Stop dating the wrong people: a guide
How to detox your love life
You're insecure, I'm insecure, we're all insecure. And when you're insecure, it's hard to say no when someone shows interest in you. It's hard to stop yourself from reaching out to toxic people when your heart is a spongey blob of need. It's hard when Tinder is full of people who speak one way online then act another way in person. It's hard when all your friends are coupling and the news is full of beautiful people and Netflix is full of rom coms. Sometimes, it's hard being kind to yourself.
Dating is hard, period, and I'm certainly not calling myself a master of the art. But if you've gotten yourself into a pattern of toxicity and self-hatred - if you keep hearing yourself saying "s/he's just misunderstood" just before your heart falls into a puddled mess on the floor - it might be time to break the cycle.
New Year's resolutions are all about being kinder and better and not putting up with any more of the same sh*t. And what can be kinder than to treat yourself right by avoiding those who don't?
Hopefully the following tips will help you to stop making terrible dating mistakes in 2017.
1. Identify your deal-breakers
I always used to say I wouldn't date anyone who didn't read. Turns out, my last two partners haven't read - and it's fine. There have been other qualities that have overriden what I thought to be my ultimate dealbreaker. This probably isn't a helpful start to this particular point - "I had a dealbreaker then I compromised." But it's about learning what's worth compromising and what's not.
If I had a partner who was an A-hole to disabled people, or who voted Trump, then that would well and truly be a deal-breaker, without compromise. It can help to make a list - on paper, on your phone, in your head - of "dealbreakers" and of "preferred qualities". There's a difference between them, and it helps to know them before you jump in with someone.
2. Know your values
I don't know you. For all I know, you could be a Trump supporter. And that's fine - it probably just means we'll never date. That's because we both know our values. And when we're speaking to each other through the cold, impersonal face of a computer screen, that's a pretty clear line to draw.
But what if I meet you and you look like Ryan Gosling? Then, it's not impossible that my values might go flying out the window. If you keep meeting people who look like Ryan Gosling or whoever your version of Ryan Gosling is, then firstly, lucky you. But if this keeps getting yourself into a vicious cycle of dating people you don't really like, then maybe stop. Knowing yourself is a first step to knowing if you're going to see your heart slide out of your chest and into the gutter.
3. Ask family and friends what they think (then listen)
I'm not saying turn to your mum for advice if you disagree with everything she says on a scale of decorating to major life decisions. But if you are lucky enough to trust her judgement, then listen to her impression of your prospective partner. If your best friend says s/he seems like a no-good dropkick, don't turn around and say your partner is just misunderstood. Love is blind, but usually your family and friends have 20/20 vision.
4. Stop ignoring red flags
You've started dating now, and you're telling yourself the early days are always hard. S/he's not making room for you in his or her life, and you tell yourself it's just because s/he's just not ready to let you in. You've been offended by things s/he's said to you, but you're sure you just misunderstood what came off as a rude comment. You could've sworn s/he was hitting on someone else last night, but you were a little drunk and probably overreacting.
NO! If you're picking up on signs that have, in the past, pointed only to bad things, don't ignore them! Don't make special allowances because you're tipsy or deeply in lust with this person. Give their behaviour a closer look and, if it holds up to scrutinity, then fine: everyone makes a misstep sometimes. But if the behaviour continues and the excuses are running out, then get the hell out of there before you're Volvo-and-lease deep in something bad.
5. Remember: being single isn't terrifying
It's hard to quit smoking with a lit cigarette in your hand. Similarly, it's hard to quit dating the wrong people if you're five years deep in a bad pattern and your single self has been missing since 1998. Being single means watching what you want on Netflix and leaving teeth marks in blocks of cheese and wearing bed socks around the house and not being woken up by a stray elbow flying at you from the other side of the bed. It also means being alone with your thoughts long enough to identify your deal-breakers and your values and to identify patterns that have gotten you into trouble in the past.
Then, when you're ready to get back out there, you'll hopefully be self-aware enough to go for someone who fits.
And who, with any luck, won't mind you leaving teeth marks in the cheese.