Deep Dating:
The New Rules For Creating Intimacy

You think you know why you date, but you’re wrong.

You think you’re on the hunt for a suitable partner. You’ve been programmed to believe the person in front of you is a kind of checklist. Snappy dating profile – check! About as attractive as you are – check! Gets along with your friends – check! Check off enough items and you’ve got a shot at a fulfilling relationship. Fail to check them off and you’ll waste your time with the wrong person. Worse, you might repeat the same mistakes you made in your last relationship.

It’s really not too much to ask. You just want to find “the one”, and you deserve to. You want a companion, a partner, someone to build a future with. That’s why you think you’re dating. It’s not.

Here’s the truth.

You’re dating because you’re on a primordial spiritual quest. When somebody you like flirts with you, when you have a new crush, when you start to fall for someone, it stirs your soul. The thin shell of your mundane existence cracks, and something magical trickles in. You need that magic. Without it, nothing really makes sense. It’s hard, being a person. It’s hard for everyone. When you get close enough to someone, everything changes. Being a person becomes easier. The world makes more sense. You stop believing that you’re alone.

You think you’re dating to secure a partner. You’re actually dating for the magic. And you’re never going to squeeze magic out of a checklist.

The Dating Problem, And The Dating Solution

I don’t care how good you are, how honest, or how noble. If you’ve been dating to get a partner, you’ve been lying.

To attract a potential partner, or pursue one, or hold onto one, you have to play games.

Play hard to get. Be who you think the other person wants you to be. Make sure you don’t scare them away. Be careful not to lead them on. Don’t trust them until they prove themselves. Withhold your real self unless you think they might be “the one”. If you think they might be, hold on at any cost. If you decide they’re not, come up with a pretext to get out of it.

You’re really dating for the magic, but you’ve learned to play games to get yourself a partner, and every bit of game playing shuts the magic tap off a little tighter. The real problem is that you’re postponing, sacrificing the date that’s happening now on the altar of potential future partnership. You’re laying groundwork for the future. Everything frustrating, discouraging, and disappointing about dating comes from this future-orientation.

You don’t need to wait. You don’t need to organize your dates around a possible future. You can get the magic you’re dating for right now. There’s a name for this magic. It’s called intimacy.

Intimacy Without Infrastructure

Imagine someone you like has invited you on a first date, or that you’ve invited them.

You start off by letting yourself be taken by their unique beauty. You let yourself be moved and affected by it. In turn, you do your best to let the other person see you. As a result, they can feel what’s beautiful about you. Over time, they even start to really get you. It makes you feel less alone in the world. You come to know and understand one another. As you feel more and more deeply connected, you come to trust one another. You fall in love. Eventually, the power of your connection changes you, makes you more into the person you’ve always wished you could be.

And then, the date ends. All of this has happened in a single encounter, a few hours together. You didn’t postpone anything in service of some potential future. Instead, you created on-the-spot intimacy.

Deep Dating is the art of creating intimacy right now, today, on this date. Creating intimacy is a skill you can get better and better at.

When you got fooled into believing that the purpose of dating was to land a partner, you learned to date by a set of implicit rules. Now you remember that dating is really a primordial quest for the magic of intimacy. If you want to fulfill the quest, you’ll need to change the rules.

Following each of the six new rules below helps you to get unusually close, unusually fast.

  1. Each Date Is The Only Date:
    (Each date is a self-contained relationship.  The relationship happens now, not in the future.)
  2. Realness + Attunement = Intimacy:
    (Showing your real self, and seeing the other person clearly, are the keys to intimacy.)
  3. Don’t Reject – Redirect:
    (Meaningful connection can happen no matter what your boundaries are.)
  4. Lean Into Trust:
    (Trust is a choice, not something that just happens to you.)
  5. Don’t Go Out – Go In:
    (Eliminate distractions in order to make complete contact.)
  6. Include Learning, Healing, and Growth:
    (Dating can help you become the person you most want to be.)

Ready for more? Here we go . . .

Rule #1. Each Date Is The Only Date

A relationship is just a series of encounters. The quality of the encounters determines the quality of the relationship.

