that!"

    Something I see get asked a lot is, what if they say they're straight, but I and/or other people suspect they aren't? Then forget about it and move on to greener pastures. If you've befriended this person and they tell you they're straight, then either they actually are straight, in which case you can't date them, or they're so deep in the closet that you're not going to be able to pull them out, in which case they're still unavailable. Either way, you're best off taking them at their word.

    One last point: people will be less weirded out by the question if you make it clear that you're asking them because you like them. If you don't do that, they might think you're asking them just because you suspect they're gay, and even non-homophobic folks might be surprised by that. Of course, if you came out to them and got a positive response, they probably won't be weirded out if they think you think they're gay, but again, the main purpose of reducing the chance of weirding them out is to make it easier for you to ask the question.

    "Will you go out with me?"

    So you've hit gold. You've found someone you like who enjoys your company and is sexually compatible with you. If you've gotten this far, I'm proud of you; I really am. All that remains now is to ask them out.

    If you had to ask them whether they date the same sex, working up the courage to ask them out isn't a very big step from there; if they're perceptive, they'll realize that that's your intention, anyway. Of course, that's assuming you decide to ask them out immediately after asking them if they date the same sex; if you ask the two questions in separate moments, you'll be in the same position as if you'd found out that they like the same sex through some means other than asking them. In that case, you'll have to work up the courage to ask from scratch. That isn't much different from working up the courage to ask them if they date the same sex; hell, I'd say it's the easier of the two. Do the preemptive steps described in the first part of this section and you'll be set.

    Again, wording is key here, not just to make the question easier to ask, but also because what you ask for can influence whether your potential mate says yes or no. Remember how I said not to be relationship-focused as you go through this process? That especially applies here, because if you haven't known each other for that long, asking them to become your boyfriend/girlfriend is a bit of a tall order. Instead, ask them out on a date. Just a simple date. Why a date? Because like I said in "When To Ask Them Out", the only difference between hanging out and a date is that calling it a date makes it clear that you wouldn't mind your friendship becoming something more.

    See, a date is a pretty no-strings-attached affair. The point of a date is to get to know the other person to help you two decide whether you're suitable for each other. It's not a declaration of your devotion to each other. It's not a sign that you're dedicating yourselves to each other. It's just two people spending time together, time that could lead to them becoming intimate. The only real difference is that a date might be a bit more extravagant than a typical hanging out session is, but first dates usually aren't all that different from things you'd do with your best friends every once in a while (going out to eat, going shopping, going to some local attraction).

    Like with asking someone out, a bit of prefacing can go a long way here. It can only help your cause if you mention how much you enjoy spending time with them, what you like about their personality, that you think they're cute, etc. Specific compliments are better than general ones for this purpose: "I feel so at ease when we talk," is better than "I like talking with you." Don't get too specific, though; the fact that someone likes Katy Perry more than Lady Gaga isn't enough to make them date-worthy, and they'll know that. Remember the purpose of your prefacing: to help them understand why you're asking them out. When all else fails, just be honest about why you like them so much; at least you won't be asking them out under false pretenses.

    Once you have them warmed up, drop the d-word. If you already have an activity in mind, propose that as a date. You could ask them if they'd enjoy doing the activity ("How do you like that pizza place on Central Street?") and if they indicate that they like it, follow up with something like, "How'd you feel about a date there some time?" If you don't have anything particular in mind, you could ask them for ideas. You could ask them something like, "Do you know any places around here that are good for taking someone out on a date?", pick one that sounds appealing to you, too, then ask them if they'd like to accompany you there some time.

    And if they say yes...

    Then go boldly forth, be safe, have fun, and don't forget to be awesome.

    ...I guess you might want more explanation than that.

    As I've been saying all through this guide, a relationship is a dynamic series of interactions between two people, and dating allows you to get an idea of whether that dynamic would work. Once you go out on a date, you've reached the point where generalized advice really isn't going to cut it. But that's okay, because you don't need generalized advice now. If you've gotten this far, you've hopefully realized that this whole process isn't as mysterious or difficult as it can seem from the outside, that you're completely capable of doing it on your own. You can do it, and if you've gotten this far, that's evidence that you can.

    All the things you've learned so far still apply when you move on from working up the courage to ask someone out to having asked them out. Don't be relationship-focused; just enjoy the ride, and you'll see whether you two are cut out for a relationship. Don't force it; if you go on a couple of dates and you two just don't work as a couple, don't keep with it just because you've already gotten this far. Asking people out gets easier each time you do it, so just because it was really hard the first time doesn't mean you should stick with someone so you don't have to go through it again.

    Above all, though, remember that there are two of you now; the person you're dating is an individual with their own desires, preferences, hesitations, reservations, and all that jazz. Up until now, it has probably been easy to focus on your own hesitations and reservations that have kept you back, to think that you were your only obstacle on the way to a relationship (possibly in addition to the seeming lack of eligible bachelors/bachelorettes in your area) but it's not like that anymore. You're no longer the only thing standing between you and that relationship you wanted; the other person might not want to go that far. They might have baggage from a previous relationship. They might want different things from a relationship from what you want. They might realize they don't like you as much as they thought they did. They're a variable in this too, now; they always have been, but it was easier to ignore that fact before.

    Aside from that, your obstacles will probably be pretty unique to you (at least, unique enough that I can't cover all of them here), so just keep your wits about you, use your head, listen to your intuition, and remember that EC is here for your more specific issues. Now, with that in mind, go out there, enjoy yourself, enjoy the company of your date, be safe, and have fun.

    The Most Important Points

    This isn't really a summary (that's what the table of contents is for) so much as a review of the most important things I brought up in this article. If you only take away a few things from this post, let it be these:

    • Don't go hunting for a boyfriend/girlfriend/relationship.
    • You won't get different results by doing the same thing.
    • There is no big secret to getting a relationship.
    • The key to successful courtship is successful friendship.
    • 80% of your results will come from 20% of your efforts.
    • When contemplating doing something, remember this: sometimes the worst that can happen will be the same as if you had done nothing at all.
    • Recipe for conversation: 1. Find your commonality. 2. Discuss your commonality.
    • The best time to ask someone a substantial question (like whether they date the same sex or whether they'll go out with you) is after a substantial conversation.
    Table of Contents: In which I summarize all of the points made in this post
    I know this is a long and possibly intimidating post; it has to be to thoroughly cover the myriad of topics that fall under this subject. (Plus I'm just a wordy person. :slight_smile:) But I also know that not everyone has the time or patience to read all of it, so here I shall outline our discussion before we get started. This section will serve two purposes: allowing you to get an idea of where we're headed on this magical journey of demystifying the process of getting a relationship, and giving you the short version of each section if you don't have the time and patience to read through the whole post itself.

    Now, I wouldn't expect you to read through the whole post in one sitting (though you can if you're up to the challenge). Feel free to just read the sections that apply to where you are in the process now, or read through this section and just read the sections you want elaboration on. If, however, you do want to read thought it all, don't feel like you have to do it all in one go. Read a section or two at a time. Mull it over after you read it. Reflect on how it applies to you. You can read through this particular section in one sitting, no doubt, but it just sets out the skeleton of what I aim to present here; the sections themselves will fill in the meat.

    The Basics Pt. 1: The wrong reasons to want a relationship
    If you just "want a relationship", you're in this for the wrong reasons. A relationship isn't a magical cure-all for your problems, whether your problems are low self-esteem, loneliness, horniness, whatever. Being in a relationship and being single are nothing more than two states of being; one isn't intrinsically better than another. Take advantage of the freedoms being single brings. Learn to love your own company and it'll be easier to find someone else who can do the same.

