Dating is a tricky task. Most of us have to go through a few crappy contenders before we find our match, and even then it's a bumpy road with highs and lows. Every relationship will weather its fair share of mistakes and setbacks, but not all have to mean the end. We curated a list of the top 9 dating mistakes and talked with relationship experts Stan Tatkin and Joan Allen to learn how to fix them.
Dating with Expectations
It's important to keep an open mind when going on a date. Sure, it's okay to hope that something will come of it, but if you approach a date with expectations, you're setting yourself up for a letdown. Be open to all possibilities. You're not searching for "the one" on a first date. You're dating to meet people, to test the waters and figure out what you like and what you don't like in a partner. "I think you need lots and lots of dates," Allen says. "Start off with a coffee and then go into longer dates where you can sit down and talk to someone, and figure out what you're thinking." Dating is a learning process, so allow yourself some space to experience it all.
Not Focusing on Your Date
The old adage is true: Actions do speak louder than words, especially when it comes to dating. Paying close attention to your date's body language, mannerisms, and inflection of voice can give huge clues as to the success of a date. "People become so self-conscious that they're not pouring their attention outward enough to pick up cues in the other person," Tatkin says. When you're on a date, try not to worry about what question you'll ask next or whether to fake-laugh at his or her jokes, and never, ever pull out your phone. Be in the moment, and focus your attention on the other person. Easier said than done, right? Trust that if you relax and be your full-attentive self, you'll have a better gauge on the date in the end.
Compromising on Deal Breakers
It's important to know what you want out of a partner and a relationship before making yourself available. We're not recommending some super-detailed, make-or-break list about looks and style and animal preferences. Think about your core beliefs and what's really important to you. Intelligence? Honesty? Kindness? Figure out what you consider deal breakers, and don't be willing to compromise. "You can compromise with somebody who's a little distant or a little clingy," Tatkin says, "but what if you have somebody who doesn't believe in monogamy and you do? Or you have someone who doesn't believe in telling you everything and telling you the truth all the time—is that something you want to skimp on?" Know yourself before you get to know someone else.
Not Properly Vetting Your Person
New relationships are full of excitement, thanks in large part to a cocktail of testosterone, dopamine and oxytocin. "When you first meet, nature puts you on this cocktail of drugs that overrides mostly everything else ... [and] can really change the way somebody sees things," Tatkin says. "We're meant to pick not only based on our own recognition and familiarity but also our friends' and family's familiarity and recognition as well." Bring your new person around trusted family and friends for a proper vetting. Remember: It's not just your partner they're testing—it's the two of you as a couple. Do you look happy together? Does your person treat you well? If your friends and family give the thumbs-up, then proceed on your merry way. If they're less than enthused, you may need to take a step back and evaluate your relationship.
Thinking It's All or Nothing
Dating isn't a race, and no one should expect to meet a lifelong partner on a first date. It's important to slow things down and give the relationship time to naturally unfold. In general, according to Tatkin, it takes about a year to really get to know someone. "If after a year I don't know you enough, if I'm still in doubt about you after a year, there's something wrong, either with me or with my feelings about you," Tatkin says.
Baring It All Too Soon
It may sound old school, but jumping under the sheets with someone after the first date is a no in our book. Of course it's totally up to you to do what feels right when the timing is right, but if you're truly looking to meet someone in a serious way, letting him or her have all the goodies upfront could make things tricky. "I don't think it's a good idea to jump into bed with a guy on a first date, or even on a second or third or fourth," Allen says. "You really need time to get to know someone." Take things slowly. Go on a few dates to get to know each other, and we promise your sex will be even better.
Social media adds an interesting dynamic to the dating world. It has allowed people to meet in ways that have never been there before, making it a great tool to widen the pool, but the water gets more murky the deeper you get. It's important to have a conversation with your person about boundaries regarding social media before proceeding. "If we're talking about dating, it's really great. If we're talking about already being in a relationship, then this gets back to the question of what purpose is the relationship and what do we stand for and what do we do and what don't we do," Tatkin says.
Looking to Date Yourself
We all have different brains, with different quirks and ways of functioning, and odds are you and your partner won't work the same way. "There are certain people who are more prone to cling and are more verbal and more emotionally expressive and fear abandonment more," Tatkin says. "And then there are people who are more distant, more intellectual, more cool, and they fear intrusion. They fear somebody taking over and taking away their autonomy too much. It's like how different breeds of dogs have different temperaments." Instead of trying to change your partner, become an expert on each other. Figure out exactly how to work with each other while respecting his or her quirks.
Not Repairing Your Mistakes Right Away
Perhaps the most important advice we can offer is to always, always repair your mistakes as fast as you can. You and your partner are going to make mistakes—it's impossible not to—but what's most important is that you care enough to repair them, and repair them fast. "This can make or break relationships. If I'm somebody who fixes things really fast with you, you are likely to not remember the things that I've done that have hurt you, because there is a connection between injury, repair and the time it takes to repair," Tatkin says. "It's really important that people pay attention, be sensitive and repair very quickly."
Stan Tatkin is the author of Your Brain On Love: The Neurobiology of Healthy Relationships.
Joan Allen is the author of Celebrating Single and Getting Love Right: From Stalemate to Soulmate.