“Just be yourself and don’t think so much about it. Then you’ll meet your dream partner when you least expect it.”
Sounds familiar, right?
But is it true? No.
This kind of dating advice is common and often well meant, but it’s actually harmful. It keeps people stuck in painful dating patterns that make them feel worse about themselves, because it promotes helplessness. The biggest problem with these kinds of dating myths is that they suggest that you should do nothing at all to solve your dating problems.
Don’t think about it. Don’t change anything. Just wait it out, and then the right person (meaning: a total stranger) will show up and make all of your problems disappear.
This is not a responsible way to deal with any problematic situation. If you’re struggling with your love life, you need to take charge of it in the same way that you would if you had problems with your health, career, or finances.
“Just be yourself” is probably not the strategy you use to get into shape, and you wouldn’t expect to get your dream job by just thinking that it “happens when it happens.”
No, you go to the gym, and you get the skills you need for the job.
Making an effort and learning new skills works for taking charge of your love life as well!
Let’s start with debunking five common dating myths that keep people stuck, passive, and helpless:
1. Myth: You just haven’t met the right person yet.
Putting all the power of your love life in the hands of a stranger that who you haven’t even met yet is unwise. The other person is the last piece of the puzzle—and the piece that you have the least control over. What you actually can control is who you are and the opportunities you create to meet someone.
Truth: Be the right person.
If you’re looking for the person who will transform your love life—look in the mirror. Don’t focus on finding the right person but on being the right person—someone who knows themselves well, has worked through their issues, and knows what a healthy relationship looks and feels like. Otherwise it doesn’t matter who or how many people you meet, your dysfunctional patterns will make a mess out of it anyway.
2. Myth: It happens when it happens.
If a married couple were struggling, you wouldn’t tell them it gets better when it gets better—you’d send them to couples counseling. So why do we ask single people to just accept their painful fate and hope for the best? If all you can do is wait, you are completely helpless, which is both painful and untrue. Waiting it out won’t help, but figuring it out will. You need to figure out what the problem is and solve it, just like you would with a problem in any other area of your life. Dating is a skill and you can learn it.
Truth: It happens when you’re good at it.
Take charge by seeing the connection between what you do and what happens. New behaviors create new results. Are you prioritizing meeting new people? Are you comfortable with flirting? Do you know how to create an emotional connection? Do you know what you want, what you’re worth, and what’s important to you? If not, you need to find those things out. Educate yourself by going to a seminar, reading a book by an expert, or listening to podcasts. Make it a priority to learn how to create what you want in your love life.
3. Myth: Just be yourself.
It’s flattering that your friends love you so much that they think being you is all it takes. The problem is that your friends haven’t seen what you’re like on a date. A lot of people behave differently with their friends than they do on a date. If you get nervous, really want to be liked, or spend the date overthinking if the other person likes you, you will make a different impression than the one you do when you’re just hanging out with your friends and being your most relaxed self. It will get even more awkward if, on top of all of that, you’re trying to force yourself to “just be yourself.”
Truth: You are allowed a learning curve.
If you get nervous about going on a date, lower the pressure by seeing it as a learning experience. It’s okay to not be great at it in the beginning and you are allowed to practice. For most people, an attitude of learning helps them to relax and focus on the experience itself, instead of on what it might or might not lead to. If you get so nervous that it prevents you from being present in the moment, it’s a good idea to get professional help from a dating coach or a therapist. It’s like having a personal trainer for your love life.
4. Myth: Don’t think so much about it.
Can you think of any other area in life where this would be considered a reasonable thing to say to someone who is struggling? At work? In the gym? In the kitchen? It is just as useless to say it to someone with dating problems. It is true that a lot of people overthink their dating problems, but no one ever stopped overthinking just because they were told to. And even if they did, it wouldn’t solve the dating problem.
Truth: Solve it.
Instead of not thinking about your problems, take action to solve them. Read a book about attachment styles, look up research on relationship psychology, google legitimate advice from dating coaches on how to create a really good online dating profile, and explore how you could tweak the dating experience into something that would feel really good for you. Maybe you don’t want to just sit down and talk, perhaps you would be way more comfortable on an adventure date or in a dance class.
5. Myth: The spark is there or it isn’t.
Many people go on dates with the intention to find out if there is any attraction or chemistry between them and the other person. We tend to think that if there is, it’s something special that happens all by itself. It’s not. Again, you are not that helpless. How hot and heavy the connection gets is something you can control.
Truth: You create the spark.
It’s not enough to just passively wait for a spark to flare up, you need to actively create the connection that you want. If you want a flirty, juicy, and playful date full of interesting conversations, you need to be flirty, juicy, playful, and interesting to have conversations with. Bring the things to the date that you want to experience on the date. Flirty vibes happen when you flirt, and friendly vibes happen when you’re behaving like a friend. It’s as simple as that.
But it helps when the other person knows how to flirt too.