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How to Find True Love

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While “How to Get Over a Breakup” was the number one requested article topic I’ve written on, it’s not surprising that a close second is the topic of How to Find True Love. Here’s an email from one reader:

I’ve realized that one of my main goals is to find a worthwhile and long term relationship. I noticed you have entries on how to keep a relationship and on how to end a relationship so would you consider writing an entry on what you perceive to be the best way to find a worthwhile relationship. How to avoid making the same mistakes, overcoming fears, keeping up motivation after failure etc.”
- Gary (Dublin, Ireland)

Regardless of our culture, our level of education or economic status, at the depth of all of us are the same desires- to love, to be loved, and to be happy.

Of course we could add other desires to this list, like money and wealth and fancy things, but when you drill into these things, the reason for wanting them is so that we can appear more desirable, and will hopefully be loved and accepted.


If love is something so fundamentally important to us, then why is it that we have so many issues and misunderstandings in the area of finding it? I think the answer is simple, that most of us have never been educated in this fundamental area of our development. Chances are, you didn’t grow up with parents who were relationship experts, and we certainly didn’t study relationships in our high school curriculums. For most of us, it’s been an adventure in trial and error and learning through pain and heart-break. But is there an easier way?

In light of Valentine’s Day approaching this week, I am going to touch on one of my favorite topics of all time: finding love.

Personal Story

I spent most of my time in my late teens and early twenties on finding love, or so I thought at the time. In actuality I was seeking self-acceptance, approval and identity. I was deeply insecure and had a great fear of being alone. I jumped from relationship to relationship, all the while searching for myself. But the act of seeking self-worth through my external relationships took me further from that which I longed.

I’ve always been an ambitious person and in addition to my job, I’ve often worked on side projects and other interests. But whenever I found myself in a relationship, I would drop everything that was important to me and would focus exclusively on the person I was dating. You see, I didn’t respect myself, and I thought that finding someone to love me was more important than anything else. During these time-consuming romantic courtships, I was distancing myself further from my passions, my purpose and my true self.

Looking back, I had entered many of these relationships out of infatuation or loneliness. It was the fear of abandonment or the guilt of obligation that kept me in these relationships. I often got into and remained involved in relationships for the wrong reasons. I would convince myself that no one else out there would love me, and so I settled. Despite my surface appearance, I was deeply unhappy.

My freedom day came roughly two years ago. In a state of deep depression over unsatisfied relationships and through a growing despise of my gross dependencies on them, a miraculous understanding came to me and I experienced a moment of clarity. At that moment I made a vow to end the pain. (Read my detailed journal entry from that day here.)

I started to devour as much material and wisdom as I could find on the topic of relationships, and studied (and continue to study) with relationship expert Alison Armstrong. I have come a long way from being that insecure little girl, and have learned much about myself in the process. Most importantly I discovered that once I started to truly love myself, and to focus on my own inner peace and wellness, true love came looking for me.

Problematic Relationship Patterns

Let’s first look at some common relationship problems and why many romantic partnerships do not work out.

1. Ego, Fear, & Emotional Insecurities

As with material possessions or professional achievements, relationships give our ego a method by which to identify who we are to the outside world. The problem is that we attach so much of our identity to the external appearance of our relationships that we lose touch with the parts of ourselves that are wise and conscious. The attachment to this false identity leads to a feeling of desperation rather than fulfillment. After all, without the relationship, or the job, or whichever other false identity we have chosen, who would we be?

Besides the ego identification, it’s easy to develop a dependency on companionship. That independent person that we once were starts to evaporate. Our mind becomes fogged and as our self-identification begins to attach itself to the other person, unconsciously or consciously, we become afraid to lose that person. We become dependent on that person and fearful of loneliness.

Out of our emotional insecurities, we start to become needy and to seek out validation from our partner. So, instead of focusing on the celebration of love and partnership, it becomes a game of how to protect ourselves from loss.

2. Communication of Needs

Out of a desire to avoid appearing needy and out of a fear of losing our partner, we start to filter what we say. In doing so, we do not communicate our needs clearly, openly or bravely. We somehow become convinced that our partner will magically know what to do to fulfill our needs. When our needs are not met, we secretly blame the other person and begin to resent them. When we are unhappy, our partner will pick up on the cues, and in turn, secretly resent us, thus starting a vicious cycle in the silent destruction of a romantic partnership.

So much of what needed to be said was not said, and bad feelings are bottled up and start to accumulate for both parties. Have you ever had a friend come to you and complain about all of the things they are unhappy about with their partner? Those are the kinds of things they should be telling their partner, if they actually want a change.

