Home > relationships > 3 Dating Tips for Having a Healthy and Successful Relationship

3 Dating Tips for Having a Healthy and Successful Relationship


When Children Start Dating

Why does this always happen to me? Why can’t I find someone? Why are all the women I meet only interested in money? Why are the guys I meet such jerks? Why can’t I meet “the one?” Why are relationships so hard? Why can’t I just be happy with someone?

The list of why questions people torture themselves with is endless. Some might say these questions are unanswerable. I disagree. There’s usually a universal and simple answer to most of life’s relationship why questions.

The answer is: personal choice.

Relationships are choices. They’re personal and/or professional choices we make and enter into, most times, of our own volition. If you’ve had a string of unsuccessful relationships and don’t know why, instead of placing blame on other people and external factors, consider your role in it first. It takes two to make or break a relationship—even abusive relationships. *If you’re the target of abuse, of course you’re not to blame for being abused. However, once you recognize your partner’s behavior as abusive, you’re complicit for remaining in the relationship and tolerating the abuse.

1) Healthy relationships require self-awareness, self-understanding and the capacity to accept responsibility for one’s choices and actions. Many people haven’t a clue about what kind of man or woman they’d like to meet and, incredibly, don’t understand why they haven’t met him or her yet. It’s the equivalent of saying you want to take a vacation and then aimlessly wandering around the airport terminal trying to decide upon a destination.

2) Know who you are and what you want. If you don’t already have a good sense of yourself; take some time to figure it out and then begin dating again. It’s unwise to try finding yourself or living through another person. The best and healthiest relationships are between two whole people.

3) Understand past relationships before beginning new ones. Some people have no trouble finding and beginning relationships, but these relationships never seem to work. Why? Because they’re more than likely making the same relationship choices over and over again, but with boyfriend or girlfriend du jour. It’s tempting to believe, different person-fresh start; but many people carry the same relationship baggage in different packages.

Some people blindly people choose relationships that recreate unresolved early childhood ones or unrequited adolescent crushes. It’s difficult to move forward in the present if you’re allowing your present life and relationships to be defined and dictated by events in the past. Being a grown-up and having grown-up relationships means letting go of what happened there and then and accepting responsibility for your choices in the here and now.

If you want healthier, long lasting relationships, explore what led you to choose past relationships, what needs or roles they may have successfully and/or unsuccessfully met and what you can do differently in the future. Maybe you’re focusing on the wrong qualities and attributes. Move past the flash—those qualities you find irresistible, but lead nowhere—and get down to the essentials. If you don’t like where you are in your life and the quality of your relationships, it’s up to you to do something about it.

Creating change is like a mathematical equation: if you want a different outcome, you’ve got to change at least one variable. We gravitate toward the familiar, even if it’s unbearable and no longer viable, which is why we make the same relationship choices over and over.

Before you jump into dating after your most recent break-up, reflect on your past relationships and choices. Ask yourself, “What have I learned and what can I do differently?” rather than “Why can’t I just meet someone and be happy?”

Shrink4Men Counseling, Coaching and Consulting Services

Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD provides confidential, fee-for-service, counseling, consultation and coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Shrink4Men Services page for professional inquiries.

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Photo credit:
When children start dating by wardomatic on flickr.
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  1. Repeat Offender
    October 21, 2009 at 4:59 am

    I am going through a divorce. I’m still 2 weeks from the first of likely many hearings, so probably months or years before the divorce is finalized. It will come as no surprise that there hasn’t been a meaningful relationship with my wife for years (basically all but the first 6 or 12 months of the marriage), so I am really feeling anxious to move on. I’m tired of being alone, which sounds really pathetic, but I love having someone to be with and spoil.

    Anyway, I’m now working retail (this economy really blows; I’ve gone from $80k to $22k annually) and I find myself around far more people than I have in a long time. It’s been very helpful to see what real relationships can be like, even in just brief glimpses in public, and to get a view of how many attractive, seemingly healthy women around my age are still available.

