I’ve written on here that you shouldn’t hate yourself when a relationship goes bad, but that’s different than realizing some of the dating mistakes we make. Regrets are alright to recognize, as long as regrets doesn’t become self-loathing. People make mistakes in life and deal with the consequences of those mistakes.
Learning From Your Dating Mistakes
The worst thing you can do when coming out of a bad relationship is not to learn from your mistakes, because you’ll repeat the same dating mistake over and over again.
To help daters and online singles recognize some of the common mistakes people make when dating, I’ve put together a list I call “10 Dating Mistakes”. Just about all of us can look at this list and see that we’ve made one or more of these dating mistakes over the course of our life in dating.
Learn to recognize these mistakes and correct them in our romances moving ahead and you’ll have fewer regrets in the future.
1. Hiding the True You – Too many people try to hide who they really are to make a relationship work, because they believe their romantic partner won’t love them for their real self. More often, people in a relationship try to change who they really are to suit the person they’re dating, but this often leads to disenchantment, boredom or tension that wouldn’t normally be there in an honest relationship. The best way to have an unfulfilling relationship is to pretend to be something you aren’t.
Be yourself. Be honest with yourself and your partner about your likes and dislikes. Don’t pretend you are one thing because you think that’s the expectations of the relationship. In the end, you’ll be less happy and your boyfriend or girlfriend will think you’re either dishonest or shallow, because you’ll be pretending to like things you have no knowledge of or interest in.
And watch out when you inevitably take your boyfriend or girlfriend around family and friends, because two worlds will collide and the illusions will come crashing down.
2. Sharing Too Much Too Soon – I’m not suggesting you should share every single secret about yourself or “lay it all on the line” the first date. People need time to grow into a relationship. What is inappropriate or inadvisable to talk about on a first date is perfectly appropriate to talk about six months into a relationship, when the two of you know one another better and have established bonds of affection and trust.
So if you have a few deep, dark secrets in your past, don’t blurt those out when you first start dating a guy or girl. For one thing, ex-lovers are famous (or infamous) for spreading these stories around to their friends once the relationship goes bad. Get to know a person and trust a person before you share with them your darkest secrets.
Besides, it’s just a bad policy to share too much too soon. You’ll possibly to freak out a new boyfriend or girlfriend if you tell them about your exotic sexual experiences on the first date or tell themselves about something bad that happened to you in childhood.
The first is something you might never share with your partner, while the second is something you share only with people you know that love and care about you. If you bring this stuff out in the open too early on, you aren’t giving the relationship time to develop.
3. Going Too Fast – Along the same lines, don’t go too fast. Two common mistakes is getting intimate too soon and telling your romantic partner you love them too soon. In the first case, you might not let an emotional connection occur before a physical bond is formed, so your relationship might never grow beyond the purely physical relationship. Those kinds of relationships are great some of the time, but not if you’re interested in a lasting, meaningful relationship.
In the second case, if you hit the “I Love You” button too soon, you risk several reactions. One, you’re likely to scare the other person away, who isn’t ready to share strong emotions too soon or doesn’t want to be in a relationship with some who has such intense emotions so soon. Also, this person might think you’re being insincere to manipulate them in some way, or might think you’re the desperate type who falls in love with the first person who comes along.
Also, falling in love fast also risks you being wrong. Sometimes, we fall in love with the idea of a romance instead of a person themselves. We also fall in love with the ideal of a person instead of the real person. (I’ll get back to this in a minute in Question #4.)
Going too fast in a romance is common, because people want instant gratification. In the age of high-speed internet and microwave ovens, it’s natural to want an instant fix. People want to take a pill or go on a crash diet to lose weight, instead of following a sensible, long-term health and fitness program.
The same thing happens with a relationship. We want to hit the button and suddenly have the perfect romance, when that’s not realistic. Good relationships take a long time grow and true love doesn’t happen overnight.
4. Don’t Idealize Your Partner – In the old days, they called this “putting someone on a pedastal”. You fall in love with the idea of a person instead of who they really are. You see a cute guy or a pretty girl and you imagine what they’re life must be like. It’s probably a lot less glamorous or romantic than you imagine. Beauty and mystery play tricks on the mind, and the answer is often a lot less interesting than what we might imagine. When the truth is interesting, it’s often a less-than-perfect truth.
When we idealize our partner, we get in our head an idea about what this person is like. This idea is often far more attractive than the person really is. This exposes us to two risks: romantic disappointment or disillusionment.
