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The 5 Toxic Dating Myths Everyone Needs to Reject
There are five myths about finding love that people tell us all the time we need to believe, but they actually damage us and lead us away from love. It leads us away from a truth that is actually much more empowering, healing and hopeful. Stay tuned to this episode of the Deeper Dating Podcast to learn more.
Hi, everybody and welcome to the Deeper Dating Podcast. I’m Ken Page. I’m a psychotherapist and the author of the book Deeper Dating, the Cofounder of the meeting event, Deeper Dating, and the host of this show. Today, I’m going to talk about five incredibly toxic dating myths that we all get taught and most of us believe and cause huge amounts of pain and misdirection in our search for love. This week and every week, I’m going to share the greatest tools that I know to help you find love, keep it flourishing, and heal your life in the process because truly, the skills of dating are the skills of intimacy. Those are the greatest skills of all for a rich and wonderful life. If you want to learn more about the deeper dating approach to finding love, just go to DeeperDatingPodcast.com. You can join my mailing list. You can get transcripts of every episode and find out about a lot of different resources and get some free gifts too.
Our attractions are more than just attractions. They are x-rays into the shape of our being.CLICK TO TWEETI also just want to say that everything I share in this podcast is educational in nature. It is not medical or psychiatric advice. If you have symptoms that are concerning you, please seek professional help. Finally, I would love it if you could leave a review if you could subscribe. Your reviews mean the world to me and people write beautiful, powerful, very personal, and specific things and that just meant a great deal to me and also helps other people find out about the show. Okay, so let’s dive in.
So often in my field, when I listen to people’s dating advice, God knows not everyone, but so many people’s dating advice. I just cringe because I’m aware that this advice is enacting a kind of violence against people’s spirits that lead them to love themselves less and ultimately end up having them being attracted to and choosing people who aren’t good for them because they’re not being their authentic self. This advice is in so many ways endemic. It’s all over the place. I’m going to talk about five myths that we have been trained to believe that actually cause a kind of psychic violence in our being and don’t lead to love. They lead to desperation. They lead to insecurity and they lead to artificial behavior that ends up getting us in trouble.
I think I’ve talked about this before, but Frédérick Leboyer, was a French obstetrician and author, who wrote a book called Birth without Violence. In it, he popularized gentle birthing techniques that did not involve slapping a baby or having the baby’s first breath be a cry. He would immerse the baby in water, the exact temperature that was in the mother’s womb, and let the baby somehow come to breathing on its own. The faces of these babies who are immersed in water, obviously not their faces, but their bodies are immersed in water and they’re being stroked. The umbilical cord is still attached and they take their first breath naturally. Their faces are so beautiful and Buddha-like. There are videos of this.
He promoted birth without violence and what I’m kind of promoting here is dating without violence. I’m going to talk about each of these different myths and I’m going to talk about why they’re not true and what I think is both true and healing in their place. Here’s the first one, and this is what I’ve spoken about before, but it is that it’s all about your attractiveness, not about your attractions. The key thing that you can do to find love looks better, look more attractive and act more attractive. This is, I would say the mother lode in terms of dating advice. This is where so much dating advice spends its time and energy. There is this relentless fixation on making yourself look smoking hot.
Absolutely, it is true that if you look smoking hot, more people are going to look at you. More people are going to want to have sex with you. More people might want to have a first date with you. All these things are true, but the statistics show that being smoking, smoking hot helps you just about not one drop in finding healthy, lasting love. I think we all know that people who are just exceedingly gorgeous-looking often have their own set of problems and in fact, the research shows, it’s often harder for them to find love. Even loving off those people who are just, you know, model-like gorgeous this fixation on those 5 pounds or 10 pounds or 30 pounds or 50 pounds or ways of acting that will seduce people. We’re going to get to that one later, but this fixation on our attractiveness and God knows I was eaten alive by that.
