Whether it’s watching Game of Thrones obsessively or your Sunday morning reading ritual, your habits give you a sense of security. Usually they’re harmless, but in dating, bad habits can keep you in an emotional no-fly zone that prevents you from landing the right partner. We asked relationship therapists for advice on breaking the four most common patterns that cause problems.

Bad dating habit #1: You just can’t shake a certain (toxic) ex
Most of us have been down the on-again, off-again romance road before. “I know my ex isn’t right for me, but after every breakup, we wind up back together,” says Ryan J. from Boston. “It’s great for a while, but then all the same issues resurface.”

How to break it: “Obviously there’s a strong bond between you two,” says Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., author of Lovestyles: How to Celebrate Your Differences. “But if it isn’t working out, the time you spend on this person is time not spent on finding the love of your life.” How do you convince yourself it’s over for good? “Have a ceremony,” says Tessina. “It will help you achieve closure and foster a ‘can’t go back’ mentality.” Destroy something that symbolizes your relationship, like a picture or keepsake. And enlist your friends — since they’re tired of hearing about your repetitive make-up-to-break-up ordeals, they’ll likely help you stick to your goal of finally being free from this toxic person.
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Bad dating habit #2: You stop seeing someone at the first sign of trouble
“Whenever problems arise, I take it as a sign that things just aren’t meant to be and break it off,” says Brian, 37, from Wakefield, MA, who’s certainly not the only dating offender in this category. “Taking any relationship to a deeper level means you could get hurt,” says Scott Haltzman, M.D., clinical assistant professor at Brown University’s Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior and author of the books The Secrets of Happily Married Men and The Secrets of Happily Married Women. “And the idea of being hurt is so intolerable for some people that they’d rather just leave the relationship.”

How to break it: Ready to stop panicking and packing up too early? “Spend more time with friends and family,” advises Haltzman. Counter-intuitive as it may sound, you’ll then be able to dive back into dating with complete confidence. Here’s why: You’ll be comfortable knowing that if something goes wrong in a new relationship, you’ve still got an amazing network of support to fall back on. And if it’s not fear but boredom that makes you skittish after a few fun dates, you probably like the idea of being attractive to others, but aren’t actually interested in starting a real relationship. If that’s the case, do yourself and your potential partners a favor and only look for others who are only interested in casual dating, too.

Bad dating habit #3: After seeing someone once or twice, you’re sure it’s true love
Not only have you checked out this person online and reached out to any mutual friends to get the lowdown on his or her relationship history, you’re already imagining the home you’ll live in together in your head... white picket fence included. “I tend to get attached really quickly,” says Alex S. from Alfred, NY. “I wind up scaring the guy off or just getting let down.”

How to break it: “Often, a fear of being alone contributes to this rush to commit,” says Patricia A. Farrell, Ph.D., author of How to be Your Own Therapist. “Take things slowly and get to know each person as a human being, not as a potential soul mate,” she adds. The more you romanticize a potential partner, the greater the chance that reality won’t live up to the fantasy you’ve dreamed about. That’s where premature thinking can hinder your relationship: You’re creating a picture of someone that may be totally different from what he or she is able to offer you once you’re a committed couple. Plus, if you bring up something that you could only know from running your date’s name through a search engine, things can get awkward pretty quickly. Getting to know someone — faults and all — organically is the best way to create a fulfilling romantic bond.

Bad dating habit #4: You’re a “serial dater” who likes keeping your options open, but you never fall in love
While some people have together-forever daydreams after a first date, others fantasize about who they’ll be going out with tomorrow night. “I like to date a lot of guys at once,” says Ida from New York City. “That way if one doesn’t work out, I know I have someone else.” The serial dater is fearful of winding up alone, which is why he or she keeps plenty of back-up options around.

How to break it: Sure, you may say it’s so you don’t seem desperate, but you really are desperate… to stay in control. “Having a potential mate or two waiting in the wings makes people feel more in control of their love lives,” explains Tessina. The only trouble is, the more you juggle, the less chance you’ll get to know any one person well enough to develop something meaningful with each other romantically. So, ask yourself: Of the people you’re seeing right now, who are you the most compatible with on several levels — i.e., looks, personality, etc.? Which one would you call if you were sick and needed someone to make a grocery run on your behalf? Try seeing only that person for a little while, even if you fully intend to go back on the dating market at some point. If you never narrow down the playing field, you may never know the joy of being in a happy, fulfilling relationship someday.

Caroline Stanley is a freelance writer who has contributed to publications like CosmoGIRL! and Harper’s Bazaar.