    The Basics Pt. 2 or: Why complaining on the internet about being single won't nab you a boyfriend/girlfriend
    Finding a relationship is a process; no one single tactic is going to drastically increase your odds. More importantly, you won't get different results by doing the same thing. You're going to have to change how you do things if you want to change your relationship status, and you're going to have to step outside of your comfort zone to do that. My goal is to demystify the process of finding a relationship so that stepping outside of your comfort zone becomes less intimidating.

    The Big Secret: There is no big secret
    There's no big secret to finding a relationship; this stuff isn't easy for anyone. This is good news, though, because it means that you're probably competent enough at social interactions to navigate courtship. You just have to find the courage to put yourself out there.

    The Road There: Why you should be their friend first
    You'll be most successful wooing someone you're interested in if you first get acquainted with them in a non-romantic way, so the best way to find people to date is to go out there and make friends. Don't go out hunting for a boyfriend/girlfriend; it opens you up to getting into a relationship for the wrong reasons, and you'll find many more eligible bachelors/bachelorettes if you go out looking to make friends than you will if you go out looking for a boyfriend/girlfriend.

    Networking: Finding boy/girlfriends by making friends
    Go to places where you can meet new people: clubs, student organizations, parties, etc. Be open to meeting your friends' friends. Your efforts may fall flat on their face, but that's how it is with all things (including courtship): 80% of your results will come from 20% of your efforts. While you're out there trying to make friends, don't act like you're looking for friends. Acting like you already have enough friends is, paradoxically, a good way to attract more, so wherever you go to make friends, be there because you're actually interested in whatever is going on.

    A word about those you admire from a distance
    If you want to date someone you've been admiring from a distance, don't get your hopes up. The probability of you two being compatible, emotionally and sexually, and of them being single and available, is beyond slim, and even if all those factors work out, you might have built up such a perfect ideal of what dating them would be like that they could never reach it, and it will be disappointing no matter what happens. It can happen, though, and if you want to make it happen, you should get acquainted with them in a non-romantic way first.

    Hello, Stranger: Building up the courage to talk to strangers
    If you want to go after someone you don't know all that well, your ticket in is a casual conversation. It'll give you an idea of how open they are to your company, and it'll allow you to get acquainted with them, the first step of courtship. It's a good first step in what can be an intimidating process.

    Talking to Strangers Pt. 1: Approaching those you don't know
    Sometimes you'll be given an obvious opportunity to strike up a conversation with that person you don't know; other times, you'll have to make that opportunity. But sometimes, you'll never have a good excuse to talk to someone, so if you want to get to know them, you're going to have to just go up and talk to them. Usually, the worst that can happen if you take that route is that they'll decline your company or cut the conversation short, in which case you'll be right back where you started, only now you won't be wondering it, "What if?" So go out on a limb and talk to them; just treat it like you any old conversation and you'll be fine.

    Talking to Strangers Pt. 2: Getting to know those you don't know
    Once you've made contact, find your commonality and discuss it. Boom; instant conversation. Don't force it; it's alright if you conversation doesn't last longer than 10 seconds, because, again, 80% of your results will come from 20% of your efforts. If it does go well, there's no harm in asking if they'd like to meet again to talk about whatever you talked about (generally, this will only work if you actually did have a good conversation). Repeat, and that mysteriously alluring stranger will become a friend, making the next part of the process less intimidating.

    The Day of Reckoning: When to ask them out
    You can generally ask someone out (i.e. ask them if they date the same sex and ask them if they'll go out with you) once you move beyond the acquaintance level of friendship and the conversation flows easily between you two. It's okay to ask someone out early on in the friendship. Don't take the dogged-nice-guy/girl approach; don't wait until you are so close as friends that a relationship is just the next logical step, because it usually won't go on to that step. There's no shame in making your intentions known early; it saves you a lot of stress, and it saves the other person the impression of being mislead.

    Popping the Question: Building up the courage to ask your potential mate out
    Choosing when to ask someone out can be key because it'll make it easier for you to blurt out the question and it'll make them more likely to answer honestly. I recommend after a relatively substantial conversation, either during a lull in the conversation or after it has come to an end. Ask them in a place where no one will be listening to your potential mate when they answer your question. It's okay to ask these questions out of the blue; it'll get you better results than dancing around the subject.

    "Are you gay?"
    Find a way to ask this question that makes it easiest for you to ask it. I usually go with, "Do you, by any chance, date guys?" Don't worry overmuch about the person being offended if they are straight; as long as you don't do anything inappropriate, there's a good chance they'll take your advances as a compliment. If they don't, say something like, "You're such an eligible bachelor, so I thought it was worth asking," and turn your advances into a compliment yourself. If they say yes, asking them to go out with you will be a lot easier if you do it immediately after; if they're perceptive, they'll realize that was your intention.

    "Will you go out with me?"
    When you've found someone whom you're compatible with, don't ask them for a relationship; ask them out on a date, because the only intrinsic difference between a hanging out and a date is that calling it a date makes it clear that you wouldn't mind things going farther than friendship. Warm them up with a comment like, "I enjoy your company," then ask them if they'd like to go on a date some time. It'll work in your favor if you propose something specific and drop the d-word as you're asking if they'd like to go with you (e.g., "How'd you like to go on a date to that new pizza place downtown?").

    And if they say yes...
    Then go forth and enjoy, because if you've gotten this far, you can do it. Just don't be hyper-relationship-focused, don't force it, and don't stick with the first person who says yes (or anyone, for that matter) if the relationship isn't working, just because you don't think you'll be able to find someone else. Also, remember that your date is a person with their own hesitations, desires, etc., so even if you do all the right things, it might not work out because or reservations or problems of theirs. But don't let that discourage you; just enjoy the ride, and don't forget to be awesome.

    The Most Important Points
    The most important pieces of advice in this post (you'll need to read the post, or at least the summary, to get their context and truly understand their weight, but once you have, they'll serve as nice review material).
    The Basics Pt. 1: The wrong reasons to want a relationship
    First of all, let me ask you a question, and I implore you to answer honestly: why do you want a relationship? Take some time to really think about it. See, being in a relationship isn't intrinsically better than being single; it's just different. You already know the benefits of being in a relationship; they're probably what's keeping you so intently focused on this pursuit. But here's a newsflash: there are drawbacks, too--compromise, disillusionment (finding out the person you're dating isn't the person you thought they were), the drain on your time, the drain on your wallet (dates and gifts and such), the limits to your freedom, the needing to be there for them through their rough times. It's not nirvana, it's not heaven, and it's not a magic solution to any of your problems.

    That last point is very important, so let me elaborate on it: if you're sad, if you don't enjoy your own company (which is often the cause of loneliness), if you feel like your life is somehow inherently lacking in something that a relationship could add to it, if you feel like you have all of this love inside of you that you're ready to give to "the one", or whatever other complaints you have about being single, being in a relationship isn't magically going to fix them. A relationship isn't some magical blanket that settles on your life and makes everything peachy; it's a dynamic interaction between two unique individuals that, like any interaction (a friendship, a teacher-student relationship, a familial relationship) can be rewarding or disappointing (often both) depending on the two people involved. You shouldn't want to be in a relationship; you should want to be closer to a particular person who is a potential boyfriend/girlfriend for you. If you want the relationship more than you want a particular person, you're in this for the wrong reasons.

