Five Ways to Find Your Partner

Dating apps are not your only option

Everybody says dating is broken. The dating apps have ruined dating and flattened the experience of finding a partner, the thinking goes, and now all we have are hookups and things like ghosting.

That’s somewhat true; hookup culture definitely is in full effect, and dating for a deep connection and a lasting relationship has gotten harder. This is especially the case for people who are older or don’t like having sex on the first few dates.

Dating beyond the swipe app is possible, however, and I have plenty of clients who prove it. You just have to know what you’re doing, and have a few basic skills when going into this modern dating scene.

So let’s look at your options, what you need, and when each is appropriate.

Dating Apps and the Alternatives

Dating apps like Tinder, Plenty of Fish (POF) and OKCupid are the starting place for many singles today. This, and the old standbys such such as and eHarmony, have come to represent online dating and how people find each other when they look for romance.

Some think online dating is the only way, and that these options quite frankly suck.

Both assumptions are wrong. There is a time for apps like Tinder and OkCupid, but you have to approach them right. The traditional dating alternatives also still work, but you can easily waste your time if you don’t know what you are doing.

Option #1: Swipe Apps

Let’s start with the obvious, the swipe apps. There are many platforms you can choose from, with more being invented almost by the day. The category leader is Tinder, of course, but just about every online dating platform now has some version of the swipe because it is popular.

The idea behind these apps is that you swipe through photos and pick the hot people, then you reach out and set up a casual date if there is a match (and these dates often lead to sex since the main criteria for the match was physical attractiveness).

When to Chose Swipe Apps

Swipe-based dating apps only make sense if you want (or are at least okay with) sex early in the relationship. You start with physical attraction and back into everything else, and there are lots of false starts because really all you know about the person is that they’re hot.

So swipe apps are a good option if you enjoy the dating process, are ready for something physical, and don’t have any particular urgency in your dating life beyond having fun and seeing where it goes.

This is a good option when:

  • Sex on the first few dates is fine
  • Casual dating is fun and an end unto itself
  • There’s no urgency for finding a partner

What You Need for Dating Success with Swipe Apps

People do find their life partner on Tinder; it just isn’t the optimal method for finding that lasting relationship.

What you need to make dating apps work, beyond a casualness about sex, is the ability to read people quickly and create that deep connection beyond the physical. You also should enjoy dating, because you’ll probably have many short-term relationships before you find something that lasts.

What you need:

  • Sexual openness
  • Ability to read people quickly
  • Skill at building deep connections fast
  • Enjoyment from casual dating as an end unto itself
  • Plenty of time for false starts

Option #2: Dating Sites

The next option that many singles consider beyond the dating apps is the old-school dating platform. This is typically one of the big players such as or OKCupid, or perhaps a niche site like, or, depending on your location and needs.

These platforms require more setup during registration and they tell you a little more about the other person, making these platforms less about the physical than the swipe apps (although there still are many people on these platforms who are just looking for a hookup, especially with free platforms such as OkCupid).

When to Choose Dating Sites

Dating sites work, but the trick is that you have to invest the time and pick a platform where there are serious singles and a barrier to entry such as long-form profiles that require effort (the problem with the swipe apps). If you are serious about dating, invest the time in creating and updating your profile, reach out to people regularly, and chat and go on dates often, these sites can work.

This is a good option when:

  • You’re serious about finding a partner
  • You have time to invest in the process
  • There’s urgency in your dating search

What You Need for Success with Dating Sites

The key for success with the dating sites is sustained effort mixed with two skills: knowing how to read people quickly so you focus on the right matches, and being able to connect deeply when you find them. Many a single has missed an opportunity by not knowing how to keep a conversation running or by failing to open up and ignite the spark.

What you need:

  • Time for sustained searching, chatting, dating
  • Awareness of dating profile basics
  • Ability to read people quickly
  • Good conversation and rapport skills
  • Moderate level of sexual openness
  • Ability to get vulnerable and connect deeply

Option #3: Matchmakers

When our relationship life is going nowhere, many of us fantasize about two options: giving up and going celibate–or finding a matchmaker who can magically solve our dating problems.

The bad news is that going celibate won’t work because you’re doing it for the wrong reason. The good news is that matchmaking is a viable option, and it does exist in most cities.

Matchmaking won’t solve all your relationship problems, though. All matchmaking does is streamline the dating process by automatically connecting you with appropriate singles for a price; you still have to put in the work of going on dates and connecting with the people you meet, and nobody can save you from having unrealistic expectations. 

When to Choose a Matchmaker

Because matchmakers handle the business of sorting through candidates and selecting people who are most appropriate for your goals and interests, you should consider matchmaking when there’s urgency in your search and you have the money to buy your way out of the selection process; matchmakers handle the pre-screening for you, and everyone you date will be serious about finding a life partner and reasonably in-line with your goals and values.

The people you meet won’t be perfect, however, and the formality and cost of the process also means that you should be ready and willing to run with the relationship when you find someone who fits your basic criteria. Matchmaking is focused on the goal of marriage, not love (although we at Kowalke Coaching can help with that love part).

This is a good option when:

  • Your time is limited
  • Money is not a problem
  • Marriage trumps romance as your goal
  • There’s urgency in your dating search
  • Nothing else has worked

What You Need for Relationship Success with a Matchmaker

The main things you need for success with a matchmaker are money and a transactional mindset: You want marriage, and that’s the goal. Of course you want love, too, but romantic connection is secondary to the practical outcome of having a partner and having this person now. A deep connection can come later if you nail the practical details, and basically it is about partnering up instead of living single.

