Dear Neil:  Since my divorce I have been trying to connect and form a relationship with a new woman.  I’ve been out on a fair number of first dates, but very few second dates, and these encounters never get very deep or intimate.  Things have changed since my college years.  How do I connect with women these days?

Alone in London, Ontario

Dear Alone:  Connecting with a new person and beginning a romantic relationship is harder than it seems.  A fair number of people—male and female—have a failure of nerve and run away, which is why it’s relatively rare for two adult strangers to actually connect and bond with each other.  Many people are standoffish and guarded in the process, trying to protect themselves from being disappointed or from getting hurt.

So how do you do it?  The first and most important principle in connecting has to do with getting personal.  If you discuss the things people commonly talk about—news, weather, sports, jobs and observations about the world and other people—very few women will feel a personal connection with you.  To establish a personal connection, you must ask the woman about herself—her feelings, emotions and life experiences.  And you must talk about yourself—your experiences, inner struggles, goals and dreams.  Tell a story about your life, lessons you’ve learned, challenges you’ve faced, obstacles you’ve had to overcome, painful experiences you’ve had to endure.

Err on the side of asking a bit more about her than telling her about you, so she doesn’t get the feeling that you’re being self-centered and just like to talk about yourself.  And genuinely be interested in her—what’s important to her, what she feels and hopes, her disappointments and fears, her goals  Do this gradually, over time, so she doesn’t feel overly exposed and scrutinized by you.

The second most important principle in connecting with women revolves around the issue of safety.  Women must feel safe in your presence.  Therefore, be careful not to get too personal too quickly, or she will feel you are intrusive and may then shut down to you.

Use eye contact.  It is much harder to connect if you avoid looking at her.   And keep your focus on her face, rather than letting your eyes wander to her body.   Don’t make sexual references.  Most women will be turned off by you playing that card too soon.

Don’t try to impress her with tales of how heroic you’ve been, or how sterling your resume has become, or how important or smart you are.  A little of that is OK, but not a lot.  Modesty will work better than either bragging or your tales of machismo. And don’t give a lot of details of how your ex hurt or mistreated you, or about other tales of woe.  Save all that for the platoon medic.  No woman wants to feel that she’s taking on a whole set of problems or a rebuilding project.

Finally, I cannot over emphasize enough how important touch is in the connecting process.  Affectionate and appropriate (not heavily sexualized) touch really helps to draw people together.  It’s the glue that helps people get close and stay close.

Has your relationship turned cold and distant? Neil’s book Love, Sex, and Staying Warm can help you rekindle your passion.

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