YES. Yes I always make the same dating mistakes. Always. My last three boyfriends in a row have even had the same exact name. Clearly I have some habits I need to break. I asked dating coach Hayley Quinn to step in and write something for Slummy Single Mummy that would hopefully help me use lockdown as an excuse for a love life reset.
‘Do you think this is a red flag?!’
If your WhatsApp group chats frequently dissect your date’s every move…
If you’ve bookmarked blogs about dating narcissists…
If you’ve essentially lost all faith in your dating decision making: this blog is for you.
I’m dating coach Hayley Quinn and I’m moonlighting on Slummy Single Mummy’s blog to give you a simple message: you can change your dating mistakes and patterns. You are absolutely not destined to always be the one who has a “crazy” dating story to tell.
I know you’ve lost faith in the whole romance thing, it’s let you down. It’s bypassed all your better judgement. It’s given you endless experiences that made you doubt yourself, that made you wish you’d left sooner. But all this can change.
The first step is the hardest, and it’s realising that you’re not in the Narcissist’s Directory of Girlfriends, but that you have an active role you play in choosing who you fall for.
I’m not a psychologist so I’m not here to analyse your attachment style, but what I can do is give you practical steps to start to change. There’s no quick fixes here, but there are plenty of things you can do to date differently.
I should know: I used to be the poster girl for toxic relationships. So much so, I did a TED talk about it. It was a long road back from abusive relationships to my life today, which is about as tumultuous and unpredictable as the vanilla rusks my tot is obsessed with.
But enough about me, this is about you.
Here I’ve created 7 action steps you can take to reset your dating patterns for the better.
Step 1 – Take a (non patronising) time out
Back in my single days nothing quite made my blood boil like a well meaning frenemy saying, “perhaps you just need to take a break from dating,” (translation: ‘you’re so bad at this you need to impose a time out…’)
This is not what I mean when I say take some time out for yourself. What I do mean is, that if you’re faced with the same problem day in, day out, you can lose perspective on it. Modern day life filled with apps, emails and social media, also doesn’t give you an awful lot of headspace.
So it can be really valuable to take a step back, focus on other things, and return to dating with fresh eyes.
Step 2 – Don’t tell all your friends about it
One of the infuriating things about being a woman is that people’s go-to question when they first meet you will be about your love life. Some of my most rage inducing single memories revolve around the, “So have you met someone yet?.. Oh. What a shame…” comments I used to receive.
I have a Russian friend who told me that in the Motherland they have a saying that goes, ‘happiness is quiet,’ and this maxim can really apply to dating.
I know news of a hot date is catnip to your WhatsApp group chats, but too much focus on someone, too early on, can lead you down an emotional rabbit hole. You’ll over think, over analyse, and get over committed fast.
Step 3 – Stay present ‘ommmm’
It’s a romcom cliché that you walk away from a great first date, and suddenly feel compelled to see if your surnames would suit being double barrelled. Much to the chagrin of my more feminist leanings, I’ve definitely done this.
Successful dating is in fact much more about keeping your feet on the ground, and staying in the here and now. If you project too far ahead, the tendency can be to lose focus on who the person you’re dating actually is, and instead conjure up a fantasy version of them, who you then go on to fall in love with, no matter how poorly they’re actually behaving in real life.
Sometimes a simple affirmation like, ‘I like them so far, let’s see how this goes,’ can help you to keep both of your feet on the ground. If that’s a bit woo-woo for you, then you can also practice the much more tangible skill of not checking up on them. That’s right, no creeping on their Instagram, no checking when they were last online!
If the temptation gets too much, turn your phone off!
Step 4 – Don’t obsess about signs and signals
Working out whether there’s solid relationship potential with someone takes time to unfold. Figuring out whether they’re trustworthy, compassionate and good with small dogs is not always immediately evident. The wait to figure out what this is between you, can sometimes feel intolerable. This will make you want to rush to get to the conclusion (‘is this going anywhere or are they just wasting my time?!’) and over analyse every step of the way.
What’s really going on here is that you’re in a rush to work out whether to keep investing your time into this person, or pull the plug. The downer is, often the more you try to google the answer, the less you’ll be able to listen to your inner wisdom about whether you’re actually happy with the situation.
Step 5 – Take it slow
Rather than being in a rush to get to the conclusion, often the best way you can make a good judgement call about someone, is just to slow down the whole process of getting to know them. Accept that working out whether you’re a good match, or not, takes time.
It’s hard because when the sparks are flying, the temptation can be to hit the gas to get some big relationship milestones under your belt.
To cling on to your perspective amongst all those hormones, make sure you keep in place all the things that made you happy before you met that person. In the early days of dating don’t cancel on friends, don’t skip yoga and don’t worry that if you’re not immediately available to someone 24/7 that you’re messing things up.
Step 6 – Don’t talk yourself out of your own boundaries
I know how it goes: you have a well thought out plan of how you’re going to date, then you meet someone sexy and it all goes out the window.
A common dating mistake (if I can call it that) is to let a powerful connection be the trump card in your decision making process. Let me elaborate: you spend a long time on lacklustre dates, so when someone finally comes along who sets your world on fire, you can find yourself compromising on some fundamentals to be with them.
They don’t want commitment? Well that’s cool right because you’ve got a lot on at work right now, and maybe it’s not for you either?
Girl, remember the kind of relationship you were set on before you met him and stick with that!
Step 7 – Trust the process
I know that dating has given you a hard time.
I know your extended family, friends and random strangers in the street are putting pressure on you to get this area of your life figured out already.
I know you’ve kissed so many frogs you should be a princess by now.
I know you should be arguing over how the dishwasher is loaded with some nice man by now… but don’t lose faith. You are not on a deadline to get this area of your life figured out. You are working on it, and you will get there.