    Being in a relationship is just another state of being. But like any state of being (at least, any state that isn't detrimental to us), we learn to like it, and that's what makes it enjoyable. So if you want to be more prepared when that day comes that you find "the one", learn to love being single. It's clichéd, it's hard to hear, and it's paradoxical as all hell, but you'll be better prepared for a relationship and more likely to find a fulfilling one if you learn to enjoy being single. If you want someone to love you, you have to learn how to love yourself first. If you want someone to enjoy your company, you need to learn how to enjoy your own company. If you want someone to think you're worth it, you need to think you're worth it. And yes, if you want to enjoy sex with someone else, you need to learn how to enjoy sex with yourself.

    Of course, if enjoying being single were easy, you probably wouldn't be reading this guide, so let me quote Kat George's "The Greenness of Your Grass" (a good read if you're looking for a relationship for the wrong reasons): "Slow down. Spend as much time as you like with your friends. Spend your nights dancing with the girls or your days playing cricket with the boys. Make the decision to do these things unburdened by any other commitments. Your commitment is to you. Speaking of you—start spending more time with you. Laugh at your own jokes. Luxuriate in solitary silence. Walk. Read. Pamper yourself. Be as filthy and disgusting as you please. Learn the comfort of your own embrace. It’s a cliché but it’s true—you will love better once you’ve fallen in love with you. Sleep sprawled on the bed. Snore. When you wake up make eggs and bacon and eat them in bed on your own. Find things—big and small—that you love doing and do them everyday. Focus on your job. Find a hobby. Do whatever the hell you want." I'll add my own: take yourself out on the dates you would want to go on with someone else.

    So, if you're in this for the wrong reasons, spend some time learning to see the merits of being single. If you're still not convinced, skip ahead to the numbered list in the section "The Road There". Come back when you can honestly say one of the following two things: "Being single is nice, but I'd like to give a relationship a try, just to see what it's like," or "Being single is nice, but there's this guy/gal I like that I wouldn't mind 'getting to know better'." No rush; I'll be here waiting. :slight_smile:
    The Basics Pt. 2 or: Why complaining on the internet about being single won't nab you a boyfriend/girlfriend
    Back? Coolness. Here's the next important piece of information you need to understand to successfully navigate courtship: there is no magic bullet. There's no single action you can take that will significantly improve your chances of finding a potential mate. Wearing a gay pride accessory to "advertise yourself" won't make people ask you out. Going to a GLBT-related club or organization won't suddenly land you someone to date. And complaining on the internet about being single will CERTAINLY not change that fact. Finding "the one" is a many-stepped process, and no single step is going improve your odds.

    So what will increase your odds? This next bit is very important, so pay close attention: you won't get different results by doing the same thing. Whatever you've been doing so far in your life has resulted in you remaining single. Whether that's because doing things differently isn't an option for you or because you just haven't taken that option doesn't change the fact that doing the same thing isn't going to magically turn around and bring a relationship into your life. If you want different results, you're going to have to do things differently. How differently? That depends on each individual case, but here's what I can guarantee you:

    The path to a fulfilling relationship requires you to step outside of your comfort zone.

    If you're not still in the closet, there's a good chance that the reason you're still single is because one or more of the steps that will take you closer to a relationship is outside of your comfort zone. It's something unfamiliar, something intimidating, so you've dismissed the notion of being able to accomplish it.

    Look at me (well, imagine you're looking at me); you can do it. Yes, it can be terrifying in ways only profanity can sufficiently capture, but the people around you who are in relationships overcame those fears and did it, and there's no reason you can't, too.

    So what's the difference between regular nervousness (which everyone feels at some point in courtship) and paralyzing nervousness? Usually, it's unfamiliarity. That's where I come in. I'm here to narrate the process for you, to take you through the steps of courtship and show you that it really isn't that mysterious or intimidating or difficult. My hope is that by showing you what it takes to successfully traverse the path of courtship, you'll realize that you really do have what it takes, and that you're already capable finding a relationship, once you build up the courage to step outside of your comfort zone and do it. I can't take away the nervousness, but I can make it manageable. Take a deep breath. Take my hand. Let's go.
    The Big Secret: There is no big secret
    Relationships long seemed like a mystery to me. They seemed like something that came so naturally and easily to other people, and yet they confused me so much. It always seemed like there was some hidden secret to it, that there was some skill or piece of information that, if I only possessed it!, dating would suddenly come naturally to me. Like this "Big Secret" was the key to understanding courtship and relationships, and if only I knew it, a relationship would naturally follow. Well, the big secret is... there is no big secret.

    Courtship, relationships, and dating aren't some kind of arcane ritual, the methods of which are reserved only for those who are more "eligible" than you. It's just a regular-ol' social action, like having a conversation, or ordering something in a restaurant. There's nothing mysterious or intrinsically intimidating about it. If you're capable of making friends, you're capable of finding a relationship; dating and finding a relationship doesn't require any more social competence than you probably already have.

    This is good news and bad news for you. It's good news because it means that as long as you aren't completely maladroit at interacting with people, you have what it takes to successfully navigate courtship; in a word, you can do it! It's bad news because it means that nothing I say is going to suddenly make you a master at wooing potential mates, that nothing I can say will make a relationship suddenly fall in your lap.

    For the most part, it all comes down to you finding the courage to take that leap, to put yourself out there, to try and fail and try again. It all comes down to you working up the nerve to do the things you're too afraid to do now: talking to people, putting yourself out there, whatever. It can be terrifying, I know, especially if you've never done it before.

    But here's the closest thing there is to a big secret: that's how it is for everyone. No one is ever confident the first time they play the dating game. In all of human history there have probably been exactly three people who, with absolutely no experience with courtship under their belt, realized they liked someone, immediately wooed them confidently and without any self-doubts, and were suave and successful while doing so. And even with all the experience in the world, many people never reach that level of confidence at any point in their dating life.

    This stuff confuses everyone, not just you. But as the relationships around you should show you, that doesn't stop them, and it doesn't have to stop you. Yes, the onus is on you to make it happens, but I believe you can do it. Now let's work on making you believe it, too.
    The Road There: Why you should be their friend first
    There are many ways to enter a relationship. Some people hook up with someone just for sex, and when they later find out they have a lot in common, they decide to move beyond sex buddies or friends-with-benefits and pursue something deeper. Of course, that's just one option, and if you're reading this, I think I'm pretty safe in assuming you want to go the other route, that you want to develop a deep connection with someone, and only have sex after that, if at all (if you DO want to go the "sex first" route, your roadmap will be very different, so you won't glean much from this post). In other words, you probably want to take the "friends first" route to a relationship. You want to find someone you get along with, someone who you enjoy spending time with, and you want that friendship to develop into something more. It's a good choice (though it's not the right choice for everyone, so if you're a sex-first person who happened upon this paragraph, don't feel guilty; just do it safely and responsibly).

    So those are two ways to enter a relationship: friends-first and sex-first. If you're reading this and you aren't in the friends-first category, you might fall into the third one: the relationship-first category. People who obsess over being in a relationship, who talk about "how much they have to give", who see a relationship as some general nirvana, fall into this category. These are the people who enter a relationship because they are in love with the idea of being in a relationship, not because they are in love (or in lust) with the person they are dating. These are the people who talk about a relationship as if once they enter it, everything is going to be just dandy and easy and awesome. They want a boy/girlfriend more than they want a friend whom they like enough to date.

    That description of the relationship-first approach should sound suspiciously like my previous description of all the wrong reason to enter a relationship that I described in the section above. So it shouldn't be too surprising that I say what I'm about to say: Don't be a relationship-first person. Why not? Let's count the reasons:

    1. Desperation is a stinky cologne. When you look for a relationship, rather than looking for someone whom you get along with well enough that you could have a relationship with them, you will come off as desperate, and that will lower your chances of success.

