Dating should be more about the positive than the negative, but there are still some things any smart dater should avoid, writes psychotherapist Janet Page…
Keep these don’ts in the back of your mind to avoid some of the most common dating mistakes.
- Don’t nag, complain, get angry, swear, or drink too much on the first date, and little if any on future dates. If that’s his best behavior, you don’t want to see his worst. And if he doesn’t care enough to be on his best behavior on a first date, you don’t want to date him anyway!
- Understand that if the other person is less-than-wonderful, they still might be a great mate. They might care, they might be nervous, they might not have had a trillion dating experiences. It’s easy to be smooth and unflappable when you aren’t invested, and you know you’re not going beyond a few dates.
- Don’t go where one person knows everyone, and the other knows no one. This could be uncomfortable for the person who doesn’t know a soul. They might feel stared at and judged – and they might be stared at and judged. They also might feel your choice is a power play. Preferably, keep it more or less equal and on mutual or new turf for the first time.
- Don’t talk too much about work on any date, even if you love your job. At least pretend you have balance in your life at the beginning. If you’re going to accomplish a good marriage in the future, you’ll need to develop it anyway.
- Don’t talk about your ex. There’s a matchmaking group in New York called Godmothers. They asked their clients what was the worst thing that happens on a first date. Almost everyone said the same thing: hearing about the ex. It’s boring. It also communicates that you’re still carrying baggage. And your date will assume quite correctly that where you’re going to dump that baggage is on him.
- Don’t name-call. As we’ve previously discussed, character assassination is not foreplay. Your date wants to be treated like a person, not immediately and verbally lumped into the “jerk” category with all of your exes and Charles Manson. If he upsets you, let him know with words — preferably ones that imply you have faith he could change — but never names.
- Don’t interrupt. You’ll never know how he would have finished his sentence, and if you always think you do, you’re delusional. Interrupting is rude, even if you think it conveys your similar thinking. All it really conveys is your poor ability to listen. Trust me, he’ll be far more impressed with your listening skills than your overly quick come-back.
- Don’t get involved with people with untreated chronic mental illness. This does not mean people who have solved problems. Given a choice, you’re better off with someone who’s had problems and successfully dealt with adversity. Nobody gets out of life without having a few problems. You are looking for somebody to marry who is good at whatever life throws at him, not someone to adopt.
- Don’t get involved with somebody whose ability to care just isn’t there. It can be great to be the initiator, the positive one, the enthusiastic one in a relationship. No relationship is precisely 50/50. But if it gets past 65 percent on your part, then you need to reassess. Hold back, do a little less, speak up a little more, and say, “Would you do this for me?” Ask for more things to find out if you can be on the receiving end and aren’t blocking him from giving. Being a giver is a great thing to be, but too many givers believe the reward is coming without any verification. Ask yourself if you are satisfied with your mate’s willingness to give as well as to take. Ask him if he is satisfied with your willingness to give as well as to take. A sense of fairness in the relationship is based on this balance and understanding.
- Don’t be rigid about rules, behaviors, or schedules. Flexibility is a wonderful, important attribute to bring to a relationship. People who are extremely inflexible are guaranteed to be problems later on. Someone very inflexible very early in a relationship can be downright tyrannical as the years roll on.
- Don’t accept an overwhelming number of idiosyncratic behaviors. At best, he will wear you out. At worst, you’ll need to commit him.
- Don’t let assertiveness turn into aggression. Assertiveness means, “I know what I want and I attempt to get it.” Aggression is when you demand, insist, bully, manipulate, and will not settle for anything other than your way.
Excerpt from Get Married This Year, Copyright © 2012 by Janet Blair Page. Used by permission of Adams Media, an F+W Media, Inc. Co. All rights reserved.
Janet Blair Page, PhD, author of Get Married This Year: 365 Days to “I Do”, is a psychotherapist with more than 30 years of experience in private practice in New York and Atlanta. She teaches at Emory University and has been in the New York Times, Glamour and on CNN, FOX, Good Morning America, and The Early Show. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.