Would you want a long-term partnership that consisted of unsatisfying exchanges: small talk, cautiousness, testing, pretending, withholding? Probably not. So why would you want a short-term partnership that’s made of that stuff? Every date is its own short-term partnership.

Imagine you’ve just met someone you really like. They seem to like you just as much. You’re about to have a date together. For some mysterious reason, it will be the only date you’ll ever have.

This isn’t just any date. You have a feeling about this person. They’ve got some secret. Something about the way they move through the world, or something they can see that you can’t. Maybe it’s in the way they inhabit their body, or in how they look at you. If you can find out what the secret is, it will change you forever. They have the same feeling about you, that you’ve got something just for them.

You’ve got several hours. It will be your only opportunity to find out what you’re meant to discover together. Unless you can get close enough, unless you can really get in with each other, you won’t have a chance. You can’t wait around for the relationship to develop slowly over time. You might even need to start off acting as you would if you were already close, as if you’re already partners. There’s no time to waste. How will you spend the few precious hours you have? You’re likely to take risks, to tell the truth, to go as deep as possible.

Apply this scenario to every date you have with anyone and you’re ready for Deep Dating.

The most important rule of Deep Dating is that each date you’re on is the only date you’ll ever have. If you only have one date, the date you’re on right now IS the relationship. The relationship happens now, not later, because all you ever have with anyone is the present moment. How will you spend it?

You could, on your one and only date, get lit up by the excitement of getting to know someone, learn new things about yourself, be seen and felt and understood, play, share affection, or pleasure, grow as a relational being, make a lasting difference in the other person’s life, challenge yourself, take new risks, fall in love.  You can do all this on your one and only date. And you can have as many only dates as you want.

Embrace the paradox. Each date is the only date. You can have as many as you want. The point is not to prohibit yourself from having multiple dates with the same person. The point is to treat each date as a complete, self-contained relationship.

There are great advantages to treating each date as if it’s the only one. For one, you have to actively create the date, moment by moment, rather than waiting for the date to happen to you. You can’t future trip, because there’s no future to trip about. That means you’re not making a good impression for later. There is no later. If you’re worried that showing your real self will scare the other person away, go ahead and scare them away. This is your only date anyway.

Dating for partnership and Deep Dating follow different trajectories.  

If you’re doing normal dating, to find a partner, you’ll probably start to date with increasing frequency.  Over time, you’ll get more involved in one another’s daily activities, depend on each other to meet more and more of your needs, start to intertwine your lives.  That’s the basic pattern of how most of us move from dating to partnership.

Deep Dating is different.  You can Deep Date someone over time, but when you treat each date as a self-contained experience, as if your entire relationship is happening here and now in this one date, you move through a different progression.  In partnership dating, earlier dates lay the groundwork for commitment, and you hold back the good stuff, or the hard stuff, until later.  In Deep Dating, each time you meet is a new experiment in intimacy.  How does whatever history you’ve developed from past dates facilitate new possibilities for intimacy on this date? What new forms of support can you offer each other? What new depths of understanding can you reach?  Instead of progressing toward interdependency, commitment, and marriage, you are progressing toward mutual understanding, greater risk-taking, and more complete contact.

The “only date” rule is the spiritual foundation of Deep Dating. Intimacy only ever happens in the present. The more you can thwart the normal process of building expectations about the future, the more present you can be. But it requires a kind of faith. Instead of grasping to reach a goal, you’re surrendering to the process. You have to trust that somehow you’ll get what you need, that you won’t be alone, that you’ll be fulfilled. Not knowing what the future holds can be scary. But the future was never under your control anyway. If you can have everything you wish for already, right now, on the date that you’re on, the future becomes less of a fixation.

Rule #2. Realness + Attunement = Intimacy

There are two ways to get close to a person.

The first way is to be who they want you to be. Figure out what they seem to want, and give it to them. Hide the stuff they seem to dislike. Act like the person you think they want to be close with, and keep acting.

The problem with this approach is that you get to be close to the object of your desire, but they never get to be close to you. You’re not even there. It’s not you having the relationship. It’s the character you’re playing. This approach gets you proximity without intimacy.

If you want intimacy, you need the second approach. Be as real as you know how to be.

