The Path to Authentic Dating

by Gideon
September 27, 2021

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Let’s be honest: authentic dating takes guts since it is a difficult thing to do because of the anxieties and realities that come with rejection.

When you show your true self to a complete stranger, there is always the possibility of being rejected simply for being yourself.

Pretending to be someone else, on the other hand, may cause you to miss out on genuine love entirely.

So, either way, there’s a chance of failure.

That leaves you with only one choice: Which would you prefer?

authentic dating

The purpose of this post is to explore some thoughts about authentic dating, as well as what the most effective method or approach would be.

Naturally, there are so many approaches to this subject that it is hard to address all of them.

However, what I want you to take away from this is an understanding of what authentic dating is and how it might potentially provide far more rewards in the long run than a few short-term successes without long-term success.

Anyone can mislead another person by being dishonest about themselves or claiming to be someone or something they are not.

The difficulty with that strategy, however, is that you can only play that game for a brief amount of time before becoming bored with it or being exposed as a fraud.

In either case, if you’re serious about meeting someone you can love and making a life with them, I will always recommend the road of authentic dating.

Relationships that last are based on the foundation of honesty, trust, and an emotional connection with the other person.

And each of those things necessitates the presence of a variety of other aspects and elements, every single day.

The process of developing a quality love relationship with someone takes time and work.

It involves making many mistakes and feeling a great deal of frustration at times.

It also necessitates being ready and willing to think about more than just oneself.

This is a difficult task for many people.

Some people try, but they are unable to complete the task.

And that’s perfectly acceptable.

If, on the other hand, you actually desire a long-lasting and happy relationship, you should begin with authentic dating.

To put it another way, “start with the end in mind,” and then focus on “first things first,” as Stephen Covey would say.

If the goal is to have a long-lasting, high-quality love relationship, the journey begins with the first date.

authentic dating

From the very first minute you meet someone, you are establishing the groundwork and setting the tone for the rest of the relationship’s development.

That is where I believe a lot of individuals nowadays are missing the point when it comes to dating.

As humans, we have not changed in terms of our need and want for connection with another person, as well as our desire to build a meaningful life together.

Relationship research continues to reveal that when we do not feel connected to our partners or do not work together to create a meaningful life, the relationship suffers as a result.

That, I feel, begins at the very outset.

When we begin our relationships inauthentically, in whatever form it takes, we are merely laying a very weak foundation on which to construct a large house.

However, a shaky foundation cannot support a large structure.

Something is going to come crashing down at some point.

For this reason and others, the first step towards authentic dating, which is truly the first step towards a healthy, happy and intimate relationship, is to ask yourself whether you want to take off your mask and connect on a deeper level with someone else.

If you do not wish to do just that, nothing in the remainder of this post will be of use to you. Stop reading.

However, if you believe that starting a relationship with authenticity is the most effective method to achieve long-term success rather than merely short-term gains, then continue reading this post.

Now, in today’s world, there are two primary dating realms that we must take into consideration.

The first is internet dating, and the second is offline dating.

Online dating inevitably transitions into offline dating, or at the very least that is the intention, I believe.

It is quite difficult to form a long-term love relationship with someone who has never met you before.

I suppose it is possible to meet someone online and get to know them very well, but there will always be some aspects of the relationship that are lacking, such as physical closeness.

Consequently, assuming that online dating will eventually transition into offline dating, we must examine what authentic dating looks like in each of these settings.

What is a handful of things you can do to establish yourself as a more authentic person, both online and offline, right from the start?

To begin, let’s look at internet dating.

Authentic Dating Online

According to a survey conducted by the dating app Plenty of Fish, over 84% of singles want greater authenticity in their dating experiences.

Now, that is an interesting result because it appears like the majority of people online do precisely the opposite (at least according to my impression).

The Internet makes it incredibly easy to embellish and promote ourselves in whichever way we choose, even if that means distorting or lying a little bit about the facts of our lives.

authentic dating

“Catfishing” is the term used to describe the practice of pretending to be someone you are not online.

Catfishing has become a popular dating word, which refers to the act of claiming to be someone you are not in real life while online.

Now, while you may believe catfishing is extreme and that you will never participate in it, the likelihood is that you have already participated in its “lighter” and more sinister counterpart – “kittenfishing.”

Kittenfishing is referred to as “light catfishing.”

While you are not assuming another person’s identity, you are significantly misrepresenting yourself.

But why do individuals behave in this manner?

Online dating is a competitive environment, where shortcomings are simpler to conceal than in the real world.

Ultimately, we all want to be liked and loved by those we meet online.