This information kind of chews us up in our 20s, 30s, even in our 40s and then just starts to spit us out when we reach our 50s and 60s and thereafter. This kind of tyrannical focus on how we look is just not true and I say this based on research. I say it on experience, my own personal experience because there was a period where I looked pretty smoking hot, I think. I worked on that really hard in my 20s and early 30s and it helped me not one drop. It helped me a lot to have sex. Yes, it did, but it helped me not one drop to find love because that’s not what really leads to love.
This focus, this relentless focus on our attractiveness really just does eat us up and misses the point in profound ways. I also want to say, well, first of all, it is great to make yourself look attractive. It’s an act of love to yourself. It’s a pleasurable experience. It is a gift to the person you date and research also shows that just the act of grooming yourself well and having good posture dramatically does improve your chance of being noticed. All of the other stuff of like kind of really getting to that extra unbelievable level, the effectiveness of that actually levels off.
Good posture and good grooming take up a huge amount of space in terms of success around attractiveness but after that, and in addition to that, what we really need to focus on if we want to find happiness in love is our attractions. I can’t promise, but I think that my next episode is going to be about being attracted to narcissists and how that happens, what we can do about it, and how that’s playing out in the world context right now and in our country. Getting back to this though, the ability to study, well, who are the kind of people that I tend to get attracted to? What kind of people turns me on the most? If I look at my patterns of relationships, what have been the negative patterns that I ended up discovering my partners had again and again? What are the key ones? What are the major ones so that I can know to look out for those?
Another question is, what are the qualities that were wonderful qualities that I found in some of the people that I dated or had relationships with? How can I look really more clearly and strongly for those same qualities again, because our attractions are more than just attractions? They’re X-rays into the shape of our being. They’re X-rays into the state of our self-love and self-honoring. In my book, my courses, and all my work, this is one phase of the journey that we always focus on, which is doing a study of our attractions to find out what that teaches about the parts of ourselves we haven’t learned how to love yet because they’re directly linked.
This crazy focus on your attractiveness, I promise you that you can let go of a huge percentage of it because it’s not what’s going to help you find the kind of love that’s going to last. It’s the deeper skills of intimacy and dating that we teach here that really make all the difference in the world. That’s one, this tyrannical, obsessive, painful, self-defeating relentless focus on extreme attractiveness. Here’s another one. You need to be confident if you want to find love. I’m just going to speak about this one briefly, but there is a relentless fixation on confidence as well, on coolness and confidence.
Now, natural confidence is a glorious thing. Just believing in ourselves and trusting ourselves, but in a way that has humility and flexibility, where we can acknowledge and admit the ways that we’re not perfect, but we’re somehow essentially confident in our goodness, our capacity, our decency. That’s just a glorious thing, unequivocally but the truth is that most of us spend some chunk of time not being confident. This belief that when we’re in that state, we can’t date. We can’t find love. We can’t build intimacy is hugely not true. There’s a set of skills of how to be with ourselves and be in the world when we’re feeling really shy when we’re feeling insecure when we’re feeling inadequate when we’re feeling uncertain. There’s a set of skills that we can learn where we can honor ourselves in the process and ask ourselves the huge question, “What do I need now?”
What we might need might be to ask somebody for something. It might be to have time and space alone. It might be any one of a number of things. When we’re not feeling confident, when we’re in a zone where we’re not feeling together and integrated, and our question becomes, “How can I come off that way?” We create a kind of corrosion of our internal structure. There’s a feeling of rumbling that we fight against all the time or I’ve described it as kind of climbing a wobbly ladder. The wiser question to ask is, “What do I need right now?” Which is much more self-loving question.
Instrumentality and Expressiveness
Confidence is great, natural confidence, but we do not need to force a confidence. The deeper and wiser path of confidence is knowing how to care for ourselves when we’re not feeling so confident and in truth. That’s authentic confidence. Here’s another one we hear all the time and I’ve talked about this a bunch, and I’m going to keep talking about it because it just kills me. So many well-known and well-respected teachers teach this information. I think it’s damaging and I think it’s limiting. What it is, is women, you want to stay in your feminine energy and cultivate your feminine energy, the heterosexual women, if you want to find a masculine man.
