“We all make mistakes.” Nowhere is the cliché more apt than when it comes to relationships. As a dating coach, I’ve been privileged to help other women recognize and break free of self-defeating patterns and habits that have kept them from realizing the relationship of their dreams.
The most common dating mistakes often spring from underlying issues of self-esteem (think too little of yourself, and you’ll settle for less-than-ideal situations – think too much of yourself, and you believe bad behavior is absolved by your sheer fabulousness). More often, dating doozies result from failure to recognize – or simply accept – the different ways men and women approach relationships. Then there’s the lack of faith in the abundance of the universe – the anxious sense of scarcity that propels us to “make things happen,” instead of letting them unfold.
Fortunately, you’re not alone. It’s uncanny how the women I coach all tend to commit the same mistakes (five of which I’ve outlined below). Moreover, correcting the errors of your ways can be done with a bit of practice. To avoid repeating the same mistakes over and over again, first you’ve got to recognize them. So here goes:
Dating Mistake #1: Approaching Him First. I know this goes against conventional dating advice, which encourages women to flirt and even strike up a conversation. While there are always exceptions, the women I coach who are struggling with boyfriends who won’t commit or husbands who ignore them almost invariably made the first contact. A man may date and even marry a woman who approached him first, but there will likely be consequences later on…when he approaches the girl he really wants. This goes for online dating as well.
Quick Fix: If you talked to him first or even asked him out, you can try to restore some of the feminine mystique you forfeited as the initiator by being a bit more elusive – a little less available, a little more mysterious. If he’s truly smitten by you, he’ll rise to the challenge and cherish you more. If not, then let him float away now, before he wastes more of your time and ends up breaking your heart. In the future, please, trust in the universe! Look approachable and friendly – that’s all the encouragement your future (adoring) husband needs.
Dating Mistake #2: Acting overly chummy. You’ve just met the guy and you’re telling him about the back-stabber in your office, the fight you had with your sister, the details of your recent root canal. Yuck! During the first few dates, the man is still essentially a stranger. Women who share intimate details of their lives and emotions too soon come across as desperate and neurotic.
Quick Fix: Recognize that the more you talk about yourself, the less you’ll be listening and observing whether he is right for you. Identify why you feel the need to yammer on — nervousness, low tolerance for awkward silences, desire to impress with witty banter and accomplishments – and remember that you are not there to audition, but to relax and have a good time.
Dating Mistake #3: Accepting last minute dates. You need to show (not tell) men that you’re a busy woman, with lots of friends, deadlines, projects and prospects (including romantic ones). When you accept so-called “spontaneous” invitations for the next day or even same evening, you send the message you’ve got nothing going on in your life – or nothing that important, since you’re willing to drop everything to accommodate him. Let a man treat you like a fast-food drive-thru (put his order in at the window then pull up to get his grub) and that’s how he’ll view you. Fancy restaurants – and fancy girls – require reservations made well in advance. What you reward you encourage.
Quick Fix: To make sure you’re his “Plan A” girl (not the “Plan B” girl he calls after his first choice turns him down), I recommend setting a firm cut-off limit after which you’re “busy” – period. Having trained with The Rules authors, Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider, I recommend their “three days in advance” rule – e.g., he calls by Wednesday night to ask you for Saturday.
Dating Mistake #4: Jumping into a “whirlwind romance.” If your love life looks a bit like Jennifer Aniston’s, your 0-to-60 relationships might benefit from a judicious application of the break pedal. Yes, speed bumps can be annoying, but without them you’d end up driving too fast, without adequate time to observe, maneuver and react. Again, The Rules remind us: “Men fall in love quickly – but they also fall out of love quickly.” Sure, it can be flattering, even exhilarating, when a man you’ve just met wants to see you several times a week and talk to you for hours on the phone. But unfortunately the result is a white-hot romance that burns brightly and then fizzles out.
Quick Fix: You need to start pacing the relationship. Don’t see him more than once or twice a week, don’t talk more than ten minutes on the phone, don’t open up too fast, or introduce him to your friends before he introduces you to his. If he absolutely must see you every day, 24-hours-a-day, there’s this arrangement called marriage…let him figure it out! A wise woman once observed: “It’s the spaces in between seeing you when a man falls in love and discovers the true depth of his longing.”
Dating Mistake #5: Wasting Time. We’ve all been guilty of this one, at some point in our lives or another. Wasting time – either in a relationship that’s going nowhere or getting over a heartbreak – is one of the biggest and most common mistakes women make. As Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo exhort the lovelorn in He’s Just Not that Into You: “Don’t waste the pretty!”
Quick Fix: Know what you want – and believe you deserve it. If you want to get married but the guy you’ve been dating for over a year still isn’t sure, set a time limit of how long you’re willing to wait then stick to it. Once D-Day (decision day) arrives, and he’s still waffling, then move on and do not look back (if he’s ever going to know and man up to a proposal, this will be your best – and his last – chance). If you’re still wallowing in despair over a break up, then put your profile on-line, start going to singles events, and let friends know you’re available for set-ups. There is no better “healing” than the attention of several new suitors.
Jag Carrao is a dating and relationship coach
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