Are You Sabotaging Your Love Life?

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If you haven’t been getting the relationship results you want, it might be time to change your thinking. Learn how to open yourself up to a potential relationship with help from Dr. Paulette Kouffman Sherman, author of Dating From the Inside Out: How to Use the Law of Attraction in Matters of the Heart.

Believe it or not, you can make an experience with rejection a productive one. Begin by recalling your last bad date. Remember how it felt when he did not call to ask you out again? How did you interpret this? Did you complain to your friends that nothing works out and that no men like you?

You are not alone. This is the protocol for what happens when a date does not lead to a second one. Rarely do you hear a woman say, “Oh, he did not call again. It’s his loss. Next!” and really mean it. We tend to turn the word no into an indictment of ourselves. If you are not sure if you do this, ask your girlfriends. They’ll tell you.

If you want to change this and save yourself much dating pain, you need to be honest about your usual reaction to no. What is your first no trigger? What do you make it mean? Fill out the following sentences in your dating journal:

  • My first reaction to hearing no is:
  • When I hear no in dating, I think: (Examples might be “No men like me,” “I’ll be alone forever,” or “It wasn’t a good date”)
  • The truth could be: (Examples might be “He is afraid of intimacy,” “We aren’t a good match,” or “He met someone else who is a better match”)
  • If I could let go of my fear of the word no, it would free me to:

Now that you’ve been honest about your usual response to being rejected on a date, you can choose to react differently from now on. What will you say about it instead? Here are a few choices:

“The right guy will never leave, so obviously it’s not him.”
“His loss. I am great.”
“It sometimes takes a lot of no to get to the yes in life.”

Take a moment to come up with a new reaction to rejection that is healthy and rings true to you. Record it in your dating journal, and commit to saying this to yourself from now on, whenever a date does not work out. It will allow you to move on without making up stories and sabotaging yourself.

It is also important to look at why you say no on dates. Many daters find something they do not like on the first date and then refuse to go out again. They go through many dates in this way, never taking the time to get to know anybody. In addition, they never let their date know about their concerns, so there is no hope of communication around that issue. For example, Cheryl felt her date talked about himself too much, so she wrote him off. If she had told him about her observation, perhaps he would have been willing to work on it. Sometimes on a first date people talk a lot because they are nervous or afraid of silence. Cheryl’s first instinct was to say no to a second date rather than give her date one more chance to explain or to work it out.

Another client of mine went on a date with a man she knew was wonderful as a friend but whom she did not find too attractive. We discussed it, and she decided to continue to get to know him for a few dates. After all, she was free to keep dating other people and so was he. After the first date she said, “He’s so great. I wish he were cuter.” After the second date she said, “He’s a great kisser, but I still can’t get past his face.” By the fourth date she said, “I find him so sexy. I don’t know why I ever thought he was unattractive.” Today they are engaged to be married.

Not everyone’s story plays out like this, of course. Some people find that physical attraction does not build, but isn’t it worth it to find out? I’ve seen this happen a few times, so I usually recommend giving someone at least three dates if you think they are a nice person. Note that I am not asking you to “settle,” but I am suggesting that when you say no, you may be prematurely cutting off a possible mate. Look at when and why you reject your dates so that you can do it consciously — when it truly serves you to do so. If you discover that you tend to say no too quickly, try giving your dates time before you decide if they are right for you.

Hela had strict standards for the man of her dreams. She was tall and wanted her date to be more than an inch taller. I asked her what would happen if she met a fantastic guy who had all her relationship requirements but was an inch shorter. Would she reject that opportunity? Her initial response was “yes.” She had been made to feel ugly for being tall in elementary school, and that little girl in her had made a decision to “fit in” by only dating taller men. A twelve-year-old girl was now running the show, and Hela had been missing out on a number of wonderful partners because of an old humiliation. Once she realized this, the mature woman could review her options and create a vision based on her present needs.

The following exercise will help you look at whether you sabotage yourself by saying no too soon or for superficial reasons. It is appropriate and healthy to reject a relationship when it is clear that it will not be a match for you. However, based on what I’ve observed as a dating counselor, 80 percent of the time when people say no on a first date, it does not fall into that healthy category.

Exercise: The Hyper-Rejecter Quiz
To find out if you might be a Hyper-Rejecter, use your dating journal to take the following quiz:

  1. Do you decide you are bored on the first date and don’t give your date another chance?
  2. Do you decide that there is something you do not like on a date and you won’t communicate about it?
  3. Do you find something wrong with almost every date you meet?
  4. Do you decline a second date because you cannot see that you’ll ever marry this person?
  5. Do you say no to dates much more often than you say yes?

If you have answered yes to any of the above questions, read on.

No one is telling you to marry someone that you are not crazy about, but you should consider why you keep saying no to life and all its possibilities. Sometimes the word no is our protection from being hurt. It keeps you in a narrow box so you don’t have to get out and take a risk. Success in dating — like anything — requires openness, a good attitude, and patience. In saying yes to getting to know someone, you are saying yes to learning about yourself in that new relationship. You are agreeing to have a new experience with unlimited possibilities.

This agreement to give dating a chance doesn’t mean you can’t ever date other people. And it also doesn’t mean you should lead someone on or continue torturous dates. I am speaking about those perfectly pleasant dates that get shafted because fireworks don’t explode during your first meeting; sometimes chemistry isn’t instantaneous. In many happy couples, there is often one person who wasn’t exactly blown away by the other when they first initially met. But given time, affection and love were able to flourish and grows into something sustainable. And you can bet these couples are thankful now that they did not hastily turn their back on the possibility of love.

Dating — like life — is not the movies. If you want someone to give you a chance, you need to set the example. What would your life be like if you ventured to say yes a lot more? What if there were no mistakes and everything you learned led you to expand how you could love? Approach your life that way for one month and see what begins to open up. Imagine what it would be like if everything you thought and did supported your intention of meeting your life mate. Do you imagine that you would be sitting home, or would you be out trying to actively meet people?

You probably answered the latter without realizing that your beliefs about love don’t support taking necessary action. It has been my experience that many people have beliefs that tell them they can sit around and wait to meet The One. Be honest about what you usually tell yourself about love, and take a good look at whether it is productive. If you have not been getting the results that you want, it might be time to change your thinking.

Dr. Paulette Kouffman Sherman, author of Dating from the Inside Out: How to Use the Law of Attraction in Matters of the Heart (Copyright © 2008 by Paulette Kouffman Sherman), is a licensed psychologist and the owner and director of My Dating School in Manhattan (, where she facilitates classes on dating issues. She pens a monthly dating column, “Dr. Date,” in The Improper, a popular New York lifestyle and entertainment magazine, and has been quoted in many publications, including Glamour. Dr. Sherman is a regular speaker at The Learning Annex, has been a dating expert on radio and television, and has coached many private clients on creating successful relationships. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband.



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