You just started dating someone. You’re tired of choosing someone who initially seems great and ends up hurting you worse than you could have ever imagined. While things seem good, even great, with this person, a big part of you is terrified that you’ll end up in the same disastrous and heartbreaking end as before.
You desperately want to know how to protect yourself from anything like that happening again. And, you crave an understanding of how to seek out the right kind of person and relationship, one that’s mutually satisfying, joyful, and loving.
There are several specific ways for you to drastically increase the likelihood you protect yourself from toxic relationships and attract the healthiest one:
1. Assess if the person is able to meet your needs – not the other way around
It’s normal for us to become preoccupied with whether or not this new person we’re seeing likes us. The problem with concentrating too heavily on this is we could miss out on an even more important questions and their answers.
In their book, Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How it Can Help You Find — and Keep – Love, Levine and Heller detail the incredible importance of asking yourself several crucial questions:
“Instead of thinking how you can change yourself in order to please your partner, as so many relationship books advise, think: Can this person provide what I need in order to be happy” (Levine and Heller, 2010, p. 99-100)?
- “Is this someone I should invest in emotionally?
- Is he or she capable of giving me what I need?
- How much is this person capable of intimacy?
- Is he sending mixed messages or is he genuinely interested in being close” (p. 50)?
Essentially, early on, assess your date on whether s/he is able to meet your needs (such as intimacy, availability, and security in a relationship).
2. Pay the same attention to all messages
Early on in dating, we become so excited about this new person that our objectivity is often compromised. As a result, we often create an overly positive and inaccurate picture of this person. When something doesn’t fit into this overwhelmingly good view of this person, it tends to disappear from our radar.
It’s crucially important to challenge this very natural human tendency. By pushing yourself to stay as objective as possible, you allow yourself to fully notice and appreciate this new person’s good, bad, great, and terrible qualities. Only then, can you make the most informed decision about whether this person is right for dating and you.
3. Identify and rule out those who have avoidant attachment style as early as possible
When we are young, how our caregivers and the world treat us determines our attachment style, which is the way in which we perceive and respond to intimacy in romantic relationships.
There are three attachment styles (secure, anxious, and avoidant).
“Basically, secure people feel comfortable with intimacy and are usually warm and loving; anxious people crave intimacy, are often preoccupied with their relationships, and tend to worry about their partner’s ability to love them back; avoidant people equate intimacy with a loss of independence and constantly try to minimize closeness” (Levine and Heller, 2010, p. 8).
Just a shade over 50% of people have secure attachment, approximately 20% have anxious attachment, 25% have avoidant attachment, and roughly 3-5% have a combination of the anxious and avoidant attachment styles.
The short answer, when it comes to dating, is you want to be on the lookout for and avoid those with avoidant attachment style.
The reason is because this person will almost certainly treat you poorly and the relationship will be filled with toxicity.
The following signs help explain this fact and highly indicate you are dating someone with avoidant attachment style:
- “Sends mixed messages about his/her feelings toward you or about his/her commitment to you.
- Longs for an ideal relationship, but, gives subtle hints that it will not be with you.
- Desperately wants to meet ‘the one’, but somehow always finds some fault in the other person or in the circumstances that makes commitment impossible.
- Disregards your emotional well-being. And, when confronted, continues to disregard it.
- Suggests that you are ‘too needy’, ‘sensitive’, or ‘overreacting’, thus invalidating your feelings and making you second-guess yourself.
- Ignores things you say that inconvenience him or her. Additionally, s/he doesn’t respond or changes the topic instead.
- Addresses your concerns as ‘in a court of law’, responding to the facts without taking your feelings into account.
- Your messages don’t get across. Despite your best efforts to communicate your needs, s/he doesn’t seem to get the message or else ignores it” (Levine and Heller, 2010, p. 100-101).
- “Has difficulty talking about what’s going on between you two.
- Has a rigid view of relationships and uncompromising rules.
- During disagreements, needs to get away or ‘explodes.’
- Is mistrustful (fears being taken advantage of by his/her partner).
- Emphasizes boundaries in the relationship.
- Consistently tries to create distance in the relationship (emotional and/or physical)
- Has an unrealistically romantic view of how relationships should be.
- Doesn’t make his/her intentions clear.
- Greatly values his/her independence.
· When discussing the reasons s/he and previous partners didn’t work out, s/he explains it’s solely because of the other person.
4. Use the abundancy philosophy
If we believe that there just aren’t many prospective dating candidates out there, we can lose our objectivity, and stay in an unhealthy relationship.
So, challenge this tendency by reminding yourself of the abundancy philosophy, whereby you believe that there are millions of people out there, and many of them are going to be healthy and treat you correctly.
In fact, remind yourself that over 50% of them have a secure attachment style, which means you have a greater likelihood than not of finding the right person out there than not!
To summarize, to find the right partner, use the following principles:
- Look out for and appreciate any early warning signs that the person has an avoidant attachment style. These include sending mixed signals and calling you needy or sensitive and invalidating your feelings.
- Effectively communicate your needs from the outset and ensure this person can provide you with them.
- Remember and believe the abundance philosophy. If we don’t believe there will be other prospective partners out there, we can get stuck in our current, potentially unhealthy, relationship.
- Never take blame for the person’s poor behavior. If/when s/he acts hurtfully, disrespectfully, and/or thoughtlessly towards you, recognize and appreciate that this communicates a lot about this person, rather than about you.
- “Expect to be treated with respect, dignity, and love” (Levine and Heller, 2010, p. 144).
Gain Greater Clarity on Early Warning Signs of an Unhealthy Partner Through Online Couples Therapy in California, Oregon, and Florida
Dating is hard. It can be exhausting and painful. It can also be exciting, joyful, and incredible. At Stress Solutions, we are committed to helping you learn what to do to put yourself in the absolute best position for the healthiest dating. Additionally, we can teach you ways to best ensure you seek out and find, as well as sustain, that mutually beneficial relationship you deserve.
To understand more about those early warning signs in dating or to schedule a consultation with a couples therapist in California, Oregon, or Florida, we encourage you to reach out to us.