Relationship Advice Tips from Dr. Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

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photograph copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

Remember that twinge of anxiety that washes over you when you want to create a good impression with your date?

You take extra trouble with your looks and your conversation, your manners and your habits. You become what you think is the epitome of being an attractive and desirable date. But did you know that you are actually harming your chances of creating a positive intimate and healthy relationship by focusing on your image?

After ten years of dating on a regular basis twenty-six year Paula was shocked and irate that all her efforts at the beauty parlor and flawless dress style had little effect on her dates.

She got compliments but there was no chemistry between them that led to her date wanting to get to know her better. There was a sharp intake of breath by the guy when she appeared in her perfect outfits, with hair and makeup to match but there was no easy flow of conversation when she tried to be a good listener, or stay neutral on hot topics.

The buildup to the date was always fraught with hope and visions of ‘clicking’ immediately, but Paula always came home disappointed. The dates either fizzled out or followed a predictable path of one-night stands.

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photograph copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

What angered Paula the most was that the plain girls seemed to get repeat dates that often led to engagements and marriage.

She was furious that all her work to attract guys worked for just one date. What did the other girls have that she didn’t? They didn’t seem to have anything special or anything that she would want to emulate. Yet they had the intimate touches, companionship, and gentle humor that made Paula so envious!

What Paula didn’t know was that her efforts to create a perfect image got the guys salivating just for her looks. But that only lasted a short time because the image wasn’t real. She never let the guys see her without the carefully crafted image she projected. What was even worse was that Paula wasn’t being honest in her conversations. She hid her opinions and feelings. She behaved in a predetermined way, calculated to project a certain image that she mistakenly believed would hook the guys.

When guys did want to see her again and they had time at her place, Paula couldn’t relax and be herself. She worked doubly hard to maintain her image. Instead of finding a comfortable connection, Paula felt a huge gulf of tension keep them apart. It would get so bad that she would want her date to leave, destroying her objective of making a relationship with potential for something more serious.

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Paula was not true to herself when she hid behind her image.

She couldn’t be real with her dates since the image masked her authentic self. Paula became a cookie cutter date instead of a vibrant woman with feelings and thoughts and human foibles. Guys can’t make relationships with cardboard cut outs, so after they drooled over Paula’s hot looks it was as if they licked the ice-cream and got left with a wooden stick. Paula felt disrespected and objectified as a female sex object.

Paula’s dates didn’t respond to her with positive and healthy relationship behaviors. They dated an image and treated her as if she were just that – an image that didn’t have feelings or needs, whereas the women who Paula felt envious of despite their plainness were totally real. The guys who dated the plain women got the real deal and responded with interest, teasing, affection, honesty and above all a desire for more. When the girls were real with the guys, the men could be themselves too.

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Research shows that men and women who were authentic and true to themselves when dating enjoyed more intimate connections.

A study in the journal Personality and Individual Differences 2010, found that being honest and true to themselves made dating couples feel more positive about their relationships. Authentic partners were less destructive when relating, and felt better about themselves overall.

Women who were true to themselves when dating elicited more intimate and positive relationship behaviors from their dates, but women didn’t necessarily become more intimate if men were authentic. So Paula needs to take note of the fact that her dates can’t relax or feel safe and secure with her because they don’t know what’s behind the image. Insecurity breeds fear and fear prevents intimacy. The tension bred of falseness makes them behave in negative ways so they can get out of that uncomfortable and inauthentic trap.

The lesson for Paula is that she doesn’t need to work so hard to be something different than she is. She has her good looks and her unique personality, which is all she needs to make a healthy connection. She can achieve comfortable intimacy and relationship security by letting her hair down and letting her personality shine. Then there will be something positive to connect to and enjoy.

Copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

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 Disclaimer: this article is for informational and educative purposes only. There is no liability on the part of Dr. Raymond for any reactions you may have while reading the article or implementing the suggestions therein. Interacting with this material does not constitute a therapeutic relationship with Dr. Raymond.