S o you want to find “the one” eh? You’re sick and tired of all the dating apps and websites and trying to meet people in your kickball league? And how many awkward first dates can you go on to find a “normal” person? And what’s with all the fake personalities and flaky people who seem more interested in themselves and can’t be bothered to make a slight change in their schedule to, you know, go out with you?
If this describes the majority of your romantic life, I want you to open up your mind a little and start looking at things a little differently from now on.
First, consider this: everyone wants a perfect partner, but few people want to be the perfect partner.¹
I think the vast majority of problems around “finding someone” are caused by uneven expectations like this.
But when you flip this on its head and you start taking a little more responsibility in this area of your life — when you start focusing on what kind of life you want to live and what kind of partner you want to be — you’ll start to see all the flakes and narcissists and liars fade into the background. You’ll start making genuine connections with people and make each other’s lives more enjoyable.
For years, I probably obsessed a little too much over this part of my life. But after stumbling through one unhealthy relationship after another, I learned a very important lesson: the best way to find an amazing person is to become an amazing person.²
So, if you’re willing to have an open mind — and take a painful look at yourself — then read on.
Let’s begin with perhaps a bold statement: The root of all unattractiveness is neediness; the root of all attractiveness is non-neediness.
But what exactly is neediness?
Neediness occurs when you place a higher priority on what others think of you than what you think of yourself.
Any time you alter your words or behavior to fit someone else’s needs rather than your own, that is needy. Any time you lie about your interests, hobbies, or background, that is needy. Any time you pursue a goal to impress others rather than fulfill yourself, that is needy.
Whereas most people focus on what behavior is attractive/unattractive, what determines neediness (and therefore, attractiveness) is the why behind your behavior. You can say the coolest thing or do what everyone else does, but if you do it for the wrong reason, it will come off as needy and desperate and turn people off.
“It’s not the what of your behavior that is attractive or unattractive, it’s the why of your behavior.”
People can sense needy behavior right away — chances are you can tell when someone is being needy for your attention or affection — and it’s a major turn off. This is because neediness is actually a form of manipulation, and people have a keen nose for manipulative bullshit.
Think about it, if you’re acting needy, you’re trying to get someone to think of you in a certain way or act a certain way towards you for your own benefit. Think about the way you feel when someone is blatantly trying to sell you something with high-pressure, salesy tricks. It just feels wrong. It’s a similar feeling when someone is acting in a certain way just to get you to like them.
Now, we all get needy at times because, of course, we do care about what others think of us. That’s a fact of human nature. But the key here is that, at the end of the day, you should care more about what you think of yourself than what others think.
Examples of Neediness in Your Life
How needy/non-needy you are permeates everything in your life and is reflected in all your behavior. And I mean all of it.
A few examples:
- A needy person wants their friends to think they’re cool or funny or smart and will constantly try to impress them with their coolness or humor or smart opinions about everything. A non-needy person just enjoys spending time with their friends for the sake of spending time with them and doesn’t feel the need to perform around them.
- A needy person buys clothes based on whether or not they think other people will think they look good in them (or at least what they think is “safe” to wear). A non-needy person buys clothes based on their own personal sense of style they’ve developed over time.
- A needy person stays at a soul-crushing job they hate because of the prestige it gives them in the eyes of their friends, family, and peers. A non-needy person values their time and skills more than what other people think and will find work that fulfills and challenges them based on their own values.
- A needy person will try to impress a date by dropping hints about how much money they make or important people they know or dated or where they went to school. A non-needy person genuinely just tries to get to know the other person to find out if they’re compatible with one another.
We behave in needy ways when we feel bad about ourselves. We try to use the affection and approval of others to compensate for the lack of affection and approval for ourselves. And that is another root cause of our dating problems: our inability to take care of ourselves.
More Resources on Getting Rid of Neediness
- Models: Attract Women Through Honesty — My book, Models, is pretty much entirely based on the idea of ridding your life of neediness. Yes, it’s written for men, but I’ve had a lot of women, gay men, lesbians, trans people, etc. write to me over the years saying they got a lot out of it. It’s not so much a book about dating as it is about getting your life together.
