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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.

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.

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.

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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239 thoughts on How to Find True Love

  1. Dear Tina,

    You wrote “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.”

    It gave me goose-bumps when I read this because that was exactly what I experienced only a few months back. I was madly in love with a man and I lost control of my feelings totally. He was married and it was no hope for a relationship. And I was too “needy” so and he pulled back. I found myself in a deep depression that almost made me end my life.

    To make a long story short, I searched for help on The Internet and found a video that changed my life totally. Today I am alone, I am building my own business, I am free and happy, I dream about finding true and lasting love but I am not in a hurry because I know I will find it when the time is right. I have more self-esteem than ever and I belive that nothing is impossible. I opened my heart to myself and found peace.

    I love this article, you truly are a nature-talent when it comes to writing Tina.

    Take care.

    Love from Kristin

  2. Tina,
    I really love your articles. You really go to the depth of the topic.

    It’s very difficult to find true love. At the same time some people are so lucky that they get their love very easily.

  3. anonymous

    Just let things “flow” naturally. If it’s meant to be, both of you will know.

  4. serge

    dear people,
    yes for sure ,first you need to know your self and live with your self and your past , we make good decision and some bad one’s, we think we are in love because of what the other look like on the outside, but we have no idea about what he or she is thinking about, we have to look a certain way for the opposite sex to give us a first look, other wise there is no look and they did even know and would never know that i am a nice men, a men that will onely love 1 women, has long has she will love me i will love her,
    live and learn from it, i did meet some women that are looking for money, outside beauty and possestion that a men shuld have even before they would give him 1 short look,

    i live and work on a lighthouse ,i have live and work here for 15 years and in those years i have been alone for 13 of them, i learn about my self and what it is important to me,
    i want to love 1 women and i want to respect her and talk with her and listen to her the same way she will for me,
    but sad to said were i live and work it is onely possible to come here by helicopter and internet dating has to many scammer and not so nice people,

    i like living in isolation because i dont want to see people hurting each other all the time, i dont want to see anymore the look women give me because i am 55 and single, and not rich and i dont have a body of a 22 year old men , i am 55 and with a body that is not obese and ido have some muscle and i do have a litle stomac, we are humain so we first look at the physical before we find out about the person. anyone that tell me they dont do that shuld sit down by them self and think about there past relation ship and how it begain and how it ended.

    i like to talk and listen and i like asking question and ansering them and it is about everyting, even making love ,what she would like me to do to make her happy and what she dont want me to do,
    talking openly about everyting and listening to each other is what i learn . love and even trou love do not happend at first, learn first to respect each other, talk and listen even if you got married dont mean it is trou love, that part of the relation ship will come in time or not at all,
    have a nice day

  5. Unloved

    It’s a nice article full of “feel good” advice but it is all bullshit. You are on this earth for a very small amount of time. You don’t have all the time in the world to find a partner and there is no “perfect match” out there for you. If people aren’t talking to you or dating you it’s because you are a piece of shit like me. The sooner you accept that the sooner you can find happiness…or kill yourself. I have no one and everyone I ever had left me. I’m just going to fucking end it….just need to figure out the best way to do it

  6. To unloved,

    I understand you, I have been there, I spent a whole day reading about how to end my own life – I can tell you there is no safe way to do it – you risk ending up as an invalid.

    Today I am happier than ever even if I am alone. I found “myself” and that changed my life. I am also dreaming about finding love, and I know I will find it. You can read my story on my webpage. And please take your time and watch this video – it changed my life
    If I could do it, you can too – I am 52 and love life now, I don’t feel any stress any longer. Please let me know how you are doing. You can do it! Kristin

  7. ali

    great article.its amazing.

  8. katie graehling

    I know what that is like i have been brokend hearted so many times and try to sleep with a broken heart after a man has said to you that all they wanted from you was a child and that was it? ladies what would tell him? The answer is to walk on a new plant land where you can wait and find the right man? ladies to rush your life just because of a man and sex thats not the answer trust me ladies there so much time left? Dont waste it?