Idealizing a girl or boy makes you fall in love with the idea. You have to be near this person, because you get in your head their life is perfect or that you’ll be “perfect for them”. Oftentimes, you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about, because the girl or guy you think you’re in love with doesn’t really exist. You become obsessed with an illusion of your own making.
But if we get the guy or the girl of our dreams and they turn out to be different than we imagined, we risk deep disillusionment and disappointment. You might even get angry at this person for not being what you imagined them to be. These can be rude awakenings.
Idealizing your partner can also lead to the next dating mistake.
5. Trying To Change Your Partner – You have an idea what would make your boyfriend or girlfriend better. You have an idea what will make your romance perfect. So you try to change your lover to make them fit this idea. This is a bad mistake, and is in many ways the other side of the coin from #1.
Just like when you are hiding the true you, when you try to change your love to make them fit the relationship, this is going to cause discontentment and tensions in the relationship that don’t have to exist. Accept this person for who they are.
People are a certain way because that’s what they feel comfortable being and how they feel comfortable acting. Sure, some people mature and gain wisdom. Some people learn from their mistakes. We all should learn from our mistakes and gain wisdom and self-improvement.
Remember, the definition of self-improvement is that it comes from the self. Someone has to want to change and that comes from inside them, not from some exterior pressure.
In my experience, most people don’t change. Adults get a little bit better at hiding who we truly are (if we want to), but most of us are essentially the same people we were as youths. I’ve known people for 20 years that are no different than when I first met them, despite numerous instances where they’ve told me “I’ve learned my lesson and will never do it again.” People do what they do because they prefer doing what they do to anything else. That’s the bottom line.
So when you try to change your partner, they may change for a while or pretend to change for a while. They might even think they’ve changed. Most of the time, they will revert to their old ways and habits, because that’s what has worked for them in the past. It’s what they’re comfortable with. It’s who they are.
6. Don’t Confuse Attraction For Love – Let’s talk about “love” again. A lot of the time, we are attracted to a person. At that moment in time, we can’t think of another thing we would rather be doing than spending time with that person. It’s on the top of your mind. You can’t get it out of your head. Starting a relationship with this guy or girl becomes something bordering obsession.
People often call that “love”, but it’s really just attraction. Attraction is part admiration, part infatuation, part lust. Love is something you feel for a person when you have a deep and abiding affection, combined with concern for their well-being. Deep love happens when you’ve been with a person for a while, you know all their good qualities and their bad qualities, you know all their dark secrets and you still care for their well-being despite all the bad things you know.
You love the person because you admire their good qualities and choose to live with the negative sides of their life. That’s love.
I sometimes think the English language should treat love like Eskimos treat snow. They (possibly erroneously) say that Eskimoes have 50 words for the word “snow” alone, to describe the different types of snow. I wonder if the English language should have 50 different words to describe the different types of “love” there are.
If so, one love word would would mean “love based on lust”, “love based on attraction”, “love based on false impressions” and “true love”. I think you get my point.
7. Making Romance the Cornerstone of Happiness – I heard a discussion the other day about a preacher who preached a sermon about God giving Adam the command to “find your work” before settling with a woman. Now I don’t want to get into a theological discussion here, because that’s not my thing, but I thought this discussion is a good illustration of what I’m talking about.
The point being, if you want to find happiness inside a romantic love affair, you have to be happy with your life outside that romance first. Don’t think you’re going to be unhappy about everything in your life, but some romance is going to suddenly make you happy.
Companionship is nice. Holding hands and embracing is nice. Physical pleasures are nice. But you can’t base your whole life on this romance. You can’t base your happiness on whether this love affair continues or ends, because you’re building your happiness on a shaky foundation.
The discussion talked of “work” as a purpose in life. It wasn’t just a job. It was finding what made you happy in life, what you were really good at and had a passion for, then making that your life’s work. The sermon was about self-improvement and self-worth. It was about making something of your life. When you have a purpose in life and the fulfillment and self-esteem that comes with that purpose, you’ll be ready to find love. Better yet, you’ll be better situated to find that love.
Think about it.
What’s more interesting and attractive: a man whose only goal is to “find love” or a man with some purpose or motivation in life? A person who mopes around all day because they don’t have a true love and they “only want to be happy”, or someone who is proactive in life and is making things happen?
The person who has found their “work” is infinitely more interesting than mope with nothing better to do than obsess about their future happiness.
