Do you know any serial daters---but not in a good way? Meaning, they’re not casual daters but rather claim to want commitment, yet seem to keep making the same mistakes in each relationship over and over? Or in the early stages of dating, do repeated behaviors consistently prevent them from progressing beyond three or four dates?
The gal who talks incessantly -- about herself -- on every date but believes men lose interest because “they’re intimidated” by her career success. The guy who approaches every first date like a job interview, interrogating each subject looking for “fatal flaws” from the outset.
Do you observe destructive relationship patterns to which your frustrated friends seem oblivious? Or perhaps your friends may have tried calling to your attention some observations that you just weren’t ready to hear? Many of us want healthy, romantic connections that can last the test of time… but we are not all -- alas -- equally adept in the romantic-relationship-nurturing department.
Serial daters hope for a different outcome every time -- don’t we all? But unexamined behaviors can torpedo even the most promising new romance or passionate connection if we refuse to see how our unskilled behaviors sometimes render us the worst enemies of our own happiness.
Other than treating others as you’d like them to treat you-- always a good start -- how can you know if your relationship IQ is aligned with your relationship objectives? Are there certain behaviors that most experts agree will prove either “good for” or “bad for” your relationship?
For many people, dishonesty is a relationship killer and, indeed, a commonly listed “deal-breaker” for many of our members and clients when completing their initial profiles. Yet, intent on “impressing” a new love interest, some daters may inflate or embellish elements of their history, throwing their veracity into question once the truth comes to light. One of people’s biggest complaints about online dating centers on this same subject, of course; when they realize upon meeting someone that they’ve been duped by a ten-year old photo, underreported height, weight, income, marital status, etc.
No one wants to enter into a relationship with someone who felt they needed to lie to attract a match in the first place.
Other common love-killers? According to a recent Women’s Health article, withholding love or affection (conveyed as just not saying “I love you” often enough) wears down romantic resilience over time. Which is ironic, since we tend to say it less over time… exactly when we need to actually hear it more. Being overly critical of your partner - although also increasingly common over time - or continually comparing your relationship to relationships of other people are also cited as frequent relationship imploders.
As for what you can DO to foster healthier connections, in “9 ways to Make Your Relationship Work,” on MarieClaire.com, try leaving work at work so your personal time is, well… personal. And for those of you suspicious types, respecting another’s privacy (yes, that includes their texts and their email, serial snoopers) is essential, as is keeping toxic friends out of your relationship. Not so surprising.
But how about this one: Putting yourself first is important. This one caught us off guard.
It seems to fly in the face of everything our mothers and religious leaders tried to teach us about love - that it’s about putting the other person first… right? Not so fast, say the experts. While being selfish and discounting the other person’s wants and needs will get you both nowhere fast, you do want to strike a balance. Apparently, it’s just as important to stay true to your own wants and needs and to make them a priority in the relationship. According to experts, people who do so tend to have happier partnerships. They pursue their own interests and growth, which, in turn, also keeps them more interesting to their partners - who knew?
Some of us grew up with one parent who habitually played “the martyr” to the other parent, flinging guilt in every direction and mastering the “put upon” stance of victim while “putting everyone else first.” We saw it. We hated it. Then we began recreating this dynamic in our own relationships unconsciously. Allowing oneself to disappear in a relationship by letting personal hopes, dreams and interests habitually play second fiddle to a partner’s is a one-way street to relationship purgatory, not sainthood.
Another contrary-to-motherly-advice shocker: it’s totally okay to go to bed angry. Many folks actually work out conflict while they sleep, and wake up ready to approach sticky topics in new, more productive ways. Agree to take a break and “sleep on it” when it makes sense, then try again when leveler heads may prevail.
When you think about successful daters or the keys to happy vs. unhappy relationships -- do these “tips” ring true? Are there others you feel are more important? How do -- or should -- we learn (or unlearn) the good, the bad and the ugly of relationship behaviors that influence our love lives? And even when when we know better, what in the world makes us sometimes choose a “Don’t” instead of a “Do,” darn it?
Listen to your heart,
Author of The Heart Beat series