Worse yet is when one partner openly communicates their needs only to find that the other party is simply not listening, or does not fully acknowledge what was said, or makes them feel guilty for having those needs.

3. Bad Fit and Settling by Default

Deep down, we are all really good people. But this doesn’t mean that any combination of two good people will make a good partnership. There is such thing as a bad fit, and it is okay to admit it.

The best fits are ones where the most important values for both people are met. They must have life goals that align with one another and have a mutual attraction, understanding, and level of respect for each other. Both people must be committed to making the partnership their top priority.

Sometimes, even when we realize that our relationship isn’t a good fit, we justify staying in it with what seem like logical reasons. We may feel that we won’t find another person who accepts and loves us as much as the current partner. Or we may be afraid to be alone, so we simply settle by default. Each time we are reminded of the bad fit, we brush it under the rug and distract ourselves with some other thought.

We may feel that we are doing a service to the other person by staying in the relationship, but in reality, we are hurting them by not being honest with them and ourselves. And we are accumulating bad feelings and bad energy in our inner space.

Who Is Your Ideal Mate?

We all have a rough idea of what our perfect partner is like: beautiful, or smart, or rich, or educated, or tall, or petite, or pale, or dark, or handsome, or fit, with this car, or with that house or whatever else that strikes our fancy.

finding-love2.jpg
Photo: Emily Helen, The Best Kauai Wedding Photographer

The problem comes when we find ourselves in a relationship and we are constantly comparing our partners with this conjured-up ‘perfect’ person. When that happens, we stop appreciating our partner for all the beautiful qualities they do possess.

The truth is this perfect person does not exist. More importantly, we may not actually need all of these qualities in a partner to be extraordinarily happy.

What we need is to identify the most important qualities that we must have in order to feel satisfied and fulfilled (more on creating a must-have list below). By not having identified the must-have qualities in our chosen life partner, we end up settling, and since the person cannot give us the things we truly need, we start to resent them. This will snowball into larger issues.

For example, if height is something that is really important to you, and your partner does not meet that height requirement, regardless of how much they try, they will never grow taller or shrink shorter, and this will bug you and affect your union.

In life, we will get random results if we have not specified what we want. Identifying and understanding what it is that we need in a relationship, allows us to set clear intentions, and in doing so, moves us closer to realizing our intended desires.

Identifying Must-Haves

Here’s a very affective exercise that I picked up from Alison Armstrong that will help you discover and identify the must-have qualities in your partner. I highly recommend taking at least 10 minutes to go through this, even if you are presently in a relationship.

Grab a pen and some paper. Find a place where you won’t be interrupted. Turn off the phone, the TV, the computer.

Ready? Here we go:

Step 1. The Perfect Image

On a blank piece of paper, list out all the qualities that your ideal partner will have. What kind of characteristics and qualities do you truly desire? Be creative and open. Use a bullet pointed list, not sentences. List out as many as possible, and use as many pieces of paper as needed.

Be as specific as you can. Get into details like physical attributes, values, lifestyle, views on money, spiritual beliefs, personality traits, hobbies, abilities, age, habits, profession, tastes, etc.

For physical attributes, include things like height, weight, body type, hair color, ethnicity, or anything that you would want if you had your choice in creating your ideal partner.

Step 2. Minimum Requirements (MR)

Minimum requirements are qualities you need from your partner, and without them, you will feel unwell or unsatisfied.

Go through each quality from step 1 and test it with this question:

“Would I rather be alone than be with a person who wasn’t [insert quality]?”

If the answer is yes, mark MR next to the quality, otherwise, leave it blank.

Don’t worry if your list sounds superficial or ridiculous. One MR item on my list is “Great dancer with rhythm and groove”, which may seem like a trivial or petty quality for some people, but is a deal breaker for me.

Step 3. Screening MRs

Now, filter through the MR list, for each item with the MR label, ask the following question:

“If a person had all the other qualities on my MR list, am I willing to let this quality go?”

If the answer is yes, cross out that MR.

The Selection Process

I believe it is crucial to identify and clearly communicate our relationship expectations and personal timelines early on in the dating phase. So often, we get into relationships with silent expectations of a future event that is important to us, thinking that our partner will come around to it when the time is right, only to find out several years later that things will never work out the way we expected. Some common unspoken issues of this nature revolve around marriage, children, financial goals, and even which city you settle down in.

First, be clear with yourself on these types of issues. Understand what kind of commitment you are looking for in a relationship, how you feel about children and where you plan to live. There are no wrong answers, but be honest and specific about what you are looking for in the current stage of your life.