As I’ve said before, let the game come to you. Be about self-improvement and finding your purpose. Once that happens, you’ll be a whole lot more attractive to the opposite sex. You’ll also bring a lot more to that relationship. Finally, you won’t be depending your happiness in another (theoretical) person’s hands.
8. Blaming Ended Relationships on the Other Person – Do you always tend to blame the other person when the relationship ends? Do you take that hurt and frustration and turn it into anger and resentment? That’s pretty natural. Most of us go through a phase when a romance ends that we blame the other person for “not understanding” and “being selfish”.
In the end, it takes two people to make a relationship work. And there are times when it only takes one person to make a relationship fail. But a lot of the time, relationships fail because of failures on the part of both people.
Everyone brings their baggage to a relationship – even you. Whatever cares, concerns and worries you have at the moment are part of that baggage. Whatever experiences you have – good experiences and bad experiences – are part of that baggage. Whatever ego you have, all the pride you have and all the hurt pride you carry, are part of that baggage. You haven’t lived much of a life if you don’t carry some personal baggage, but too much simply becomes a burden – for you and your partner.
So don’t only blame bad relationships on someone else. Sure, they were selfish, but then everyone is selfish. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t care that your relationships have ended.
9. Blaming Ended Relationships on Yourself – When I say that you shouldn’t always blame bad relationships on the other person, I’m not saying you should always blame yourself. Just like you have baggage, so did your girlfriend or boyfriend. Sure, you may have your idiosyncrasies, but that doesn’t mean a person is justified in hurting you.
You have to realize that, sometimes, that other person may have personal foibles and motivations that make it impossible for the two of you to stay together forever. You can do everything “right” and the relationship can still end.
Most of the time a person ditches on a relationship, it’s not about the other person. It may sound cliched to say, “It’s not you. It’s me,” but that’s usually an honest statement. When they decide to get out of the romance, your girlfriend or boyfriend is thinking about themselves – not you.
Maybe they met someone they are more attracted to. Maybe he or she is restless. Maybe the two of you have grown or matured apart from one another. They say that life is like the branches of a tree, that “Growing up is growing apart”. Sometimes, it’s as simple as that. So don’t let a breakup become a value judgment on you and your life. Don’t kick yourself when you’re down. You’re going to have to pick yourself back up.
Not all people are right for one another. Most people aren’t, even people with mutual attraction. So when a relationship ends, take it for what it is. Don’t assume you’re the biggest loser in the world. Just about everyone who’s lived has had a romance fall apart. Most of those people have been broken up with.
So if you don’t blame a bad relationship on yourself or the other person, who do you blame it on?
Well, use your common sense. Life is complicated, so it’s only natural that life’s relationships are going to be complicated, too. Most of the time, both people are a little bit to blame. Sometimes, in the case of long distance relationships and other extenuating circumstances, it’s really not either person’s fault. And occasionally, one person is blameless and the other is entirely blameless.
That lesson to learn is to avoid the blame game. Sure, this will happen when emotions are raw and your relationship is just in the rear view mirror. But when it’s all said and done, blaming yourself or blaming your ex isn’t going to do you much good. Look back, learn a lesson or two and then move on. Look to the future, not the past.
10. Let Yourself Heal Between Relationships – The quickest way to build up emotional baggage is to you run from one romance to another without taking time to heal. When a romance ends, you’re going to take some emotional damage from that. Humans have amazing recuperative powers, but you can’t recuperate if you keep picking at the wound. Jumping out of one relationship and jumping into another means you don’t emotionally heal, you don’t emotionally rest and you don’t have time to learn from your mistakes.
Experiences require some reflection to learn from them. You might have no interest in learning from failed relationships. Some people revel in the hurt emotions and melodrama of falling in and out of love, but then there are more sensitive souls. If you enjoy hurt feelings, passionate arguments and hurtful breakups, you probably aren’t going to have read this far.
What I’m saying is, don’t feel some outside pressure to leap back into a romance if you know you aren’t ready. Friends and loved ones will want you to “get back in the game” and may worry if you don’t do so immediately. But if you know you aren’t ready for your next relationship, then you’re only setting up yourself (and some other person) for heartache if you start romancing too soon.
So move at your own pace.
Dating Mistakes – Final Comments
So there are 10 mistakes we’ve just about all made in our dating career. That’s one big load of dating advice, so hopefully every reader will find something useful when they get into and out of their next relationship.