Reason number 1 – Jumping in too soon.
Getting ahead of ourselves… prematurely trying to figure out where an attraction is heading. Making future plans way too soon. Asking that highly charged question that changes everything: “Is this person THE ONE?”
Asked too soon, this question can be the kiss of death for a budding relationship. It can also be the thing that allows a not-really-going-anywhere attraction to loom larger and for longer than it deserves. The moment this question arises, everything changes. We now potentially have something to lose, which can cause us to feel incredibly vulnerable. We find ourselves overthinking the situation: “why hasn’t he been in touch today? Is he really interested in me or just stringing me along? I’ve been hurt before; what if he’s a liar and a cheater, like my ex?”
These are reasonable questions, but we don’t actually need to be asking them at the initial stage of attraction, because if we are genuinely taking our time the important things will reveal themselves! No-one (apart from sociopathic predators, who tend to pick their victim very carefully, but who also tend to be the exception rather than the rule, thankfully) can maintain a facade, long-term. If we are allowing ourselves to enjoy what is only just developing, without emotionally over-investing, and without harbouring any premature major expectation, we can feel safe and strong, rather than insecure and anxious. At any point, we can say “well, it’s been interesting, but I don’t actually feel like taking this any further.” No hard feelings, no blame, no drama. And if the other person doesn’t feel like taking it any further with us, then it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. It might sting, especially if we had started to fall for them, but we’ll get over it… because we didn’t allow ourselves to become too dependent upon a specific outcome, and because we didn’t make it about our sense of self-worth. Sooner or later, in the real world, bad habits and tendencies will make themselves known, as will genuinely positive traits. We can figure it out, without losing face, dignity, and hope, if we give ourselves enough time and breathing space!
Reason number 2 – Getting caught up in a fantasy
We can believe that we truly know someone, because we have been chatting online for weeks or months, or because we have been casual friends for years. We can decide that this person is our soulmate, because we have such intense feelings for them, even though we aren’t actually in a ‘normal’, everyday relationship with them, doing all the usual ‘normal’ everyday things together. And sometimes, on rare occasions, this could be true… but, taking into account the huge amount of fairly convincing evidence I have gathered over a number of years, it seems reasonable to conclude that it often isn’t true. And if there is a particular subject that is likely to evoke a furious and defensive response, it is THIS one!
I know for sure that no-one can really begin to know and understand another human being until they have spent honest, genuine time together, in ‘real’ life, doing all the things that ordinary, everyday life requires of us. I am not suggesting that we have to be in possession of a love interest’s complete history, with references and a DNA sample, before we can enter into a relationship with them; obviously there are certain processes to go through, whilst really getting to know one another. I am only explaining that it is my observation that romantic illusion and fantasy has the capacity to lead the dreamer into ultimate disappointment, heartache, and even bitterness, over perceived wasted time. The imagination is an incredibly powerful tool, with the capacity to create inspiration or desperation; if we come to believe in something that isn’t true or real, we’re likely to find ourselves heading in the wrong direction.
For example, the guy we met at the party, who enjoyed our company for a few hours without any real intention of taking it any further, is reborn in our mind and heart. We create our own version of him, based on a few fun, sexually charged hours. We start to believe that he and I are destined to be together, because the ‘connection’ we experienced was so strong.
Or, the guy who only calls around to have sex with us is just afraid of his own feelings; “he’s been hurt by a cheating ex, and now he is struggling to trust. He really cares for me – after all, he tells me how sexy I am, and how much he likes me. The only reason he doesn’t want his friends to know about our relationship is because he needs time to get used to it, and wants to avoid gossip and interference. If I just hang on, and am always available, he will ultimately tell others that he and I are together.”
Or, the guy who pursues us, relentlessly and passionately, only to step back the moment he gets what he wants, is “just afraid of his own feelings; sooner or later he will miss me, and realise that what we had was really good. He will realise how much I care for him. I just know that he is my soulmate – the connection between us is way too strong for this just to be a fling.”
Romantic fantasy can also fool us into viewing someone who is still technically a love interest as an actual partner, and this could be because we have received a series of mixed messages and/or empty promises, or even because we ourselves are reading the situation incorrectly. Either way, certain warning signs will make themselves known, if not immediately, then sooner or later; however, it can be incredibly painful to acknowledge and accept them, especially if we have already become emotionally over-invested.
So, what could this situation look like? Well, we may have been communicating for some time with our love interest, and have met up once or twice, several times, even… but still, the situation remains on the fence, not exactly developing or genuinely moving on. And there’s always a reason for this: “he has been too busy to be in touch on a regular basis, but he says that we will be together in the future… it’s just at this moment he has some stuff he needs to sort out.” Or sometimes a fall-out occurs, to which he reacts a little too keenly: “we were talking fine, but then we had a silly argument, and I haven’t heard from him for several weeks/months… but we are still partners… aren’t we?”
