Maybe you’re that rare man or woman who is past making dating mistakes. Or maybe you just make different mistakes than you used to — your incorrect perceptions and misjudgments may be more sophisticated than they were in 1990.
Perhaps you have different priorities for a partner now; tall and handsome may be replaced by warm and adventurous. So keep things in perspective. The lessons you learned from a failure 10 years ago may make today’s relationship a success.
Here’s my list of dating mistakes, from experience, discussion, classes, and reading a lot about relationships (feel free to add your own):
1. You have too many expectations ... or none at all.
Both having and not having expectations can be a problem.
You will hopefully know what you want and need from a relationship before you get emotionally involved. You might even ask yourself how past relationships could have been better if you had had clarity on what was important before and during that relationship.
You should be able to count on someone to show respect and consideration for you, to honor your boundaries and accept your values. If that is not a given, why are you together?!
It's not only okay, it’s a positive expectation to count on honesty and open communication, as well as sharing of values that are truly important to you.
On the other hand, watch out for unspoken assumptions, and taking each other for granted. When you start needing your companion to be different than who they are, that's a negative expectation.
Ken Keyes in Handbook for "Higher Consciousness" discusses demands versus preferences. Its fine to prefer a partner who’s a gourmet cook and a dancing instructor, but don’t demand a private person to indulge in your wish for kissing in public.
A friend of mine was involved with a man she found very attractive; unfortunately, he had many other interests that took his time. When she came to the conclusion that she would always be second to his athletic pursuits, she broke up with him. She was clear about what was important, so her choice was right for her.
I believe lack of clarity is the root of negative expectation. If you are very clear about what you need for a fulfilling relationship, you won’t get involved with a partner who doesn’t meet your criteria, and you will — most of the time — have only positive expectations.
2. You feel jealous.
It's fairly obvious why this is a mistake. It denotes insecurity and lack of self-confidence.
Jealousy is not a sign of love or a compliment. It is a restriction, a manipulation, a symptom of fear. That doesn’t mean you condemn the jealous partner.
In "Keeping The Love You Find", the Harville Hendrix model states that partners are here to heal the wounded child in each other. If you can explore the wound that led to jealousy, you may find it easier to deal with a partner’s insecurities.
To avoid the problem in the first place, discuss up front that you will continue to have same and opposite sex friends. Ask what you can do to assure your partner when they feel jealous. Read "Romantic Jealousy" by Ayla Pines and visit library section 152.4 and 158.2 for other books.
3. You compare past partners to your present partner.
This is another mixed bag, like having expectations.
It's helpful if you remember how good or bad you felt with a particular type of partner, and if that keeps you from letting go or latching on to a particular partner.
On the other hand, comparisons can be harmful if you’ve kept an idealized picture of a previous lover, and no one can live up to how wonderful they were. If your ego sees your partner as a "fill in" until the "right partner" comes along, or fears that you’ve been shortchanged, you won’t be truly open to what this person has to offer.
Take an hour or so and write down five lessons you’ve learned from past relationships to refer to any time you are considering an emotional involvement. IF you’re going to compare, do it so you remember what it takes for you to be fulfilled.
Don’t settle for less unless you are clear why you are doing so, and are willing to live with the consequences.
4. You lose your identity and personal life when you're half of a couple.
Perhaps you could argue that there are desirable things about "forsaking friends for a partner." But be aware that putting all your eggs in one basket has its pitfalls as well.
If your personal life has been "taken over" in the past, and you’ve ended up wondering who you are, get support in maintaining your own life — a friend, therapist, classes, reading. Read books like Ken Keyes’ "A Conscious Person’s Guide to Relationships". Pages 134-142 are timeless.
5. You don't establish boundaries or stand up for yourself and your needs/limits.
Is it smart or a mistake to have boundaries? Always? Under the circumstances? Wouldn’t it be fascinating to observe your boundaries over time? You can do that with a Boundaries notebook. This assumes you have been dating awhile and feel free to discuss what’s really going on.
