The early stages of dating can often be the most exhilarating time for a couple. The butterflies are in full force and there seems to be nothing but possibility and promise as far as the eye can see. That said, these initial weeks and months are also crucial in that they can make or break the bond that’s being formed. In fact some of the most seemingly harmless habits, like fantasizing about a relationship, could be sabotaging your relationships before they start.
“Dating is supposed to be a time of discovery, but depending on the individual’s past experiences both good and bad, dating can either lead to long term-relationships and hopefully great marriages, or it can lead to discovering that you are not a good match,” says Tina Konkin, relationship coach and founder of Couples Retreat and Relationship Lifeline. “Or there’s a third option: Self-sabotage before discovery even begins.”
So how does said self-sabotage manifest in dating, you ask? According to Tonkin, in a variety of ways. “Unfortunately, most adults who are dating bring all the memories, good and bad, from past encounters with them, and those memories can create short, awkward, or even harsh encounters that lead to self-sabotage, effectively killing a budding relationship before it even has a fair chance to possibly begin,” she explains. “An example of that would be: You discover on the second date that the guy you had a great first date with chews his food like your dad .… and your dad was an abuser — boom, done, history. Just that simple. Something that could possibly be good, gets annihilated by a trigger memory from your past and bang, just like that, it’s over before it has a chance to get started.”
Even seemingly positive or trivial things like the aforementioned fantasizing can be problematic, says Nikki Lewis, co-founder of matchmaking service The Bevy. “Do not map out your life with this person on the first few dates,” she advises, as this can make for premature and false expectations that will inevitably set you up for disappointment and, possibly, a breakup.
Everyone makes mistakes and is flawed in their own rite. And when it comes to dating, the sooner one is able to pinpoint some of the habits and mistakes that are keeping them from experiencing true and meaningful intimacy the better off they’ll be. To help guide you a bit down this path of self-discovery, Konkin and the founders of The Bevy sound off on the most common dating habits that need to be broken, ASAP.
Ignoring Red Flags
“If you know your partner has said or done certain things that rub you the wrong way or give you a bad feeling in your gut, don't get swept away by the idea of being in a relationship," says Lewis "Instead, decide if this is the person you want it to be with. Ask him or her what they meant by what they said or did. If they rationalize it, don’t go with it or sweep it under the rug — it will come back to haunt you later.”
Misidentifying Red Flags
Just as ignoring red flags can be problematic, so can misjudging them or assuming a certain behavior or instance is a vice when it's actually not. "Our memory and our collected memories hold triggers so if we have unresolved trauma or strong messages from our past, they will ultimately control one’s decisions and guide their emotional reasoning," says Konkin. "[An example would be] if we had been abandoned growing up and/or in a previous relationship, we may take something as innocuous as a rescheduling of a date as a major red flag. Again, self-sabotage … getting the jump on or controlling the outcome before the verdict is rendered, based on a perceived fear."
Counting Your Relationship Before It Hatches
“It’s fair to ask basic questions such as, 'Do you envision marriage or children in your future?' but do not assume that will be with you and do not assume you’d like those with him or her," says Lewis. "Get to know your date first and become closer before deciding to have these types of conversations or creating this narrative in your head. This creates unnecessary pressure on both sides.”
Disparaging Your Ex
“Not only should you not be saying terrible things about someone you’d possibly been with for a long time, but it’s inappropriate to bring it up to a new potential suitor after just a few dates," says Lewis. "It’s OK to say in a sentence or two why it didn’t work out, but that should be the end of it. Do not spend half the date discussing your failed relationship — it will appear that you’re stuck in the past or looking in the rearview instead of looking at who’s in front of you.”
Presenting Yourself As Someone You’re Not
“Misrepresenting who you are on the first few dates will lead to failure down the line," says Lewis. "Do not lie about your employment, where you live, what your goals or dreams are. Don’t try to change your beliefs to appease your date. Dress the way you usually do, speak your mind, and share your opinions. By sharing false information about yourself to impress your date, he or she isn’t learning to love the real you and it will only lead to heartbreak in the end.”
Reversing Bad Habits
OK, so you've identified your self-sabotaging dating habit(s) ... now what? How does one reverse years of behavior patterns? Greta Tufvesson, co-founder of The Bevy, agrees that a little self-reflection is key here to truly reset your mindset. "Ask yourself the question, 'Am I self-aware?' she advises. "Before your next date take a step back and look at yourself from a distance … objectively." Lewis seconds this notion, taking it a step further in suggesting you collect feedback from past partners and dates (as intimidating as that sounds). "Go back and ask some of your dates if there was something you did that didn’t warrant a second or third date, and tell them to be honest," she suggests. "Over the years I’ve collected feedback such as disappearing between dates, doing more than 50 percent of the talking, not displaying good manners. Find out what your feedback is, and instead of getting defensive, learn from it and do better."