(My article appears in the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix Online (and print) in the September 11, 2009 edition)
Dating success, like success in life, is often a function of our attitude. Carry optimism, hope and openness, and your chances of success are infinitely greater than when you’re dragging around negative, limiting beliefs.
As much as most daters don’t care to admit it, they are unintentionally undermining their own attempts at success with internalized and destructive messages, or IDMs, about their dating lives.
IDMs can come in one of two forms: either as negative self-talk (such as how we talk to ourselves about dating) or as critical or judgmental assumptions and beliefs about the potential mates in our dating field. When we listen to IDMs, we either abruptly stop ourselves short, or stop others short, and destroy opportunities that have not yet been created. We shut down and say “no” before we’ve had an opportunity to say “yes” to others or possible dating opportunities.
To date or to be in a relationship is to risk getting burned, and a lot of daters can’t let go of some of those previous fiery experiences they’ve had. They’ve been hurt, and to help prevent themselves from being hurt again, they generate limiting beliefs about themselves or about their potential dates. In some cases, these messages have been there all along, from childhood, in different ways.
Fear and vulnerability drive many IDMs, and keep us caged inside our own heads. We generate unconscious and irrational stories to keep us from having to deal with the pain, anguish and fear that may come up in another dating situation. Dating has not been kind to us, we say to ourselves, and we’ll go to great lengths to see that we’re not hurt like that again.
One popular IDM I hear a lot is, “Well, there are no good men/women out there in the world anymore. They’re all taken.” I find that one disputable, and it’s a negative message that guides all too many people through dating, unfortunately.
The problem is that those destructive messages get communicated either verbally or nonverbally to people in our lives (including possible mates). Others will feel turned off or generally uninterested in learning more if those messages are communicated to them, intentionally or not. Or we may attract other negative people or toxic dates into our lives. Most of the time, though, we are so unconscious about what we speak verbally and say in our body language to others that we end up turning others off.
Maybe you’ve been rejected by a mate, or have suffered a recent divorce. It’s possible that your last relationship was awful, and you’re still nursing your war wounds. If so, IDMs may be floating around inside your mind and ruining the possibility of a relationship. Change your negative beliefs, and you change the way you relate to your dating life. People are far more attracted to people who are positive and open-minded.
If you’re ready and willing, turn around the IDMs, and you’ll attract a whole new kind of person into your life.
Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC, is a counselor for men and couples and practices in Phoenix. Call 602-309-0568, or visit phoenixmenscounseling.com for more information.