The Fatal Flaw in Dating Advice
Most dating advice promises to lead us to lasting love, but erodes our chance of ever finding it. It relentlessly focuses on one thing — your attractiveness. In reality, the secret to success is less about your attractiveness, and more about your attractions.
The list is endless: Learn to be irresistible. Play hard to get. Act confident. Become an alpha man. Attract an alpha man. Become a feminine goddess. Become a bitch. These tips shine with the promise of self-transformation, but embedded within is an ugly Trojan Horse — the belief that, when it really comes down to it, you’re simply not attractive enough.
Seductive and compelling as it may be, this path is a decoy and a detour from intimacy. It subtly teaches us to be ashamed of our humanity, which is why it’s bound to fail. We can’t hold our stomachs on forever. We’re not seamlessly confident. We are sometimes — maybe more than sometimes — needy. Becoming “irresistible” is not a sane goal. Nor does it work, because when our humanity feels like a shameful secret, we have no choice but to push love away.
That’s not to say that becoming more attractive isn’t a great thing; it is. It’s a gift to ourselves and to our future partner. Yet when it becomes our primary path to finding love, it’s like being slowly poisoned, without ever knowing the source.
I know, because I’ve been there, and so have many of my clients.
There is a much more fruitful path, which also happens to lead to a happier life. This path involves a focus not just on our attractiveness, but on our attractions. There’s a deeper physics to the subject of attraction, and most of us have never been given the tools to understand it. Following are three concepts I’ve found immensely helpful for anyone who desires both romantic love and a richer understanding of his or her own life:
1. While we can’t force our attractions, we can educate them.
We truly can change the nature and shape of our romantic and sexual attractions. It’s not a quick process; like turning a ship at sea, it takes time for our attractions to change, but I’ve seen it in my own life and in the lives of many of my clients and readers. In my book Deeper Dating, I describe two types of attractions that most of us experience: attractions of deprivation and attractions of inspiration.
In attractions of deprivation, our desire is fueled by the longing to get someone to, finally, finally love us in an essentially stable, committed, and kind way. These attractions can be incredibly seductive. They can feel like real love, but in the end, they leave us empty-handed.
Happily, almost all of us can also experience the attractions of inspiration, which are far more likely to lead to happiness. These relationships have warmth and ease to them. In these relationships, our challenge is to accept and return our partner’s caring, not to continuously try to win that caring. Attractions of inspiration are fueled by the sense of well-being these relationships are created in us, not by the unrelenting itch for something that’s denied us. We feel seen, and we feel safe, in an essential way. Many of us have to develop a taste for these relationships because they’ve been so unfamiliar to us.
When we learn to recognize the types of attractions of deprivation, we repeatedly get drawn into, we can make the choice to avoid them. It’s not easy work, but it’s the key to a happier romantic future.
2. Our attractions can educate us.
The Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega Y Gasset expressed this exquisitely: “The type of human being we prefer reveals the contours of our heart.” Our attraction to deprivation reveals to us the parts of ourselves we haven’t yet learned to love, which is why we allow them to be trampled upon. And our attraction of inspiration teaches us the path to life happiness. I’ve come to strongly believe that the parts of ourselves we think we need to hide, suppress, and tone down are often the most beautiful and important parts — the very parts that will draw people who will love us for who we are. I call these our “Core Gifts.”
3. As we learn to cherish our own humanity and stop trying to force ourselves into more attractive packaging, we begin to find ourselves meeting (and being attracted to) people who are kinder, more generous, and more available.
This never ceases to amaze me. And we find ourselves less likely to want to run for the hills when, amazingly, they like us back. Far better than attempting to become irresistible is the heroic act of becoming ourselves — and gaining the dignity to only choose people who value us for who we really are. That’s when our search for love stops being a painful game of chance and becomes a journey that’s truly worth our time.