As a result, stretching the truth may appear to be the most effective method of increasing our chances of landing that first date.

In other words, we lie somewhat and we pretend just a tad, but in the end, we still aim to deceive.

According to clinical psychologist Sharone Weltfried, who is quoted in this article on nbcnews.com,

“Kittenfishers try to optimize the likelihood of getting a first date because they believe they can win people over in person with their personality, charm, wit, intelligence, sense of humor, etc…Kittenfishers may also use outdated or greatly filtered images of themselves because they believe that they look better in person than their more recent or unaltered photos.”

Sharone Weltfried

It appears that we have evolved into a generation that is so afraid of rejection and being viewed as less “successful” or “important” that we will go to any extent to ensure that we are accepted – and, amazingly, that we are accepted by strangers the vast majority of the time.

However, it is a really positive sign that 84% of singles want more authentic dating because honesty is critical if you want a healthy relationship in the end.

You cannot, I repeat, you cannot have a healthy, happy, and intimate relationship that is built on lying and deceit as a foundation for the long term.

Nothing is accomplished other than creating a weak foundation that will eventually crumble under the weight of everything that comes with establishing and maintaining a long-term love connection.

That is something you do not want. Certainly not if you are reading this.

A couple of suggestions for authentic dating and being true to yourself and your date:

Turn off filters.

In response to complaints from users that photo filters are “deceptive,” the popular online dating service Plenty of Fish has banned photo filters from its profiles.

According to a poll conducted by Plenty of Fish of 2,000 single adults in the United States on the matter, 75% of respondents said that the use of filters “heavily altered someone’s appearance” was deceptive.

When looking for a companion online, it is critical that users believe that they are seeing their matches as they truly are in their images, rather than the glossed over, puppy-faced version that a filter would provide, according to a blog post about the study published by the dating app Tinder.

authentic dating

They recommend that instead of utilizing filters to alter your appearance and portray yourself in an unauthentic manner, you should adhere to two rules:

  1. Recognize that a healthy self-esteem is attractive. Nothing is more appealing than self-confidence, and a photograph is worth a thousand words. Even if you are self-conscious about your appearance, a high-quality portrait of oneself taken without the use of filters will always be the ideal method to showcase your natural beauty, and the right people will take note.
  2. Recognize the Importance of Maturity. If you’re serious about meeting someone, you want the individuals who visit your profile to be able to see and feel that from the very first moment.

Use your words wisely.

According to scienceofpeople.com, there are a few critical ideas to bear in mind while using words in your online profile.

To begin, write about the qualities you seek in a partner.

Many people attempt to squeeze as much information about themselves as possible into their descriptions.

This simple oversight can significantly limit the number of texts you get.

According to a survey, the most popular online daters used 70% of their profiles to talk about themselves and 30% to discuss what they’re searching for in a companion.

That is a major mistake.

For instance, you could state:

“I’m an adventurous person who enjoys spending time outside and am looking for someone with whom to share interesting experiences.”

Stop talking about yourself and start talking about who you want to meet while inadvertently describing yourself in the process.

Second, demonstrate Your Emotional Availability.

Social Psychologists Stephanie Spielmann and Geoff MacDonald conducted a study to determine what factor is more important when creating an online dating profile: physical beauty or emotional availability.

The more emotionally available individual was preferred by both men and women when they were given the choice between a sexy but emotionally unavailable person or someone who is less attractive but appears to be caring and emotionally responsive.

So, how do you demonstrate emotional receptivity?

Avoid insensitive comments such as “I am a highly motivated individual who desires career success and aspires to become a millionaire before the age of 30.”

Bear in mind that you’re seeking a relationship, not a promotion.

Rather than that, write something like this: “I enjoy sports and the outdoors and am looking for someone who shares my passion for health and time spent in nature.”

authentic dating

Again, and most importantly for the sake of this post on authentic dating, do not falsify your profile.

To attract people who are looking for casual, low-commitment relationships, you must be upfront and honest about your intentions. Otherwise, you will attract people who want more from you than you are ready to provide in return.

Thirdly, employ the word “love.”

The dating website PlentyofFish was curious as to what types of profiles resulted in the most successful relationships.

The researchers discovered that those who included the word “love” in their descriptions were the most successful at entering into committed relationships after reviewing 1.2 million profiles.

Men profited most from the use of related terms such as “heart,” “romantic,” and “relationship.”

Be honest.

Authentic dating is all about honesty, transparency, and creating trust from the outset.

There isn’t really much more I can say about that to make it any clearer.

If you are catfishing or kittenfishing, you’re being deceitful and not only are you lying to someone else, you’re fundamentally lying to yourself. And self-deceit is the worst form of deception in my opinion.