This one isn’t easy. We’ve all learned to be concerned with impression management.  We’ve been taught to act cool, to look composed when we feel like a mess, to perform in order to be liked, to partition out the parts of ourselves we show from those we hide.  We are ashamed of our struggles, our limitations, and our imperfections, and we fear that if people knew what we were really like on the inside, they wouldn’t want us.

Sometimes your fears come true, and someone, in fact, doesn’t want you. You can’t be close to everyone.

Sometimes, however, you show someone everything, and they still think you’re groovy. You give them your beauty, your weirdness, your insecurity, even your pain. Now it’s really you there. Now real intimacy is possible.

Most of us have it backwards. We think we have to stop being our real selves to get people to like us. But it doesn’t work like that. Once you stop being yourself, you’re boring. You’re no one. You’re a clone. It’s you actually being you that makes you likable.

If you’ve been trained your whole life to pretend, how do you drop the performance, and bring your real self to a date? The key to getting real is telling the truth.

The truth is that people are scary. Meeting someone new is kind of overwhelming. Talking to someone you’ve known a while isn’t any simpler. As a result, there’s a stream of constant activity just below your calm facade.

Do they like you? Are they judging you? What will make them like you more? What are you trying to get from them? Do they want to give it to you? What if they want something you don’t? How do you keep them from dominating you? Which one of you is in control? Should you trust them? Are they good for you? Are you making them uncomfortable? Do you look okay?

Concerns like these are always buzzing around beneath the surface. But think about how rarely anyone acknowledges them out loud. Instead, we ask the most boring, low-risk questions we can think of. No one likes small talk, but we waste our time on it because it’s safe. Real talk is risky, unpredictable, and sometimes even awkward!

If you’re reading this, you’ve already had enough small talk for one lifetime. Luckily, it’s easy to get from small talk to real talk. All you need to do is talk about your experience, in the moment, of what it’s like to be with the other person.

What’s your experience like right now? How do you feel? What are you enjoying about your connection? What are you afraid of? What do you wish for? How does hearing about the other person’s experience change your experience? Answer these questions, and you give someone a window into your world. You offer up some small piece of your real self.

It goes without saying that game playing is the opposite of being real. Actually, it doesn’t go without saying, which is why I’m saying it. There’s no place for games on a Deep Date. They’re manipulative and disingenuous and destructive of intimacy. You’ve only ever played such games because you didn’t know what else to do.

Here’s what else to do. Instead of playing games, talk about what’s making you want to. Expose the game you were about to play, and reveal your motivation for playing it. You were trying to prove yourself to your date, or covering up your embarrassment about something they noticed, or testing to see if they like you enough to come after you. Any time you reveal your motivations, you’re choosing realness over performance. And realness creates intimacy.

Realness, however, is only half of the intimacy equation. If telling the truth is all you’re doing, you risk burying your date in an avalanche of realness.

If getting real is about showing your date who you are, attunement is about seeing who they are. Put the two together, and you’re on the road to closeness. Realness + Attunement = Intimacy.

When you attune to someone, you do your best to get what their experience is like, regardless of how much they tell you about it. You can ask, of course. But much of what you attend to when you attune is non-verbal.

You open your arms and move toward someone for a hug. Do they light up, contract slightly, take a deep breath, turn slightly to the side? If you’re paying attention, you know whether to warmly embrace them in response, or to jettison the hug in favor of a hand briefly clasping their shoulder. You respond to how they respond. Then you even respond to how they respond to your response. Moment by moment, you keep paying attention and responding appropriately. That’s attunement.

If you’re not attuned, you risk just expressing yourself all over the other person. You’ll alienate them instead of bringing you closer together.

If you’re paying attention, you’ll modulate your self-expression to match their energy. That doesn’t mean you have to be careful, just that you have to care. Imagining yourself from their perspective informs your moment-to-moment choices about what to share, to ask, to offer.

Some people are just all attunement all the time. They lose themselves in the minutia of their date’s responses. That’s why you need both halves of the equation. Putting all your attention on the other person keeps you hidden. Attunement without realness is just self-sacrificing.

Intimacy does not need to be a privilege granted only those in our innermost circle. You can get better and better at creating all different kinds of intimacy, with all different kinds of people. Each Deep Date is another chance to practice becoming more and more yourself.