    Even more encouraging, a girl I work with is really showing a lot of interest in me. I’ve never seen someone so flirty, and she’s not that way with anyone else. If I was still trying to salvage my marriage I would have to ask her to stay out of my physical space, but I’ve really been enjoying the attention and even physical contact. (She’s soft and warm! Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve experienced a woman who is soft OR warm?) I’ve had more action from her DURING BUSINESS HOURS, IN FRONT OF CUSTOMERS WHO DON’T EVEN NOTICE ANYTHING UNUSUAL than I had from my wife in the last six months of our marriage.

    This is confusing, though, because she’s technically engaged, but it’s one of those that has stagnated (why do people do multi-year engagements?). Not sure if she sees me as just a way to get the excitement level up until something happens in her other relationship, or if she’s a serial cheater, or what, but that’s way beside the point of this story.

    Anyway, I must have a target on my back or forehead or something because it turns out she spent a week in the psych ward 5 years ago, and she proudly announced that she hasn’t gotten high for 4 years.

    WHY THE HELL AM I ATTRACTED TO HER? I mean, sure, her body is positively flawless and she’s very fun to work with and talk to, but that’s true of other people too and she’s the only one I’ve found myself thinking about when I’m not with her. Why is that?

    Did I mention that she’s 10 years younger than I am? When I first met her I dismissed the thought immediately because of the age difference, figuring that she wouldn’t be even vaguely interested in me. But I didn’t know then that she has issues!

    Honestly, doc, she’s 10x sexier than my wife ever was, and I thought that before I knew about her issues. (It doesn’t help that my wife is 5 years older than I am, so I never knew her as young as this other girl is now.)

    Mostly I think I’m just really attracted to the fact that she’s interested in me. I have NO desire to get into a relationship with someone with issues like this, and I definitely don’t want a real relationship with someone who is already engaged to another guy. So many red flags here they just become a blur.

    But, again, the red flags didn’t appear until after it was clear that we were attracted to each other. I already know to not get into anything more than an arms-length friend-ish relationship with this girl, but what in the world (or hell, or anywhere) is it that brings us together? She didn’t know about my divorce crap and I didn’t know about her past but we somehow were drawn to each other by some sadistic magnetic force.

    I have an appointment with a new therapist on Friday morning (first therapist since the one we saw together who really underestimates my wife’s issues). Haven’t met this one yet (not even sure by the name if it’s male or female) but it’s a free service as a benefit of employment, so I want to check it out. If it doesn’t work out I’ll definitely be scheduling some Skype sessions with you. In the meantime, please consider writing more about this perplexing phenomenon. I really thought I would be able to see it coming from a mile away; I know the DSM criteria for BPD by heart and one of my concerns moving on has been that I would be TOO sensitive and run for cover when it’s just “normal” relationship issues which vaguely resemble the DSM criteria.

    * Turns out I can’t see them coming. Can that be learned?

    * And even when I do finally see the signs I don’t run for cover; I stand there and flirt with danger. How do I stop that?

    * Do I have some sort of bat-signal that I’m projecting? If so, how do I turn it off?

    PLEASE HELP!

    Thank you!

    • Repeat Offender
      October 21, 2009 at 5:00 am

      Wow, that is WAY longer than I realized. SORRY! This little text box makes it hard to see how much I’ve written and apparently I have a lot to say.

      • jham123
        October 21, 2009 at 5:39 am

        Don’t feel bad for telling it like it is. I read all the post and many times wish they wouldn’t end so quickly. So, I don’t think your post was too long at all. Thanks for Sharing.

    • Mike91163
      October 21, 2009 at 1:21 pm

      Repeat Offender:

      IMHO, I think there’s three things at work here: Physical, emotional, and physiological (subconscious). Allow me to give you my thoughts on each…

      1–Physical. Here’s your words: “Soft and warm”, “physical contact”, “her body is positively flawless”, “she’s 10x sexier than my wife ever was”. Let’s face it, most men are visual and tactile creatures…and, making the assumption that any form of physical intimacy with your soon-to-be ex-wife was a long time ago or infrequent, you’re thinking with your “private parts”. Not that that’s a negative, per se, it is what it is…and let’s face it, if a man has been denied physical intimacy for a while, even someone like a Susan Boyle (the British opera singer) looks pretty damn good. (No offense to Ms. Boyle, but she’s not exactly model material.)

