The Myth of Happily Ever After - Dating Advice From a Matchmaker

Added: Feb 1, 2024

In this podcast episode, Paul Brunson, a renowned matchmaker, discusses the state of dating, the importance of choosing the right partner, and the impact of self-actualization on relationships. He emphasizes the significance of selecting a strong partner, as it can lead to a longer, happier, and healthier life. He also highlights the importance of self-actualization and personal development before entering a relationship.

Key takeaways


Choosing the right partner is crucial for a longer, happier, and healthier life.


Self-actualization and personal development are crucial before entering a relationship.


Understanding attachment styles and childhood experiences can lead to healthier relationship dynamics.


Recognizing toxic behaviors and addressing them early on is crucial for relationship success.


Embracing authenticity and self-acceptance is important in dating.

The History of Dating

Brunson delves into the history of dating, starting from the pragmatic phase where partners were selected based on similar characteristics for procreation. He then discusses the romantic period, where companionship became a significant factor in relationships. He also mentions the age of self-expression, where individuals seek self-actualization and fulfillment in their relationships.

Arranged Marriages

Brunson presents controversial data that suggests arranged marriages, where partners are selected by family members, tend to last longer and result in higher satisfaction. He attributes this to the involvement of multiple people in the decision-making process, who can identify qualities in a partner that the individual may overlook.

The Importance of Self-Actualization

According to Brunson, self-actualization is crucial for flourishing in a relationship. He refers to Carol Ryff's Six Dimensions of Psychological Well-being, which include personal development, inspiration, autonomy, environmental mastery, relationships with others, and self-acceptance. He emphasizes the need for individuals to focus on these dimensions before entering a relationship to achieve the highest level of well-being.

The Work in Relationships

Brunson challenges the notion that the work in a relationship ends once a partner is found. He reframes the idea of work as an opportunity to develop skills that are transferable to other aspects of life. He suggests that a secure relationship may appear boring but feels great, emphasizing the importance of stability and security in a partnership.

The Impact of Media and Pop Culture

Brunson acknowledges that the perception of relationships is influenced by media and pop culture, which often portray the end of a romantic story as the beginning of a happily ever after. He highlights the need to reframe the negative connotations associated with the work in relationships and view it as an opportunity for personal growth and skill development.

Men's Struggles in the Dating Climate

Brunson discusses the challenges that men face in the current dating climate, especially on dating apps. He acknowledges the high suicide rates, levels of loneliness, and mental health issues that men experience. He emphasizes the need to create safe spaces for men to talk about their struggles and connect with others facing similar challenges. He also mentions the work of Richard Reeves, who has highlighted the issues of unemployment, lower educational attainment, and high levels of drug usage among men.

Fear of Rejection and Mate Value

The conversation delves into the fear of rejection as a significant barrier for men in relationships. Brunson shares insights from Tinder research, which indicates that the fear of rejection is the number one reason why men believe they can't find a significant other. He explains that this fear is linked to self-esteem, self-love, and self-worth. The concept of mate value is introduced as an evolutionary psychology term that assesses the value individuals bring to the mating marketplace. It encompasses physical appearance, status, behavior, and confidence.

The Golden Mean and Its Influence

Brunson discusses the concept of the golden mean, which is the optimal measure of what is considered fertile and therefore attractive. He explains that the golden mean has stood the test of time and is influenced by culture. He provides examples of how the golden mean influences perceptions of attractiveness and mate selection. Additionally, he shares insights into how the golden mean can be used in matchmaking to enhance perceived mate value.

Premium Effect and Self-Esteem

The premium effect is introduced as a phenomenon where individuals become a scarce or desirable commodity in a particular environment. Brunson shares examples of how individuals can use the premium effect to increase their chances of finding someone to fall in love with. He emphasizes the importance of high self-esteem in leveraging the premium effect and being authentic in dating scenarios. The discussion highlights the correlation between low self-esteem and a focus on appearances, as well as the impact of keeping commitments to oneself on self-esteem.

Navigating the Digital Dating Landscape

The conversation touches on the challenges faced by individuals who are not familiar with digital dating platforms, particularly those in the 35+ age group. Brunson explains that this demographic may feel trapped between traditional in-person dating and the surge of digital dating. He shares insights into how individuals in this age group can navigate the digital dating landscape by embracing authenticity and leveraging their unique qualities.

Embracing Authenticity and Self-Acceptance

Brunson emphasizes the importance of embracing authenticity and self-acceptance in dating scenarios. He encourages individuals to be transparent about their strengths and areas for improvement, as well as to communicate their desires and intentions. He highlights the significance of self-acceptance and self-compassion in boosting self-esteem and building healthy relationships. The discussion underscores the value of being true to oneself and owning one's uniqueness in the dating process.

