One of the great things about dating advice is the way it helps you understand men better. You learn what to say or do, and you gain real confidence in all your interactions.
But getting inside a man’s head only takes you so far.
You can understand male psychology better than all your girlfriends, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into a lasting love relationship for yourself.
That’s because understanding what he’s thinking is only ONE piece of the puzzle.
A bigger piece of the puzzle—the most important part—is understanding what’s going on inside your OWN head.
Research shows that people who have a high degree of self-knowledge have better relationships.
The more you know yourself, the better you get along with others and the more people like you.
To see how this works, maybe you can think of two friends.
One friend is so much fun, but she doesn’t have a lot of self-awareness. She does things and doesn’t even realize she’s doing them.
The other friend is the person you always want to talk to, because she understands. She knows her own issues, and she’s sympathetic when other people are struggling with theirs.
Everyone has their own path when it comes to self-knowledge.
Some people arrive at self-knowledge through the recovery movement. Others do therapy. Others turn to life coaches or self-help or books. And still others just think a lot about life.
One way isn’t better than the others, because they can all achieve the same outcome:
Understanding who you are and why you do the things you do.
3 Signs You Know Yourself
Before we dive into the three things you should know about yourself in dating, we need to know what self-knowledge looks like in practice.
How do you know if you’ve got a good understanding of yourself and what makes you tick?
The first sign is that you know who your people are.
You may not have a posse, but you know who your tribe is. Knowing this helps you bypass the guys who just look good and seek out the real treasures, the guys who are just like you.
Next, you know your weaknesses.
You can recognize when you’re being triggered or where you have blind spots. You know what you can handle and what you can’t. You know what you need to work on, and you’re committed to doing better.
Finally, you acknowledge complexity in other people.
You’re not quick to judge, because you know that everyone has a complex inner life, just like you do.
In fact, one of the clearest signs that someone doesn’t have much self-knowledge is the way they talk about other people. Stereotypes, snap judgments, and superficial thinking show a lack of self-understanding.
Knowing Ourselves Through Others
But you may know lots about yourself as a person and still find it hard to understand why your relationships end up the way they do.
Relationships are like mirrors. They show us the parts of ourselves that we can’t see on our own.
I’ve learned so much about myself because of my relationships. The good relationships taught me about myself, and the bad relationships taught me about myself, too.
This is why I believe no relationship is wasted. We can use all of our experiences to gain self-knowledge that will be useful for future relationships.
So let’s start out with a fun and easy way to gain more knowledge about yourself in relationships:
Bet you didn’t think I’d say that, did you? 🙂
1. Zodiac sign
Whether or not you believe in astrology, star signs are enduringly popular for a reason. They’re archetypes.
When you say someone is such a Leo, for example, we know exactly what you mean. They’re confident, the center of attention, and love to lead.
What I find useful about star signs is that they’re an entry point into discussing how different personality types work together. You don’t want to put a Leo with a Capricorn, for example, because earth signs and fire signs don’t mix.
Where star signs are useful is in the vocabulary they give us, not necessarily whether they’re scientifically valid or not. Even talking about how someone is totally different from their star sign gives us insight into their personality.
And sometimes looking into zodiac compatibility might just give you a whole new outlook on your own relationship patterns.
I’ll never forget the time, many years ago, when I was telling a friend about a relationship that had ended. She asked his birthday and then said, “Oh, he’s a Scorpio. Of course it didn’t work out. Water and fire, duh!”
Turned out that nearly every single major relationship I’d had up to that point was with a Scorpio. Such a surprise! It certainly gave me food for thought. 😉
2. Attachment style
The second thing you should know about yourself in relationships is 100% scientific and backed by decades of research, and it’s your attachment style.
Attachment styles have become so popular these days that they almost seem like a fad. “Have relationship problems? It’s because you’re anxious and he’s avoidant!”
The real meaning gets lost, so let me explain briefly what attachment styles are and why you should care.
It’s no exaggeration to say that most of your issues in love date back to the lessons you learned as a child.
Our very first love relationship was with our parents or primary caregivers. They taught us what it meant to love and be loved. They modeled how adults love each other through their own relationship.
And because our parents weren’t perfect—no parents are—we learned some toxic lessons about love that we didn’t even realize were toxic, because they just seemed normal.
One of the lessons we learned very early on was whether we could rely on the people who took care of us. Did our caregivers generally seem to understand what we needed physically and emotionally? Or were they inconsistent in the way they responded to our needs?
Some people grow up unable to trust that their needs will be met, because their parents either weren’t well attuned or weren’t able to give them what they needed.
(Again, there’s no judgment here. Our parents were only human, and they did the best they could with the knowledge and understanding they had at the time.)
But if you started off in life with an inability to trust your caregivers completely, you most likely find it hard to trust your romantic partners completely. You bring that familiar sense of insecurity with you.
You may find yourself acting clingy and feeling terrified that your partner will leave you ever time he pulls away or appears distant. That’s the classic anxious attachment style.
Or you may find yourself pulling away before he does, because part of you doesn’t feel safe relying on another human being. People just let you down. It’s better to rely on yourself alone. That’s the classic avoidant attachment style.
Now, you can certainly diagnose yourself as being avoidant or anxious or secure and leave it at that, but you’d missing the opportunity to go deeper.
What attachment styles encourage us to do is think back to our childhood and bring to conscious awareness the lessons we learned about life and love.
What did your family teach you about relationships? What did they teach you about love? What did they teach you about trusting each other?
Those answers will teach you so much about why you show up the way you do in your own relationships.
3. Core values
Last but not least, one final piece of information you should have about yourself is your core values.
When you think about what you’re looking for in a partner, it’s easy to stick with the superficial stuff. What he looks like, what he does for a living, what kind of lifestyle he has.
But the more important piece is his core values. What does he value, and are those values compatible with yours?
Our values are what guide us through life. We draw on our values to decide how to spend money, what job to take, where to live, and who to be friends with.
Which is why it’s so odd that many of us have never really had a clear think about what we value and why.
Sure, it’s easy to rattle off some values off the top of our heads. We all value things like friends, family, love, comfort, security, and so forth.
But if someone looked at your life—everything about it, from what you watch on TV to what you talk about with your friends—what would they say you value?
What values are you living, as opposed to the values you pay lip service to?
Getting really clear about my values has helped me so much in understanding why I click with certain people and don’t click with others.
My primary lived value is knowledge. I feel driven to understand the world better, and I’ve always felt this way, ever since I was young.
So I resonate with the term sapiosexual, which refers to being attracted to someone’s mind first and foremost. If I don’t like someone’s mind, then it doesn’t matter how good-looking they are; they’re not for me.
So get thinking about what value you live out in your everyday choices, and what that means about the kind of partner who’d be best for you.
And if you’d like to dig deeper into self-knowledge, then make sure to check out Imago theory, a theory goes beyond attraction to explain why you end up feeling so powerfully about someone that you want to marry them.