Next, tell yourself that on all of your first dates, you will be clear with people about your relationship expectations and timeline, if any. It can be a scary and awkward experience at first, but it will become less of a nerve racking experience over time. And just think of all the time and emotional energy you are saving by being open from the get-go, instead of setting silent expectations that can lead to disappointment.

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Photo by Mike BG

On my first dates with any guy, I found that telling them my expectations was pretty nerve-racking, especially for men I was really attracted to, since they could potentially run the other way. I would begin to tell myself that this would be too much of a shocking conversation for most people to handle on a first date. Why not just wait until date 5 or 6, when I know that he really likes me? The answer is that by then I would have emotionally attached myself to this person and would then be in a situation where I would either have to settle for less than what I wanted, or break it off. It would have been much better to have learned on the first date whether or not we were a good fit.

Personally, I was looking for a husband and to start a family. I would tell them that I wanted to get married before I turned 30 and to start making babies within two years of getting married. Oh, and I would also like to have two children. “Are you okay with that timeline?” I would ask them. The men who were okay with my timeline stayed and the ones who weren’t went away. No hurt feelings and everyone wins.

Many of us have latched onto this concept of finding “the one” person out there for us, and so we linger in every relationship that pops up, fearing that we might miss out on “the one”. Think about the fact that there are 6.8 billion people on the planet. Doesn’t it make more sense that “the one” is more likely to be “the one-hundred-thousand”? I genuinely believe that there are a countless number of people out there who will be great fits for us, and it’s just a matter of filtering through potential partners until we find one of them.

As such, communicating your desires, needs and expectations, ahead of time, becomes crucial. For example, if having children is of utmost importance to you and your partner is set against having kids, then likely the relationship will not last and both parties are wasting time in the process.

Dating shouldn’t be about settling out of a fear that a better fit might not come along. I believe that dating is about identifying the qualities you need in a person and in a relationship, and then “filtering” through as many people as it takes until you find someone who possesses all the important qualities that you need.

Have you ever had the experience of shopping for a car, and found that once you targeted in on the exact make, model, and color you wanted, you began to see that car everywhere? From my personal experience, I found that once I became clear with what I needed and expected in a partner and in a relationship, more eligible bachelors who had those qualities started showing up in my life.

Love Yourself First

As I mentioned in the article How to Overcome Breakups, the art of loving yourself is not only important in the healing process from love lost, but also in finding love. I believe that we cannot truly allow others to love us, until we first love ourselves.

Another way of looking at this is to imagine each person in a relationship as a wooden stick. If one person is independent and the other is dependent, it’s like one stick is standing perfectly vertical and the second stick is leaning against the vertical stick. If the vertical stick moves horizontally, the leaning stick will fall. When two people are both independent and joined together through love, it’s like two sticks standing vertically. When they join together, they become a larger and stronger stick and they become interdependent and stronger. If one stick moves horizontally, the other stick will move with it.

Practice loving yourself: take yourself on a date, do things that please and relax you, spend quality time with yourself, write love letters to yourself, practice saying and feeling “I love you” in the mirror.

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Photo: Nathiya Prathnadi

Additionally, the practice of loving yourself makes you a more attractive person to the outside world.

When you truly love yourself, you will exude and spread a magnetic energy to those around you. Before you know it, you will be surrounded by those attracted to you for who you really are.

Forgiving Our Ex’s

When we hold onto unresolved issues from previous relationships, they become emotional baggage in our future relationships. I’ve found forgiving your ex’s to be a liberating exercise that contributes to the wellbeing of yourself and your future relationships.

A few years ago I sat down with, or phoned, several of my ex-boyfriends, and apologized for hurt feelings I may have caused, and expressed and forgave them for my own hurt feelings from the relationship. This experience brought closure to those relationships, removed the baggage, and allowed new friendships to develop.

A Few Words On Sex

For those of us who are sexually active, I would like to point out one thing. When you have an orgasm, there is a chemical change that takes place in your body. In particular, your body releases a hormone called oxytocin that binds you emotionally to the other person. For a man, the effects of this hormone last for 48 hours. For a woman, the effects last for 14 days.

This explains why, after having sex with someone who is clearly a bad fit for us, we can end up in a relationship with them, even if it’s for a short amount of time. Far too often, these relationships can turn into long term relationships that ultimately end badly.

It is recommended by relationship experts to not have sex during your dating and selection process unless you are okay with being emotionally bound to that person or having that person be emotionally bound to you for 14 days. Alison recommends not having sex with someone unless they fit all the qualities on your MR list.

