If you are willing to get out of your own way and take responsibility for your decisions about who and what you let into your life you can find love. But as long as you think the problem is out there you are going to be fighting an uphill battle with love and yourself.
Not enough? Then let's go the long way...
When I hear people say things like "there are just no good guys out there" or "Why does this always happen to me?" or read that John Mayer, Taylor Swift and/or JLo are going through yet another breakup it makes me wonder what goes on in their minds? To the outside observer it seems like they are have the same situation, the same problems again and again, just with different people? Don't they see the common denominator in those equations. (hint: it's themselves)
I'm big on personal responsibility and have spent many years over-thinking just about everything. The good news is that you get to benefit from my contemplation and maybe even find your way out the confusing labyrinth that is your love life. Below are the top 10 things that you may be doing to sabotage your love life and your very own happiness. There are sure to be more but this is a good start. Some of these things may seem like they don't have anything to do with your love life, but trust me they do.
1. You are sure the problem is all "out there" and because of "them".
Do you spend a lot of time blaming everyone and everything else for your problems? At some point in your adult life you need to look at the path your life has taken. Next, consider all its twists and turns and the people you've invited along and realize that along the way there have been choices YOU could have made that would have given you different outcomes. Yes he was a total insensitive jerk and yes he cheated on you, but maybe, just maybe, somewhere along the way there may have been some signals he was putting off that might indicate he wasn't all in, (at least not as much as you were) that you didn't dial into.
Yes there are manipulative psychopaths and in that case it IS them and not you. But, if you are willing to put on your clarity goggles (these work way better than the beer goggles) and really think about your options in any situation, you are going to find that there is more than one choice and you are doing the choosing. You are driving this ship! Also use those clarity goggles to really listen to what your love interests say to you, both directly and indirectly (non-verbally) and sharpening that skills will make you more able to navigate relationships, people and love just that much better.
2. You like that bad boy/girl type. You know the one that will call you "maybe".
I know those bad boys and girls are fun, fun, fun. Trust me I really know. They are full of charisma and spark. But generally that is all they are full of. It's not to say they can't reform, but it isn't your life's purpose to help them see the error of their ways and tame them.
Getting stuck on a type, any type, is always a good place to pause and reflect. Consider the partners you've had in your past, particularly the ones where the relationship ended badly and see if you can puzzle together what traits they had in common. If you can pinpoint some of the more destructive traits you can then see the flip side of some of those "types" you like. For example a bad boy/girl may be fun to party with, but they may also bring a never-ending wave of drama and chaos that is always nearby. Instead think about the traits in a partner you do want. Finding that may require that you choose a new "type" in the future.
3. You say horribly cruel and negative things to yourself... all the time.
Are you your own worst enemy? Think about those things you say to yourself when you look in the mirror, are they kind or are they cruel. Are you hypercritical of yourself in other ways? Would you ever say things like that to a friend? If you lean towards beat-yourself-up on the self-compassion scale now is the time to lighten up on yourself. Show some compassion to #1 (that's you!), the same compassion you are more than willing to show to others. Remember if you don't like yourself how can you expect someone else to like you, let alone love you in any sort of healthy way.
4. Your happiness and mood is dependent on others.
If your mood is tied to other people, you need to just stop that, immediately! When I was married my happiness was tied to my husbands mood like the moon to the sea. It sounds more poetic then it was. I would wait to see what his mood was when he got home from work and then adjust my own mood accordingly. I eventually realized this was a pattern I learned from my parents, adopted it without question and used it in my own marriage. It's a pattern decided not to take with me into future relationships. You are allowed to have your own moods and feelings independent from your partners and so are they. They are allowed to have an off day, be down AND not drag you down there with them. It is your choice to follow them or not Yes, you should be empathetic to your partner, but that doesn't mean you need to go down into the dark with them. If you find yourself with partners that demand their mood be yours, it's time for a talk. You are an individual that is allowed to feel your own feelings without having to consult someone else about what your mood should be.
5. You are really angry at your ex... or all men/women.
You know those people that seem to always go into a story about some horrible thing their ex did just about every time you talk, yeah them. Don't be them. Those people, (let's just assume that isn't you) are so busy being mad, so busy building an internal box filled with their anger that they don't have any room to let anything good in. They allow their anger to fester and grow and they aren't tending anything good in their head. Do not be that person! Seriously if you have issues with your ex that you can' let go of, you need to find a path to move on from those toxic thoughts. If you can't talk to them about it (and in most cases you don't want to talk to them) find a journal and write down all the things you are angry about. Write until you are blue in the face. Write until you can't stand the topic anymore and then let it go. You never have to show your writing to anyone and I recommend that once you are done to destroy it. Symbolically speaking it's an awesome way to release that negative stuff. When you let the anger go, you make room for the awesome love and amazing people that you do want in your life.
