You know the old saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? If dating hasn’t been working out for you, it might be time to think outside the box. Without realizing it, you’ve probably developed some habits and patterns that keep you from getting the most out of your dating experiences. Until you change some of those things, you probably won’t see any improved results.
Why are you stuck?
Not only are we creatures of habit; we are also unwitting recipients of peer pressure. Most of us have unconsciously absorbed parental advice and modeling. If your parents had a happy, functional relationship, that’s a good thing. The problem is that many parents didn’t, and as children, many of us took in unhealthy behaviors as the norm.
As we get older, we sometimes put some distance between ourselves and our parents, but continue to be barraged by conflicting and unhelpful advice from friends, society and the media. This is so pervasive and damaging, that we devoted a whole chapter to overcoming it in our recent book, Relationship Readiness. You can read an excerpt from this chapter here.
On the face of it, there’s nothing wrong with going with what you’ve always done- if it’s working for you. If you’re enjoying your dating experiences and getting the kinds of relationships you want, you don’t need to change a thing. However, it seems that a great many people aren’t happy with their love lives. If that’s the case for you, you probably want to rethink what you’ve been doing.
One problem with not resisting the influence of others, is that you can end up doing what others want you to do, not what you want. While it’s nice to accomodate friends and family when you can, isn’t your love life important enough that you should be getting what you want? While a lot of other people might have opinions on what you should and shouldn’t be doing, they’re not the ones living your life- you’re the only one doing that.
Aside from the unsolicited advice from people you know, you might also be heavily influenced by the way the media portrays love and romance. This can also be unhealthy. Since much of the media’s purpose is to sell you things, keep in mind that it doesn’t have your best interest at heart: it wants to make you constantly feel that if you just buy that one thing, or look a certain way, happiness will be yours. This is of course, a fallacy, but it’s pretty normal for most of us to buy into a lot of advertising unconsciously, again not being true to ourselves as a result.
How can we change this?
The first step to solving any problem is to be aware of it. Once you have realized that you aren’t really clear on what you want in your love life, and that you’re buying into what others want you to do, you can start to explore how this is happening.
In business, when a solution to a difficult problem is needed, employees are encouraged to “think outside the box.” This simply means to break away from the usual ways of thinking about things, step outside of your comfort zone and get creative.
While it can be a bit scary to try new things, it can also be a lot of fun. One way you can apply this to dating is to start going out with people you might not have considered before. This is partcularly useful if you have a history of unsuccessful relationships. If this is the case, you probably have a tendency to choose people who are bad for you. In addition, you might not have a clear understanding of what you are attracted to, or you believe you can’t change what you find attractive in the opposite sex.
The good news is, you can change some of your attraction triggers, and learn to like people who might be better for you. This doesn’t mean you have to date people you find repulsive- don’t do that either! Instead, try to be open-minded and give everyone who seems decent a chance. You’ll learn to quickly filter out the not-so-decent when their actions don’t match what they say.
In order for this to happen, you have to be patient with yourself and with others. Many of us are trying to change life-long patterns when we venture into these areas, and it won’t happen overnight.
Most importantly, realize you can quickly turn things around simply by cultivating a positive attitude about yourself and others. Rather than beating up on yourself for choosing poorly in the past, give yourself a break. Most of us have to learn through experience, and we’ve all made mistakes. The important thing is to learn from your mistakes and realize that you might have to make some changes before getting better results.
On the flip side, start looking at others in a positive way. Rather than trying to find fault with every date, think of at least three good things about them- everyone has at least that many. This doesn’t mean you need to give endless chances to everyone you meet- but if you approach everyone with an open mind, realizing that attraction can grow, you will make much faster progress toward changing unhealthy habits.