You’d love to be as single and carefree as a kid running totally unafraid through a grassy, sunlit field. You don’t want to have to worry about emotional situations that become so loaded they could blow up unexpectedly in your face… but unfortunately, dating is fraught with these potential land mines. Whether you’re looking to walk down the aisle or just have fun splashing around in the dating pool, you want your heart to stay safely in one piece. So pay attention to these seven land mines that singles must watch out for — along with tips to make your field-playing experiences as positive and explosion-free as possible!
Dating land mine #1: Getting intimate with someone too soon
“There are a couple of big reasons why getting intimate too soon might not be a good idea,” says Kimberly Dawn Neumann, dating coach and author of The Real Reasons Men Commit. “To begin with, the minute you connect with someone physically, all of these little feel-good hormones come out to play — but those same hormones can also bond you to this person before you’re ready. Don’t get bitten by the love bug before you know whether your date is a good match for you outside of the bedroom.” To avoid causing undue stress on your budding relationship, nip this issue in the bud by firmly setting boundaries before heading out on your first date. If you’re really concerned, meet your date in a public spot. Assuming all goes well as the night progresses, just imagine the potential implications of losing yourself in a steamy end-of-date clinch. Don’t get to the point of answering a post-date “your place or mine” question that could lure you into emotionally dangerous territory.
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Dating land mine #2: Incompatibility
Sometimes you want so badly to be in a relationship that you end up overlooking the basics — for example, the cold, hard fact that you two just don’t mesh well together. What’s the best way to approach the problem of plain, old-fashioned incompatibility? “Read the writing on the wall early in order to save yourself from frustration and disappointment later on,” says Dr. Ish Major, psychiatrist and author of Little White Whys: A Woman’s Guide through the Lies Men Tell and Why. “Know that it’s OK to share with your date upfront what exactly it is you are (and are not) looking for in a relationship. Over time, you may feel like you can’t be who you really are around this person, which leads you to feel unfulfilled in that relationship. Remember that there’s nothing wrong with having a great, smart, sexy, and totally desirable person as a friend — not a lover. It doesn’t make either of you a bad person for choosing to walk away when it’s the right time... it just means you’re honest.”
Dating land mine #3: Having unrealistic expectations
Is your dating wish-list reasonable — or do you have items on there that even the richest, sexiest movie star couldn’t fulfill? We all have ideas of what a relationship will bring to our lives, as well as what we’ll be able to give to a potential partner. Successful daters know that you shouldn’t project too much, too soon onto new romantic prospects. Avoid this particular land mine by keeping your expectations firmly grounded in reality. “If you find your goals are initially too high, adjust them so that you have greater staying power,” suggests Dr. Diana Kirschner, creator of lovein90days.com. After all, the goal isn’t to flicker brightly and then fizzle out (or get to the point where you’re stuck in a bad rut and your hope of finding The One is running dry). “Lower your expectations to avoid continual disappointment and dating burnout,” Kirschner says. “Doing so will allow you to stay in the game until you meet the right person.”
Dating land mine #4: Unavailability
Sometimes you meet Mr. or Ms. Potential, share a mutual attraction, and fall for that person — even though your date makes it quite clear that he or she is only interested in casual dating. After you flirt with each other, you start to imagine that maybe — just maybe — this could work longer-term, and then…boom. You step on the land mine known as the “emotionally unavailable” partner. Your date suddenly changes his or her tune, stops initiating contact and communication, and makes it clear that (much like a “dating Elvis”) this person has now left the building. “It’s easy to say you won’t get involved with someone who sends out the ‘I’m really not interested in anything serious’ message,” says Neumann. “But the reality is that the heart usually overrules the head when chemistry is involved. Manage this land mine by knowing upfront what you can handle in a situation like this and what your goals are for this relationship. If you’re looking for something more than a hook-up, then steer clear of the person who states his or her short-term intentions so clearly. You’re probably not going to be able to change another person’s mind if it’s already been made up.”
Dating land mine #5: Bad timing
In the lyrics to his song “It’s All Right with Me,” Cole Porter wrote about the potential upside of bad timing:
It’s the wrong time and the wrong place
Though your face is charming, it’s the wrong face
It’s not her face, but such a charming face
That it’s all right with me
Ah, irony. The truth is that, for serious daters, bad timing isn’t all right. Love can bring you together, but timing can also tear you apart. Maybe you’re recently separated and looking for something uncomplicated while your date’s been single for years, longing for a serious relationship. Or maybe you’re focused on your career, while your date wants to settle down. Although romantic timing varies by individual, it really is everything. That is probably the most common, yet saddest of all romantic truisms. Steer clear of this land mine by understanding that two people must be on the same wavelength and want the same things in order for the relationship to get off the ground.
Dating land mine #6: Following your head instead of your heart
Forget any conventional wisdom that claims women are more likely than men to follow their hearts instead their heads regarding love. “More than most women might realize, men judge a woman less on her looks and more on how they feel when they’re around her,” says Evan Marc Katz, dating coach and author of Why You’re Still Single: Things Your Friends Would Tell You If You Promised Not to Get Mad. “‘Do I feel attractive? Do I feel masculine? Do I feel funny when she laughs at my jokes?’ Those are the questions he’s asking himself before he calls her again.” For both men and women, the heart assesses just as much as (or more) than the head does when evaluating potential partners. To skip this land mine, focus less on the external issues — such as what you’re wearing and how you’re physically coming across on dates — and more on what’s really happening between your two hearts.
Dating land mine #7: Being unsure of your relationship goals
“Something magical happens when you set your personal dating goals,” says Dr. Major. “You come that much closer to getting what you want. After all, relationships are living, breathing things.” True, it’s a very human desire to want to know where you stand with someone you’re developing deep feelings for; most of us want to know if we’re growing closer to our significant other — or drifting further apart. Being unsure of your dating goals sends a message that you’re unmotivated about love. It might make your date assume that you just don’t care enough. If you don’t know what you want, why would any potential partner take you seriously? Dr. Major’s advice on how to evade this land mine is twofold: 1) “Set daily dating goals for things you want to do to make the other person happy, and 2) create milestone goals for reaching bigger relationship landmarks, such as seeing each other exclusively, meeting each other’s family and friends, making introductions to coworkers, engagements, and everything that follows after that. Know where you want this relationship to go, take action daily, be aware of whether you’re making progress or not, and be ready to adjust your plan accordingly.”
Dave Singleton, an award-winning writer and columnist for Match.com since 2003, is the author of two books on dating and relationships. Visit hiswebsite, follow him onTwitter, oremail him.