Use these strategies to ease out of your comfort zone and into the relationship you want.
We asked Nancy Pina, a Christian relationship counselor based in Houston, Texas, for five dating tips every shy girl must know.
1. Don’t settle for a mismatch
If you’re going to find the right man, you first need to know who you are and what you like. You’d be surprised how many people who are dating unsuccessfully don’t know the answer to those basic personal questions. Pina suggests developing your personal interests and spiritual life before pursuing a mate. Being able to define who you are, where your values lie, and what sort of man you want to attract will help any shy girl gain confidence. And when you’re confident, you’re much better equipped to make good dating decisions.
“When I was a matchmaker, I found that [my clients] just wanted to talk about dates, not why they were attracting the wrong type of person in the first place,” says Pina.
Women without a strong sense of self, or those who haven’t taken the time to stop and think about what they’re looking for in a husband besides “the perfect guy,” will repeatedly date people who aren’t even close to a good match for them. And, as Pina points out, “Eventually, you’re going to marry someone you’re dating.” Don’t get into what she calls “panic mode” by dating the wrong people over and over and then marrying whomever you’re dating when you’re ready to have children.
“You want a relationship that will be fulfilling and a positive model for the children you have,” she says. So if you’ve been in a dating rut, take a break for some personal reflection. Start writing down who you are, and what you’re looking for.
2. Smash your routine
“Something I’ve often observed about shy women is that they’re prone to observation,” says Pina. That means rather than take action, these shy women hang back and watch to see if the perfect guy enters stage right. “They think that God is going to bring them the right one, and then they wait too long. So many great years go by when they could’ve been dating. Then they hit their forties and they’re not married.”
Pina explains that many people face a dating dilemma once they graduate from college and are no longer surrounded by their peers. They enter the workplace and fall into a pattern that makes it difficult to meet new people.
“You have to make a good effort to expand your social circles,” she says. If you’re shy, that can be difficult, but try to push yourself when an opportunity like a friend-of-a-friend’s dinner party arises. “Get out of your routine and get around like-minded people. It’s important not to be narrow-minded about what kind of social doors you’re opening.”
Even if you go to a social function and think nobody there is a good match, Pina suggests keeping an open mind: “Even if that right person isn’t in the group, you never know who you’ll meet who can introduce you to someone else. Everybody wants to be the matchmaker. Everybody wants to be the person to say, ‘I introduced you to your husband!’”
3. Join the club
All of those hobbies and interests you spent time cultivating in your youth? They’re some of your biggest dating assets. Yes, talking to a man at a party is hard, but talking to a man while you’re doing an activity you feel comfortable doing is easier. So get extra mileage out of them by joining clubs, going on trips, taking classes, and following through on your hobbies in new ways that allow you to meet new men you might want to date.
“[Joining a club] is great because it’s not threatening and it doesn’t look like you’re on the look-out for someone,” says Pina. “It helps you to relax and helps you talk about something you’re passionate about. It also helps alleviate some of that shyness you might have in a [traditional] social setting.”
Then set up casual coffee dates with people you like. It won’t be as awkward as a blind coffee date because you already have a shared experience in common. And coffee dates are ideal because they provide a small window of time in a casual setting.
“It doesn’t hurt to meet with someone for an hour if there’s any semblance that this person might be someone you might want to date,” she says.
4. Give online dating a chance
Yes, really. This is a wonderful option for shy girls if you’re just willing to give it a try. “Get online and get on at least one dating website,” Pina says. It makes it easy to look for men without trying to scout them out at a party from behind your wine glass. “Search for people who meet your criteria and really read their emails.”
But here’s the mistake a lot of women, shy or not, make on dating sites: don’t leave all the grunt work to the gentlemen. You can be the first one to reach out, too. It might make you nervous, but think how much easier it is to write a message than to walk up to a stranger and strike up a conversation.
“Send an email to people who appeal to you,” says Pina. “It really works better for women when they’re the initiator. You can’t be passive. There are millions of profiles. If you don’t reach out to people, it’s almost as bad as staying at home and doing nothing.”
Afraid you’ll appear too forward by kickstarting a conversation?
“Sending an email is not going to show you’re aggressive,” says Pina. “Take the initial step. Throw it out there and know not to take it personally if he doesn’t respond. Think: ‘If he answers me back, great. If not, it’s not about me.’”
5. But then ask for face-to-face time
Joining an online site and exchanging messages with potential suitors may seem like the last to-do, but it’s really just the beginning. Shy girls sometimes sign up for dating sites, and find someone they click with, but then never take the dates offline.
“You have to get away from the emails and texts to an actual meeting,” says Pina. “See if he has the character he says he does. It’s important not to waste months or even years on someone who’s not going to materialize into a commitment.”
And once you finally go on that date, what do you talk about?
Don’t worry, the answer to that question is actually really easy: “What you’re passionate about,” says Pina. “Your activities, your travels, why you find these things so appealing. Add something you’d like to do in the future.”
She explains that your personality truly shines when you talk about what you love much more so than when you’re talking about the weather — unless your dream job is to be a meteorologist, of course! If it helps, mentally prepare what topics you love to talk about before arriving at your date. (And, if you can, leave something to talk about at the next date.)
The real key here is to put yourself at ease. With topics in mind, you won’t feel at a loss. But if the date ends up not going well, don’t sweat it. Remind yourself that dating is important because it’s the path you have to take to meet your husband.
“I think who you marry is the most important decision any of us make,” says Pina. “If we all applied the same seriousness to dating and marriage as to our chosen career, life would be a lot different.”
So if you take away nothing else, shy ladies, remember this: make the effort, because a good shy man might be out there making the effort to find you, too.