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Breaking Unhealthy Dating Patterns

Dating can be rough. Whether you are fresh out of a new relationship or if you have been on the dating circuit for a while, dating can be overwhelming, empowering, exciting, and stressful. I will often work with clients who are in individual therapy and hear some of their hilarious and horrific dating stories. However, as entertaining as they may be, a common issue I see in therapy are people who are single and looking for love and partnership with another, and are having a really difficult time finding it. Thanks to the plethora of dating websites and mobile apps, many of my clients do not necessarily have a difficult time going on dates; what is difficult is filtering through the masses. But how do you find people to connect with in a sea full of possibilities? Through my experience, I have noted that people often fall into familiar dating and relationship patterns that hurt their chances of having long-term, committed relationships.

One major pattern I often see is the person with the one date rule, or who is just plain picky. This person will go on many first dates, and can easily find something wrong with every person they have gone out with. Someone who falls into this pattern may also have a mental or physical checklist of qualities and characteristics that their partner must have. A person with this pattern will have a difficult time finding a connection because they are caught up in whether or not their date meets their criteria instead of being present and curious. Sometimes a person who may fall into this type of pattern may actually meet their “perfect” match. Since they have met someone who checks all of their boxes on their list, they may often mistake commonalities for true compatibility. This match may fit all of the right criteria (great job, nice family, loves dogs, same religion, and so forth), but there may not be natural chemistry or shared core values.

I will often see couples like this who end up in couples counseling because they decided to get married because their partner checked all of their boxes, and it seemed like it was the right age to get married and settle down. A couple like this may end up being incompatible because they did not look for the important qualities in each other before tying the knot, such as shared values, personality, mutual respect, attraction, and a genuine fondness for each other.

The best way to break this pattern is to re-examine your criteria and checklist for your future partner. Throw away superficial qualities, such as how they look and what kind of job they have, and focus on deeper qualities that will take the relationship to a more intimate level. If you are aware that you may fall into this type of pattern, give yourself a little more time to get to know someone before deciding they are not worth your time. Ask yourself, “Is this my checklist or my gut telling me this isn’t right?” The more in tune you become with your gut and natural reactions, the easier it will be able to tell if this is a good match for you. Questions to be asking yourself to tune more into your gut feelings are, “How do I feel about myself when I am with this person?”, “Does this person highlight positive qualities or values I have?”, “Do I enjoy spending time with them?, “Am I attracted to this person?” and so forth.

Whether you are single and dating or you have been in a long-term relationship, it is always important to be curious and maintain an open mind. It often will hurt us as well as our relationships when we make assumptions about our partners, as well as make assumptions about what we are looking for in a partner. If you are having trouble with dating or in your relationship and want a space to bring awareness to unhelpful patterns and how to break them, contact Symmetry Counseling to set up an appointment with an individual or couples therapist.

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