Forget About What He Wants, What Do You Want?


Part one of a four-part blog series on how to keep your insecurities from derailing your dating life. 

Navigating the dating scene on top of a demanding career can cause anxiety, insecurity, and self-doubt for many. Fear becomes the modus operandi over hope. This blog series aims to offer tools to help you change your perspective and show yourself some compassion, so you can thrive in the present and open yourself up to the hope and possibilities of the future.

A beautiful, smart, and successful 32-year old woman from a loving family discusses all the ways she fears she is not measuring up her boyfriend of five months' standards. Instead of focusing on what she wants out of their relationship, she is preoccupied with what she believes his perspective might be. She is fixated on decoding and deciphering what she thinks he wants.

Example: "he is now following a 23 year-old model on Instagram. I wonder why he likes me; because I don't look like that.”   Or,  “I did this {insert super smart thoughtful gesture} and he didn't respond until the end of the day.”  Or how about, “he didn't invite me to his house-share last weekend at the beach, but then the night he got back he invited me out to dinner at my favorite restaurant. That must mean that he likes my taste in restaurants but doesn’t think I’m interesting enough to introduce to his friends at his beach house yet. These mixed messages are so confusing and I have no idea what he thinks about me!” And then there’s the self-blame for his communication, or lack of it. “Now it seems like he is blowing me off since usually his texts are so witty, but the last one I received was a two word response with no emoji or even an exclamation mark!  If only I didn’t just tell him that my favorite movie was Pitch Perfect! He probably thinks I’m so vain and boring!”                                                             

Obsessive ruminations like this will lead you down the wrong path. The problem is, frankly, that you are thinking more about his thinking, than he is even thinking at all! You end up building up a story that is a completely untrue, and then you search for the evidence to confirm these beliefs. 

If these scenarios sounds familiar, then try considering the following strategies:

Validate yourself and your desires

Be firm with yourself about what you want and need. What are your values? Which of those values are non-negotiable? Do you want to find a loving life partner and have children in a way that makes sense for your life?  Do you want a fulfilling relationship more than you want arm candy or Mrs. Status?  If so, you need to take your time and be patient. Approach this effort like you do all the other areas of your life where you've achieved success, applying equal parts heart, mind, and soul. Take the time to see yourself through the eyes of someone who you know loves you unconditionally, and then say to yourself, that level or love and respect is what you expect from your guy. 

Ask yourself: "What do I want?"

Practice tuning into yourself when you find yourself obsessing about what you think he wants.  Instead of telling yourself, “I feel slighted that it's only our second date and he's already asking me to go Dutch. He really must not care to impress me.  Rather think "he asked me to go Dutch on the second date. That feels so platonic and I want more romance from a man. I think I'll keep my options open."  See the difference? This type of thinking helps you retain your power.

Observe and gather information

When you find yourself playing detective and second-guessing everything, take a step back and look at it as gathering important information that you need to make decisions about in your next steps.  Take the example of the guy with a growing collection of models to follow on Instagram. Instead of getting worked up and drawing conclusions about what he really wants and how you can measure up, say to yourself "hmm. Maybe it doesn't mean much, but I’ll continue to take note since it might be an indicator that our values and interests are not aligned,  or that he cannot meet my needs for exclusivity right now." 

Burger broke up with Carrie on a sticky-note. This says a lot more about him then it does her. If you have ever found yourself  on receiving end of similar transaction, consider what this says about them, not you! 

Burger broke up with Carrie on a sticky-note. This says a lot more about him then it does her. If you have ever found yourself  on receiving end of similar transaction, consider what this says about them, not you! 

Don’t take it personally

Some of us are looking for “the one”, however the “ones” we are looking for may be looking for anything but "just" one.  If the person you’ve set your eyes on is not reciprocating your feelings, it doesn’t mean you aren’t worthy or deserving of love. Their actions do not determine what your needs are.  Acknowledge your desire for a loving partner and a fulfilling relationship. Then you can recognize and value his desire and need for the opposite! If that’s the case, it’s time to value yourself and move on.

Think in shades of grey and examine the evidence

I often hear people say, “all of my friends are getting married but me.” Really? To see if this is true, make a list of all of your friends, colleagues, and whomever you spend your time with. Then add them up and file them by category: single, happy in relationship, unhappy in a relationship, happily married, and unhappily married. Next, add to a pie chart, divided by percentage into these categories.  You will likely find that you have a lot more single friends than you realize. You will also be forced to consider those that are in committed but unhappy relationships, which can feel a lot lonelier than being single.  This might help you find gratitude for your independence and all the possibilities your future holds. 

Pick an affirmation or two

An affirmation is a declaration that something is true.  When recited repeatedly, an affirmation will help you develop a new pattern of thought.   I have a dear friend who was full of little gems on dating like, “men are like the bus- there will always be another coming along".  My favorite, and one that worked for me when I was feeling frustrated was "it only takes one". Why does it bother you that not every man is tripping over himself to get next to you? All it takes it one. I know, it sounds cheesy, but affirmations do work! 

Assume a “Beginner’s Mind” 

Assuming a “Beginner’s Mind” is one of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s foundational principles of Mindfulness. Try to look at the situation as if you don’t have all the answers, while avoiding critical judgment. Each moment is unique and ripe with potential for unique opportunities. Try this by doing the following. When you see something familiar, look at it with “fresh eyes”. Are you seeing it as it really is? How is it different? 

Stay tuned for the second post of this four-part series on dating, where we will explore the topic of loving your imperfect self.   

Kerrie Thompson, LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist in private practice in NYC. For a free initial consultation, contact her here