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck — This article would later inspire my book by the same name. Getting over your neediness means you choose to not give a fuck about what others will think of you for expressing yourself honestly.
- Change Your Mind About Dating — This is a look at how your dating life might look if you weren’t constantly worrying about what other people thought of you; i.e., if you weren’t being needy all the time.
- The Right and Wrong Ways to Flirt — If you think displays of romantic and/or sexual interest should be shrouded in derogatory banter with one another — well, think about how fucked up that is for a moment and then… read this article.
Taking Care of Yourself
No one can see your value as a person if you don’t value yourself first. And taking care of yourself, when done from a place of non-neediness, is what demonstrates that you value yourself.
Now, there’s a fine line between taking care of yourself for the right and wrong reasons. If you do these things I outline below in order to get others to like you, you’ve already lost (that’s needy behavior, remember?). You should take care of yourself because you genuinely want to be a healthy, intelligent, well-rounded individual for the sake of being a healthy, intelligent, well-rounded individual who values your own self-worth over what others think of you.
Think of it this way: people won’t love you until you love yourself.
So with that said, here’s a list of some of the major areas of your life you should focus on first (if you don’t already):
Taking care of your physical and mental health is the single biggest step you can take towards improving your life. It has the biggest, most enduring impact on virtually every other area of your life, including dating and relationships.³
Besides making you look better, eating right and exercising consistently simply makes you feel better on a day-to-day basis. When you feel better — when you have more energy and your mood is raised a little — it’s a lot easier to get your ass out of the house and into the world so you can engage with people genuinely and confidently. You’re also more pleasant to be around.⁴
And if you have any past traumas or psychological issues that need to be dealt with, do it. Talk to friends and relatives and get therapy if you need it.⁵ You’re ultimately the one who can help yourself the most, but it’s okay if you need a little help in this area. Get it taken care of.
Money is a major source of stress for a lot of people. It can be so stressful, in fact, that most people end up ignoring a lot of their financial problems altogether. This, in turn, leads to a vicious cycle, where ignoring your money problems only makes them worse and you end up even more stressed as time goes on.
Long-term stress like this makes you less attractive. It saps your energy, causes health issues,⁶ and generally makes you a dick to be around. So if this describes you, it’s time to get real about your finances.
Learn about personal finance. Cut out waste and find ways to make more money in the short and long term. Open a savings account for emergencies. Pay down debt as quickly as possible. Learn the basics of investing.
In short, get this area of your life handled so it’s not dragging you down in other areas.
To put it bluntly, no one wants to be around someone — let alone date someone — who complains about their job all the time. Look, I get it, not everyone can have their dream jobs or start a billion-dollar business tomorrow. We’re all born with varying levels of raw talent in one area or another, and sometimes our talents and passions can be turned into careers. Other times, we have to work “normal” jobs to make ends meet and pursue our talents and passions on the side.
But regardless of your current situation, there is absolutely some action you can take, right now, towards finding meaningful work that you enjoy, or at least work you don’t dread. Apply for new jobs. Go to job fairs and network with people. Take classes and develop useful skills that you enjoy. Learn how to interview better and how to negotiate better terms of employment.
If you end up at the same three or four bars with the same three or four people every weekend and then wonder why you can’t meet interesting, attractive people who you can connect with — well, just think about how backward that is for a moment.
Developing an active social life not only makes for a more fulfilling, enjoyable life, it also puts you in contact with more (and different) people, upping your chances of meeting someone you click with.
I’ll cover this more in the next section, but for now, a few ideas to get you started are things like exploring new hobbies and interests, taking an art class, signing up for martial arts or yoga, joining a community sports league, etc. Do things that get you off your ass and out interacting with people. This will pay off immensely in all areas of your life.
You’ll notice that all of these areas take quite a bit of time and effort to develop. In fact, you’ll probably never stop working on each of them to some degree, and that’s okay. The best way to get these areas of your life handled is to develop healthy, consistent habits around them.
And the point isn’t to reach some state of nirvana in your life where you have six-pack abs, a bazillion dollars, and a packed social schedule with thousands of friends and then, FINALLY, you’ll suddenly find true love. The point is to just always be working towards being the best version of yourself you can be at any given time.
