Dating Mistakes and Relationship Pitfalls
I like to listen to the Postal Service’s version of the song “Such Great Heights” when I think about happy people in relationships. When Ben Gibbard sings that people are “corresponding shapes like puzzle pieces from the clay,” I picture how nicely a boy and a girl fit together when they hug. Her arms fit snugly under his, both pairs entwined around their bodies, her head cozying up right under his neck. People really do fit together like puzzle pieces.
Imagine yourself as a piece of this love puzzle. Pretend you are the left bottom corner, with two straight edges and one sort of wiggly side. Only one other piece joins up perfectly with your own. As an experienced puzzle solver, you know that it’s just a matter of finding this mysterious missing piece, the one piece that fits just right, in order to complete your relationship puzzle.
We’ll get to the part about finding this elusive, matching piece, but for now let’s focus on all of these mismatched ones and all the stuff that comes along with trying to pair up with them.
Now, when you put together a real puzzle, would you ever rip off a little section of your own piece, just so that it would fit up against another? No way! You may be frustrated that you haven’t found the corresponding shape yet, but you would never go so far as to mutilate your own piece of colored cardboard for another piece’s benefit. Besides, your mom would probably yell at you for mangling her puzzle of the American flag or a Monet painting or whatever.
So, no. You wouldn’t ruin your own piece just to complete the puzzle. That’s crazy. So why, then, are you so willing to rip up your piece when it comes to your real life, your love life? Don’t say you haven’t done it. Every girl has torn her piece to shreds for the “perfect” guy. I’ve done it, and more than once.
I’ll explain further. Sometimes you rip up your piece to match another in order to feel those initial moments of relationship bliss, hoping that in the long run your mismatched pieces don’t feel too smooshed together. Be cautious, my lovely friend. They soon will go from smushed to suffocating, no doubt about it.
Take an ex-fling of mine, for example. He was a rock-n-roller, and I’m very musically challenged. I started listening to weird music and wearing studded bracelets to try to fit in with him. Not exactly moi. Let’s just say it ended quickly, and apart from my return to stone-encrusted jewelry, it left me feeling down in the dumps.
So, aside from the inevitable messy breakup, what’s the problem with mismatched puzzle pieces? When you change yourself in order to create a comfortable, fitting relationship for him, it’s bound to fail from day one. Why? First and foremost, you are compromising who you really are for another person. Am I really a punk-rock-listening, studded-bracelet-wearing groupie? Absolutely not! Changing for someone else only discredits the incredible person you already are, and you should never allow anyone, especially you, to treat you with disrespect.
Second, when you’re not yourself, you’re bound to feel unhappy. Finally—and this is a no-brainer—no real relationship is able to survive on the aforementioned unhappiness and fakery, the results of self-compromise.
And anyway, why do you want a relationship with a guy who wants you to change? He’s a shortsighted loser! Hello, you’re awesome just as you are, and you deserve someone who appreciates that huge and important fact.
You’re young, beautiful, classy, and smart. You have a good head on your shoulders and big dreams. Believing in the qualities you already possess and the person you already are is what is going to land you your perfect match. Why? Because guys respect and love women who love and appreciate themselves for who they really are.
Now, don’t freak out when I say this: There are guaranteed to be some bumps along the way in your quest for the perfect boyfriend. Whatever you do, though, believe in yourself. It will change your love life forever, and for the better. If you fail to believe, well, trust me, all you’ll end up with is a broken heart. You’ll hurt yourself and allow others to hurt you. And I can’t have any of my girls feeling down in the dumps. It’s not a good look for you, just like blue nail polish, even OPI Russian Navy.
Now that I’ve explained why it’s an excellent idea to have faith in your awesome self, let’s get back to the bumps in the road. There will always be bumps in the relationship road! Until you find the guy, all your previous relationships really are just more and more bumps. The upside? You are guaranteed to learn more about why your puzzle piece is shaped the way it is and about the kind of person you need to find in order to create that perfect match.
Quiz: Dating History
Before we really break into dating mistakes and relationship pitfalls, it’s time for a quiz. This quiz is not here to give you the same side-eye that your teacher does when you’re late to class. Its only function is to help you and me determine how much relationship experience you already have and what kind of experience it is. You could be choosing the wrong guys and just need some honest advice from a friend (me!!) to open up your pretty eyes to all the nice ones out there. Please choose one answer per question and answer honestly. If you don’t, the work we’re doing won’t help you snag a sweetie for yourself.
You and Dan have been hanging out off and on for a few weeks. On Thursday he mentions that you should go with him to his friend’s party the next night. On Friday, though, Dan is nowhere to be found—M.I.A. and unreachable on his cell. You:
a. Don’t call or text him. You think he should call you, and instead you spend Friday night alone at home.
b. Call him once and leave this message: “Dan, I never heard from you today. Wanted to let you know I’m seeing a movie with Molly instead of going to the party. Hope all is well. Talk soon.”
c. Call him twice, but he doesn’t pick up. You text him at eight p.m. asking about his plans. He replies at midnight, writing, “Sorry, babe. Crazy day. Just getting out to the party now.”
d. Have your mutual friend ask Dan if he is going to the party. If Dan says yes, you show up to the party with a girlfriend in tow.
A cute guy from your history class asks you out on a date. When he shows up, he:
a. Comes to the door to get you.
b. Texts you to let you know he’s there, and you go meet him in the driveway.
c. Texts you to let you know he’s there, and you reply, “Do you mind coming in? I’d like you to meet my parents/best friend/dog.”
d. Honks, and you sneak out without saying good-bye.