It could also be that we are partners of sorts, but without it being an ‘exclusive’ situation, at least in the other person’s mind. It might be that we have to ‘book in’ with them, in order to be able to speak to or see them; we can’t just show up, or make plans, without having to give them lengthy notice. They may continue to have regular connections with other women that cause us to feel uncomfortable, becoming angry or impatient when we express our feelings, accusing us of overreacting. This is a disempowering scenario that can keep us hanging around in miserable limbo, still wanting to believe that this is a committed relationship.
The answer? Be smart, use your best judgement and common sense, and analyse the situation objectively. Romantic fantasy is a purely emotional response, but you can see through it if your feet are on the ground, and your eyes and mind are wide open!
Reason number 3 – Unrealistic expectation
Where attraction and dating is concerned, not only is unrealistic expectation non-productive, but it doesn’t emanate from a good place, either. It doesn’t come from a genuinely loving mindset, from a willingness to be open to giving love a chance. Unrealistic expectation is usually about us, and our own need to have things the way we believe they should be. One of the most breathtaking examples I can bring to mind is the lady who stated that she wanted to meet and marry, within a year, a partner who would fulfil her every want, need and desire, and accept her exactly as she is… before asking me if I could see it actually happening. Of course I couldn’t, and when she really thought about it, she realised that yes, maybe she was being more than a bit unrealistic. She was hoping to guarantee a completely problem-free relationship, with a man who wasn’t going to challenge her in any way, shape or form, whilst loving her, warts and all. And not because she was a completely self-centred, self-entitled piece of work, but because of what she’d already experienced; because of emotional fear. She desperately wanted to outrun her past and write a completely different future, and most of us could probably relate to that to one degree or another. But still, she has a better chance of jumping to the moon and back, than finding a guy who is willing to even begin to attempt to fulfil those expectations!
Further examples of unrealistic expectation:
I want a partner who loves me unconditionally
The one who expects to be loved unconditionally would first have to love unconditionally! Never have I come across anyone who genuinely loves their partner unconditionally… me included. I have, however, heard from plenty who claim to love unconditionally, whilst bitterly complaining about all the things their partner is doing wrong! Having looked at the subject from every angle, it appears to me that there is probably only one form of genuine unconditional love, and even then, not in every single case. Most, though certainly not all, parents love their children unconditionally, and most, though certainly not all, children love their parents unconditionally. They might not always like them, but they do love them! However, the belief that ‘true’ romantic love should be absolutely unconditional tends to die a death as couples make it through the honeymoon period and into an established relationship. Couples who make it long term are always learning how to tolerate each other’s strange little ways, and choose to stay together, despite the ups and downs… which, I suppose, is a testimony to the stronger power of conditional love!
Partners should tell each other everything
I am sure there are partners out there who do tell each other everything, but I bet they are few and far between! I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to know everything about anyone, except for the stuff I need to know! If we were going to be completely open about everything, there’d be no more slipping new clothes and shoes into the wardrobe, saying “What? This old thing? I’ve had it for ages… don’t you remember, I wore it at John’s leaving party?” knowing full well he wouldn’t remember if we’d been wearing a bin bag that evening. There’d be no more secret eating and drinking; no more caving in to the kids’ demands for this or that latest thing, whilst warning them to keep quiet about it. And on a more serious note, some people couldn’t possibly cope with knowing absolutely everything about their partner, and the relationship would crumble under the pressure. There are definitely things we do need to know, and some that we don’t. I believe that everyone is entitled to their own past, and to their own harmless little secrets!
I want a partner to be so in tune with me that he automatically knows what I am feeling
Men and women are wired differently, as we all know. It seems to me that sometimes we women are not actually looking for a man; we are looking for a woman with a penis! We might expect our partner to be able to communicate with us in the same way that our female friends do, and to ‘read’ us in the way that our best girlfriend does. If so, we’re probably going to be disappointed, but it won’t mean that our relationship is a bad one, or doesn’t have potential. It takes time and effort and patience for two people to really get to know and understand each other, and even then, our different wiring will continue to be the cause periodic misunderstandings!
The interesting thing about unrealistic expectation is that it can actually survive the honeymoon period, and make it to relationship-level. However, it will create misery, if allowed to continue in a committed relationship. It also often leads us to become a little too attached to the word ‘should’, and the belief that we are being let down. I am not suggesting that we shouldn’t have ANY expectation whatsoever, and that we should just tolerate all manner of unsavoury or abusive behaviour; of course not, that would be unreasonable and unrealistic. I am talking about romantic expectations that cannot be met, for any length of time, in the real world!
