As a psychotherapist who has worked with thousands of single people over the past 27 years, I’ve come to the conclusion that the way we’re taught to approach relationships is more likely to lead to heartbreak than to lasting love.
Whether you’re just getting back into the dating game or have been at it for a while, you’ve probably experienced some of the anxiety that comes with the search for true love. But much of that is the unnecessary byproduct of how we’ve been conditioned to approach our dating life.
In other words, it makes sense that we feel lost. We’ve been handed a defective map of the path to love!
Take a look at most of the popular dating advice. What are single people constantly encouraged to do? Improve themselves if they wish to find love.
“Lose weight. Get in shape. Dress better. Be confident. Cast a wider net. Be a vixen, learn to seduce. Keep your partner guessing.” In this worldview, youth, beauty and confidence are the magic talismans that lead to success.
Yet all those exhortations to “improve” ultimately erode whatever confidence we may have started with. The bottom line is, this soulless approach doesn't lead to love. It leads to insecurity and desperation.
There is a wiser path to finding love, though, one that’s not based on game-playing or cosmetic change. It’s based upon revealing who we really are and then choosing only people who truly value us. Best of all, I’ve found that this approach, which I call “Deeper Dating,” actually favors people in their late 40s, 50s and older because at this stage of life, we are much less willing to waste our time in the pursuit of unhealthy relationships.
I’ve boiled the dating process down to four steps that are likely to lead to healthy love. And you’ll be pleased to know that none of them relates to your age, hairline or waist size.
We’ve all heard some version of these ideas before. Yet in our 20s, 30s and even our early 40s, most of us weren’t ready to listen. The thrill of the hunt still blinded us. But as we enter midlife, the idea of building sustainable and sustaining love becomes more compelling than ever.
(MORE: Considering a New Relationship? Try Cooking Together First)
4 Steps to Finding Lasting Love
1. Give up on your “attractions of deprivation.” It’s easy to become attracted to people who can almost commit — who treat us wonderfully then demean or ignore us. These attractions spring from early feelings of inadequacy, usually in relation to our parents. There’s nothing more exciting than trying to seduce these partners into loving us fully. There’s also nothing more frustrating. We always feel we’re one step away from “getting it right.”
Because these relationships are highly charged and gnawingly addictive, I call them “attractions of deprivation.”
At a certain point — and this is one of the great gifts of getting older — many of us decide we don’t want to be hurt like that again. We’d rather be alone than in a bad relationship. We’ve been there and done that, and we’re done. When we reach this stage, a dead-end era of our dating lives draws to a close, and we can begin the real work of intimacy: cultivating our attraction to relationships that feed and nurture us.