Yet, despite a string of promising relationships, you’re still not partnered up. Sure, it could be the duds you’re meeting. But if all your romances crash and burn – or first dates don’t even make it out of the gate – it’s time to question if you’re driving them off.
“A lot of women think, I’m too old, I’m too fat, I’m not wealthy enough,” says PerfectMatch.com relationship expert Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D. “It’s usually not those things.”
If you’re used to casual hookups, that love ’em-and-leave ’em attitude may hurt when you want something deeper.
“If you’re intimacy-phobic or more comfortable sleeping around, you might not know how to let something deeper develop or recognize it when it comes along,” says Miami marriage and family therapist Lisa Paz, Ph.D.
On the flip side, jumping into bed before real feelings develop may make you more attached to a guy. That, too, is a relationship killer.
“You can lose emotional control,” Paz says. “Sleeping with someone too soon can inflate expectations and set the relationship up for failure because the guy’s not ready for that.”
Dating do: The fix is easy: Wait. Novel, huh?
Batshaw recommends delaying sex for three months with a new partner to find out if you’re interested in him, if you’re compatible (aside from the smokin’ chemistry), and if he’s looking for something more too.
“If you’ve been dating a guy for three months and you haven’t had sex, you know that he’s interested in you,” Batshaw says.
2. Your must-have list is pages long.
Your dream man may be a 6-foot-tall doctor who never forgets an anniversary and loves to go shopping with you. Good luck with that. When sizing up someone’s partner potential, your image of the “ideal man” could be shutting your eyes to a great guy, even though he doesn’t meet all your requirements.
An unrealistic checklist is a common mistake women make, Schwartz says.
“When people have so many ‘I just can’t have guys who…’ deal-breakers, I think, This person’s going to be lonely,” she says. “No one likes trying to fit a checklist.”
Dating do: So you’d never date a smoker? Fine. Don’t want kids? Nix the divorced dad. But if he’s not the right height or doesn’t drive a hybrid, maybe that’s something you can live with.
3. You’re still stewing over your last relationship.
A bad breakup can leave us with a movie in our heads of all the unfair things our ex did – and giving new men we meet a front-row seat to the show.
“That’s a killer from the beginning,” says Orlando dating expert Eric Resnick, founder of ProfileHelper.com, a consulting service for dating profiles.
That anger and bitterness is a big turnoff, and it can keep you from being ready for a new relationship. “If the other person is still occupying that much of your thought process, you’re still mentally in a relationship with him, even if you’re no longer together,” Resnick says.
Dating do: Even if you’re not yet over your ex, keep those issues out of conversations with new men you date and stick with lighter topics – sports, movies, how much fun you’re having on the date – in the beginning, Schwartz advises.
4. You’re hooked on relationship drama.
There’s a good reason we get caught up in dramatic relationships with unpredictable bad boys: They’re actually addictive, according to psychotherapist Murray. “These relationships are stressful and anxiety-provoking, so you’ve got cortisol and adrenaline [hormones] running through your system all the time,” Murray says.
The fabulous sex that follows provides a surge of oxytocin, the “feel good” hormone that cements the bond, Murray says. “You’re addicted to the brain rush.”
So it’s no surprise that it’s harder to get excited about a nice man who calls when he’s supposed to and treats you well.
“The nice guy doesn’t inspire this roller-coaster addiction of chemicals and you think, Something’s wrong, I’m not attracted to him,” Murray says.
Dating do: Breaking this cycle often takes introspection and outside help.
5. You cling like Velcro.
If you’re the type to call your man 24/7 and crash his guys night because you “missed him,” beware: Men are like bloodhounds when it comes to sniffing out insecurity and desperation.
“If you don’t feel comfortable being alone, or OK if you’re not in a relationship, guys pick up on that insecurity and find it really unattractive,” says New York City relationship therapist Michael Batshaw.
“That’s too much pressure,” Batshaw says. “Especially in the beginning, a guy wants to get to know someone without feeling like she’ll kill herself if he doesn’t want to be in a relationship with her.”
Chasing after commitment-phobic, married, gay or otherwise unavailable men isn’t likely to get you to happily ever after.
