Don't worry; we got you.
How many times have you left a dating situation kicking yourself for "ignoring the signs" or "wasting time" with someone you knew wasn't right for you?
If you look at the last five to ten dates you had, what are the similarities? Are you constantly dating the same guy over and over? Are you finding yourself feeling bad about allowing men to treat you poorly, or have you found yourself pushing them away in order to reiterate your own bad feelings about yourself?
Though we can blame "men today," the reality is that smart women have a lot more control over how our dating experiences go than most of us are admitting. Here, we lay out ten ways to date smarter (and with much less stress).
1. You don't trust your initial impression of him.
The moment you meet someone offers you the most clarity you will have, thanks to having no emotional attachment or preconceived ideas. If the person in front of you gives off a vibe or says things that make you feel uneasy, it's essential to hold onto that.
Example: You're texting a guy and he makes a "joke" that showcases an insensitivity to a specific group of people, or perhaps he makes sexually suggestive comments before you meet. It's easy to brush it under the rug saying there's no tone in text or giving a pass, but this is them trying to make a good first impression or not caring to make a good one at all. Either way, it's a bad sign.
2. You don't focus enough on your relationship with yourself.
It's been said so many times that it's become a bit of a cliché, but there's a lot of truth in the idea that you have to love yourself before you can love anyone else, or have them love and respect you. When you know (and like) who you are and are comfortable holding out for what you're looking for, you're less likely to get caught up in the sticky web of validation-seeking, which will often cause us to do things that ultimately harm us.
You don't need to be chasing rejection, giving your love, affection, body and time to people who don't value it or otherwise move away from what you truly want and deserve just to avoid being alone. If you go into dates feeling "pressure," that's a sign it's time to work on getting things good with you.
3. You don't want to believe that most dates won't lead to relationships.
There's no shame in wanting to meet someone special and get your groovy love vibes flowing, but if you're going into dates with the expectation that every person will be "the one," you're setting yourself up for immense disappointment.
Think about it rationally for a moment: As we get older and more clear about who we are and what we want, it's only natural that we will be more selective about who we will choose to spend time with. Instead of placing that kind of pressure on yourself (and the date itself), expect what you're guaranteed to get out of it: a chance to meet someone new and an experience. That's it (for now).
4. You forgo asking the tough questions up front.
Sure, you want to keep it light and have a good time on the first date, but you should also feel very comfortable questioning comments that send signals that you aren't a good long-term match. If a guy says he just got out of a marriage or isn't sure he wants kids, and you're looking to meet your future husband and start a family, it's 100 percent OK to ask him to clarify what he's looking for.
It's also essential that you're honest about where you are in life. It's never a waste of time to meet someone, but dating the wrong person for six to eight months is just keeping you from being with the right one.
5. You stay in relationships that are going nowhere — and it becomes a cycle.
You know what we're talking about: The constant texts and "hanging out" with dudes who have made it clear they will never really date you. The problem isn't the "having fun" part, it's the fact that we get comfortable keeping company that distracts us, and keeps us from getting out there and dating the people who want what we do. Bottom line: If you're not looking to Netflix and chill, don't.
6. You don't set boundaries.
We may not "teach" people how to treat us, but we can sure as hell show them what we will and will not accept. If someone crosses a line, it's your job to let them know. Making excuses for bad behavior is a bad move that will only lead to more of the same. Is that what you want? If no, you (and only you) can put an end to it.
7. You let your fantasy blind you.
Ah, this one is a killer for us romantics. You meet the "most gorgeous" and "charming" man, and he's "everything you've ever wanted," with a Spanish accent to boot (No? Just me?). Before you know it, you're dreaming about dancing barefoot in Ibiza, overlooking the fact that his actions aren't exactly in line with his words.
It's so easy to fall in love with the idea of love itself, forgetting that in order to have a real, respectful and lasting relationship, there needs to be a whole lot more than chemistry, attraction and desire. Make sure those values are in line, you're looking in the same direction, and that movement in your stomach is butterflies and not anxiety.
8. You don't get yourself out there enough.
Remember that it's a numbers game. I once called my best friend in a fit of frustration only to have her ask me, "How many dates have you been on this month?" When I told her two, she scoffed. "You're not even trying. I make at least five sales calls a week. You need to get out there more and meet more people, and you'll have more luck finding people you connect with."
She was right. Not only did "getting out more" bring more people into my life, but it made it much less daunting when I had a bad date.
9. You hate on men.
Let's stop blaming one gender for the demise of dating already. Yes, dating apps have changed the game and there are more men and women playing the field than ever before. But sitting there and bashing all men based on the dozen d-bags you've encountered (and allowed yourself to engage) isn't fair.
There are good guys out there, and walking into a situation expecting them to be liars, cheaters or jerks isn't fair and can backfire big time. No one wants to be made to feel they have to do penance for the sins of another.
10. You put your life on hold for the possibility of a relationship.
I don't think any woman needs to be told not to put her life on hold until she's in a relationship, but some of us do need to be reminded that reserving male attention for apps on your phone isn't only limiting, but self-defeating.
Open your eyes while you're out in the world and use different avenues of meeting people. Get on a couple of apps if you want to, but go out with friends (and don't close yourself off), volunteer, go to networking events, cooking classes — whatever brings you joy. After all, there's nothing more attractive than a happy woman who loves her life and is open to sharing it with someone who deserves to be there.
Brenda Della Casa is the Author of Cinderella Was a Liar, The Editor-in-chief and Digital Content Strategist at Preston Bailey Designs and a Huffington Post Blogger. She regularly speaks on the topic of Digital Content, Social Media and Digital Strategy. Facebook: BrendaDellaCasa, Twitter: @BrendaDellaCasa, Instagram: @BrendaDellaCasa.