6. You worry about what others think about you and your romantic choices.
We are taught from an early age to seek approval. We do something that others see as good and they pat us on the head and we beam with pride and wander away confident in the knowledge that we have done made them happy, therefore we are happy... until that feeling wears off and you come back needing more approval from them. As long as you rely on others to tell you when you have "done good", you will forever be in a feedback loop that you have no control over. You give away your power when you wait for others to tell you that you are good. Take back control and stop worrying about outside approval.
7. You are afraid to have fun.
Yep, I said it, you are afraid to have fun. It sounds weird to suggest that someone would be afraid to have fun, because fun is well... fun. But as we get older we kind of lose our ability to have fun, at least easily. It takes a bit more effort as we get older and our life gets stuffed with responsibilities. We get caught up with the daily grind of paying the bills, going to work, doing laundry, taking care of the pets and kids and as a result the fun really drops to the bottom of the priority list. Fun becomes a luxury, an extra. I contend that you are afraid to have fun because it might make you question how you spend the bulk of your time these days. If you allow yourself a whole day of fun (assuming you can remember how to have fun), after wards when you have to go back to the daily grind, you might be a bit dissatisfied with your everyday. Which is a whole other article. You should be enjoying most of the hours of your life with whatever you are doing. You are going to be way more appealing to your partner (or potential partner) with a smile on your face and the ability to lighten up and let some fun in.
8. You are afraid to make mistakes.
We are supposed to make mistakes. That is how we learn, grow and change. That goes for all aspects of our lives, including love. The mistake (and growth) cycle is this:
- Try something new
- Some of it works, some of it doesn't
- Either (a) we like the outcome (b)we learn from these experiences and correct course or (c) end it if it doesn't feel good and...
- (See #1)
9. You are looking for love based on a model you created when you were 15 and watching John Hughes films.
When I was 15 I watched movies like Pretty in Pink and 16 Candles and wanted to know where my "Jake" was. Where was this awesome guy that would sweep me off my feet and in my darkest hour show up and prove that love conquers all. I solidified those concepts with music of the 80′s and wondered why Lionel Richie wasn't saying "Hello" to me or where exactly that guy from Foreigner was "waiting for a girl like me?" The final component in my teenage love model were the hormones that surged through my veins. As I watched those movies and listened to those songs I was at my most intense, hormonally speaking. I was sure that everything I thought and felt was the most real and intense set of emotions this planet had ever known. I above all others, really "got" love, I knew what love was and I didn't need anyone "to show me".
That set of factors from my teen years was intense stuff and powerful enough to have dragged it along with me into my 30′s and 40′s. There is nothing like the blush of love, then marriage and then, 10 years later, divorce to make you consider your out-dated love model a bit differently. So save yourself some trouble and really think about your notions of love and relationships and where they come from. Are they current and do they make sense to the adult you are now? If not, it's a good time to refine a definition of love that works for you now.
10. You are in love with being in love.
It's intoxicating to be in love, literally. There are all sorts of hormones, coursing through our veins that make falling in love so awesomely delicious. So when they say "love is a drug" it actually is. Which is why we want that feeling, crave that feeling and feel a bit let down if a relationship lasts past that being in-love-chemical-cocktail and we aren't as fired up as when we first met our beloved. There are many of us (you know who you are) who fall in love with that feeling and we sort of don't actually care who we are with, we just want that feeling. So when your lovers cute little habit one day magically becomes excruciatingly annoying want to dump them. Where did the spark and passion go? We become highly dissatisfied with who they are (note they are the same person) when the chemicals wear off and now we are left with a more realistic picture of them.
Being in love with love is fine when you are 18 and want to flit around to the next romance, but if you want real lasting love, you need to let that notion go. When you fall in love bathe in it, bask in the awesomeness that is your partner, but don't be sad when that flame turns into a pilot light and you find yourself in a long-term relationship. It supposed to work that way. You two found each other among this sea of humans and celebrated till the cows came home, shot of fireworks had a parade, the works. Now that you know this is the real thing, you need to get on with the business of the full breadth of your lives as a couple. Those chemicals die down so you can now see what is ahead of you as a couple. You also need to come up for air occasionally and let those that care about you know you are still alive right? Be in love, live it up, but realize that long-lasting, sustainable love is even better. And when you have real lasting love you can always crank up that pilot light to a hot flame between the two of you whenever you want, because now you know really know each other.
You have control over your life and the direction it takes. You get to decide who and what a you let in and how you respond to it. You also have control over the way you view partners, both past and present and it is up to you to decide what you want and what path you want to take to get there. Get out of your own way, let some love in and go have some fun.
If you'd like to learn more on how to take charge of your dating destiny, visit http://www.modernloveguide.com and find out about Modern Love: The Grownup's Guide to Relationships & Online Dating by Cija Black. Control your love life, instead of letting it control you.