Some people are lucky. When they start dating, they seemingly find their soulmate right away, and ride off into the sunset with them. Many of us, on the other hand, can feel stuck, relationship after relationship, dating the wrong people. How come?
We all have a rather good idea of what type of person we are looking for. And with all the online dating tools available, we can find thousands of people who would be perfect for us. Just look at the number of singles who are online right now on this very website, for instance.
Despite all this, we regularly find ourselves falling for someone who is clearly bad for us. Admittedly, in modern dating, a mismatched relationship here and there is par for the course. But some of us, despite our best efforts, keep dating people who are clearly not good matches for us.
Let’s look at the factors that help explain this struggle.
While singlehood can be just as satisfying and rewarding as being in a couple, we need to be at peace with some of its characteristics: loneliness, a feeling of alienation from our married friends, empty apartments and a lack of intimacy, especially of the physical type.
A lot of single people lead fulfilling and exciting lives. But when these feelings of isolation grow too strong, we often turn to dating to alleviate them. Maybe if we had a special someone at home, we’d be relieved from our anxieties.
And so, we rush into a relationship with the first person who will take us, without taking the time to get to know them.
With friends and acquaintance, conversations tend to revolve around sports, shopping, fun things to do on a weekend. We’ll freely share pictures of our latest trip and our work accomplishments on social networks.
But when it comes to relationships, we are more guarded. We don’t ask our married couples about their struggles and how they overcome them. There are no classes to study love. And we especially avoid talking to divorcees about their experience.
How then, can we learn what makes a good relationship work when we need to reinvent the wheel every time we date someone new?
When we start dating someone, we want them to like us. And so, to avoid being rejected, we hide who we really are, compromise on things we wouldn’t normally, and display an ersatz persona that is not representative of who we are.
All that to avoid being rejected by someone whom we might not be crazy about in the first place.
The courting process is long and full of uncertainty. You never know if the person you are attracted to likes you back, when your first date will happen, if ever, or if you have anything in common.
But when it goes well, it is so rewarding! The problem arises when our start to crave this challenge/reward system. The harder the challenge, the bigger the reward feels.
And what challenge is harder than trying to convince the bad boy, or the distant girl – who’d make a terrible boyfriend or girlfriend, by the way – to date you?
Everybody is unique… and a little mad. And we are all mad in different ways.
But no one tells us the truth.
Our loved ones don’t want to hurt us, our acquaintances don’t spend enough time with us to peek behind our façade, and people who don’t like us, well, they don’t care.
How then, are we supposed to know who we are compatible with, if we don’t even understand ourselves?
Since we were born, we’ve spent every minute of every day with ourselves, yet don’t understand who we are as well as we should.
Considering this, we should not expect to know all the unique character traits of people we’ve known for shorter than we’ve known ourselves.
Plus, people are great at keeping appearances long enough to fool us. What we think is a good match for us might, in time, prove to be a less-than-ideal partner for a long-term relationship.
Lacking examples of healthy relationships around us, we often turn to entertainment for easily accessible examples of what relationships should look like.
However, no screenwriter can, in ninety minutes, capture all the ups and downs and work and joys of a real-life relationship.
And let’s keep in mind that drama-filled relationships are good for the screen, but should not be the type of relationship we aim to have.
To really, really know someone, we’d need to send them truckloads of personality questionnaires and spend years of therapy, both individually and together.
Which is simply not realistic.
So yes, in theory, we should try to spend that much care and attention in selecting our partners if we don’t want to keep dating the wrong people.
We’ve certainly changed since high school. We’ve most likely changed in the past ten years too. Even in the past year, probably. Change is permanent. Which means that we’ll keep changing even after starting a new relationship.
And so will our partner.
Sometimes we’re not really dating the wrong person, but we are dating them at the wrong time.
Feelings have taken over relationships. Nowadays, the most romantic acts of love are uncalculated, spur-of-the-moment decisions that can have big impacts on our well-being: getting married in a chapel in Vegas or moving across the country for a new flame.
If we try to analyze things, to make sure we are dating the right person, it is inevitably labeled as “not romantic” and undesirable. So, we don’t.
Knowing how terrified we are of rejection; we don’t wish to make others suffer through the same feelings.
That’s why we go on dates with people we know are not our soulmates. We think we owe them at least a date, or a friendship.
But with each interaction, our empathy grows. Rejecting someone is much easier in theory than in practice, and sometimes we keep dating someone just so to avoid disappointing them.
With all these factors working against us, it is not our fault if we end up dating the wrong people. Nor is it our partners’ fault. The chances of badly matched relationships seem, in fact, very high. But when we consider that the people we are dating face the same obstacles, it becomes simply unavoidable.
It does not, however, mean that we should stop dating altogether. Rather, we should learn to recognize dysfunctional relationships quickly, and end them. So we can move on.
And above all, we should make a concentrated effort to learn as much as possible about ourselves. To discover who would be particularly compatible with us. And to take our time finding them.
Best of luck!
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