How to Recognize Unhealthy Dating Patterns

How to Recognize Unhealthy Dating Patterns

We've all stayed too long in a relationship, or seen a pattern in a friend's dating behavior that we can't recognize in our own. Learn how to identify which of your dating habits aren't serving your radiance.

By: Starielle Hope

The excitement of a new relationship is one of the most incredible feelings I’ve ever experienced. When you meet someone who truly lights you up and every text brings butterflies and a smile. Of course this doesn’t last forever. Maybe that initial excitement fades and fundamental incompatibilities become clear. The first 3-4 months of a relationship is the initial infatuation phase, when your new love interest can do no wrong and everything is shiny and sparkly and fun.

This sparkliness can be excellent at temporarily covering up misalignments in values or lifestyle. Around that 3-4 month mark, as the initial infatuation fades, reasons why the relationship may not be a great match often begin to surface and many relationships end here, even if they happen to continue for a few more months (or sometimes even years).

Sometimes it takes more or less time for these differences to surface. Regardless of the timeline, if you find yourself meeting new people, thinking the relationship is going to play out differently, and then eventually realize the same dynamic is repeating again this may mean you are stuck in an unhealthy dating pattern. Often this is an indicator that the type of person you have been attracted to and/or are attracting is different from the type of person you truly want to be in relationship with. 

This can be an opportunity to notice common themes in the people you have been dating that are not supporting the type of relationship you desire. For example, if you want an open and honest relationship but find yourself dating a series of people who hide things from you or lie to you, this could be a signal for something deeper that wants to be addressed within your belief system to shift this pattern.

Take some time to reflect on any beliefs you have around relationship. These often come from what we have experienced through our own relationships with others and what we have observed by watching our family, friends and interactions in the media. Our brains are programmed to repeat what we already know, even if what we know and have experienced in the past is not what we actually want to experience now.

Coming back to our example about dating a series of people who are dishonest or lie to us, where could this pattern have come from? Did one of our parents lie to the other regularly? Was our trust betrayed in an early relationship? If so, it is much more likely we will expect that people will be dishonest in relationships. What we are looking for is usually what we’ll find.

I want to note here that the purpose of looking back at the root of patterns is to be able to have empathy for ourselves. If we can see where we learned that people are dishonest so we should expect it, we can understand why we keep getting ourselves into this pattern rather than beating ourselves up about it. This is supportive because change happens from a place of love and empathy, not from beating ourselves up about something.

What we resist, persists.

However, if looking at the root of the pattern becomes an excuse for us to continue destructive behavior, that feeds a victim mentality and is actually incredibly disempowering.

For the sake of the above example, let’s say Dad was dishonest to Mom when we were growing up and maybe Mom told us that all men are liars. If we then decide, “Well, this is why I date dishonest men and I’m just doomed to always date them” that will probably become true. With this mentality we can create a reality where we only and always attract men who lie to us.

A much more empowering option is to recognize that, “There’s a reason I have been attracting dishonest men which comes from my past. I’m not broken, there’s nothing wrong with me and I understand why I’ve been attracted to dishonest men so I don’t need to beat myself up about it.” Now I can choose to make different choices from this place.

I invite you to be kind to yourself during this process of revealing patterns that are no longer serving you. It can be tempting to become frustrated with yourself for making similar mistakes over and over. We are all doing the best we can with the tools we have in any given moment and I celebrate you for being willing to examine your own beliefs and actions and being willing to make a change!

Photo by Justin Rosenberg