Reason number 4 – Drama and distraction
This one is just a quickie, but worth mentioning! There are actually two problems here, the first being drama, something that is often mistaken for passion – as in, the more of it there is, the more intense and exciting the experience! Romantic drama has the power to become so addictive that we can find ourselves believing it has to be present in order for a love attraction to be real! There is absolutely nothing wrong with a bit of drama every now and then… but if every time we meet with a romantic opportunity we turn it into our own version of Gone With The Wind, and/or start to obsess over every detail, moving through our day with little else in our head other than the object of our desire… we have definitely fallen into a) drama and b) distraction!
We don’t even need to have a love interest in mind in order to become seriously distracted by the idea of romance. Not having a committed relationship can be a very painful experience for those who feel that without one, something huge is missing from their life. They think about it constantly, and are more likely to take even light-hearted flirting or banter seriously. I have worked with a number of women who are particularly prone to this kind of response, and I wish I could help them to move beyond it, and quickly. It hurts them, and rarely, if ever, leads to a genuine, healthy, solid relationship.
On a lighter note, I remember the lady who told me that real love should leave her breathless; that it should be so intense that even the touch of her lover’s hand should leave her, and him, hurting… in pain, aching with passion and desire. I laughed and said, “that sounds like really hard work!” In hindsight, she laughed too, a little embarrassed. But hey, we’re all entitled to our dramatic fantasies, as long as we don’t habitually confuse them with real life!
And one last thought on this subject (just throwing it out there for consideration): if we sell our soul to the devil of romantic desperation, how interesting do we become to the intelligent, thinking, productively functioning love interest? Probably not very, beyond the initial attraction…
Reason number 5 – The past
We can’t have the future whilst we are holding onto the past with both hands. None of us can completely free ourselves of what has already been, but if we are too focused on our ex, or how hurt we have been in the past, we are creating blocks that will make it almost impossible to move forward. Eventually, we have to choose: keep looking over our shoulder, or turn our attention to what lies ahead.
For example, the world of romance is filled to the brim with those dancing around in circles with an ex… even if the ex remains unaware, because he has moved on. Sometimes, however, the ex is trying to have his cake and eat it, as they say; he is hinting at a reconciliation, whilst being involved with someone else. This has nothing to do with love… it is more about ‘territory’. This is a honeytrap that becomes a no man’s land for the one who is emotionally stuck, afraid of what I call the ‘void’… the space that lies between where we are currently at, and where we’d ideally like to be. The void is scary to most people, and smacks of the unknown, which is why it is easier to look back, rather than ahead… even if what we are looking at, over our shoulder, is painful. Better the devil you know, as they say.
It is hard to let go of something that has been important to us, and a relationship doesn’t even need to have been a long one, in order to have left its mark upon us. We may have believed that our ex was ‘the one’, and that we were going to make a life together… and now we are afraid to trust our own judgement. We want to get over it, and be happy with someone else, but the risk factor rises every time we enter into the world of dating. We might have experienced some really tough times with our ex, but even the worst relationship will produce a few good memories – and it is these that often prove to be incredibly seductive, especially when we find ourselves at a low ebb, or a little lonely, or without an exciting vision for the future. And sometimes our ex finds himself feeling the same way, and so he gets in touch, poking around in the embers of the past, hoping to find a flame to fan. Occasionally the fire genuinely reignites, but more often than not, there’s too much ash and not enough kindling… and what we really need to do is to get out the dustpan and brush, sweep that stuff up, and clear the grate for a brand-new fire!
However, struggling to let go of an ex is not the only way in which the past makes our quest for love painful; keeping old hurts alive, overlaying the future with our memory of what has already passed, is guaranteed to seriously affect our chances of attracting and developing a new and healthy relationship. A young lady recently asked me if she would ever be able to have a relationship in the future, given that she hadn’t had the easiest of times with her ex. Though worded in different ways, this is a question that has been put to me many, many times, by women in all age groups. And my answer always begins with “Of course you can enter into new relationships… but only you can choose whether or not to consistently allow one, two, or even three unwholesome experiences to convince you that the future will only bring more of the same”.
It absolutely isn’t easy to keep believing that we can and will meet someone who will genuinely love and want to be with us – but what is the alternative? Give up and close off completely (some people do that), or take heart from the fact that billions of people’s hearts were broken before they found honest and lasting love? The process obviously becomes more risky when we are doggedly seeking ‘the one’ (as previously mentioned, several times!), because then we have more to lose than someone who is, say, window shopping with a view to buying!
A selection of statements that reveal an unhelpful connection to the past:
I want to attract a partner who loves and respects me, BUT… I can’t trust because I’ve been hurt.
This one better not be just another lying, cheating waste of skin and space!
All men/women are the same, deep down inside, and he/she needs to prove that I can trust them, before I actually do.
I need to know if this person is going to offer me commitment and security… I’m sick to death of time wasters!
I really can’t face another failure… I have to be able to make a relationship work!
