As a matchmaker, I spend my days immersed in the love lives of my clients, quizzing them about their celebrity crushes, dealbreakers, and dating history. I always say that I feel like I’ve been in a million relationships–a million first dates, a million lukewarm goodnights, and on the receiving end of a million confusing, dead-end text threads. In almost every case, there has been one significant issue standing in the way of real connection and intimacy: self love, or more accurately, a lack thereof. Hear me out.
You’ve probably heard it repeated over and over that the most important relationship is the one you have with yourself. But have you ever thought about what that actually means? Or whether a lack of self-love is getting in your way of finding real love with someone else?
Let’s start by identifying what self-love is. Merriam-Webster defines it as “an appreciation of one's own worth or virtue.” That’s a great place to start, but I’d go a few steps further and say that self-love is the ability to know not only who we are, but also what we are and aren’t willing to accept from others. Have you ever seen someone linger in an abusive or unfulfilling relationship? Have you ever found yourself in a partnership that wasn’t healthy because you’d rather have companionship rather than true connection? I’d bet this was at least partially due to a fraught relationship with the self, which can be one of the biggest hurdles on the path towards leading the life that we genuinely desire.
In almost every case, there has been one significant issue standing in the way of real connection and intimacy: self love...
Self-love also begets independence and confidence. People who love themselves may desire companionship, but they don’t need it, and that’s key. I often tell my clients that self-love is the ability to fill your own cup, so that you never have to enter into a relationship from a state of lack. With self-love, you’re a whole person, on your own, who is readily prepared to welcome the right person into your life, rather than simply taking what you can get. When it comes to a potential partner, there is nothing more attractive than this type of abundance (and for once, we aren’t referring to their finances).
From where I’m sitting, a lack of self-love is easy to spot. When a client immediately starts talking about everything they want out of their potential partner as if it's a grocery store checklist or game show bingo card––they want a brunette, a banker, a PhD, or a model, for example, rather than listing what they can bring to a relationship––that’s when I know we have some work to do. After I remind them that I’m a matchmaker, not a miracle worker, I explain that relationships are collaborative and symbiotic; it takes two to tango. Ultimately, we need to choose someone who is also choosing us.
So when it comes to dating and relationships, the best advice that I can give is to work on your relationship with yourself first. Start thinking about all the ways in which you’re a catch, about why you’re ready for a relationship, and all the unique aspects that you can bring to the table in a partnership. And, as simple as it sounds, try to define what love actually means to you. In my experience, these are the people who have the best odds at navigating serious, long-term and healthy relationships.
People who love themselves may desire companionship, but they don’t need it, and that’s key.
Here are four common dating mistakes that signal a lack of self-love:
1. When people take their partner for granted. It’s so much easier to focus on what’s missing rather than what's right there in front of us. It’s natural, frankly, and we do this in life. But it’s amazing what a little gratitude can do for the health of our relationships. It doesn’t mean we have to ignore the bad stuff, it just means we need to balance our perspectives. In the end, doing so will keep us from spiralling into self-pity and resentment, and help us focus on what needs to be fixed.
2. When people can’t set boundaries. Boundaries set the stage for a respectful relationship. But before we can lay them out, we need to know what they are. That takes work. You have to be very attuned to your own feelings and know when something has crossed a line––even if it seems small or inconsequential. A lot of my clients struggle to set boundaries with potential partners because they haven’t yet identified them with themselves.
It’s so much easier to focus on what’s missing rather than what's right there in front of us.
3. When they can’t communicate. Struggling to communicate in the moment, which usually means being passive aggressive later on, are red flags that someone may not know themselves that well. Expressing intention and relaying context are vital to a healthy relationship because that’s how you tell your partner who you are.
4. When they try too hard to please. When we fixate too much on making other people happy, we tend to lose ourselves in the process. That’s bad for many reasons, but it’s also counterintuitive. Why? Because it makes us less attractive. When we don’t do the things we love, when we don’t fill our own cups, when we aren’t attracted to ourselves, other people will be less attracted to us. Love yourself first.
When we fixate too much on making other people happy, we tend to lose ourselves in the process.
Brittany Hart is the Founder of Hart Matchmaking Academy, an online matchmaker certification program that teaches women how to step into their power as a professional matchmaker and create the abundant, impactful and freedom-filled life that they have always imagined.