Whether you are just looking for a “F*ck Buddy” or are on a quest to find your “Life-long Love”, there are some surefire ways to practice and attract authenticity as you date. People often complain “All men are liars” or “All women are needy.” My first response is…”Wow, you’ve must have been busy dating ‘everyone!’” When I ask them to tell me who they are, what they are looking for and what they are finding, chances are they aren’t practicing integrity, and therefore, aren’t really showing up as their authentic selves in their relationships or attempts at one.
1. Know Yourself
This is probably THE most important aspect we can develop to be effective daters. We are really good at lying to ourselves, yet really bad at doing the work it takes to be honest and embracing the changes we need to make. A lot of what I do with clients is to help them get really clear on who they are and also decide what kind of relationship is going to work best for them right now.
If you’re at a loss on where to start, go to your no-bullshit friend and ask him/her to tell you what they see. Not everything they say will be completely true, but go home and marinate on what is and then do work to improve. For instance, I know how my introvertedness, my situation with my kids at this age and the amount of loss I’ve experienced in my life affect me in relationships (friendships and romantic.) As I’ve learned more about those things, I am better able to find friends and loves who understand those things about me and are willing to accept me or challenge me on them.
2. Honesty Starts on Day One
Day one could mean the day we meet someone online or at a local event, but the important thing is to show up as ourselves. For example, if you’re someone who needs to be in constant contact or like very little, then you let that be known from Day One, not weeks or months later when you have the exclusivity talk. Not being yourself or communicating honestly in the beginning will make your partner feel like they signed up for one thing and then they find out later, once you let your flaw-flag fly, that you misrepresented yourself. Of course, you can’t start to operate in authenticity or honesty if you don’t Know Yourself.
3.Don’t Promise What You Can’t Give
If you know you can only do a Friends with Benefits right now, that’s perfectly great…AS LONG AS you are honest with your partner. Men or women who proclaim they only want sex shouldn’t be seen as players or sluts, instead, we should appreciate that kind of honesty. If you are looking to get married again someday, there is zero shame in saying that during one of those first conversations. If you’re busy with custody arrangements and business travel and just want someone to go to dinner and a show with every couple of weeks, that’s fine, too, just don’t let someone think you want more when you aren’t in a place to deliver. Finally, if you haven’t recovered from your last relationship and aren’t free to love someone again, don’t pretend to love them just to keep that person in your life.
4. Ask Questions
I recommend asking the other person what they are looking for even before day one. The last thing I want to do is lead someone on who is looking for something very different than I am…this is why it’s important to ask. Whether you are looking for lifelong love or an FWB, and even if they say they are looking for the same, I ask them what it looks like to them? How often would we see each other and is that a priority? How often are we in contact via phone/text? Is it okay if I am dating others at the same time? And I always suggest that if you are in an exclusive relationship to talk with your partner about how infidelity is defined. I have listened to too many heart-broken clients who thought it meant one thing only to find out it meant something different to their partner.
5. Step Off the Escalator
The Relationship Escalator basically is a concept to describe the way we are taught as children that relationships should progress…from meeting to marriage to kids to retirement to dying in each other’s arms. The people I work with who are 40+ have been there and done that (and there’s evidence it doesn’t work for a lot of us) but we can now design the type of relationship that works best for us.
The most common new types of relationships I am hearing about include LAT=Living Apart Together and Ethical Non-Monogamy/Polyamory. I am hearing LAT variations more and more, especially from the former housewives who have found and enjoy their independence but still want a loving relationship. At this age we don’t have to play by the rules of society anymore…we can create your own path, as long as we’re open and honest with the person walking it with us.
6. Manage Yourself
A couple I admire use the phrase, “I trust you to manage you!” One of the best ways to do this is to be self-aware and checking in with yourself. This is not always a comfortable task…it includes seeing parts of us we may not like or know is there. It shows us where to work on ourselves and also means having difficult conversations with our partner about the relationship.
Relationships, whether serious or casual, that have two people who are committed to these principles of integrity are beautiful, healthy and fulfilling. They are very likely not the way we showed up in our longest past relationship but the great thing about finding love at midlife is we get a do-over. Authenticity and integrity is the way to make love better.