It is easy to understand the frustration behind the above sentiments, but if we are starting from one of these viewpoints (influenced by the past), the process itself is likely to be more uncomfortable than we’d ideally hope it to be. So, what can we do to reduce the anxiety and wariness, when treading that confusing pathway through the maze of dating?
Well, the first thing we need to do is to bring our sense of humour along with us, and leave our intensity at the door! Then we need to remind ourselves that this journey doesn’t have the power to hurt us unless we allow it to, and that somewhere out there, maybe still a dot on the horizon, is a compatible partner with our name on them (and vice versa)… and that it will take as long as is it takes in order to align ourselves with them. We can become impatient, we can cry and rant and rage at the injustice of it all, but that won’t hurry the process, and in fact it is more likely to cast an energetically negative force-field that could possibly not only delay their arrival, but even divert them away from us. Love can be such an uncompromising bitch at times, but she appears to respect those who refuse to be crushed by her antics more so than those who crumble at her feet (even when they have perfectly good reason!). The only answer is to work with her, rather than against her! If we don’t give up, and have faith in ourselves (whilst having some fun!), we will learn how to navigate her rooms and hallways.
Reason number 6: The pain of rejection
Rejection hurts like hell, and has the capacity to lead us into some pretty self-destructive patterns of behaviour. There are those amongst us who are particularly susceptible, of course, but every last one of us will experience the gut-wrenching pain of rejection – not just once, but many, many times, throughout our lifetime. How much power we allow it to obtain will dictate how often, and how deeply, it cuts us. I believe that we ourselves can become so attuned to rejection that we actively seek it out, albeit unconsciously. I know for sure that I myself have fallen into this trap, and operated from there for years… as have many of the women I have worked with. But it isn’t all bad! A certain amount of rejection is necessary, if we are to define and refine our passions, expand our horizons, and live up to our own, unique potential. Every successful person on this planet has experienced failure and rejection, as an absolutely unavoidable part of their journey. We can choose to view rejection as an educator, or as evidence of our own powerlessness and lack of worth… and the choosing begins with awareness, and some critical thinking!
Unfortunately, the agony of rejection has the capacity to turn a usually rational and sane individual into an illogical, emotional mess. There is a situation I come across again and again, often involving the slightly older woman (as opposed to those in their teens or early twenties), in which she has fallen for a man with ‘issues’ – usually anxiety, depression, and a fear of commitment or intimacy – who has pursued her with every ounce of his being, only to suddenly back off and close down, leaving her confused and devastated. She becomes fixated, trying to figure out what went wrong, what she did that was wrong, and what she can do to put it right. She convinces herself that this man is the only one for her, that no-one ever made her feel the way he did, and that if she just loves and understands him enough, she could be the one to fix him. She lets him know that she will always be there for him… and he either ignores her, or he tells her that he just needs a little time, and that he will get back to her – when he is ready (which he never will be).
She gets up each day and goes through the motions. She does what needs to be done, smiling for the benefit of the outside world, whilst sobbing silent tears inside. She believes that the cause of her pain is the loss of this emotionally damaged man, but I believe that she is wrong; the cause of her pain is rejection. To receive love and appreciation is heart-warming and uplifting; to then have it suddenly snatched away is heartbreaking. Intellectually, she knows better, but emotionally, she starts by blaming herself, and then progresses to feelings of resentment – bitterness even, if it is allowed to drag on for long enough. She feels as if she is existing in a kind of emotional limbo, and that is the illusion that rejection creates – it lies to us! It can persuade us to hang onto an attraction way beyond its sell-by date, and to yearn for someone we probably wouldn’t even want to be with, if we actually got to spend enough real time with them, in the everyday world. And most of its power comes from the fact that the rejector usually has the last word, leaving us with not only a sense of unfinished business… but also with one agonising, unanswered question: WHY?
The frustrating fact is, there are questions to which we can never receive an answer or explanation that will make any sense to us. We can drive ourselves crazy, we can bang our sore and sorry head against every wall we can find… and still be none the wiser. People who reject others because they themselves are screwed up are never going to be able to explain their behaviour, and they certainly aren’t going to admit to being screwed up. We need to be able to recognise that what is often hurting us more than the loss of the affections of our rejector is the rejection itself – if that makes sense! We need to save our mental and emotional energy for our own healing, dust ourselves off, and move forward. It might not seem fair, and it certainly isn’t easy, but it makes more sense than allowing ourselves to remain trapped and alone within the sticky walls of the rejection-honeytrap, watching as our rejector slides away in the opposite direction.
Hopefully, if you have been experiencing dating frustrations and disappointments, some or all of this blog will resonate with you and prove to be useful! Or, you might recognise a friend’s behaviour within some of what you have read, and decide to share it with them: let’s face it, most of us will, at some point in our lives, probably benefit from familiarising ourselves with the big, painful 6!