Based on Social Exchange Theory, here is the general advice I give for successful and satisfying dating and relating.
1) Figure out what you want - It all starts with you. Some people do indeed miss this step. They get so wrapped up in "finding love" or "pleasing others" that they forget to figure out what they want out of the deal. For the record, you do have a choice. You don't need to just pick whoever will have you. However, you also don't need to obsess about every little detail. A general idea of what you would like from a partner is best. How would you like them to act? What would you like them to do? How should they treat you? What type of relationship are you looking for? Take a moment (or longer) and figure it out.2) Decide what you will give in return - There is no such thing as getting something for nothing. Dating and relationships are no exception. So, what are you planning to bring to the exchange? Be honest - don't undersell or oversell yourself. Think about all of the strengths, benefits, and positive qualities you have to share with a partner. Have a clear idea about what you are going to give back to them.
3) Check your expectations - Take a good look at what you want versus what you're willing to give. Does it match up? Is it a realistic trade? It is unrealistic to expect to buy a mansion with pocket-change. But, it is also foolish to spend a million dollars on a shack. So, make sure the exchange you're planning is equitable and fair, for both you and for your prospective partners. Make it a good deal on both ends.
4) Know your dating market (what "they" want) - Here is where you take into consideration what your potential partners might want. But, you don't have to be so vague and guess about all men, women, etc. You know what you want. So, search for the people who match that and find out what they want. For example, if you want smart women...then talk to a few in your area and find out what they like. If you're looking for creative men, then check out what they are into. Shop around. Get to know the dating market you're interested in - and what they are looking to "buy" in return.
5) Assess your options - Once you know your dating market, you can see who might be interested in an exchange. Find the partners that fit with what you want. Qualify and assess them. Then see whether what you're willing to give matches up with their wants too. Negotiate a little and see what works. Is it a good fit? Can you strike a deal? Is it a win-win? See what your options for "trading partners" look like.
6) Pick an option or reassess your plan - If you find a good deal, go with it. Especially when the relationship is fair, satisfying, and the best alternative for both you and them. However, if you don't like your options, then it is time to rethink the steps above. Go through them again. Is what you want a little unrealistic? Do you need to give a little more to get who you really want? Are your expectations unrealistic? Do you need to try a different dating group, time, location to find someone to connect with?
Repeat, refine, and rework the process. Eventually, you will find a connection (or several) that works.