Dr. Val Farmer
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Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Advice To Avoid Dead End Relationships

November 15, 2004

I am scared to death of the dating scene. I don't want to make another mistake. I also don't want to waste time on someone who isn't interested in a committed, long-term relationship. I'm scared to death of being rejected and hurt. What ideas do you have for avoiding ‘jerks’ and dead-end relationships?

These sentiments are expressed by a lot of divorced women who find the dating scene a hassle and an invitation to more heartache. Here are some guidelines on how to be skillful in weeding out relationships that are going nowhere.

Know your goals. Why are you dating? What do you want out of a relationship? What qualities do you want in a man? What kind of a man are you attracted to? What kind of men "hook" you? Do they have the qualities you really want or does one attractive aspect of their personality blur your judgment?

One goal of dating is to have good communication and to get to know someone. This means being open and willing to take a few risks but also being wary and wise at the same time. Find out what he wants from a relationship. Are you and he on the same wavelength or are you on a collision course? Let him know where you are coming from and see how he reacts.

Know yourself. Is there anything in your background that makes you susceptible to "hit-and-run" lovers? If you've had a history of disappointment in relationships, getting into a counseling relationship or a "self-help" group might provide some insight into why this might be happening.

Be independent and strong. Be responsible for your own happiness. Build on your strengths, interests and talents. Take pleasure in friends, family, church, and rewarding activities that bring you in contact with human warmth and caring. If you do this, you won't put excessive demands on one relationship to meet your needs.

Enjoy yourself as a dynamic, vibrant human being who sets and accomplishes your own goals. This is your best insurance against being fooled by someone who doesn't share your goals and values.

Be yourself. Does he accept you as you are? Do you find yourself holding back on your feelings out of fear of disturbing the relationship? Does he want you to be in a certain role? Is he looking for another "mother"? Let him know early that you are not going to mother him and see how long he sticks around.

Don't let him take over and start doing favors for you unless you specifically want him to do them. Standing alone and getting along without him is a clear message to him and you that you don't have to have a man unless you choose to.

State your opinions and challenge the things he says or does that you don't like. Get these things out in the open and deal with them. Hiding your feelings limits your ability to address important issues later. By then, he'll be used to not having to take you into account.

If something comes up that makes you wonder, check it out. Deal with conflict and differences as you go. You'll want to feel confidence in your ability to communicate with him about problems.

Does he have a temper? How does he react when he doesn't get his way? Does he always have to be right? How well does he listen? Does he share feelings?

Get a history. How much do you know about his relationship with his parents? What is his father like? What kind of a marriage do his parents have? What about past relationships? Does he show insight into his own behavior? What have been the significant events in his life?

Does what he tells you make sense? Does it hang together? Are there blank spots he won't talk about? What has his work history been like? Do you understand the areas of his life where he has struggled?

Proceed slowly. The experience of infatuation and love obscures faults or makes them disappear "temporarily." Given enough time, you will be able to see these faults and deal with them realistically.

There is so much to know and learn. It is unreasonable to give him a clinical interview on the first date. You need time to let a relationship develop and for the things you want to know to come out.

Set limits. Let him know from the outset what you expect from a date. What time you want to be home and how the date will end. If he tries to manipulate, or control you, firmly insist on your plan. You'll learn how well he respects your right to make decisions.

Say "no" to his requests for wifely and motherly duties. You also control whether you go to bed with him or not. In your dating, give your opinions and preferences freely. He needs to know you are a separate person with your own needs for time, space and goals.

It is easy to passively allow a man to take over your life and dominate your schedule and activities. Part of you doesn't mind. The independent part of you does. You don't lose control unless you give it up. His money and protectiveness can be seductive. If you let him do too much, he may exact his price through guilt and selfish demands.