We’ve all heard the horror stories from all of the dates gone so wrong. We’ve most likely experienced some of those horror stories ourselves.
For example, being set up by friends who just “know” the right person for you. Or sitting across the table just staring at each other, with not a lot to say. Or your date “suddenly” gets a call and “has” to take off and apologizes.
Where do we learn dating tips that lead to successful relationships? Our friends? Our family members? Our own experiences? If you are a “conscious” person who is always learning about yourself and making the appropriate and necessary changes along the way, that’s great.
For the majority of people, dating is a process of often really bad experiences. Did you ever wake up one day and ask yourself when did this person change for the worse? How could I not have seen the signs?
I’ve discovered four ways to help avoid these horrible experiences. These concepts are not taught in school, so we often have to painfully learn as we go, at best. Marriage can work with the right knowledge.
The divorce rate is so high because we don’t know how to pick “the right one” and we don’t know how to have healthy relationships when we do find the right one. As if this is not bad enough, many if not most people divorce and then repeat the same negative patterns in the new relationship or marriage.
Another reason for failed relationships is that often our self-esteem is not in place in a healthy, accurate manner. This is not a good thing. We attract about the same degree of self-esteem in the other person. So if realize that you keep attracting unhealthy people, you need to take a look at how you really see yourself inside.
These are 4 life actions that affect our dating and relationships. Understanding them leads to more awareness when you encounter them and what you can do about them:
People often stay in a relationship because of an agenda. An agenda is a belief that something needs to be a certain way for us to be “OK”. For example: “I must be married by 30 yrs of age.”
When we have an agenda, it will often get in the way of the more beneficial decisions we would normally make.
2. Open your eyes and be willing to see red flags.
I cannot tell you the number of people who have told me that they never saw the unhealthy qualities in the marriage or relationship until way down the line. We are talking sometimes years. They often report that the behavior “just showed up one day, out of the blue.”
The truth is that the behavior was there all the time but was ignored. “Love is blind” is not a helpful mantra when it conceals warning signs.
Learn the concepts and skills that will help you navigate through a relationship — and life in general. For example: How do you have difficult conversations in a relationship? How do you determine healthy and unhealthy behaviors?
Without knowledge of these skills and concepts it can feel like navigating in the dark, not knowing what you are bumping into.
4. Give him time to show his true qualities.
Watch out for consistent behaviors for at least 6 months. It is very difficult to hide your true qualities for more than 6 months without being a sociopath — and for sure, no longer than one year. And you would have to be a really skilled sociopath on top of that for those unhealthy qualities to remain “hidden”.
Watch for consistent behavior in the relationship. This holds true for negative as well as positive behaviors. There may be an underlying reason for a person to temporarily exhibit negative qualities.
We all make mistakes but there is a difference between occasional “mistakes” and an overall theme of repeated negative behavior. Conversely, occasional “good” behavior does not negate an overall theme of unhealthy behavior.
Susan Saint-Welch, LMFT, is a marriage and family psychotherapist who has been practicing in-person and online in California for over 20 years, helping radiant, single women get un-stuck and find the lasting love they deserve. She is passionate about teaching skills and concepts for healthier relationships, dating, and self-esteem. For more articles, follow her on her website Life and Relationships 101.