The way you go about your dating life determines the kind of relationships that you end up with

Whether you’re married or dating and looking to improve your relationship,

or looking for the tools needed to create the intimacy you want in your life,

we’re about to cover the most important points to help you best navigate the often rocky relationship-terrain.

It should come as no surprise to you by now that I have a select few digital mentors that I genuinely look up to.

What we’re about to analyse we’re going to achieve by essentially ‘picking the brain’ of Mark Manson, who amongst all the blogging and literary success, spent years as a Dating and Relationship Coach.

Save your hard-earned and gain all the dating and relationship advice you’ll ever need right here.

The basic premise we’ll be working from is that,

to improve your relationship or dating life,

you must improve your emotional life.

As we analyse relationships and dating, the key subjects we’ll be discussing are:

  • cultural narratives
  • inferiority and inadequacy
  • attachment types
  • vulnerability
  • assortment theory
  • taking care of yourself first
  • boundaries
  • the Big Three

“heart marker print” by Michael Fenton on Unsplash

Cultural Narratives

Cultural narratives are preconceived notions or beliefs about relationships, about sex, about men and women,

that are ever present in our culture,

that we have grown up to assume to be true.

We accept these narratives at face value without questioning them,

and it turns out that a lot of these narratives can actually hold us back in many situations.

Cultural narratives play a huge role in how they affect you and your relationships, and your ability to find intimacy.

You need to be able to identify the cultural narrative that has affected you, how it has affected you, and what you can learn from this?

There are essentially three cultural narratives.

Sex:

What has your culture taught you about sex that may be hurting you or holding you back in certain ways?

You may come from a religious background where you’re taught that sex is somehow dirty or immoral.

Or that sex is only appropriate within the confines of marriage.

This is a really unhealthy cultural narrative that gets passed along, despite the fact that almost everybody legitimately enjoys sex, everybody thinks about sex, everybody fantasizes about sex.

So when we stifle these thoughts and these urges we’re actually just stifling a part of ourselves.

Love:

Love gets a lot of airtime in our culture. There’s a huge idealization of romance and love in many cultures.

That love conquers all. That love lasts forever.

None of these narratives lead to a healthy relationship of course.

Love is great, but you need to realize that love is not more important than you, love is not more important than your partner, love is not more important than treating each other respectfully.

Ultimately, love needs to be downgraded a little bit.

Love needs to be downgraded below self-esteem, below self-respect, respect for one another, and open communication.

Gender:

Generally speaking, we live in a much more open society these days.

Unfortunately though, there are still a lot of cultural narratives around both men and women.

The notion that women are inherently more emotional and therefore irrational.

Or the notion that men are unemotional and only care about sex and power.


The Inferiority Gap

What happens when we bring together these cultural narratives and our own traumatic life experiences that also influence our perceptions of sex, love and gender, and our own self-worth in a relationship?

When you take these unhealthy cultural narratives and put them together with your traumatic life experiences, you create this large sense of lack of worthiness or inadequacy.

So we often come to our relationships with an inherent sense of inadequacy, a sense that we’re not worthy. And when we sense these “inferiority gaps”, we demonstrate overcompensating behaviors, we end up with a need to prove ourselves.

People try to overcompensate for their sense of inferiority and this just leads to self-sabotaging behavior which they bring to a relationship.

A man who puts women on a pedestal will objectify them and display neediness and desperation, thereby making himself unattractive to the women he meets.

A woman who believes that men are chauvinists and only want sex will feel entitled to behave selfishly, thereby destroying her own chances at having any honest and trustworthy relationship.

Again, all these behaviors are inspired by feelings of inferiority or inadequacy and are often referred to as “performance behaviors”.

Because you’re not actually being authentic about how you feel about yourself, and you’re trying to portray an image to someone else — you’re “performing” to prove that you’re not inferior.

So “performance behaviors” are when you do something not because you want to, but because you’re supposed to, otherwise others will disapprove of you or stop loving you.

Like trying to fake being ‘cooler’ than you actually are. Like trying to fake knowing more than you actually do. Like trying to fake that you earn more money than you actually do.

You shouldn’t feel you need to be anything other than yourself to earn intimacy, attention, sex or love

We all want to be liked. But the problem with “performance behaviors” is that they’re exhausting, they reinforce low self-esteem and they inhibit trust.


