Dating by induction

Updated: Apr 13

When I was just starting my attempts at dating in my early twenties, I encountered an unexpected obstacle: I had no idea what the date is and how it works.

Well, sure, I watched enough movies as a kid and I knew what kinds of things occur on a date: a couple is getting drinks together, they are lying on the grass pointing at clouds, a kiss occurs at some point and maybe there's some between the sheets action. But the flow between these things, the connective tissue tying them into a single whole, wasn't obvious to me. I think many non-American readers can empathize with me if I compare it to a game of baseball shown on a TV screen: the pitcher throws a ball towards the catcher, the batter is deflecting it up in the sky, and then someone is running around trying to touch all the bases. But the overall structure of the game – the set of rules by which winners win and losers lose – is still escaping my grasp.

Turns out, if I want to score a home run it's important to have an idea what's happening and in what order. For this reason, I developed a sort of workflow I use when setting up dates and going on them.

From the project development perspective, a date is a series of events that leads to my desired romantic outcome. An unsuccessful dating life, then, is caused by a bottleneck at one of the stages of the dating pipeline.

What is a desired date outcome? This is highly personal – a terminal goal everyone should set up for themselves. If your ideal first date is the one where you both walk, talk and then separate, then good for you. Ending the date on a kiss is also a popular option. But to keep things simple and easily defined, I will talk about sex as a desired outcome. Simply put, if someone's date ends with consensual sex, it's hard to call it an unfulfilling date.

When trying to summarize my approach, I attempted to perform backwards induction: start with a desired outcome, and figure out what step was preceding it. Then I looked at a step before that step, and so forth. I looked back on my history of dates, and asked myself what events did lead to sex in hindsight.

Two terms that I throw frequently here are appeal and logistics. These denote two different types of things that occupy my attention in regards to making the date a successful one.

Appeal: Do I look attractive? Am I a pleasant conversation partner?

Appeal is the emotional reaction I provoke in my date; becoming more appealing means putting more care into fashion, hygiene, and conversation. As a rule of thumb, appeal tells me what to do and how to do it.

Logistics: Where should we meet? When should I kiss her?

Logistics are the nitty-gritty details of a date I have to think about to make sure it goes without a hitch. Improving date logistics means looking up stuff in advance, checking schedules and booking places. As a rule of thumb, logistics tell me when to do something and where to do it.

What follows is a list of stages I usually pass in the course of a date, with a description of how it feels to be stuck on a certain stage, and some improvements I made to get over the hurdle. Needless to say, I got stuck at each stage many times in my dating history.

1) Me and my future match have to become aware of each other's existence.

How the bottleneck feels like:

  • I don't get a chance to meet potential partners

  • I spend months by myself without meeting new people

  • There are no attractive people in my social circle

How I deal with it:

  • Get in locations where there's a possibility of talking with strangers

  • Take up new activities which allow me to meet new people

  • Get on dating apps

  • Use premium features

Also known as "getting myself out there". Logistics are important on this stage, since there are a lot of ways to meet new people, but only few of them are efficient. I have to choose, whether to enroll into a class with a dozen of women or spend the same amount of time scrolling through thousands of potential matches.

Since the majority of my partners have been introduced to me by dating apps, I'll take matching on Tinder as a setup for the further breakdown. Logistics comes to help here in the form of premium features many of the apps have I can sort the feed by newcomers first, send superlikes to tourists to get noticed ahead of any competition, and figure out the best time of the day to bump up my profile. However in my experience paying for online dating is not necessary: if your photos and description are appealing, everything should work smoothly.

So by the end of this stage, my dating profile is shown to the potential match, and now she has to decide which way to swipe.

2) Me and my match have to initiate the contact with each other

On dating apps this takes the form of swiping right on my profile or responding to my first message.

How the bottleneck feels like:

  • I swipe a lot but don't get any matches

  • I send a lot of messages but don't get any responses

How I deal with it:

This is a short but an extremely important step in online dating, and countless articles were written about how to optimize it. Having an appealing profile is extremely important here. Luckily from my experience, the majority of men I saw on my female friends' apps don't seem to put any sort of effort into their profile, which means I can elevate myself with a bare minimum of work.

