Knowing how to be authentic, especially when dating someone new, can be challenging. For many of us, it can be tempting to pretend to like certain things, or have certain qualities, in the hopes of gaining our love interest’s approval and commitment.
Despite this temptation, there is nothing more important for a healthy, satisfying relationship than learning to embrace your authenticity.
What it means to be authentic in a relationship
Authenticity is the state of being real or genuine. When you are authentic, you honor your true and whole self. This includes honoring your feelings, values, needs, wants and boundaries.
Therefore, to be authentic, you must be self-aware. You must learn to ask yourself, repeatedly, how you feel and think in any given situation or relationship.
Why authenticity matters when dating someone
If you are not authentic in a relationship, it’s completely possible to attract the wrong person for you. When you attract the wrong person for you, this relationship is set up for failure. Even if it “works out,” and you get married, you will either eventually divorce or be dissatisfied with your life.
All too often, as a couple’s therapist, I have seen couples realize they truly have irreconcilable differences. An example of this is one person wanting kids while another doesn’t or one person wanting an urban lifestyle while another wants a quiet, rural community.
Related: How to be your authentic self
You may know that there is a high risk of divorce for marriages. Almost half of first marriages will end in divorce and this number only increases over time! More than 60% of second marriages end in divorce. Finally, by the time someone is in their third marriage, there is almost a 3 in 4 chance that this couple will divorce.
What I have come to realize as a couple’s therapist, is this high divorce rate, is in part because people are not authentic before marrying. They either don’t know who they are or are lying to themselves about what’s really important to them.
To save yourself much heartache, grief, and the literal and emotional costs of divorce, it’s better to date authentically from the start.
It’s not enough for your dating partner to like you
I understand how easy it is to get caught up in the high of being liked by someone that you forget who you are or what you need. In my 20s, I was engaged to a man I only loved as a friend. However, this relationship went on for years because he liked me. I felt so disconnected from myself I thought this was enough.
Luckily, prior to getting married, I called this wedding off. At the time, it was the scariest choice I had ever made but I’m always grateful to my younger self for protecting me from inevitable pain, dissatisfaction, and divorce.
Barriers to authenticity
As you’re reading this, if you notice, you don’t know who you really are or what you really like, please know this is incredibly common. This process of focusing on what others like over what you want, or need is the fundamental symptom of codependency.
Please know there is no shame in codependency or feeling like you are disconnected from yourself. Codependency develops after a person experiences relational trauma in which they were made to feel like they were not enough. Because of this, the person disconnects from themselves to keep others happy in the hopes of avoiding rejection or abandonment.
This is incredibly painful way to live but whether you are codependent or not currently, you can absolutely date in an empowered and authentic way.
The most important thing to ask yourself to be authentic when dating someone
I spent many years dating ineffectively and pursuing emotionally unavailable men because I refused to be honest about my needs. Luckily, through my mistakes, you can prevent a lot of heartache.
The single most important to ask yourself when you are dating someone to be authentic is: How do I really feel about this person?
It can be so easy to feel high from the attention you are receiving from someone that you forget to ask yourself this question.
Related: What is love bombing in dating?
It’s important to take time away from your dating partner so you have time to really think about how you feel with them. Do you just like their attention? Or do you feel connected and comfortable with them? Do you feel respected by them? (Hint: I’ve noticed that with the most healthy, loving relationships we naturally feel we can be more “real” around them. Also, they don’t give you mixed signals.)
Becoming more mindful about your needs
To be authentic, you simply need to prioritize some time and space for you to connect with yourself. You can do this by journaling or meditating.
A great strategy is to also identify your non-negotiable needs. These are the things you need a relationship no matter what to feel happy, safe, and secure. For example, maybe you need to be able to trust someone or maybe you need someone who shares the same political values as you. Whatever you personally need, it is necessary to honor this when dating someone.
You can identify your non-negotiables by signing up for a free worksheet down below. Then use this as an assessment tool when dating someone. If, for example, you find out someone doesn’t meet 1 out of your 3 non-negotiables then, no matter what to save yourself heartache in the future you end the relationship.
Becoming more aware of your boundaries
Another way to date authentically is to know your boundaries. These are any limit you need to set to feel safe such as no yelling in a relationship or respecting your time.
In my experience, many people struggle to know what their boundaries are especially because we live in a culture filled with boundary violations.
To support you, I’ve created a four-part healthy boundaries system which will help you identify, set, and maintain your boundaries with ease and skill. To learn more, check out my course, Confidently Authentic: Stop People Pleasing and Start Being True to Yourself.
Self-respect is sweeter than a relationship
It can be scary to date authentically. After all, when you are honest about your needs, wants, and limits, it may take longer to find your right person. But this is a success. The relationship you attract will be the right one for you which greatly reduces the chances of divorce.
Furthermore, when you honor your authentic self, you cultivate self-respect. And nothing is sweeter (or more attractive) than that!
About The Author
Krystal Mazzola Wood, LMFT is a practicing relationship therapist with over a decade of experience. Currently, Krystal sees clients at her private practice, The Healthy Relationship Foundation. She has dedicated her entire career to empowering people to heal from unhealthy relationship processes. She does this by teaching the skills and tools necessary to have a life filled with healthy and loving relationships.
This passion led her to write her best-selling books and create courses. Her books, The Codependency Recovery Plan: A 5-Step Guide to Understand, Accept, and Break Free from the Codependent Cycle and The Codependency Workbook: Simple Practices for Developing and Maintaining Your Independence have helped many people heal.
Her third book, Therapy Within Reach: Setting Boundaries, will be released September, 2023.
If you have any personal dating or relationship questions, Krystal is happy to provide advice using her expertise and compassion. If you feel comfortable, feel free to leave any questions in the comments of this post. Otherwise, you may send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or DM her on Instagram. Your name and any other identifying information will always be kept confidential.
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