After a great first date with Kevin at a cool restaurant:
a. The two of you go to a party that you suggest, to meet up with friends.
b. You continue the date with something unplanned, like a coffee or a stroll down the boardwalk.
c. He takes you home, but there’s no goodnight kiss.
d. He takes you to “the Point” to make out.
Your boyfriend of six months is quite popular on Facebook. He doesn’t give a relationship status in his profile, and a lot of friends (guys and girls alike) post on his wall. You know some of the people, but some random girls are making you suspicious. You:
a. Demand that his profile photo be a picture of both of you and that he change his status to “In a relationship with (fill in your name here).”
b. Hack in to his profile to read all his messages, posts, and pokes to random chicks.
c. Simply ignore what’s bothering you. It’s just Facebook, right?
d. Ask him how he knows these girls, and broach the subject of the absent relationship status. If you ask him, maybe he would consider changing it to “In a relationship.”
You accidentally slip up and hurt his feelings when you tease him about something private in front of his friends. You:
a. Apologize dramatically in front of the group.
b. Continue making the joke. He’s a guy—he should be able to handle it.
c. Find a private moment and sincerely apologize to him. He accepts the apology, and you end up having a good night.
d. Get so upset with yourself over your slipup, you somehow end up being the victim.
Your boyfriend of four months has been in a crabby mood the past few days. You:
a. Ask him if you did something wrong and, if you did, what you can do to make the situation better. If you didn’t do anything wrong, he’ll probably tell you what’s up anyway and appreciate you noticing that something was off.
b. Bitch back at him. He shouldn’t treat you badly for no reason.
c. Let him chill out for a few days, then ask if he wants to hang out over the weekend.
d. Bug him incessantly about what’s up. If something is wrong, you deserve to know.
A girl who you sort of know from school sends you a Facebook message about your boyfriend. In the message she writes, “I wanted to let you know my sorority sister Meredith hooked up with your guy at his frat party last week. I’ve been cheated on before, and I just had to tell you.” How do you respond?
a. You don’t. You delete the message and ignore it completely.
b. You immediately call your boyfriend and ask him if anything really happened with Meredith. He says no, and you believe him.
c. You speak to a close friend in Meredith’s sorority. She also confirms they hooked up. When your boyfriend denies it, you choose to believe your girlfriend and break things off with him.
d. You ask your BF, and when he tells you that yes, it happened, you choose to stay with him because he was honest with you.
You really like Mark, and one night you decide on a whim to get intimate with him. He:
a. Tells his friends all the details, and a week later you hear snickering about the size of your rump when you walk by them at school.
b. Calls you once or twice again afterward, but then you drift apart.
c. Continues to see you, but you know he continues to see other girls you know on the side as well.
d. Talks to you about dating more seriously. He’s really into you and wants to make sure you feel the same way.
Tally up your points based on the results below. Afterward, we’ll discuss what your score means.
a-4, b-1, c-2, d-3
a-1, b-4, c-2, d-3
a-2, b-1, c-4, d-3
a-2, b-3, c-4, d-1
a-2, b-3, c-1, d-4
a-1, b-3, c-2, d-4
a-4, b-2, c-1, d-3
a-3, b-2, c-4, d-1
What Your Score Means
8–11 Points: You’re Doing Great!
Congratulations, you are right on track to finding the perfect guy by being yourself. You are smart and understand not only guys but human nature on a basic level. You are able to apologize when you’re wrong, and you can get yourself out of a bad situation. Your respectable amount of relationship knowledge comes from experiencing both good and bad partnerships. Go get ’em, girl!
12–16 Points: You Have Some Experience!
Okay, you are right where most girls your age are. You’ve dated guys and maybe had one or two longer relationships. Sometimes, guys you like may take advantage of your kindness and you don’t realize it. Other times, you know you’ve been wronged and you give guys second chances who don’t deserve them. Stick with me, sweetie pie. We’ll weed out all the losers and snag you a guy who deserves your time and attention.
17–24: You’re in the Thick of It!
Okay, girlfriend. You are in way, way too deep with some total tool bags. Any guy who treats you badly does not deserve third, fourth, and fifth chances just because he is cute. It’s time to reevaluate how you feel about yourself (Trust me, you’re worth a million bucks!), because it’s the perception you have of yourself that signals to assholes that it’s okay to treat you badly. This is a tough situation to be in, but if you’re serious about finding the right guy, then it’ll be an easy battle from here on out.
24–32: You’re Just Learning!
Don’t let your high score scare you away from relationships and from believing in yourself. You happen to be in a very good position, because as a relationship novice you have the superempowering opportunity to learn the good things about guys and relationships from the very beginning. You need to remember that when you put yourself out there, you are still the most important person in the equation, no matter what. It’s just like in the first Sex and The City movie when Samantha says to Smith, “I love you, but I love me more.” Remember those wise words, honey, because they are true, true, true. There really are tons of guys who want to get to know you, so be sure to put the right version of You out there from the start.
So, now you know your score and where you stand when it comes to guys, relationships, and yourself. If you scored high, don’t worry! It’s girls like you who really love the idea of love, and your only mistake may be that someone else initially pointed you in the wrong direction. But that’s what’s so great about being a BYT (bright young thing). You always have time to make up for love lost! With each new relationship comes a fresh start. Isn’t that a novel idea?