It’s no secret that for most people, dating is a dumpster fire of an experience. Many of us have wasted months, sometimes years, on a “relationship” as likely to succeed as Jax and Brittany’s marriage. Maybe you tried to have a mature and thoughtful DTR conversation and were met with some version of “I don’t want to put a label on things” or “I’m just not ready for a relationship,” or you’re too afraid to broach the subject because deep down you know the answer will be some version of either. Even when you do take a break from the app hellscape, it seems like every person you like eventually pulls the same crap. How do you break the cycle if you’re fed up with the merry-go-round and looking for something more serious? Lucky for you, Dr. Betchina George* has some advice.
DON’T Just Take What You Can Get
If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that at some point you’ve found yourself waiting to hear from a person you like for longer than is reasonable. Maybe, like my younger self, you’ve even gone so far as to delete his or her number from your phone and consider such person
dead a lost cause. Of course, as soon as you proceed to get on with your life, the deadbeat in question miraculously resurfaces, whether it’s with a last-minute request for a date or a booty call well after you have made plans with friends (or, better yet, your couch). As much as you may want to respond and make yourself immediately available, resist the urge. Why? Because doing so reinforces a mentality of scarcity. Relationship expert and certified bae, Matthew Hussey, explains that when we operate out of a mindset of scarcity, or a fear that we don’t have other options, we allow ourselves to accept behavior that is bad or less than what we deserve. It’s self-defeating because the person you’re trying so desperately to hold onto will end up valuing you less. Don’t settle for someone who is not willing to invest in you. Someone who is worth it will gladly do so, and someone who is not will disappear, freeing you up for the right someone. You may need to wait it out and be alone for some time, and if so, you should learn to get comfortable with that, which brings me to my next point.
DO Keep Yourself Occupied
When I was in graduate school and experiencing a particularly dry spell in my dating life, I picked up a copy of The Rules, a book detailing, you guessed it, rules that a woman should follow to attract the right kind of men. Though I found most of the advice to be outdated and problematic, one idea stuck with me: the importance of staying busy. The authors advise the reader to keep busy before a date to avoid too much pressure and expectations. I would go further and argue that the idea of keeping busy should be applied more broadly to the life of any single person looking to meet a partner. So many of us become consumed with the anxiety of finding someone that it permeates almost every aspect of our lives, with virtually every outing tinged with the hope of meeting someone interesting. Instead of enjoying ourselves and our friends, we anxiously survey the crowd hoping to make a connection, and if we don’t, we feel disappointed and even more anxious. It’s important to prioritize yourself and the things that you enjoy doing, even and especially when those things have nothing to do with the pursuit of a romantic partner. When you immerse yourself in the activities you enjoy, the pressure starts to lift, and you begin connecting with your authentic self, making you far more likely to attract the right kind of people. What’s more, you’ll be an even better partner when the time is right because you’ve cultivated a sense of independence that exists outside the context of a relationship.
DON’T Mistake Anxiety for Butterflies
Too often, we make excuses for the sh*tty men people in our lives by insisting that all is okay because the doucher in question “gives us butterflies.” Unfortunately, this problematic idea is perpetuated in pop culture generation after generation. One notable example is in the Sex and the City episode “I Love a Charade,” which ends with one of Carrie’s more nauseating quotes, which you’ve likely come across on Instagram courtesy of the annoying girl from high school you still inexplicably follow: “Some people are settling down, some people are settling, and some people refuse to settle for anything less than butterflies.” Carrie dubs this feeling “zsa zsa zsu” (vom) and proclaims that she definitely has it with Jack Berger, a man who eventually dumps her via a Post-it Note. What Carrie was actually experiencing was insecurity from not knowing where she stood, yet like many women before her, she mistook that unsettling feeling in the pit of her stomach for euphoria. Equating uncertainty with excitement is on par with telling young girls that the boys who are mean to them “like them.” It’s untrue at best, and incredibly damaging at worst. Instead of encouraging such feelings of anxiety, we need to recognize them for what they are: a red flag. Conversely, we also need to reprogram ourselves to stop writing off every guy that treats us with respect as “boring.”
DO See A Therapist
Often, the pattern of pursuing dysfunctional relationships over functional ones stems from a fundamental feeling of inadequacy or unworthiness. In other words, the feeling that you don’t deserve a loving and healthy relationship. This belief is often subconscious, so it’s worth doing the hard work in therapy to get to the root of the issue. Working with a good therapist is an excellent way to overcome untrue and limiting beliefs, because it allows you to recognize the thoughts and feelings that spur your actions and recognize and reprogram the negative patterns of behavior that no longer serve you. An objective third party can help you see where you are making the same mistakes, and why you are doing it, and empower you to course correct and take control of the dissatisfying parts of your life. Yes, therapy is a commitment of both time and money, but who better to invest in than your badass self?
DO Practice Self-Love
I know it sounds touchy-feely, but hear me out. We have all heard some version of the old cliche that you can’t love another person until you love yourself. But WTF is self-love? Self-love is the process of coming to love yourself without conditions. It sounds simple, but few of us do it in practice. Start paying greater attention to your thought patterns. You’re likely to find that you beat yourself regularly with all the ways you aren’t good enough. Maybe you think you’d be more attractive to others if you were______ (prettier, skinnier, more outgoing, insert your go-to flaw here). Maybe you torture yourself by making comparisons to others who seem “perfect.” Whatever the ritual, it’s cruel and hardly the way you would treat someone you care about. So why is it okay to do it to yourself? It’s also important to forgive yourself for your past. Maybe you dated someone who was emotionally abusive, or your partner cheated on you. Whatever the “failure,” it’s important to acknowledge it, forgive yourself, release it and grow from it. The more you give yourself a break, the way you would with anyone else you love, the more likely you are to attract healthier partners and prevent future self-sabotaging behaviors.
If there’s one theme I hope you take away from this article, it’s that you must always value and invest in yourself. Each of us deserves the kind of relationship that makes us happy, whether it’s totally casual or completely serious. Sound off in the comments if you have any other tips on how to break the f*ckboy cycle.
*Not an actual doctor.
Images: Brooke Cagle / Unsplash; Giphy (5)
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