Beneath the glitz of much dating advice lies a cynical reverence for the power of packaging and promotion: “Women, be a vixen. Men, learn to seduce. Everyone keep your partner guessing. Lose weight. Be confident. Get out there more.” At the end of the day, this approach doesn't lead to love. It leads to insecurity and desperation. Luckily, there is a wiser way.
In my (many) years of dating, each of these three myths nailed me over and over again, sending me on constant forays into the land of “always trying, never good enough.” I’ve seen them do the same for many of my clients and friends.
Play It Cool
One of the most damaging dating myths is that playing it cool is the best way to attract love. Granted, it’s probably the best way to manipulate an unavailable person into staying with you. And yes, we all love mystery. However, most of us are trained to believe too strongly in the power of hard-to-get. The truth is, if you’re really great at playing it cool, you may have become afraid to trust. And if playing it cool feels foreign to you, you may get in trouble when you try it, acting detached until you can’t hold your feelings in any longer and then letting them all out at the moment you least want to.
Instead of the “rule” of coolness, try this “rule” instead: Be kind and available. Then watch. How does your date respond? If he or she appreciates those qualities in you, they’ve passed a major hurdle. If he or she gives you back the same, then they may well be just the kind of person you are looking for.
Yes, you will frighten people off with these qualities. And yes, people will try to take advantage of you. That’s exactly what you need to know! Your kindness and availability are quite simply the best filters for finding a relationship that has the potential for lasting happiness.
To Attract a Great Partner, You Have to Become Self-Confident
Honest, authentic self-confidence is a delight--- especially when it’s mixed with humility. But that kind of confidence comes from accepting our flaws and humanity. If we think we need to achieve self-confidence before we start looking for love, then we might as well break out the beach books and turn on the TV, because we’ll be waiting a very, very long time. The other option is to fake it by cultivating an airbrushed version of ourselves. This approach is celebrated on the cover of almost every magazine, and honed to witty perfection on countless popular television shows.
False self-confidence—the kind that reveals no self-doubt, and which disallows insecurity and need—almost always backfires. It somehow loops us back into relationships with people who agree with our secret fear that we really aren’t good enough.
I am not suggesting that you should share all your insecurities on your first date. But the vision of coolness, wit, and charm that we are taught to portray ultimately leaves us feeling hollow and defensive, constantly striving for an image that we’ll never achieve, because we will never be more than human.
One reason that seamless self-confidence doesn’t exist is because our greatest weaknesses often spring out of our deepest sensitivities, and those very sensitivities are part of our very deepest self. To amputate our weakness, we’d have to kill off parts of our very soul—and our psyche will fight to the death before allowing that to happen.
At the base of what we see as weakness or insecurity lies a part of our humanity, convulsively trying to make itself known. When we find and love the humanity at the core of our insecurity, we finally become amenable to growth, change and maturation.
It’s endlessly seductive to think we can just get past our vulnerabilities and radiate confidence, but that myth that can make us lose years of our lives seeking an invulnerability we can never attain—and which would in fact render us incapable of real love.
To Increase Your Chances of Finding Love, Play a Bigger Numbers Game
“Next!” has become the great dating cry of modern times. We’re taught that the larger the pool of potential mates, the greater our chances of finding love. The internet provides the greatest example of the seductive power of this myth. Much of its riptide draw lies in the vast number of immediate connections it promises single people.
I celebrate the power of the internet to bring more people together. Yet, in the end, it's really not about the numbers. It’s about who we are and how we relate. Here are three ways in which playing a bigger numbers game can actually hurt your chances of finding love:
1) The more you play a big numbers game, the less energy you’re likely to have for each new connection. So many potential dates, so little time! Therefore, with all the choices you have, you’ll probably go for the safest bet—the people who are the most intensely, compellingly attractive. And that's not necessarily the best way to choose your future mate.
2) The sheer number of possibilities have a numbing effect on us, so we shut down to the humanity of each new contact. It’s like the difference between a small town and a big city. Everyone says “hi” in a small town. In a big city, almost no one talks with strangers. The bigger the numbers, the more shut down and mechanical we become. And the more shut down and mechanical we become, the more our choices are based on simple sexual attraction attraction, and not the potential for deeper connection.
3) Most important of all: There’s a magic that happens when we do the work of opening up. It’s that indefinable quality of openness which allows real connection to happen. When booked for three back-to-back coffee dates with three different people, most of us will be too on-guard to let our softer, more emotional self emerge.
So much of the search for love is based upon intention. Bring your soul to the search, and things will unfold in a new way. Leave your soul aside and rely on numbers, and you’re likely to end up empty-handed. If you allow yourself to be open, aware and heartfelt in your day-to-day life, connections may begin to happen automatically: at the supermarket, on the street, or anywhere you may be. The more we learn to embrace and honor our own exquisite and imperfect humanity, the more we find that our search for love begins to change for the better.
Has your dating life been affected by these or other myths? Please share your stories.
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© 2012 Ken Page,LCSW. All Rights Reserved
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