Where to Find True Love
Are you deeply interested in social justice? Are you a health nut? Are you a party animal or socialite? Are you really into art and music? Or maybe you love the outdoors?
Develop your interests first, simply for the joy and pleasure you get from experiencing them. Then, as a byproduct, you will meet people who share your values and are attracted to you based on who you are, rather than what you say or how you act.
Here’s a slightly ridiculous example to illustrate my point: an intelligent woman who’s devoted to her career as a scientist probably won’t have the best luck meeting men she’s compatible with by competing in wet T-shirt contests.
Not that everyone who goes to wet T-shirt contests is stupid, it’s just that she’d be better off developing more intellectual pursuits she’s interested in so she can meet people whose interests and values are more aligned with her own. Things like signing up for language classes, volunteering at a local museum, attending art galleries and lectures, and so on.
So if you’re really into sci-fi or Dungeons and Dragons or 8th-century Medieval art, don’t go to clubs and bars looking for love. Similarly, if you like quiet nights at home and enjoy knitting, joining a skydiving club might not be the first place you should look to expand your social circle and meet potential dates.
It’s okay to experiment with expanding your interests, but as always, do it for you, not to meet Mr./Mrs. Perfect.
A Word on Online Dating Apps
I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with online dating and studies have shown that more and more people are meeting online and having long-term relationships.⁷ It’s definitely doable and it can be a great way to meet people, especially if you’re new to a city, extremely busy with work, or just “getting back out there.”
With that said, most people don’t use online dating very effectively. If you’re having problems with people being flaky and/or lukewarm, well I hate to be the one to tell you this, but it’s not them, it’s you.
You see, online dating and dating apps are great for meeting people quickly and efficiently — and that’s about it. After that, it’s up to you to be bold and clearly communicate what you’re looking for.
This will freak some people out. This will cause some people to “ghost” on you. And I’m here to tell you this is a good thing.
Think about it: the people who freak out and ghost on you, they are the flakes and wishy-washy people you’re so tired of going on dates with. It’s best to weed them out as quickly as possible and not play into their wishy-washy games. This is doubly true the older you get.
If you tell someone on a first date that you’re looking for a long-term relationship and it scares them off, then you just did your future self a huge favor. If simply stating your general intentions freaks somebody out, then the reality is that they don’t want the same thing as you and/or they have their own issues to work out. Learn to see it as a blessing when someone eliminates themselves for you.
Your job is to simply express yourself honestly and not be ashamed of that.
Honest Communication and Vulnerability
There is a dizzying amount of dating advice out there and most of it, I’m sad to say, is bullshit. So much of it focuses on the “tactics” and “strategies” of attracting someone that it completely misses the whole point of the joy of meeting someone you connect with.
“Say this, don’t say that. Wait 3.46 days before calling/texting them back. Touch them on the left arm once every 7 minutes while sub-communicating your sociosexual status. Smile, but not TOO much. Act subtly interested, but not TOO eager. Always keep them guessing to keep up the ‘mystery’.”
Yeah, fuck that.
Look, part of being a mature, functioning adult in the world is being able to communicate and express yourself honestly on an emotional level.⁸ For many people, especially those who’ve had troubles in their romantic lives, this is hard. They’ve either never been taught how to be vulnerable in a healthy way, or they’ve gotten so jaded about dating that they figure, what’s the point? So they put up their guard before anyone has the chance to really get to know who they really are.
Vulnerability, when done correctly, is actually a show of strength and power. Telling someone you like them and want to get to know them better doesn’t “give them all the power” unless you’re entirely invested in the way they respond to you.
If, instead, you are merely expressing yourself to make your desires known and you’re willing to accept the consequences, good or bad, others will notice that. And it’s incredibly attractive.
I’ve written about vulnerability before. So you can read more on that if you think you need to work on being more vulnerable.⁹
But before moving on, I want to make something clear about being vulnerable: this is not another “tactic” or “strategy” to use to get people to like you. That, by definition, is neediness (we always come back to neediness, don’t we?).
A person who is truly secure and comfortable with being vulnerable is simply expressing themselves and saying, “This is who I am, faults and all. You don’t have to like me for me to be OK with that.”