“Women always think, I’ll be the one to change him,” says Jill Murray, Psy.D., a psychotherapist in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., and one-half of the Internet radio show “The Dr. Jill and Judge Pam Show.”
“Annette Bening did a really good job with Warren Beatty,” she says. “Women always look at these one-in-a-million [examples] and think, That could be me.”
Dating do: If unavailable guys are a pattern, it might be you who’s afraid of commitment, not the men you’re meeting.
“If you can’t pick another kind of guy, that says you don’t really want a partner,” Schwartz says.If you truly want a relationship, look for signs that the guy you’re seeing won’t commit. And if you find them, vamoose, Schwartz says. Plus, see a therapist to help you work out what’s behind your fear of commitment.
You may have the best intentions in wanting him to stop smoking, eat fewer burgers, drink less beer or get a better job. After all, it’s so he can live a longer, healthier, more lucrative life with you. But if you push for changes he doesn’t want, you’re in for a world of hurt.
“He’s either going to revolt, withdraw or submit,” Resnick says. If he revolts and you don’t see the error of your ways, the relationship will end, he says.
“If he withdraws, you’re going to wonder why he’s not as affectionate and loving − and it’s because you’ve beaten it out of him,” he says. That probably won’t lead to a lasting relationship, either.
Even if he submits, you may end up being less interested in the new-and-improved version.
“He essentially becomes a doll for you to play with and dress up, at which point, congratulations: You’ve killed his spirit,” Resnick says. “And you’ll start to resent who he’s become because you’ve blown out the spark that drew you to him in the first place.”
Dating do: Talk with your guy about why you’d like him to make a specific change, like not smoking, and see what he’s willing to do.
“Give the guy a chance to talk about why he’s this way, why he doesn’t or might want to shift, but it’s going to take some time,” Batshaw says.
If he’s happy the way he is, then decide whether you can live with it or not. If you can, stop nagging; if not, say adios.
8. You over-share too fast.
Sure, anyone who’s a big part of your life should know everything about you, including the serious stuff − cancer, business failure, a special-needs child. But making a full disclosure about challenges you’re facing before you even know if the relationship is a keeper can guarantee it won’t be.
“That’s the wrong attitude. It scares men away,” Schwartz says. “Women do this out of an excess of honesty or because they think the guy ought to know and deal with it.”
And, of course, he should − eventually. Dating do: Don’t unpack all your baggage on the first date.
“Let the guy get to know you as a sensual, happy, sexy woman,” Schwartz says. Once he knows, he’s more likely to want to go the distance.
“But if he hasn’t gotten to that point, he’s thinking, Do I really want to do this?” Schwartz says.
9. You mistake cooling passion for goodbye.
Maybe you don’t smile anymore when he calls. Or you think about him only 23 hours a day.“Women tell me all the time: ‘I knew it was over when I stopped getting butterflies when I saw him,’” Paz says. “That’s not over. That’s when a relationship starts.”
Newsflash: The butterfly factor isn’t a reliable barometer of relationship health, because that hormonally-driven euphoria is simply an early attraction phase − and it’s naturally short-lived.
“After a certain amount of time, we can’t physiologically maintain that feeling,” Paz explains. “Chemically, the butterflies run out.”
And yet, if you’ve been reared on a steady diet of romantic comedies, you can be excused for believing the fantasy that “happily ever after” means falling, not staying, in love.
Dating do: If you want a bond that outlasts the butterflies, you have to roll with the hard − and boring − stuff.
“The goal of a relationship isn’t to get over the humps and live happily ever after,” Batshaw says. “It’s to become so good at working through it that when conflict comes up, you resolve it quickly.”
What’s your reward for sticking around and resolving those conflicts?
“That kind of soul-mate and deep sexual connection that you can grow over a lifetime,” Batshaw says.
Are You a Dating Do or Don’t?
When it comes to dating, times sure have changed, and with that, a new crop of dating dilemmas has emerged. But no matter what year it is, some dating rules should stand the test of time. Which ones are you forgetting? See how you measure up with this dating quiz.