Looking For Love in All the Right Places
By Erika Winston
The most important aspect of relationships is the one you maintain with yourself. Shirley T. Burke is the founder of The Esteem Institute, serving individuals throughout central Virginia. Commonly referred to as Shirley T, this charismatic life coach has dedicated her professional career to public service. Today, she teaches individuals to embrace their confidence from a mental, spiritual and physical perspective.Valentine’s Day is arriving, and singles everywhere are looking for their own special valentine. Dating services have exploded into a $2 billion dollar industry. From matchmaking services to online dating, individuals are investing time and money into their search for love.
When asked for her best advice to singles, Burke responds, “Get your house together before you invite somebody inside.” She says that the first step to finding love is loving yourself. “Walk into the room and know that you are the most beautiful woman (or attractive man) in the room. Once you know that you are okay, you can look around and see that others are okay as well.”
Burke strongly cautions men and women against looking for happiness and validation in another person. “Everything we are dealing with in our lives is an inside job,” she explains. “We are looking for outside sources all the time, but your mind is the garden and your thoughts are the seeds. You can choose to harvest flowers or weeds. Everything starts with your own thoughts.” Burke says that individualized coaching is a valuable tool in recognizing your self-worth and identifying your expectations for a relationship. “Take advantage of your resources. Interview people and find someone you are comfortable with by paying attention to your intuition.”
Once you do the work to strengthen yourself, you can confidently set out on a journey for love. The dating options are extensive in this modern day society. Though this variety is valuable, it can also become intimidating quickly. While good old fashioned chance meetings are always a possibility, matchmaking agencies and online dating services allow you to take a more proactive role in your dating life.
The Pew Research Center reports that 59% of Americans see online dating as a good tool for meeting new people. Additionally, 23% of online daters report meeting a long-term partner. Though these numbers are impressive, they do not negate the level of uncertainty that can accompany your first experience with the online dating world. The process can prove intimidating, especially if you are not already skilled in online communications. However, by following some simple guidelines, you can turn it into a rewarding and fun adventure.
Just watch an hour of prime time television and you will see a vast assortment of commercials for dating sites. Don’t register with the first site you see. Take the time to investigate a variety of services and choose the one that most aligns with your goals and principles. Christian Mingle claims to “Find God’s Match for You.” This online community caters to Christian singles who must choose a monthly payment plan for ongoing membership. The cost ranges from $13.99 per month to $29.99 per month, depending on the plan you choose.
Blackpeoplemeet.com is another popular dating site, specializing in the introduction of African American singles. Founded in 2002, the website allows you to set up a profile package, complete with pictures, videos and interests. When you find someone of interest, you can send a flirt message or request a live chat session. It’s free to create a profile and browse other profiles, but communication requires a paid membership, with fees ranging from $10 to $30 per month.
For mature singles, ourtime.com offers its services exclusively to singles over the age of 50-years-old. The website claims to recognize the unique wants of mature individuals and focuses on these specific interests. Like most other dating sites, joining is free, but you will need to choose a membership plan before you can communicate with others on the site.
Once you find the sites that feel right for you, it is time to set up a dating profile. Don’t allow yourself to stress about this process. It is your chance to highlight all of your wonderful qualities. Some experts suggest that you gather a group of friends to assist you. They can provide valuable input about your picture selection and keep you honest in your profile description. Choose a picture that is recent and truly depicts what you look like. Your high school senior picture is not an appropriate choice right now. Include a few different pictures, one of which should show you involved in some type of activity. This is a great invitation for conversation.
Once you jump into the game, relax and enjoy. Don’t feel the need to excessively check your profile. Designate a specific amount of time that you will devote each week and stay within those limits. Online dating should not replace in-person interactions. Instead, it is a tool that compliments your dating efforts.When writing your description, it’s important to strike a medium between brevity and detail. You want to point out your interests and exemplify what is unique about you, but your profile should not read like a novel. You don’t want to share too much personal information or turn off potential suitors. When the description is complete spell-check it. Spelling errors definitely don’t make a good first impression.
Matchmaking services provide personalized dating services to facilitate in-person introductions and first dates. It Takes 2 serves the Richmond area and markets itself as the most successful dating service in Central Virginia. Operating since 1998, the organization offers confidential screening by individuals who hand-select potential dates. The owners say that they “take pride in getting to know each and every client.” Screenings are completed during a face-to-face interview and include a personality assessment created by a marriage counselor.
The value in utilizing matchmaking services is just as much about time as it is about resources. As stated on the It Takes 2 website, “Outsourcing the search for compatible, like-minded individuals makes far more sense to most busy singles than investing their own hours and energy that can better be spent elsewhere.”
Now That You’ve Found Love
Burke reminds singles that the work does not end once you find a potential mate. Your relationship is a vital aspect of your life and some level of choosiness is completely appropriate. She warns that you should not settle out of desperation for a relationship. “We have learned to settle too much. We put up with and settle for less than we deserve,” she explains. “Everybody should not be in the front row of your life. We are here for a purpose.”
Just as dangerous as settling is a feeling of defeat, where you stop looking for the love you desire. Burke says that your thoughts are extremely important when you feel the need to give up. “What we think is what happens,” she advises. “Speaketh those things that are not yet in existence. We start out as winners in life and nothing changes, but our thoughts.”