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Phobic About Bad Dates
Dear Dating Coach,
It sounds like a cliche, but I have had one too many "dates from hell" and have begun to lose all hope of getting asked out by a "nice, normal" guy.
I have this nagging fear that it must be something I am doing that has led to my pattern of meeting cheapskates, mama's boys, narcissists, sociopaths, stalkers--and any other types that would cause an emotionally healthy woman to run in the other direction.
My primary way of meeting men is through my online ad, in which I try to be very upfront about myself and what I am looking for from a man and a future relationship.
What really concerns me is that a number of these guys come across well in their profile, e-mail, and over the phone, then present a very different side when we meet. This has contributed greatly to a loss of confidence in my ability to see the red flags and avoid repeating this negative experience over and over.
Do you have any thoughts about what I could be doing wrong and any tips that could help me weed out these guys before we meet? --Home With a Good Book
Your letter reminds me of that old saying about "kissing a lot of frogs." However, even though your experience is not unique, it does get old quickly and can lead to the belief that there is no right guy for you out there.
While online dating offers its users a much greater pool of people to draw from, it does have disadvantages--like not getting to experience someone in the flesh, which our senses need in order to accurately assess and evaluate the chemistry (or lack thereof) and help us compare a man's description of himself with what we are seeing and feeling. In other words, you don't know the person until you meet him face to face and sample his personality, mannerisms and overall presentation.
Online dating can fuel the desire for instant gratification, which can lead a person to believe she knows this stranger well, when she doesn't really know him at all. Add to this the desire to be in a relationship, which can be so strong as to obscure anything that would trigger caution or allow the use of sound judgment.
My first tip would be to adopt a very realistic view of online dating, and approach each new person as you would any stranger, recognizing that there is much to be learned before you can reach even the first stage of casual dating, let alone the "R" word.
Look for red flags, which can come up at any time, from that first e-mail to your first date. Some common ones include what and how much a man shares about himself, his work status, his relationships with family and friends, and his activities and interests, or lack thereof.
The consistency he shows in responding to e-mails and phone calls, and following through on what he says he will do is also an important area to look at closely.
Ask yourself if he seems too eager or shows any reluctance to meet, even when everything else points to it being the next step. Pay attention to his tone of voice, language and overall attitude toward you and others. Notice what he talks about and if he dwells on past hurts, a past love or any negative experiences he has had. Lastly, don't ignore your gut if he says anything that makes you uncomfortable or that feels inappropriate.
Most of all, know what you want and can't live with in any future relationship and communicate this clearly. Then make sure you are true to yourself and what is right for you. The rest will follow.
(from November 2006)
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"Help With Dating"
Toni Coleman, LCSW
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