Deeper Dating (2014) is a roadmap to intimacy and loving relationships. It breaks down how looking inward can help us identify the kinds of people we’ll connect with most deeply, and shares tools for finding these people and fostering relationships that will inspire and fulfill us.
Find your compass for meaningful and fulfilling relationships.
The search for love is one of the most important journeys you can embark upon. Unfortunately, it can also be frustratingly difficult – thanks to the way you’ve been taught to navigate it.
How often are you told that you should change what you look like, play games, or juggle multiple love interests at once? This advice might help you find short-term or superficial connections, but it’s unlikely to lead to the kinds of relationship that really fulfill you.
These summary show you how to approach the dating scene with a depth that lets you build more fulfilling relationships.
In these summary, you’ll learn
- how to identify your Core Gifts;
- why it isn’t worth following every attraction; and
- why growing love is better than falling into it.
Discovering your Core Gifts will lead you to love.
If you’ve ever tried to find your way through a maze, you’ll know that it’s a challenge. Some routes lead to dead ends, while others make you feel like you’re going around in circles. When you think about it, navigating a maze isn’t that different from looking for love. Except in the search for love, the obstacles aren’t fun challenges – they’re points of frustration.
But here’s something interesting: There’s a trick to navigating mazes, and it applies to finding love, too.
When you start at the center of a maze and work your way out, it’s easy to see exactly which route to take. And you can find love in the same way: by starting at your center – or, more precisely, your core.
The key message here is: Discovering your Core Gifts will lead you to love.
Your Core Gifts are the parts of you that are highly sensitive. When they’re stimulated, you can be incredibly inspired or terribly hurt. And since these are your Core Gifts, they’re not the same as other people’s. For instance, an experience that moves you deeply might do nothing for someone else. Or a friend might easily brush off a slight that leaves you fuming.
Being highly sensitive means that your Core Gifts are also the areas most affected by love and intimacy. This makes connecting with them essential when looking for a partner. But in order to connect with these gifts, you need to identify them. And you can do this by exploring what brings you joy as well as pain.
Reflect on times you’ve felt joy and fulfillment in a relationship – romantic or otherwise – and ask yourself which parts of you those moments spoke to the most. For example, maybe a partner supported and encouraged your ambition, making you feel seen. This would make ambition one of your Core Gifts.
Then consider things about which you’ve felt pain or shame. It’s common to feel hurt or insecure when your Core Gifts are misunderstood or disregarded. If you’re ashamed of being a quiet person, for instance, your Core Gift might be deep humility that hasn’t been appreciated or healthily expressed.
By paying attention to what makes you feel inspired or hurt, you can discover your Core Gifts. And this is where the magic happens, right at the heart of the maze: Your deepest connections will be with people who value the gifts you have to offer.
Following and nurturing our attractions of inspiration leads to fulfilling relationships.
Consider this storyline: a man meets two people. One brings out the best in him, and the other fuels all his insecurities. But instead of running from the latter, he finds himself strongly attracted to both.
He’s not alone. A lot of people do exactly this.
We’re all wired to experience two kinds of attraction – attractions of deprivation and attractions of inspiration. While both have the potential to grow into deep attachments, only one leads to mutually loving, caring, and supportive relationships. And if this is our goal, we have to learn how to nurture the healthier of the two attractions.
Here’s the key message: Following and nurturing our attractions of inspiration leads to fulfilling relationships.
It all stems from the Core Gifts we just learned about. When we don’t fully recognize or value our Core Gifts, we’re drawn to people who diminish or take advantage of them. These are attractions of deprivation. And in the relationships that form, we can find ourselves being criticized, feeling inadequate, or seeking affection from people who are emotionally unavailable.
On the healthier side of this coin are attractions of inspiration, which are sparked when we cherish our Core Gifts and, as a result, seek out people who will do the same. In relationships built on attractions of inspiration, we’re comfortable and feel loved and accepted in every possible way.
So how do we differentiate between attractions that will bring us love and happiness and those that will cause pain?
Well, when we first meet someone, we should look for signs of inspiration. For instance, do we feel a warm and natural connection? Is the person engaged and genuinely interested? And does the person seem to have integrity? These are all qualities that point to attractions of inspiration.