Rule #3. Don’t Reject – Redirect

We’ve all heard the story. You meet an online date at a prearranged location. They look far less appealing than they did in their photos. Within seconds, you know you’re not into them, and you never will be. Now you’re dreading the next couple hours. You have to go through the motions with someone you already know you’re going nowhere with.

On a Deep Date, this tragedy need never occur. You don’t need to go through any motions. This is your only date anyway.

Think about it. What does it really mean that you’re “not into” them?

A Deep Date is always a journey. You never know in advance where it will take you. If you’re not into someone, that just means you know a couple places the journey won’t go. Sex will be off limits. The road to long-term partnership will remain gated and locked. You know where you’re not headed. What you don’t yet know is where else it’s possible for you to go. There are parts of the map you’ve never investigated. You don’t even know what’s there.

If you were dating for partnership, the goal would be to find a partner. Dating someone you’re not into would be a waste of time. Rejecting your date might be the best course of action.

On a Deep Date, intimacy is the goal. Intimacy, it turns out, does not require sex, or long-term partnership.

Reflect on your life thus far. Chances are high that you’ve had deeply significant, meaningful, fulfilling human interactions that were neither romantic nor sexual. Some of these interactions changed your life. Other times, you were moved or inspired, learned something new, felt deeply connected, helped someone. Intimacy takes many forms.

Some unique form of intimacy is possible between you and this other human being. The goal of your date is to discover what it is. If you reject the other person, you’ll never find out.

Sometimes rejecting them seems like the only option. They expect the date to go somewhere you don’t want to go, and you don’t want to lead them on. This doesn’t mean you need to preemptively cut short the journey. It just means you need to put up a couple No Trespassing signs.

Setting boundaries sets you free. For instance, sex might be out of bounds, but physical affection still well within your boundaries. If you never set the boundary, you won’t be able to risk affection, because you won’t want to be misread. If your boundary is clear, affection won’t be interpreted as a step on the path to sex. It can be a destination in itself. So can hugging, cuddling, massaging, dancing, playing, wrestling, acro-yoga, fluffing each other’s auras, brushing each other’s hair, and crying on each other’s shoulders. There’s no need to become disembodied heads just because you’re not getting it on. Once you and your date understand each other’s limits, you can fully enjoy the territory that remains open to you.

The shift from rejecting to redirecting means any date, with anyone, within any boundaries, has the potential to become a profound experience.

You’re drawing the map as you go. Establish where you, and your date, have put up No Trespassing signs. Then redirect the journey, away from contested territory, and back onto common ground. To find common ground, you may need to step off the edge of your familiar turf. Go off-script. You’ll have to find new ways of interacting. But who wants to rehearse the same old script again anyway?

One part of the map to avoid is the “friend zone”. The problem is the word “just” in the common suggestion, “Let’s just be friends.” That’s almost like saying, “Let’s have a not-very-close, not-very-interesting relationship.” Friendship doesn’t have to be boring and predictable, but it usually is. Sex, romance, and partnership are so compelling because they are higher-risk, higher-intensity forms of relating. In comparison, many friendships lack dynamism and aliveness.

The “be friends” part of “Let’s just be friends” is lovely. The “just” part, however, is an intimacy killer. On a Deep Date, intimacy is what you’re after, not in the future, but on this very date. You won’t find it if you stay on the surface. You have to go deep, exposing your essence, and hunting down theirs. If “friendship” is a downgrade from romance, you’re no longer Deep Dating. You’re surface dating. Friendship has to become equally compelling. Otherwise, you might as well go read a book.

You may have spent years pushing or grasping to find sex or partnership. Mere intimacy may seem to be an inferior destination. But intimacy is what makes sex and partnership worth having. Sex without intimacy is short-lived. Partnership without intimacy is doomed. Intimacy without sex or partnership, on the other hand, can still be beautiful, magical, life-changing.

Rule #4. Lean Into Trust

Vulnerability, by definition, is risky. When you make yourself vulnerable, you give someone else the power to hurt you.

Why would you ever willingly give someone the power to hurt you? For better or worse, it’s the only way to create intimacy.

