Dating can sometimes feel like playing a board game in which each participant has a different set of rules, but luckily, experts are here to identify some of the biggest mistakes that can tank a relationship in its infancy.
From jumping the gun to taking rejection too seriously, it is easy to unknowingly sabotage what could have been a fun time or a more serious encounter by caring too much.
The experts’ warnings also highlight how important self-confidence can be when it comes to dating, since managing one’s own shortcomings will help defuse some serious awkwardness during the first few dates.
Dating pitfalls: From jumping the gun to taking rejection too seriously, it is easy to unknowingly sabotage what could have been a fun relationship (stock picture)
Jumping the gun
Rushing things is almost never a good idea when it comes to dating, and experts recommend pacing oneself instead.
Thus, licensed relationship therapist Irina Firstein told BuzzFeed it is best to always assume the other person is keeping their options open and dating other people until a different agreement is made.
Similarly, psychotherapist Megan Bruneau warned against expecting a date to turn into a relationship right away.
‘Instead of looking at your date as a potential life partner right off the bat, try to look at them as someone you might want to see again,’ she wrote on Mind Body Green previously. ‘Do I enjoy hanging out with this person? Do I feel connected? If the answer is yes, hope to have another date, not a wedding.’
In that spirit, Bruneau also urged single people to date multiple potential partners at a time, as long as things are still ‘light’.
Keeping cool might, in fact, give you a significant edge in the long run, especially since it might keep you from committing another major dating sin, which is to obsess over text exchanges—more specifically, how long the other person takes to reply to you.
‘Keep yourself busy, enjoy your life, and don’t get hung up on whether or not someone texts you back or responds exactly when you want them to,’ licensed psychotherapist and clinical social worker Rachel Sussman told BuzzFeed.
‘If you’re counting the minutes that it took them to respond, you’re only going to make yourself upset and potentially misread into someone’s actions.’
Forgetting to enjoy the process
Yes, dating can be stressful, but there’s also plenty of fun to be had, so enjoy it—and learn from dates that don’t seem successful.
‘Instead of looking at dates that don’t turn into relationships as failures, try to view them as experiences,’ Bruneau wrote.
‘An ‘exhibition date’ for future dates. Prep for a job interview. A great meal. A funny story. A lesson on uranium (true story). Try to take away something from the process of the date, not the outcome.’
And if you want to start dating, don’t wait until the ‘perfect’ time to start.
‘We mistakenly think we ought to lose 10 pounds, finish school, become more confident, get a job, or get over a past relationship before we enter the dating world,’ Bruneau added.
‘But being OK with your imperfection is true confidence. There will probably always be another 10 pounds, a partially-healed heart, or an unfulfilled goal standing in your way. So if you keep ‘waiting until,’ you may be waiting forever.’
Not using your imagination
While first dates are usually best kept neutral (although if you have a genius idea that seems perfectly suited for the person you will be seeing, why not go for it?) but second and third dates might be the perfect occasion to branch out.
‘Sometimes a second date can be used to a get to know the person again, and could be a little shorter, like the first,’ Dr. Terri Orbuch, who has a PhD in social psychology, said. ‘But if you know you like the person, this is where creativity should come in.’
Bruneau also encouraged daters to think outside the box and to stray from the classic restaurant date.
Instead, she suggested simply grabbing a drink or a coffee, going for bike rides, hikes and walks, or even meeting up during a lunch break.
Going online or offline only
Why choose? Plenty of couples have met online or via dating apps, but traditional meet-cutes are still happening as well (just think of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who were set up on a blind date).
This is why experts warn against shunning online dating, or on the contrary, becoming so comfortable using various online platforms you end up closing yourself to real-life opportunities.
‘Explore both options—you’ll only be increasing your odds of finding a lasting connection,’ Bruneau said. ‘You can go to a party on Friday night and spend your rainy Saturday afternoon drinking hot cocoa and checking your matches.’
