5 Ways We Self-Sabotage When Dating
Updated: Feb 3
Why do I fall for the same type of people? How do I stop being disappointed by relationships? Why do I keep ending up with unavailable partners?
We often ask those questions during late-night phone calls with friends, trying to manage our frustration and find a way out the loop we feel trapped in.
After all, they do not call it “putting yourself out there” for nothing: dating forces you to be exposed and that is scary.
Vulnerability triggers all sorts of feelings due to previous experiences of love, intimacy and trust. It can get so overwhelming, that you might end up putting in place some powerful protective strategies.
Why wouldn’t you? You are keeping yourself safe from the possibility of more disappointment, rejection, betrayal…it all makes sense.
Although these behaviours are highly effective in keeping you away from all the above, they might also be the very obstacle standing between you and building satisfying, healthy relationships.
I put together a list of the most common ways of self-sabotaging when dating; my belief being that to change something, you have to be aware of it in the first place.
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1. Find a reason why you are not “compatible”:
Whether that happens right at the start of the relationship or when things get more serious, the pattern is the same: you find something about them you do not like and that is deal breaker. Confronting them about it is frightening and feels like it will not get you anywhere, so you walk away thinking it was not destiny.
Note: Please be aware I am not referring to behaviours identified as abuse of any kind.
2. Wanting to find someone that “ticks all the boxes”:
We all have a fantasy person, that one perfect partner who lives in our dreams. As cliché as it might sound, perfection does not exist (which by the way frees you from the pressure of having to walk through life without flaws). Having a list that goes beyond few non-negotiable values for a chosen partner (e.g. respect), can prevent you from getting to know them fully and exploring exciting new opportunities.
If you have been burnt before, it is natural to stay away from fire. You feel as nothing could ever go well (or even differently?). Fear has made you freeze and you find yourself running away from every date friendly situation, app or possibility to meet new people. Your mind is filled with statements such as “I’ll ALWAYS experience this” or “It will NEVER be that”. It goes without saying that by staying still you will not move forward.
4. Trying with people who are clearly not available:
Despite your bad experiences, you tell yourself you are ready to get back in the game. Yet, you pick people whom you deep down know you will never be happy with. This can have a double pay out: 1. You never get too close to them, protecting yourself from being vulnerable. 2. Things are likely to end badly, reinforcing your belief that this is what will always happen (see point 3).
5. Being conditioned by external expectations:
This can refer to family, friends and society expectations (or what you perceive they might be). So often we pick a certain type of partner and ignore the others because we feel that is what we are required to do. The risk here is focusing on whom you think “is right for where you are at” rather than whom you genuinely like and how they make you feel.
You recognised yourself in one of those. So what now?
Although people have similar behaviours, the reasons behind them differ consistently and are rooted in the individual’s personal history. What is common to all ways of self-sabotaging though, is that they are strategies to protect ourselves from fears. Finding new ways to deal with those fears can lead to the path of freeing ourselves from them.
I run a 5-week Online Dating Therapy Group on Zoom, to explore your relationship patterns and how to turn them around. The time limited option gives you the possibility of dipping your toes into the therapy world, without a long-term emotional and financial commitment. It is a great way to connect to others and have the support of a therapist at the same time. Groups are small and you have the option to share or be a silent participant, according on how you feel on the day.