From my perspective, there are a number of reasons why this happens. So, if you are stuck in a cycle of bad dating, then read on! One of these problems might just apply to you...
5 Reasons Why People Don't Find Mr. or Ms. Right
1) Wanting what they cannot have.
Some people get addicted to the thrill of the chase. The forbidden fruit. The "playing hard to get". They lust for those people who pay them no attention, are aloof, disinterested, or even mean.
Wanting what we cannot have is a common mental quirk that we all possess. Within the social influence research, this is called "Scarcity" (Cialdini, 2009). Essentially, we are all hard-wired to believe things that are difficult to obtain, or rare, are also valuable and desirable. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes the rare and expensive is truly valuable...other times it is just some junk a person put a high price tag on!
Some people keep dating the wrong kind of guy or gal because they fall for the scarcity trap. They keep chasing what they cannot have. Sometimes this is an ego thing ("I'm going to show him how good I am!"). Other times, it is a low self-esteem thing ("what do I have to do to get her to love me?"). In either case, however, they mistake this partner's disinterest and scarcity for actual value.
The solution - stop the chase. Realize that just because something is hard to get, doesn't mean it is worth the effort. No one is worth running after. It is better to find someone who will meet you in the middle.
For more see: Does Playing Hard to Get Make You Fall in Love?
2) Being biased and not seeing good possibilities.
People also get hurt at various times in their dating lives. As a result, they find ways to protect their egos and self-esteem. They find ways of coping with the rejection, disappointments, and frustrations of finding love. Unfortunately, some of those ways are better than others.
There are two common ways people protect their egos in these situations by creating biases that blind them. On one hand, they may expect very little of themselves and make excuses for failures before they even happen. This is called Self-Handicapping (Tice, 1991). On the other hand, they may expect very little of others and make themselves feel superior by looking down at them. This is called Pre-Judging (Fein & Spencer, 1997).
Both of these biases lead to bad dating. Either the dater expects to fail, or they expect the other person to be awful. Neither of these biases allows them to truly "see" a good partner - or have the motivation to get them. So, such a biased individual either "settles for less" or stays alone and grumpy.
The solution - getting over the past and learning to see clearly. Not everybody out there is a jerk, no matter what has happened in the past. In fact, most people are decent and looking for love. Rather than expecting the worst, it is more productive to look for what is different and better. That is the only way to find it!
For more see: Where is Love? How Do You Find Love?
3) Relying on luck and fate to find love.
For most people, dating is a process of trial and error. They learn the skills to socialize. They go out and meet people. They date a few folks (or more). Out of all that experience, good and bad, they find one who is attractive to them, compatible, and interested in them too! All of that takes work and effort.
Other individuals rely on luck, fate, or destiny. Because they believe the process is more-or-less out of their hands, they may not put much work into it. They might not look hard. They might not build themselves up to be better people and more valuable partners. Instead, they may believe someone will simply be their "soul mate" and "love them exactly as they are".
In truth, such a belief in destiny and a perfect soul mate partner often leads people to be overly picky, reject good partners, and end up unlucky in love (Knee, 1998; Knee, Vietor, & Neighbors, 2004). They can also be passive in their search for love, simply taking whoever comes into their lives and makes them feel attraction. In the end, they can have little control over the love in their lives, may make a lot of bad choices from being swept away by emotion, and then get repeatedly disappointed when their lovers are not the perfect soul mate after all.
The solution - looking for a good partner, not a perfect one. There are simply better and worse partners out there. Some are more fit for a relationship than others. There is not, however, a "perfect and unique fit" for each of us. The best that can be hoped for is finding a reasonably-compatible person, who will be willing to cooperate, and working with them to create a mutually-satisfying exchange. Yes, this is far less romantic...but it works!
For more see: Why You Shouldn't Believe in Soul Mates
4) Lacking clear goals and plans.
Again, dating is a process. Yes...it is also emotional. But, beyond the feelings, you are also "picking" a compatible person, who will work with you as a partner, for mutual satisfaction. Therefore, dating does become something of a job interview...
Many people, however, go into dating without any clear logic or goals. They lead with their feelings only and then wonder why they don't get anywhere! Sure, there is something to be said for "enjoying the journey". However, if a person desires to get somewhere specific (e.g. marriage, kids, etc.), then it is very handy to have a map too! Without one, they tend to drive in circles and, not surprisingly, find themselves with the same partners time after time.
The solution - figuring out what is desired and where to get it. Create a rough "job description" for a good partner. Figure out where that type of person can be found. Look for those characteristics and test people on them. Continue to enjoy dating - but don't forget the end goal either!
For more see: Why Dating Often Fails and How You Can Succeed!
5) Making bad trades.
All relationships, including romantic ones, are based on social exchange (Kelly & Thibaut, 1978). In other words, beyond the feelings, we enter into relationships to trade. We meet the needs of others - and they meet our needs back. Give and take...
Healthy and satisfying relationships involve roughly equal trades. Both people are happy. Neither feels cheated.
However, some people don't pick such balanced relationships. Some repeatedly sell themselves short, giving way more than they get. In the end, these people often feel cheated, unappreciated, and used. Others repeatedly over-estimate their worth, asking for too much. They too end up feeling frustrated, when no one will meet their unrealistic expectations. Thus, both under-valuing and over-valuing one's self leads to repeated problems in love.
The solution - honest self-appraisal. It is important for people to know the worth of their contributions in a relationship, as well as the worth of what they desire in return. The two should be roughly equal. This does not have to be an exact tit-for-tat exchange. Nevertheless, the scales should be somewhat balanced to avoid hard feelings and relationship break-down. Relationships that are too one-sided should be avoided. Asking for far more than one is (really) worth should be avoided too.
For more see: 6 Tips for Dating Success: What You Both Want Matters
Dating is sometimes a difficult and frustrating process. It is easy to feel stuck in a rut, unable to find a good man or woman. Much of the time, however, what seems like a big problem is often just a little "quirk" preventing someone from seeing better opportunities. It is possible to increase the odds of finding a good partner simply by refusing to chase bad partners, overcoming biases, not relying on fate, setting clear goals, and/or making balanced trades. Pay attention to these "dating mistakes" and you might just find yourself more happy in love!
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Until next time...happy dating and relating!
Dr. Jeremy Nicholson
The Attraction Doctor
Previous Articles from The Attraction Doctor
- Cialdini, R.B. (2009). Influence: Science and Practice. Boston: Pearson.
- Fein, S., & Spencer, S. J. (1997). Prejudice as self-image maintenance: Affirming the self through derogating others. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 31-44.
- Kelley, H. H. and Thibaut, J. (1978) Interpersonal relations: A theory of interdependence, New York: Wiley.
- Knee, C. R. (1998). Implicit theories of relationships: Assessment and prediction of romantic relationship initiation, coping, and longevity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 360–370.
- Knee, C. R., Patrick, H., Vietor, N. A., & Neighbors, C. (2004). Implicit theories of relationships: Moderators of the link between conflict and commitment. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30, 617-628.
- Tice, D. M. (1991). Esteem protection or enhancement? Self-handicapping motives and attributions differ by trait self-esteem. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 711-725.
© 2013 by Jeremy S. Nicholson, M.A., M.S.W., Ph.D. All rights reserved.