It’s important to note that many people we meet won’t make the cut. In fact, according to the author, 90 percent of our prospects won’t be attractions of inspiration. By acknowledging this, we can avoid wasting time with people who offer little potential for meaningful connection. We also shouldn’t expect attractions of inspiration to start with explosive chemistry. It’s more likely we’ll experience “like at first sight” that, if cultivated, can evolve into love and excitement.
But we’ll get to that later. Next, let’s consider how you should act when you actually go on a date.
Ditch the popular dating tactics and practice the skills of deeper dating.
If you’ve been in the dating game for even a short while, you’ll have heard your fair share of dating dos and don’ts. A lot of these are along the lines of “Play hard to get,” or “Keep them guessing,” or “Be a perfect version of yourself.”
Unfortunately, these common tactics encourage you to put up a front. But if you want to find real love, you need to bring your authentic self to the dating table. This means connecting with your humanity, and acting on what it wants and needs.
To be this authentic, you need a new set of dating skills.
The key message is this: Ditch the popular dating tactics and practice the skills of deeper dating.
How many times have you been told that you should play it cool in the dating world by not seeming too keen, or even being a bit standoffish? As popular as this idea is, you actually need to do the opposite – you need to show interest.
A 2007 study found that expressing your interest in a romantic partner is the best way to build a connection. So if you spontaneously want to hold hands at the movies, or tell your date how attractive you find him or her, do it. Letting someone know that you like them may be difficult at first, but over time, you’ll get used to expressing your genuine feelings.
While you’re expressing your interest, get into the habit of sharing your passions and enthusiasms, too. Talk about your dreams, the things that matter the most to you, and what brings you the most joy. And encourage your date to do the same. This is a good way to figure out whether you’ve found a match, because the right person – an attraction of inspiration – will welcome this.
Another helpful deeper dating skill is to focus on the quality of your connection, instead of any external imperfections or ideas about who or what your partner should be. The next time you find yourself judging a date based on looks or clothes, turn your attention to what really matters. Do you feel good around this person? Are your interactions easy and comfortable? If the answer is yes, then you’ve stumbled onto a connection with potential.
Look for love through the people closest to you and the places where your values are celebrated.
Let’s face it – meeting great people to date isn’t easy.
Sure, you can go to bars, but how often do you find people who are relationship material? Then there are dating apps with thousands of potential matches – but it’s hard not to feel like you have to look a certain way to get noticed. And those matches often lack the depth needed to build something meaningful.
As grim as this all sounds, it’s not impossible to find the sorts of people with whom you can form loving relationships. You just have to change where and how you look.
Here’s the key message: Look for love through the people closest to you and the places where your values are celebrated.
One of the best ways to find a partner is through your close friends and family. After all, they care about you and likely understand and cherish your authentic self. This makes for an excellent filter.
Take advantage of this network by asking loved ones if there’s anyone in their circles they think you’ll connect well with. When trusted friends host events, ask if they can introduce you to anyone who seems like a good match. You can even look for dating apps that leverage your close circle.
If some of your friends are looking for loving relationships, too, you can help each other out. You might have met a wonderful person who just wasn’t a match for you, but could be perfect for a friend. Introduce them to each other, and ask your friend to do the same for you.
You can also meet the love of your life by spending time around people who have similar values and interests. Look for hobby groups, religious communities, or even charitable organizations to join, and attend events regularly. This won’t just enrich your life – you’ll also meet people who care about the same things that you do.
There’s one more way to up your chances of finding love, and it involves looking right under your nose.
You can find someone wherever you are, if you take the time to be present. The next time you’re running errands or walking, slow down and appreciate your surroundings. Make eye contact with people around you, and be warm and open. If you see someone who looks kind or is attractive to you, smile. Who knows where it could lead!
To avoid pushing love away, learn how to handle your fear.
Here’s an interesting fact: as much as we may want a loving relationship, it’s perfectly natural for us to run when we find one. After all, intimacy makes us vulnerable, and the love we build can be painfully taken away.
So the fear we sometimes feel when we meet people who are kind, loving, and emotionally available is a way of protecting ourselves. And if we don’t learn to recognize this fear and manage it the right way, it can sabotage our relationships.
This is the key message: To avoid pushing love away, learn how to handle your fear.