    2. It opens you up to people who want to woo you for the wrong reasons. Abusers, manipulators, deceivers--they prey on people who will stay in a relationship for the sake of staying in a relationship. You'll be easy prey for someone like them if you take the relationship-first route.

    3. It could make you stay in a relationship for the wrong reasons. Even if the person you end up dating is a perfectly fine individual, at some point over the course of the relationship, the novelty of your attachment will wear off, and you'll be forced to examine whether you two really have enough in common to keep the relationship going. Maybe you'll get lucky and you will, but those are odds you don't want to play, because it can leave you living your life with someone you really don't like all that much just for the comfort of being in a relationship. And if you were only staying together to be in a relationship, when that relationship gets rocky (they all do if they last long enough), there'll be nothing to motivate you two to work it out.

    If you don't yet believe me that the friendship-first method is the way to go, maybe this will convince you: most people who are in relationships met their mate when they weren't specifically looking for someone to date. Let me draw from my own experience here. In my life, I have dated two men, and have made efforts (ranging from casual to concerted) to woo four others. Of the two I dated, one was a friend of a friend that I met through simple lunch-time socializing, and the other I met at a friend's graduation party. Of the four I wooed, one was also a friend of a friend that I met through simple socializing, one lived on my floor in my dorm, one I met through work, and one I met at my college's GLBTetc. club, which I did go to partially out of desire to find a mate. Now think about this: of the six men I've wooed or been wooed by, I only met one of them by making a concerted effort to go and find someone I could date.

    Here's the take-away from that: if you want to find potential mates, go out there and meet potential friends. Let's talk about doing that.
    Networking: Finding boy/girlfriends by making friends
    I've heard it said that dating in the gay world is like finding a job: you have to either do it on the internet or get referred. It falls squarely in the funny but true category, but it fails to account for the fact that there's one other option that can improve your odds while job-hunting: networking, i.e. the act of getting to know people who can be your connection in an organization you want to work for, or become someone who can refer you. And just like job-hunter, networking (i.e. making friends) is an important strategy in dating, too.

    If you want to take the friends-first approach to finding a relationship, successful courtship will depend on successful friendship. The better you are at being a friend, the better you'll be at finding a mate. That's what I'm going to focus on for this section: making friends with an eye for meeting new people. This section in particular is focused on how to meet new people; if getting to know people is still a challenge for you, you'll glean some good advice from the "Hello, Stranger" and "Talking to Strangers Pt. 2" sections.

    Let's talk generalities first. As I said, you're a lot more likely to find a potential mate if you go out there and make friends than you are if you go out there looking for someone to date. You'll meet a lot more people if you go out there trying to make friends than you will if you hone in on one person to try to date, so focus on expanding your social circle. When a friend of yours invites you to a party, go, and see who you meet. If you see a friend of yours eating lunch with a group of people, ask if you can join them. If you're in high school or college, go to student organizations and get to know the people there. Regardless of your age (though especially if you're beyond your school years), see what groups there are in your city that are relevant to your interests, and go. Like networking, you'll get to know people so that you can take advantage of these connections later.

    Now, there are a couple of important lessons this kind of social networking will teach you. One, it'll teach you how to handle disappointment. If you go and sit with your friend's friends, you might not like any of them. If you go to an organization, you might not click with any of the people there. If you go to a party, you might leave because the music is too loud or because you have nothing in common with the people there. This is a lesson in the 80-20 rule: 80% of your successes with come from 20% of your efforts. In other words, you'll make 80% of your friends from 20% of your efforts to socialize. You have to go out there and risk putting in efforts that won't lead to anything, because that's exactly what dating is going to be like, too. You're going to try to woo people who won't be interested, and one of the most important lessons to learn is to be able to live with that, to live with the knowledge that you tried and failed. Since friendships often feel a lot less consequential than relationships, trying and failing to make friends is a good way to learn this lesson.

    The other important point about social networking is that you'll be a lot more successful in making friends if you don't come across like you're trying to make friends. Author Alex J. Packer put it well when he said that the best way to make friends is to act like you already have enough friends. Desperation is a stinky cologne both in and out of romance, and you'll make more friends if you don't look like you're trying to make friends. It's a cruel irony, but learning to accept it and work with it will teach you to accept and work with the crueler irony of relationships: you're more likely to find a mate if you don't act like you're looking for a mate. Keep that in mind as you're out there making friends. If you go to a student organization, don't go to make friends; go because you're legitimately enthusiastic about whatever it is the club is centered around. If you sit with a friend of yours who's sitting with their friends, do it to enjoy your friend's company, and only incidentally to get to know their friends. If you go to a party, don't go to meet people: go to have a good time, let loose, enjoy the music, and whatever else will being going on at that particular shindig. Again, if you act like you already have enough friends, people are much more likely to want to befriend you.

    Keep at this long enough and, eventually, you'll meet someone you'd like to ask out. Maybe you'll think they're cute, maybe you'll enjoy their company, or maybe you'll just suspect they are also gay and would like to see if you two get along. Now, because of the nature of socializing, when you develop interest in this person, you might already know each other pretty well, or you might have not even been introduced yet. If you two are already buddies, asking them out won't be too difficult, since it will just be a natural progression from where you already are, so you can probably skip ahead to the section "The Day of Reckoning", or even to "Popping the Question". But if you don't know each other that well, you'd do well to skip to "Hello, Stranger" and keep going from there.
    A word about those you admire from a distance
    Thus far, this guide might have left you wondering, "But what about the handsome guy I always see in the dining hall?" "But what about that cute girl who works at that café?" "But what about that hot guy in my class?" "But what about that cute customer I always see at work?" By now, you might have realized that this guide isn't exactly expressly intended to help you woo a specific guy or gal.

    Here's what I have to say about wooing those people you admire from a distance: don't get your hopes up.

    Notice that I didn't tell you to just give up those hopes, because it can happen. But here's what you need to keep in mind: the chances of any one person being compatible with you on a romanic level are beyond slim. There's the issue sexualities, first of all. If you're gay/lesbian, there's already at least a 90% chance they won't be capable of returning those feelings you feel for them. Even if you are sexually compatible, they might be in a relationship, or they might not be open to a relationship. Then there's the issue of you two being compatible as people. They might be boring. They might be into completely different things from you. You two might just plain not get along. All these things can keep a relationship from happening, which is why finding a mate isn't as easy as just looking outside of your window and picking someone, and which is why expanding your social circle is one of the best ways to find someone to date.

    But even if all of those things aren't a problem (which, again, is extremely unlikely), you aren't necessarily out of the clear yet. One of the risks of going after someone you've been admiring from a distance is that if you've been admiring them for a significant period of time, you might have built them up to this ideal they could never meet once you actually get to know them. If you've daydreamed about how things would be between you two, you might end up disappointed when they aren't exactly as you imagined them. Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal did a comic recently about that very issue, and it summed it up well: if you watch from a distance, they can go from a person to an archetype to an ideal, and no one can live up to an ideal. And to top it off, remember what I said about how unlikely it is that it will work out? That means that, at some point, you're probably going to hear a "no", and if you've put so much stock into this one person as a potential mate, getting a no will hurt a lot more than it would have if you had asked early on.