Because if you can lie to yourself, when and where do you draw the line with someone else?

And what does that predict for any future relationship with that person?

Conversely, authentic dating is about being real and clear about what you’re seeking in a person and in a relationship.

That is ultimately what it comes down to.

It sets the pace for everything else.

However, setting the wrong expectations from the beginning is a sure way to set the stage for a shaky future in any relationship.

I want to think that most people who use online dating services are sincerely looking for someone to love and create a life with. Of course, there are exceptions.

However, if you want to discover someone with whom you can have a serious relationship, you must be genuine and honest from the beginning.

Deviating from authentic dating will almost certainly result in an inauthentic relationship that will burn to the ground.

Therefore, if you wish to avoid this, choose your words carefully when describing yourself.

Meet offline.

Virtual connections are great and all, but they are actually only designed to be used as a simple way of introducing people to one another.

The longer-term goal will always be to establish a connection with someone in the actual world.

Chatting online can be entertaining at first, but it should be considered a means to an end rather than an end in itself.

Furthermore, keeping it online for an extended period of time can easily lead to romantic fantasies and unreasonable expectations that aren’t grounded in reality.

In-person meetings have a variety of advantages, but the most significant is also the most obvious: actual in-person dates are the only solid foundation for any future meaningful relationships. It’s finally over.

authentic dating

While it is possible to create a strong rapport with someone on a dating website, there is only so much chemistry and connection that can be developed simply by exchanging text messages or engaging in regular video conversations.

At this point, your partnership will stay in a state of tentative familiarity.

In essence, dating websites are primarily intended to serve as a platform for singles to select potential companions from a large number of available options.

The ultimate goal will always be to go on a real-life date with a real person.

So, if it appears that the two of you are interested in each other, schedule a coffee date and go from there.

Because that meeting will tell you everything you need to know about the next action you should take.

Stay safe.

When using online dating services, it is vital to protect yourself and be safe.

Unfortunately, not every person floating around online has pure intentions.

Scanning people online has become a full-time business for many criminals, and they have become incredibly smart in deceiving people in a variety of ways.

So, as a result, it’s important to always be on the lookout and ensure your own safety when dating online.

According to the website rainn.org, there are a range of things that you need to be aware of and can put in place to ensure your own safety.

When Online:

Change your profile photos. Google’s reverse image search is simple. It will be easier for someone to locate you on social media if your dating profile photo is already on Instagram or Facebook.

Avoid questionable profiles. A profile with no bio, no associated social media accounts, and simply one photo may be a scam. Use caution if you opt to connect with someone you don’t know.

Look up your date on social media. Look up your match’s social network accounts or, better yet, mutual connections to ensure they aren’t “catfishing” you by using a phoney social media account to establish their dating profile.

Block and alert suspects. Inappropriate behaviour towards you can be reported by blocking and reporting a user’s profile. This might be done before or after the match. In any human connection, people might misrepresent themselves. Trust your gut instincts regarding whether someone is being honest or not.

The list below provides instances of frequent stories or suspicious behaviours scammers may use to gain confidence and sympathy from another individual:

  • Asks for financial help, often due to a severe personal crisis
  • True American citizen living, working, or travelling abroad
  • Recently widowed with kids
  • Vanishes off the site, then reappears under a new name
  • Answers questions in a vague manner
  • Early compliments and romanticism
  • Demands your phone number or other contact information
  • Requests your home or office address to send flowers or gifts
  • Confusing or extravagant stories
  • Disjointed language and grammar, but well-educated

You may want to report the following user behaviour:

  • Requests financial help
  • Requesting photos
  • A teen
  • Sends obnoxious or harassing
  • Any attempt to threaten or intimidate you
  • Created a false profile
  • Tries to sell you something

Don’t Share Personal Data. Never send out sensitive information like your SSN, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, or work or home addresses to someone you haven’t met in person. Dating apps and websites will never email you asking for your username and password, so delete it and report it.

Don’t respond to financial requests. No matter how compelling the reason, never send money, especially overseas or via wire transfer. If you receive such a request, notify the app or website immediately. For additional information, visit the FTC’s website on preventing online dating frauds.

When in Person

Video chat first, then meet up. Consider organising a video call with a possible date after you’ve matched and chatted before meeting in person. This might help guarantee your match is who they say they are. Resisting a video call could be a hint of anything fishy.

Inform a friend. Send a pal a screenshot of your date’s profile. Let one person know where and when you’ll be going. If you end up going somewhere you hadn’t intended on, text a friend to let them know. It’s also a good idea to text or phone a friend mid-date or after you get home to check-in.