What you need:

  • Money (think $5,000-$50,000)
  • Arranged marriage mindset (nail the logistics and love will come later)
  • Transactional outlook (relationship based on what it gives you)
  • Minimal criteria (but of course you still have standards)

Option #4: Social Events

Finding your partner the old-fashioned way still exists! In fact, it is easier than ever to meet people through social events because event platforms such as facilitate the process. Asking for someone’s email address also is a smaller step than the old process of getting a phone number, making those random connections easier to continue after the first meeting.

You can find and attend events on a weekly basis through if you live near a major city, or you can even start your own group around a key interest. And because people register for these events through the platform, you can often connect after the event with the singles you meet even if you didn’t get their contact information during first contact; just find their name on the event’s attendance page and send them a message through the platform!

You must be willing to regularly attend events and actually talk with people for this option to work. You also must get savvy about the type of events you choose, and know how to build a connection with the people you meet. But if you master these skills, it is entirely possible to find your life partner without ever touching the dating apps.

When to Choose Social Events

If you’re traditional, want to take it slow, or online dating leaves you cold, social events is your winner.

You can’t be in a rush for finding a partner, though, because organically meeting people and building intimacy works best if you have patience and give the relationships time to unfold (no auditioning for a husband here). You also must have skill at meeting people and nurturing your relationships.

This can be learned, however, so the main criteria is having the time and needing a more organic dating experience.

This is a good option when:

  • Looking for an organic dating experience
  • Unsure what you want
  • Formal dating is not easy for you
  • You’re traditional
  • There’s plenty of time for finding a partner

What You Need for Relationship Success with Social Event Dating

Relationship competence and good social skills are needed if you want this organic experience of connecting and finding your partner in the real world. That’s why so many people choose the dating apps: they are easier, and they bring quick (but sometimes unsatisfying) results. If you master some basic skills, though, social events trump just about any other option for finding a life partner.

What you need:

  • Time and motivation for regularly attending events
  • Skill with socializing and flirting
  • Open-mindedness about who’s “right” for you
  • Patience until you fully know a person
  • Willingness to date multiple people simultaneously until it gets serious
  • Ability to read and send social signals
  • Skill with advancing/deepening a relationship
  • Awareness of the dating “progression”
  • Lack of desperation

Option #5: Random Connections

There also, of course, is the most romantic and sought-after option for finding a partner: chance encounters. Everyone wants it, and few get it.

That’s because “fate” becomes an excuse for not putting in the work. People tell themselves they don’t want to force the process, and the right person will just come along when destiny provides. This is a very romantic scenario, and great when it happens. But when most people say they’re waiting for the right person, really they’re making excuses for wanting a relationship but not doing anything about it. So they aren’t prepared for a real relationship, they aren’t trying, and one day they wake up and realize they now must use the dating platforms and/or settle.

Actually, finding your partner through a random connection is a viable strategy when combined with event-based dating and supported by some key preparation for making the most of chance encounters. You just can’t use this option as an excuse for inaction.

When to Choose Chance

First, let’s be clear: don’t make random connections your dating strategy if you have any kind of timeline or dating pressure. Chance doesn’t follow a timeline, and it isn’t suitable for goal-driven dating where you want a particular outcome in a particular timeframe. Consider it only when you’re open to a relationship but not actively looking, or in conjunction with a more focused dating approach such as online dating or social event dating.

When you should consider finding a partner through a random connection is when your event horizon is long, you don’t want to force things or are traditional in your dating outlook, and you’re good at making the most of a social connection by taking the relationship as deep as it can go (and leading that process, because most people aren’t good at taking relationships deep).

Chance is a good option when:

  • Proactively searching for a romantic partner feels wrong
  • You’re traditional in your dating outlook
  • You’re good at connecting emotionally with other people
  • There’s absolutely no urgency or clock for finding a partner
  • Other dating options also are in play

What You Need for Relationship Success with Random Connections

Just showing up is not enough for successfully dating through chance encounters. You need most of the skills necessary for social event dating, plus a few more like radiating authenticity in every action (since you don’t know when you will meet someone), being able to make the first move, and extra strong power at connecting emotionally with others.

What you need:

  • Regular time outside your office and home
  • Strong skills at connecting emotionally with other people
  • Self-awareness and authenticity
  • Ability to show yourself authentically with every action
  • Openness to the world and what life brings you
  • Willingness to try and see
  • Open-mindedness about who’s “right” for you
  • Knowledge of how to make the first move
  • Ability to read and send social signals
  • Skill with advancing/deepening a relationship
  • Awareness of the dating “progression”
  • Lack of desperation

Dating is not broken. You have more options than ever. What’s going on is confusion around the options and what is needed for each dating pathway. Emphasis also is wrongly placed on tactics and criteria when the real work is around social intelligence and learning how to connect deeply with another person.

If you need help developing these relationship skills, or generally feel stuck in your dating life, sign up for my free, weekly emails with tips and advice on how to find and build that lasting relationship. If you’re still stuck, or already know you want to take your relationship life to the next level, you also can schedule an appointment with me for individual one-on-one coaching where we look at your particular situation and apply best practices to get you the relationship you deserve.

Nobody has to go through life alone. So don’t settle or give up if online dating is not working. Instead, get serious about your dating life, get a helping hand, and try a different approach.

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