Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Dating: The Surprising Turn-On

Men and women often have it wrong when it comes to the image they present in courtship: They try to seem too strong. It’s understandable, too, why anyone would do such a thing, given that men and women alike get spooked if they see too many insecurities too soon in the person they’re dating. The problem is that everyone gets so afraid of showing too much vulnerability in dating that they end up showing almost none at all, and can actually turn off the person they're dating.

It can be uncomfortable to show vulnerability, particularly if someone has experienced a great deal of criticism from others. Who wants to let their guard down only to be censured and made to feel bad? When people experience more than their fair share of criticism, they develop a noxious condition: self-consciousness.

Self-consciousness is the universe’s Achilles heel, and dating presents no exception. I hate when I see self-consciousness in myself and when I see it in my clients, not because it’s an ugly color but because it has the power to seriously hold people back in various parts of their lives. The self-conscious thoughts are always more intense than the confident, feeling-good-about-yourself thoughts, and they always seem to last longer. Think, for example, about the last time that you had a nice thought about yourself. Perhaps you looked in the mirror and said, “You don’t look so bad,” or you told yourself you’re pretty funny when you cracked a joke and made the whole room laugh. Odds are that the good feeling you had about yourself lasted a minute, while self-conscious thoughts can stick with you for hours or even days.

In dating, the important point is to try consciously to set your insecurities and self-consciousness aside and to present yourself as a whole picture – and that includes your strengths and weaknesses. Don’t get so caught up in seeming strong that you turn off your date. Most people actually find a little vulnerability incredibly attractive. Why? Because the person who admits a little vulnerability has let his or her guard down, and that creates an opening for an intimate and honest interaction. Plus, everyone has a little Inner Savior in them, which means that they like to protect and take care of someone else - on occasion.

If someone comes across as too strong, it almost seems as if they'll never need anyone, and people need to feel needed. It’s not very appealing to imagine spending time with someone who is always happy, energetic, and confident. Most people have the occasional bad day, and that makes them real. Ultimately, that’s the goal in dating: to come across as real, and to be yourself, warts and all.

The truth is, the real you is going to come out eventually, no matter how hard you try to come across a certain way in the beginning of dating. Everyone needs to give themselves a break and stop trying so hard to please others and live up to what other people want them to be. For those of you who strive in dating to seem so strong, give yourself a break and let down some guards. Admit a little vulnerability, such as, admitting things you’re not good at or talking about what frustrates you. If you do so, you will feel more relaxed, and the person you’re dating will find you more attractive.

1 comment:

Bart said...

Currently I'm reading Intimacy & Desire, by David Schnarch, where he notes that "research indicates dating couples are less likely to have sex if they don't establish high levels of synchrony (means; one partner discloses and the other accepts and validates and/or discloses in kind)."

So that might be a more carnal reason for opening up :-)