We’ve all heard of the dreaded relationship rut — but did you know there are dating ruts, too? Even if you’re currently unattached without a date prospect in sight, you could be stuck in a place that’s both detrimental to your happiness and your pair-up potential. Maybe you’ve hibernated at home one too many Saturday nights or you’re always hanging with high-maintenance types who drag you down and drain you emotionally. Whatever your issue, we’ve pinpointed the top six signs you need to revamp your on-the-prowl persona, and asked relationship experts to show you how to move forward.
Mistake #1: You don’t get out and socialize often enough
We’ve all heard that Mr. or Ms. Right isn’t going to come knocking on your door, but that doesn’t stop many people from staying in all weekend watching Game of Thrones marathons instead of actually diving into the real world. “Many single people convince themselves that by staying in, they won’t get hurt — but they’re really hurting themselves if they don’t allow others to get to know their wonderful selves,” says Elizabeth Hurchalla, author of Getting Over Him. If your social calendar is as wide-open as the Sahara desert, it’s time to take action. “Find a partner in crime to go out with — even if it’s just for a quick drink,” she advises. Or, make a date with yourself to go someplace where you’ll be surrounded by other people, but not in a dating environment (like a museum or a class). Another option? Try actually going out with every person who asks! That worked for Maria Dahvana Headley, author of the memoir The Year of Yes. After she vowed to accept every date invite for the next 365 days, Headley met her husband, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan. Hey, you never know...
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Mistake #2: You go out too much and leave no free time open for spontaneous connections
On the flip side, there are those who can’t be home alone — and that turns out to be a rut, too. “People who can’t slow down sometimes miss opportunities because the rest of the world is a blur,” says Hurchalla. If you often triple-book your evening (gallery opening, dinner, late-night café), you’ll never have a chance to enjoy where you are — or really see who’s there with you. Try paring down your plans for just a week to test it out, and vow to spend at least one night at home solo. “It might sound counterintuitive, but alone time can do wonders for your dating life,” Hurchalla continues. “When you really know yourself and are comfortable in your own skin, you’ll be a much better boyfriend or girlfriend in the future.”
Mistake #3: You keep dating the same type of person over and over again without finding the relationship you’d hoped for
It’s been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results, yet many people find they date the same toxic types time and time again. “I could meet a hundred nice guys but not feel even one iota of a spark,” confesses Jackie Frazier, 32, of Los Angeles, CA. “But then I’ll meet a handsome jerk who doesn’t pay much attention to me, and sure enough, I fall head over heels.” If your last five relationships fall into a bad pattern, then it’s definitely time to make a change. “Talking to a good therapist can help people identify unhealthy patterns and explore how they formed,” says Elizabeth Kuster, author of Exorcising Your Ex: How to Get Rid of the Demons of Relationships Past. If you’re not ready for therapy, vow to give someone who’s “so not your type” a chance. You may be surprised by who your type really is.
Mistake #4: You surround yourself with toxic friends who drive away your dates
Do you find yourself always going out with a friend who thinks everyone of the opposite sex eventually cheats? Every time you mention your new love interest, does he or she say discouraging things like, “Are you sure this person’s over the ex? Sounds like your honey’s still hung up on that last relationship!” If so, it may be time to tune your best friend out. “Surrounding yourself with negative, toxic friends can skew your view of relationships as well,” says Kuster. When you get together, avoid confiding in your negative pals about any budding romantic bonds you currently have percolating. “They’ll only poison your outlook about your prospects,” warns Kuster. You can still be friends, just steer clear of dating talk when the two of you get together.
Mistake #5: You don’t have a partner, but you do have a “friend with benefits”
Look, hooking up this way is perfectly fine — as long as that’s what you both want and nothing more. But if you find yourself desiring a relationship with the potential to last long-term, it’s time to reevaluate your priorities. “Once you’ve been sleeping with someone for a while, there usually comes a time when you would like that person to be there the next morning, the next week, the next month... You want to take things to the next level,” explains Kuster. If you find yourself stuck in a “friends with benefits” rut, Hurchalla advises being upfront about your desires and expectations. If your fling doesn’t want things to get serious, move on. If you’re both open to a deeper relationship, it’s time to foster and fuel your emotional connection together. This means going on daytime dates that don’t end in less than an hour: meet for lunch, brunch, a walk in the park, etc. Go to romantic movies and intimate, candlelit restaurants. Act like you really are a couple instead of friends who are harboring a secret, and things might change in ways that make both of you even happier.
Mistake #6: You’re still hung up on a past relationship that didn’t work out
The last thing anyone wants to hear about is how your ex is the biggest jerk on the planet, or how your last six dates were total disasters. “The person you’re with will just end up feeling like the star in your next dating horror story,” says Hurchalla. “Vow to banish all bad date or ex talk on your first few dates with someone, no matter what.” It’s fine to share those failed relationship woes once you’ve forged a mutual bond — say, after your third or fourth outing — but until then, try not to dwell on the past. “You’ll just end up looking like you’re saddled with baggage, and nobody wants that,” says Hurchalla.