We all wish we could be seen, loved, and accepted for who we really are. We wish we could stop hiding and performing and pretending. We are seeking, at the very least, a single, solitary human being who we don’t have to try so hard with.  We are hoping for at least one relationship where we can relax and not have to worry about whether we’ll be loved.

In other words, we want to trust someone. We want to give someone the power to hurt us, while trusting that they won’t use it.

Here you are now, on a date with someone that you only know so well. You’ve been hurt in the past, and you’re scared of being hurt again. You don’t have a trustworthiness meter you can just point at them to find out whether they’re safe. So how do decide how much you want to trust them?

Some people think the answer is to just wait. The greatest myth about trust is that it’s a function of time. Wait long enough, we’ve been told, and trust will gradually develop on its own. But trust doesn’t work that way. Trust doesn’t just happen to you. You have to actively move toward the possibility of trust. You have to lean into it.

When someone tells me they don’t trust me, I always feel honored. If they really didn’t trust me, they wouldn’t have risked saying anything. If they’ve gotten vulnerable enough to tell me they don’t trust me, that means they’re leaning into trust. They’re starting where they are, and moving toward me a little bit at a time. They’re helping trust come into being.

Leaning into trust is all about staying open. When you can’t stay open, and you find you want to protect yourself, talk about it.

If you’re scared to get close, tell your dating partner what you’re afraid of. Tell them about how you’ve been hurt in the past. Ask for what you need to feel safer.

If your dating partner tells you what they’re afraid of, or why they don’t trust you, thank them for taking the risk. It’s not really about you, anyway. They got hurt long before they met you. Don’t take it personally. On the other hand, sometimes their mistrust really is personal. By sharing it with you, they’re providing you a chance to become more trustworthy.

Mutual understanding is the greatest source of real safety. The more you can get one another’s experience, the more the other person’s feelings, needs, and choices make sense. The more you tell the truth, the safer you become.

Here’s the bad news about safety. Safety will not keep you from getting hurt. You’re still going to get hurt.

No matter how deep your connection is with someone in the moment, they still might leave. They still might fail you, despite their best intentions. They still might miss you, get it wrong, make different assumptions than you, or have different priorities, and hurt you as a result. You might hurt them in all the same ways. You won’t want to hurt each other, but it’s an inevitable side effect of getting close.

Willingness to get hurt is the most empowering kind of vulnerability. Instead of interpreting hurt feelings as a failure, expect them, make room for them, and embrace them when they arrive.

Hurt feelings spur learning, healing, and growth. Working through them can bring you closer together, especially if you avoid blaming the other person, or yourself, or anyone, blame being a not terribly useful activity. Which hurt feelings are really about what just happened, anyway? Which are unhealed hurts from your past? Sorting those two apart facilitates healing, helps you navigate conflict, and clears away the obstacles to love.

Rule #5. Don’t Go Out – Go In

“Do you want to go out with me?” is the wrong question to launch a Deep Date. There are many circumstances when going out is a good idea. On a Deep Date, however, it’s the wrong direction. You don’t want to go out. You want to go in.

It’s like meditation. If you want to meditate, one of the best ways to go about it is to close your eyes. When your attention isn’t occupied with the world outside, you start to make your way inward.

Your inner world is vast. Go deep enough in, and you can discover amazing things about yourself. You might locate the source of all motivation, become free from the confines of your personality structure, or develop an unshakable inner peace. The more you explore, the better you can get at being human.

Your relational world is the same way. You really have no idea how deep it goes. If you keep getting distracted by coffee, dinner, drinks, shows, clubs, and other non-relational activities, you’ll never find out.

Sex might be a more apt metaphor than meditation. There’s nothing wrong with having sex somewhere with an outstanding view. But why waste your time finding a view? Your sexual partner is the view. Anything else is superfluous, probably even distracting. To co-create a beautiful sexual experience, all you need are your own bodies and souls.

A Deep Date is the same. Don’t get preoccupied planning what to do together. That’s missing the point. You don’t need to “do” anything together. Just being together is what you’re doing.

To go inward and explore the unknown territory of the relational world, first eliminate distractions.