For more information on this topic, read chapter four of “The Female Brain“, by Dr. Louann Brizendine.

Parting Words

People often ask, “Where should I go to find this person?” The logical answer provided by most is to go to places where such a person would hang out, but this practice can often lead to disappointment. My suggestion is to go through the exercises above to gain clarity on what you need and the types of relationships you want. Then spend time practicing the art of self-loving, while being open to the idea of your ideal mate entering your life. I would not actively seek it. Instead spend your efforts on self development.

As with all things of the heart, there is an ingredient of magic in finding love. There are no coincidences. Everything happens for a reason. Love is beautiful and unpredictable. The best thing we can do is to start to become the most outstanding person possible. The universe will know when we are ready, and when we are, true love will happen, unexpectedly.

* Got a love story you want to share? Share your thoughts and stories with us in the comment section. See you there!

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About the author

Tina Su is a mom, a wife, a lover of Apple products and a CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) for our motivational community: Think Simple Now. She is obsessed with encouraging and empowering people to lead conscious and happy lives. Subscribe to new inspiring stories each week. You can also subscribe to Tina on Facebook.

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211 thoughts on How to Find True Love

  1. I really enjoyed your article, it is well written and well interpreted. I want to tell some of the readers who are on the opinion that relationship can not be taught, you are right and wrong at the same time. you are right because, no body knows you but yourself and you alone can tell what makes you happy and what does not. you are wrong on the other hand because no matter how lovely a person is with you, you still need knowledge and knowledge can be gotten from reading pieces of articles such as this one you just read, and seeking advice and guidance from pros in the field of relationship who have read more relationship books than you.
    I also want to correct lots of people who are on the opinion that true love will just find them if they are meant to be. look let me tell you, true love can only find you if you work for it. even the bible told us that faith without work is a waste of time. you have to work hard to find true love by doing many things; such as not hanging out when you are not meant to, reducing the number of the opposite sex you keep as friends and only selecting those that matters, sacrificing so much to find that person whom you desire etc. you can’t sit down and fold your arms and expect true love to fall from the sky to you. some people even after finding true love, still don’t apply much efforts with the concept that if the person is theirs, the person will definitely stay. the world we live is not a world of magic, you have to please the person who is with you before the person will think of staying with you for life. how many of you have watched the movie; 500 days of summer? the movies explained better that things including true love doesn’t come by chance but you have to seek and find it. even the bible said that he who finds a wife, finds something good. the word there; ‘find’ means that we have to search and seek to find. please, true love doesn’t fall from the sky. I believe this link will explain better how to find true love and the qualities of true love;
    http://www.trueloverelationship-advice.com/2012/01/what-are-qualities-of-true-love.html and http://www.trueloverelationship-advice.com/2012/03/how-to-find-true-love.html

  2. J.

    I’ve read a lot of posts on love & relationships over the years, but this one really resonated with me. Thank you for having such a strong, articulated perspective.

  3. Sergey

    Thank you very much. Truly inspiring.

  4. Michael

    Sigh, I have no idea why I cannot find a true love. I have no idea why I happen to meet the women who are married or have boyfriends (bad luck). Nothing works for me above even I love myself and I forgive myself as I forgive others. I have no high expectations of who I look for regardless of race. For many years, I keep praying to God to help me to find a true love. Nothing happens at all even I go out and meet others. A true love has not found me yet for 11 “pain” years. All I want is a very simple love without appearances, materials and incomes. Maybe, I am a “bad luck” person even I am a very good guy.

  5. Dominoe

    “True love is like ghosts, which everybody talks about and few have seen.”

    The title is a bit misleading. This is not on “How to Find True Love” but on “How to find an ideal partner without seeming unrealistic”. That’s fine. I don’t judge. But I felt obliged to let you know, that 98% percent of people don’t find True Love. It’s the sad truth. Face it, read the article then, find yourself a good gal/guy, and be done with your romantic ideals.

    Cheerio

  6. franko

    i am a straight man looking to find love, but it is very hard these days trying to find the right woman to connect with. with so many women now that have such an attitude problem, and they are so very hard to communicate with. and many women now are not looking for men anymore like they once did, making it even harder. why is this?

  7. frank

    i sure hope i can find a good woman for me, it is very hard these days connecting with the right one.

  8. Kevin

    I loved the article.