Meet in public. Avoid meeting a stranger at your house, apartment, or job. It may be more comfortable for both of you to meet at a crowded coffee shop, restaurant, or bar. Avoid first dates in parks and other isolated areas.

authentic dating

Don’t rely on your date to drive. You need to be able to leave whenever you want and not rely on your date if you start to feel uncomfortable. Even if the person you’re meeting offers to pick you up, avoid getting into a car with someone you don’t know and trust.

Have several ride-sharing apps downloaded on your phone in case one fails when you need it. Make sure your phone has data and is fully charged, or carry a charger or a portable battery.

Stay with what you know. A few drinks on a date is perfectly acceptable. Remember your limits and don’t feel obligated to drink simply because your date does. It’s also best to avoid drugs before or on a first date because drugs can distort reality or mix with alcohol in unexpected ways.

Recruit a bartender or waitress. Finding a close ally can assist if you’re feeling uneasy. A waiter or bartender can assist you to escape, phone the cops, or arrange a safe ride home.

Trust your gut. If you feel uneasy, leave a date or stop communicating with the person who makes you feel unsafe. Your safety comes first and any decent date will respect that.

Finally, it’s also important to remind yourself that you can always unmatch, block, or report a match after meeting in person, preventing them from accessing your profile in the future.

Following these valuable suggestions and guidelines will help you massively when navigating the often tricky waters of the online dating world.

But let’s assume that you manage to connect with someone online that you quite like, you did your due diligence, and you feel comfortable about the person, now what?

Well, the next step is obviously (if possible) to see if meeting in person is what you both want.

So, for the purposes of this post, what do you need to keep in mind for authentic dating offline?

Authenticity in Offline Dating

Connecting with somebody online can be quite exciting, no doubt. However, it is in real until they are real.

Additionally, it’s important to remember that successful dating is more about discovering if you’re compatible rather than trying to impress others.

We gravitate towards others who gravitate towards us – a fundamental human phenomenon termed “reciprocity of attraction” by psychologists.

And that only happens when you move from online dating to offline dating.

More importantly, if it is a good match, chances are you will both end up having more fun that is far more meaningful in the end because there is only so much one can learn about someone else through a screen.

Use these couple of ideas for more authentic dating offline:

Share a meal.

There is something about sharing a meal with another person that connects us in a powerful way.

Alternatively, if we don’t connect, we very quickly learn whether this person is the right person for us.

When we spend most of our time connecting online, many of the intricacies and nuances of human connection can be skipped or bypassed.

Not so in real life.

When you are sharing a meal or someone else, there is no hiding.

When you’re forced to have a conversation with another person while eating, you’re being put in a pretty vulnerable position.

They get to gauge your manners, mannerisms, body language, how you eat, what type of energy you have about you, how it feels being in your presence, how you make them feel, how you speak, your ability to share your thoughts, and so on.

authentic dating

When we are typing on a screen, we have time to edit our thoughts, but not so when interacting in person in real-time.

That’s probably also why I prefer going for a meal rather than a movie as a first date (something a lot of people on first dates do).

Personally, I think that’s a mistake.

The movie essentially functions like a buffer or another screen through which you are trying to connect to another person.

You can get away with many things and end up going home feeling like you’ve had a good time and a good date.

However, a good time is not the same as a good date.

One might make you feel inclined to consider another date, whereas the other one makes you want another date.

When you are sharing a meal, it is a great opportunity to be your authentic (best) self as this is most definitely a type of addition.

Express yourself.

People tend to reciprocate what others do to them.

Consequently, if you’re serious about authentic dating and you want your date to express themselves openly and honestly, it’s important that you lead by example.

I would be surprised if your date is willing to be vulnerable with you when you don’t do the same.

It goes back to the idea of “emotional availability” that we spoke about earlier that a lot of people want when dating.

Unfortunately, your date won’t show their emotional availability if you don’t show yours.

Now, I’m not suggesting lowering your standards or sharing your deepest darkest secrets right from the get-go, but it’s important that your date knows that you’re interested.

Women are told by many relationship guidance books to “play hard to get” to attract a man, according to PsychologyToday.com. A woman should act uninterested in the man she wants to date, according to this method, because men like what they can’t get their hands on. For example, when he phones her, she should ignore him and claim to be busy when he asks her out on a date.

However, that can be a mistake if done wrong, since some research does suggest it has some merit.

According to Walster et al. (1973), we are most attracted to persons who are picky about who they date and who they choose to date.

However, this does not imply that we are most attracted to persons who behave in a way that suggests they do not like us.