To start off, you might share "When you do____, I feel _____" (i.e. "When you are late every time we go out, I feel like I’m not very important to you." "When you don’t even ask me what I feel like doing, I feel taken for granted.")
If it’s not comfortable to communicate that way at the moment you’re feeling the feeling, then make a commitment for once a week to share out loud, "When you…I feel…."
In the notebook by your name and date, write "late when we go out" or "ask what s/he feels like doing" as a reminder the issue has been discussed.
You might also ask your partner’s advice about dealing with their habits that disturb you, such as ignoring them at parties, or angry outbursts: "When you do. . . and I get mad, what can I say so that we don’t both end up not talking to each other for days?"
You could use a pre-arranged signal: whining, nonverbal pouting, shaking your finger, hands on hips, etc. to indicate, "You are steeping over the line, and I don’t like it."
6. You have sex before you're ready.
Is it enough to feel ready? Does it need to be planned? We’ve all heard people say, "I wish I had waited til' we knew each other better."
If you have found yourself listening only to your sexual impulses, and you want to break the cycle, make an agreement with yourself (or with an accountability partner) about when in a relationship you are willing to consider being sexual.
One common dating mistake is being sexual for the wrong reasons — because your friends are, because you’re tired of celibacy, because you’re afraid you’ll lose him if you don’t, because you think she expects you to.
Better reasons? You know and love each other or have made a commitment. Read Joy Brown’s "Why They Don’t Call When They Say They Will And Other Mixed Signals". There are many articles on all aspects of relationships at Yourtango.
7. You share too much or to little.
A mistake here is sharing too much too soon (that your sisters all had to get married, or you are manic depressive, or your last four boyfriends broke up with you because you still wouldn’t kiss after three months).
I am not advocating lying, but consider a dating partner like a new plant from the nursery. If you overwater it, you can kill it as easily as if you give it no attention.
It's probably enough the first couple dates to be casual and talk about what you enjoy, what matters to you, some growing up experiences — things that give each other a flavor of you without intimidating or overwhelming.
On the other hand, some dating suffers from too little, too late.
A friend had grown very fond of a man; they were in his bedroom, months after their first meeting, before he told her he had herpes. Not fair. He could have brought it up casually much sooner by asking if she’d had any experiences with herpes, and noting her reactions.
If she said it would be no problem, that would also have been the time to tell her.
8. You don't negotiate.
A dating mistake some people make is not being willing to give up control. For instance, if Sunday is "your night together", but he has a 7 A.M. Monday presentation, figure out how you can both get your needs met.
Maybe Tuesday works this week, or Sunday morning. How can you come to an agreement on a movie or TV show or vacation: taking turns, getting a second TV set, taking second vacations.
Take an objective look — stand back and see the situation as though it’s April, or 2017. Read related articles you’ve found when you googled Negotiating Conflict — 35,400,000 just now.
Or see what there is to learn when you search for Self-Love and see how that is compatible (and helpful) to creating a fine relationship.
9. You settle instead of holding out for the right partner.
It’s a big mistake to say "Yes" to anyone that your inner self is saying "No" to. If you’re not sure about committing to a partner, DON’T!
If marriage or being a parent is more important that being in love, and you are honest with each other, it can work. But know your needs and limitations. For a good perspective, read Susan Page’s "If I’m So Wonderful, Why Am I Still Single?" and Margaret O’Connor’s "Finding Love".
10. You expect your partner to make you happy.
Don't expect someone else to make you happy instead of being two whole people complementing each other.
As stated by Jane Carpineto in "Husband Hunting", don't get caught in the traps of "Perfect man," "Chemistry," "Dependency," "Success," "Settle for less," or "I can change him or her."
Being your best self — THAT is no mistake!
Moreah Vestan authored Pleasures and Ponderings: From Nun to Nudist to Now and offers a pdf of the book if you request it from her.