One way that our fear of intimacy and love manifests itself is through something the author calls the Wave of Distancing. This is when we seem to lose affection for someone to whom we were initially attracted. We might even start picking at his flaws or getting bored with him. When the Wave hits, our instinct is to run away, even though it means losing a good person and a healthy relationship.
But instead of running, we can manage the Wave until it passes. To do this, we first need to remember that, in most cases, our affection hasn’t disappeared – it’s just been buried by fear. In fact, we can try to reconnect with this affection by doing things we enjoy with our partner. If there’s any kind of conflict in the relationship, we should try to resolve it.
It also helps to have some time and space alone, or to share our feelings with a therapist or close friend. Eventually, the Wave will dissipate, and our affection will likely return.
The Wave can affect anyone, but we all have our own individual ways of pushing love and intimacy away. For example, some of us refuse to let our guard down, or claim that we’re just too busy to make time for a relationship. We might even date people we know aren’t right for us. These behaviors are our flight patterns, and the sooner we acknowledge them, the sooner we can break them.
We’re not always conscious of these patterns, so asking loved ones to point them out is a good way to start tackling them. The people we ask might even have ideas about what we should do differently. If we choose just one main pattern and make the necessary changes, our romantic lives will improve in leaps and bounds.
You can turn mild but healthy attractions into passionate and lasting love.
Think about this for a moment: imagine that there’s a scale of attraction, and it ranges from one all the way to ten. You find the people at the top of the scale – the tens – devastatingly attractive, and aren’t in any way drawn to those at the low end of the scale.
Now, say you have to pick a date from the two groups. Which one would it be?
If you’re like most people, you’ll make a beeline for the high end of the scale, believing that this is where love and passion lie. But these intense attractions often end in equally intense heartbreak, because you’re subconsciously attracted to people who trigger your deep insecurities and hurts.
However, this doesn’t mean that you have to date the people you’re least attracted to.
The key message here is: You can turn mild but healthy attractions into passionate and lasting love.
If you’re looking for the greatest potential for lasting love, focus on the middle of the attraction scale. These people may not make you weak at the knees, but this is actually a good thing. When you’re not distracted by strong attraction, you can pay attention to someone’s character and how the two of you interact.
Now, you might be thinking that dating people you’re only mildly attracted to means you won’t have deep love and passion. But a healthy attraction can be nurtured into an intense one, and love can grow. Just take a look at well-planned arranged marriages, in which the chosen partners are reasonably attractive and generally kind people. Psychologist Robert Epstein spent ten years studying them and found that feelings of love in these unions tended to grow over time.
So here’s the question: How exactly do you increase your attraction and love for someone? By openly giving and receiving.
When you share your Core Gifts, welcome intimacy and vulnerability, and show each other kindness and appreciation, feelings of love will develop. You can also increase your sexual desire by simply focusing on the qualities of your partner that do turn you on. This could be a personality trait, a body part, or even your partner’s voice.
Once you step into the dating world ready to cultivate love and passion from healthy attractions, many of the challenges of finding a loving relationship will fall away.
The key message in these blinks:
Finding love doesn’t have to be as hard as we make it. If we just start with understanding what we’re most sensitive to, we can look for partners who appreciate that sensitivity, instead of diminishing it. Finding such people requires us to look past obvious or superficial attractions, and focus on warm and kind connections that have the potential to grow into love.
Use dating apps – but do it properly.
Dating apps can sometimes feel like hopeless spaces, but you can approach them in a way that increases your chances of a real connection.
First, create a thoughtful profile that shows your authentic self, highlights your passions, and lets potential matches know that you’re looking for a relationship. When browsing through profiles, look for people who will be attractions of inspiration and whose passions resonate with yours, regardless of their appearance. Finally, when you meet someone worthwhile, take the time to get to know that person. Avoid rushing back to the app to continue the search.
About the Author
Ken Page, LCSW is a psychotherapist, author and lecturer specializing in issues of intimacy, personal growth, creativity and spirituality. He is the author of the very popular Psychology Today blog Finding Love, and also writes for the Huffington Post. He and his work have been featured in O, The Oprah Magazine, the New York Times, Cosmopolitan, Essence, WPIX-TV and more. Ken also created Deeper Dating, a groundbreaking event in which single people meet in an environment encouraging positive interaction and self-discovery.
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