Though a complex psychological subject, we can decipher it in simple terms. Every boy and girl, man and child carries basic, fundamental beliefs about themselves. Similarly, they carry basic, fundamental beliefs about others and what to expect from the world overall. The subject is important because these beliefs have everything to do with the quality of your relationships. Specifically, there are a few basic beliefs you have about how appealing (or unappealing) you are as a potential partner.
Before we continue, a caveat: Just because someone is in a relationship, it does not automatically mean that the partnership is any good. So many relationships that are active today will have expired a month or even a week from now, while some men and women may stay with their partner unhappily for decades to come. The goal, of course, is to find a happy relationship, one that makes each partner feel good about himself or herself. In order to find that relationship, your view of yourself – how you feel about yourself – needs to be pretty good. The following beliefs are ones that you need to have about yourself if you’re serious about finding a partner.
I am appealing and desirable to some.
You don’t need to feel desirable to most people, but you do need to walk into a relationship trusting that you are desirable to some. Men and women with low self-esteem or other psychological issues will take this sentence — “I am appealing to some” — and then add “but they aren’t the ones that I want.” This kind of negative belief will screw up any future romantic relationships. You need to feel positive about yourself overall, and you must trust that you are desirable to some of the same people you desire. If you don’t have this belief yet, you are not ready for a happy and lasting relationship.
I don’t expect a relationship to make me happy – just happier.
One of the most distorted beliefs many people have in dating is the mistaken notion that a relationship – oh sweet, everlasting bliss! – will finally make them happy. The pathological thinking goes like this: I will have someone to travel with and hang out with; I will have the warmth and excitement of physical intimacy; and I will have someone who always loves and wants me. While relationships unquestionably bring good things, they also bring occasional stress and conflict. Relationships – especially new ones – are filled with uncertainty! Who knows if it will all end? The most successful mental strategy in approaching a relationship is to walk in with the understanding that this relationship will not entirely change your life, make you happy, and rescue you from any unhappiness you felt before. Expect that a new relationship will simply make you happier – but not necessarily full-blown happy – than you were before.
I don’t get insecure or freak out if my date doesn’t call back until a day later, or sounds less happy to talk to me during a random phone call.
New dating relationships fail every single day because someone gets insecure and panics, and the acting out begins. Some men and women have an underlying fear that, at any moment, their new date could pull the rug out from under them and stop liking them. It’s almost as if they are expecting to be rejected, and they are trying to identify the day and time when it will happen. I work with clients who share insecurities about so-and-so sounding different on the phone during the last call, or so-and-so not texting as usual for a couple of days in a row. If you want to find a happy and lasting relationship, always give the other person the benefit of the doubt. Sure, you may wonder if their feelings have changed, but you need to have a little faith and remember that people get busy and have bad days from time to time. Wait a week and you will have clarity on the issue. The larger point: People who have good, lasting relationships can sit with their feelings as opposed to having to act out on them every time something triggers them.
The final point…
If you don’t feel so hot about yourself, there’s still hope. However, you have work to do. You need to get to a point where you believe – and feel! – each of these three beliefs: that you’re appealing to some, and so forth. If you aren’t yet in a place where you have these three positive beliefs, you probably aren’t ready to begin a long-term, happy relationship. As it stands now, your self-esteem is still too shaky, and you may have the habit of depending on the other person too much to validate and reassure you. (That gets tiring quickly for the other person.) If you really want to make a change, keep reading articles on this blog, seek out therapy, or check out the self-help section at the bookstore STAT. It will be worth it in the long run.
Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve.