Break Out of a Bad Dating Rut
The next step? Keeping your eyes open for red flags when you’re dating. It’s foolish to put on blinders in your personal life, especially when you wouldn’t put them on in your professional life. If you were interviewing someone for a job and they were wishy-washy about the work and didn’t seem to have the necessary skills, “then would you still hire them thinking it would work out?” asks Dr. Levine. “I don’t think so.” So why is the hiring policy in your heart more lenient on unqualified and unenthusiastic candidates?
“If you pay attention, everyone will reveal whatever you need to know about them by the third or fourth date,” says Sussman. Red flags included. She points out some things to look out for: Is he checking other women out? Is he nasty to wait staff? Is he contacting you with regularity? Did he say he wants to be in a committed relationship?
Dr. Levine suggests you check your answers against the one big question about your relationship: “What’s life like in their ‘inner circle?’” Use your brain, not your heart or your stomach with the butterflies in it, to answer. “If you’re with someone who is secure, you’re being treated like royalty,” he says. “If you’re with someone avoidant, you’re being treated like the enemy—they don’t want to tell you things, you pry too much, you’re too needy.” With someone anxious, you’re getting a lot of attention but you might find yourself pulling away.
Change Your Relationship Patterns
But if you’re feeling caught in the seemingly endless cycle of bad relationships, Sussman recommends taking a break. “If you feel that dating is effecting your self-confidence in a negative way, stop dating for a while and get back to doing something that’s exciting to you,” she suggests. “Join a sports team, climb a mountain, travel, take a class, write a book—do something interesting. And when you feel great about yourself, get back out there again.”
Lexie, 29, was able to change her pattern, with that very advice. For three years, she had kept praying for the same kind of man: “I really wanted someone in a suit,” she says.
After many heartbreaks, she decided to travel to regain her sense of self and make a change. However, when she returned from her trip, she found herself on a date with the same old kind of guy. But this time it was different. After he ignored her on a date to chat with other women at the bar, “I realized I was starting to feel crazy,” she admitted. With him, “I was apologizing more,” she recalls. “I wasn’t feeling that happy about myself. I was catering to him, asking him all the questions.” Red flag alert!
Her newfound self-awareness and self-assuredness allowed her to pick herself up and leave. And later that night, amazingly enough, she wound up meeting a “goofy guy,” the “man of her dreams” and her current boyfriend. “Initially he wasn’t my type at all, but now it’s a perfect fit,” she gushes. “He’s taught me so much about love, and being supportive and cooking.”
Adds Dr. Levine, “the beauty of attachment style is that they’re stable, but they’re malleable.” If you’re not the secure type, you can grow to become secure by feeling supported and learning from your secure partner. “It’s almost like you have a built in relationship coach in your relationship,” he says. “For both anxious and avoidant [people], the fastest way to become secure is to be with someone secure.”
So how do you spot one of these magical secure people? “It’s really true from date number one,” Dr. Levine has found. “The people who are consistent and are secure, they tell you they like you, they tell you they want to meet you again.” They’re not gun, er, relationship-shy.
If a secure dream lover proves elusive and you find yourself on a lot of first dates with no-goodniks, be careful not to let it get you down. “Don’t overly blame yourself,” Sussman warns. “You have to keep going and not let it hurt your self-esteem.” This pattern of dating jerks is common, she admits. “Listen, that’s why they have the expression you’ve got to kiss a bunch of frogs before you get your prince,” says Sussman.
Keep dating until you find someone who isn’t slimy—and is a real prince of a guy.
*Names have been changed.
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