  9. Best article………. i really got a very good knowledge.

  10. Lucy

    And here I thought I was the only one. I just experienced the same moment of clarity. Thank you for this article it was truly the most relieving feeling.

  11. Thank you, I really appreciate your service.

  12. Joseph John

    Very Very Nice Article… Helped me a lot. God Bless you

  13. Magnus

    Tina (oddly Swedish, like myself),

    You’re really wise; I think you and I share old souls or at the very least some form of ‘kindred spirits.’

    As silly as this sounds, you should consider starting a radio/talk-show (maybe this already exists?) so that others – the non/e-savvy people of Earth – can be graced with your wisdom and knowledge.

    Please don’t feel meek or flattered by my remark; I’m a quite blunt and humble person myself. However, I give notice and glorification when it’s both earned and due. I’ve read recentely several of your articles (post ex bulls_#!) and can’t thank you enough for your insightful help and guidance. God damn you are brilliant! I hope the gay equivallent is out there for me somewhere like you! :)

    Hahaha..skojar bara men inte riktigt! ;) Hursomhelst, DU är verkligen helt underbar! Jag kommer rekomendera dig åt ALLA mina svenska vänner. (if you figure this out you are even more awesome than thought) :o)

    En massa pussar och kramar (hugs and kisses) från den norrakylen…Sweden.


    Mange (magnus) from SV

  14. david whisenhunt

    i have to say that this site isgood and that it really tell you whattodo better in life to have a better relationship and hope to find thatperson who will treat meright

  15. Colton

    I just happened to come across this article when I googled “how to find true love.” Lame, I know, but I was facing yet another Friday night alone and couldn’t help myself. I cannot believe the insight I’ve gained from this article, and I’ve read entire books on this particular topic. It will be one year on May 5th that my ex left me for someone else. It has been the single most traumatic experience I’ve ever had. I was so depressed that my two businesses dwindled away while I hid under the covers of my bed with the blinds drawn for months, popping pills or with a drink in my hand. I can honestly say, this article has actually given me hope that I could in fact find love again (the right kind) and I just wanted to say ‘thank you’ from the bottom of my heart.

  16. That is great,i leans a lot out of this how to be in a relationship with people and the kind of people i well be going to..I well nave fear in love with a police lady,she ll say hands up” or a lady doctor,she ll say next please”but rather to a lady teacher,she ll say i should repeat my love more time…..

  17. angel

    so there are other people who sit home on friday night and good ‘how to find true love’ cuz its the first thing that pops in their head?.. yea same here. battling myself.. maried for 4 years to a guy i met and knew for 2 months.. he wanted to marry me he was ready for a family and i jumped at the chance to finally be with someone who wanted me. after a 5 year relationship that went no where with a highschool sweetheart.. i was definately ready for the real thing. and now i dont even know why i still stay.. fear of being alone? who will love me that much.. who will accept me for all the thing i am and am not.. i’ve lost interest in him.. and nothing is holding us together.. i know there’s someone who is a better fit for me and yet i’m still here.. holding on to him..maybe hoping love will find me and take me away from this situation.. but it hasent happend yet… he meets all the critiria.. but yet i’m just not interested in him emotionally or physically..dont most marriages end up that way? so do i look for love and passion.. or stay in this dead end situation..must start working on the loving yourself part..

  18. Trish

    Hi! I just want to let you know I really liked your site and it being so down-to-earth and easy to understand. I have been searching and searching for information on self-fulfilling prophecies and finding love again with an ex boyfriend and have’nt found any info on it but I would love to tell you about how my ex boyfriend (25 years ago we were good friends for a short time) but now we have both re-connected and are totally in love and soul mates. The difficulty lays in the fact that he lives in the USA (driveable though) & I live in Canada. If you would like any information to help improve topics or your site; let me know! Thanks

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