Honoring Yourself in Dating: The Difficult Path to Authentic Relationships


Kyle Benson

I checked my phone for the 27th time in the past hour as my insecurity hijacked my attention. I had a massive project presentation due in two hours and I couldn’t stop looking at my phone wondering why my partner hadn’t texted me back.

My mind wandered to thoughts of “Is she flirting with her ex-boyfriend?” “Am I not funny enough for her?”

I was obsessed with trying to make a relationship work because deep down, I was terrified of not being enough for her to love.

“What about this theory: The fear of not being enough and the fear of being ‘too much’ are exactly the same fear. The fear of being you.” – Nayyirah Waheed

It is my belief that practically all relationship failures are a byproduct of both partners not knowing how to be wholeheartedly themselves and simultaneously staying emotionally close to another person.

When you feel free to be yourself and can remain emotionally close to another person, you, by therapeutic definition, are emotionally mature.

This is not easy. On my journey towards emotional maturity, I’ve had to really confront myself. In prior relationships I would hide my need for closeness and act in passive aggressive ways when my partner didn’t want to spend time with me. I would neglect my friendships and hobbies at the expense of spending time doing things my partner enjoyed because I feared that if I didn’t become more like my partner, I wouldn’t be loved.

Paradoxically, the opposite is true. The more I tried to be like my partner, the less intimate our relationship became and the more problems we had.

Real intimacy in a relationship occurs when we can be ourselves completely and feel emotionally close to our partners despite their differences.

This is why in dating, you have to truly honor your needs and set boundaries. At times this means walking away from partners who are not a good fit.

For example: At my partner’s birthday party, her ex showed up and she was being uncomfortably flirtatious with him (according to me). I kindly spoke to her about my discomfort with how flirtatious she was being with him. She told me I had nothing to worry about. Then she continued to behave the same way.

I silently asked myself, “If this behavior never changed, would I be able to accept this person as my lover?” For me that answer was a no.

And so without further words, I left the party and endured a lonely walk home. It was a difficult choice, but in that moment, I honored myself and ended up breaking up with that partner. Because I was willing to walk away from someone who wasn’t good for me, I was able to find someone who was. Now I am in a completely different relationship in which my needs and boundaries are honored.

In my interview with Orchid, we talk more about the difficulty of setting healthy boundaries and honoring our needs in dating and how that difficult path can lead to cultivating an authentic relationship.


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