    Now, that guy I tried to woo who lived on my floor was someone I admired from a distance (though I admired him partially because I suspected he liked guys), and if it weren't for his probable asexuality/aromanticism that he didn't seem to be fully aware of (long story short), we probably would have ended up dating, so I can't tell you that going after someone you've been admiring from a distance won't work out. But before trying to woo him, I asked him if he'd like to hang out some time, play video games or something. I'd say my chances were a lot better because I did that first instead of starting off by asking him out. If you plan on going for that person you've been admiring from a distance, it'll be a lot more likely to work out if you change how you're thinking about it. You may be focusing on what being in a relationship with them (or just having sex with them) would be like, but if you want any chance at either, you should try to get to know them as a person, first.
    Hello, Stranger: Building up the courage to talk to strangers
    So suppose there's someone you don't know all that well, or don't know at all, but for whatever reason, you want to get to know them. Maybe you think they're cute, or maybe you know they're also into the same sex, or maybe they seem like an interesting person. Whatever the reason, you might find yourself interested in someone whom you wouldn't exactly call a friend. It might be that cute customer at work, or that hot guy in your class, or that witty girl who goes to the same club as you but whom you've never spoken to. Whoever it is, you're tired of asking, "What if?" and now you want to finally approach them.

    Navigating this kind of situation is a lot harder than navigating courtship if you already know someone through all that friendship-building you've been doing. If you've already talked to someone and you two hit it off, you can pretty reasonably ask them, "Want to hang out some time?" and not feel too awkward doing it. This section is dedicated to getting to that point with someone when you aren't already there, when you haven't already gotten to know each other a bit. It's basically concerned with getting to the point where it won't be awkward to ask them out. It won't be easy if this is still new stuff to you, but it can be done, so let's get to it.

    We all know the Golden Rule, right? Treat others as you would like to be treated. Take a page from that book and put yourself in the other person's shoes. Imagine you are that person you're so interested in going after, and some random stranger comes up to talk to you (of course, the random stranger in this hypothetical situation is you). Remember that, at most, you've seen this stranger around a few times, but it's also possible that you've never noticed them and never given them any thought. If you're going after someone you don't already know, it could very well be that way.

    So, how to approach this situation? Well, let's run through the obvious options. How would you feel if that stranger walked up to you and asked you to be there boyfriend/girlfriend? Of if they asked you out on a date right there and then? Probably pretty awkward and creeped out, which wouldn't exactly make you want to say yes. So don't do that. What if they just came up to you and asked you to hang out? Less creepy, but still pretty awkward, and while they might say yes, depending on who they are, it's far from guaranteed. So you probably shouldn't do that.

    What should you do? Start up a conversation with them.

    That's your goal. That's your ticket in. Just a casual conversation, something to make you two go from strange to familiar, from strangers to acquaintances. It doesn't have to be a particularly long conversation; it might not last longer than a few sentences exchanged. A conversation might not seem like a particularly lofty goal, but if you were confident pursuing loftier goals (like confidently asking a stranger out on a date), you probably wouldn't be reading this guide. A whole lot less can go wrong with a conversation than can go wrong if you ask someone out out-of-the-blue, so by aiming to have a conversation, you'll make it easier for you to work up the courage to go and make that connection.

    What's the purpose of this conversation? Testing the waters. The benefit of using the social-networking strategy to look for potential mates is that when you find someone you're interested in asking out, you'll probably already know that you get two along decently enough that they at least like you as a friend. (After all, why would you ask them out if that weren't the case?) The reason talking to a stranger is so hard is because you can't know how the stranger is going to react to your company. If you talk to someone you already know, you can have a pretty good idea of how receptive they'll be to you talking to them. With a stranger, you just don't know. They might be totally open to a conversation with someone they've never met before, or they might be the type who make friends cautiously and consider you weird for approaching them. That kind of risk in inherent in trying to woo a stranger; it just comes with the territory.

    The main goal of having a conversation with them is to find out whether they'd be open to your company. If they aren't open to your conversational advances, there's a good chance they wouldn't be open to your romantic advances. Of course, them being open to conversational advances is in no way a guarantee they'd be open to romantic advances, but in that case, the worst that can happen is that you realize you don't have a lot in common and never converse again. On the other hand, you just might make a new friend. And if you do make a new friend, who knows where that can lead?

    So lets talk about doing that thing your parents always warned you against...
    Talking to Strangers Pt. 1: Approaching those you don't know
    Before I give advice about the conversation, let's talk about the part no one ever gives you advice on: actually approaching the person. Getting over that feeling of awkwardness that keeps you from just talking to them can be the hardest part of this process, and the advice many people give ("Just go talk it them!") shows just how little they appreciate how hard that is for some people, so let me spend a moment talking about that.

    How you start the conversation depends greatly on where you are and what your commonality is. If you see them at your or their place of work, you might already have the customer-server interaction going on, in which case the door is already open for you. If you're standing in line together, you could just make pleasant conversation; what else are you two going to do while waiting? If they're in your class, you could sit next to them; of course, if your school is the kind where people tend to stick with the seats they take on the first day, that might make you feel a bit weird, so do it early on. If you're in the same club, when they aren't talking with anyone else, approach them during the social time during the meeting. If you see them sitting alone in the cafeteria, find an excuse to sit with them ("I like your shirt. You listen to Agalloch, too?").

    Such easy opportunities might never present themselves to you, though. You might only realize you like the person after the seating pattern in the class is well-established. You might never see them outside of a group. You might never have that reasonable excuse to start talking to them. The tricky thing about this method of getting to know someone is that it carries the risk of being awkward no matter what you do, and sometimes you'll just never have a chance to minimize that awkwardness enough to get it in your comfort zone. When that happens, you just have to throw social convention to the wind and say, "Screw it, I'm going to go talk to them with no provocation." That can be terrifying if you don't normally do that, but remember how I said that this process would require you to step outside of your comfort zone? Would you rather live with the potential awkwardness between you two if the conversation doesn't work out, or the regret of wondering what would have happened if it did?

    When you're going up and initiating a conversation with someone with no evident reason to do so, or when you're doing anything that falls outside of your comfort zone, ask yourself this question and remind yourself of the answer if your courage waivers: what's the worst that could happen? If they're, say, sitting alone in the dining hall, the worst that could happens is they'll decline your offer to keep them company. Then things will go back to exactly how they would have been if you had never put yourself out there. So you really have nothing to lose by just going up and asking, "Mind if I join you?" Of course, your odds will be better if you can find some commonality to justify starting the conversation, but low odds are always better than the odds of something happening if you never go talk to them at all (which--spoiler alert--is 0%). The point is, generally, the worst that can happen isn't any worse than what'll happen if you just stand idly by and never go up and talk to them. There are exceptions, of course (like when that barista you like is busy with customers, or that person in the cafeteria is sitting with a large group of people and enthralled by their company), and in those times, it's not cowardly to tell yourself, "Next time,"; it's considerate.

    When all else fails, don't underestimate the power of a friendly, "Say... aren't we in the same class?" or "Say... have I seen you wearing an xkcd t-shirt around campus?" as one of you passes by the other. Such casual banter is the stuff life is made of. If you can work in a compliment-question like, "I like your hair. Do you dye it yourself?", all the better.

