Dating out of bounds

CHRISTY DESMITH | Updated 8/17/2012

Expand your dating pool by getting outside of your usual social comfort zone.

Some women are that way. Cindy, a 39-year-old occupational therapist who married a custodian, says there's just one issue: "It's my expectation that the kids go to college, whereas he's kind of like: 'If.'"

But another woman, a 52-year-old vice president at a major area corporation (she asked that her name be withheld), who has been married to a contractor and industrial arts teacher for 15 years, offered a series of clear-eyed assessments that echoed my own ambivalence. For starters, she and her girlfriends have stopped inviting boyfriends and husbands along on their outings (her husband doesn't fit in). And it might have hurt her at work, too: "If he were a professional person, I would probably be more apt to invite [colleagues] over," she said.

Even though these people's experiences range widely, there was one discernible constant: Each of them was previously stuck on a dating carousel, meeting the same sorts of people at the same sorts of places -- and always with the same results. Prior to meeting his wife, Jeremy had a thing for unemployed, financially needy chicks. Cindy dated "showy" guys who, perchance, "ended up being jerks." The vice president was dating a lot of professional men, but with little luck. In fact, after a string of dating mishaps, her brother, a contractor, finally offered this advice: "What you need is a regular guy, a carpenter, somebody who can do something! "

In my own case, I harbored an unhealthy attraction to self-centered, artistic men with whom I felt intellectually and professionally competitive. So by the time that persistent hunk came along -- ugly shoes and all -- I was emotionally exhausted and, frankly, ready to try my luck with an entirely different sort of sweetie: a gentle soul, someone who's down to Earth and especially kind. As for Jamie's bulging biceps and olive, sun-kissed skin -- the fruits of his chosen profession -- those things are pretty good, too. That's not to say blue-collar guys are better than the rest, only that it was time to try something new -- to let go of some very specific, fairy-tale ideas about what constitutes a suitable mate.

It's no surprise, then, that I met my boyfriend of nearly three years when I finally ventured outside the usual stamping grounds. I simply had to push past my comfort zone to find a fresh, new face and type -- and ultimately, he turned out to be Mr. Right.