We've all done it...Dated someone who really didn't feel right. Maybe you've done it many times. Why do we do this? Why do we settle for someone who is not emotionally available, engaged in the relationship, at a similar place in life, or remotely interested in a healthy relationship? Below are three reasons you may continue to become ensnared in the "dating a dud" trap.
1. You don't have healthy boundaries. What the heck? Therapists are always talking about boundaries. What does that mean? Think of boundaries as a fence. Fences are necessary and a good thing. They keep us in place. They let us know where we can go and where we can't go. Boundaries are your personal fences. What will you allow? Will you allow someone to only text you and never call, never plan a date? Boundaries! Will you allow someone to text you on a work night past 10:00 pm after not hearing from him/her all day, "Hey sexy!" Boundaries! Will you allow someone to ignore you in any form of communication (keeping in mind you are not blowing someone up during the workday, right...you're not doing that are you?). But if you are communicating like an adult and it goes ignored, do you allow that? Boundaries. Is your new sweetie inviting you to events with his kids or ex-spouse? Nope, nope, nope. You need to know what is healthy, and that ain't it. You have boundaries around what you will expect, what will create a healthy and potentially lasting relationship. As you can see, I can come up with endless scenarios to discuss boundaries. We need them to be healthy people who don't feel put-upon, ignored, or taken advantage of. But, but, but, I might lose him/her you think. Someone who isn't interested in honoring your boundaries is not a keeper in the first place. And if you won't speak up regarding your boundaries, you are going to get someone who doesn't know what you expect or who is unlikely to give you what you deserve.
2. You date potential not reality. He "could" get a job. Maybe he's immature and will outgrow this bro behavior. Maybe she is materialistic and shallow and she will outgrow it with age. "We look good on paper." How many times have I heard that one? Oh my! What does that even mean? A relationship is not a resume. And besides many people with thriving careers lack the emotional maturity necessary to be accessible, reliable, and engaged in a relationship. When you're dating you have to look at who the person is NOW. If someone is 25, do I expect him/her to have a fully realized career, no. But people should be doing and behaving in ways that are developmentally appropriate for their age and stage of life. I find that so often people are so involved in their own "picket fence dreams" (you know: the ring, the wedding, the car, the 2 perfect kids on the holiday card, the house) that they will settle for the potential of someone in order to get on with achieving those picket fence dreams. That is not a relationship; you are finding a placeholder, a stand-in, in your make believe life. This is foolhardy and often ends disastrously. Stop dreaming, stop ignoring those blazing red flags, and get real about what is...now.
3. You'd rather be with someone than alone. First, let me clear up a popular misconception...A relationship is not a mile marker of success. You don't need a relationship to complete you--that's Hollywood bullshit. You are complete right now. Yes, relationships can be wonderful and they even can bring out the best in us, but they are not a necessity or an indication that you are worthy or winning at life. If you would rather have someone, anyone, or a "good enough" guy/gal rather than be alone, you likely have work to do on your own for when the right person, indeed, comes along. If you're thinking, but I hate being alone; it's not fun. This is an area of growth for you. There are lots of ways to be with people other than in a relationship. If you would rather settle for the wrong person, you are lowering your standards because you can't tolerate the alternative. And while you are with the wrong person, you are losing the opportunity to truly meet the right person. Instead, learn to validate yourself; you don't need a relationship to view yourself as awesome; learn to enjoy time by yourself or with your people, learn what you like, create a full life on your own. Besides people who are confident, busy, and passionate about their life are a turn on. After all the best relationships are ALWAYS a balance between time together and time apart, so start cultivating your best self alone. It will only make any relationship stronger.
About the author: Melissa Hudson, Ph.D.(c) is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Plano, Texas specializing in couples and marriage therapy, anxiety disorders, and depression. She also works with adults and families on a full spectrum of psychological concerns. Have questions? Want to explore what's holding you back? I'm one email away! firstname.lastname@example.org | 214-235-8175 | www.counselingsolutionstexas.com