Are you blind to your stumbling blocks—the ones that keep you from a healthy and loving relationship? If yes, you’re not alone.  As a relationship therapist and dating coach respectively, Aimee Hartstein, LCSW and I counsel women and men who desperately want a long-term, productive relationship. We can spot our clients’ impediments quickly and work with them to empower change. Once they adopt more effective habits, our clients are able to build a satisfying love life quickly. When a client blossoms to their fullest potential, the transformation is truly inspiring.  

While we see many different setbacks, below are four extremely common ones:

1.    You bury yourself in activities within your “control.”

Kate was one of my first clients. An intelligent and attractive professional in her late 30s, she had no problems meeting goals. Six-figure salary? Check. Apartment in Manhattan? Check. A social calendar filled with fun? Check.

Despite this, Kate couldn’t remember the last time a man invited her to a romantic dinner. Her last boyfriend was fifteen years prior. Although she was surrounded by men at work, they rarely asked for her number. 

Rather than admit defeat, Kate feigned disinterest. She volunteered for more assignments, including out-of-town travel. She renovated her apartment. She walked her dog. At the end of each day, she fell into bed exhausted. When I asked her about sex, she laughed. She couldn’t remember her last passionate encounter.

In our book “Your 3 Biggest Dating Mistakes (And How to Fix Them),” we counsel women and men to approach dating like any other learned skill—one that takes patience, practice and courage to master.

“The ego is fragile. Instead of admitting failure, people often focus on those things they can control. There is no shame in admitting you need help—most of us do at one point or another,” said Aimee the relationship therapist. 

2.    You are rooted in fantasy.

Shane was a bubbly and effervescent woman in her 40s. She desperately wanted marriage and children. For the past five years, she had been deeply in-love…with her pastor. Although Reverend Jim was friendly and kind, he never indicated any interest beyond a platonic friendship. Shane did her best to capture his attention, showing up at his speaking engagements and volunteering at the church—anything that put her within his proximity. When he let her borrow a book, she spent hours dissecting it with her friends. Was this a signal of interest? Were the tides finally turning?

 “If someone is interested in you, they will call, text, and ask you on a date. Many people prefer fantasy to reality. It’s easier to ‘attach’ to an image because it’s safer than the risk involved with real intimacy. But, this behavior is rooted in low self-esteem and fear. The sad truth is that I have seen clients waste weeks, months or years--while their real desire for love and intimacy goes unfulfilled,” said Aimee.

In our e-book “Come Here, Go Away: How to Identify and Disengage from an Emotionally Unavailable Man,” we explain the complicated psychological reasons for these non-starter relationships. Many are surprised to learn that despite their yearnings, they are emotionally unavailable too.

3.    You lack boundaries—and standards.

Men were drawn to Genevieve’s exotic looks. However, at the merest whiff of interest, Genevieve would go into overdrive. She would text and call throughout the day. She would invite men over for dinner and serve an elaborate feast. She would drive out of her way to their home. She would answer calls way past her bedtime. She always had sex on the first date no questions asked.

Genevieve never stated what she wanted or needed, including a monogamous relationship. She mistook boundaries for “neediness.” She worried that demands (i.e., standards) would chase a potential suitor away. Ironically, despite all her giving and placating, men grew disinterested quickly.

“Many people mistakenly believe that the more they give, the more love they will receive. But, acting like a doormat can invite mistreatment, ingratitude, and abuse. Before long, these same ‘giving’ people are stewing in resentment,” said Aimee.

4.    You are stuck in the friend zone.

Martha was one of the boys. She went camping on weekends. She drank beer at the pub. She hosted Super Bowl parties at her home. Like the sneakers and jeans she favored, her demeanor was casual and comfortable.

She received a lot of male attention—just not the kind she desired. Her “buddies” would call her to share their latest foibles with other women. They often asked for her female perspective. She was a loving, supportive and ego-boosting friend. Despite her kindness, no one every expressed romantic interest in her—a fact that left her perplexed and confused. 

“I often ask clients, ‘What do you think your crush is looking for in a partner?’ Many have never engaged in this type of reflection. Soon, a light bulb goes off. They realize that they may not be marketing themselves effectively—in a way that sparks attraction,” said Aimee.

While these are not all the “blocks” that exist to love, we do suggest assessing your dating habits, especially if you’re feeling frustrated at your inability to create change. While we suggest finding a well-trained professional (i.e., a therapist, coach or counselor) who can help you gain deeper insight, you can also do a lot of work on your own.

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