    What I would like to add here is that I came across this blog. I
    think you will like what’s there on this blog:

    yinyanglove.wordpress.com

    Read it. You might just find someone through that blog… :)

  9. Atif saeedf

    A true love is never Death…!
    No one can stop me loving you.(F)

  10. Dylip k

    hi ive read it all but nothing is helping me out i feel so alone and lonely i just need love ;-(

  11. Whatever works for you...

    Its good that you have found a way that works for you, but if I was confronted with a timeline on a first date I would run a mile. And establishing MRs and the like… I mean… Call me old fashioned but what about the passion?! You only get one life… I’ll take fireworks and imperfect stumbling over spreadsheets and a Gataca style relationship plan any day!

  12. Sonia

    This was an amazing article. I have plagued myself bad relationships for my entire life and never experienced mutual love. Reading your words gives me hope; now I understand I was simply going about love the wrong way. Thank you for forever changing my love life.

  13. Jones

    I did most of the things on your list intuitively–that is, until recently when I woke up at 30, with an education, a career, many talents…but still alone.

    Assuming love would just happen while I was out volunteering or taking art lessons was all wrong. It’s a numbers game. Forget about love. Do you want a family? Do you want children? Do you want to spend your evenings alone? Look at what’s within your reach and decide if you’d be ok with being alone or settling. It’s that simple.

  14. Siu

    I remit to this page every time I feel confused about love on my road. Well I’m of the same opinion, it will arrive on the right time. It’s just sometimes is hard to keep on waiting. I’m waiting for something really special. I hope that when the time comes, I’ll be able to give what’s needed. Thanks for your beautiful words!!

  15. JAY T

    i am a straight man that had been married at one time, and i was a very caring and loving husband that never mistreated her. i was a very happy married man, until she cheated one me. now finding love again, is very extremely hard for me. too many women now that play very hard to get, and have such an attitude problem too. since i am a lot older now, it is more difficult meeting one that doesn’t have problems as well. now i just go out and hope for the best.

  16. Experimental

    Hi Tina,

    This particular blog brought tears to my eyes. Im 28 and have been on the lookout with the same thoughts, doubts, fears, enthusiasm and questions about finding the right mate for me.. Iv generally found myself oscillating between inspired / hope-filled days and despair if Im too old or will I ever find the right person:-) ( What if I reach 50 and stay single.. will I have enough money/ right people around me etc .. crazy I know)Have been googling for ages for tips/ advice or anything that might calm me down.. . So your website is truely an answer to my request to the universe for help!
    Thankyou is all I can say. Please continue to do what you are already doing.

  17. Lost girl

    Dear Tina I feel so lost I feel as if I’m not worthy or beautiful enough to be loved i am in a. Very difficult situation I was born into to a certain group of people where marrying outsiders would be considered unthinkable and the men if you could call them that are huge assholes *sighs* I just want to be loved for me I am a orphan I’m not going to say my age for you wouldn’t belive me my father died when I was 6 and my mother died when I was 15 I have been alone for so long I sometimes fall in to a sorrowful melancholy of moods I dream for greatness I dream of love and acceptance I’m tierd of living my life in the shadows I want to have a voice and choice for once everyday I get told I’m ugly I’m not beautiful I’m a freak I just want a caring and beautiful loving man to love me for me not a farce or lie the two things I want most in life are love and music I had no love ever I just want to expieriance it before my miserable existence ceases to be I just want to be normal for once ….. I only want love

  18. Thanks for sharing your personal story. It helps me to define what true love is and your advice is lead me to positive to my life.

  19. I was able to find good advice from your blog posts.

  20. Having read this I thought it was extremely enlightening.
    I appreciate you taking the time and effort to put this information together.
    I once again find myself personally spending a significant amount
    of time both reading and commenting. But so what,
    it was still worthwhile!

  21. ian

    i will never believe true love again. after so much we have done with each other. after so much promises. after so much future dreaming. kids, houses, pets, vacations… its been two month now, but every time i think of we were been together, every time i close my eye, think of our “dreamed future” and then i cry. EVERY SINGLE TIME!!! i am too afraid to open my heart again for someone else, or i will never fully open my heart again… GOD, i just want her back…

  22. This is very interesting, You’re a very skilled blogger. I’ve joined your rss feed and look forward
    to seeking more of your great post. Also, I’ve shared your web site in my social networks!

  23. This is a good post on love and relationships. Its important to realize that love comes in many forms, so you’re never “unloved” and that loneliness comes from within, so you can constantly be surrounded by many people but still be very lonely.

    True relationships take sacrifice and lots of work, and when you’re happy with your life as a single, then you’ll be happy as a couple.

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