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What’s Your Baggage? – Authentic Dating Profiles

RANDI GUNTHER Clinical Psychologist & Marriage Counselor

Over the last couple of decades, my patients have often brought me hopeful

dating profiles to ask me for my responses before they further investigate.

Everything seems so inviting but are there red flags they might be missing? How

can they discern what is true from what is exaggerated or misleading?

Because my patients end up actually dating some of these people, I have had the

wonderful opportunity to see who they turn out to be from who they’ve said they


Not surprisingly, their profiles rarely match up with who they turn out to be.

They’ve shared what they think will be the most alluring and interesting parts of

themselves and their lives, but any potentially negative descriptions or situations

are rarely described.

It is understandable that many dating app users hope that their more attractive

qualities will attract and secure the relationship before those that are less so

emerge. Unfortunately, that sequence often leads to disappointment and

disillusionment when those withheld qualities are discovered.

So, what is a better way to avoid the tricky game of honest but alluring

presentation on your own dating app? What would you need to do to share who

you really are with an absolute stranger in a way that makes you more believable

and authentic? How can you successfully let people know what they are likely to

experience when they get to know you in a way that is appealing on its own


How to Recognize, and Present, a Successful but Honest Dating Profile

One – Acknowledge and Respect What You Do Offer and What You Cost

Everyone has parts of themselves that they are proud of and parts that they wish

were better. With each succeeding relationship, it is crucial to learn more about

that package. What made the relationship end? What did you find out about

yourself and the other person that you could not have predicted? Were you to

date them again, would you act differently?

Here’s an interesting exercise. Just for a moment, imagine that everyone you’ve

ever been in a relationship with is in the same room at the same time, and there

is truth serum coming out of the walls. They are all willing to talk openly about

what they liked about you and what they couldn’t handle long-term. You’re

looking for overlaps amongst their descriptions of you and whether that

information helps you decide if, or what, you want to change about yourself in

the future. Do you think that you would you be surprised at both the positive and

negative memories shared?

Once you have a better grip on that data, here would be an example of how it

would affect the way you might change your profile.

“I’ve had some great relationships and some not so much so. Don’t want to blame

the people I chose and prefer to look hard at me, and what I need to change to be

the best person I can be. What you can count on is that I’m funny, honest,

reliable, adventuresome (well, sort of), loyal and usually pretty interesting. I can

be a little sarcastic when I don’t know how to be more direct but I’m working on

it. I probably expect a lot from the people I love and don’t do well with

disappointment. All in all, though, I’d say my good friends think I’m a catch. Hope

you will feel that way, too.”

Two – Be Realistic About What You’re Asking for in a Partner

Knowing that your prospective date is likely to leave out anything that might be

controversial, how can you talk about what you want in such a way that it gives

that person room to be honest? Do you think that you could deliver what you

think that person is asking for? Are you reaching for a fantasy you can’t sustain?

Here's an example of this kind of presentation:

“I can be caught up in romantic fantasy but I also know what is realistic and can

accept that. I know what I have to offer, and I know what I need and what my

deal breakers are. At the same time, I’m a truly forgiving person if someone is

working on their own past mistakes, and needs my support. I’m not into saving

someone or needing to be saved, but I truly respect someone who is not afraid to

talk about their struggles and is open about their flaws. I regularly ask myself if

the person I want, would want me. It’s a tough question, but I don’t back away

from it.”

Three – Present the Reality of Who You are With Self-Compassion and Respect

No matter where you are in your life, or where your sorrows and triumphs lay,

you have the best chance of finding the person you can love and be loved by, if

you have respect and compassion for your own journey. I have never known

someone whose relationships, no matter how successful, don’t have heartbreaks

and disappointments. It’s how you come through them and who you become as

you process those lessons. No one wants to be responsible for healing trauma

they did not create, but most quality people just want to know that you like who

you are.


“My relationship journey has taught me so much about others and what it takes

to create a great relationship and keep it that way. I’ve had to look hard at my

own history, what I bring to the table and what I’ve had to jettison. All in all, I’ve

grown to value myself more with each new opportunity to listen and learn, and I’ll

do that all of my life. I want to be forever interesting and interested in how

people love and create beautiful connections with others.”

* * * *

Compare these examples to the profiles you usually read, or the ones you’ve

written. Would you be more likely to believe that person is telling the truth about

who they are? Would they intrigue you beyond the altered pictures and

incomplete or exaggerated positives? If you click with someone, you will have

plenty of time to find out about favorite music, places to visit, relationship history,

hobbies, health status, obligations to others, etc. A profile should let a person

know who you truly are, not what you’ve done.

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