    Above all else, go into it with the same mentality you'd take toward any old conversation you would have with someone you weren't trying to woo. Don't pressure yourself to stay in the conversation after the other person has lost interest, but don't jump ship at the first sign of any awkwardness. Don't try to talk to just them if they'll already talking in a group (if you want to approach them in that case, show interest in the group at large, not just them). Don't ask them about topics (like, say, their sexuality) that you normally wouldn't ask a complete stranger about. Basically, act natural.
    Talking to Strangers Pt. 2: Getting to know those you don't know
    Once you've made contact, the next issue is finding something to discuss. Let me give you Lexington's formula for conversation, because its simplicity and effectiveness is laudable:
    1. Find your commonality.
    2. Discuss your commonality.
    If you're in the same club, ask them something about whatever the club is based around ("What got you into Danish furniture collecting?"). If you see them at work or where they work, ask them something relating to the service being provided ("What makes your roast beef so good?" "What do you think of our hot chocolate?"). If you're in the same class, bring up something about the class ("Do you agree with the professor's interpretation of Dickens?" "What did you think of that test?"). If you're stuck for a topic, ask them about themselves; that's a topic most people have no trouble talking about, and it shows your interest early on. Err on the side of asking them about something you can observe ("I like your hairstyle. Where do you get it done?"), as opposed to something you can't observed ("What was high school like for you?").

    Now, remember how I said that 80% of your results will come from 20% of your efforts? The same applies here: 80% of your extended conversations will come from 20% of the people you try to talk to. Some people, for whatever reason, won't be open to you when you try to talk to them. They might be having a bad day, or they might think that someone coming up and talking to them is weird because they don't consider themselves all that interesting, or you might just flub it up. Don't beat yourself up over a conversation that doesn't go well, even when it's with someone you really wanted it to go well with. If nothing else, think of it as practice.

    So, what if it does go well? Converse again. If you started the conversation in a place where you see them regularly (class, a club, a dining hall), you could just wait until you see them again; you'll have the familiarity working to your advantage if you do. However, you are never guaranteed another chance to talk to them, so you might want to make sure it does happens again, especially if you had your conversation in a place where it's unlikely you'll see each other again by chance. But remember my previous advice: do it the same way you'd do it if you weren't interested in that romantically. You could say something like, "There aren't a lot of people here who also listen to black metal. It's nice to know someone who appreciates it. You come around here often?" The worst that could happen is they'll say no, which, again, will put you right back where you were before, so, again, nothing to lose. You don't need to make definite plans; if they say something like, "Yeah, I usually eat dinner here; maybe we'll see each other again," that's a victory right there. If you met somewhere where it's unlikely you'll see each other again, though, aim for more definite plans.

    Again, don't force it. If the conversation wasn't particularly interesting--if there wasn't any part of it that you could reference to say, "I liked talking about X; we should meet and talk about X again,"--then accept your loss. Of course, if you just generally enjoyed the conversation, you could just say that you enjoyed their company or that it was nice talking to them and end it with an innocent, "Maybe I'll see you around?", but if neither of those were the case, don't feel pressured to push it. If it didn't work, it didn't work, and they probably know it didn't work, so they won't exactly be keen on another conversation, either.

    If it did work, then you've gotten yourself into familiar territory; in other words, that mysteriously alluring stranger isn't really a stranger anymore. After a few conversations, they should seem less intimidating as a person, and so should the prospect of actually asking them out.
    The Day of Reckoning: When to ask them out
    So you've reached the point of familiarity. Through networking or targeting a specific person, you've found a person with whom you click. Now all that stands between you and a potential first date is two questions: "Are you gay?" and "Will you go out with me?". Make no mistake, they can be two of the hardest questions for you to ask. Sometimes you'll get the answer to the first one without any effort on your part, but you'll rarely be so lucky with the second one. If you have to ask the first one yourself, you'll probably ask it once you've decided you're ready to ask the second one. Since the first question generally precedes the second, rather than treating the two separately, I'll refer to the process of asking one or both questions as "asking someone out".

    One of the big things to consider about asking someone out is the question of timing. How early on in the friendship can you ask someone out on a date? If you do it too early, you might discourage them by jumping into things too quickly. If you wait too long, you might never get your chance to ask. So how do you know when it's okay to ask?

    As with many things, context is key. If the person you're interested in is someone you see on a fairly regular basis (classmate, member of the same club, coworker), there'll be many more chances for you to take is slow and build the friendship up before you ask them out than you'll have with someone you don't see as often (such as, perhaps, that person you admire from afar). But it's not about the quantity of your interactions; there isn't a hard and fast number of conversations you need to have before you're in the clear to ask them out. It's about the quality of those interactions. Talking with someone, getting to know them, is as much a means to an end as it is an end itself, for it can tell you when you're in the green to ask someone out.

    How is the conversation between you two? Does the other person ask you just as many questions as you ask them? Are they just as invested in it as you are? Are they asking you about yourself? Have you shared parts of yourselves, even if it's just grade-school anecdotes? Do they smile when you two talk? Do you smile when you two talk? The main thing to be on the look out for before asking is, do they seem interested in you as a person? These might not seem like major milestones, and that's because they aren't. You don't need to become close friends before you reach the point where you can ask them out. There's no shame in making your intentions known early on. The only difference between hanging out and going on a date is that calling your time together a date makes it clear that you wouldn't mind getting intimate with them.

    Some of you might suffer from the dogged nice guy/girl mentality, from the idea that if you want a relationship with someone, it has to grow naturally out of a close friendship after a long period of time. This idea says that it's gauche to ask someone out early on, that you should wait for you two to get so close that a relationship is just the natural next step. Bollocks! If you ask around, I'm sure most people will tell you that their relationships didn't start out that way, and yours doesn't have to, either. Both of mine started with one person asking the other out early on, and the one time I tried to dogged nice guy approach, it didn't lead to any dating.

    Think about it from the other person's side: if they think they have a great friend in you, only to later find out that you were trying to date them the whole time, they'll probably feel misled, like they thought they had this great friend but he/she really had ulterior motives the whole time. That can't be a good feeling.

    Now think about it from your side. By asking early on, you'll save yourself a lot of agonizing over whether they like you and how much they like you. If you ask early on and they say no, you can still be friends, which is exactly what would have happened if you had tried the dogged nice guy/girl approach. The difference is, now you won't spend any time agonizing over whether they like you, because you'll have your answer.
    Popping the Question: Building up the courage to ask your potential mate out
    Once you've decided to ask someone out, the other issue is, in what circumstances should you ask them? Choosing the right moment can be crucial for this step in the process, not because it increases the odds of the person you're asking out saying yes, but because it'll make it easier for you to blurt it out.

    One of the best pieces of advice I ever got about asking someone if they're queer and asking them out is to do it after a fairly lengthy, substantial conversation. Talking about other things before you ask them is like conversational foreplay: it "warms them up" and makes them more receptive to a question like "Are you gay?" or "Will you go out with me?". Asking someone if they date the same sex without any conversation beforehand is like sex without foreplay: awkward, unpleasant, rough, and it might not even accomplish what you set out to do. The other benefit of this approach is that having a conversation beforehand reminds the person why the like your company so much, which increases the odds of you two staying friends if you don't end up dating. Of course, when you intend to ask someone out, that can make conversing naturally more difficult, so as I advised you to do when talking with strangers, act like this is no different from any conversation you usually have with that person. Once you've "warmed them up", if you will, and the conversation is flowing nicely, then you can go for the gold.

    Aside from asking after a conversation, the other piece of advice I would give is to try to ask them in a place where there are as few people as possible nearby who will overhear it. Failing that, whatever you do, don't ask them while you two are in a group with other people. If they aren't fully out of the closet, group pressure or the risk of someone overhearing them can make someone hesitant to admit they date the same sex, so don't put that pressure on them. And even if they are out, they might feel pressured to answer a certain way depending on the people around them. Remember, you're not after a "yes"; you're after an honest answer, and you're more likely to get that if it's just the two of you.

