The work behind finding real love...

Focus on the superficial, and you will end up with a superficial type of connection. It’s true. And dating sites and apps don’t make it easy, that’s for sure. In fact, their business model caters to our more superficial tendencies. They aren’t really interested in getting you into a serious, long-term relationship. They are interested in keeping you on their site.

If you are looking for a meaningful relationship, you need to dig deeper, ditch the “checklist” and be really present on dates, for starters. Focus instead on how someone makes you FEEL and on those qualities that actually matter for a healthy and happy relationship.

If you have been single for a long time (and don’t want to be) and/or have jumped from one short-lived, casual connection to the next (and want more) than it might be time to shift that mindset and come up with a different plan.

But it's not easy. It’s about breaking old patterns, those conscious (and unconscious) beliefs about yourself, and dealing with your expectations around relationships. So where do you start?

It's not them, it’s you.

The first step is to recognize that where you are right now is not about anyone else, it’s not really about the nature of online dating, and it’s not about the “quality” of people out there. It’s about you. Here is the digging deep part. If you are approaching the search for a partner on a superficial level, you will continue repeating the same patterns, and having the same results. This isn’t easy or comfortable work, and it can take time. Here are just a few questions to start with:

How have you been conditioned to view romantic relationships and the “type” of person you should be with, from your parents, your friends and your community? Where do your preferences come from? What patterns are you repeating in partners or relationships and more importantly, why? Where are you with self-love? This is always evolving and a work in progress, but if you are really struggling with feelings of unworthiness, it needs to be addressed first, above anything else.

Fall in love with being single

Self-love. If you are really there (or getting there) you should be able to find a lot of joy in being single. Do you like your own company? Do you have a life that is pretty full and meaningful without a partner? Searching for love to fill a void is never a good place to start. And being a happy, whole person on your own IS what will make you attractive to not just any partner, but the RIGHT partner. Your self-worth is what will be the foundation of a healthy relationship.

Take action

If you’ve done the work and are ready to open yourself up to a romantic relationship, what will you do to make sure you don’t slip into old patterns? It's about being conscious and intentional. If you are clear on who you are (and happy where you are), then you can be clear on who you are looking for and the type of relationship that will work for you. Write it down and set boundaries.

And this shouldn't be a list of qualities that the other person HAS to have (again, the superficial), it’s about how you want to FEEL on a date, and by extension in a relationship. Examples: the presence of joy/playfulness, emotional availablity, equal, valued, respected, etc.

When the work is done and you have shifted into this mindset, new possibilities will be available to you. But it's up to you to let go of the idea of the person you should be with (rooted in old patterns that no longer serve you) and say yes to the person who is waiting for you.

Terran Shea is a Dating Strategist and Executive Matchmaker at




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