If you’re looking for love this year, you may be pulling out a long laundry list of rules and ideas you think you have to follow to find the one. Well, fellow daters, after speaking with Damona Hoffman, an acclaimed dating expert and author of the new relationship book F the Fairy Tale: Rewrite the Dating Myths and Live Your Own Love Story, you may want to toss those lists by the wayside.

Just from the title, you know this isn’t about to be your typical dating guide. Forget fulfilling the perfect he, she or they expectations or happily ever after clichés. In this guide, Hoffman uses her decades of experience as a dating coach to debunk "fairy tale" dating myths and empower readers to find fulfilling relationships grounded in reality.

Eager to improve my dating skills in 2024, I sat down with Hoffman for an illuminating conversation. Here are the six tips she broke down for me to find love this year.

1. Shorten Your List

“When people come to me with a very long list, a lot of times it’s is not usually realistic or attainable," Hoffman drops candidly. “He’s gotta be six feet tall or taller, as educated and more successful as I am. One list I read said he must have nice teeth and do yoga. But what does that tell you about the kind of person he is?” Hoffman points out that some things on our lists may be what our parents want or how romcoms or fairy tales influence us. “They don't equate to long-term compatibility.” Instead of creating a laundry list, Hoffman suggests a criteria of three must-haves and only one dealbreaker. “We need to begin with relationship goals first and develop a list driven by values and goals for the future, not by superficial qualities that may not impact our lives in the way we fantasized about it.”

2. Follow The Pillars

“In all my 17 years of coaching, these are the pillars I've identified as the consistent elements in successful relationships that lead to long-term compatibility,” Hoffman declares. The first is Shared Goals for the Future. “The path can shift and change; maybe you want to have kids and biologically can’t, so you make amends. But to know that you're traveling the same path is important to build the next pillar: Values," Hoffman continues. "If you have the same values, meaning you look at the world in the same way and you rank similar things in order of their importance in your life, you're going to make investments of your time, energy, and finances in a similar order.” Communication is next. “Having it will allow you to navigate through any life discrepancies or changes.” Hoffman reveals that the last pillar, Trust, is “the hardest one to build. It takes time to see how someone's words and actions align. And that's the one you need in the future when you're moving into commitment and long-term compatibility.”

3. Choose Curiosity Over Chemistry

Feeling butterflies on a first date is tantalizing, but it doesn’t guarantee you’ve met your match. “I feel like the chemistry myth is where I've gotten the most pushback from people,” Hoffman reveals. “Everybody thinks, ‘Wait, you don't believe in chemistry?’ It's not that you shouldn't feel chemistry; you should feel something, but I try to reframe it as going for curiosity over chemistry, which is a literal chemical reaction. You can’t really fall in love at first sight because you don't know anything else about that person. All you know is that you are attracted to them. It’s not a true connection yet.” By allowing yourself to be curious, you can learn more about the person to see if your first two pillars align. Hoffman does add that chemistry is different from sexual compatibility, and yes, it does have its role. “I have the three-date rule, where if you don't start feeling that kind of affectionate compatibility by the third date, then it's probably not going to happen. You’ve given it enough time to develop.”

F the Fairy Tale by Damona Hoffman. Image: Amazon.
4. Cycle through the Apps

Technology and travel have changed how we date. We can search anywhere for the one with just one click. And that can be overwhelming. “The cycle and the shelf life of dating apps is very fast, and the speed of dating is one of the things that has changed the most dramatically since I started coaching. I don't want people to get to the point of burnout or frustration with the dating app that they're on because then you're not dating from a place of competence and clarity." Hoffman's strategy is to spend a month or so on only one site, then switch to a different one for another month or so. “When people sign up for multiple apps at once, they get overwhelmed, are unable to keep up with the communication and feel drained. And I find that in about four weeks, you've run through the first batch of matches, and then it becomes a different process of waiting for new people to jump on the app or to log in. The app cycling helps it feel fresh again.”

5. Change Your Routine

To meet new people, you’ve got to change your environment. “We're creatures of habit; we tend to do the same thing the same way, and it's very hard to break out of that routine. Looking at a place like Eventbrite for different kinds of events, not necessarily singles events, but just different events to get new people into your circle, or strategically going somewhere where the kind of person you hope to meet might be is a good start. If you’re into charity or philanthropy, make a point of going to a charity event that aligns with your values. You’ll have already checked that box meeting someone with the same value.s” It’s not just about finding dates, Hoffman stresses. “The people that you’ll meet are not necessarily people that you directly date, but they are people you can add to your connector circle who may know potential dates for you. I feel like we've gotten reliant on dating apps, and I love dating apps. But we sometimes forget that other tools should be in our dating toolbox as well.”

6. Cross That Line

Hoffman suggests examining all potential mates, even if they aren’t in your race. “I cohosted a show called #BlackLove. I am unabashedly pro-Black love and unabashedly pro-Black people, specifically black women, being loved. It's hard enough out here in the world for us to feel that love, so I don't believe in just limiting your dating pool by race," she declares. "If there is love for you out there, I want you to be open to finding it." Hoffman admits she has gotten pushback sometimes for saying that. "But I've supported a lot of Black women over the years, and it's more important for me to see them happy with whomever they find. I am thrilled to see happy, successful Black couples out in the world. But I’m also saying, let’s be open, and let's have more love in our lives.”

F The Fairy Tale is available on Amazon.