The Dating MakeoverPart Three: Flirting 101

Editor's note: This article is the third installment in a four-part series. Think you missed a week? Get the full recap!

Read what dating expert Sherry Amatenstein taught iVillager Kirsten this week -- and how it can work for you, too.

First, the fun facts about Kirsten:
iVillage name: Kim427
Age: 35
Hometown: Atlanta
Favorite TV Shows: Third Watch and Friends
High Heels or Flats? "I have to wear high heels to work, so I prefer flats"
Chocolate or Vanilla? Vanilla -- she's allergic to chocolate!
Dream Car: Convertible Saab 900 Turbo
Dating Dilemma: "I always meet men who need me to fix them!"

Week Three Recap: Rewriting the Past

It was a tough week for Kirsten. She had a birthday -- a tough marker in any year, but the first since her mother's passing. "She was often hateful to me, but I still missed her call," she said.

Happily, Kirsten found it helpful to rewrite a negative scenario from childhood. (This exercise aimed to mentally revise attraction patterns that were formed by hurtful incidents from the past.) "When my mom used to say my sister was pretty but I wasn't, I wouldn't respond," she said. "In my journal I made my mom tell me that she loved me. It made me feel better, and I even realized that in her way, Mom did the best she could. She didn't come from a happy, secure place herself, and she took her pain out on me."

To further uproot demons from childhood, Kirsten is using the stop/erase/replace behavioral technique. (Whenever the thought "I'm not good enough" bubbles up, she replaces it with "I'm a fabulous human being.") "It's tough, but it's working. I'm starting not to walk around quite as often putting myself down." She laughs. "I've surrounded myself with little sticky notes reminding me how fabulous I am."

On the next page: Get your dating homework.

Recognizing Your Own Importance
Although Kirsten is still waiting to get input from people she asked to recount her positive traits, she is finding it easier to ask for favors. "I've got friends doing everything for me from baby-sitting to mowing my lawn," she said. "I just never felt that I deserved having others do nice things for me. And they're all saying, 'Sure, why didn't you ever ask me before?'"

She also never felt that a "successful" man would be interested in her. "I've always been drawn to guys not doing well in life, guys who will hurt me. This week a guy with kind eyes wearing a suit started talking to me at the library. He was a lawyer, and I thought, 'Gee, he's not that different from me.' He was very nice." It didn't occur to Kirsten he might have wanted her number. I give her homework: "Go up and flirt with the type of guy you never dreamed would give you the time of day. And start noticing when guys like that look your way." She laughed. "My sister always says a good guy could come up and smack me and I wouldn't even notice."

Realistic (and Wonderful) New Expectations
She's just about finished with her romantic resume but is still working on her future list. "From now on I want someone who appreciates me the way I am instead of trying to change me. I also want to be with a guy who nurtures me, instead of trying to cut me off from other people. I found out that during my marriage when my friends or family would call, my ex-husband would lie and say I wasn't there."

Before next week (our last session), I tell Kirsten to do a symbolic ceremony with candles and music while she destroys her romantic resume. I tell her, "Out with the old patterns, in with the new." I suggest she devise a maintenance plan so that she doesn't backslide after our sessions end. She says: "The past few weeks have been scary. I've been seeing just how much I've been the Queen of Negative. I'm at the point now where I look in the mirror and see a lovable person."

It looks as if Kirsten gave herself the best birthday present of all: a nascent feeling of self-esteem.

Bring Sherry's ideas to life by trying this homework this week:

  • Begin a Romantic Future List
  • Institute the stop/erase/replace negative thought stopping technique
  • "Rewrite" the outcome of a negative incident from your past
  • Ask people in your life qualities they value about you
  • Instead of continually giving help, ask for it

Need more dating advice? Catch up on what Sherry taught Kirsten during weeks one and two.

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