Last week, the blog I Love Charts posted this clever notebook scrawl that, like any great infographic, really explains the problem in a chortle-inspiring, share-worthy way. It’s been getting around.

“Have Bad Dates –> Swear Off Dating –> No Dates –> Want Dates –> Have Bad Dates…” It kind of does ring true, doesn’t it? As goofy as it seems, the chart is hauntingly relatable. But it can’t be as bad as it seems, right? Let’s break it down.

Swear Off Dating: It’s hard to stay in the game when you’ve got nothing but a collection of horror stories to show for your efforts. Swearing off dating, however, is like swearing off going outside because you got a sunburn. Here’s the first place we can break the cycle — by examining our habits and making small changes rather than dramatic gestures.

No Dates: This would be the natural result of “swearing off dating.” However, there’s more to say here than “See Above.” Suppose that you are in a self-imposed dry spell. What are you doing with your time besides lamenting your choice? Taking a break from dating is fine, but if you use the time to work on a project, spend time with old friends, get good at poker or learn to nail that white wine reduction, you may come back to dating renewed and more confident.

Want Dates: Not much to be done about wanting dates, if you’re not getting dates. This may, however, be a point in the cycle in where you can acknowledge that you’ve been here before and go back into dating with a bit more clarity about what you’re actually looking for.

Have Bad Dates: This is probably the most important place to break the cycle, but it’s not always easy. Remember that dating, as much as it is about looking for a partner, is also about learning what you really want in a partner — and what you don’t. A few bad dates can be helpful in this process. Besides, they’re going to happen anyway; you may as well get something out of them.

Of course, learning from bad dates is not nearly as attractive as just reducing the number of bad dates. Which is possible. A couple quick tips –

1. Suggest dates that you really want to go out on
That way, even if the person is a dud, you still got to try that new restaurant/see that new Woody Allen flick/check out that Matisse show/roll that bowling ball.

2. Stay open
Try to be on the date you’re on with the person you’re on it with. Even if he or she isn’t going to end up being you’re one and only, they are a unique and (possibly) interesting stranger. Learn everything you can from them about exotic fish and finance, or whatever — you may not get the chance again.

3. Be aware of when the date is over
If you’ve really given it a go all through dinner, you don’t have to go to a second location for drinks. Knowing when to politely say goodnight can be the difference between a dud and a nightmare.

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