      2–Emotional. “Flirty”, “fun to talk to”, “she’s interested in me”. As above, when you’ve been denied emotional intimacy by your wife, ANY woman who shows an interest in you will probably trigger a flood of positive emotions within you…the old “hey, I still ‘have it'” thinking.

      4–Physiological. Let’s be honest here-when you were with your wife, you probably walked around with your head down, sour face, shoulders slumped, and gave off every appearance of being miserable…not exactly the kind of traits that ANY woman, normal OR disordered, are attracted to. Now that your divorce is in the works, you’re seeing light at the end of the tunnel…and all those signals of misery you were giving off are disappearing. Therefore, you are now “signalling” that you’re “available”.

      You mention that you’re aware of her prior psych issues, and you also state that you have no desire to get into a relationship…yet, your biggest concern seems to be that you don’t see the red flags until after the attraction began. OK…but, if you read all the articles in this blog, you will know that these women are MASTERS at disguising their behavior early on, and only when you’re hooked does the mask drop. Be thankful that you’re aware of these red flags earlier on than you would have been in the past! You say “Turns out I can’t see them coming. Can that be learned?” Well, it appears that you DID learn something.

      However, this comment concerns me: “And even when I do finally see the signs I don’t run for cover; I stand there and flirt with danger. How do I stop that?” Tough one here…I’m guessing that you’re having a tough time with the concept of being alone, and that the idea of being with someone, however toxic as they might be, is more palatable to you than going it on your own, even if for short periods. I would strongly urge that you see a counselor or therapist to determine if there are deeper personal issues that you need to address. In the interim, I would definitely maintain some distance from this woman…think with your brain, not your privates!

      • Repeat Offender
        October 21, 2009 at 4:08 pm

        Mike – Excellent observations in general. I had come to most of the same conclusions myself. But the problem is that they don’t answer the matter of why, out of the 5 or 6 women I work with who are attractive and in a comparable age range, she is the only one I found particularly attractive and she’s the only one who has at least shown interest in me?

        Does that make sense? It’s not a matter of why she is appealing, it’s a matter of why is she more appealing than anyone else I’ve encountered in recent months, even though there have been MANY who have been appealing to my “privates.”

        Again, I must emphasize that before it was clear that we were both interested in each other the ONLY red flag about her was that she was interested in me. Weeks went by before any of the other red flags came out.

        Mike, your thoughts about being concerned about being alone feel very accurate. I’m realizing that before everything fell apart this Summer and my wife essentially took my children hostage and has denied me access to them, they were filling my need to not be alone. This is confusing, though, because I am and have always been an introvert. I’ve always preferred sitting at home reading a book (or a good blog) over socializing. I still remember the day in high school when it dawned on me that unlike most of my friends I rarely hung out with anyone after school; I’d just drive home and do my own thing. I must have looked like such a loner. I had lots of friends at school, I just didn’t feel the need to spend all of my time with them, because I preferred to be alone.

        Apparently that has changed. I’ve only been “alone” for a couple months, but actually I’m living with family until custody is decided and it makes sense to get my own place, so I am frustratingly never actually alone. I do understand the difference between the connotation of being the only one in a room/house/whatever and not having an emotional connection with someone, I’m just observing how that is happening in my life.

        Thanks again for your insights. Feel free to add more.

        • Mr. E
          October 21, 2009 at 4:27 pm

          I think this post may answer your question as to WHY you’re attracted to her: https://shrink4men.wordpress.com/2009/06/17/are-you-stuck-in-an-unhealthy-relationship-pattern-part-one/

          Essentially, you’re into her because there’s something familiar about her. You might be attracted to the excitement/chaos these women bring with them, or, you might want to help them.

          I was accustomed to being treated poorly, and so I actually broke up with a very nice girl because she was “too boring.”