As a matter of fact, research (Kenny & La Voie,1982) on reciprocity demonstrates that we prefer people who like our company.

Also, if we consider that someone is out of our league, we are reluctant to pursue them (Montoya & Horton, 2014).

If you’re interested in someone, it may be best to demonstrate to him or her that you have high standards while also letting them know that they fit those requirements.

authentic dating

You don’t want to be seen as desperate, but you should nonetheless express your desire.

The gist of it is that you want to convey the idea “I’m very selective, but I like you.”

Playing the game too hard to get may convey the message, “I dislike you,” which can backfire.

Share strengths and interests.

This one is self-explanatory, but part of authentic dating is to not just put your best foot forward but also to share your strengths and interests.

As mentioned earlier, dating is really a pursuit for compatibility, even though it can be an elusive concept (an issue we’re not going to get into here).

The main idea is that in order for you to be your best authentic self while getting to know someone else, is to talk about subjects and things you feel comfortable about.

Those are usually things you know something about, i.e., your strengths and interests.

An additional benefit is that you’re showcasing to your date a very personal and important part of yourself.

That would hopefully result in them doing the same which, in turn, could tell you both a lot about whether this new relationship is something you want to pursue further.

Now, as I’ve mentioned earlier, compatibility can be an elusive concept.

Some experts argue that the importance of compatibility has been overstated.

Money and children, for example, are deeply held values that are significant, but values that are more superficial, such as antiques, sports, travel, and gourmet coffee, are not as important in the long run.

So, during the initial stages of a fresh relationship, it is important to establish your strengths, interests, deeply held values and beliefs, and someone because these other things end up becoming the glue of a happy and lasting relationship.

If you’re inauthentic or are vague about any of these things during the early stages of a relationship, chances are that you will end up connecting superficially (or not at all), which could be disastrous for the relationship later.

It is therefore important in the beginning to be as assertive as possible because it really does lay the foundation for everything else to come.

Follow your instincts.

My wife is big on the idea of listening to your inner wisdom.

She has this belief (and it’s been proven so far) that if something bothers you about someone after you meet them the first time, should you pursue a relationship with that person, chances are that it will be that very same thing that will cause you to break up eventually.

It doesn’t matter how small it is, ignoring your gut’s initial reaction when going on a date might be a mistake.

authentic dating

According to joinonelove.org, an intuitive or gut feeling is an immediate understanding of something; there is no need to consider it further or seek another viewpoint; you simply know what to do or feel.

Your intuition usually manifests itself as a physical sensation in your body that only you are aware of, and it’s important to learn to pay attention to it.

In fact, paying more attention to your intuition might help you avoid potentially harmful relationships and situations.

There are times when it’s difficult to discern what the right next step is for you, but if you put aside all of the outside ideas of how things are supposed to go or expectations of others, and instead, listen to the guidance of your own intuition, it will most likely guide you to what is genuinely best for you in the given situation.

Listening to your own intuition is of course also central to authentic dating.

Few things come close to being as authentic as tapping into your own inner wisdom and listening to your intuition.

Consider your disposition.

It goes without saying that knowing yourself is fundamental to being authentic about dating.

There is no way that you can embrace authentic dating without having some idea of what your core beliefs, values, and priorities are.

Now, of course, we can further subdivide beliefs, values, and priorities into various subsets, like life purpose or mission, means values and end values, family, financial, and so on.

There is no one correct disposition, only the issue of whether the potential relationship in front of you aligns with where you’re at and where you are going?

Sometimes, emotions can cloud our perspective and as a result, we can easily underplay the importance of the various anchors in our lives at the moments when they should matter most, like during the first date.

Authentic dating is about staying true to yourself, being honest about that, while being open-minded at the person sitting in front of you could be someone who is a good match.

However, that never means that you deceive yourself, deceive the other person, and ultimately go down an inauthentic path that leads to nowhere but pain and heartache.

Stay true to yourself.

Be honest about it.

Give the other person a chance.

But never allow your emotions or needs of the moment to cloud your wisdom.

About the author 

Gideon

Gideon is the founder of TheRelationshipGuy.com, a top-50 relationship blog (2021) and top-100 marriage blog (2021) which focuses on providing healthy relationship advice about love and life. He earned a Master's degree in theological studies before training as a professional counsellor and hypnotherapist (DipProfCouns., DipMSHT.) almost 10 years ago. He completed a graduate diploma in Psychology and is currently pursuing postgraduate Psychology studies at Massey University. He has been married to his wife for over sixteen years and is the father of two children. His articles have been published on Marriage.com and The Good Men Project.

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