Learning from past experiences

None of us sprang from the head of Zeus fully armored. We all have a past, things that made us happy or unhappy as a child or a youngster, previous experiences with people of the opposite sex, parents, teachers, employers, next-door neighbors, crushes, loves, lovers, maybe even spouses. If you can pinpoint something making you unhappy, you can begin working on it. If you feel you are the problem — and have felt that way for more than a couple of weeks — it's time to think about getting some professional help. Therapy is a very good investment in you, especially if you're really, really unhappy (then I definitely am not only suggesting it, but ordering it). For most of us, getting out a pencil and paper is the first step to better mental health. Just as you wouldn't go out on a date with a raging virus, a runny nose, and a temperature, starting to date with an unhappy head doesn't make much sense either.

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Because the focus here is dating, start with your earliest boy-girl stuff. Don't edit or prettify — just write 'em down as they occur to you.

^ When you were younger, even in kindergarten, what characteristics were you drawn to? Has your taste changed? (Okay, I know you're not interested in preschoolers; let's get focused here.) Do you like high energy or quiet types? People like you or your opposite? Athletes or scholars?

^ What personality types draw you? What constellation of characteristics attracts you? Warriors or scholars? Introverts or extroverts?

^ Are you passive with the opposite sex or more aggressive? Do you like to be in charge or told what to do?

^ Do you make decisions easily or do you prefer that someone else take the responsibility?

^ Are you drawn to high or low energy, quiet or bubbly, shy or outgoing?

^ If you had to make a list outlining a perfect date, what would head up your list? Is sense of humor important, being well-read, talking, or listening?

^ What have been the best parts of your interactions with the opposite sex?

^ What goes right the most often, and yeah, what goes sour? The point here isn't to fix blame, but to understand what your patterns have been since your first crush. You can't control chemistry, but you can understand it and try to compensate for it because you can control behavior, at least your own.

^ Are there situations in which you shine or fold?

^ What makes you happy, anxious, ambitious?

^ What challenges you?

Yeah, I know these are personal questions, but dating is pretty personal stuff, and the more you know about yourself, the more confident you can be, the better the presentation you can make of yourself, and the more successful the experience will be for the both of you. So dig away.

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