Fair shot: Experts recommend giving someone two or three dates before writing them off—but if there’s definitely no chemistry, don’t hesitate to end things (stock picture)
Not listening enough
Sure, being a skilled conversation partner will enable you to let every aspect of your charming personality shine—but listening can also be a crucial part of bonding with a date.
Thus, Orbuch urged others to ask their dates about themselves, because most people enjoy talking about their lives.
‘People make the mistake of thinking that they need to talk the entire time in order to sell themselves,’ she told BuzzFeed. ‘When really, dates will appreciate you more if you show interest in who they are and what they enjoy.
Besides, by letting the other person do their fair share of talking, you will be more likely to avoid two other common pitfalls: oversharing during the first date, and discussing your exes at length (because it can be a clear signal you’re not over them just yet).
Trying to conceal your flaws
Many people believe that the more perfect they seem, the more likeable they will be. But trying to appear flawless can actually work against you.
‘By trying to seem perfect, you’re not being authentic, which isn’t attractive,’ Bruneau wrote. ‘Not to mention, If your date likes this forced version of you, you basically have to keep up a façade for the rest of your life.’
However, while being comfortable with your own flaws is amazing, beware of taking self-deprecation too far.
‘It’s important to be able to laugh at yourself,’ Orbuch says. ‘It can show that you’re down-to-earth and comfortable with yourself. But sometimes, self-deprecation can indicate a deep lack of self-esteem and confidence, which can make people uncomfortable and end up being a big turnoff.’
Of course, having standards, preferences and non-negotiables is a natural part of dating. But having a mental checklist of every characteristic a potential date should have might not entirely help.
‘We seek out the 6-foot-plus, Ivy League-educated business owner, and get disappointed when we realize they’re a psychopath,’ Bruneau pointed out. ‘Instead of focusing on the boxes a date checks off, focus on how they make you feel.’
To that end, Sussman recommends giving someone two or three dates before writing them off, because they might not have been in the best disposition the first time around.
But of course, if after a few encounters, the chemistry is just not there, don’t hesitate to let them know you won’t pursue the relationship further.
Being in denial about the other person’s flaws
Giving someone a chance doesn’t meant you should let unacceptable behavior fly under the radar.
‘It’s okay to bring things up that concern you, like a date showing up a little late, or a date ordering a dish for you,’ Sussman said. ‘But blatant red flags, like if your date is getting smashed on mixed drinks or consistently talking about his/her ex all the time, mean you should probably run.’
Most of the time, it comes down to frequency: mishaps may happen occasionally, but if they become a pattern, it might be best to move on.
Sure, getting rejected isn’t pleasant, but it doesn’t mean your dating life is over, either.
‘Dating is a lot like applying for jobs. Sometimes, the job’s not right for you and sometimes you’re not right for it,’ Bruneau wrote. ‘If we were to assume that we’re not hirable because we didn’t get the first job we applied for, we’d never apply for a job again.’
When rejection occurs, think of all the other people who might want to get to know you, Bruneau recommended instead.
Modern dating has paved the way to a whole new array of ways to be rude to potential partners.
If you’re not interested in taking things further, try to avoid falling off the face of the Earth, a.k.a ghosting.
A simple message can be enough to tell the other person you won’t be seeing them again. Orbuch suggests going with someone along the lines of: ‘It was lovely to meet you, but I’m sorry. I don’t think I felt that connection that I’m looking for and I don’t see a reason to go forward. I wish you lots of luck in the future.’
Being too passive
Yes, chance encounters happen, but a proactive approach to dating can dramatically increase your chances of finding a good match.
‘We believe that the person of our dreams is going to move in next door or sit next to us on a ski lift,’ Bruneau said. ‘Hey, it happens, but it has a better chance of happening if you’re not totally passive about the dating process.’
And when you do find someone with whom you can connect, don’t be shy about letting them know you enjoy their company. Gender shouldn’t play a part in determining who will be the first after a date, Orbuch said.
People tend to like confidence and honesty, so if you had a good time, feel free to let the other person know, be it at the close of a date or the next morning.