Men, you need to be an alpha male. You need to be in your masculinity if you’re going to wow the women, for heterosexual women. I think that some of this same kind of gender role situations apply in the LGBTQ community as well, although dramatically less, which is why John Gottman has said that the LGBTQ+ community is just decades ahead in terms of relationship healthiness in the way that they are not trapped by these electrocuted tripwires of gender taboo. People say things like, “Yes, we all have masculine and feminine qualities, but women, if you really want a masculine man, you really need to be in your femininity because if you’re not, you will somehow scare the masculine men away.” I don’t really understand this, but it’s what they say.
Men, if you want to seduce women, you need to be in your alpha state. I will never forget this wonderful, lovely man in one of my workshops saying to me, “I know that as a non-alpha man, I will never be able to find the kind of woman that I really want. The kind of really amazing women, they only want alpha men and I’m not that. I’ve come to accept that.” I’ve seen so many men damaged by this kind of male seduction routine belief about being an alpha male, such damage. They’ve come to me in therapy as have so many women around the issue of this femininity piece and said, “I have to fix this.” I say to them, “You have been deeply misled because the minute you’re not you, the minute you think, ‘I have to tweak myself into a more feminine or masculine space,’ you are not being you. You are being artificial. You are setting up a seduction technique that is ultimately going to backfire on you because authenticity is what you need to be.”
A woman might be having sex with a guy and I know I’m talking very only heterosexual here. I will open that field up, but a woman is having sex with a guy and she really wants to ride him on top. She wants to be on top, but she thinks, “No, that is not feminine energy so I can’t do that,” or she might want to be more dominant or more empowered or a man might want to touch on his more submissive parts. Each of these people thinks taboo, “I do this and I will look so deeply unattractive,” and not even just in sex, but in interactions. All of us are forcing this stuff. We’re holding our bellies in all the time to try to be this model of what we’re supposed to be.
Researchers who have a deeper awareness of this, don’t use the word masculine or feminine. They use the word instrumentality and expressiveness instead of masculinity and femininity because those principles are not based on your physiological anatomy, and that’s so much wiser and so much more true. Now, we’re in a stuck point in a way because culture determines what’s attractive and as our culture shifts, God knows now women can be so much more empowered. Men can be so much more instrumental. Men can be so much more expressive than might’ve been allowed in the past because the culture is changing, but we’re in an in-between state.
Those of us who are choosing to be pioneers in expressing all different parts of our gender identity spectrum, or instrumentality or expressiveness, we’re pioneers, but we are also needing to look for people who can match us in that and do that with us. For all the men who worry that they’re not masculine enough, I want to say, “I promise you that whatever gender identity or gender identities you’re interested in, I promise you that there are so many people who would find your degree of instrumentality and expressiveness the cat’s meow. I promise this is true.”
Women, the same thing is true. Whatever your kind of places that you are in the spectrum of instrumentality or expressiveness or masculine and feminine as people often say, I promise you that there are people who will absolutely love that, need that, and want that. This is another truth that we’re not told that just feels like so much dating advice is crushing without even meaning to be. Here’s another one. We get told and we believe because it seems to make rational sense that the search for love is a numbers game, but I will prove to you that that is not true.
Because the amount of matches that happen now and the amount of numbers of people that you can meet in online dating, if this numbers game thing was true, it would mean that more people are coupled and happily coupled, but the research shows that that is far from the truth. That number of matches does not directly correlate in any way, shape, or form to your success in finding love. In doing the research that I’ve done, and meeting people that I would have thought wouldn’t be able to find partners because of their state of poverty. The fact that maybe they just got diagnosed with a terminal illness and they had a very, very short amount of time left, or people with disabilities that are just, you know, extremely profound.
