I often hear lots of people say ‘you need to love yourself before you date’. In many ways, I think this is true and many people need to hear it. However, there are lots of people who are misinterpreting it as well, and that can lead to more hurt. I think we need to look at the positives and negatives, so that we understand what this really means. 

I was reading an online article recently and a phrase that I hear a lot popped up: ‘Love yourself before you date’. On the surface, why would you not agree with this? 

In a culture which gives us lots of reasons to dislike how we look and/or makes us feel inferior to those around us, we need to be positive about ourselves and know we have value and self-worth. 

But I think this phrase can unintentionally reinforce some principles that can actually do more harm than good. So it’s worth exploring what we actually take away, the good and bad bits, when we hear this phrase.  

The Amazing Positives  

Obviously, this phrase fundamentally teaches us a good message. At its core, it’s saying that we can’t get all of our worth or fulfilment from dating, or those we date. 

I have written about this before (Read Top Dating Tip For When Your Relationship Become Official), saying that a relationship will not ‘complete us’. Our worth and value comes from wider relationships, hobbies that fulfil us, and from our relationship with God, etc. 

If we don’t like ourselves and expect one person to come along, or one relationship to change that and make us feel fulfilled, we will be disappointed.

Can’t expect one person or one thing to bring us all of the fulfilment

So the good bit of this message is that our safety, joy, and self-worth aren’t found in dating/one person, but in a wide variety of friendships, family, hobbies and interests.

This is why ‘loving ourselves’ is so important. We need to know that we can’t expect one person or one thing to bring us all of the fulfilment we want. We need to be investing in wider things so that we can enjoy and be content with our lives, and not put too much pressure on dating and romance.

So What’s The Problem? 

For me, the problem comes when we misinterpret the intention behind this phrase and end up believing that it’s saying ‘love yourself and’… 

  • Never Change
  • (Pretend To) Be Perfect
  • Be Happy All The Time

Never Change

If we think loving ourselves means never changing, it will make dating impossible. 

Any relationship we have with anyone will change us, especially romantic and intimate ones. We need to expect to compromise sometimes, to learn how to fit into each other’s lives, and this will mean we change as a result. 

If we think loving ourselves means others need to ‘just love everything about us and change totally so we can just stay the same’, we will never be able to create a mutually fulfilling and enjoyable relationship. (Read Settling Vs Compromise: Spot the Signs in Your Relationship)

(Pretend To) Be Perfect

I believe that deep down, we all know we’re not perfect. Yet our culture often makes us think we need to be. We need to look like we have life sorted, with no regrets and no mistakes. 

If loving ourselves means ignoring our faults, challenges and problems, then we will not be able to be honest and vulnerable with someone else. (Read Intimacy Without Vulnerability’, Why It Won’t Work)

This is vital in a good and healthy romantic relationship. Knowing that we can trust the person we are with, and show them the side we don’t show anyone else and vice versa, is needed. Pretending to be perfect gets in the way of having a relationship where we can really be ourselves. 

Be Happy All The Time

The message we often hear from our culture is to be happy all the time. ‘I don’t mind what happens, as long as I am happy’. 

But no one can be happy all the time. 

We can be content, we can have peace, but we can’t be happy all the time. Life is too messy and involves too many curve balls.

If we can’t be real, then we can’t form an authentic relationship 

If we think that loving ourselves means being happy in every situation, and in every area of our lives, it will stop us from being authentic. If we can’t be real, then we can’t form an authentic relationship. 

Romance involves navigation highs and lows, instead of thinking it will be one big high all of the time. 

Imagine If…

I watched a talk recently, and the presenter said that when it comes to love we want a guarantee, that it will last and the person we’re with won’t leave us. But sadly, romance doesn’t work like that.

Imagine if we remembered dating is about two flawed people committing to making it work. Our value and worth can’t come from one ‘perfect’ person or ‘perfect’ relationship. 

Thinking we only get love from the person we date is dangerous. We need to love ourselves and know that we have value and worth outside of our relationship status. But this doesn’t mean we: Never Change, (Pretend To) Be Perfect, or need to Be Happy All The Time. (Read 5 Tips For Online Dating)

What do you think about this phrase? Comments welcomed below

Originally posted 25/2/2019