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  • Dr. Teresa Edwards, LMFT

Love Lessons: Navigate Dating Without These Common Mistakes

Dating should be a fun, enriching experience that helps you grow as an individual, but can cause a lot of hurt and damage if done recklessly. Here are three of the most common and detrimental dating mistakes I’ve run into in my work as a therapist.

Three Dating Mistakes To Avoid

1. Trusting too quickly

Trust is built over time by repeated interactions with a person. It requires getting to know a person in nonromantic ways, in various situations, and around different people to be able to see who they really are. Becoming emotionally or physically intimate too quickly can cause serious hurt and disappointment. When you trust someone before really getting to know them, you’re trusting who YOU THINK the person is, not who they actually are. Give yourself and the other person time to truly get to know each other before trust is granted.

2. Loving the hologram.

When dating, it’s important to see that person for who they actually are instead of who you want them to be. If you find yourself rationalizing or minimizing the other person’s behavior, you may not be allowing yourself to see that person clearly. People who minimize or rationalize someone else’s behavior usually end up saying, “The warning signs were there. I just didn’t want to see them.”

Another version of this pitfall is thinking that, eventually, you can help this person change something about themselves. So, in essence, you are in a relationship with who you hope they'll become, but not who they are. People in this situation usually end up saying, "But I thought they would change." You cannot change a person; You are not God.

3. Mistaking attraction for love

This mistake involves confusing the trappings of love for real love. Romance is not love. The experience of falling in love involves a very elaborate chemical reaction in the brain including hormones such as testosterone, estrogen, and oxytocin, and neurotransmitters like adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin. The hormones and neurotransmitters surging through your system while falling in love has been compared to a cocaine high. You can't sleep, you can't eat, and all you can think about is how good you feel when you're with that person. This is an amazing experience, but that chemical high wears off… every time. This all natural "cocaine high" can lower our fear response and mess up our decision making process. It can motivate you to trust or become physically intimate too quickly, even if red flags are popping up.

Love goes beyond feeling passionate about someone and involves making a choice to be committed and always have that person's best interest at heart. Don't confuse a biological chemical reaction for real love. That's just setting yourself up for pain down the road.

If you're interested in reading more about dating with purpose, check out the article on Principles for Healthy Dating. If you've fallen into any of these dating pitfalls, talking to a counselor can help you heal past hurts and see the future more clearly.

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