    How should you ask them? Ask out of the blue during a lull in the conversation. If you wait for the conversation to work to your advantage by making the topic relevant, you might be waiting for a very long time. You might get lucky: they might bring up a recent local news story that's GLBT-related, or they might make a pessimistic comment about their their lack of dating life. (Note: don't use these strategies yourself to fish for these question from the other person. Don't waste your time with hinting; you're better than that.) But opportunities like that are the exception, not the rule. So don't wait for an exception; bring it up when the conversation comes to a lull, or to an end, and make it happen.

    Now, let's talk about the questions themselves.
    "Are you gay?"
    One of the unfortunate realities of being queer is that, while our heterosexual friends can usually rest assured that sexual compatibility with their partner is almost guaranteed (as can our bisexual friends when they go for someone of the opposite sex), the same can't be said for those of us who take an interest in someone of the same sex. At some point, we have to learn how to ask someone whether they're sexually compatible with us (i.e. whether they also like the same sex) without make total asses of ourselves. But here's some encouragement for you: if you can work up the courage to ask this question and they say yes, asking the follow-up question, "Will you go out with me?", will be a lot easier.

    Before asking this question, it's a good idea to come out to your person of interest and see how they react. If they don't take kindly to finding out that you're gay, you can bet they won't take kindly to you asking them if they are, so coming out to them first allows you to test the waters and see whether asking them would be worth it. If they react with hostility or homophobia, you'll have dodged a bullet. If they react more positively, then it'll be much less likely that they'll react negatively if you ask them if they date the same sex. You don't have to do this (I've skipped this step before); if you live in an accepting area and you're close enough to the person as a friend that you don't think coming out will change your friendship, you can go right for the question. Generally, though, coming out first is a good idea, because if the person you're interested in knows that you date the same sex, they might be perceptive enough to figure out why you're asking them if they date the same sex, and not be weirded out by the question.

    For me, the hardest part of working up the courage to ask this question was figuring out how to word it. Chalk it up to my anxiety, but I get really worried about the connotation of the words I use. As such, I found little tricks to make the question easier to ask, and they were all in how I worded it.

    For starters, I preface the question with, "I hope you aren't offended if the answer is no..." (or yes, depending on how I choose to word the question). My preferred way of popping the question is, "Do you date guys?" It doesn't exclude certain sexualities the way a question like "Are you gay?" does, but the big reason I like it is that it makes the question less consequential than it would be if you asked about their orientation directly. Why? Because you're asking about something they do, not something they are. For some people, admitting that they're gay/bi/whatever is a difficult thing to do. They might not like the definitiveness of such a statement, or they might not have fully accepted themselves. But asking them whether they date the same sex is simply asking them whether they do something or not. You're not asking them to make any declarations about themselves; you're just asking them if they engage in a certain activity you'd like to do with them, like asking if they like video games.

    Considering the wording of the question at that level of detail may seem pedantic, and it probably is. No matter how you word it, you're going to get your answer. But like I said, the issue isn't improving your odds or improving how the other person will react. The issue is making it easier for you to ask the question, and for someone like me, figuring out the best way to word the question did just that.

    Of course, the other issue that can make a person hesitate to ask this question is, what if they're straight? Won't they be offended? This was something that worried me, too, but when I actually worked up the courage to ask, most guys were just flattered that someone was interested in them/thought they were attractive. (Since I don't fit gay stereotypes, I also got a lot of "I never would have thought..." reactions.) Of course, that might be because I live in a liberal area, but I'd like to think it's a generational thing. So, if weirding your potential mate out is what you're worried about, just be ready to turn your advance into a compliment if they don't do that themselves. "You're such an eligible bachelor, I figured it was worth it to ask." "I enjoy your company, so I thought we'd make a good couple if you dated girls." "Hey, be flattered that a someone thought you were so good-looking that they put themselves out on a line like that!"

    Something I see get asked a lot is, what if they say they're straight, but I and/or other people suspect they aren't? Then forget about it and move on to greener pastures. If you've befriended this person and they tell you they're straight, then either they actually are straight, in which case you can't date them, or they're so deep in the closet that you're not going to be able to pull them out, in which case they're still unavailable. Either way, you're best off taking them at their word.

    One last point: people will be less weirded out by the question if you make it clear that you're asking them because you like them. If you don't do that, they might think you're asking them just because you suspect they're gay, and even non-homophobic folks might be surprised by that. Of course, if you came out to them and got a positive response, they probably won't be weirded out if they think you think they're gay, but again, the main purpose of reducing the chance of weirding them out is to make it easier for you to ask the question.
    "Will you go out with me?"
    So you've hit gold. You've found someone you like who enjoys your company and is sexually compatible with you. If you've gotten this far, I'm proud of you; I really am. All that remains now is to ask them out.

    If you had to ask them whether they date the same sex, working up the courage to ask them out isn't a very big step from there; if they're perceptive, they'll realize that that's your intention, anyway. Of course, that's assuming you decide to ask them out immediately after asking them if they date the same sex; if you ask the two questions in separate moments, you'll be in the same position as if you'd found out that they like the same sex through some means other than asking them. In that case, you'll have to work up the courage to ask from scratch. That isn't much different from working up the courage to ask them if they date the same sex; hell, I'd say it's the easier of the two. Do the preemptive steps described in the first part of this section and you'll be set.

    Again, wording is key here, not just to make the question easier to ask, but also because what you ask for can influence whether your potential mate says yes or no. Remember how I said not to be relationship-focused as you go through this process? That especially applies here, because if you haven't known each other for that long, asking them to become your boyfriend/girlfriend is a bit of a tall order. Instead, ask them out on a date. Just a simple date. Why a date? Because like I said in "When To Ask Them Out", the only difference between hanging out and a date is that calling it a date makes it clear that you wouldn't mind your friendship becoming something more.

    See, a date is a pretty no-strings-attached affair. The point of a date is to get to know the other person to help you two decide whether you're suitable for each other. It's not a declaration of your devotion to each other. It's not a sign that you're dedicating yourselves to each other. It's just two people spending time together, time that could lead to them becoming intimate. The only real difference is that a date might be a bit more extravagant than a typical hanging out session is, but first dates usually aren't all that different from things you'd do with your best friends every once in a while (going out to eat, going shopping, going to some local attraction).

    Like with asking someone out, a bit of prefacing can go a long way here. It can only help your cause if you mention how much you enjoy spending time with them, what you like about their personality, that you think they're cute, etc. Specific compliments are better than general ones for this purpose: "I feel so at ease when we talk," is better than "I like talking with you." Don't get too specific, though; the fact that someone likes Katy Perry more than Lady Gaga isn't enough to make them date-worthy, and they'll know that. Remember the purpose of your prefacing: to help them understand why you're asking them out. When all else fails, just be honest about why you like them so much; at least you won't be asking them out under false pretenses.

    Once you have them warmed up, drop the d-word. If you already have an activity in mind, propose that as a date. You could ask them if they'd enjoy doing the activity ("How do you like that pizza place on Central Street?") and if they indicate that they like it, follow up with something like, "How'd you feel about a date there some time?" If you don't have anything particular in mind, you could ask them for ideas. You could ask them something like, "Do you know any places around here that are good for taking someone out on a date?", pick one that sounds appealing to you, too, then ask them if they'd like to accompany you there some time.
    And if they say yes...
    Then go boldly forth, be safe, have fun, and don't forget to be awesome.

    ...I guess you might want more explanation than that.