Attachment Types

When we have these inferiority gaps in certain areas of our lives, we generally respond in one of two ways:

we try to control that inferiority gap and try to overcompensate and prove that we’re worthy of it;

or we simply avoid it and stay away from it.

The first of these reactions refers to the “anxious attachment type”.

This could be a man who is very jealous and possessive of his wife, always needing to know where she is and refusing to let her go out anywhere without him.

Or this could be a woman who is obsessed with her self-image, seeks plastic surgery and spends money she might not have on nice clothes — and finds herself sleeping around with lots of men in order to prove to herself that she is desirable and beautiful.

The second of these reactions refers to the “avoidant attachment type”.

This could be a man who dates women frequently, yet avoids intimacy because he feels shame about his sexuality.

Or this could be a woman who has been traumatized by an ex-husband who left her and she simply avoids romantic situations altogether — to the point where she may not even notice when men make romantic gestures towards her.

The interesting thing here is that opposite attachment types tend to attract one another — which is almost always a recipe for a toxic relationship.

Finally, we also have the “secure attachment type”.

They have no inferiority gap. They don’t feel a need to control or run away from their intimate situations.

These types often end up dating each other but can also date either anxious or avoidant people. Surprisingly, these types can actually help anxious and avoidant people overcome their attachment issues.


Vulnerability

Vulnerability is the only bridge to build connection

The answer to the inferiority gap and solving the dysfunctional attachment types lies in vulnerability.

So when we talk about the inferiority gap and our attachment types, the way we actually overcome those hurdles is to make ourselves vulnerable, to expose ourselves.

Vulnerability refers to any situation where you stop trying to defend yourself, where you stop trying to control other people’s perceptions of you.

If you’re trying to be vulnerable then you’re not being vulnerable. Being vulnerable is a letting go of control.

When you’re vulnerable, you’re basically implying that you’re of equal status.

When you’re vulnerable you remove all performance, you remove all overcompensating behaviors, and you act as if you’re already level with what makes you insecure or anxious.

Vulnerability reinforces to your unconscious that you are worthy, that you are adequate.

Interestingly, research shows that vulnerability builds self-esteem, trust and intimacy with others. It removes shame and banishes the inferiority gap.


Assortment Theory

The mindsets you adopt in pursuing your relationships determine the relationships you end up with.

What you value in yourself and in the people you pursue you will find people of similar values who end up attracted to you.

This concept applies to almost everything.

If you highly value education and intelligence for instance, you’re more likely to attract someone who also values education and intelligence.

Human attraction is based on values. What you value is what you’re attracted to.

So if you want to change the people that are attracted to you, then you need to change your values.

Ultimately, all relationship and dating advice is self-help in disguise.

You want a better relationship? Improve yourself.

You want a better dating experience? Improve yourself.

When you improve yourself you improve the quality of your relationships.


Taking Care Of Yourself First

We generally look for people outside of ourselves to fill the gaps in our self-worth. And because of this, we prioritize these things too high.

One way to overcome these inferiority gaps or these values that we fixate on that are hurting us, is to find something else that’s more important.

The best way to meet somebody is to have things that are more important than meeting somebody

The best way to meet someone who’s going to enrich your life is to already have an enriched life.

When we try to fill the gaps within ourselves with other people, all we do is drive other people away and make our gaps even larger. Ultimately we need to fill these gaps ourselves.

You need to start taking care of yourself first.

And within this context, there’s a minimum requirement for maintaining a happy relationship with your partner:

(1) Take care of your health and appearance — for you, not for your partner. This means exercising regularly, bathing regularly, taking care of your hair, taking care of your skin, taking care of your teeth, and so on.

(2) Have hobbies that you enjoy, by yourself, and for no other reason than for yourself.

(3) Have your own friends that are yours, that are not based strictly on the relationship itself.

(4) Have your own employment or your own responsibilities, something you’re accountable for.

When you lack a strong identity, you can become unnecessarily needy or dependent on the identity of your partner’s, and this puts unhealthy pressure on both of you.


Boundaries

Relationship boundaries refer to not taking responsibility for your partner’s actions and emotions and not expecting your partner to take responsibility for your actions and emotions.

Boundaries are an integral part of all healthy relationships.

You don’t get to decide how your partner feels. And your partner doesn’t get to decide how you feel.

