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Online Dating Magazine > Columns > Office Hours with Dr. Jim > Dating Outside the Norm

Office Hours With Dr. Jim
by James Houran, Ph.D

In this column, "Dr. Jim" honestly and candidly answers your questions about dating, love and sexuality. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear – he tells you what you need to hear. Dr. Jim is committed to offering you guidance based on responsible clinical practice and hard data from the latest scientific studies. Send Dr. Jim your questions today for consideration in an upcoming issue.

Dating Outside the Norm

Quick Access:
Should I date outside the norm?

Do you recommend dating “outside the norm” or should people follow their instincts when it comes to who they want to date?


Our instincts come from lessons we’ve learned throughout our lives. Instincts are intuitions (rapid emotional evaluations) or “rules-of-thumb” (rapid cognitive evaluations), and they can help us in many instances. Malcolm Gladwell’s best-selling book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking talked about the power of using intuition in certain scenarios versus detailed reasoning or complicated mathematic formulae, and new research reported in the recent article by Wray Herbert in Newsweek [“Less (Information) is More”] seems to substantiate the power of instinct.

But, instincts are also fallible. Experience is not necessarily the best teacher. For example, if you burn your hand on a hot stove you learn to avoid all hot stoves…as well as the cold ones. Also, a myriad of classic and recent psychological research shows that people’s subjective evaluations are typically neither as effective nor accurate as mathematical models. This is one of the rationale’s for using a compatibility test to assist you in evaluating the merits of a potential partner. In this sense, instincts and intuitions seemingly espoused by Gladwell and Herbert are tools that should be used sparingly.

When it comes to dating, I’ve talked before about getting out of your “compatibility comfort zone.”  That zone defines what you think is “your type” of romantic partner. Too often, the zone is a trap of idealized standards that sabotage your search for a mate. It’s perfectly fine to set some standards, but don’t get overly rigid or you’ll filter out many people who could make you very happy.

But dating outside your norm is not all that’s needed. Other work has to happen for you to meet people and evaluate whether they are relationship material for you. It can be hard to do, but finding the right partner second means enjoying the active search for prospects as a happy and fulfilled single.

1) Change aspects of your daily routine – Do something different every day or week, so you’re naturally in the situation of meeting new people in new places. The change does not need to be dramatic at all. Expand your social boundaries at a pace that is most comfortable to you. Take a different way home from work and stop off at a café, choose a different store or mall to visit, go to lunch with co-workers you don’t know well, or ask strangers in a clothing store for advice on what looks good on you. Change your routine so you can become comfortable taking risks and meeting new people.

2) Take the initiative – Rather than passively waiting on opportunity to appear, actively explore the dating pool as a confident single who feels and acts attractive. Allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to meet new people. Introduce yourself to new people at work, help others when appropriate in the grocery store, start up a conversation in the elevator or on an escalator, initiate more email and chat with online daters, and remember to be polite and positive to everyone you meet. This is what a person with high self-esteem and personal competence looks like. People with high self-esteem and confidence and very attractive to others.

3) Allow yourself simply to have fun getting to know people – the real secret to finding love is to first find happiness as a single person. When you accept yourself and enjoy who you are right now, you naturally look and act attractive to others. Therefore, don’t approach dating like you’re under a tight deadline. Stop focusing on long term outcomes. Enjoy the process of dating – the adventure of meeting new people, going new places, and learning new things. If you allow yourself simply to enjoy yourself and others’ company, then you’ll take the right kind of risks that allow you to grow as a person. This process of growing as a person will increase the odds of meeting compatible individuals and soon attract the right person to you.

Gladwell, M. (2005). Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. New York: Little, Brown and Co.

Wray, H. (Nov 20, 2007). Less (Information) is More., Accessed November 28, 2007.

> - The best approach to find the one. <

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