Looking back on my single days, there are so many things I would have done differently if I knew then what I know now. So many of these things we learn only from experience; from learning about life and love the hard way.
But the reality is, when we’re in it, when we’re dating, when we think we’ve found someone who might be the one, when we’re feeling that incredible chemistry, when we’re so lonely we don’t know if we can be alone another minute, when he finally notices us and asks us out, when we feel like we can’t breathe if we don’t hear from him, when we’re so scared to lose him, when we feel like without him we have nothing, when we’re sure he must be lying dead in the gutter somewhere because that's the only reason he would've disappeared like that, we can’t see that we’re about to make a huge mistake.
When we’re in over our heads emotionally and can’t think clearly we’re not able to be objective about what we’re doing. And that’s why we do all of those crazy, unloving, disrespectful things we do to ourselves in the name of love (or at least, what we believe love to be). And while I'm a firm believer that our mistakes are actually rich learning experiences if we allow them to be and we choose to learn from them, there’s no denying that there are things we’d rather do differently if we had them to do all over again. Because I had no idea how much heartbreak and misery I could have saved myself if someone had only told me what huge mistakes I was making by doing some of the these things, I'm going to tell you about the huge mistakes you are making (and we all make).
So here’s my list for you of what I consider to be the top five biggest dating mistakes.
1.) Being exclusive right away.
I didn’t figure this one out until years later. At the time, I would have thought that dating more than one person at the same time was just downright slutty. But I’m talking about dating here, not sleeping with anyone. Just dating more than one person at the same time. Because the thing is that if you’re not dating exclusively, if the guy you’d really like to be exclusive with knows that he’s in the running but there’s others that you’re still considering too, that puts him in the best position possible – one where he has to prove to you that he’s worth going exclusive for. And that also keeps you in a place of high self-esteem and confidence knowing that if he really has that much potential you’ll know before giving too much of your self to someone too early, before you really know them well enough to make that kind of commitment.
Believe me, he will not be turned off by you dating more men than just him. What he will be is competitive enough to know that he wants to show you why you should drop the others and become exclusive to him. A decision that you’ll be much more in a position to make if you’ve got a couple of others you’re dating along with him, even if he’s really the only one you’re truly interested in.
And no, you’re not using the others, because you never know when the guy you’re not all that into throws you for a loop and surprises you with all he has to offer you. After dating several guys for a while you might just find that the guy you originally thought was number two or three surprises you and takes on the number one position.
2.) Getting intimate too soon.
There are so many different views on when it’s ok and not ok to be intimate with someone. While we all know the thrill of that intense chemistry when you feel like you just can’t stop yourself from going there with him, the reality is that this kind of chemistry tends to fizzle out all too soon leaving in its wake your broken heart and regret that you got intimately involved far too soon.
I have found that the best rule to follow here is not the amazing chemistry barometer when you’re in the heat of the moment (which is not going to be very objective) but instead the rule of waiting until you have a firm commitment from him and you’re both exclusively committed to each other. Another good rule is that if you’re not comfortable talking about birth control and STD protection with him, you’re definitely not ready to be giving yourself to someone on the kind of sexual level we’re talking about here. As uncomfortable as those conversations can be, they are necessary conversations to have with someone you’re about to become intimate with.
Ultimately, if you’re not sure, or have any doubt that it might be too soon, trust your gut. It is.
3.) Calling him when he stopped calling.
This is one I always agonized over. When someone I had been dating suddenly wasn’t calling as often or as regularly as he had been, instead of talking to him directly about it, or deciding to back off myself and start living my life more so that I wasn’t sitting around waiting for him to call, I would get scared and call him. I’d typically come up with some excuse and then call him with something I thought seemed important (which, in hindsight, I’m sure he saw right through).
I’m also sure that I could have saved myself so much heartbreak from dragging the relationship on this way rather than either confronting him with the change, or just accepting that something had changed in the relationship for him and moving on with my own life. The reality is if he's interested, and this applies to whatever stage of the relationship you’re in, he’ll find a way to contact you and won’t leave you wondering where you stand.
And the truth is, where you absolutely do stand is beautifully in your own place, with or without him!
4.) Putting him up on a pedestal.
Hear me loud and clear here - He needs to prove he’s worthy and deserving of your love. If he wasn't pursuing me, if he could take me or leave me, that meant that he was more confident, more secure, more everything than I was. And to me, that translated into he was a real catch, he was someone worth proving myself to that I was worthy of his love.
It didn’t matter if I barely knew him, if I knew very little about his character, his values, his integrity, or even him. I would automatically assume he was so much more than me and I was thrilled that he was paying so much attention to me. What I finally figured out was that this really was about me. And my own lack of self-esteem and confidence that came from deep inside me.
Make sure that you are looking for an equal, a partner in a relationship, not a father figure or role model.
5.) Not being direct.
When I think about all the times I skirted around the issues that would come up, the number of occasions where I remained silent, waiting, watching, hoping and waiting some more to see what he was thinking, where this was all going, wondering whether he would choose me for keeps in the end, I can clearly see now just how much I contributed to my own relationship failures. Instead of wasting weeks and months and even years of energy, time and oh so many tears, I could have found out the answers to my unspoken questions that eventually would come out in the end, right away.
If I had been direct from the outset about what I was looking for, about what he was looking for and about just how much our plans and dreams had in common, I would have known these answers in time to save my heart from the heartbreak that comes from waiting too long, from getting too attached to the wrong person in the name of a dream, and from forgetting that I had just as much say in the relationship and where it was going as he did.
While I was concerned about being too forward, what I had missed was that I could be assertive without being aggressive, if I had only realized that being assertive is much more attractive than being so passive. If I had only realized just how much healthier a relationship is when two people are both able to communicate directly, I would have understood one of the true tenets of the type of relationship I longed for, yet had no idea of how to get there.