As a psychologist in Los Angeles who specializes in relationship issues, I talk about dating all the time with my clients, and I can identify several common mistakes that both men and women make in dating. Hopefully this list of four can be helpful to you:
1. Working too hard in the beginning.
A male client of mine once told me about a first date he’d coordinated for a girl he desperately wanted to impress. Long story short, a limo was involved—and that’s probably all the information you need to understand his mistake. It goes without saying that the relationship my client started in the limo has since ended. It ended because he walked into the relationship convinced that he had to search for approval and prove his worth to her. Limo? Let’s find out her last name and, I don’t know, maybe whether she’s a nice, responsible person before we start maxing out a credit card. If you work too hard when you first start dating someone, you’re wearing your anxiety—and lots of it—on your sleeve.
2. Making too many future plans.
Dating can be frustrating because of the uncertainty involved. Romantic affection is a delicate thing, and there’s nothing you can do to make someone you like like you back. Most anxiety at the beginning of dating centers on just that issue—whether he or she likes you back. One way that new daters try to overcompensate for the uncertainty is to make lots of plans during the date, as if your object of interest could slip through your fingers and disappear if you’re not careful. You’ve probably been on a date where someone suggests, “We should see that movie together," or, "This summer we have to [insert activity]." Slow down: If the two of you are meant to be together, let the chemistry unfold.
3. Exercising too much romantic caution.
You probably didn’t predict this, but it’s interesting that men and women often want to initiate an affectionate or sexual gesture early in dating, but resist those impulses for fear of putting the other person off. What many clients—male and female—express to me in therapy is that they wish their date wouldn’t pump the brakes so much and would actually make a move. I have female clients who have fantasies of the guy they’re dating initiating sexual gestures, and male clients who make assumptions that the women they're dating don’t want to be approached like that. [Here's the caveat: When it comes to sexual gestures, be mindful to continually check in with your partner to make sure it’s okay. At the first hint of the word “no” or “stop,” do just that.]
4. Fixating on one physical type, and not giving others a chance.
Men and women both have issues in this area, of course, but I actually see this problem most frequently in the case of women who refuse to date short men. Many women have come to see because they have trouble with relationships, but many of them also confess that there's one type of partner they would never date—short men. I am always confused when I meet someone who denies an entire category of people consideration for dating—especially because of height. (If you ever attend a high-class Hollywood party packed with your favorite actors and actresses, you’ll quickly see how many A-listers are actually tiny—and there is nothing wrong with that.) The more open you are about types of people you'll consider dating, the better.
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