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Why Being Your True Self Won’t Lead To Lasting Love

And 6 tips on what will.

“You laugh at me because I’m different. I laugh at you because you are all the same.” — Lady Gaga

You do you, must be the most well-worn advice in the dating world.

Watch any dating show and you’ll hear it again and again: Be yourself. Don’t hide who you truly are. Authenticity is the key to the door of lasting love. And on it goes.

But is it? Is it smart to date with a view to presenting the whole of who you are? Do you even know? And, even if you think you do, surely it’s better to drip feed all your craziness — not flood someone with it.

Authenticity is cool in theory but it’s also the product of the ego-bound world we live in. It can make you too self-focused when trying to meet someone, which can, in turn, make you either anxious — or, let’s face it, boring.

It’s better to go into love with a purer (and easier) aim: to get to know the other person in a relaxed way. And then to see where it takes you.

We’re Not Sure Who We Are — Especially in Love

When you think about it, how could we know? A lucky few 14-year-olds lock eyes across a crowded classroom and get it right from the get-go — but most of us stumble into love with our L-plates on.

We learn from our parents who, while they may have done their best, often haven’t modelled ideal relationships. And, even if they have, we don’t want what they have, we want something purpose-built for ourselves and the world we now live in.

We also learn from our own relationships — and when those are with the wrong person, or someone who is toxic for us, the lesson can get horribly messed up. And so can we.

So instead of desperately trying to be your True Self, here’s are some better, healthier things to do.

6 Healthy Tips for Finding Lasting Love

1. Get to know your own craziness.

We’re all crazy, so let go of trying to pretend you’re not. Humans are complex beings, especially when we try to be with someone else. The great trick in love is to accept that we’re all a little crazy — we have vulnerabilities, triggers, hot spots and inter-relational styles borne of our emotional histories and previous relationships. The more we know and understand these, the better equipped we are to get into a healthy relationship. And how we deal with our own, and each other’s, craziness ultimately defines the success of our relationships.

2. Know what you’re good at — and what YOU like to do.

When people come out of long relationships, they’ll often say they’ve lost sight of who they are. That’s because, over time, we morph and adapt ourselves to whoever we’re with — often just to make the relationship work (or keep working).

So before you dive into (or back into) the love arena, write two lists: (1) 10 things you’re good at and (2) 10 things you love to do. Then ask yourself if you are regularly expressing and/or doing at least some of these things? What MUST you make more time for. Note: if you can’t write these lists you might not be ready to jump into something new.

3. Don’t serial date: spend enough time alone to be okay with it.

Being alone is an essential life skill. Check in on yourself: are you a person who NEEDS to be with someone else? Or do you want to be in a relationship because a (great) relationship would add to your life? Be honest with your answer — plenty of people stay in unhealthy relationships because they need to be — that is, they’re scared to be alone. But if you leap from relationship to relationship you risk shaping yourself around your partners, rather than discovering, and enjoying, more about yourself.

4. Date for the right reasons — not the wrong ones.

Almost everyone dates to relieve loneliness, for sex, for revenge, to keep up with what the ex is doing and/or to feel worthy. BUT…dating for any of those reasons can lead you into trouble. Date for fun or exploration or novelty or because you can or because someone interests you or whatever —just make sure when you start out you don’t place heavy expectation on the outcome. Because gunning for Happy Ever After will either suck the joy out of it or break your heart.

5. Don’t date dicks (for too long).

We’ve all done it. Okay, maybe those lucky 14-year-olds (see above) haven’t, but most of us have made a poor choice or two. There’s no shame in that: dating badly (or someone who’s not good for you) is often how you discover what “good” or even “great” is. But when the Big Red Flags are being waved under your nose, and they keep flapping, don’t ignore them. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to make your break for freedom. And the more scars you’ll carry forward when you do.

6. When you (really) like someone, jump with two feet.

We all aware that, ultimately, loving another person is a choice. But it can be hard to know who to choose and when to commit to that choice. That’s why people often enter — and stay in — relationships half-heartedly, which sets them up for failure. Or a long stay in an unhealthy place.

The scary truth is we can never fully know someone else at the beginning. And people change. But you can take your time to get to know them — don’t go all in too quickly. Do your best to ensure the person you’re leaping towards is a decent human. (Don’t take your own word for that — peer into his or her history and don’t be shy about asking a few well-placed questions).

Then, when you’re as sure as it’s possible to be, jump. Not with one foot — with two. It’s your best shot at a solid landing.

Thanks for reading! Join my email list here if you’re interested in practical psychology for everyday life.

Clinical psychologist, writer. Editor of On the Couch: Practical psychology for everyday life. karen@onthecouch.co.nz

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