Here’s how I found my perfect match, and how you can too
Medically reviewed by Ivy Kwong, LMFT
As a professional matchmaker, I’m often asked how I’ve found love. I understand the curiosity–knowing how a dating expert navigates their personal, romantic journey is only natural. I believe in reciprocal vulnerability, so I love answering this question and giving people a peek behind the curtain.
I’ve done the certifications, attended the workshops, read every self-help dating book out there, and written over a hundred service stories on relationships. I’ve taken some of those learnings, plus my own experience, to share how I found my perfect match.
Here are a few timeless truths that helped me find love. Hopefully, these tips can do the same for you and your dating journey.
Throwing Out the Checklist and Having No Expectations
Seriously, no expectations.
I was visiting from out of town to spend time with my sick uncle. Although I wasn’t looking for a serious relationship, I had been single for a while and felt ready for change. I wanted to learn something new about myself with no expectations. With that intention, I signed up for a dating app. My eventual boyfriend was the second person I matched with. It took a few messages before I realized he was a father. Whoops! Somehow, I missed that when scrolling past his detailed prompts.
Back then, I would’ve never seriously considered dating a single parent. It seemed too complicated. This time, I stayed open-minded. Besides, we shared identical values with our upbringing, spirituality, and how we viewed the world. I didn’t have anything to lose except an afternoon.
It’s been almost two years, and we’re now spending most of our afternoons together. I’ve grown tremendously as a person and have had the privilege to develop a close relationship with his kids.
Most of the time, we judge potential partners based on how they fit into our lives instead of how they make us feel. Dating from a place of no expectations enabled me to date from a place that was experiential instead of evaluative.
If I had been dating with my old filters, I would have missed out on the opportunity to meet the love of my life. By expanding past the fantasy in my head, I was able to receive exactly what I needed in a relationship. Today, my life is much better than what I once thought I wanted.
Checklists are great to help you focus on what you want. But it’s a problem when you’re “interviewing” instead of “checking in” with how safe they make you feel or if they’re bringing out the best parts of your personality.
I love getting my clients out of their comfort zone with outliers–matches that meet their nonnegotiables with an interesting edge, whether it’s a different physical look or life view. I’ve noticed they become less obsessed with dating their type and more interested in experiencing the person in front of them and seeing if love is possible.
Building a Relationship With Myself
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The year I was single, I emptied my life of distractions so I could completely focus on myself. After being in an unhealthy relationship, my sympathetic nervous system was overflooded with cortisol, which locked me into fight-or-flight mode. The prolonged state of stress led to adrenaline-induced trauma responses. I was overwhelmed, depressed, anxious, stressed, and shut down.
Emerging research shows that we can be our truest, most authentic selves when we’re able to shift into the parasympathetic nervous system. A 2018 study reports that theory and notes a somatically aware relationship with the nervous system promotes coherency with the self, emotional regulation, and relationship optimization.
Not only can we identify our emotions properly, but we can feel safe to release the feelings from our bodies and prevent trauma responses.
For me, self-regulation involved therapy, routine, intentional movement, meditation, breathwork, grounding, journaling, sleep, solitude, and the support of my loved ones. I felt ready to date again when I developed a desire for relationships based on radical honesty and conscious communication. My improved well-being allowed me to connect with a partner operating from a healthier place, as I was doing the same.
Since meeting my boyfriend, he has been able to help me grow closer to myself with the next phase of nervous system healing: co-regulation.
Co-regulation involves a supportive, warm, and responsive interaction that facilitates healthier expression and modulation of emotions.
My partner offered me consistent, emotionally corrective experiences, which allowed my nervous system to rest further and digest. Healing my nervous system through a multifaceted approach helped me find emotional regulation and love.
Having a Larger Purpose Outside of the Relationship
When we first dated, my partner and I led independent lives filled with family, friends, hobbies, and work. However, as our relationship deepened, I felt insecure about how much my dreams seemingly hinged on my partner.
Growing up with refugee trauma, having a safe home was all I ever wanted. I finally achieved that with him. Instead of using that secure attachment to explore new dreams, I feared losing what he represented to me.
Love is one of the most life-affirming experiences. That’s why working in relationships is my sacred calling! But love isn’t the end all, be all. I believe love can also function as a safe base to find inspired meaning, life purpose, and empowerment.
I forgot that as our connection progressed. I began placing my meaning of home onto him, making the relationship my highest purpose instead of a foundation for me to build on.
The relationship suffered when I weighed it down with expectations that went far beyond support, respect, availability, and understanding. I expected my partner to singularly keep me happy, fulfilled, and safe.
But it’s not his responsibility to resolve these loaded concepts. Yet he could support me with my healing—with limits. It took time, but I was able to cultivate internal safety and rewrite that wounded layer of my story to regain my sense of self again.
Often, we tend to make our significant others our entire world. We might hope they finally give us this intangible thing to magically complete us. But no one can. That’s up to you.
By maintaining your respective individuality, it allows you to remember love is not meant to engulf. Love is meant to enhance your life which leads to true, healthy interdependence.
Loving Each Other for Who We Are and Who We Most Want to Be
I’ve made my fair share of mistakes with past partners. So has he. What was important was what we learned. To move on from the past completely, acceptance became a big part of our relationship so we could remain present to each other and not spiral into repetition compulsion, which is the act of repeatedly engaging in behaviors that echo early life experiences or past traumas.
When building a life with our partner, we need to leave the past in the past. Yet, we must understand our old stories to create a mindful future.
Despite the discomfort, we openly discussed our previous relationships and the origins behind certain lessons, boundaries, and triggers.
We all have baggage, and we’ve all hurt somebody. Meeting my partner didn’t mean I was suddenly at the end of a shiny, happily-ever-after fairytale where everything was pure and perfect.
We were just at the beginning of the story, and that meant acknowledging everything that had happened before us. It also meant that our relationship was expansive enough to integrate our unique, funny, sweet, quiet, shameful, embarrassing, and secret stories along for the ride.
I love him for his experiences, mistakes, and growth, which bathes the relationship with radiant compassion. There’s something beautiful when you listen to their past stories, and you can remind them of their inherent core, offering them a throughline to interpret their stories with your grace and unconditional love. This allows you to express a boundless expression of love that profoundly elevates the relationship.
What This Means For You
You deserve the healthiest form of love. This starts with the care you give yourself. By staying open to the possibilities of love and applying interdependent approaches to dating, you can receive the right partner for your authentic self. And when you receive it, the continued effort you put into healing and growth can completely transform your relationship.