    As I've been saying all through this guide, a relationship is a dynamic series of interactions between two people, and dating allows you to get an idea of whether that dynamic would work. Once you go out on a date, you've reached the point where generalized advice really isn't going to cut it. But that's okay, because you don't need generalized advice now. If you've gotten this far, you've hopefully realized that this whole process isn't as mysterious or difficult as it can seem from the outside, that you're completely capable of doing it on your own. You can do it, and if you've gotten this far, that's evidence that you can.

    All the things you've learned so far still apply when you move on from working up the courage to ask someone out to having asked them out. Don't be relationship-focused; just enjoy the ride, and you'll see whether you two are cut out for a relationship. Don't force it; if you go on a couple of dates and you two just don't work as a couple, don't keep with it just because you've already gotten this far. Asking people out gets easier each time you do it, so just because it was really hard the first time doesn't mean you should stick with someone so you don't have to go through it again.

    Above all, though, remember that there are two of you now; the person you're dating is an individual with their own desires, preferences, hesitations, reservations, and all that jazz. Up until now, it has probably been easy to focus on your own hesitations and reservations that have kept you back, to think that you were your only obstacle on the way to a relationship (possibly in addition to the seeming lack of eligible bachelors/bachelorettes in your area) but it's not like that anymore. You're no longer the only thing standing between you and that relationship you wanted; the other person might not want to go that far. They might have baggage from a previous relationship. They might want different things from a relationship from what you want. They might realize they don't like you as much as they thought they did. They're a variable in this too, now; they always have been, but it was easier to ignore that fact before.

    Aside from that, your obstacles will probably be pretty unique to you (at least, unique enough that I can't cover all of them here), so just keep your wits about you, use your head, listen to your intuition, and remember that EC is here for your more specific issues. Now, with that in mind, go out there, enjoy yourself, enjoy the company of your date, be safe, and have fun.
    The Most Important Points

    This isn't really a summary (that's what the table of contents is for) so much as a review of the most important things I brought up in this article. If you only take away a few things from this post, let it be these:

    • Don't go hunting for a boyfriend/girlfriend/relationship.
    • You won't get different results by doing the same thing.
    • There is no big secret to getting a relationship.
    • The key to successful courtship is successful friendship.
    • 80% of your results will come from 20% of your efforts.
    • When contemplating doing something, remember this: sometimes the worst that can happen will be the same as if you had done nothing at all.
    • Recipe for conversation: 1. Find your commonality. 2. Discuss your commonality.
    • The best time to ask someone a substantial question (like whether they date the same sex or whether they'll go out with you) is after a substantial conversation.

    Version History (yes, I take myself that seriously :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:):
    1.0 (Jan. 16, 2012): First posted as one long post with no spoiler blocks and all current major sections.
    2.0 (Oct. 28, 2012): Added the spoiler blocks for easier browsing, in addition to one block that contains the whole post for easy opening. Also added the disclaimer that this post isn't for "suave-ish" types.
    2.1 (Oct. 28, 2012): Added the part about what to do if the person says they're straight but you suspect they aren't to "Are you gay?". Also made some minor grammatical fixes.
     
    Hemant, hauru, Honney337 and 8 others like this.
  2. Sunsetting

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    holy crap, that IS long!
     
  3. Owen

    In Loving Memory Full Member

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    That's why the Table of Contents/Concise Version (emphasis on "concise version") is there. :slight_smile:
     
  4. Sunsetting

    Sunsetting Guest

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    haha, no sweat man, you were very thoughtful with that, i just scrolled, and scrolled, and scrolled... we were warned. very thoughtful and thorough bro...and i read through it even though i'm not a "kid" :wink:
     
  5. Remy

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    Will definitely read the whole thing once I have the time. Thanks for writing this :]
     
  6. Danny19

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    i thought my scroll was stuck. lol. but thanks for posting this. i think i might give it a read. :slight_smile:
     
  7. Gallatin

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    Definitely a worthwhile read (and yes, I got through it all in one sitting :slight_smile:).

    Thanks for taking the time to post it!
     
  8. Bosco

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    Yay I survived it in one fell swoop!
    Major kudos to you for all the effort put into writing this.
    It was a great read :slight_smile: thanks!
     
  9. ukeye

    ukeye Guest

    Hehe that was mega.. I read most of it.

    I liked the part about asking ppl out after substantial chats and desperation being a stinky cologne.. I'll remember these lol :slight_smile: thanks
     
  10. Bedroom Hymns

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    Reading this I realise I suck at meeting new people. So I no longer want a relationship :slight_smile:.
     
  11. adam88

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    Very good advice. :slight_smile: Though many people (like myself) have real issues with the whole "meeting someone new" part... though that's what dating sites are for. :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

    Oh, and I rand it through Word out of curiosity... it's like at 11 thousand word-count. :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:
     
  12. Artemicion

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    This should be pinned somewhere...
     
  13. Gleeko0

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    Oh my God this is a book!!

    I read big part of it, seems VERY useful, i will surely use this as reference since i'm starting studies in a new school this year....and i've never been too social and took too long to get used to my surroundings, this year MUST be different! And this big post came just in time. I'm feeling very confident, but this will help me feel even better !


    THANK YOU
     
  14. NeecoVirus

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    Thank you so much. I was just having some problems with the way I thought about my relationship myself, and I realized I forgot the importance or how good it was to be "free and single"... so I was always worrying about not being with my boyfriend! Thanks, you have answered much of my problems with how i went about a relationship!
     
  15. Owen

    In Loving Memory Full Member

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  16. Just Adam

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    Win all the way just for the Daria avatar ^^

    I met my man on here lol he was comforting me on other man troubles and my messed up head being like one day away from ending it.

    Was always the person saying someone for everyone ? Rubbish ! ... Feel fooliah now.

    The truth is, someone really is out there for you and its always where you dont look. It sneeks up on you ^^
     
  17. Sesshomaru

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    I got through it all in one sitting as well :slight_smile:

    I must say, this has helped a lot with my mental preparation for college in soon. Thanks a bunch for writing this!
     
  18. insidehappy

    insidehappy Guest

    totally loved this but i had a hard time agreeing the part about asking if someone is gay or asking someone you do not know ( a guy for instance) "do you date guys". i think that's pretty ballsy and hopefully that has worked for you. however, the type of guys i am attracted to would totally take offense to this if i did not already know them or have some level of freindship with them. to me "do you date guys" is the same as "are you gay" and if you are in the closet they will either deny or become very offended. i think this strategy woudl work on a self actualized out masculine or feminine gay guy and they would be honest. for all others, i do not see a guy in the closet that doesn't know me automatically telling me he dates guys when i strike up conversation with him in the produce aisle. i could be wrong but that could get me a beat down.

    i am a big proponate of just seeing if someone wants to hang out and when you hang out with them if there is chemistry or flirtation, you will feel it and you will know if it is safe or not to ask tehse types of questions after hanging out.
     
  19. Ianthe

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    The one thing I would say regarding asking people if they are gay, is that it works much better if you tell them about yourself first. Disclose your own sexuality before inquiring about theirs.

    If you've been talking about your own orientation, asking about theirs doesn't seem as much like it came out of nowhere, and they are less likely to be offended.
     
  20. Owen

    In Loving Memory Full Member

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    I agree with you totally, which is why I wouldn't ask someone if they date guys if we had just struck up a conversation in the produce isle. That's why I advised having a couple of conversations with them before asking that question. If my post came across as advising that you ask strangers their orientation, I apologize, for that wasn't my intention at all.

    Excellent point. I should have put that in the guide; I will now.
     
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