“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” ~Stephen Covey
Just a few short years ago, I sat across the table from a lovely man on a first date. It had taken a couple months to get there due to our busy schedules, but it seemed to be worth it. He was easy to talk to and seemed like a great guy.
During the course of the evening, we discussed what we were looking for and he told me that he was still married, but his divorce would be final in a few days. While I was disappointed to hear this, I rationalized it. I told myself that at least he was honest about it, and besides, he was almost divorced.
The divorce took place just as he said, and I decided to continue seeing him. What followed was a yearlong very painful, but sometimes fun relationship.
It was on again, off again, and never quite came together. He would decide that he really cared for me and tell me so with tearful declarations, then back away. The last time he ended it was via text message.
Unfortunately, I hear similar stories all the time. The common theme is: two people meet and feel instant attraction but hear alarm bells or see red flags. They decide to continue to date anyway because the feelings are there.
There’s a whirlwind romance for a few weeks or months after which things end painfully. Then he or she is heartbroken and ready to lose faith in love.
This breaks my heart because it’s so very avoidable. We need to remember that we have choices, even when it comes to love. When we take responsibility for our lives we give ourselves the power to create the things we want.
We tend to think that matters of the heart are outside our realm of influence, but I disagree. If we would only take our love lives into our own hands instead of leaving things to chance and bemoaning the results, we could have the love we so long for.
It really is up to each of us to create the best lives possible for ourselves, and we must step up. The best way to do this in your love life is to start dating smarter.
A lot of us believe that we can’t choose who we’re attracted to, that we must go with either our hearts or our heads. We tend to think we must choose passion and accept the pain that comes with it, or settle for people who bore us but are good to us.
I used to think this way, but what I’ve found is that it’s possible to adjust one’s preferences over time. With a bit of persistence, we can train ourselves to want what is good for us and to make better, healthier choices.
You can make a commitment to yourself and the life you want to live. You can then make choices that are consistent with the commitments you make.
You already do this in other areas of your life. You know that you can make healthy food choices to help you stay in shape and live a long life. You go to the gym for the same reason. You head off to work or school even when you don’t feel like it because you enjoy the benefits that come from these actions.
You can choose to date smarter by dating only those people who are capable of having a healthy relationship with you.
Many of us feel that we can’t stop ourselves from ending up with people who hurt us over and over again. We long to make better choices, but just can’t seem to feel anything for potential partners who would be good for us.
Most of us live inside our comfort zones, and unfortunately, having unfulfilling romantic relationships may be part of the life you’re used to living.
If you always end up dating people who mistreat you, abandon you, or are emotionally unavailable, consider the possibility that this may be happening because of a pattern you’ve developed.
Once you’re able to see a pattern, you can decide whether or not it works for you and commit to changing it if necessary. You can choose to take your love life into your own hands by developing patterns and habits that will result in your ultimate happiness.
We formed many of our patterns early in life as an attempt to have our needs met by our primary caregivers, usually our parents. This makes sense because we learn how to interact in the world from them before anyone else.
When I uncovered my own patterns, I found that I believed that it was best to meet my own needs as much as possible. I was terrified to count on anyone else or ask for anything because of the way in which I grew up. I thought that no one would want to be with me if they were to discover that I was not perfect.
I hid parts of myself I thought others wouldn’t like and didn’t date very often. When I did, I chose men who didn’t want to get close enough to see me. In this way, I kept myself safe, even though it meant being excruciatingly lonely for many years.
Have you developed patterns and habits that are keeping you alone? If so, it’s never too late to trade them in for some new ones.
Consider making new choices about who is allowed to be part of your life. Some examples include; ending relationships with anyone who is toxic to you, only spending time with people who treat you well, and dating only those who are emotionally available.
It will take some time to get used to this new way of dating, but it is possible to teach yourself to appreciate partners who treat you well. Start by giving them a chance.
Instead of prioritizing looks, job descriptions, and finances, how about placing more importance on emotional availability and kindness? If someone is excited about you or indicates that they are interested in a relationship, why not see where it goes instead of categorizing them as “desperate”?
Try spending time with different types of people, especially if you tend to go for one “type” all the time. You may not feel instant chemistry, but over time you’ll become accustomed to being treated well. Once you do this for a while, you’ll wonder what you ever saw in the people you used to date.
If all the people who are good to you aren’t your “type” then you need a new type. These things can be changed, just like habits. It may not be easy to change, but it is possible if you act consistently over time.
This is a much better strategy than giving up on love or waiting for the person who treats you poorly or dumped you to realize what he or she lost. Spoiler alert—they won’t. They may return, but you’re likely get more of the same or worse.
As for me, I was finally able to see that I was pushing away perfectly wonderful men because they seemed too excited about me. It wasn’t long after that last text message from Mr. On-again-off-again that I met the wonderful man who became my husband.
I was able to welcome him into my life and let him love me, and it was fun, easy, and drama-free. There was not a single red flag to be found.
I saw that things can happen very quickly with the right person when your hearts are both open and you know what you want. It really doesn’t have to take very long or be difficult.
You have what it takes to have a wonderful relationship if you want one. If you will commit to the life you want to have and then take actions that are consistent with your commitment, you’ll be well on your way.
You don’t have to be a slave to your emotions or settle for whatever life hands you. True and lasting love is almost inevitable if you will take action on your own behalf.
Start right now by taking responsibility for your love life and dating smarter. Your future happily in love self will thank you.
About Renée Suzanne
Relationship coach Renée Suzanne helps people all over the world find love. She is the author of “Beloved – How to go from relationship-challenged to relationship-ready” and “Ten things you can do to upgrade your love life”. Sign up for her blog at reneesuzannecoaching.com and receive a free course, “Five Steps to Finding the Love of Your Life.”