How To Fix Your Bad Dating Habits, According To A Therapist Who's Seen Them All
I've never had to break a lifestyle habit like biting my nails or obsessively chewing gum, but I have had to work on bad dating habits in the past (and even now). I've deduced — through observation and discussion with my closest friends —that I overshare on dates. Nothing too personal or gross really, just more information about my life than the average stranger might need within the first few hours of meeting me. I've been working on this but it's not always easy figuring out how to fix your bad dating habits.
First, you should know that bad dating habits are more common than you think so it's not the end of the world if you're guilty of one or more of them. According to licensed therapist and relationship expert Anita Chlipala, most people don't realize that trusting your date too soon, dismissing them without giving them a chance, or ignoring first-date red flags are actually potentially harmful dating habits.
By not addressing them, you risk settling for an unfulfilling relationship, trying to make things work with someone who's a poor fit for you, or never finding love at all. So it's not really a question of if you should fix your bad dating habits but how.
Like with most self-improvement projects, the first step is admitting you have a problem and in this case, determining exactly what that problem is.
Step 1: Diagnose The Bad Habit
Chlipala admits that it's probably best to bring this topic up with a relationship therapist or dating coach if you have access to one but if not, your friends can be helpful resources, too. For example, she explains, "If you give a play-by-play of your dates to your girlfriends, ask them what they think you might be doing wrong."
I do this a lot. I think my friends might actually be sick of me but it's honestly so enlightening to have someone on the outside assess the situation.
Most recently, I found myself obsessing over someone who, by the most liberal of standards, didn't treat me very well. This person would schedule date after date with me only to cancel at the last minute or pretend to have forgotten all about our plans. Looking back now, I can't believe I put up with it for so long but my best guy friends were the first ones to bring it to my attention. I had been too forgiving because I wanted to believe the best of this person. I desperately wanted them to be the person I'd built them up to be in my head, which wasn't fair to either of us.
I felt a sting when Chlipala said she frequently works with clients who "feel a connection on an app or a first date and are already thinking, 'This might be The One!'" It's not like I planned our wedding or anything but I'd be lying if I said I didn't think of cute dates we could go on once we got it together or how we'd romantically bump into each other on the night of any one of those canceled dates.
I needed someone else — my friends and Chlipala, evidently — to point out (over and over again) how my unrealistic expectations had actually kept me from happily moving on.
Step 2: Ask Your Dates For Feedback
While your friends can help you rationalize things in hindsight, it's probably better to talk to someone who's witnessed your dating behavior firsthand. Yup, I'm talking about asking your date exactly what they think went wrong.
"If your date lets you know they're not interested in seeing you again, you can text something like, 'Hey, thanks for letting me know. I'm trying to figure out if I'm doing something wrong. Was there anything that I did or said? I'm trying to improve myself,'" Chlipala says. She's recommended this to clients in the past and notes, "When my clients have done this, they have gotten kind responses from their dates."
Admittedly, this tactic isn't always going to produce kind or even moderately considerate results. In my case, I don't think asking this question of my partner would have helped at all since they rarely ever spoke sincerely. Consider who you're asking, you know?
Don't be upset or discouraged if you work up the strength to do this and get very little feedback in return. Know that your journey is more of a personal one, anyway.
Step 3: Check In With Yourself
No one knows you better than you know yourself. Once you've identified your bad dating habit and committed to working on it, pay attention to how you approach similar situations in the future.
For example, if you've decided that your bad habit is jumping to conclusions about your dates, you can correct this behavior even before meeting your dates in person. Chlipala explains that swiping left on a dating app because of one word in someone's bio is similar. She adds, "If you're dismissive on an app, why wouldn't you be that way on a real date?"
Being able to recognize even tiny traits of your bad dating habits is crucial to overcoming them. No one has it all figured out so be kind to yourself and to others who might be working on their own bad habits.
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