Therapy in Mind

Exploring ways to improve your life through practical behavioral therapy.

Top 10 Dating Mistakes

Are you sabotaging your own dates?

Are you making dating mistakes that stand in the way of you finding the right person or keeping the right person after finding him/her? Too often people end up ruining their chances with the person they are dating by committing fixable errors. This article discusses ten common dating mistakes, and what you can do to avoid them in the future.

1. Game playing: This strategy is usually employed for one of two reasons. The first is to protect one's ego. When it comes to dating, everyone, on some level, fears rejection. Playing it cool and not getting too involved may make you feel safe, but you risk coming across as aloof or remote, and may turn the other person off. Balance between demonstrating interest and maintaining your composure is best. Another reason people play games is to get something you want that you wouldn't likely get if you played it straight. For example, telling someone you love him or her so they will sleep with you, and then not calling them again. This form of manipulation is simply unacceptable (to put it mildly), and does not lead to healthy relationships. You will get further in less time in finding a relationship if you allow yourself to be genuine. It's OK to put your best foot forward, and also to be a bit cautious, but have the courage to be upfront and show who you are.

2. Talking too much about your ex: While this information will eventually be shared at least to some extent, it shouldn't be discussed in detail during the initial phase of a relationship. You want to get to know the person and each have a chance for a fresh start. Carrying old baggage into a new relationship amounts to clutter. If you have baggage, then best to work it out in individual therapy before pursuing a new relationship, at least to a point where it isn't affecting your reactions and clouding your judgment.

3. Fantasizing about the future:  While men are typically (not always) the masters of game playing, women have this one down pat. When you catch yourself trying on his last name before the third date, it's time to remind yourself to slow down. In the first 3-6 months of a relationship, you are likely running on oxytocin, which is a chemical found in chocolate. It creates the sense of well-being and euphoria that comes with "falling in love." This might as well be dubbed the period of temporary insanity, because you are not in command of all your faculties; your brain is hijacked by those lovely chemicals, interfering with your ability to think clearly. Until you have time to really get to know someone, and see him or her in a wide range of situations, it is helpful to not get ahead of yourself; don't strongly attach to some illusion that you have created about the person. This can lead to pitfalls of setting up unrealistic expectations and subsequent disillusionment, or depression if the relationship doesn't work out.

4. Obsessing over details:  This one is common with those who worry. The worry may be a general habit, but now it is turned on the subject of the relationship: worry about what the other person said, worry about what they meant by it, worry about how you reacted, worry about the relationship not working out, worry about what if it does work out, how will your parents react...on and on. Being anxious is a mood killer, and will not make you attractive to a potential mate. But don't go worrying about that! Try to tap into your self-confidence and trust that if the relationship is meant to work out, it will.

5. Ignoring red flags:  If someone doesn't show up when you're supposed to meet, that's a red flag. If they don't let you call them at
home, yep, red flag. If they kick their dog, bingo, red flag. Of course, there are more subtle warnings that one may be tempted to overlook, especially if one is eager for the relationship to work out. While one shouldn't jump to conclusions without sufficient evidence on the first problem that arises, an emerging pattern is not something to make excuses for or brush under the rug. Address these problems early, and don't waste your time.

6. Interrogating your date: "How many children do you want" is not a good opening sentence. You want to show interest by asking about their likes or dislikes, but not press someone for information. Let things evolve a bit, as you get to know someone. Patience and restraint are required here, even though you may feel pressed for time. Do your best to relax and have fun.

7. Avoidance of intimacy: While this one is traditionally men's domain, women are quickly catching up in the fear of commitment zone. Modern society imposes so many requirements and expectations on what makes for a "good catch," and that makes it hard to sort through whether someone would be a good choice for us. We don't want to "settle," and the quest for the perfect mate can cause us to overlook or undervalue a truly good partner. Alternatively, we might be so fearful of getting hurt, betrayed or rejected, that we exit stage left just as the play gets going. If fear of commitment is an obstacle, better to work out your patterns schemas http://www.cognitive-therapy-associates.com/schemas/ in therapy than in your relationships.

8. Rush in, rush out: Are you reckless in love? Do you plunge into the deep end, only to find that the water is way too cold? Then this one's for you. Getting overly involved too soon is a big red flag. If you do it, then you need to pace yourself, and be more considerate of the other person, who you are probably leading on. If you fall for those who do it, then you need to slow things down and not get taken for a ride (or pursue a different type!).

9. Not being honest about your needs:  Pretending everything is OK can work for only so long. assetiveness is a golden skill for those who are ready for a mature relationship. Unless you can ascertain and directly communicate your needs (by being clear and specific), then you are basically operating on a child level. While many people get by this way, it is not very effective, and puts you at a disadvantage when you are trying to get your needs met. Assertiveness is not to be confused with being bossy or demanding. Being tactful and direct is the quickest path to relationship success.

10. Sacrificing too much to get the relationship:  If you find that you are doing things you would not otherwise do to get someone's attention, like bending over backwards and injuring your spine in the process, then you are entering the land of the doormats. Often people tend to do this if there is a problem with low self-esteem. Valuing yourself enough to put your needs on the table as well as the other person's is key in establishing balance and harmony. A healthy relationship is one between two equals, both giving and receiving in reciprocal fashion.

If you find that you are in a relationship that has a lot of benefits but there are some kinks that need to be addressed, best to discover effective ways of handling these conflicts early on. Relationship coaching or couples therapy can help you learn how to better manage problematic issues so that they are no longer impinging on the health and happiness of your relationship.

© 2010-11 by Allison Conner a clinical psychologist and clinical director of Cognitive Therapy Associates

Allison Conner, Psy.D., is the founder of Cognitive Therapy Associates.

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