And when people don’t like you for who you are? Well then, fuck ‘em.
The One Trait to Look for in a Partner
Some people think my views towards romantic relationships are a little extreme sometimes. And I get it, I often use extreme examples to illustrate my point when it comes to things like values and boundaries. A lot of people think I’m suggesting that you only seek perfection in your love life, which just results in unrealistic expectations, which then results in disappointment because no one is perfect.
Well, of course, everyone has faults. It’s impossible to find someone without some emotional baggage or insecurities.
The real question is, how do we deal with it? I’ve previously talked about how to notice emotionally manipulative behavior and how to avoid people who display it. These are people who have problems and baggage and used them as a weapon with the men they date.
Here, I want to talk about what traits to actively look for in a relationship partner when deciding to date or commit to them, baggage and insecurities and all.
(Spoiler Alert: You want to look for people who manage their insecurities well.)
Learning the Hard Way
My first handful of significant relationships were mired with a lot of manipulation and victim/rescuer dynamics. These relationships were great learning experiences, but they also caused me a great deal of pain that I had to eventually learn from.
It wasn’t until I managed to find myself in relationships with some emotionally healthy women who were able to manage their flaws well that I really learned what to look for when dating someone.
And I discovered in this time that there was one trait in a woman that I absolutely must have to be in a relationship with her, and it was something that I would never compromise on again (and I haven’t). Some of us are unwilling to compromise on superficial traits: looks, intelligence, education, etc. Those are important, but if there’s one trait that I’ve learned you should never compromise on, it’s this:
The ability to see one’s own flaws and be accountable for them.
Because the fact is that problems are inevitable. Every relationship will run into fights and each person will run up against their emotional baggage at various times. How long the relationship lasts and how well it goes comes down to both people being willing and able to recognize the snags in themselves and communicate them openly.
Think of your love interest and ask yourself, “If I gave him/her honest, constructive criticism about how I think he/she could be better, how would they react?” Would they throw a huge fit? Cause drama? Blame you and criticize you back? Claim you don’t love them? Storm out and make you chase after them?
Or would they appreciate your perspective, and even if hurts a little or if it’s uncomfortable, even if there was a little bit of an emotional outburst at first, would they eventually consider it and be willing to talk about it? Without blaming or shaming. Without causing unnecessary drama. Without trying to make you jealous or angry.
Then they’re not dating material.
But — here’s the million dollar question — think of that same love interest, and now imagine that they gave you constructive criticism and pointed out what they believed to be your biggest flaws and blind spots. How would you react? Would you brush it off? Would you place the blame on them or call them names? Would you logically try to argue your way out of it? Would you get angry or insecure?
Chances are you would. Chances are the other person would too. Most people do. And that’s why they end up dating each other.
Having open, intimate conversations with someone where you’re able to openly talk about one another’s flaws without resorting to blaming or shaming is possibly the hardest thing to do in any relationship. Very few people are capable of it. To this day, when I sit down with my girlfriend, or my father, or one of my best friends and have one of these conversations, I feel my chest tighten, my stomach turn in a knot, my arms sweat.
It’s not pleasant. But it’s absolutely mandatory for a healthy long-term relationship. And the only way you find this in a person is by approaching the entire relationship — from the moment you first meet them — with honesty and integrity, by expressing your emotions and sexuality without blame or shame, and not degenerating into bad habits of playing games or stirring up drama.
Suppressing or over-expressing your emotions will attract someone who also suppresses or over-expresses their emotions. Expressing your emotions in a healthy manner will attract someone who also expresses their emotions in a healthy manner.
You may think a person like this doesn’t exist. That they’re a unicorn. But you’d be surprised. Your emotional integrity naturally self-selects the emotional integrity of the people you meet and date. And when you fix yourself, as if by some magical cheat code, the people you meet and date become more and more functional themselves. And the obsession and anxiety of dating dissolves and becomes simple and clear. The process ceases to be a long and analytical one but a short and pleasant one. The way she cocks her head when she smiles. The way your eyes light up a little bit more when you talk to him.
Your worries will dissolve. And regardless of what happens, whether you’re together for a minute, a month or a lifetime, all there is is acceptance.