Attachment Theory and Cultural Differences

Brunson continues by discussing attachment theory, which was developed by Mary Ainsworth and John Bowlby. He explains the four categories of attachment styles in adults, which are secure, anxious, avoidant, and disorganized. He also highlights the cultural differences in attachment styles, emphasizing that attachment styles are not globally applicable and can vary based on cultural norms and upbringing.

He provides an example of how attachment styles can influence sexual preferences and behaviors, citing research that shows how individuals with different attachment styles may have varying levels of comfort and satisfaction in different sexual scenarios. For example, avoidant individuals may prefer less emotional intimacy in sexual encounters, while anxious individuals may seek more emotional connection.

Impact of Cultural Differences on Sexual Preferences

Brunson further explores the impact of cultural differences on sexual preferences, suggesting that individuals from different cultural backgrounds may have distinct sexual boundaries and interests. He emphasizes the importance of understanding one's own attachment style and how it may influence sexual preferences and behaviors. He also discusses the significance of recognizing and respecting cultural diversity in the context of attachment theory and sexual relationships.

Hypergamy and Relationship Dynamics

The conversation then shifts to the concept of hypergamy, which refers to the tendency of individuals, particularly women, to seek partners of equal or greater social status. Brunson explains how hypergamy is notable in online dating and how it can influence relationship dynamics. He discusses the implications of hypergamy on partner selection and the potential impact on marriage and family dynamics.

Decline in Marriage and Birth Rates

Brunson addresses the decline in marriage and birth rates in certain parts of the world, highlighting the potential consequences of underpopulation and its impact on societal and economic factors. He discusses the replacement rate and the challenges associated with declining birth rates, particularly in the context of an aging population and the need for a sustainable tax base and support system for older individuals.

He also touches on the topic of neo-natalism, which involves concerns about population growth and ethnic or nationalistic implications. Brunson emphasizes the need to approach these issues with sensitivity and awareness of cultural diversity, acknowledging the potential implications of demographic shifts on societal dynamics and racial diversity.

Relationship Dynamics and Self-Exploration

Throughout the conversation, Brunson emphasizes the importance of self-exploration and understanding one's own attachment style, traumas, and triggers. He discusses how self-awareness can lead to healthier relationship dynamics and the ability to address and work on behavioral patterns. He also highlights the significance of recognizing and respecting cultural diversity in the context of attachment theory and sexual relationships.

Childhood experiences and adult relationships

Brunson discusses the impact of childhood experiences on adult relationships, highlighting the intergenerational transmission of trauma and its influence on how individuals show up in their relationships. He emphasizes the need to understand and appreciate one's partner's experiences in order to build a strong and empathetic connection.

The importance of emotional fitness in a partner

Brunson identifies five key characteristics that are essential in a partner for a strong and satisfying relationship. These include emotional fitness, courageous vision, resilient resourcefulness, open-mindedness, and compassionate support. He emphasizes the significance of emotional stability and the ability to bounce back from life's challenges as crucial traits in a partner.

What to look for in a relationship

Brunson delves into the common pitfalls of looking for superficial qualities in a partner, such as academic qualifications or financial status. He emphasizes the need to focus on the fundamental characteristics of a partner, such as emotional fitness and resilience, rather than superficial attributes. He also discusses the importance of shared relationship goals and the ability to resolve conflict as key factors in a successful relationship.

The dark tetrad and signs of a toxic relationship

The conversation touches on the "dark tetrad," which includes narcissism, psychopathy, machiavellianism, and sadism. Brunson highlights the danger of being in a relationship with someone exhibiting these traits, particularly the presence of contempt, which he identifies as a red flag with a 99% likelihood of relationship failure. He emphasizes the importance of recognizing toxic behaviors and addressing them early on in a relationship.

Conflict resolution and relationship satisfaction

Brunson discusses the significance of conflict resolution in maintaining a healthy and satisfying relationship. He emphasizes the need for both partners to put in effort and nourishment into the relationship, comparing it to the constant growth or decline of a plant depending on the care it receives. He also addresses the impact of unresolved conflict and the accumulation of small incidents leading to relationship breakdown.

Personal reflection and growth

In a closing segment, Brunson reflects on his own personal challenges, including feeling like an underdog and overanalyzing interactions due to a lack of self-worth. He acknowledges the need to overcome these barriers and approach life with less overthinking and more freedom. He also discusses the importance of recognizing one's own satisfaction and happiness as a foundation for building strong and fulfilling relationships.


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