As this stage ends, a chat window pops up and a dialogue begins.

3) Me and my match get to know each other

How the bottleneck feels like:

  • I start texting but get ghosted

  • I get explicitly rejected while texting

How I deal with it:

  • figure out the texting etiquette

  • read examples of texting before the successful date

  • practice texting with foreigners

  • mirror the texting style of my match

This is still peak appeal territory, but it shifts from a static public profile page to interacting with my current match: how good am I specifically to her? Here I can be dynamic and change my approach depending on who I match with.

Depending on logistics, this period can last from a couple of minutes to months, though it's never wise to let it continue longer than necessary. By the time I got her added on a messaging app, it's time to think about asking her on a date.

4) Me and my match have to arrange a date

How the bottleneck feels like:

  • I text with my matches but it doesn't go anywhere

  • I ask my matches on a date but they refuse

How I deal with it:

  • ask for a date in a timely and appropriate manner

  • find a good place and time for a date

Appeal and logistics are about equally important here. Not all women install a dating app with the intent to meet their match in the physical world, but they might change their plans if they encounter someone who piqued their interest. At the same time, I need to put thought into good places and activities for dating, looking up stuff in advance if needed. Timing is also important here: I usually try to ask my match for a date after a couple of initial messages on the same or the next day, but longer periods may work too.

So the arranged time has arrived, I get out to meet her, get there first and wait for her to approach me.

5) I have to escalate physical intimacy while on a date

How the bottleneck feels like:

  • I go on a date but we don't kiss

  • I try to be intimate but get rejected

How I deal with it:

  • meet up with more attractive people

  • put more attention into what I wear

  • improve my hygiene

  • find better locations for a date

  • recognize a good moment to kiss

Many of my first dates stalled when I arrived at the date, we talked a bit, maybe ate something, and then I had no idea what to do next. It took an embarrassingly long time for me to realize that if me and my date find each other attractive, I can come with her to some isolated place and make out. Obviously I have to do it in an appealing way, but, surprisingly, logistics take an equal amount of attention when executing the maneuver. The place and time should be just right. Consider, for example, that sitting face-to-face in the restaurant is much less conductive to cuddling than sitting side by side on a couch in a café. Many dates also differ in how fast they prefer to escalate intimacy – some need a lot of hand-holding and cuddling before they are comfortable with a kiss, and some jump on my face within fifteen minutes of meeting.

So finally, I'm embracing my date in a secluded location, we're making out with each other, and there's just one last thing to take care of.

6) I have to arrange a convenient location for sex

How the bottleneck feels like:

  • we make out outside but there's no place indoors we could go to

  • I ask her to come to my place but she can't make it

How I deal with it:

  • make sure my apartment is decently clean

  • book a hotel room

  • get a ride if the public transport takes too long to get to the place

  • make sure she doesn't have plans for the next morning

Asking "Let's move to a more comfortable place?" is usually a good way to suggest continuing the fun at home. Logistics come one last time to help out here. Both place and time are important considerations for a good hookup site: it should be private, clean, warm and easy to get to. I also tend to bring my matches home at evening or nighttime, not in the middle of the day. If my or her place are not available, booking a hotel room online is a good move, but it can also be done in advance to not break the flow of the date. I just make sure ahead of time it's possible to cancel the booking without paying a fee.

At last, I arrive home, with an attractive girl in my hands, and I'll leave the rest to your imagination.

To reiterate once more: I'm not saying everyone should single-mindedly pursue sex as the sole goal of online dating. I myself had some enjoyable dates where we didn't even kiss and just stayed friends for many years. I just think that it's good to be aware that sex is a realistic outcome of the date, if both parties so desire and circumstances allow for it. And if you know you are capable of having sex on a date, you can probably get all the intermediate outcomes too, if you so desire.

Overall I would say this kind of structure helps me stay proactive and assertive on a date. I hope it would be useful for many readers as well.

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