          In hindsight, she wasn’t boring, she was NORMAL. She didn’t make me fight for her approval. She didn’t criticize my every move. And, because of my experiences prior to that, that didn’t feel “right” to me. So I left her and found someone more exciting…

    • Mr. E
      October 21, 2009 at 2:51 pm

      “Mostly I think I’m just really attracted to the fact that she’s interested in me. I have NO desire to get into a relationship with someone with issues like this, and I definitely don’t want a real relationship with someone who is already engaged to another guy. So many red flags here they just become a blur. ”

      and

      “Do I have some sort of bat-signal that I’m projecting? If so, how do I turn it off?”

      Way back when, I got involved with my wife because she was interested in me – that was all I needed. Huge mistake. HUGE. Don’t get into a relationship with her. I’m not sure how physical you two are, but if it’s going on in front of customers I’m guessing it’s nothing more intense than hugging.

      Flirting is OK. Hugging can be OK. You probably shouldn’t go any further than that – you mentioned the economy: do you want to risk your job for a crazy woman?

      Moving on, yes, you probably have a huge bat-signal attracting the nuts. Here’s what it is: you don’t run screaming in the other direction when you meet a crazy person.

      Yes, that’s an extreme illustration, but most folks meet a crazy person, think “Yikes!” and stay away. We “nice guys” tend not to do that, which means the crazy keeps coming around.

      To turn it off, when you realize someone is nuts/not healthy for you, stop associating with them. Try to be polite about it, you’ll likely feel better about yourself if you are, but distance yourself one way or another. Try to hang out with people who are LESS crazy than you are (“you” in the general sense).

      • Repeat Offender
        October 21, 2009 at 4:21 pm

        Mr. E (great name, by the way) – Thanks for your insights as well.

        Yes, hugging is the most physical it has been, and even that was just a one-arm side-hug and not in front of customers. It’s more like she’ll brush against me, or deliberately stand on the wrong side of me so she can reach across to get something, etc.

        No, I do not want to risk my job for a crazy woman. Even more I don’t want to risk my job for anything because right now my wife has nothing against me in the custody dispute and if I were unemployed she would be all over that. But, again, I’m not talking about a relationship with this woman so much as just understanding the pattern.

        You mention that my bat signal is that I don’t go running. Like I just rephrased for Mike above, the red flags that alert me that she’s crazy (other than the fact that she’s interested in me) didn’t come out until much later. Everyone here knows what a great act these women can put on, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that she seemed perfectly normal: a few minor flaws, but generally put together and moving forward in life.

        Mind you I don’t think she’s BPD or NPD or anything specific. Probably not actually crazy. She just has enough issues to be a major concern.

        So, again, I’m still trying to figure out why, out of all of the dozens of women I’ve encountered since I’ve been single-ish, why is it that the two of us gravitated toward each other with the inevitable impact and crater/scar that would occur from such a relationship?

        I’m sure there are some unspoken signals on both sides, it’s just a matter of figuring out what they are. I think we’re both tuning into these signals like flashing neon signs, but neither of us seem to be consciously aware of them.

        Thanks again!

  2. J
    February 28, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    Dr. T, I would love to email you a very brief paragraph about my relationship, for your honest evaluation.

    sitnom @ gmail.com if you have the time :)

    • shrink4men
      March 1, 2009 at 9:04 pm

      Hi J,

      I don’t have email set up for A Shrink for Men at the moment. Also, I haven’t decided if I want to do consultation as part of my blog. However, if you’d like to post what you have in mind as a comment, I’ll respond and I’m sure some of my regular readers will comment as well.

      Kind Regards,
      Dr T

  3. February 27, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    Dr. T-
    Again, one step ahead! Watch for my next posting this weekend. “Patterns”
    You are so right on, it is scary sometimes.
    Love your writing style and content.
    Keep them coming!
    Victoria

    • shrink4men
      February 27, 2009 at 5:16 pm

      Thanks, Victoria! I look forward to reading your posts, too.

      Dr T

  1. December 2, 2010 at 10:56 am
  2. February 27, 2009 at 4:48 pm
  3. February 27, 2009 at 4:27 pm
  4. February 27, 2009 at 1:31 pm

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