[Disclaimer: I do not believe that men are exempt from any of the things I write about in regards to dating and relationships. Much of what I write about probably falls into more of a masculine/feminine dynamic, which all people have to some degree, so this applies as much to men as it does to women. However, as I am talking about this from my own perspective, I can only speak from a ‘woman’s’ point of view.]
I remember when I first became interested in boys, and the first thing I would discuss with my friends at length was our ‘type’. While this has developed over the years, the strongest archetype of late has been the new age-yogi-tantric-meditator-spiritual, bearded, stocky male specimen. Tattoos also welcome.
Until now, this has been the ‘type’ of man I would see and feel attracted to immediately. Its the profile I would froth over on dating apps, and the men I would be most nervous around at parties. It was as if there was something primal within me that became ignited when I saw a hot man with a beard. However, as I touch on in my Conscious Dating and Relationships Guide, these types of attractions rarely end in a committed, long-term relationship. So why is this?
When a person is our ‘type’ our procreate-or-die hormones start pumping. We feel nervous, our heart beats faster, and our minds start reeling. By the time we actually meet this person, we have already created a whole personality profile for them based on our ideal ‘type’.
The first reason for this is safety. Women’s brains are hardwired to please, adapt and respond to the needs of those around us. In addition,
cultural conditioning has had women believe that it is still more dangerous to be a woman alone at night time than it is for a man.
While I resent that this is ‘just a fact we need to deal with’ it explains a lot about why women people please.
At least as I was growing up, there was a sense of danger drilled into me about strange men which, valid or not, has an impact on why I still revert to people pleasing men (and women, if I’m honest) even in situations where I feel safe.
The second reason, related to the first, is that our culture rewards women in particular for adapting, responding and people pleasing. You just have to think of the ‘selfless’ mother archetype, or the way we reward people for being ‘selfless’ and shun other people for being ‘selfish’, to see the status that this behaviour gets.
Or alternately, how many times you have been told you are ‘too bossy’ or ‘too much’ in some way, or felt you had to change a part of yourself to feel loved and validated?
Being hardwired to adapt and respond to other people’s needs means women have evolved to be motivated by changes in their external environment. Which essentially means that women are motivated by comparison to others around them, as well as this elusive ‘perfect person’, and are in turn validated for conforming to this by others, and very often also by themselves. The fashion, cosmetic and sadly some parts of the coaching industry is fuelled exactly by this tendency women have to look outside themselves for validation and love.
So how does this relate to dating?
When we meet someone who is our ‘type’ we want to feel safe around them. We want to feel loved, connected and validated by them. But because we don’t know this person, and have created all these unrealistic expectations about who they are, we unconsciously start to morph into who we believe their ideal partner is, sometimes without even realising it.
This not only does damage our relationships with others, but it is also extremely damaging to ourselves. When we compare our partners, dates, friends or anyone in our lives to the perfect person, we also comparing ourselves to this idea of the perfect person.
And while we grow, evolve and become more or less of whatever we think we need to be to be loved, the signposts change, and we chase another ideal, another vision of our ‘perfect self’.
Here are my three tips for bringing awareness to our desire to people please and the obsession that can develop when we date our ‘type’.
Check your expectations
For me, this is the essence of conscious dating. If you go into a date with any expectations, check in with yourself - Where am I comparing this person to the ‘Perfect Person’? Are these qualities real, or imagined?
Write a list of every quality you see in this person, attractive and unattractive, and then write down examples where you are this. It is so easy to project our own insecurities and beautiful qualities on to this other person, but all that does is distract you from being who you are authentically.
Don’t date (always) your type
While it is tempting to date your ‘type’ I encourage you to look a bit broader. Let your friends set you up with people they know, and give that guy on Tinder or Bumble who had a great bio and good banter a go. When we date someone who is not our type, we are more likely to be ourselves around them, and form a deeper love over time.
Breathe, and stay present
You might be nervous. You might be bored and disinterested. Try to look past that and see the person sitting across from you. What are they revealing about who you are? If you are intimidated by their charm, intelligence, success or beauty - know that this also exists within you. Equally, if they are triggering AF, get curious about why that is, because it is likely that you are also this, but perhaps in denial of it.