The best activity for a Deep Date is relating. The worst is spectating (unless you’re really at the movies just to make out in the back row). When deciding what to do with your time, ask the following question. Will this activity bring us more fully into connection with one another? Avoid activities that pull your attention out of the relational world.

The best place for a Deep Date is at someone’s home. The worst is a noisy bar, or sitting at a restaurant with a table between you. People arrange dates in such intimacy-limiting settings by design, to minimize risk and the need for trust. If meeting in your living room feels too risky, seek out other cozy spaces where you can focus on one another without uninvited guests everywhere. Perhaps in a park on a beautiful day, at a cafe with couches, or somewhere out in nature.

Once you’ve eliminated the distractions of the non-relational world, find out how far in you can go.

Imagine sitting across from your date, quietly making eye contact. Now ask yourself these two questions.

  • How connected do you feel to this person?
  • What’s in the way of deeper connection?

Follow these two lines of inquiry to the inner reaches of the relational landscape.

The first inquiry is easy. Just pay attention to how close you already feel. What is it about your date, or about who you become in their presence, that you most appreciate or enjoy? Answering that simple question out loud amplifies the intimacy that’s already there, keeps it circulating between you.

The second inquiry is more advanced. Look closely, and you’ll find subtle relational tensions in the space between you. For instance, are you resisting being dominated by your date’s energy? Protecting against getting rejected? Covering up feelings you don’t think you’re supposed to feel? Pretending in order to impress them? Are you trying to make your date be more like you? Getting caught up in whether or not they seem okay? Are you waiting for something? Enduring something? Are judgments or resentments coloring your view? Are you projecting onto your date, imagining they’re someone they’re not?

Tensions like these influence all your interactions. Until you identify them, you don’t know how much power they have, and you certainly can’t resolve them. Every tension you resolve allows you to be more open and less guarded, more authentic and less strategic.

Rule #6. Include Learning, Healing, And Growth

The person you’re dating is the most important person in your life. This may not be true over time, or in the future, but Deep Dating isn’t about the future. It’s about this date, right now – your only date. On this date, you are with the most important person in your life.

When someone matters to you, you probably want them to be happy, to be fulfilled, to live a meaningful life. You probably don’t want them to be lacking, or suffering, or stuck. You want to make their life better.

If your date is, at the moment, the most important person in your life, you’ll want all these things for them, too.

Wanting things for your date is not a new concept. Anyone who follows the traditional romantic script, for instance, wants their date to feel special. That’s a great thing to want for someone. In Deep Dating, you just take the idea a bit further.

If you want your date to feel special for a moment, you can bring them flowers. But what if you want your date to feel special for the rest of their lives? Flowers only last so long. What if instead of roses, you could help them quiet their inner critic, the voice that’s forever telling them they’re unworthy? What if you could help them know in all their cells what makes them so uniquely appealing, so they could remember even when no one’s around to tell them? What if you could help them notice the ways they compete to get approval, and show them that they don’t need to anymore?

As another example, if you’re dating to get a partner, you probably want to help meet your date’s needs, to help them get nourished and satiated and fed. Deep Dating just ups the ante a little.

If you want your date to be nourished for an evening, make them dinner. But what if you want them to be nourished all the time? Dinner only gets you through to the morning. What if instead of cooking for them, you could help them gain courage in asking for what they want, not just from you, but from everyone? What if you could help them recognize when they’re self-sacrificing, and teach them to prioritize themselves as much as they do anyone else? What if you could help them identify their own desires, and move from their own impulses, so they can create a life filled with the things they want most?

Bringing flowers and cooking dinner are beautiful, momentary expressions of love. But don’t stop there. You have the power to make long-lasting contributions to your date’s life. If you really want to find out how close it’s possible to get, find ways to have a positive, permanent impact. Even better, allow your date to have that kind of impact on you.

You don’t have to be an expert in making people’s lives better. You just have to want to.

It’s not a coincidence that you wound up on this date with this person. You have a unique role to play in making their life better, and they do in yours. Find out what matters most to them. Tell them what matters most to you. Then get wildly curious about how your peculiar alchemy can promote learning, healing, and growth.


