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2 Dating Mistakes You Don't Want to Make

The key to good dating is taking the risk of being who you are

Allison has been dating Noah for 8 months and they finally decided to take their relationship to the next step and have moved in together. But after a brief honeymoon period, things have begun to fall apart—no, it’s not about capping the toothpaste or leaving dirty dishes in the sink, it’s about Noah’s attitude and behavior. He’s more critical, he gets into these withdrawal funks, he actually spends a lot of time playing video games that Allison didn’t expect. This is not good.

You’ve undoubtedly heard stories like these—I thought things were great, that we were so compatible, but now we move in, get married, and he / she is a different person. These a lot of reasons for this—the intimacy and psychological challenges that come with commitment, the being together 24/ 7. But one of the reasons is the results of mistakes made in dating. Here are the two likely culprits:

Culprit #1: The Dating Self. Your instincts when you are dating are to present your “good self”. An extended job interview presentation. He wants to see a slasher movie—sounds great, you say. She's 30 minutes late—it’s okay, I understand. Understandable behavior. The problem is that it’s easy to psychologically box yourself into a corner. The person you are presenting is not the authentic you. You are working hard to get the other person to like you, but he or she is not fully liking you but the impression you are working so hard to create.

Relationships naturally and quickly fall into patterns and patterns set expectations that become increasingly difficult to break out of. So you watch 3 slasher movies in a row, she is not only late but increasingly late with 30 minutes turning into 50 minutes. It gets harder to break out, you don’t want the confrontation, you don’t want to rock the boat.

The Solution: The counter-intuitive approach is to step up and be real as soon as possible. No, this does not mean that you do a 2 hour rant about your last boyfriend on the first date nor talk about your suicide attempt last year (you get the idea). But you don’t want to ignore and present only your false self. If you don’t like slasher movies, speak up; if you are annoyed about her showing late, find a way to say this is a calm adult way. The purpose of dating is to get someone to know you, to understand what is and what is not important to you. These early accommodations while making you easy to let along with don’t help the other person truly understand you.

This isn’t about old boyfriends or movies but about taking the risk of being assertive and vulnerable in spite of how the other may respond. This is the basis of intimacy.

Culprit #2: Not working through problems. This follows from the first. You want to be yourself so the other person truly can understand what you like. But the other half of measuring the strength of any relationship is finding out how you together handle differences and problems.

The Solution. If you are not living together it is easy to avoid conflict through distance. Even though I’m upset, I can go home, talk to my friend, calm myself down, figure out a way not to let it bother me, not need to bring it up again, or over-compensate and even being nicer for a new days.

Not good. Success in relationships relies on intimacy but also an ability to work out problems. If you sweep them under the rug, not only do they not get solved, creating potential future landmines, but you don’t know if you both are able to manage this important skill—another side of intimacy. At some point, preferably sooner than later, you need to speak up and see how you both move through difficult times—does she overreact? Can you keep the conversation from going out of bounds? Can he listen to what you have to say without getting defensive or vengeful? Can the problem actually be solved not just mopped up with some “I’m sorry” and a hug. This is the stuff the measure the true strength of your relationship.

So there you have it—taking the true risk of intimacy and being yourself; taking the risk of tackling problems together. Again, it’s about what you say but that it is difficult to say and you say it that creates the vulnerability, intimacy and hopefully resolution. It’s not about the size or seriousness of the problem but the ability to effectively and empahtically tackle of problems together however seemingly small.

Make dating what it is supposed to be—namely, finding out whether the other person can truly accept you as you are.

More from Robert Taibbi L.C.S.W.
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