“Being vulnerable is not weakness. It is an essential component to being human. It reminds me that what I have to offer others is of value. and that I matter as a person.”Tony Lapointe
The whole “dating” thing is an interesting topic for me, especially because I for the most part completely suck at it. OR…I’m so good at it that I continue to keep having first dates repeatedly! In the spirit of embracing authenticity however, I have been ruminating on the question of how does one reflect authenticity in their dating life?
I have read countless articles, books and the like that all talk about dating and the “do’s and don’ts” to go with it. What to include in profile write ups, what to avoid, how many pictures to have, how many is too many, what kinds of pictures to include, listing hobbies, don’t list hobbies, be direct but not to direct, say what you want honestly but don’t scare people away. Avoid the laundry list of “must have’s”, its like a resume but not really. When do you express affection? Do you have sex on the first date? Second date? Third date? When do you tell him/her you’re interested in them? That you like like them? Sigh.
To be honest, it feels like a futile exercise in marketing. What’s the target market, how are they segmented, what message do they need to hear to be attracted, once you have them interested, how do you keep them? Anyone remember Marketing 101?
I recently saw a graphic from someone on Facebook that essentially draws out the process:
Yep…that’s my dating life. And it’s the same with many others I have no doubt.
The natural consequence of this is that it erodes one’s self confidence and self image. Having this done over and over and over leads one to believe they are no longer desirable, that they have nothing of value to offer another (or what they do have to offer others don’t want) and that they will ultimately be alone. This sense of loneliness can lead people to make some impulsive decisions in an effort to avoid feeling lonely. And because of that desperation, those relationships tend to be unhealthy, ultimately leading to separation and starting the whole process over again.
So what does authenticity look like in dating? For me it means being vulnerable. Not like sharing deep dark secrets vulnerable, (at least not right away), but more in the arena of saying boneheaded things out of excitement or anxiety or fear and then feeling vulnerable and anxious in that moment while trying to ward off any sense of shame.
That’s where I feel most vulnerable. Not in sharing stories of my past (painful ones and joyful ones), but in that moment when I ramble on about nothing that has no logical connection to the conversation and they realize I really have no idea what I’m talking about in that moment. In that instant, I feel vulnerable. Trying desperately to recenter myself and ward off the anxiety I feel. But that shame goes to the background. It lurks like an evil force that follows me everywhere I go.
I think authenticity means confronting that shame and fear head on. Not allowing it to go to the background but acknowledging it in that moment even just to ourselves.
So why do others seem to be able to do this stuff so easily? True or not, my perspective is that those who appear to be “good at” the dating game either have no interest in investing themselves emotionally or they are projecting an image of confidence to hide their vulnerability.
If we want to develop relationships that are sustainable for the long run and satisfying to both parties, we need to learn how to confront the fear and anxiety and shame that comes when we reflect who we truly are to those around us. Of course, rejection is a natural part of this process when searching for a life partner. However, accepting that this vulnerability is preparation for our future mate is essential because without it, we will not be our true selves with another. If we want to develop a relationship that lasts, is meaningful and life giving, we must be prepared to be our authentic selves even when it hurts. That’s what makes the relationships we do have worth fighting for.