I have seen, again and again, these people by doing the work of their own intimacy journey, find amazing, amazing, real, and lasting love. I’ve seen so many people without these challenges, not be able to find love. I’ve really come to believe that it is so much more about your interstate. Does it take bravery? Does it take getting out there? Yes, it does. It doesn’t just happen like a miracle. I mean, it can, but really, I believe we need bravery and we need to get out there. I do believe that the more we make this decision to be truly who we are, and the more we make the choice to only look for people with whom that self feels safe, honored, cherished and where it’s mutual. When we make those choices and combine bravery with that, our chance of finding love goes up amazingly.
I know that so many older women feel like, “The numbers are against me. There are so few guys of my age who want to date somebody like me.” I know that the numbers really do reveal the truth of that, but what I also know is that the determining factor in my mind is so much less numbers and so much more who you are and how you let yourself be and your willingness to get out there being who you are. Here’s the last one that just kills me. How many times have you seen articles that say things like, “Have you noticed that some women just without even trying to attract these incredibly wonderfully desirable quality men or women or people? The people just kind of like are at their feet, loving them. What do they have that’s so special? Have you noticed that some guys can just really get any woman or any person that they want? Somehow, they’ve just got this thing. You can have it too and here’s how.” This, my friends, is the path to hell and I just cringe at this advice.
As I’ve said so many times, you do not want to be someone who is “irresistible” to quality people. You want to be you and you want to find somebody who the real you is experienced as irresistible and wonderful and glorious. It’s an act of bravery and faith to not feel like you have to learn these skills and these qualities that are going to seduce people that are going to make you irresistible and say, instead, “I am going to cultivate the essence of who I am. I’m going to lead with the essence of who I am. I’m going to be brave in doing that and I’m going to look for people with whom my soul feels safe and with whom I feel inspired.” Is that a kind of lonely, scary path? A little bit. That’s why we need help and why we need support in this path of truth.
I want to say that in some ways, this mirrors the path of intimacy and it mirrors the artist’s path as well. Because in an intimate relationship, any kind of relationship, we’re always going to have voices that tell us who we think we’re supposed to be. Those voices sometimes can be useful and help us as measuring sticks about good qualities, but often they guide us into thinking that we’re supposed to be someone different than we are and then we try to be that. Instead of the true path of intimacy, which is an artist’s path and a warrior’s path and a lover’s path and it’s the path of saying, “What am I really feeling? What am I really experiencing? Who am I really now? What are my needs? What are the needs of the person I’m with? What are the ripples of confusion, ambivalence, beauty, aching, and longing or uncertainty? What are those feelings that I’m feeling and staying with the truth of those?”
That’s the artist’s path too because an artist needs to say, “What’s my real experience. What am I really seeing? What am I really feeling versus what society and culture tell us I should be seeing or feeling at this moment?” This is the warrior’s path and it’s the path of intimacy and thinking that you need to do all these things to become irresistible is just simply the path to hell and it’s a path that moves us away from liberation, self-love, and healing.
I’m happy to have shared these thoughts about this kind of toxic and kind of almost violent dating advice that ultimately really hurts us, but compels us so deeply at the same time to want to follow it. I want to point out the hope embedded in the messages that we’re talking about here. You don’t always need to be confident. You need to be able to navigate the parts of you where you don’t feel confident and interact with the world from there. That’s a kind of greatness and intimacy. You don’t need to force yourself into roles of typical masculine or feminine behavior in order to attract people and not repel people.
You do not want to be someone who is irresistible to quality people. You want to be you.CLICK TO TWEETIt is so much less a numbers game than we’ve been taught. You do not have to worry about becoming irresistible, and it’s less about the fixation on attractiveness and so much more about a deeper wiser understanding of your attractions and learning to work with them. That’s why this deeper path to love is so much of a richer and more healing path. Thank you all for reading. I encourage you, if you could, to go to DeeperDatingPodcast.com and join my mailing list. I look forward to seeing you in the next episode of the Deeper Dating Podcast.