It’s obviously important for you to want your partner to be happy. But it’s not your responsibility for your partner to be happy.

Healthy relationship boundaries don’t mean that you have to stop caring about your partner — it’s just about responsibility.

You need to be able to separate responsibility from empathy and from caring about someone else.


The Big Three

“I find the best way to love someone is not to change them, but instead, help them reveal the greatest version of themselves” — Steve Maraboli

What are the core values that are necessary for any healthy and stable relationship?

My parents have been married for 51 years and I can honestly say that there are three values, which for them, have been prioritized higher than any other value.

(1) Trust.

(2) Respect.

(3) Empathy.

I’ve been happily married for 5 years now. But when I look back at my adult life, I can easily see how I prioritized these three core values in my past relationships.

I can see now which values had been high priorities and which values had been low priorities.

I can see now how the lack of priority for at least one of these values, or more, adversely affected my past relationships.

(1) Trust

The worst thing about being lied to is knowing you’re not worth the truth

Trust is the foundation of any healthy and stable relationship.

Without trust, there’s basically no relationship.

If you don’t trust the person you’re with, then it’s almost impossible to get your needs met in a really deep and fulfilling way from that person, because you don’t know if their intentions are true.

If you can’t trust your partner when they express what they think or how they feel, there’s no point being with them, because you essentially don’t know who they are, and everything else is going to be pretty much a guessing game.

A lot of people have a tendency to subjugate trust in their relationship in the guise of romance or feeling good.

But the minute trust leaves a relationship, a relationship is over.

Trust is paramount, it’s the top priority, and if it’s not there, you simply don’t have anything.

If trust in not there, there is not a relationship there. Period.

If you’re in a relationship right now where you don’t trust your partner, or your partner doesn’t trust you, this is a massive red flag.

Demanding trust in your relationship is ultimately about self-respect.

If you choose to put up with someone who mistreats you or lies to you, you’re just treating yourself poorly by remaining in such a relationship.


(2) Respect

Respect other people’s feelings. Even if it does not mean anything to you, it could mean everything to them

Respects grows on top of trust, and it exists when two people value each other’s feelings, actions and thoughts, the same amount as their own.

People have different needs. You may need alone time but that doesn’t mean you don’t love your partner. Rather, your partner respects that you have different needs to them and they help you to meet them. And vice versa.

Respect comes down to appreciating each other’s differences and being willing to help one another to accommodate those differences.

It’s about mutually-beneficial growth.

If you don’t have a partner who helps you meet your own needs in your own way, then you don’t have a partner, you have a tyrant.

Ideally you want two people who look up to each other’s thoughts, emotions and behaviors, because that’s admiration.

And mutual admiration in a relationship is extremely important and healthy if you can find different areas that you both admire in each other.

The interesting thing with respect is that you can’t have respect, unless you have trust.

And if you can’t trust your partner then you’re not going to be able to respect anything they say or do.


(3) Empathy

Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another

In order for a relationship to work well, both partners must be capable of understanding each other’s perspective.

If you’re going to be with someone who can’t look outside of their own feelings and understand how you’re feeling, and understand what your perspective in a situation is, you’re in for a rough time.

Inevitably, in every relationship there’s conflict, and when you have conflict it’s insanely important for you be able to step into your partner’s shoes and look through their eyes and understand how they may be feeling. And it’s insanely important for them to be able to do the same with you.

If you’re with someone who lacks the ability to put themselves in your shoes, then you’re married to, or dating someone, who does not want a relationship.

Empathy is where the blessings of a committed relationship come from.

Empathy makes every experience better.

Empathy makes intimacy better.

Empathy makes life easier and more hopeful.

To recap:

Without trust, there is no respect.

Without respect, there is no empathy.

And without empathy, there is no relationship. It’s simply two people going through the motions.


In Conclusion

We have looked at relationships and dating, and analysed the following key subjects:

  • cultural narratives
  • inferiority and inadequacy
  • attachment types
  • vulnerability
  • assortment theory
  • taking care of yourself first
  • boundaries
  • the Big Three

The most important values of any healthy relationship are trust, respect and empathy.


“man and woman standing while kissing beside street signage” by freestocks.org on Unsplash

George is a writer focusing on writing, books, self-improvement and personal development.
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George is a writer focusing on writing, books, self-improvement and personal development.
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