Roadblocks To Love: Are You Self-Sabotaging Your Dating Life?

By Jennifer Schliessman

Relationship ready…or so you think? Over the course of my career in private practice as a therapist, a recurring theme that I have witnessed many clients grapple with has been the navigation of the dating world and managing the dramatic rollercoaster of burgeoning romantic relationships. I have become all too familiar with the facial expressions ridden with frustration, anguish and confusion after listening to clients express their longing for a committed partnership. Despite their efforts to forge intimate connections, many report a lack of hope and have succumbed to the notion that they will age alone with their cat or dog for eternity. “ I don’t understand, I am putting my all into dating and nothing is working. This is all I want and it seems like everyone around me has someone. I even made a love vision board! What is wrong with me?”

Our job as modern day healers is to confront our clients and illuminate their blind spots from a place of compassion and unconditional positive regard. After spending time getting to know my clients on an intimate level, I take my cue to point out potential self inflicted barriers which have inhibited dating success. Relationships can provide us with an opportunity to address unresolved childhood wounding. This is not to say that you cannot do the inner work while being single, but chances are that you will be emotionally triggered upon re-entering the dating game. Are you noticing how the same romantic storylines seem to be appearing in your life incessantly? There are a number of possible rationales that may be interrupting your ability to build the rock solid relationship you have been seeking. Let’s take a deep dive into your psyche:

You think you are emotionally available, but think again. Your heart is locked away in a steel vault.

One of my mentors once imparted great words of wisdom, “someone is only attracted to emotionally unavailable people if they themselves are emotionally unavailable.” As much as people claim that they are ready and willing to become emotionally involved with a partner, they are often unable to see how subconsciously, their previous attempts at love may have left imprints of trauma and trepidation. Their new template for love looks something like: vulnerability= lack of safety. “If I open my heart to this person, I will most likely experience pain or abandonment.” The concept of intimacy and integrating another person into your world may trigger fear of change or loss. Maybe historically when you let someone in, they ended up leaving you out to dry. It is important to get radically honest with ourselves and identify any narratives that may be on replay, preventing us from being fully open to new connections. Are you telling yourself that you are ready for love, but actually straight up terrified? Are you dating potential partners that are long distance, recently out of a relationship, dating multiple people or hesitant to commit?  This is a familiar story for many of us. The first step is to become more conscious of our dating behaviors. How are your choices impacting the outcome? Are you choosing emotionally unavailable people and expecting fulfilling partnerships? We must name these behaviors in order to tame them.

You fear losing your independence. Being in a relationship = WHIPPED.

This one is super real and a biggie for many people. You may associate relationships with being suffocated and losing all personal freedoms. While there may be others in your life who have modeled this type of situation, a healthy and secure relationship actually fosters independence and growth. Where did this belief system stem from? Perhaps you associate relationships with being controlled (this could stem back to childhood). This is juicy material for therapy that can be addressed by examining your attachment style and examining your family system. Do you only believe in what you have seen? If you have been surrounded by people in soul sucking relationships, you may believe this is your fate. Why not have one foot out the door at all times right, better safe than sorry? It may be time to examine your narrative around how healthy relationships are exemplified.

You place a tremendous amount of pressure on “finding the one”

Many attach their self worth to their relationship status, a byproduct of societal pressures, familiar expectations or having watched too many Disney movies or rom-coms. Although companionship is essential for human beings, it can become dangerous when we fall into a codependent style of relating to others..think “you complete me” mode. I find that my clientele place a tremendous amount of pressure upon themselves as they prepare to date. Some just want to find their person and be done. What if I told you that dating could actually be fun?  It is crucial to practice self examination and inspect your role in your romantic search. Are you personally hijacking your ability to connect due to excessive stress? Self sabotage is really our mind’s way of attempting to protect us from experiencing emotional pain. As a result, we subconsciously orchestrate scenarios to prevent this familiar type of relationship distress. Before you go on your next date (virtually or in person, (and yes…COVID-19 certainly stirs things up), view this meeting as an opportunity to simply share stories and learn about someone new. Take the pressure off and lighten up the mood!

Your reputation with yourself needs some work. You can’t count on you, so the concept of someone else depending on you, gives you a serious case of the heavee-jeevees.

Are you someone that says you are going to do something, and then days pass and you still haven’t done that thing you said you were going to do? Your personal accountability may need some work. I often tell clients to imagine a younger version of themselves (this is referred to as inner child work) and ask them if they made their little self a promise, would they let their mini-me down? Building discipline and making small pacts with yourself each day will allow you to feel more comfortable with having others rely upon you. Because now you know you have your own back.

Therapy can serve as a powerful vehicle to help you learn to trust yourself, raise awareness levels and make different decisions while out in the dating world. What are you waiting for?