Heed the Law of “Fuck Yes or No”
Years ago, I wrote a post called “Fuck Yes or No”. People liked it. They shared it on Facebook and sent it to their friends. They posted it on their dating profiles. They called their mothers crying and asked why they weren’t taught this in school. They nominated me for a Nobel Prize.
OK, that last part didn’t happen, but the point is that it resonated with a lot of people.
The Law of Fuck Yes or No is quite simple:
The Law of “Fuck Yes or No” states that, in dating and relationships, both parties must be a “fuck yes” about each other. Why? Because attractive, non-needy, high self-worth people don’t have time for people who they are not excited to be with and who are not excited to be with them.
The Law of Fuck Yes or No applies to meeting and dating someone, sex, long-term relationships, hell, even friendships.
If you meet someone and one or both of you aren’t a “fuck yes” for seeing each other again, that’s a “fuck no.” If you go on a first date and aren’t a “fuck yes” about a second date, that’s a “fuck no.”
And it’s not just idealistic, passionate romance I’m talking about here. You might be going through a rough patch with someone, but you’re both a “fuck yes” for working on it. Awesome. Do that.
If you’ve been with someone for years and one or both of you aren’t a “fuck yes” for being together for the foreseeable future, that’s a “fuck no.”
In any long-term relationship, problems arise and arguments are bound to happen. But a good sign of being “fuck yes” with someone is that you still want to be together even when you’re pissing each other off.¹⁰
The point isn’t that you won’t have any apprehensions if you’re “the one” for each other. The point is that you find yourselves saying “fuck yes” together for each step in the relationship despite the apprehensions you might have. From the first date to the second date to the 100th date, to doing the naked horizontal electric slide together, to making it “official,” to fighting with each other, to moving in together, to getting married, to buying insurance together, and so on.
When you think about it, the Law of Fuck Yes or No is actually a byproduct of everything we’ve covered so far. Non-needy people who take care of themselves and communicate honestly don’t have time for people who play games or are wishy-washy about being with them. They have too much self-respect and don’t care about what wishy-washy people think of them.
And so, if you take nothing else away from this, just know that the way to find true love is to be the best version of yourself and do it unapologetically and without shame. You’ll attract people into your life who connect with you on your level and, just as importantly, you’ll weed out all the people who don’t.
And that’s the whole point, isn’t it?
FIX YOUR RELATIONSHIPS
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- Just ask yourself: how often have you thought about being the one as opposed to findingthe one?
- Researchers have found evidence supporting this “likes-attract” rule. Be amazing, and amazing will come.
- And when I say relationships, I’m also talking your sex life. See: Lindau, S. T., & Gavrilova, N. (2010). Sex, health, and years of sexually active life gained due to good health: Evidence from two US population based cross sectional surveys of ageing. BMJ, 340.
- The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) has a quick and easy guide on how to get your exercise routine into shape — word play intended.
- A strong predictor of personal growth following trauma is a willingness to open up about the trauma in the context of a supportive social network. See: Tedeschi, R. G., & Calhoun, L. G. (2004). Posttraumatic Growth: Conceptual Foundations and Empirical Evidence. Psychological Inquiry, 15(1), 1–18.
- For example, cumulative stress can impair your memory as you get older. See: Marshall, A. C., Cooper, N. R., Segrave, R., & Geeraert, N. (2015). The effects of long-term stress exposure on aging cognition: A behavioral and EEG investigation. Neurobiology of Aging, 36(6), 2136–2144.
- A 2019 Pew Research Center study found more than half of Americans surveyed believe relationships that begin on a dating site or app are just as successful as those that begin in person.
- 35 years of psychology research identify “emotional responsiveness” as a secret to loving and vibrant relationships. See: Treleaven, S. (2018, June 26.) The Science Behind Happy Relationships. Time.
- There is also a wildly popular TED talk by Brené Brown on the topic. Worth checking out if you have 20 minutes to spare.
- A 2020 study finds across over 11,196 couples that a top predictor of relationship quality is perceived-partner commitment — the extent to which your partner believes you are a “fuck yes” for them and vice versa.