To be fair, men don't either. When I start working with a client, one of the first things I ask them is what they want to get from working with a dating coach. My clients always know exactly what they DON'T want: flaky girls, boys who drink too much, women who won't write back online, guys who won't stop texting in the middle of the night, and so on and so on. But when it comes to what they want, what their heart really aches for and longs for, their deepest juiciest desires, most people just don't know.
What's interesting is not just that most people aren't in touch with their desires, but that simultaneously, most of us think we ARE. We get ideas about what we want from media, our friends, our past experiences, what we read in books (and online articles by dating coaches). And we piece together some image of what we want that is usually pretty generic -- tall, dark, and handsome; girl next door; bad boy but loves my mom; porn star in the bedroom, wholesome at dinner parties. This is why so many dating profiles sound the same. In fact, one of the most common things I hear people say is that they think their problem is that they are too picky.
And while it sucks to not get what we want, the real horror starts when we get what we think we want and we still aren't satisfied. When this happens, some of us tweak our list of what we think we want and set ourselves up for a repeat disappointment, some of us blame the other person, and some of us have existential crises.
I'm more interested in figuring out what I really want (it's much easier to get it that way), and as a dating coach my job is to help you figure that out, too.
But before we dig into that, a detour into food.
One of my favorite dating lessons comes from Malcolm Gladwell's TED Talk on spaghetti sauce. If you haven't seen it, here's a fly by night summary of the parts I think are most important: we all think we know what we like in coffee, soda, spaghetti sauce, and mustard. But it turns out that for the most part, we're wrong. Most people say they want an authentic Italian pasta sauce, for example, because that sounds like the most delicious kind of pasta sauce. But authentic Italian pasta sauces are watery and most people don't actually want a watery pasta sauce. This is why companies conduct blind taste tests. Knowing what's behind curtain #1 skews the results. Here are some quotes from the video. I've replaced all the food items with the word "person," to give you a sense of how these ideas translate from the kitchen to the bedroom.
There isn't a perfect
Pepsi person -- only perfect Pepsis people.
If you ask people what they want in a
pasta sauce person, even though one-third secretly want chunky, they will never tell you that.
If you ask people what they want in a
cup of coffee person, people will say dark, hearty, and robust, even though 75 percent want weak, sweet, and milky.
There are no good and bad
mustards people; there are just different mustards people for different tastes.
The point is that we all like different things/people, there is no one thing/person who will satisfy everyone, and we have no flipping clue what things and people actually make us happy (which makes it very hard for other people to figure out how to make us happy, too!).
Back to dating. Most straight women think they want to date a man taller than them. I was guilty of that at one point too, until I went on a date with a guy half an inch shorter than me. When we kissed for the first time he held me confidently, kissed me deeply and left me feeling gorgeous and wanted. I liked that. I giggled and blushed. It was a very Gone With the Wind, swept off my feet kind of thing. A lot of short guys struggle with feeling insecure about their height because it's our culture (and not just me) that confuses height and masculinity. This insecurity often leaves women without the experience they are looking for (that of being with someone strong, confident, and masculine). The result is that a lot of women may not want to date them (turning the whole thing in to a self fulfilling prophecy), but their HEIGHT isn't the issue -- their insecurity about their height is. I've been kissed by men much taller than me who didn't give me the experience I was looking for. I've been kissed by women who did. I realized during our first kiss, it's not that I want a man taller than me; what I really want is a person with whom I can feel feminine and sexy.
Just like in the examples about pasta sauce, or height, when I ask people what they want in a partner, or how they want their relationships to look, my clients tell me the answer they think will give them the experience they want -- but they don't tell me what they actually want. Can you see the problem here? I ask for the ends and they tell me the means. Those means MAY lead to the ends they are seeking, but they may not. And there may be other means they are ignoring because they are fixed on the only access they can think of to get where they want to go. In the meantime, they may be missing a short cut.
When we are really happy and really turned on, it has little to do with the things we as a culture think we want in a partner. Attraction comes from how we feel when we are around a person, not from any particular static quality they may possess. When we feel happy, confident, sexy, understood, respected, cherished, wanted, smart, and able, we think they are awesome! We've all had the experience of thinking "wow that person isn't that hot, but there is just something about them." Conversely, we've all thought someone was hot until they opened their mouth. That je ne sais quoi is our experience of who we are when we are around a person, and it is independent of their body, their job, their taste in music, or their cooking skills.
First the bad news: Being desirable has nothing to do with your genetics. That means you can't blame your lackluster dating life on your height, your weight, your bald head, your job, or your past. If you aren't getting what you want, one of two things are happening (probably both). Either you are like 99 percent of the world and you don't know what you REALLY want, in which case it's time for you to start doing some serious soul searching to figure that out. The other likely possibility is that you are focused on being the way you think other people want you to be -- maybe they've even SAID that's how they want you to be (but it probably isn't). Focusing all your attention on those red herrings is keeping you from being the kind of person people actually want to be with.
Now the good news: Being desirable has nothing to do with your genetics. However you look, whatever you do for a living, whatever experiences you've had, you are already loveable and already have everything you need to be smoking hot and totally irresistible.
A version of the article originally appeared on charlienox.com.