Deep Dating is the ideal research and development laboratory for learning about how to be a relational being. Your date is the perfect person to learn with. Every date is, if nothing else, an opportunity to get better at dating.

Imagine, for instance, that your date is coming to a close, and only one of you is interested in setting up another “only date”. The interested person probably feels disappointed, and the uninterested person probably feels guilty. Normally, you would just gloss over these feelings and pretend everything’s okay. There’s so much to learn, however, from sharing your experiences. You can learn about what might have made the date more mutually satisfying. You can experiment together with how to let someone down gently, or to be disappointed gracefully. Cherish your experiences of failure, rejection, and disappointment. Each one is a chance to learn something new about yourself.


Fear and pain that arise on a date can almost always be traced back to origins in your past.

We all grew up in a somewhat inhospitable world. As a result, we carry the pain of unhealed hurts. We grapple with fears and insecurities. We struggle to manage stress and find meaning. Few of us get enough support to overcome all these challenges.

We intuitively, unconsciously, seek out opportunities to heal, so we don’t have to carry the old feelings around forever.

Say you’re on a date, doing your best to be vulnerable. Suddenly, you tip over the edge into too vulnerable. Now you feel scared and alone. You’re actually safe, and you’re actually being supported by someone who cares about you, but it doesn’t feel that way. The feelings you’re feeling aren’t about what’s happening now. They’re unhealed feelings from past experiences of hurt. They’re just being triggered in the present. Some wise part of you can tell the difference. It knows this is finally your chance to heal. Your date is the support you always wished you could have gotten. If you let them, they can love you up while you fully feel and release the old feelings.


How good are you at communicating? How about comforting people when they’re having a hard time? How skilled of a lover are you? Do you know how to get what you need? Can you negotiate conflict well? Are you able to really let loose? Good at massages? Can you read people accurately?

You’re strong in some relational capacities, and weak in others. Luckily, your date can help! Which capacity do you want to develop? Maybe your date has that one down, and can offer you a hand. If not, they can still give you feedback, as the person on the other side of the interaction, about how you’re doing. Just invite them to keep telling you the whole truth about their experience of you. When we have each other’s help, we need never stop growing.

Shifting The Dating Paradigm

Let’s put the pieces together.

You’re on a date. Because it’s the only date you’ll ever have, you’re focused on the present, not building toward the future. You’re creating intimacy by showing your real self, and doing your best to see your date’s real self. You aren’t letting your boundaries stop you from getting close in whatever ways are available. To do that, you’re making yourself vulnerable, even though there’s real risk involved. You’ve eliminated external distractions in order to find out just how deep you can go. In service of that depth, you’re looking for ways to have a long-lasting, positive impact on your date’s life.

Following the Deep Dating rules makes a depth of intimacy possible on any date, with anyone. Creating such intimacy takes practice. Deep Dating requires more relational skill than dating for partnership does. You might be clumsy at first.

If you’ve been dating for partnership, you’ll feel insecure dating for intimacy instead. But whatever you were doing to try to get a partner wasn’t working anyway.

People who easily find partnerships aren’t usually trying to. They just create intimacy wherever they go, and partnership organically emerges, with little effort required. If partnership is something you want in life, Deep Dating gives you your best shot at a partnership founded on real intimacy. But you won’t get there by trying to get there. You’ll get there one date at a time.

If getting close is an unusual experience for you, creating intimacy without infrastructure can be jarring.

You might fall in love, or get attached, without any guarantee that you’ll even have another date with the person you feel so strongly about. Deep Dating offsets this risk by helping you get good at falling in love and becoming attached. The better you get at it, the less rare intimacy becomes. Losing someone is not nearly as dire when intimacy is available everywhere.

Remember, intimacy is the real reason any of us date. It’s the magic we need to make life make sense. Your life is about to make a lot more sense.

About the Author

Steve Bearman, Ph.D., earned his doctorate in Psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He founded Interchange Counseling Institute in 2002 and is the lead teacher of Interchange's San Francisco-based year-long counseling and coaching training. When he's not counseling people, leading workshops, and advocating for social justice, Steve climbs mountains, adventures in the urban wilderness, explores the edges and limits of what's possible, deconstructs everything, and finds new ways to put it all back together.